Amy Clark

January 2017 Must-Reads

January 2017 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

I hope that you are off to a great start with your year of reading. I’m over here furiously flipping pages between the MomAdvice Reading Challenge, our online book club, local book club, and reviving our Sundays With Writers series. Of course, there is no other way I’d rather spend the day then curled up with a good book, especially in the winter. I’m excited to share eight great reads that I tackled this month with you.

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.  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 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.

8 Must-Read Books from January 2017

Mischling by Affinity Konar

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!

Affinity will be joining us this month for our Sundays With Writers series- stay tuned!

Reading Challenge Category Completed-  A book that takes place during a war

5 Out of 5 Stars

The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner

The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner

Laura Tremaine shared about this beautiful memoir when discussing her favorite books of the year on Sorta Awesome. I listened to this book, read by Ruth, and was so moved by her story that I can’t stop thinking about it. This book is haunting!

Ruth is the 39th child in her polygamist family of 42 children. Ruth’s father was brutally murdered by his own brother and Ruth’s mother later marries another polygamist who cares little for these children or providing for his family. He is the epitome of a deadbeat dad with little to offer to his family.

This is also a true survivor story as Ruth becomes sexually abused and the people who should love and believe her the most are not there for her in her life. It’s about what it is really like to grow up in poverty, the true challenges of being just one of many wives, the challenges of disability, and how Ruth has had to learn to stand up for herself.

Well-written and hard to put down, the tragedy that unfolds left me stunned and in awe of Wariner’s strength and resilience.

Reading Challenge Category Completed- An audiobook

5 Out of 5 Stars

Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson

Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson

I received an ARC from the publishing house in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinions on this book.

Swanson’s last thriller, The Kind Worth Killing, was so solid that I could not wait to get my hands on his latest thriller.

In this story, Kate and her cousin Corbin, decide to apartment swap so that Corbin can conduct some business in London while Kate is given the chance to escape to take art classes in Boston. Kate has had some trauma in her life and struggles with anxiety and is using this trip to prove to her friends and family that she is stronger than they think she is. Of course, the neighbor next door gets murdered and contributes to Kate’s uneasy feelings.

Not knowing her cousin well or anyone in the area, Kate begins to try to piece together what has happened to Audrey, although she could never guess how deep Corbin is involved and the cat and mouse game that is now mounting for him and for her.

This was entertaining for a light escape between my heavier books and I would recommend it for The Girl on the Train fans!

Reading Challenge Category Completed- A thriller

3 Out of 5 Stars

Evicted by Matthew Desmond

Evicted by Matthew Desmond

I am, admittedly, not much of a nonfiction writer, but when I read about Evicted, I knew that it was a book that I should read this year. If you are looking for a compelling nonfiction read that explores an issue that is not talked about enough, this is the one for you.

Desmond threw himself wholeheartedly into learning more about the eviction process and follows eight families struggling with the basic necessity of home. He sheds light on a very broken system from poor wages to the ramifications of eviction on a family’s life to living in neighborhoods filled with crime and drugs. There are so many survival tactics needed to just keep a roof over one’s head that you find yourself, as the reader, hoping and praying for a better outcome for so many in this book and marveling at the tricks of the trade to just get by.

As an ethnographer, Desmond pulls himself completely out of the equation until he shares how he built his book at the very end. It’s an incredible testament to his great writing and documentation that he is able to build the story in a way that you feel like you are with these people as they struggle with basic needs and necessities.  He, in fact, lived in a trailer park to fully immerse himself into the daily life, even struggling with issues in his own home while writing.

I doubt you could read this and not feel a new sense of compassion and gratefulness or to not feel compelled to explore how our country could develop a better system for those in need. This is a must-read!

Reading Challenge Category Completed- A book you will be proud to share you finally read this year

5 Out of 5 Stars

The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule

The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule

Another pick from Laura Tremaine that I wanted to dive into this year was, The Stranger Beside Me, as my true crime selection for the MomAdvice Reading Challenge. Ann Rule worked at a crisis clinic, answering calls on a suicide hotline, and it is there that she met the charismatic Ted Bundy.  The book builds as Rule begins to suspect and then comes to grips with the fact that her kind and sensitive friend is the prolific serial killer that confessed to killing thirty-six young women.

Ann Rule keeps to basic facts and stays away from many of the horrific details of these killings, making it a, perhaps, easier to digest story than it should be. Although this case was extreme, it does make one think how we can know someone and not really know them.

Those wishing to dive deep into Bundy’s psyche will be disappointed as Ann honestly shares that she is no expert and can only go on her own feelings that Bundy was rejected and went out to seek women he could kill and, ultimately, reject them. Rule definitely wasn’t gullible; she just was charmed as so many others by the presentation that Bundy was able to pull off.

Reading Challenge Category Completed- A true crime book

4 Out of 5 Stars

History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

I love when readers reach out and ask me if I have read certain books (feel free to do that anytime!) and the book I was asked about this month was, The History of Wolves. I hadn’t read it, but decided to put it on my stack after reading that Fridlund had won the McGinnis-Ritchie award for its first chapter and then decided to expand upon that story for this book.

I know as soon as I began reading her words that I would love this book. Even something as monotonous as swinging becomes a thing of beauty when told by Fridlund.

“Later, I could get that drizzle feeling just about any time I saw a kid on a swing. The hopelessness of it—the forward excitement, the midflight return. The futile belief that the next time around, the next flight forward, you wouldn’t get dragged back again. You wouldn’t have to start over, and over.” 

Coming-of-age stories are often my favorite each year, but can feel predictable at times. Fridlund’s book, however, is anything BUT predictable and that is why I enjoyed it so much. Without giving too much away, a teenager begins babysitting for a local family and a mystery builds around this child and these parents that the narrator reflects upon from her youth. Her need to belong to someone is so strong that it overrides, perhaps, how one might normally respond to a situation.

If you like neat and tidy stories,  skip it! There is nothing tidy about this tale and the ending feels as confused as the narrator probably feels at the end.

If you like depth, meat, and uniquely told stories though, this book is for you!

4 Out of 5 Stars

Faithful by Alice Hoffman

Faithful by Alice Hoffman

Hoffman’s novel has been in my stack forever and I’m not sure why it took me this long to finally settle with it. I was an avid reader of all her books for many years and I must say, this is one of her sweetest stories of all.

The main character, Shelby, is a teenager who has been involved in a tragic car accident that leaves her best friend in a coma. Unable to forgive herself, she finds herself on a downward spiral.  Motivational messages are being sent to her from an anonymous sender though telling her to keep fighting and going. These act as  an important catalyst as Shelby’s life begins to find new purpose.

Heartbreakingly real, this redemption story of finding you are loved, even in your darker moments, is surprisingly hopeful. If you like a good love story, you’ll really enjoy this book.

4 Out of 5 Stars

I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi

I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi

I received an ARC from the publishing house in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinions on this book.

If I was going to pick a book that surprised me the most this month, I Liked My Life would be it! The idea for this story sounded horribly depressing. A mother commits suicide and her family is left to pick up the pieces… but it is so much more than that!

Fabiaschi writes this story in a way where the mother, Maddy, is still there and able to manipulate her family members into doing what she needs them to do by speaking to them through their thought streams. From helping them find better solutions to deal with her death, to guiding friendships, and even finding her replacement. Her presence and voice is one of the alternating chapters in this novel, along with the voices of her husband and teenage daughter.

Each character reflects back on the good and the bad that has happened in their lives in real moments that mimic your own. The petty fights, the difficulty as a mom to make every day special for your family (while no one makes the effort for you), and the struggles of mother and daughter relationships. I could see so many of of my own struggles in this character, making Maddy real and relatable.

Heartbreaking at times, laugh out loud funny at others, I doubt you would pick this one up and not get something out of it. I am committed to no spoilers, but want you to know the ending is quite satisfying as a reader!

Abby will be joining us next month for our Sundays With Writers series- stay tuned!

5 Out of 5 Stars

January 2017 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.

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Published January 31, 2017 by:

Amy Clark

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

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