Amy Clark

Quick Reads to Reach Those Reading Goals

Quick Reads to Reach Those Reading Goals from MomAdvice.com

One of my favorite things about GoodReads is the ability to set and track your reading goals for the year! I was chatting online with a friend and she mentioned she was really determined to reach her reading goal in these next two weeks. I sent her a quick list of books that she could easily binge on in these final weeks to seal that goal.

goodreads

It got me thinking that I should probably be sharing that list with you here too.

Who couldn’t use a little escape from the stresses of the SNOW (OVER IT!), COLD (OVER IT!), and holiday craziness (ARE WE DONE YET? DID WE DO ALL THE THINGS? IS EVERYONE HAPPY? CAN I HIBERNATE FOR THE REST OF THE WINTER NOW? WHY DON’T I HAVE A BETTER ATTITUDE?)

I typically take a hiatus over the holidays so I will be sharing what I read this month next week , as well as my annual top ten list of best books too. Hopefully, these three posts will help you as you work towards your own goals this year.

Quick Reads to Binge On To Hit Those Reading Goals

Fast Paced Thrillers

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

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.

Check out my interview with Ruth when you are done with this awesome thriller!

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapeña

I am a sucker for a good thriller and The Couple Next Door was a really incredible keep-you-up-past-your-bedtime read. The story revolves around parents that are invited to a birthday celebration party with requests that children not attend. When their babysitter cancels, they decide to still attend the party at the neighboring brownstone, leave the baby sleeping in the crib, with an agreement to take turns checking on the baby every half hour. When they check in, later in the evening though, they find the crib empty and the baby is nowhere to be found. The reader is taken on twist after twist as the couple tries to find their baby and the motive behind it.

I was surprised the book opens right away with the baby going missing and wondered how the story would ever build out from there when such a big part of the plot happens in the opening chapter. The author crafts plausible (and not so plausible) twists though that takes you on a wild rollercoaster ride with these parents. Just the discussion alone of whether or not the couple should have left their baby would make a great one for book club discussions.

This one brings all the twists and builds great tension. This one is worthy of a reading binge-and I consumed it in a mere 24 hours!  I just loved it!

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

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, evil, and graphic, the tale is gruesome and horrific and kept me on the absolute edge of my seat from the opening page. Fans of Gillian Flynn will appreciate this twisted thriller, but be prepared for the nightmares…they will be coming!

Defending Jacob by William Landay

Defending Jacob by William Landay

I am  not interested in legal thrillers, but my girlfriend recommended this book to me and I am so thankful she did. This is one of the best thrillers I have read since Before I Go to Sleep, and left me hanging on the edge of my seat for the entire book.

Andy Barber has been a district attorney for over twenty years. He is well respected and knows how to command the courtroom. When a murder happens at his son’s school, he is among the first on the scene and is ready to help bring vindication to the murderer.

What Andy never suspects is that his own son is the one who is charged with the murder. Andy is removed from the case when all clues begin to point towards his son. Andy doesn’t want to believe that his son could commit such a heinous crime, but as mounting evidence points towards Jacob, he is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Does he hide the evidence he finds that he knows that the police might be after or let the justice system decide the fate of his child?

Part family drama, part thriller, I could not put this book down. My heart ached for this family who is now ostracized from their friends and coworkers, while the other part of me ached that Jacob would be proven guilty of the crime. The reader will be taken on a wild ride from start to finish with this book. It is a twisty ending that will leave you breathless.

Whatever you do, add this deeply moving book to your list. I highly recommend this read for book clubs because it gives readers a chance to think what they might do to protect their child.

Editor’s Note: This book contains violence and graphic language.

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

If you are in a reading slump, this should pull you right on out. Behind Closed Doors will go down as my top thriller this year because of this tightly woven and finely crafted story.  I read this one in almost a single sitting and the author does not waste a single page from start to finish while building a plot that will send chills down your spine. This twisted tale is so vividly told that it is as though you are reading a movie with characters that are incredibly well-developed they practically lift off the pages.

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. 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.

Just know that if you pick this one up, you are going to have a very hard time putting it down. I would recommend a weekend of binge-reading with this for a fantastic holiday escape! 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.

Easy Breezy Chick Lit

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I find Reid’s writing to be just the right amount of heart with just the right amount of reality and her storytelling truly shines in this beautiful story of loves found and lost. When Emma’s husband dies in a helicopter crash, she is left to rebuild her life without her high school sweetheart and you feel that devastation through Reid’s words. After years of sadness though, she finds love again with an old high school friend and begins to find that happiness she has been missing. Just before her wedding though she receives a call that her husband, Jesse, is still alive and coming home to be with her again.

A heart aching love triangle is formed and Emma must choose between the man she loved and lost or the new love of her life. I couldn’t put this one down and read it in less than a day! Check out an interview I did with Taylor in our Sundays With Writers series as she discusses her ability to write such believable and beautiful love stories!

A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan

A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan

I could not put this book book down! This was such a deeply satisfying read that tackles the struggles of every working mother who is trying to balance it all. Egan creates the perfect balance of humor and heartbreak as Alice tries to navigate the tricky terrain of being an employee, wife, mother, and daughter to her ill father.

In A Window Opens, beloved books editor at Glamour magazine, Elisabeth Egan, brings us Alice Pearse, a compulsively honest, longing-to-have-it-all, sandwich generation heroine for our social-media-obsessed, lean in (or opt out) age.

Like her fictional forebears Kate Reddy and Bridget Jones, Alice plays many roles (which she never refers to as “wearing many hats” and wishes you wouldn’t, either). She is a mostly-happily married mother of three, an attentive daughter, an ambivalent dog-owner, a part-time editor, a loyal neighbor and a Zen commuter. She is not: a cook, a craftswoman, a decorator, an active PTA member, a natural caretaker or the breadwinner. But when her husband makes a radical career change, Alice is ready to lean in—and she knows exactly how lucky she is to land a job at Scroll, a hip young start-up which promises to be the future of reading, with its chain of chic literary lounges and dedication to beloved classics. The Holy Grail of working mothers―an intellectually satisfying job and a happy personal life―seems suddenly within reach.

Despite the disapproval of her best friend, who owns the local bookstore, Alice is proud of her new “balancing act” (which is more like a three-ring circus) until her dad gets sick, her marriage flounders, her babysitter gets fed up, her kids start to grow up and her work takes an unexpected turn. Readers will cheer as Alice realizes the question is not whether it’s possible to have it all, but what does she―Alice Pearse―really want?

This book got me in the all the feels. I highlighted many a passage in this sweet story of Alice and found her to be one of the most relatable characters I have read. I also teared up at many of the moments in this story because the struggles of being in the trenches as a working parent were ones that I have experienced myself. Alice tries hard, but it’s an impossible juggle and you feel like you are spiraling a bit with her as the story unfolds.

Fans of Where’d You Go, Bernadette & Wife 22 (thanks to the hilarious correspondence between colleagues & family) will really love this one!

You can read our interview with Elisabeth Egan this month in our Sundays With Writers series!  I can’t recommend this book enough!

Arranged by Catherine McKenzie

Arranged by Catherine McKenzie

Anne Blythe seems to have everything. She has sold her first book, has a fabulous life, and fabulous friends. When it comes to being lucky in love though, she can’t seem to ever find the right guy. novel. After her best friend announces her engagement and her latest relationship ends, she decides to take a risk and contact a dating service in hopes of finding the perfect match. Upon her first appointment with the dating service though, she realizes that it is not a dating service at all, but a matchmaking service for an arranged marriage.

Once she starts the process, there is no turning back and Anne finds herself traveling to a Mexican resort where she will meet and marry (all in the same weekend) her “perfect,” guy.

This book has great twists and turns that you will really enjoy and after devouring this book in a mere day, I can’t recommend it enough for a fun reading escape!

Meaningful Short Books

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

“The main message of Jesus, I believed, is that mercy trumps justice every time,”- Paul Kalanithi

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.

This book is an incredibly moving story of the fragility of life and death told through Paul’s incredible medical career working as a neurosurgeon and then as a patient facing the end of his own life. Even after a cancer diagnosis, his ability to train and put his own needs aside while still working tirelessly in an operating room are nothing short of miraculous and his words echo the poetic strength of a life well lived.

Lucy’s closing to the book brings it all together in such a beautiful and memorable way that reminds us that all we should ever strive for in our life is to be and give unconditional love.

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

This was an absolutely beautiful story about what it would be like to come to America as an immigrant. Told from alternating viewpoints all from immigrant neighbors in one apartment complex, it gives the reader the opportunity to see America through an immigrant’s eyes. From struggling to make ends to meet, to the struggle to communicate, to finding a job, to sending your child off to school, to the sacrifices that are made when leaving your own country for something you believe will be better than the life you are leading- it looks at it all through new eyes.

The story hinges around two sets of parents who have sacrificed everything for their kids and the blooming love between their children in a beautiful coming-of-age story. Honest, human, and so moving. A must-read this year.

Read our interview with Cristina Henriquez to learn more about the immigrant stories that inspired this book!

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

If you haven’t read it yet, it is an absolutely incredible novel and offers a new take on a pandemic world captured through the storytelling of a Hollywood actor and a band of traveling actors that risk it all to perform their art during a flu apocalypse. The storytelling jumps and weaves through time making it a treat to read from start to finish about what life was like before and after a fatal flu strikes the country.

Masterfully woven characters, particularly with the use of the three wives in Arthur’s life, the author brings these stories together in a way that makes you feel like you know each character.

I’ve both read and listened to this one on audiobook and they are both a wonderful way to squeeze in this beautiful read!

Fast-Paced Historical Fiction

A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable

A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable

A Paris Apartment is a  fun summer historical fiction escape to Paris alternating between present day and the past.  It centers around, April, a furniture specialist with Sothebys,  & diary entries from the late 1800’s & 1900’s of Marthe de Florian. It weaves a beautiful story around a Paris apartment that had been shuttered for 70 years and the what lies behind the treasures in her apartment, including the relationship between her & the famous painter Giovanni Boldini, told through these diary entries.

As April becomes more & more fascinated with this woman through her diary, she increasingly becomes unsure if she wants to return to her own life back in the states or to continue living her own life in Paris, caught in the beauty of Paris and the escape from her own difficult marriage.

I would say that it is just enough fluff to pack in your beach bag and enough meat to enjoy reading the backstory on Marthe after closing those final pages. Read my interview with Michelle about her incredible debut novel.

The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman

The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman

The Two-Family House 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

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 was such 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?

A beautiful read, particularly on audiobook thanks to the gorgeous accents, for a great escape. I recommend this one for fans of The Book of Unknown Americans, Everything I Never Told YouAmericanah

Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner

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 story does alternate with the past and the current day, but in a really readable way.  Sometimes those present day stories can take away from the story, but this really moved things along in a beautiful way.  The only part that lagged a bit was the ending with the letters, for me.

I am recommending this one for fans of The Nightingale, The Orphan Train,  All the Light I Cannot See.

Binge-Worthy Literary Fiction

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island-from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.’s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.

And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore that changes his life forever…

This story is enchanting from start to finish. This book is a must-read for book lovers as it references so many of my favorite books and centers around a little bookshop in a seaside town. I could not put this one down and, truly, did not want the story of these beautiful characters to end. If you need a little winter escape, check this book out. I may just read it again, it was that simply that perfect.

Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave

Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave

One of my friends is a librarian (Hi, Pam!) and she said Eight Hundred Grapes had been one of her favorite summer reads. I listened to this book on audiobook and couldn’t agree with her more.

The book opens with Georgia sitting in her brother’s bar in a wedding gown. She hasn’t gotten married, but witnesses her fiancée in a moment on the street that rocks her world. Returning home to figure things out, she is shocked to discover that, not only did her fiancée have a big secret, but her entire family has been keeping secrets from her. Her parent’s marriage is failing, her mother is dating, her brothers are involved in a love triangle, and their family winery is in the process of being sold. Yeah, a lot has changed.

This story is part storytelling of how these relationships began, part understanding how wine is really made, and part family drama.

This was a fun little escape and I really enjoyed the audiobook of this one!

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Everyone has been telling me to read this book and I kept putting it off. Why in the world would I read a book about a grumpy old man? Welp. You guys were right. This book was incredible!

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

This is the most beautiful fictional book on aging that I have ever read. It really served as a reminder to me how we all have things that happen to us that shape us as we get older and how we often neglect to listen to those layered stories of our elders. I laughed and cried over this sweet story of Ove & the stray cat that claimed him.

The touching story of his beautiful bride and the difficulties of seeing your friends age and forget you just really pulled at my heartstrings.

Beautifully written supporting characters in the neighborhood just brought the whole story together for me and rounded out the beauty of finding “home.” I wish I could give this more stars than five because I would!

The Assistants by Camille Perri

The Assistants by Camille Perri

Tina Fontana works for the head honcho at her company who is swimming in money. When a technical error occurs with an expense report, Tina uses it to her advantage to pay off her student loan debt…to the tune of $20K.

Only one problem though… other people in the office have been noticing and want their loans paid off too.  More people become involved, more money is funneled, more loans paid, and more stress that Tina will get busted.

Imagine a Robin Hood story, but with a modern twist. This book is just the medicine for anyone who has struggled with student loan debt (raises hand high!). I love this book so much and found the ending to be pure perfection. It certainly was the sweetest literary escape this month for me!

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

If you are a regular reader on the blog, you know I have talked, and talked, and talked about this book. What I want to say is that you should only read my brief description below and go into this one without knowing anything. It will make the book so much more enjoyable- I promise.

This book reads a bit like a mystery as you try to solve the puzzle of a child’s unusual first years of life. The story intertwines with a doctor nearing the end of his career due to a deadly diagnosis and he could be the only one who could make Noah and his mother’s life better. What Noah is suffering from is beyond what any parent could comprehend.

Gripping, thought provoking, and and an excellent pick for any book club!

After you are done reading it, you can read my interview with Sharon Guskin as we discuss her debut novel. It’s a REALLY interesting interview and it gave me a lot to think about!

Quick & Sweet YA Lit

Mosquitoland by David Arnold

Mosquitoland by David Arnold

I am big on quirky characters and I’m also big on coming-of-age adventures and Mosquitoland now tops my list of incredible YA debuts with this heartfelt story of an oddly charming girl, named Mim,  who runs away from home and takes a Greyhound bus to be reunited with her mother.

After the sudden collapse of her family, Mim Malone is dragged from her home in northern Ohio to the “wastelands” of Mississippi, where she lives in a medicated milieu with her dad and new stepmom. Before the dust has a chance to settle, she learns her mother is sick back in Cleveland.

So she ditches her new life and hops aboard a northbound Greyhound bus to her real home and her real mother, meeting a quirky cast of fellow travelers along the way. But when her thousand-mile journey takes a few turns she could never see coming, Mim must confront her own demons, redefining her notions of love, loyalty, and what it means to be sane.

I really began to fall in love with all of these well-crafted characters that Arnold created in this charming book. Each character that she encounters comes with his own set of quirky oddities as Mim’s bus ends up making an unexpected detour and she ends up on a road trip with two unlikely friends in search of her mom. I really loved this one!

I am recommending this one for fans of Eleanor & Park and All the Bright Places. Be sure to read my interview with David Arnold about the story behind this story (and the surprising spot he crafted it!) in our Sundays With Writers series.

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

Please, please, please read this and come back and tell me what you think! This book is about three unlikely friends growing up in the rural South that are all fighting demons of their own.

Dill’s father is a Pentecostal preacher, known for his snake charming church, that becomes part of a town scandal that has left his family open to scrutiny and struggling financially. Travis is obsessed with a book series called Bloodfall that helps him escape into another reality away from his abusive father. And Lydia is a blogger ready to start a new life in New York while struggling to leave behind what is familiar and those she loves.

These three unlikely people bond together and end up facing a struggle none of them could have ever predicted.  This friendship is beautifully woven with humor and heart. I could not put this book down and read it in a single day.

Be sure to check out my interview with Jeff about this book. Want a fun fact? He wrote the book on his iPhone!

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

eleanor & park by rainbow rowell

Eleanor just doesn’t fit in with her peers, wild hair and patchwork outfits, do not seem to help her blend in better. When she is forced to choose a seat on the bus she ends up sitting next to Park, a quiet kid who is obsessed with comic books and an outsider himself.
When Park notices that Eleanor is reading his comic books over his shoulders, he starts sharing them with her, which later develops into a sharing of great mixed music tapes, and then develops into more than either of them can imagine.
Set in 1986, this book made me laugh out loud and made me cry. Eleanor is one of those quirky characters that you just can’t help rooting for. Although this is written for young adults, anyone who ever survived those awful days of high school will love this book.
Quick Reads to Reach Those Reading Goals from MomAdvice.com

What is a book that you found quick and satisfying that would help someone reach their goals? Speaking of those goals, where are you at right now on your goals so I can cheer you on!! Looking for more great 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.

Published December 15, 2016 by:

Amy Clark

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

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