Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

June 2016 Must-Reads

Friday, July 8th, 2016

June 2016 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

There is nothing better than a good book…except when that good book is read poolside! Am I right? I’m so excited to share with you this month’s reading list which includes everything from a mystery to science fiction to an epic love story. I can’t wait to hear what books you were enjoying this past month.

Want the inside scoop on what I’m reading each week? Join our online book club where we talk about books all day every day. This is not an exaggeration! Join me!

8 Must-Read Books I Read In June

Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman

Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman

The first adult book from Robin Wasserman and it is ADULT so, readers, be warned! Follow down the path of Dex & Lacey, two social outcasts who find comfort and friendship in one another through a mutual dislike for the high school queen bee. When one of the popular kids commits suicide in their small town, we are quick to see that things are often not as they seem as Lacey’s dangerous interactions start coming to light. Set in the ‘90’s with plenty of nostalgic flashbacks, it also laces in the beginning of the twilight of the satanic panic that plagued this era.

Due to the language, sex, and violence in this one, this will be a pretty polarizing book that you will either really love or really hate. I found it to be a great summer escape and a well-woven plot although, as a reader, I often wondered if some of the scenes were set up to shock you rather than to move the story forward.

Catch my interview with Robin Wasserman as she discusses why she made the leap to writing for adults and reminisce a bit about the ’90’s with us!

4 Out of 5 Stars

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

I Let You Go will be the psychological thriller you need to pull you out of a reading slump. The book opens with a mother crossing the street with her child. She lets go for just a moment and that child is hit by a car. This hit-and-run case leaves little clues to the killer and the reader follows this grief-stricken survivor as she tries to form a new life in a new town, far from the reminders of the accident. Hold onto your hats though because nothing is as it seems and the reader is taken on plot twists that will leave you gasping. This is, truly, the next Gone Girl, friends, don’t miss it!

Check out my interview with Clare Mackintosh and hear about the case that inspired her book and the life experience that shaped the raw grief of the mother in her story!

5 Out of 5 Stars

The One-In-A-Million Boy by Monica Wood

The One-In-A-Million Boy by Monica Wood

Ona is 104 and develops a fast friendship with a Scout who is obsessed with the Guinness Book of World Records. He believes Ona has a chance of winning, thanks to her age. Unfortunately, the boy tragically dies and his father is left to fulfill his son’s duties. Quinn has never been much of a father though, but it is through Ona that he discovers just how special his boy is.

The book flashes back to the special conversations the boy had with Ona around her kitchen table, is laced with true Guinness Book of World record holders, and a road trip adventure that brings the boy’s parents closer to Ona as she tries to seal the deal on her very own world record. This story is touching, heartfelt, and beautifully told. My only complaint would be that it could have been trimmed down a bit to create a tighter storyline.

Stay tuned, Monica will be joining my Sundays With Writers series this month to share more about her story behind the story!

4 Out of 5 Stars

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinions.

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

A heart aching love triangle is formed and Emma must choose between the man she loved and lost or the new love of her life. I couldn’t put this one down and read it in less than a day. Reid’s latest book does not disappoint and would be the perfect addition to any beach bag this summer!

Check out an interview I did with Taylor in our Sundays With Writers series as she discusses her ability to write such believable and beautiful love stories!

5 Out of 5 Stars

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (available for preorder!)

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinions.

I am not much of a science fiction reader, but there are those exceptions that have lead me to embrace a little sci-fi in my life. If you enjoyed The Girl With All the Gifts, Ready Player One, or The Martian, do NOT miss Dark Matter.

It’s very hard to review this book without giving away some of the reader surprises. Crouch creates a fictional exploration that allows his character, Jason Desson, to explore different paths that his life could have taken if he had made different choices. When he is abducted on his way to the grocery store, he awakens and discovers that his wife is not his wife, his house is not his house, and nothing in his life is the way it seems. You are then lead through adventure after adventure as Jason tries to find his old life again in a rather unique way.

Equal parts science fiction adventure and equal parts a beautiful love story, there is SO MUCH to love in this book. The reader can’t help but root for Jason to be reunited with his family and there is never a dull moment with a hefty duty delivery of smart plot twists. The screenplay is already in the works so read this one before you catch it on the big screen!

5 Out of 5 Stars

The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman

The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinions.

The Two-Family House is a sweet literary escape telling the story of brothers living in a two-family house in Brooklyn in the ‘40’s. While the men are away to work, in the midst of a winter storm, both of their wives go into labor and end up delivering their babies at home, thanks to one determined midwife. It’s the birth of these two babies that begins to threaten and unravel the two families, particularly their mothers, as they carry around a family secret that begins to impact them all.

A strong debut novel rich with characters and the raw emotional impact of family secrets, it is one that you will be unable to put down, and a storyline rich with lots to chat about for book clubs. If you prefer character-driven stories, this book is for you!

4 Out of 5 Stars

In Twenty Years by Allison Winn Scotch

In Twenty Years by Allison Winn Scotch

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinions.

Twenty years ago, six Penn students shared a home together and formed a fast friendship that they thought would have forever. When Bea, one of their most faithful friends, passes away, her dying wish is to see them reunited once again twenty years later, on the eve of what would have been her 40th birthday. Of course, each of these friends is carrying their own demons and as time passes, secrets are revealed and the true nature of each of them is uncovered.

I have always been a big fan of Scotch’s books (Time of My Life still remains one of my all-time favorites) and have appreciated her storylines, particularly with love stories. Perhaps, that is why I struggled a bit because there wasn’t a strong love story for me in this one.  The book could have benefited from a bit of trimming to carve out a tighter storyline, but I still think this is a fun addition to your beach bag this summer if you are looking for a fun escape.

3 Out of 5 Stars

A Murder in Time by Julie McElwain

A Murder in Time by Julie McElwain

I am not big into series books, but I have heard from many of that you really love to sink your teeth into a new series. A Murder in Time is the first in the Kendra Donovan mysteries series and is a promising start for time travel and historical fiction lovers. It was this month’s selection for the Global Book Club (check to see if your library is participating in the Global Read to snag a free download of it).

The story follows an FBI agent, Kendra Donovan, that is involved in a case that goes horribly wrong and claims the life of her colleagues. When she finds out that they are using the murderer as an informant, she decides to take revenge at a period piece party he is attending at a castle. Hiding from him when her revenge takes an unexpected turn, she goes into a corridor and then comes out in the same castle, but in an entirely different era- the 1800’s. Her ability to sleuth out cases comes in handy though when a serial killer is on the loose and no one else can solve it. Without her modern day tools though, this case isn’t an easy one.

Oh, and she’s a woman and a low level employee at the castle so she’s not respected either.

Although far-fetched, as most time travel books are, this is a fun escape. I actually learned a lot about that era that I had never been before. Twist in a fun love story, and you have a great escape that fans of the Outlander series will enjoy with this fun modern spin!

5 Out of 5 Stars

sundays-with-writers-1

Read With Me This Year:

January Must-Reads

February Must-Reads

March Must-Reads

April Must-Reads

May Must-Reads

June-2016-Must-Read-Books

What should I 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! xo

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

May 2016 Must-Reads

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

May 2016 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

I’m excited to share what I have been reading this month with you. I have 8 great recommendations that would be be perfect for indulging in this summer. This month I tackled everything from historical fiction to thrillers to self-help to memoirs. I can’t wait to dig into another stack for June and share those with you too and I hope this post will inspire you to run out and get some fresh books too!

Want the inside scoop on what I’m reading each week? Join our online book club where we talk about books all day every day. This is not an exaggeration! Join me!

8 Must-Read Books for May 2016

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

I love when books introduce me to a time in history that I am unaware of. Set in 1945, Sepetys explores the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff. This ship had promised safety to over 10,000 people, even more than the well-known Titanic. Uniquely told through the voices of four characters, all with different ethnic backgrounds, she explores a hidden time in history in a beautiful and heartbreaking way. This is, perhaps, one of the most researched books I have read as the author traveled to over a half dozen countries to take accounts from passengers, their families, and even deep sea divers to round out her story.  Fans of The Book Thief will appreciate this tragic YA story.

5 Out of 5 Stars

The Outliers by Kimberly McCreight

The Outliers by Kimberly McCreight

I received an ARC of this book- all thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Outliers is the first book in a YA trilogy that begins with a single text, “Please, Wylie, I need your help.” When Wylie’s estranged best friend goes missing, she is led on a wild goose chase, with Cassie’s boyfriend, to bring Cassie to safety. The duo has no idea where they are going and the reader is led through over the half of the book to a surprising adventure that bends the genre from thriller to science fiction. Read the book before you see the film because this one has been optioned by Reese Witherspoon’s production team!

Be sure to read my interview this week with Kimberly and check out the 3 books she recommends we read!

4 Out of 5 Stars

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

Leonora, a reclusive writer, receives a surprise invitation from an old friend inviting to her to a weekend away as one last hurrah before she gets married. Set in a glass house in the woods, the four acquaintances share revelations and begin to realize their party is not alone. Forty-eight hours later, Leonora (Nora) awakes in a hospital bed knowing that someone is dead. Nora desperately tries to piece together what happened, forcing her to revisit times in her past that she would rather leave buried.

I’m pretty picky when it comes to thrillers and this one delivers beautifully.  The pacing is perfect and reads like a great whodunit mystery. Enjoy the ride and then get ready to see this one brought to life on the big screen by Reese Witherspoon’s production team.

Ruth will be joining me this month in our Sundays With Writers series so be sure to watch for that one!

5 Out of 5 Stars

A Mother's Reckoning by Sue Klebold

A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold

If I could make a required reading list for parents, this book would top it. Klebold painfully writes openly about her son Dylan and his involvement in the Columbine shooting. A family, not unlike our family, that offered love and support to their son, becomes part of one of biggest tragedies in history, in part, because they were unaware of their son’s depression. Klebold has devoted her life to helping in the advance of mental health awareness and intervention, even donating all proceeds to organizations that focus on mental health issues.

This was one of the most difficult books I have ever read, but eye-opening that this could happen in ANY family and that it is our job as parents to keep our children’s mental health in check just like we would their physical health. I would recommend reading Columbine before diving in to really get familiar with the story and the inaccurate media portrayal before reading this one!

5 Out of 5 Stars

Rare Objects by Kathleen Tessaro

Rare Objects by Kathleen Tessaro

Set in Depression-era Boston, the book follows Maeve Fanning, a first generation Irish girl, being raised by her widow mother. Maeve engages in risky behavior that lead her to a psychiatric hospital where she strikes up an unlikely friendship with an unstable woman named Diana. Diana runs in an elite crowd, thanks to her wealth, and Maeve begins changing herself to fit in. Dying her red hair to blonde, she begins a job working in a shop selling rare artifacts, being romanced by Diana’s brother, and continuing to engage in her risky behaviors.  As Diana pulls Maeve more and more into her fold, Maeve begins to realize how dangerous it all really is.

Rare Objects was a fantastic exploration of social issues that I would not have considered (like being an alcoholic during the Prohibition, for example) and the dramatic differences in social classes. This was another solid read from Tessaro that could have only benefitted from a bit of trimming in length for a tighter storyline.

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

4 Out of 5 Stars

Tuesday Nights in 1980

Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss

Welcome to the art scene in SoHo in the 1980’s. Prentiss, much like an artist herself, vividly paints the art scene during this time and the story of two unlikely men whose lives become intertwined in surprising ways. The book follows James Bennett, an art critic whose writing is made more beautiful because he has Synthesia, and the rise and fall of that gift when it disappears. Raul Engales is an Argentinian painter running away from his past and the Dirty War who finds that he can use an art studio on a college campus just by pretending he is a student there. When tragedy strikes, Raul & James become friends as Raul’s paintings bring back the gift of Synthesia that James had when seeing his work. They both make tragic missteps along the way though and that is where the depth to the story is truly added.

There is a lot of meat in this story, but there is a feeling that Prentiss could have expanded so much on the storyline of Raul’s sister and what the Dirty War was all about. That said, it would be impossible to not learn something new and fans of art and the Manhattan scenes in the ‘80’s will definitely find plenty to love in this ambitious debut novel. Her descriptions are like paintings themselves, vivid and full of life!

I am so excited that Molly will be joining me this month for Sundays With Writers too! I can’t wait to interview her!

4 Out of 5 Stars

Behave by Andromeda Romano-Lax

Behave by Andromeda Romano-Lax

Fans of Masters of Sex will appreciate this fictional exploration of Dr. John Watson and his research that was revered by so many to not spoil children based on his research that he developed during his time at Johns Hopkins. Disturbingly, tests are performed on infants to yield responses from them, all being assisted by Rosalie Rayner. An affair develops between the two that taints their reputation in the medical community and adds strain to an already difficult marriage. When they have children of their own, Dr. Watson uses his own research as a basis for how they are to parent which creates squeamish moments for the reader. Despite it being an uncomfortable storyline, it held my interest all the way through, even when the characters were most unlikable.

Andromeda will be joining me this month for our Sundays With Writers series so be sure to check back for that one!

4 Out of 5 Stars

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

If you work in the creative field OR if your heart has always desired to make room for creativity, you will truly appreciate the messaging of Big Magic. I listened to this one on audiobook, with Gilbert reading her book, and it was like listening to an incredible life coach about not giving up on your creative dreams, doing creativity for YOU and not just for the glory of it, and being okay with making mistakes. It is the gentle nudge (and sometimes in-your-face nudge) that you need to hear to get moving on projects that have been pushed away because of risk of failure or lack of time. It’s one I would listen to again, particularly if faced with a slump in my creative life.

Although, self-help books aren’t usually my cup of tea, Gilbert’s no bullshit mantras, are inspiring rather than cheesy.

5 Out of 5 Stars

 

sundays-with-writers-1

Read With Me This Year:

January Must-Reads

February Must-Reads

March Must-Reads

April Must-Reads

May 2016 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

What should I 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! xo

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

Pin It

April 2016 Must-Reads

Thursday, May 5th, 2016

April 2016 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

Just in case you follow me on GoodReads and started to worry that I’m not reading anymore, I want to reassure you that I’m flipping the pages just as frantically as before. I started to realize that it is anticlimactic to share all my reviews there first and then round them up at the end of the month so I am hoping to add a little element of surprise to these monthly round-ups.

If you are a regular reader, you may have suspected what I have been reading thanks to our Sundays With Writers (SWW) series. It’s been so fun to interview these authors and you can expect lots more interviews in the upcoming weeks. I’m so excited to share those with you.

As you can see, April has a little something for everyone when it comes to my must-reads list. I took advantage of a few advanced readers from authors, read some of the most buzzed about books this year, and rediscovered an author I have loved for many years who released her first YA book.

Want the inside scoop on what I’m reading each week? Join our online book club where we talk about books all day every day. This is not an exaggeration!

7 Must-Read Books for April 2016

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

What starts as a mother’s collection of her child’s artwork and memories that people find enchanting & homey in the beginning of this family saga, we later discover it quickly balloons into a hoard of unlivable proportions for one woman and those who love her.

Hoarding is something that intrigues many, but few want to go into the trenches with a family and discover why someone feels compelled to keep things. This book dives into the dysfunction that grows from the loss of a child, the leaving of grown children, and the filling of a loneliness that only these objects seem to provide. There were some shocking secrets that came into play at the end of the book although you got the sense that things weren’t right from the beginning. A solid read with a lot of meat for a book club discussion.  Read More…

4 Out of 5 Stars

Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon

Try Not to Breathe By Holly Seddon

I received an ARC from Netgalley- all thoughts & opinions are my own!

Fans of The Girl on the Train will enjoy another unreliable narrator in this strong debut. Alex is an alcoholic who has watched her career dwindle away due to her inability to stop drinking. She is assigned a story and comes to research the topic of people in comas and recognizes Amy, a case that she remembers all too well. Amy was assaulted in the 90’s as a teen and has remained in a coma since then. Alex becomes obsessed with uncovering who hurt Amy and wants to try to find  who did this to her. But someone doesn’t want her to find out and will do whatever it takes to stop her.

I was really excited about this one because I love a good thriller. I found it enjoyable and a nice escape- this would be a good one to pack in your beach bag. I was disappointed to read that much of information about brain activity in comas was actually created by the author and not actually factual, but I still found it to be a nice break from heavy books. Read more…

3 Out of 5 Stars

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner (deal alert- this one is on sale for just $1.99!!!)

If I had to pick a favorite this month, it would be this one. Please, please, please read it and come back and tell me what you think! This book is about three unlikely friends growing up in the rural South that are all fighting demons of their own. Dill’s father is a Pentecostal preacher, known for his snake charming church, that becomes part of a town scandal that has left his family open to scrutiny and struggling financially. Travis is obsessed with a book series called Bloodfall that helps him escape into another reality away from his abusive father. And Lydia is a blogger ready to start a new life in New York while struggling to leave behind what is familiar and those she loves. These three unlikely people bond together and end up facing a struggle none of them could have ever predicted.  This friendship is beautifully woven with humor and heart. I could not put this book down and read it in a single day.

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

5 Out of 5 Stars

The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

If there is one buzz book this year, this is it! As a debut novelist, Cynthia signed a one million dollar contract for this book and it has already been optioned for film. I don’t want to give too much more away on all of that though because Cynthia joins me this week in our interview series! Be sure to check back on Sunday for the scoop on this incredible novelist.

Do you love dysfunctional family stories? I know I do! This book reminded me a lot of Jonathan Tropper’s, This is Where I Leave You. This book centers around four grown children and the inheritance (AKA- The Nest!) that they are supposed to be inheriting. Leo, the unreliable alcoholic sibling in the story, ends up getting in a terrible car accident and has to pay the accompanying passenger a large sum to keep the story quiet. His mother gives him the majority of the inheritance as hush money for the car accident, unbeknownst to his siblings.

The story then really unfolds with all of the siblings and what this inheritance would have meant to them is uncovered. As a reader you see what life looks like without the money they always planned on. No spoilers, but imagine that you had made financial mistakes, but always knew you would have a large sum to bail you out and find out that the money doesn’t exist. Awful, isn’t it?

I think some people will find the ending a little dissatisfying, but I also know that most dysfunctional family stories don’t have tidy endings. I loved it- laughed a lot and sympathized with many characters. This was a great escape! Read More…

4 Out of 5 Stars

All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage

All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage

I love being part of a local book club and this past month we read, All Things Cease to Appear. I think it is important to set expectations with this one. Do you remember Everything I Never Told You (I interviewed the author too!)? Well, I felt like the setup of this book is similar. We are opening with someone being accused of murdering their wife and then working our way out from there. Some people get disappointed when things work in this direction (maybe thinking it takes away from the mystery of it all?), but I really loved that it opened this way and then the reader discovers more and more of the motive as the story unfolds.

The book opens with the murder of Catherine as the police began questioning the most obvious of suspects… her husband. The book builds out the story of this couple from the purchase of this farmhouse filled with secrets, the failing marriage, and George’s strange double life.

This book is a really deep character study into a sociopath. Brundage writes this book so well that things like the home, for example, become a character unto itself. This is slow, but worthy of the pacing with rich characters. I couldn’t put it down.

That said, I think readers may be unhappy with how the story works out. I know I was a little too. That is not to discredit Brundage or her incredible writing, it’s just not the big bang ending I had hoped for. She also does not use quotations around the words people are speaking. It took awhile for me to get the hang of that and you don’t want to space out when you are reading it when there is a lot of dialogue because you will forget who is talking.

If you are looking for a book with strong characters and a good ghost story, you’ll love it. Bonus!! Elizabeth will be joining me for a Sundays With Writers this month! She has a crazy real ghost story and a house that inspired this book. Don’t miss it! Read More…

4 Out of 5 Stars

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

Have you read any books by Julie Buxbaum? She was one of my absolute favorite writers and then many years have passed with no books from her. Eternal sadness. I was so thrilled to see a book from her back on the bookshelves and with a surprise…it’s her YA book! Don’t worry, I am pursuing her for the scoop on this one and will be featuring her in our interview series this month.

This is the story of a teenager named Jessie, the loss of her incredible mom, and the abrupt new marriage of her father that relocates them to Los Angeles. When her father meets a woman from his support group, he elopes and moves them into the wealthy woman’s home, switching Jessie into the wealthy prep school that her new stepbrother attends. Of course, Jessie doesn’t fit in at all.

When she starts receiving emails from SN (shortened from Somebody Nobody) offering her help and support in these uncharted waters, a relationship blooms and becomes a huge support for Jessie. The reader gets to read this beautiful, hilarious, and always sweet exchange. When Jessie wants to meet SN in person though, the reader is led on the journey with Jessie. Is SN her soulmate? Is SN even real? I guess you will have to read to find out! This is a great one to pack in your beach bag this summer. Delightfully sweet and everything I love about Buxbaum’s writing! Read More…

4 Out of 5 Stars

Don't You Cry by Mary Kubica

Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica

I received an ARC from Netgalley- all thoughts & opinions are my own!

I am a huge fan of Mary Kubica- her thrillers never disappoint me (read my interview with Mary here- it is one of our most pinned posts!!).  The Good Girl remains one of my favorite books from her! Don’t You Cry is about the disappearance of Quinn’s roommate, Esther. As Quinn tries to piece together why Esther has disappeared, she begins to suspect that Esther is targeting her and plotting Quinn’s own death. Meanwhile, Alex is growing up with an alcoholic father and working as a dishwasher, when a mysterious woman appears in the coffee shop he works at and he finds himself drawn to her. The two storylines inevitably pull together as deep family secrets are revealed in this twisty book. Read more…

4 Out of 5 Stars

What should I 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! xo

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

Pin It

Roasted Salmon and Asparagus With Pistachio Gremolata

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016

Sheet Pan Roasted Salmon and Asparagus With Pistachio Gremolata

My family has been on a sheet pan supper kick these days. It started with my Sheet Pan Ranch Chops and Veggies meal and then we evolved into a weekly double batch of Sheet Pan Lemon Paprika Chicken and Veggies that were shared over dinners with friends and warmed on busy weeknights. This week it was a Roasted Salmon & Asparagus with Pistachio Gremolata that captured our heart.

How in the world did I come up with this combo?

Well, I didn’t!

Sheet Pan Roasted Salmon and Asparagus With Pistachio Gremolata

Word must have spread how nuts our family is about these meals and the publishing house for the, Sheet Pan Suppers cookbook reached out to see if they could send me  copy of the book to review. I had mentioned it had been on my radar, but my biggest struggles with cookbooks is that I don’t know how many gluten-free offerings are going to be in them and I have to stick to gluten-free meals in our house.

I was pleasantly surprised that the cookbook was well-balanced between gluten-filled offerings and gluten-free offerings. From appetizers to meats to vegetarian to brunch to dessert…this cookbook offers a little something for everyone. My biggest struggle was picking which recipe to start with. I figured the cover dish had to be a winner if it was showcased on the front of the book so we went with that.  A delicious fish dish with fresh veggies tossed with a pistachio gremolata sounded like a winner for our house.

Sheet Pan Roasted Salmon and Asparagus With Pistachio Gremolata

Sheet Pan Roasted Salmon and Asparagus With Pistachio Gremolata

What is a Gremolata?

This was my first gremolata and I was intrigued by the pairing of pistachios with fish. If you haven’t heard of a gremolata before, you need not worry that this is out of your level of cooking expertise. This is a simple Italian condiment that is traditionally made with herbs, garlic, and lemon zest, and sometimes an accompaniment like pine nuts (or in this case, pistachios- YUM).  You can use your food processor and pulse a few times (this is the one I have), but I prefer to avoid washing the food processor and opt for a quick hand chopper, which has been worth its weight in gold in my kitchen.

To save even more time, I purchased the pistachios already out of their shell at our supermarket. Although a bit pricier per pound, it saves a great deal of time on a busy weeknight or on a tired night with my vino in the evenings after a long day of running kids.

Sheet Pan Roasted Salmon and Asparagus With Pistachio Gremolata

If you live somewhere where you have access to great fresh fish, the author utilizes Arctic Char in this recipe. In Indiana, salmon fillets are affordable and easy to come by in our frozen section of the store. Resting these on top of fresh asparagus, cherry tomatoes, and topped with lemons, this is a sheet pan guaranteed to satisfy all your taste buds. The gremolata adds the final touch on the cooked fish, adding that salty crunch that takes this from a basic meal to a restaurant-worthy one!

I really loved this cookbook and my family is already looking forward to us eating this again in our house! Thank you to the publishing house for sending us a copy of, Sheet Pan Suppers by Molly Gilbert to give a spin in our kitchen! We are big fans!

Sheet Pan Roasted Salmon and Asparagus With Pistachio Gremolata

Sheet Pan Roasted Salmon and Asparagus With Pistachio Gremolata

Roasted Salmon and Asparagus With Pistachio Gremolata
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 servings
 
An easy sheet pan meal with salmon and veggies topped with a quick pistachio gremolata for a fancy crunch to this beautiful dish. Company-worthy and easy? Winning!
Ingredients
  • 1 bunch asparagus (roughly 1 pound total)
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 skinless fillets Arctic char, salmon or trout (5 to 6 ounces each)
  • ½ medium red onion, sliced into ¼-inch-thick half-moons
  • ½ lemon, sliced into ¼-inch-thick rounds
  • ½ cup cherry or grape tomatoes
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup roasted, salted, and shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 350 with a rack in the center position. Mist a sheet pan with cooking spray or line it with parchment paper.
  2. Gently bend one asparagus spear between your fingers and snap off the bottom where it breaks easily. Line up the rest of the bunch and slice off the bottoms at the same distance from the tips. Place the trimmed asparagus on the prepared pan, drizzle with the olive oil, and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon each of the salt and pepper. Toss to coat, and spread the asparagus in an even layer.
  3. Place the fish fillets on top of the asparagus, evenly spaced apart, and sprinkle with an extra pinch of salt and pepper. Scatter the onion, lemon slices and cherry tomatoes around and on top of the fish.
  4. Bake until the asparagus is crisp-tender and the fish is almost opaque (20 to 30 minutes if using char, other types may vary). For my salmon, I cooked thawed fillet for just 12-15 minutes!!
  5. While the fish cooks, mix together the lemon zest, garlic, parsley and pistachios in a small bowl- this is your gremolata.
  6. Sprinkle the gremolata over the fish and asparagus before serving warm.

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

 

 

 

February 2016 Must-Reads

Friday, February 26th, 2016

February 2016 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

I couldn’t let a month go by and not share some reads with you. First of all, I just wanted to thank you for your kind words this month. It’s been a challenging month personally and professionally for me, but I’m trying not to lean in on the diagnosis and only use it as an ability to understand more how to stay strong going forward. I’m living at the gym and working hard on strength training and working on better form.

You will even find me in the kitchen doing hand strengthening exercises (you should see my pencil baton twirling!) to try and keep my digits going while I’m stirring pots.

I know we have a road ahead, but each day I’m feeling a little better and I am so thankful to you all for all the words, blog posts to sustain the site, prayers, and offerings for our family!  You truly discover your people when things like this happen and I am so thankful for mine.

Here are also 7 great books I enjoyed this month that I think you will love too! 

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

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

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

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

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

5 Out of 5 Stars

No Ordinary Life by Suzanne Redfearn

No Ordinary Life by Suzanne Redfearn

I received an ARC from NetGalley. All thoughts & opinions are my own.

I am a big fan of Suzanne Redfearn (be sure to read her first book Hush Little Baby and our interview with the author)  and this book does not disappoint. In this quick page-turner, a single mother’s daughter is discovered after a YouTube video goes viral of her singing and dancing, at the tender age of four. She is immediately picked up for commercial work and then auditions & wins a lead role in a television show. Going from having nothing to having everything, you follow this mother as she juggles the demands of being a stage mom, the intrusive media, and protecting her children from Hollywood & her ex who just wants the biggest piece of the financial pie.

Redfearn effectively utilizes other famous stars and their stories to craft a compelling piece on the many pitfalls of growing up a child star and the rarity of survival in the industry.

Suzanne will be joining us this month for a Sundays With Writers about this book and I can’t wait to share more about her inspiration for this story!

4 Out of 5 Stars

Breaking Busy by Alli Worthington

Breaking Busy by Alli Worthington

Alli is a great friend of mine and she shared a copy of her book with me this month which was such a treat. I can always trim some excess from my life so I was excited into this one.

Alli  tackles the topic of busy by guiding us through her own busy struggles and missteps that has lead her to a more peaceful life. With candid humor and a whole lot of scripture, she shows how God desires for us to slow down for Him.

The way this book is set up, with thought starters and questions at the end of each chapter, it would lend itself well to a personal morning devotion or a great book to work through as a Bible study. Additional online resources are also made available to assist with prioritizing and decision making and to reinforce your habits of breaking busy. I would recommend this one for fans of Jen Hatmaker, thanks to the humor and honesty that is peppered throughout this book!

Alli will be joining us in a future Sundays With Writers and I look forward to sharing more behind her book soon!

What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan

What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan

In a heartbeat, everything changes…

Rachel Jenner is walking in a Bristol park with her eight-year-old son, Ben, when he asks if he can run ahead. It’s an ordinary request on an ordinary Sunday afternoon, and Rachel has no reason to worry—until Ben vanishes.

Police are called, search parties go out, and Rachel, already insecure after her recent divorce, feels herself coming undone. As hours and then days pass without a sign of Ben, everyone who knew him is called into question, from Rachel’s newly married ex-husband to her mother-of-the-year sister. Inevitably, media attention focuses on Rachel too, and the public’s attitude toward her begins to shift from sympathy to suspicion.

Macmillan delivers a solid thriller that left me guessing right up until the final pages. Narration is done well through the eyes of the detective, the mother, and social media outlets who tell the story of an eight year-old boy who goes missing on a walk with his mother in the woods.

The author weaves enough loose ends to create a well curated variety of suspects that lead you down the wrong trails in the woods yourself and creates great tension as the stability of the child’s own mother comes into question.

The book could have been edited in length as the story did drag a bit, but I still really enjoyed it!

I’m thrilled that Gilly will be joining us this month on our Sundays With Writers series to share more about her story behind this incredible debut novel! You won’t want to miss it!

4 Out of 5 Stars

the-immortals

The Immortals (Olympus Bound #1) by Jordanna Max Brodsky

I received an ARC from the publisher. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Immortals is an ambitious modern day retelling of Greek mythology set in the city of Manhattan. Selene, also known as Artemis, is a woman intent on making men pay for crimes against women. Amidst her vengeance on these men, she stumbles upon the body of a young woman washed ashore, who has been gruesomely mutilated and wreathed in laurel. She finds her ancient rage returning and forms an unlikely partnership with the woman’s former lover as they try to figure out who this serial killer is that is performing ritualistic killings in their city. Fans of Greek mythology will swim in this fresh retelling of these ancient stories.

Jordanna will also be joining us this month in a future Sundays With Writers and I look forward to sharing more about the research and travel she did to recreate Greek mythology with this modern spin!

4 Out of 5 Stars

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

Disclaimer, disclaimer, disclaimer- do not read if you cannot handle graphic sexual abuse or violence against women!

More than twenty years ago, Claire and Lydia’s teenaged sister Julia vanished without a trace. The two women have not spoken since, and now their lives could not be more different. Claire is the glamorous trophy wife of an Atlanta millionaire. Lydia, a single mother, dates an ex-con and struggles to make ends meet. But neither has recovered from the horror and heartbreak of their shared loss—a devastating wound that’s cruelly ripped open when Claire’s husband is killed.

The disappearance of a teenage girl and the murder of a middle-aged man, almost a quarter-century apart: what could connect them? Forming a wary truce, the surviving sisters look to the past to find the truth, unearthing the secrets that destroyed their family all those years ago . . . and uncovering the possibility of redemption, and revenge, where they least expect it.

As a lover of horror films and fiction, I can say that this book is the first book that has absolutely terrified me and kept me up at with nightmares at night…and I loved it. Slaughter perfectly crafts each character so well that it is as though you are watching a film. Dark, psychologically twisted, evil, and graphic, the tale is gruesome and horrific and kept me on the absolute edge of my seat from the opening page. Fans of Gillian Flynn will appreciate this twisted thriller, but be prepared for the nightmares…they will be coming! 

5 Out of 5 Stars

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin

Centered on two dynamic, complicated, and compelling protagonists—Truman Capote and Babe Paley- The Swans of Fifth Avenue  is steeped in the glamour and perfumed and smoky atmosphere of New York’s high society. Babe Paley—known for her high-profile marriage to CBS founder William Paley and her ranking in the International Best-Dressed Hall of Fame—was one of the reigning monarchs of New York’s high society in the 1950s. Replete with gossip, scandal, betrayal, and a vibrant cast of real-life supporting characters, readers will be seduced by this startling new look at the infamous society swans.

You can really tell that Benjamin is passionate about this era and the telling of the story of Truman Capote and his swans. I think the challenge with this story is that many of these characters are so unlikable and not easy to relate to. Benjamin beautifully adds depth though in her fictional retelling of Capote and the ladies that grew to love him, that shows that all he wanted in life was the love of his mother. 

As someone who was unfamiliar with his life story, I had a great time reading all of the stories and hunting for the pictures of all these elite ladies after I finished this one. There is lots of glamour and backstabbing that reads a bit like a good gossip magazine. 

Be sure to catch our Sundays With Writers with Melanie Benjamin this month!

4 Out of 5 Stars

February 2016 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

Read With Me This Year:

2016-Reading

January 2016 Must-Reads

February 2016 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

What should I 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! xo

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

 

 

How to Consume More Books This Year

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

How to Consume More Books This Year from MomAdvice.com

Almost weekly I get a request to share how I am able to consume so many books. Over the years we have visited this conversation often, but over the last year or two my strategies for consuming books has changed a lot thanks to new formats and new ideas about how I can get more books in throughout my day.  Reading is truly one of my biggest passions and I love sharing my love of reading with others.  Even my volunteerism is connected with this passion as I mentor two struggling elementary school readers each week to hopefully help them not only become stronger readers, but ignite a lifelong passion for reading too.

How to Consume More Books This Year from MomAdvice.com

I have always been a reader and I can point to one person in my life who helped make that happen.

My Dad.

Even as he juggled his swing shift position at work, he promised me a weekly trip to the library that he honored each week and rarely rushed me at the library, leaving me contentedly working my way down the aisles. When the bookmobile made our corner the stop on it’s route, I was able to trade my finished books out even sooner for another stack and still enjoy those weekly visits with my father. I count those visits among some of my favorite memories.

Admittedly, my parent’s biggest hurdle with me was to stop reading when it was bedtime and to stop reading books that were too mature for me. I am sure you can envision a ten year-old girl with a stack of V.C. Andrews books stacked under her mattress each night, a big no-no writer in our Christian household, especially at that age. Thankfully, I still turned out okay despite my reading choices.

When I became a mom, I felt like I didn’t have the time to sit down and read.  I was too busy bouncing colicky babies and trying to cobble some semblance of a clean house to make time for myself and to read.  I say this because maybe you are in a life stage where reading isn’t happening and the best you can do is bounce those babies and try to just keep up a household routine, that is okay! Books will ALWAYS be there for you though when you are ready to come back. 

After my kids got a little older, I remember making a public proclamation that I was going to start reading again and I was going to share about the books here. At the time, this had nothing to do with our site and I only hoped you would hold me accountable. Now the books section and our interview series are two of the most popular sections, thanks to that commitment I made years ago.

Is your goal to consume more books this year? I would love to share a few strategies that I have found work for me and would love to hear from you, my fellow bookworms, how you make time for reading in your life! 

How to Consume More Books This Year from MomAdvice.com

Start By Making a Commitment

Like I said, the way that I started was by vocalizing my commitment and setting a reading goal. As an overachiever, the urge to set ridiculous goals is always an issue for me. I encourage you start with a modest goal and make your own public commitment. A great place to do that is on GoodReads where you can not only set goals, but you can also connect with fellow readers (like me!) to help inspire your book stacks!  Setting goals helps give you something to work toward, whether that is five books this year or a hundred!

Another option to challenge yourself is to join in on an online challenge. These types of challenges not only motivate you to read, but often push you outside of your usual genres into new literary territory. Here are nine great challenge options to get you started this year!

Carve Out One Hour Minimum At YOUR Optimum Time

Notice that I didn’t tell you to just rise earlier? I am a morning person so I set my alarm at 5AM to tackle an hour of reading before I need to get my kids off to school. That, it turns out, is my optimum reading time.  If you aren’t a morning person though, this probably will not work for you and, no, it’s highly unlikely you can make yourself be a morning person despite what you may have heard. Gretchen Rubin, author of Better Than Before, was recently on The Simple Show where she talks about how we can’t all force ourselves to be morning people and you should set realistic goals during hours that are realistic for YOU in order to succeed at your goals. 

For me, the hour of 5AM is complete bliss with hot coffee and quiet reading, which helps set an intention for me to have a balanced and calm day. As a highly sensitive person, I really need this quiet introverted time or I feel out of sorts once the kids get up. For others though, you might find that an hour in the afternoon or a staying up later with a good book is a better fit.

I put my phone on do not disturb and stay off of social media and it is amazing how many pages I can consume in that hour with uninterrupted time. I encourage you to do the same!  Hours can also be broken into ten to fifteen minute sessions throughout the day, particularly for moms with little ones or for moms who are always running their kids. As long as you are carrying a book with you wherever you go, it’s very easy to reach a one hour goal.

Not sure if you can commit to an hour? Try a 10% reading goal each day, particularly if you are reading digitally! 

To read as much as I do though, I have to have a minimum of two to three hours of reading time daily. That means one hour first thing in the morning, one hour before the kids get off the bus, and usually an hour or two at the end of the day or before I head to the gym.

How to Consume More Books This Year from MomAdvice.com

(current stack)

Find a Format That Works For You

For a long time, the only way I thought that I could consume books was in the printed format. These past two years though a world of reading possibilities opened to me when I finally embraced electronic books and audiobooks.

The beauty in electronic books is that I always have my phone with me so I always have my Kindle app to open and dive into a book. An old-fashioned printed book is always on my bedside table for grabbing and screen-free time. Audiobooks have become my new companion while tackling laundry, cooking, or tidying our house. With a set of earbuds, I can consume a book just about anywhere. 

Experiment with different formats or consider tackling different types throughout the day (more below) to find what works best for you!

Try Reading a Few Books at the Same Time

I often have to be in the right frame of mind to read certain books and many bookworms echo my theory that having a few books going at once can help you through a mindset hurdle on reading. Last week I was reading a memoir, a thriller, and a contemporary fiction novel. In What Should I Read Next guest Seth Haines shared that he reads a different book in the morning, afternoon, and evening of his day. For me, I know when I wake up what I am in the mood for. I usually lean into something heavy in that first peaceful hour and then sprinkle lighter books in later in the day. It was comforting to hear someone echo that philosophy of different books at different times. It helps me to never stop consuming books.

I do know that many people say that they can only read one book at a time and that is okay, but in order for me to continue moving through books when mindset hurdles are standing in my  own way, I need to have a variety going to continue pressing forward.

How to Consume More Books This Year from MomAdvice.com

Try Reading As a Family

The reason I was such a big reader was the influence of my father and witnessing him reading all the time. The reason that I think I have two great readers in my house is because they see their mom reading all the time and they are modeling what is happening in our home.

On nights we don’t have activities going on or on weekends, you will often find us in a room together all reading our own books. I love reading alongside of my children as much as I love reading to them. I am still reading to my daughter as we work our way through Laura Ingall’s adventures, but I also love the freedom of everyone tackling what they love.  Either way, whether reading on our own or together, I know that I am getting in more books and I get to do it with my kids. 

How to Consume More Books This Year from MomAdvice.com

(photo credit: scribd)

Make Reading an Investment

Are you the type of person where making a financial commitment to something is what motivates you to do it? Just like your financial commitment that you make to your gym membership that you just HAVE to get every dollar out of, you can do the same with reading especially if you lack a good or close public library system.

For the money, I find Scribd to be a great value at $8.99 a month that includes unlimited e-books, one audiobook credit per month, and access to sheet music (which is great for this family with a piano player & guitarist on our hands!).  I am a genuine fan, this post is not supported in any way by them. I have also heard great things about Kindle Unlimited, but don’t have any experience with that one- let me know if you have enjoyed that membership or not. Sometimes, particularly in the winter and summer months when I’m not as motivated to head as frequently to the library, I indulge in a membership to keep me moving through books.

For some, a financial commitment can offer great motivation to get every dollar out of a membership. I know that it does for me!

I hope these tips to consume more great books this year are helpful to you! It’s a joy to get to share great books with you each month! xo

What tips and tricks do you use in your life to read more? Feel free to leave your ideas in the comments below!

This post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though!

January 2016 Must-Reads

Friday, January 29th, 2016

January 2016 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

Oh, I always love sharing the must-reads of the month and it is so exciting to kick off another new year with books.  This month I have quite an array of great books to choose from thanks to a fresh GoodReads yearly reading goal that I am working towards. This year I’m hoping to read 75 books- fingers crossed!  What’s your goal this year?

Here are six great books I read this month that I think you will really enjoy!

 

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

I feel like I have been emotionally gutted reading this book. I am usually not an emotional reader, but it is impossible to not to have your heart involved in this heartbreaking story of Jude and his inconceivable childhood. What makes these raw moments even slightly bearable is the incredible company that he keeps, a friendship masterfully told, a circle that never gives up on Jude, even when he is most broken.

This book chronicles the journey of four friends from their late teens until their fifties. At the center of it all is Jude St. Francis, their shy and quiet friend. The friends know very little about Jude and his past, but they suspect, just as you begin to, that he may have been abused in his childhood. What they don’t know is the extent to the abuse and how much this abuse has taken from him.

The writing is exquisite- I have never, ever read writing like this in my life. The turn of phrasing that is used, the descriptive language telling stories in a way I have never heard, it is a gorgeously prepared book that had me reading passages aloud over and over again.

That said, I can’t recommend this one for everyone. The brutal and violent passages were so unbearable that I would put the book down and walk away for a bit or find myself holding my breath or weeping uncontrollably for the beautifully broken Jude. They are powerfully written in a way that you feel as though you are in these rooms with these people and you can’t get out. It’s a claustrophobic feeling and it is often stifling.

If you or someone you love has been abused or if you are a highly sensitive person, I don’t think I would recommend this one for you. I am still carrying around some of the abuse scenes and my eyes are still welling up over Jude. In fact, if you ask me about this book, do not be surprised if I just start crying.

Even saying that, it will be, perhaps, one of the best books I will have read in my lifetime and the writing is so brave and so beautifully descriptive that I feel like I will hold these fictional people in my heart forever! I am mourning the loss of finishing this one and the sadness of ending my journey with these four fantastically written characters.

10 Out of 5 Stars

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

So many friends have been recommending that I read  The Boston Girl so I added it to my library pile this month!

I really enjoyed this beautiful coming of age story told through Addie Baum’s eyes at the tender age of 80 as she reflects back on her youth through stories she shares with her granddaughter.  In this story, Addie Baum was born in 1900 to immigrant parents who were unprepared for and very suspicious of America and its effect on their three daughters. Growing up in the North End, then a teeming multicultural neighborhood, Addie’s intelligence and curiosity take her to a world her parents can’t imagine – a world of short skirts, movies, celebrity culture and new opportunities for women. Addie wants to finish high school and dreams of going to college and it all starts with a book club that she joins.  She wants a career and to find true love.

Bucking many traditional roles and requirements of being a Jewish woman in the early 20th century, Addie challenges these roles with her traditional family, work environment, and in finding love. The chapters were short and sweet and a bit disjointed, just as the stories we hear from our own elders are and I loved the strong focus on friendships that last through the ages.

I have a feeling that if I hadn’t have read Brooklyn the month before (read my review here) that I probably would have enjoyed this one more. The stories felt very similar, but it didn’t take away the beauty in this one as Diamant proves herself again and again to be such a gifted storyteller. I have heard the audiobook is a real treat so it might be a good one to indulge in that way if you enjoy audiobooks.

4 Out of 5 Stars

Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes

Hidden Bodies (YOU #2)  by Caroline Kepnes

(editor’s note- I received an ARC of this from Netgalley. All thoughts & opinions are my own)

Hidden Bodies is the next installment from Kepnes in the erotic thriller series from the author of, YOU. Joe is one of those characters that just really stands out for me as a reader and Kepnes has done an incredible job fleshing out Joe as he ages and falls in love in this next installment.

In this story, Joe gets duped by a woman that he thinks he has fallen in love with only to discover that she used him to steal from the bookstore he works for. Determined to make her pay, Joe follows her to California and creates a life for himself there until he can kill her. What ends up happening is that Joe finds many hurdles along the way towards the path of revenge and he still is dealing with the skeletons in the closet from the last murder that are still haunting him. What he didn’t bargain for though is finding unconditional love and a family in California and how this changes the entire outlook of a psychopath who has never experienced that.

Once again, a solid read from Kepnes and I can’t wait to read the next book in this series! Read my interview with Caroline as we discuss her first book in our Sundays With Writers series!

4 Out of 5 Stars

The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende

 

The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende

Have you joined our online book club? If you have, you know that this was our first selection. This also happens to be my first novel by Allende. Have you read her? Feel free to make recommendations of other books I should tackle by her.

In 1939, as Poland falls under the shadow of the Nazis, Alma Belasco’s parents send her away to live in safety with an aunt and uncle in San Francisco. There, as the rest of the world goes to war, she encounters Ichimei Fukuda, the quiet and gentle son of the family’s Japanese gardener. Unnoticed by those around them, a tender love affair begins to blossom. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the two are cruelly pulled apart as Ichimei and his family, like thousands of other Japanese Americans are declared enemies and forcibly relocated to internment camps run by the United States government. Throughout their lifetimes, Alma and Ichimei reunite again and again, but theirs is a love that they are forever forced to hide from the world.

Decades later, Alma is nearing the end of her long and eventful life. Irina Bazili, a care worker struggling to come to terms with her own troubled past, meets the elderly woman and her grandson, Seth, at the nursing home she is living in. As Irina and Seth forge a friendship, they become intrigued by a series of mysterious gifts and letters sent to Alma, eventually learning about Ichimei and this extraordinary secret passion that has endured for nearly seventy years.

This had a slow start for me, but once I started diving into the love story more of Alma & Ichimei, I could not turn the pages fast enough to see how this story would unfold. Allende crafts some really surprising twists at the end that I did not see coming making this a really solid story for me about love and the sacrifices we make for those we care about.

4 Out of 5 Stars

Mosquitoland by David Arnold

Mosquitoland by David Arnold

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

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

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

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

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

4 Out of 5 Stars

A-Manual-For-Cleaning-Women

A Manual For Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin

This is my first book of short stories and I really enjoyed it. Although some of the stories were repetitive and the book could have been edited a bit more, this really showcased what a talent Berlin was and what a knack she had for descriptive writing. She passed away in 2004 and was a well-known short story writer. This book was included on many lists this year as one of the best books fo the year.

Many of the short stories were based upon her own life and some of the heavier ones, particularly regarding her struggle with alcoholism, were very hard to read. She wrote very honestly about the challenges in her life as a mother and in her marriages. That said, many though made me laugh from her childhood antics at Catholic school to her observations about her clients as a cleaning woman. This is rich with storytelling and was a delight to read! It would be a good one to put on the bedside table to indulge in a story or two at the end of your day!

4 Out of 5 Stars

January 2016 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

Read With Me This Year

GoodReads 2016 Books

January 2016 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

What should I 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! xo

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

 

Pin It

How To Make a Dream Catcher (GIVEAWAY- Star Darlings Book Sets)

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

This post is sponsored by Disney Press. Thank you for supporting the companies that support this site! 

I am so very excited to share with you an incredible new book series from Disney that just recently launched, perfect for girls in the age ranges of 8-12 years old.  Star Darlings  focuses on answering the question of where wishes come from, and features a diverse array of star-charmed girls who encourage and help others to fulfill their heartfelt wishes. Each Star Darling has her own wish that she pursues with the help of her faithful friends.

These shared journeys and experiences provide exceptionally positive examples to inspire tweens to follow their dreams and helps to  harness the power of their individuality, highlighting the power of making positive choices, and shows that they can make anything possible.

Star Darlings Book Review

Star Darlings A Wisher's Guide to Starland

These books are rich with themes of friendship, confidence, leadership, and teamwork, the Star Darlings as they are known, go on many magical adventures together. Determined to succeed in spite of their youthful inexperience, the girls show courage and ingenuity—plus a whole lot of humor—as they guide Wishers to discover happiness and fulfillment.  You can learn lots more about the Star Darlings series on their webpage and find fun activities, music, and videos to watch about these inspiring girls!

My daughter is an advanced reader at ten and found these books to be fun AND challenging. Within record time she had finished the first book and could not wait to start diving into the next ones.  If you have a tween girl, these have been a great step towards reading more advanced books! She really loved them and also told me that she has already found something in each character that feels a little like her.

Since the new Star Darlings series is all about the power of wishes, we wanted to share with you a few of our dreams and wishes for this year and show you a fun way to capture those by crafting a DIY dream catcher together. Not only that, but we would love to share with you the chance to win these books for a special young lady in your life so be sure to scroll all the way to the end of this post to participate in the giveaway!

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

Supplies Needed:

Glue Gun & Glue Sticks

Embroidery Hoop (we detached the inner hoop for our project)

Fabric Scraps or squares

Hemp Cord (available in the jewelry supplies section of your craft store)

Feathers (any amount/color- we used 3)

Colorful embroidery thread

Scissors

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

How to Make a Dreamcatcher

1. Begin by cutting a small cut on the longest side of your fabric piece and then begin ripping it down until you have a nice even piece.  Holding it in place at the top, begin wrapping the fabric around and round the hoop. When you come to the end, add a dab of hot glue to secure it and then repeat the process until you have covered the entire hoop. Once you get to the end, finish again with a dab of hot glue.

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

(source)

2. The most challenging part is, of course, creating the webbing inside the dreamcatcher.  Here are lots of examples that you can see on Pinterest. Depending on your child’s age and craft level you can make this very easy, like we are showing here, or more difficult!

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

Measure approximately five feet of hemp and start with a knot at the top of your dreamcatcher. Then begin creating loops, twisting and looping until you get to the beginning again. Then begin the next loop of webbing by going between those circles to create the next round of loops. You can then keep repeating this pattern, as the circle begins to get smaller and smaller.

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

3. Have your child tear strips of fabric to tie to the bottom of the dream catcher. We chose two colors and alternated them in our dream catcher.

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

4. Finish with decorative details like feathers or beads to complete the look. We used a little embroidery thread to secure these to our dreamcatcher.

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

When I asked Emily what her big wishes and dreams were for this year, they were all focused on our big jump to middle school next year. Starting at a new school is a big challenge and I can tell that this has been on her mind a lot as she asks her brother many questions about the school and how her day will look there. She said that her big dream is for middle school to be full of good stuff. Doing this craft together gave us time to really talk about that and focus on catching all the good things in life and focusing on the positivities of new friends and new experiences at a new school.

With our busy schedules these days, crafting together has gotten pushed off and I loved making time to create with her this week. This was an easy one hour project that really gave us some time to bond and talk about our wishes for the upcoming year.

Star Darlings

Star Darlings Book Review

In honor of this new series I am giving away a Star Darlings prize pack. One (1) winner will receive:

  • A Wisher’s Guide to Starland
  • Sage and the Journey to Wishworld
  • Libby and the Class Election
  • Leona’s Unlucky Mission
  • Scarlet Discovers True Strength
  • Vega and the Fashion Disaster

This giveaway open to US addresses only and prizing and samples will be provided by Disney Press.  Please check out the widget below for more details on this contest! Good luck, everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

This post is sponsored by Disney Press. Thank you for supporting the companies that support this site! 

Pin It

November/December 2015 Must-Reads

Monday, December 21st, 2015

November/December 2015 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

It’s time to wrap up another year of reading on MomAdvice. I hope you didn’t miss my annual wrap-up of the best reads for 2015. What an incredible year of reading it was this year. I want to thank so many of you for your encouragement on how much you appreciate these lists when making your book selections and how these have helped motivate you to really dig in and read again. Reading is a cause that is near and dear to my heart!

With the holidays in full swing, I combined my November and December reading since I wasn’t able to tackle as many books as I had hoped!  I am looking forward to a little R&R with my kids while they are on break and I’m hoping to come back refreshed and with many more great book selections for you to dive into!

In the meantime, I started a small  MomAdvice Hangout Facebook group and we will be running a monthly MomAdvice Book Club discussion there. If you want to join in, be sure to pick up The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende for our January chat!  Each month we will have a new hostess who will be able to introduce to you a new book to read and discuss. If you are interested in joining in the fun, be sure to send me a request. We are keeping the group private for now so people can really chat and get to know one another!

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

I selected this creepy read to indulge in over the Halloween weekend since none of the typical Halloween horror films were grabbing me this year. I must say that this book did not disappoint and I would, in particular, recommend this one for Hitchcock fans!

Malerman succeeds in writing a perfectly gripping and creepy psychological page-turner. With the creatures lurking, a woman and her two children try to flee to safety blindfolded along a river. If they see what is lurking, they die a horrific death inflicting pain upon themselves to stop seeing the horrors of what they have seen. Interweaving past (pre-creatures) and present (a post-creature world), you go along on a horrific ride as Malorie tries to save herself and her children blindfolded, never knowing what is lurking around every turn.

I loved it and I think you will too especially if you love classic Stephen King or if you enjoyed The Girl With All the Gifts as much as I did. Do yourself a favor and read this one so we can talk about it!

Josh will be joining us next month for our Sundays With Writers series! I can’t wait to hear more about how he came up with this unique concept for a storyline!

4 Out of 5 Stars

Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner

Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner

I am slowly working my way through the GoodReads Choice Awards nominations list and Secrets of a Charmed Life was nominated for the Historical Fiction category.

There is so much to love in this story about two sisters who are separated from one another in such a sad way and how they are transformed by this experience and the war. Set in 1940’s England, the book focuses on the bombings that happened in London, following the story of Emma Downtree who ends up losing everything in the bombs including her inability to find her sister after a series of bombs occurs in the building where their apartment resides. This inevitably changes Emma’s entire life path leading her to a different career path, to find love, and uncovering some deep family secrets along the way.

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

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

4 Out of 5 Stars

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

I have been dying to read Brooklyn ever since I saw the preview for the film. Wouldn’t you know that our theater did not have it and then they only had it at weird times so I never got to see it. I’m heartbroken why good films like this don’t stick around and get played more around this area. What the hay, Michiana? You see, I always make a deal with myself to read the book first so I can feel the true disappointment in films…kidding…sort of.

Eilis Lacey has come of age in small-town Ireland in the hard years following World War Two. When an Irish priest from Brooklyn offers to sponsor Eilis in America — to live and work in a Brooklyn neighborhood “just like Ireland” — she decides she must go, leaving her fragile mother and her charismatic sister behind. When she falls in love, she receives some devastating news that sends her back home again where she must make painful choices about her future.

This was such an achingly beautiful coming of age story that perfectly captures the struggles of growing up and leaving your childhood home and family. The real challenge lies in moving away and then finding yourself back at home again and finding your placement in the world again when you are all that your mother has left. Do you stay or do you go?

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

4 Out of 5 Stars

The Royal We by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan

The Royal We by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan

I know you are like, ALRIGHT, YOU LOVED IT. WE GET IT! Yes, this one made my top ten list for just a great guilty pleasure escape this year. That said, I read it over the month of December so I had to include it today in our monthly round-up!

I was completely enchanted by The Royal We, a fictional tale of an American getting swept off her feet by a real Prince.

Perhaps, that sounds a little cheesy, but it is anything BUT cheesy.Instead of focusing on the fairy tale romance aspect of the story, Heather & Jessica really dive into what it would take for someone to transition from college student into a Princess and the very real dilemma of losing her privacy, what strains that might put on her friendships, and what her family might go through as she takes on a celebrity status that she had never desired.

It’s funny, heartwarming, and really beautifully executed from a really smart family lineage to what training might be involved to be a part of the Royal family.

It read like a guilty pleasure read that still had lots of depth and soul. I laughed, cried, and was disappointed that I had to close the final pages when I was done. I just didn’t want it to end and I am convinced there is more of a story to tell.

Be sure to catch my interview with the authors for more juicy royal chatter and to hear what’s happening with the film process for this one!

4 Out of 5 Stars

Trail of Broken Wings by Sejal Badani

Trail of Broken Wings by Sejal Badani

Once again, I tackled another read from that GoodReads nomination list and Trail of Broken Wings was another nominee for Best Fiction that I wanted to read.

Domestic abuse is fully brought to light in this account of one family and the man who abused them. As he lays in a coma, each of the sisters and the wife replay the events that happened through their traumatic years and the reader uncovers the dark secrets that they each have carried. 

This one delved a lot into the Indian culture and the traditional roles of women in their culture, many of which I was not aware of! It would make for a compelling book club discussion and did not shy away from some of the demons people battle when they have been abused.

The book had a great twist at the end that really added some depth to one of the character’s storylines. Raw and honest, it would be impossible to read and not feel a new awareness and sadness for those abused.

 4 Out of 5 Stars

November/December 2015 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

Read With Me This Year:

January 2015 Must-Reads

February 2015 Must-Reads

March 2015 Must-Reads

April 2015 Must-Reads

May 2015 Must-Reads

June 2015 Must-Reads

July 2015 Must-Reads

August 2015 Must-Reads

September 2015 Must-Reads

October 2015 Must-Reads

My Top Ten Books of 2015

November/December 2015 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

What should I 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! xo

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

Pin It

Blind Date Book Club Exchange

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

Blind Date Book Exchange from MomAdvice.com

As a minimalist, I really love to give and get gifts that I really would love and use which can be difficult when it comes to holiday exchanges. We all, I am sure, have went home with a White Elephant gift we really did not love or spent good money on exchanges where we have felt a little disappointed in what we received in exchange. It’s tricky to not look like a Scrooge when you want to opt out to save money.

Last month though, I got a little inspiration for an idea to host a book exchange for my fellow bookworms. I visited Asheville for a conference and saw my first Blind Date Book display in person at the book shop. After snapping a photo for Instagram, I started thinking what a fun idea it would be to have a Blind Book Book Exchange for the holidays with my book club. What would an evening look like where we all brought blind dates to share?

Last night we had our exchange and it was, honestly, one of the best exchanges I have been a part of.  Perhaps, a bit nerdy, I loved going home with a great book AND a whole slew of ideas for books I’d love to check out at the library. 

Blind Date Book Exchange from MomAdvice.com

What Are Blind Date Books?

If you haven’t seen a display before, they are books that are wrapped in paper and then they have words written on them that describe what the book is about. Displays can be found at many bookstores and I have even heard that libraries do this too.  You can illustrate the paper or just write words about what makes the book special. I love this Pinterest board that shows so many ideas for a fun blind date book display. As you can see, there are many interpretations.

As someone who truly judges books by their covers, this gives you a chance to think differently, perhaps, about a book you might not have picked up before. Since it is a blind date, you are taking a bit of a risk that the money you invest may or may not pay off so you want to choose wisely.

I purchased a book at the bookstore and it sounded just like something I would love.

Guess what? It was something I already loved very much. I loved it so much that it made our top ten books of 2015.

I was happy to pass it on to someone else and, honestly, if I loved it enough to put it on my top ten, I would have been happy to own it too.

Blind Date Book Exchange from MomAdvice.com

How Do You Do a Blind Date Book Exchange?

Of course, since I have never heard that anyone has done this before, I made up my very own rules. That means, if these rules don’t work for you, feel free to make your own! It’s your blind date, friends!

Tell Everyone to Bring a Book Wrapped In Paper- I encouraged everyone to bring a book that was special to them or that they would want to read themselves. You could pass down a book that you already owned and loved or purchase a book for the exchange. Have everyone wrap their books and then write their own descriptions about them. I have found that reviews on the backs of books offer a plethora of beautiful words to use.

Draw Numbers- Write down numbers equal to the amount of people participating and have everyone draw a number.

Select Your Books- Give people time to browse the descriptions before the exchange and then start going in order of the numbers drawn. Beginning with the person who has drawn #1,  have them select their book, read the description on the outside, and then open it.

Steal Away- Just like those White Elephant exchanges, the next person in line can steal the opened book, if they are wanting to read it, or they can draw from the book pile. We allowed two steals per book to keep it fun while still moving along.

Go Home With a New Book, But Keep The Exchange Going Strong- What a treat to go home with a new read! The best part is, if your book club meets regularly, you can bring the book back to the next book club meeting and share it again with your book club members. It creates a little lending library for your group with just a small investment.  I can’t take credit for that idea though, it was thought up by my fellow book club member, Kate! Smart girl!

What Book Did I Give?

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

GAVE: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

DESCRIPTION: Worldview Changer, America’s Mandela, A Voice to the Voiceless, Thrilling, Heroic Endeavors, Compelling, Hope for Humanity, Inspiration for Change

Nonfiction can be intimidating to fiction lovers so I wanted to share this one because it read like a legal thriller and completely changed my view on people in the prison system. I couldn’t put it down and I wanted someone to read it so I could talk about the injustice of so many.

What Did I Go Home With?

Looking for Alaska by John Green

GOT: Looking for Alaska by John Green

I am really excited to dig into this- have you read it? I’ve heard such good things. I think this is the only John Green book I haven’t read yet!

Blind Date Book Exchange

This was the best exchange I’ve ever been part of  and it’s not because I invented it.

Or maybe it is.

Who is to say?

Regardless, I hope it inspires you for a fun night with your own book clubs. We look forward to making this one an annual tradition and it made for a really fun evening talking about all of our favorite books. I look forward to cozying up with my book over the winter break and I don’t even have to return it back to the library- winning!

Want to be part of a book club? Join me over here for our first online book club happening in January. We are reading this one as our first selection and I am so excited!

Have you ever taken a blind date with a book? Tell me about it!

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

Pin It