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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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March 2018 Must-Reads

Friday, March 30th, 2018

March 2018 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

I have been a little out of my reading groove this year, but I read so many great books this month that I’m feeling back in the game again.

My biggest challenge?

Beating my readers to books and getting to share about them before they have read them.

I am really hopeful though that I have made a few discoveries that you haven’t explored yet and I have several 5-star reads in this month’s stack that I think you will love.

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I’m looking forward to enjoying our Spring Break in the sunshine this year and I’m, perhaps, a little TOO ambitious with how many books that I’m hoping to tackle. I’m guessing next month you will definitely want to stop by to see what I enjoyed over the break.

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 1,500 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 March) and you can find them pinned at the top of the group page. These will be added in a blog entry for January, but book club participants get the list a little earlier. It’s just one more perk to enjoy with this free club!

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

April BOTM

The Book of Month Club Selections Are Out!!

This month’s special:

Get your first month of BOTM free with code YESPLZ

April Selections:

From a Gillian Flynn-approved thriller (trust her: it’s nasty) to a showdown on Mount Olympus, the selections this month are fast, fun, and full of adventure. Get excited.

❃ Circe by Madeline Miller—recommended by BOTM Judge Liberty Hardy

❃ The Oracle Year by Charles Soule—recommended by author and blogger Samantha Irby

❃ Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall—recommended by BOTM Editorial Director Siobhan Jones

❃ The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya—recommended by BOTM Brand Ambassador Etaf Rum

❃ Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell—recommended by BOTM Readers Committee member Laura Whitelaw

Here are 9 must-read books I tackled in March:

Brass

Brass by Xhenet Aliu

Brass explores a beautifully complex mother and daughter story as the duo go on their own parallel journeys. Elise, our mother in the story, is working as a waitress when she meets and falls in love with the diner’s line cook, Bashkim.

What Bashkim failed to share with her is that he was already a married man.

He promises her the moon, but delivers on nothing and Elise must make the difficult decision to stay and raise their child together or leave.

Seventeen years later, Luljeta has a very complex relationship with her mother. She has never understood why she has left and she decides to go find the answers herself and the father she never knew.

This story is told in parallel narrative and Aliu does such a great job weaving the complexities of mother daughter relationships into these two characters. If you like your family stories a little messy, like me, I have a feeling that you will really enjoy this read.

3.5 Out Of 5 Stars

The Immortalists

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

The Immortalists has been on many must-read lists this year and I was absolutely engrossed in this incredible book, told from four sibling’s perspectives.

The premise of this book is that the four children visit a fortune-teller who is able to tell them the exact date of their death. Each sibling keeps this information a secret from one another and the story explores how knowing when you will die (young or old) impacts your decision-making. Do you engage in risky behaviors because you know you know when you will die anyway? How does knowing your final date shape your own patterns of behavior?

The book is broken into four sections following each of their lives and how they live them with this forecasted information. Each of the characters was so well-written that I found myself escaping into each story easily.

I, honestly, couldn’t put this one down. I highly recommend it for yourself or to share with your book club!

4 Out Of 5 Stars

Every Note Played

Every Note Played by Lisa Genova

If you are looking for a tear-jerker to add to your book stack this month, then be sure to add Genova’s latest novel, Every Note Played.

I have read everything that Genova has written and this has been my favorite of all her incredible books.  This story explores the disease ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and the swift decline that occurs when someone is faced with this illness.

Richard is a world-renowned pianist that has chosen to make playing music the focus of his life, even over his family. Divorced and estranged from his daughter, he bounces from one relationship to the next. When he begins having difficulties playing piano, particularly with his right hand, he sees a doctor and is faced with the devastating news that he has ALS and will soon see paralysis throughout the rest of his body.

Unable to afford the care that he needs, he must ask his ex-wife to help care for him, someone he had cast aside and cheated on during their marriage. This dynamic is quite toxic as Richard and Karina must learn to live together again and face the horrific and heartbreaking decline of Richard’s health.

Richard is an unlikable character from beginning to end and I do think that this makes Karina’s sacrifice even greater because he is so ungrateful. Some readers may struggle with a connection to him, but you definitely won’t struggle to sympathize as you see the gravity of this illness and how quickly it takes over the body.

I cry about once a year over a book, thanks to a hardened soul and reading so much.

This book WRECKED ME.

I was crying reading it and then two days later I was still crying about it. It moved me emotionally, in ways that books rarely do.

Once I came to the end and saw all of the people that Genova lovingly mentions that shared their journey with ALS with her, you see how much thought and research went into this project. Genova’s compassion in telling this story is, truly, a gift.

Be sure to add this one to the top of your book stack this month!

5 Out Of 5 Stars

Himself

Himself by Jess Kidd

(ON SALE right now for just $1.99!!)

It is hard to categorize this read, but I found myself moved and completely laughing-out-loud through this beautifully told story.

Mahony was abandoned at an orphanage as a baby and has always assumed his mother did not want to be a part of his life. When he receives an anonymous note though, it implies that she might have been forced to give him up and that there might be more to this story. Mahony sets off to his hometown to try to find out what exactly happened to his mother.

The whole town starts talking the minute that Mahony shows up. The ladies want him, the people who never liked his mother want him to leave, and he also happens to have a gift for talking to ghosts who would love to tell him a few stories of their own.

If you love a good Irish accent, be sure to listen to this one on audiobook because it really is a treat. Even with such a potentially heavy topic, this book is thick with humor and heart. All the villagers practically lift off the page. Kidd definitely has a knack for storytelling and I’m sure we will be seeing a lot more from her in the future.

5 Out Of 5 Stars

American Fire

American Fire by Monica Hesse

American Fire was this month’s MomAdvice Book Club pick so I really got to dive deep into this one as I prepared for our monthly discussion.

This is a fast and easy-to-read true crime novel about a series of 70+ fires that happened in Virginia’s Accomack County. The love affair of Charlie Smith and Tonya Bundick apparently needed a little more spark (I had to do it-sorry!) and they decided that setting fires to local abandoned buildings would be a great way to spend their time together.

This isn’t a whodunit story, it is a whydunit story. If you prefer your true crime with some mystery, you won’t get that in this one. Hesse reveals exactly who set these from the start and then unfolds their motivations for attention. You follow these two all the way to the courtroom and also, as a reader, get to understand the unbelievable time and effort that were involved in putting these fires out.

I listened to this one on audiobook and thought it was very well-written. Hesse really did her research and I enjoyed hearing more about this twisted love story and how these arsons brought the town together in some really unlikely ways.

4 Out Of 5 Stars

Mrs. Fletcher

Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta

Looking for a little spice in your book stack? Mrs. Fletcher explores sex, love, and identity in America through the story of Eve, lonely and divorced, and her college-aged son.

Eve begins exploring her sexuality through porn because her life has felt boring and mediocre, inspired by an anonymous text calling her a MILF. When she joins a Gender Studies course, she finds an openness in her co-workers and also discovers that the message has become a fixation for her that she just can’t let go.

Meanwhile, her son lacks the smooth charm with the ladies and embarrassingly embraces his frat-bro style in his relationships (*cringe*). When he takes things a bit too far with a girl, he is forced to see the confusion he has had with what he thinks girls want and what they really do want.

I told ya, this book has some spice and it won’t be for everyone. It was like watching two train wrecks unfold and definitely examines today’s culture and how we explore our sexuality. What’s okay now? What’s not?  It held my attention, even when I felt the plot took some strange and disturbing turns.

3 Out Of 5 Stars

Dear Fang With Love

Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe

I always like to walk around the library and pick up one book that isn’t being talked about and that is no longer on the new releases table. Dear Fang, With Love had such a gorgeous cover that it immediately grabbed my attention and I enjoyed this book so very much that I’m surprised that I haven’t heard more about it.

Vera is seventeen and has recently suffered a psychotic breakdown and is being treated for bipolar disorder. She has been estranged from her father her whole life, but he decides to take her on a trip to the city of Vilnius, his grandmother’s homeland, after her recent diagnosis. The two go on a group tour where they make unlikely friendships, learn about the Holocaust, explore a mystery around their grandmother being granted an escape from the Nazis, and begin finding beauty in rekindled relationships with those we love.

Vera writes to her boyfriend, nicknamed Fang, with some laugh-out-loud letters about what has been happening as she mentally feels better and better being in this new environment. Thorpe explores the tricky terrain of mental illness through very beautiful writing and I have a feeling you will fall in love with Vera and her father as much as I did.

This coming-of-age story was a wonderful surprise this month. I hope you can snag it at your library too!

4 Out Of 5 Stars

Losing Brave

Losing Brave by Bailee Madison & Stefne Miller

Losing Brave is a haunting YA novel about a year-old mystery surrounding the disappearance of Payton’s twin sister, Dylan. Payton was there when Dylan disappeared, but has holes in her memory about what has happened. Although the case is still open, she knows that she might be the one to hold the key into uncovering Dylan’s reasoning for her absence in their family.

When another missing girl’s body is discovered by the lake, with similar features to Dylan, the police begin to believe that these two disappearances may be linked. As Payton begins to uncover some of her memories around this moment, she has no idea the danger she is putting herself in. To make matters worse, she has begun to have feelings for Dylan’s boyfriend as the two become closer and closer through their mutual sadness over the loss of Dylan.

This mystery is well-paced and kept me guessing throughout. Madison builds believable motives and adds a real rawness to Payton’s character. Better yet, the story takes some really shocking twists that I don’t think you will see coming at all… at least, I didn’t.

The audiobook is beautifully narrated and really adds another layer to the story that I think you will appreciate. This was another beautiful surprise in my book stack this month that I think even people who aren’t as into YA will really love because of the maturity of these characters, the writing, and the thriller-style mystery!

4 Out Of 5 Stars

Allegedly

Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

Looking for a really quick page-turner that you won’t be able to put down? Allegedly had me up until waayyyy past my bedtime because I was so wrapped up into this story.  Described as, Orange Is the New Black meets Walter Dean Myer’s Monster, this story is about a teen who had been accused of killing a baby when she was just nine-years-old….allegedly.

Mary B. Madison has been written about in many, many books as people tried to understand the motivation behind this child-murderer. Now that Mary is pregnant with her own baby, she has decided to come clean with what really happened that night and has begged her mother to tell the true story so her baby is not taken away from her. Living in a scary group home and without money,  she decides to see an attorney, who has volunteered her time to this intriguing case,  and has asked that the case be reopened so she can keep her child.

The story unfolds for the reader through newspaper and book clippings of speculations and through Mary’s own eyes as she slowly shares about her heartbreaking childhood and her mentally ill mother.

Get ready for a BUMPY ride, folks. I don’t want to reveal too much more beyond this because half the fun is your own discoveries as a reader.

I’m so thankful for our book club and the recommendations that they make. This book came highly recommended and I would have never picked it up on my own. It’s free to join in on the fun- I think you’d love the recommendations too.

5 Out Of 5 Stars

Amy Allen Clark

Read With Me This Year:

January 2018 Must-Reads

February 2018 Must-Reads

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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.

March 2018 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

5 Book Series for Kids Who Love Harry Potter

Monday, March 26th, 2018

Book Series for Kids Who Love Harry Potter

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

My daughter loves to read. I mean, the girl LOVES reading.

I mean she refuses to leave the house without a book. I’m talking about a kid who stays up way past her bedtime reading, every night, unless I remove all books from her room. I’m saying she burns through books like…I don’t know, but something that doesn’t last a long time. Even all the resources of both her school library and our city library cannot keep this kid in books.

Please know I don’t say this as a criticism. I’m not mocking her. Oh no. Because my book-obsessed child is basically a mini-me in this regard. The bookworm does not fall far from the bookworm tree.

She’s also a teensy bit obsessed with Harry Potter. She was Hermione for Halloween. She began planning her Hogwarts-letter 11th birthday party the day after she turned 10. She has a Harry Potter-themed shirt for every day of the week. And last week? I registered her for a Harry Potter day camp coming up this summer. She’s a big fan.

But my daughter is also sensitive. And innocent. And, much to her great dismay (and the fantastic combination of tween attitude and gnashing of teeth), she was not ready to read the fifth Harry Potter book after devouring the first four.

Despite her protests that she was the only kid in the fourth grade who hadn’t read all the Harry Potter books, I know I’m not alone in navigating the challenge of a tween who loves books and can read at a higher grade level than she’s in – or ready for. So just in case you have a kid who loves Harry Potter (but has already read them all or isn’t ready for the next book in the series) in your life, I’ve got a few other series that might keep your bookworm busy.

Book Series for Kids Who Love Harry Potter

5 Book Series for Kids Who Love Harry Potter

The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer – Twins are transported to a fairytale land through a mysterious book. The stories are more Grimm than Disney, but still suitable for my fourth-grader who is reading the fifth book in this series (and loves giving me a play-by-play WHILE SHE READS. It’s fine. It’s great. It’s FINE.).

Reportedly, a movie based on this series is in development. But since no cast, release date, or other news has been announced yet, you and your kids still have plenty of time to read the books first.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan – It may be sacrilegious to Harry Potter fans, but this is my favorite middle grade series of all time. So when my daughter finally showed interest in this book about a boy who learns his father is Poseidon, an actual Greek god, I was super excited! And nervous. Would she love them as much as I do?

Well, I won’t keep you hanging – she did. Because it’s the best series ever, said the totally unbiased and definitely cool mom. It really is a great series, though, with funny, complex characters who go on incredible adventures. And readers learn a whole lot about Greek mythology along the way.

Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley – This nine-book series about two sisters whose parents have disappeared and who learn that fairy tales are true begins light and gradually grows darker. Like with Harry Potter, parents may want to set the pace for their kids’ progress through these books. But also like Harry Potter and the other series I’m recommending, parents may enjoy them just as much as their kids! So reading them together may be a great option, as the messages of girl power and the strong bond between sisters enhance the clever nature of these fractured fairy tales.

Story Thieves by James Riley – Life was pretty boring for Owen until he discovered his classmate Bethany could jump inside books and interact with the characters. The two students go on adventures in different types of books over what is so far a five-book series, and while reviews call these books more simplistic and clichéd, my daughter loves them. I legitimately just requested the fourth book in the series for her from the library.

 My 10-year-old still enjoys these books but they are geared toward a younger audience than these other series (which makes them a great alternative for kids who aren’t quite ready to advance to the next Harry Potter book!).

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle – It may be experiencing a resurgence in popularity because of Disney’s recent movie release, but this series has been captivating and inspiring kids for decades. I wasn’t sure how my daughter would respond to this book, with its old-fashioned roots and sometimes complicated syntax and vocabulary. I shouldn’t have underestimated either my daughter or this series. She was hooked from the beginning, as I read to her, “It was a dark and stormy night.”

Significantly different than the 2018 movie, this book captures readers and encourages them as well. I’m thrilled that my daughter wasn’t content to wait for me to read another chapter each night and has finished the first book on her own and begun the second.

I looked up each of these books on CommonSenseMedia.org, and they are all suggested for readers ages 9 and above (except for Story Thieves, which is appropriate for kids 8 and up). This site also has a great guide for both the Harry Potter books and movies, if you’re unsure about what age is best for each of the installments in this series. You can watch a quick video here and read a more detailed guide here.

It can be hard to hold our kids back from books that may be too intense for them, but it’s worth it. Reading the books when they can truly comprehend the storylines and handle difficult situations emotionally will protect their love of these books so they can enjoy them for years to come.

And if taking a break from one series leads to interest in reading another, well, that’s just an added bonus as our kids grow into great readers who love all sorts of stories.

reading harry potter

Harry Potter Illustrated

Isn’t Mary so great?

As I was titling these images, I ran across these photos of our Harry Potter fans.  They look so little, don’t they?

The days are long, but the years are short.

I can’t believe how quickly time has been passing.

Savor these reading moments with your kids because they, truly, are gone in a blink of an eye.

What to Read After Harry Potter Book Series from MomAdvice.com

If you want to explore a couple more authors and where to go next, check out these two posts from Mary:

What to Read After You’ve Finished the Latest Kasie West Novel

What to Read After You’ve Finished the Latest John Green Book

Do you have any recommendations for a great kid series after Harry Potter? Feel free to drop your suggestions in this comments below!

Mary Carver is a writer, speaker, and recovering perfectionist. She lives for good books, spicy queso, and television marathons, but she lives because of God’s grace. Mary writes with humor and honesty about giving up on perfect and finding truth in unexpected places on her blog, MaryCarver.com. She is the author of Fast Talk & Faith: A 22-Day Devotional Inspired by Gilmore Girls and co-author of Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts. She is also a regular contributor to incourage.me and MothersofDaughters.com. Mary and her husband live in Kansas City with their two daughters.

 

February 2018 Must-Reads

Friday, March 2nd, 2018

february-2018-must-reads

Who is ready for some fresh reads for their book stacks? I’ve been a reading machine this month and I’m so excited to share some fresh picks with you that I’d love to recommend for your reading this month. In fact,  I have eight great books that I tackled and several 5-star reads that I am hoping will be winners with you too.

Did I mention how much I love sharing books with you guys?

It’s true!

February Book Stack

I haven’t done this before, but I thought it would be fun to see an actual visual of how many pages that I read this month. Sometimes I’m frustrated that I’m not reading faster than I am, but seeing this stack reminds me that sometimes it isn’t the volume of books I’m sharing, but the volume of pages that I’ve flipped for this monthly feature.

Check out that leaning tower of books, people!

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 1,500 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 February) and you can find them pinned at the top of the group page. These will be added in a blog entry for January, but book club participants get the list a little earlier. It’s just one more perk to enjoy with this free club!

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

Before we chat about books, this month’s Book of the Month selections are AWESOME this month and I have to share about them with you!

March BOTM

The Book of Month Club Selections Are Out!!

This month’s special: Use code YESPLZ to get your first month free! (new members only!)

March Selections:

The Last Equation of Isaac Severy by Nova Jacobs

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan

Other People’s Houses by Abbi Waxman

Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

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

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 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?

I listened to this one on audiobook in a single day, and had to know what was going to happen with this photo. I don’t want to say more- it’s really awesome.  This book would lend itself well to a book club discussion.

5 Out Of 5 Stars

Lucky Boy

Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaram

I also have to lead with this month’s MomAdvice Book Club pick because it was so darn good. What I heard frequently from our book club members was that this was a book that they would have not picked up on their own and that it ended up being a favorite this month. The best part, for me, was also hearing that it changed people’s viewpoints and made them more empathetic to refugees and immigrants that have come to America.

This story is about two women- one who is in her teens and coming to the states illegally and the other who is living the American dream version of the immigrant story in Berkley. When Soli, our teen narrator, becomes pregnant on her perilous journey to the states, she decides to keep her son and do her best to juggle her job as a housekeeper and care for her child.

The other woman is struggling with infertility and would do anything to have a child.

When Soli’s little boy enters her life, she must do everything she can to keep him in it.

Our “lucky” boy is loved fiercely by two women and both will stop at nothing to keep him in their lives.

I honestly couldn’t turn the pages fast enough on this one. It made for a FANTASTIC and timely book club discussion from fertility to the immigrant struggle to the unstoppable love of motherhood. I can’t recommend this read enough!

5 Out Of 5 Stars

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.

True crime, a podcast, and a twisty thriller are all rolled into one satisfying read.

4 Out Of 5 Stars

Spoonbenders

Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory

Looking for a book that is unlike any other you’ve read? Spoonbenders was a highly imaginative exploration of a family that all have special powers that have been celebrated publicly.

Known as the Amazing Telemachus Family, each family member has a special skill from moving objects with their mind, the ability to predict the future, a human lie detector…and a con man who has the sleight of hand ability being used by the CIA.

Decades later this family is not so amazing. In fact, if you are an Arrested Development fan, you just might recognize some of the quirks of these family members. When one family member owes a large sum of money to the mob, this magical family must come together to save their family member and they discover more about each other in the process.

I love magical realism and really enjoyed this read. It had a bit of a lag towards the end and might have benefited from a bit of trimming, but overall it was one that I looked forward to reading. Several laugh-out-loud moments happen in this one that made it a welcome escape.

If magical realism or dysfunctional family stories are your thing, this might be a winner in your book stack too.

4 Out Of 5 Stars

The Wife Between Us

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Looking for a twisty thriller for your book stack? I have a feeling that you will really enjoy, The Wife Between Us. 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.

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.

4 Out Of 5 Stars

An American Marriage

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

An American Marriage was selected as Oprah’s Book Club Pick and has been THE buzz book this month. I snagged it through Book of the Month, but I ended up listening to this one instead.

This book tells the story of a man who is wrongfully incarcerated and how this couple does their best to continue to keep their marriage alive. A love triangle ensues, between the husband, wife and her childhood friend. It all comes to a shattering halt when Roy, the husband, gets out early from his twelve year sentence and their marriage is completely in question.

You do sympathize with the characters and wonder what you would do if put in this place. Roy feels like he has to pay for something he didn’t do and then pay for it again. Celestial, the wife, also grows up and evolves into a different person. It’s a difficult circumstance that would be a great one to discuss in your book club.

I will say, I was looking for a bit more depth on this one, particularly with the wrongful arrest and I can’t say that I actually had a deep connection with any of the characters.

I would say if you plan to read this one, the narration was beautifully done through the audiobook and it helped me to connect more with the letters that are written back and forth from the prison.

As with all buzz books, I’m not sure I embraced the hype, but I certainly enjoyed the story.

4 Out Of 5 Stars

The Woman in the Window

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Fans of Hitchcock are sure to love this amazing thriller that had me on a whodunit guessing spree up until the final pages. The main character is an alcoholic pill-popper who used to be a psychologist and now is estranged from her family. Since she is unable to leave her home, she makes a habit of spying on her neighbors and happens to witness the good ol’ neighbor lady being stabbed.

When the cops show up, after her frantic 9-1-1 call, they say that she is alive. To prove it, she walks in to show herself…and she is not herself at all. In fact, she is an entirely different woman. Now this unreliable narrator must figure out where the real Mrs. Russell is.

I don’t want to say too much about this one because half the fun is all the twists that the author has woven in.

Despite the long length, I was able to polish this one off in a couple of days and found it to be a satisfying and surprising ending.

If you prefer your thrillers with a great mystery woven in, you are sure to love this one! Finn also weaves in a lot of old movies that just might have you planning a movie night at home.

5 Out Of 5 Stars

The Great Alone

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

I really loved The Nightingale and had really been hoping Kristin Hannah would tackle another historical fiction book, but this contemporary coming-of-age story ended up being sweetly satisfying for a winter escape.

This story is set in the seventies and 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.

I really loved this read until the ending which took on a Lifetime movie quality. I tried to not let that overshadow my enjoyment of the rest of the story because braving the wilderness is tough and Hannah writes so eloquently about this impossible marriage and the honest struggle of a Vietnam veteran.

4 Out Of 5 Stars

february-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

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