Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

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

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though.

 

January 2018 Must-Reads

Friday, February 2nd, 2018

January 2018 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

I’ve got big plans to tackle another 100 books again and can’t wait to hear what your reading goals are this year too!

I am so excited to be sharing my first month of reviews for 2018.  This month ended up being a slower reading month for me, thanks to tackling some of the bigger books that I have had on my reading agenda. It slowed my roll a bit, but a couple of these larger books ended up being my favorites this month so I’m really glad I invested my time in them.

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.

MomAdvice 2018 Reading Challenge Printable download our free reading challenge worksheet!

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!

book of the month

The Book of Month Club Selections Are Out!!

This month’s special:

Get your first month of BOTM free with code YESPLZ

February Selections

Still Me by Jojo Moyes

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (I already had this as an advanced reader- everyone is raving about this!)

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (this is the one I got!)

The Philosopher’s Flight by Tom Miller (this is the other one I got)

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James—a BOTM exclusive!

GOOD STUFF!!

Here are 6 must-read books that I tackled in January!

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

Fierce Kingdom shares the terrifying story of a mother and child that are visiting the zoo, as it nears closing time, when a shooting occurs and they must hide their to remain safe. Phillips builds the tension quickly as the book opens almost immediately with the shooting. You then follow the two as they try to find safety in the zoo and the story then begins to unfold with other points of views from other people who find themselves trapped there too.

The plot on this one was a bit thin and had a few loose ends with some characters that made this a quick read, but not necessarily a favorite. Had Phillips lead in with a bit more backstory and then moved to the shooting, I think I would have connected with it more with the story. She does craft believable characters and the struggle is real when her son is hungry and tired, but still has to remain quiet.

This wasn’t a thriller favorite, but it was an easily digestible literary escape for the week.

3 Out Of 5 Stars

The Last Mrs. Parrish

The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine

The Last Mrs. Parrish has been on my radar, after a few glowing reviews, and I couldn’t wait to dig into this fun thriller as my first book for January.  Constantine pens the story of a woman, Amber Patterson, who feels slighted by society and thinks she deserves more recognition than she is receiving in the world. Daphne Parrish has the life she always wanted and she begins to plan how she can steal this glamorous life from Daphne because she deserves it more than she does. #YOLO

Pretending to be her friend, she works her way into Daphne’s home and heart, all while pursuing her husband in some really conniving ways. A predictable Single White Female plot begins to unfold, but there is more to the plot than meets the eye.

Wait for it…PLOT SWITCH.

I’ll admit that the writing felt a bit juvenile in the beginning and I did not love Amber Patterson (or her viewpoint) when the book began.  I had thought about abandoning it, but Constantine develops a really well-crafted twist as I dove deeper into this one. I think you would enjoy this one a lot!

4 Out Of 5 Stars

Pachinko

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

So many of my readers said that this book made their top ten and I can see why! This book was beautiful from start to finish and told the sweeping story of several generations of a Korean family in Japan and the cultural struggles that they face over the years.

The book begins in the early 1900’s with the unplanned pregnancy of a Korean girl, named Sunja. Sunja faces a lot of humiliation when she discovers she isn’t the only one who has captured her lover’s eye. When her path crosses with a tubercular minister, he offers to marry her and bring her to Japan to start a new life as thanks for helping him through his difficult illness.

The story then unfolds as generation after generation deal with their own cultural challenges, the discrimination they must face, and the poverty that threatens to take everything away from them.

This story is RICH in beauty and detail. Lee’s writing is just gorgeous and she weaves this tapestry of characters so very well.  At almost 500 pages, this one is a bit of a commitment, but I finished it in just a few short days because I had to know what would happen to these characters. I highly recommend adding this one to your stack!

Reading Challenge Completed- A book about refugees or immigrants

5 Out Of 5 Stars

Alias Grace

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

Last year I read and loved, The Handmaid’s Tale and couldn’t wait to dive into another Atwood book this year. Our first MomAdvice Book Club selection happened to be Alias Grace and lead to one of our best discussions we have had in the group.

This book is based upon the actual case of Grace Mark, a woman convicted of murdering her employer and his housekeeper, in 1843. Atwood tells this story effectively through sessions with an up-and-coming expert in the field of mental illness, as many believe she is deserving of a pardon, as he tries to uncover the truth. Told from alternating points of view, from the doctor and from Grace, Atwood builds this story and leaves readers on shaky ground on Grace’s innocence.

This was a slow starter for me and didn’t pick up pace until about halfway through. Once it did though, I felt a bit more vested in the story and spent a lot of time reading about the actual case that inspired Atwood.

Since this has book has become a Netflix series, it would be a fun one to read before catching the series. I’m looking forward to diving into this series soon- I hear it is quite binge-worthy!

Reading Challenge Completed- A MomAdvice Book Club Selection

3 Out Of 5 Stars

Killers of the Flower Moon

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

Killers of the Flower Moon has been on my radar for a long time, but I had a feeling that this true-crime story would be a difficult one to swallow. If you are unfamiliar of what this story is about, this book explores the murders that happened in the Osage Indian Reservation in the 1920s. The Osage people ended up being very wealthy when the land their reservation was located on happened to be rich with oil.

Basically the Osage people ended up rich and lived happily ever after.

Right?

Nope.

You can’t imagine the corruption that occurred to try and rob these people of their land and money. From execution-style shootings to poisonings to exploding homes…it is unreal the amount of suffering these people endured.

The book explores the details behind these murders and the birth of the F.B.I. as they scoured the territory for clues and J. Edgar Hoover’s role in launching this bureau and the prestige and power he gained from this case.

This story reads like fiction, but it is anything BUT fiction. Fans of true-crime thrillers will love this one and won’t be able to put it down.

Reading Challenge Completed- A book based on a true story

5 Out Of 5 Stars

The Year of Less

The Year of Less by Cait Flanders

If you are looking for a how-to book on how to live on less, then this would not be the book for you. If you are looking for a surprisingly poignant, raw, and honest account of one woman’s challenge to not spend money for a year and the parallels she began to see in her life to her need for acquisition, you will LOVE this book.

This memoir really showcases our deeply rooted attachments and the emotional reasons why we buy the things we do. As she whittles away at her belongings, she has time to reflect on everything from her childhood to her struggles with her alcohol addiction and see how these purchases intertwine with her habits and items she has acquired.

Fans of The Happiness Project will really love this one- it was deeply honest and highly motivating to rethink your spending mindset this year. I highly recommend this one!

Reading Challenge Completed- A memoir from someone you never heard of

5 Out Of 5 Stars

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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.

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The Best Books of 2017

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017

top-ten-books-of-2017-from-momadvice

I am so excited to share my selections for best books of 2017. It is always incredibly difficult to narrow down my favorites and this year, in particular, is a tough one because of all the incredible books that came out this year. After reading 100 books this year (!!!), I am looking forward to sharing the books that I can’t stop talking about.

A Few Quick Reflections on My Year in Reading

GoodReads Goals

Joining GoodReads has been an incredible motivator to keep on track with my reading goals.  As you can see, I am reading more and more each year and trying to keep reading a priority and goal. I doubled the amount of books I read from 2014 to 2017.  How do I read so much? You might find this article helpful!

GoodReads Goals

It is also no surprise that this was my highest amount of pages read. GoodReads offers a great end-of-year report to reflect back on your reading which gives you an opportunity to reflect on your favorite books of the year.

Traditionally, I move my goals up for the next year, but I have decided to stick to 100 again for 2018. I felt a little rushed at the end and it impacted my book choices and enjoyment of the books because I wanted to just hurry up and read so I could make it across the finish line.  If I’m on a faster pace than I expect, that will just be a bonus next year!

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 announced our selections (starting with this one) 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!

PS- I know I have had MULTIPLE requests that we offer another reading challenge sheet for the year. I am working on that for you so please stay tuned! I’m so happy to hear you found the 2017 reading challenge printable to be so much fun to work through! The feedback has been that it was challenging, but maybe a little TOO challenging so it will be a shorter one for next year with categories provided by our book club members- woohoo! 

Let’s get to it-

The Best Books of 2017:

The Heart's Invisible Furies

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

This book was just EVERYTHING and reminded me a lot of one of my all-time favorites , A Little Life. At almost 600 pages, I was worried if this book would hold my attention, but Boyne crafts the perfect boyhood friendship as it sprawls decades of time in this gorgeous and gripping saga.

You may be familiar with Boyne’s work, but I was not.  I picked this book up on a whim and devoured it in just a few days.

A faithful Catholic Irish family casts out their daughter when they discover she is pregnant.  Knowing she is not in a position to raise a child alone, she gives him up for adoption to his new parents…

That love to remind him that he is not their real son.

He is their adopted son.

This dark humor is layered so beautifully as the boy, Cyril, becomes dear friends with a boy named Julian. The problem is, as Cyril gets older, he realizes he has a deep and undying love for his best friend. Cyril must keep his sexuality under wraps and keep his affection for him a secret which ends up costing him a lot.

The book follows these two through the decades, beginning in 1945 and ending in Cyril’s elderly age. It finishes in the present day while tackling everything from being closeted to the AIDS epidemic to what it really means to be family.

I laughed and got a little teary-eyed following Cyril as he goes through this identity crisis and finds love. I was really swept away in this story and Boyne builds a beautiful supportive cast.

Goodbye, Vitamin

Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong

I haven’t heard a lot of people talking about Goodbye,Vitamin, but I noticed it had made its way on so many best-of lists this year that I just had to read it.

I am not a big fan of correspondence or diary entry books, but it works SO well in this smart, funny, and heartwarming story of a 30-year-old daughter who returns to live at home and care for her father with Alzheimer’s, following a break-up with her fiancée.

Told in sparse quips, Khong breathes fresh air into new ways to think about life and love lost. Sentences like, “You know what else is unfair, about Joel? That I loosened the jar lid, so somebody else could open him up,” or, “It was grotesque, the way I kept trying to save that relationship. Like trying to tuck an elephant into pants,” beg you to read them twice.

Don’t be surprised if you find yourself laughing out loud and getting teary-eyed simultaneously through this one.  It’s an achingly beautiful read about growing up, seeing your parent’s struggles with health challenges, and the ability to find humor in even the worst situations. I loved it!

Castle of Water

Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge

I’m a sucker for a good love story and I can’t rave enough about the beauty of, Castle of Water. I knew that this would be on the top ten list of 2017 and I have a feeling, if you read it, it will be on yours too.

A small plane crashes in the middle of the South Pacific leaving two of the passengers stranded as they both washed ashore on a small island.  If you think this sounds a bit predictable, I did too, but Huckelbridge writes a story that is anything BUT predictable as the two castaways work together to try to remain alive in the face of numerous hurdles.

The writing is surprisingly witty and laugh-out-loud funny, while still giving you that ache in your heart at all they have lost. Being stranded on an island requires a writer to really drive this story with strong characters. This character development is the heart of the story as these two seem to lift off the pages.

While the ending didn’t bring all that I had hoped, it felt truthful to the storytelling and didn’t overshadow this beautiful story! Run, run, run and get this one!

Before We Were Yours

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Before We Were Yours absolutely blew me away and is a book that brings ALL THE FEELINGS, if you are looking for a historical fiction escape that will absolutely crush you.

Wingate shares the story of two little girls who become a part of one of America’s most notorious real life scandals of children being kidnapped and sold to wealthy families by Georgia Tann, a director of a Memphis-based adoption organization in the late 1930’s.

I was unfamiliar with the scandal or the heartbreaking stories of children being separated from their families and the tragic things they had to endure while under Tann’s horrific care.

This fictional story is built around the stories of real-life orphans and will just rip your heart to shreds.  Moving backward and forward through time, the reader gets to solve the mystery of two unlikely women with a bond that could never be broken and the granddaughter that must unravel it all, even at the expense of her family’s high society position.

I predicted that this would be in my top ten reads this year. Beautifully written and researched, it pulled all the right heartstrings.

Note- triggers include physical and sexual abuse.

Little Fires Everywhere

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Everything I Never Told You was Celeste Ng’s gorgeous debut (you can read my interview with her over here) and I couldn’t wait to see what she had next in store for us.  I was thrilled when the publishing house reached out to see if I would like to take a peek at her next book and this one did not disappoint.

This novel is a perfect read for Jodi Picoult fans as it explores the intertwining stories of a picture-perfect family and a single mother & child who end up disrupting what has always seemed ideal.

The book is set in a suburban bubble where a wealthy family, The Richardsons, reside. Always with good intentions, they love to help others and one of the ways they help them is by offering a rental home to deserving recipients at an affordable cost so that they can get back on their feet again.

Mia Warren is the lucky recipient of this rental, where she can make rent doing odd jobs so she can pursue her true passion for photography and art. When the Richardson family also happens to have an opening for a housekeeper, they bring Mia further into their lives as Pearl & Mia become fixtures in their home. Everything seems ideal about this family and Pearl, her daughter, immediately is drawn to them and their idyllic life.

Yet, when close friends of the wealthy family decides to adopt a Chinese American baby, sides are quickly drawn leaving Mia & Pearl on the opposing side. It is when the battle becomes fierce that secrets began to unravel and true feelings begin to erupt. And there are secrets….a LOT of secrets.

This is a heartstring puller that I devoured in a little over a day. It would lend itself really well to a lively book club discussion if you are looking for something fresh to add to your group that is guaranteed to get your book club members chatting!

The Book of Polly

The Book of Polly by Kathy Hepinstall

I love quirky stories that are big on humor and The Book of Polly was everything a good read should be. Beautifully developed characters, loads of hilarity, and Hepinstall’s choice of words and phrasing make these characters, truly, come to life.

Polly has an unexpected surprise in her late fifties and gives birth to her daughter, Willow. Polly is not like any mother that Willow knows at school and the reader experiences her pride and shame at just how little she does fit in. One of Willow’s biggest worries is Polly dying and when she ends up being diagnosed with cancer, it is like her worst fears coming true.

Polly’s not going to exit this world quietly though and Willow decides she wants to know more about Polly’s life from her younger years which lead them on an epic road trip.

I laughed out loud through this book and kept reading passages to my husband who laughed alongside me.  Fans of Be Frank With Me and Whistling Past the Graveyard are FOR SURE going to love this hilarious read! I just knew that this would be on the top ten list this year!

Saints for All Occasions

Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan

I have read a couple of Sullivan’s books and enjoyed them, but this book is unlike anything she has written before and is an exquisite escape that I think most readers will love. This story reads like Brooklyn had a baby with The Two-Family House so if you enjoyed those, don’t miss this one!

This story explores the lives of two sisters who come to America in the late fifties. One sister is wildly enjoying her newfound freedom while the other is promised to marry a boy she doesn’t love, but finds the responsible sister role to be an easier one. When Theresa, the “fun” sister, ends up pregnant, her sister comes up with a plan to save her reputation while making sure her son is loved and safe.

The book explores the past and present as each sister makes life-altering decisions that lead them down very different paths.  When Nora’s son dies, it brings the two sisters back together again while unleashing a load of family secrets in the process.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I have read every single book that Taylor Jenkins Reid has written and I have loved each of them in their own way. This book is markedly different than anything she has ever written and is an absolutely spellbinding book filled with old Hollywood glamour, celebrity secrets, and the power of real and true love.

Evelyn Hugo is an aging starlet who has decided to hire a magazine reporter to write her biography. As someone who has been very private, it is the chance of a lifetime for a virtually unknown writer to be given the story that is worth millions of dollars.

Evelyn’s love life has been something that Hollywood has often been speculated on, but no one could ever guess who captured Evelyn’s heart and how she was able, at times, to make her relationship work with the love of her life. Unfortunately, living in the spotlight often gets in the way of real living. This couldn’t be truer in Evelyn’s life and she is ready to divulge all of her secrets to Monique, in exchange for her writing her biography and publishing it upon her death.

I cannot rave enough about Reid’s ability to write real and relatable love stories. Each of her love stories has connected with me in some way and this book is no exception. I was swept away in Evelyn’s retelling of her life and Reid weaves smart plot twists in the end that I have a feeling you will really enjoy. In fact, I’m still thinking about them.

You must add this book to your book stacks stat!

Setting Free the Kites by Alex George

Setting Free the Kites by Alex George

If you haven’t read Alex George’s first book, please do add it to your reading list- it’s beautiful! In his second novel, George weaves a gorgeous coming-of-age story, set in the late 70’s, that chronicles the life and friendship of two boys that find each other in their eighth grade year. This friendship blossoms as a tragic event unfolds in each family’s life and brings them closer together.

It’s hard to say more about this so you can be surprised by these tragic twists, but the setting and characters are so beautifully written that your heart will quickly be wrapped up in this sweet story.

This book reminded me a lot of Ordinary Grace, in what appears to be a simple story, but is told with such beauty, heart, and soul that you can’t help but fall in love with this book . Be sure to have a box of tissues as you read this one as this book dives deep into heartbreak and loss.

born-a-crime

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Although I have been a big fan of his work on The Daily Show, I have an entirely new respect for Trevor Noah and the survival skills he used during his youth in apartheid South Africa, thanks to his incredible memoir, Born a Crime.”

Noah is truly, “born a crime,” because his birth is seen as a criminal act since he was born to a white father and black mother. To keep him from not being rounded up for an orphanage, he often was sidelined indoors instead of playing outside with his peers. His mother also employed survival techniques, like pretending to be his maid instead of his mother, to just be able to play at the park with her son.

The reader is taken through the story of his childhood that, even in its darker moments,  Noah manages to add heart and humor to each and every story. This brave little mischievous boy’s story will pull at every heartstring and illustrates why he is now so passionate about politics and the world.

DO get this one on audiobook to appreciate every nuance and accent that Noah can bring to the table. It’s like listening to the most polished standup comedy routine to hear him read this out loud.

As soon as I finished it, I just wanted to listen to it all over again.

2017 Honorable Mentions (you know I can’t just narrow my list down to ten, right?)

Words in Deep Blue

The Animators

This is How it Always Is

I Liked My Life

The Sound of Gravel

The Hate U Give

Ginny Moon

All Our Wrong Todays

When Dimple Met Rishi

The Child Finder

Amy Allen Clark

Need More Book Ideas? Here are my top ten lists from the past seven years!!

My Top Ten Books of 2016

My Top Ten Books of 2015

My Top Ten Books of 2014

My Top Ten Books of 2013

The Best Books Read in 2012

My Top Ten Books in 2011

The Top Ten of 2010

Top Ten Books of 2017 from MomAdvice.com

For more great suggestions, check out the NPR Book Concierge– swoon! It is heavenly stuff!

Tell me, what your favorite books were in 2017 or share your links to your own round-ups!

Anything I should be adding to my library bag?  Leave your suggestions in the comments below! Looking for book ideas? Check out our entire Book section of the site! Don’t forget to friend me on GoodReads or on IG or hang out with me in the book club!

This post contains affiliate links. I promise to only recommend what I truly love!

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December 2017 Must-Reads

Tuesday, December 26th, 2017

December 2017 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

I hope you had a wonderful holiday and are getting some time to relax the rest of this week! I had to read eight books this month to stay on my pace for my 100 book goal for 2017 and, YOU GUYS, I DID IT!! I’m feeling really proud of myself this year! Don’t mind me while I toot my own horn!!

Stay tuned for my top ten of the year, happening later this week! I’m excited to hear what your favorite books were in 2017 too.

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 announced our selections (starting with this one) 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!

Here are 8 must-read books that I tackled in December!

Goodbye, Vitamin

Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong

I haven’t heard a lot of people talking about Goodbye,Vitamin, but I noticed it had made its way on so many best-of lists this year that I just had to read it.

I am not a big fan of correspondence or diary entry books, but it works SO well in this smart, funny, and heartwarming story of a 30-year-old daughter who returns to live at home and care for her father with Alzheimer’s, following a break-up with her fiancée.

Told in sparse quips, Khong breathes fresh air into new ways to think about life and love lost. Sentences like, “You know what else is unfair, about Joel? That I loosened the jar lid, so somebody else could open him up,” or, “It was grotesque, the way I kept trying to save that relationship. Like trying to tuck an elephant into pants,” beg you to read them twice.

Don’t be surprised if you find yourself laughing out loud and getting teary-eyed simultaneously through this one.  It’s an achingly beautiful read about growing up, seeing your parent’s struggles with health challenges, and the ability to find humor in even the worst situations. I loved it!

5 Out Of 5 Stars

A Stranger in the House

A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena

If you have read, The Breakdown, you might not enjoy this thriller as much since I felt like the two had such similar plotlines. That said, this one was a great reprieve during my heavier reads that I appreciated this month.

The story starts quickly with a husband (Tom)  coming home for dinner and finding that his wife appears to have left abruptly from their home, leaving behind her purse, phone, and identification. When he gets a knock at the door, he is horrified to find the police are there to take him to his wife who has been in a car accident.

His wife, Karen, has suffered a concussion and has no recollection of where or why she had left her home that evening. Charged with reckless driving, the police suspect there is more to the story and begin an investigation into Karen’s life that lead them to uncover deep secrets about her past.

This one wasn’t as satisfying as, The Couple Next Door, but it still kept a great pace and held my interest!

3 Out Of 5 Stars

When Dimple Met Rishi

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

If you are looking for a sweetly satisfying YA book, When Dimple Met Rishi, was such a good one. This quirky love story is about a girl, Dimple, who is interested in computer programming and not interested in pursuing the ideal Indian husband (much to her mother’s disappointment).

When she enrolls in a summer program, created for aspiring web developers, she discovers that there is a boy enrolled in the program, named Rishi that has been the arranged marriage prospect that her family has secretly been plotting.

Say what?

It is through this unlikely connection that the two find each other and a deep friendship blossoms between the two that bring them together in unexpected ways. Fans of Eleanor & Park are guaranteed to love this sweet love story between Dimple and Rishi. This book was a treat on audiobook with the beautiful accents and two incredible narrators.

5 Out Of 5 Stars

Manhattan Beach

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

Manhattan Beach has been on almost every top book of 2017 list ever created and now I see why. If you are looking for a compelling historical fiction read, I would highly recommend this one.

This is the first historical fiction novel from Egan, but reads almost like a thriller as you piece together the disappearance of a father. Anna Kerrigan, on the cusp of twelve years old, accompanies her father for a visit to see Dexter Styles. It is a mysterious relationship and visit that she is encouraged not to share with her family.

Later her father disappears and Anna finds herself working for the Brooklyn Naval Yard. She becomes their first female diver and is breaking the mold of what roles women have in assisting in the war. One evening she finds herself at a nightclub where she sees Dexter Styles again and begins to wonder if he might be the key to understanding her father’s disappearance.

If you enjoyed Saints for All Occasions, I think you would enjoy this one too. It surprised me as much as Sullivan’s book as Egan weaves together this compelling plot so vividly that you will have trouble putting it down.

4 Out Of 5 Stars

Soulful Simplicity

Soulful Simplicity by Courtney Carver

I received a copy of this book from the publishing house. All thoughts & opinions are my own.

Soulful Simplicity embraces the power in simplicity and it is done effectively through Carver’s own journey towards a simpler life.

If you aren’t familiar with Courtney, she is the creator of the Project 333, the capsule wardrobe project that I began embracing a few years ago. Her journey towards this simpler life began with her MS diagnosis and the need to scale down her life, home, and belongings in order to make her health a priority.  Through this journey she discovered how wonderful the practice of minimalism is and how powerful it can be for everyone, even if you haven’t been faced with health issues.

Carver tackles the art of saying no, the rejection of busy, the whittling of clutter, the beauty in a smaller wardrobe, and so much more.  Her lifestyle and message speaks loudly during this time of resolutions and serves as a great reminder, to those that are already pursuing a minimalist life, that there is always an opportunity to do better with what we have.

5 Out Of 5 Stars

Something Like Happy

Something Like Happy by Eva Woods

Fans of Firefly Lane and Me Before You, will love this story of unlikely friendship so beautifully captured in, Something Like Happy.

Annie has been mourning a terrible loss and is in a negative place where she just feels stuck. When she meets Polly, who has been diagnosed with a brain tumor, she finds that this woman just won’t take no for an answer to friendship and is determined to make the most of every day.

With the given diagnosis, she believes she has one hundred days left where she wants to pursue one hundred new ways to be happy… and she wants Annie to help her with this mission. What Polly doesn’t know is that Annie needs it as much as she does.

This book is the feel-good kind of book that you need in your stack to remind you that we all could use a little happy in our life, the power of forgiveness, and the beauty in the healing of old relationships. Equally parts charming and, at times, a little cheesy, I loved this fictional escape.

4 Out Of 5 Stars

Idaho

Idaho by Emily Ruskovich

This was one of the big buzz books this year that I had been looking forward to diving into. There is so much to love in Idaho. The book has a very poetic feel with well-developed characters as it explores a horrific family tragedy and all that are left in the aftermath of this event.

Ruskovich has such a beautiful way with words that you find yourself quickly swept up into the story of these characters as you try to understand the motive behind the tragic death of a child. Unfortunately, the nonlinear narrative made it difficult to follow along with the story and the conclusion of the story was unsatisfying. Although I don’t need my endings neat and tidy, I hoped for a resolution that made the reading journey worth it. It isn’t that kind of read though and Ruskovich shares that most endings in real life are rarely neat and tidy.

I would recommend reading this one for the beauty of the storytelling,  while keeping in mind that the conclusion won’t necessarily be the satisfying ending you probably had hoped for.

3 Out Of 5 Stars

Class Mom

Class Mom by Laurie Gelman

Class Mom ended up being a great way to end my reading year thanks to its quick wit and humor. When Jen Dixon is recruited to be the kindergarten class mom, she takes the bull by the horns with hilarity as she corresponds with the parents about what is needed each week. This isn’t her first rodeo, with two college-aged children, and she doesn’t mind being blunt and to the point about what people need to be volunteering for.

Anyone who has volunteered at school and dealt with the pettiness of the helicopter parents is sure to appreciate this hilarious book.  Big Little Lies fans will appreciate the classroom parent drama and are sure to laugh out loud at the correspondence between these parents!

4 Out Of 5 Stars

Amy Allen Clark

Read With Me This Year:

January 2017 Must-Reads

February 2017 Must-Reads

March 2017 Must-Reads

April 2017 Must-Reads

May 2017 Must-Reads

June 2017 Must-Reads

July 2017 Must-Reads

August 2017 Must-Reads

September 2017 Must-Reads

October 2017 Must-Reads

November 2017 Must-Reads

December 2017 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

What did you read this month? Looking for book ideas? Check out our entire Book section of the site! Don’t forget to friend me on GoodReads! xo

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though.

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November 2017 Must-Reads

Monday, December 4th, 2017

November 2017 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

I hope your week is off to a great start! I just got back in town and realized that I’m a bit behind on our monthly book reviews. Forgive me! This time of year is as crazy for me as I’m sure it is for you. I am hoping this list will be worth the wait and give you some fun new books to pick up for the upcoming holiday break! I can’t wait to hear what you are reading too.

Oh, don’t forget 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!

Not enough variety? Print out our Reading Challenge Worksheet to finish out your year!

As always, I’m looking forward to sharing what I enjoyed in my stack this month. Unfortunately, the holiday season slowed my roll a bit so I’m excited to hop back in it this evening with a big mug of tea in front of our Christmas lights. I hope you have lots of evenings planned like this too!

Here are 6 must-read books that I tackled in November!

When We Were Worthy

When We Were Worthy by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

PSSSTTT- This one is on sale today for $1.99!!

Chamberlain & Picoult fans are sure to be captivated by this heartbreaking novel.

Worthy is a claustrophobic town that only seems to care about football and winning. When three cheerleaders are involved in a fatal car accident, the town wants someone to pay…no matter what.

Of course, nothing is exactly at what it seems and every character holds a few secrets of their own that could send the whole town into a tailspin. These views are all played out by the various viewpoints in the story from the mothers of the victims to the girl who should have been in the car with her friends. The numerous viewpoints can be a bit confusing at first, but I hit my pace after a few chapters. Whalen’s creative use of wordplay and language makes this an enjoyable read, even in the thick of my confusion.

If you want to feel a little lazy about not reaching your goals, Whalen states in her acknowledgement that she lost the use of her right hand, after an accident, and had to struggle to finish this since this happened to be her writing-hand. Basically, we all have NO excuses now!

When We Were Worthy was a solid escape! Thank you to Lake Union Publishing for sending a copy to me to review!

4 Out Of 5 Stars

Turtles All the Way Down

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Green’s next novel was the one that I had looked forward to the most this month. For me, this wasn’t my favorite and I found myself struggling to finish this one.

Tackling the subject of mental illness is, of course, very brave. Green crafts a character whose OCD tendencies and spiraling thought process really are beautifully done with a very raw glimpse into what it would be like to have these thoughts controlling you.

Unfortunately, this was the strongest glimmer and the YA mystery adventure, as the characters try to pursue a fugitive billionaire for cash reward, ended up being weak and didn’t hold my attention.

As a YA read, it is a great one for your kids. As an adult (not the intended audience, I can acknowledge this), it was a bit too YA for me!

3 Out Of 5 Stars

Castle of Water

Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge

I’m a sucker for a good love story and I can’t rave enough about the beauty of, Castle of Water. I know that this will be on the top ten list of 2017 and I have a feeling, if you read it, it will be on yours too.

A small plane crashes in the middle of the South Pacific leaving two of the passengers stranded as they both washed ashore on a small island.  If you think this sounds a bit predictable, I did too, but Huckelbridge writes a story that is anything BUT predictable as the two castaways work together to try to remain alive in the face of numerous hurdles.

The writing is surprisingly witting and laugh-out-loud funny, while still giving you that ache in your heart at all they have lost. Being stranded on an island requires a writer to really drive this story with strong characters. This character development is the heart of the story as these two seem to lift off the pages.

While the ending didn’t bring all that I had hoped, it felt truthful to the storytelling and didn’t overshadow this beautiful story! Run, run, run and get this one!

5 Out Of 5 Stars

Bonfire

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!

4 Out Of 5 Stars

Seven Days of Us

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak

If you are craving an escape from the holiday crazy, I can think of no better suggestion than an evening with, Seven Days of Us.

The entire Birch family must come together for seven long days to be locked down into quarantine for the holidays. Olivia, their daughter, is a doctor and has been treating an epidemic abroad and they need to insure that no germs are spread. The family hasn’t been together this long in years and, as we all do, everyone falls back into their old roles. Children become children again, parents resume fighting, and they all must learn to live with one another again.

Each of these family members is carrying a secret that holds detrimental consequences for the entire family. Told from their alternating perspectives, the chapters begin to twist together as these secrets are revealed.

Even in the predictable moments, this made for a highly entertaining read and is a great way to unwind over the holiday weekend. It made me smile in many of the same ways of some of my favorite holiday films. I think you will love this one!

4 Out Of 5 Stars

The Last Ballad

The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash

This new novel, from Wiley Cash, was inspired by true and heroic events of the first union and all that the crusade leaders had sacrificed to be a part of the movement. The main character, Ella May, is unable to keep her children clothed and fed on the wages she is given. With no man to help her, she receives a union flier that changes the path of her life. Within the first organized event, Ella May is asked to share her experience and becomes a poster child, of sorts, for the movement. Unfortunately, there are consequences for anyone who does not follow the protocol and Cash takes us through this difficult time in history through several different character’s eyes.

This one moved a little slower for me, but I blame the timing more than the writing. I had not paused to consider what this would look like, in the late twenties, and the heroic measures taken by those seeking fair wages. If you are looking to dive into a historical fiction book with some meat, this is a solid one!

4 Out Of 5 Stars

 

 

Book of the Month December Selections

The Book of Month Club Selections Are Out!!

This month’s special:

Gift a subscription to Book of the Month and get a free book for yourself (!!!)

December Selections:

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

The English Wife by Lauren Willig

The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

We’re Going To Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union

Amy Allen Clark

Read With Me This Year:

January 2017 Must-Reads

February 2017 Must-Reads

March 2017 Must-Reads

April 2017 Must-Reads

May 2017 Must-Reads

June 2017 Must-Reads

July 2017 Must-Reads

August 2017 Must-Reads

September 2017 Must-Reads

October 2017 Must-Reads

November 2017 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

What did you read this month? Looking for book ideas? Check out our entire Book section of the site! Don’t forget to friend me on GoodReads! xo

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though.