Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

April 2017 Must-Reads

Monday, May 1st, 2017

April 2017 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

Can you believe it is already May? This past month really flew by and I’m so excited to share ten books that I read in April. As a book reviewer, this tends to be a really busy season so I have a large stack of advanced readers to still get through in preparation for all that summer reading that will be happening. Summer, to me, means thriller season so I’ll be sure to add a few of those to my stack for next month.

I’m still working my way through the MomAdvice Reading Challenge and tackled six categories this month! It has, truly, diversified my reading this year. This month, in particular, I read some books that I would have not normally have picked up in order to complete certain categories.

Just as a reminder, I read many more books than are just featured here, but try to feature the ones that are my absolute best picks.  If you want to see more of what I am reading,  please feel free to friend me on GoodReads! You can find me right here and I am always happy to connect with people there too! There is nothing more motivating than seeing what other people are raving about and my to-be-read pile continues to grow with all of my new friends on there! In fact, many of the books featured are ones that I have found through my friends on GoodReads.

PS- Don’t forget to join our FREE book club! It’s so awesome!

10 Must-Read Books from April 2017

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.

5 Out of 5 Stars

My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

I don’t read as much chick lit as I used to, but Sophie Kinsella books are always like curling up with an old friend. In My Not So Perfect Life, Katie Brenner looks upon the life of everyone else with a lot of envy as she is broke, sharing a flat with some terrible roommates, and struggling at her job. When she is fired, she has to return home, but can’t bear to tell her parents the truth about her failure  so she tells them that she is on sabbatical instead.

What unfolds is adorably sweet as Katie helps her family launch a glamping bed and breakfast and secretly hunts for a new job on the side. The only problem is, her former boss shows up as a guest and Katie decides to teach her a lesson or two, but ends up getting a lot of lessons of her own.

In a social media obsessed world, Kinsella showcases how those Instagram photos aren’t always the reality of life and few lives are as perfect as they seem. Written with some really smart characters, it was a fun escape this month and, truly, made me laugh out loud.

5 Out of 5 Stars

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give is one of those books that everyone has been talking about this year. This YA novel was riveting and a definite must-read this year.

Starr Chase has a double life at a mostly white prep school while living in a poor neighborhood. On the way home from a party, her friend is pulled over and fatally shot by a white officer.

The death becomes a national headline and Starr has to decide where her loyalty lies especially when it means risking her safety and the safety of her family.

This is a book that has made me feel ALL THE FEELINGS and this story has so many great lessons in it that it would be impossible to not have your viewpoint shift as you see the story from Starr’s perspective.  I can’t recommend this one enough.

Reading Challenge Category Completed- A book that challenges a viewpoint

5 Out of 5 Stars

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zetner

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

I became a huge fan of Jeff Zentner after reading his incredible book, The Serpent King (check out my interview with him on that one!) so I couldn’t wait to dive into his next book.

Goodbye Days opens with a tragic accident that claims the lives of three teens when their best friend, Carver, texts to ask if they are on their way. When the driver tries to answer the text, they are killed in a collision with another vehicle leaving Carver without his dearest friends.  An investigation unfolds as the families decide if they will be pressing charges against him and Carver must forge a new life without three of the people that have been such a big part of him.

In an effort to bring closure to the families, he has a Goodbye Day where they share a day to share memories of the person they lost. The Goodbye Days don’t go always as expected as feelings of anger and blame are placed upon Carver’s role in the accident and Carver must work through these guilt-filled days with his therapist.

Zentner has a way of writing friendships that feel authentically real. As an adult,  I truly appreciate the message from this book and think it would be a great one to share with your teen to warn of the dangers of texting and driving.

More than that though, it showcases the power of forgiveness over our lives.

4 Out of 5 Stars

Everything You Want Me to Be by Mindy Mejia

Everything You Want Me To Be by Mindy Mejia

If you are looking for another solid thriller, I have to say that Everything You Want Me To Be was excellent and had me guessing up until the final pages!

Hattie Hoffman has always spent her life dutifully doing exactly what she is supposed to.  That is why it shocks the town when Hattie is found brutally stabbed to death since no one could ever imagine something like that would happen to someone who is so perfect.

Ah, but things aren’t what they seem and Hattie has a few secrets up her sleeve that include a scandalous relationship that leave the reader guessing just who would have wanted Hattie dead more.

I really enjoyed this one and Mejia carves a few smart twists that I think you will really enjoy. I couldn’t put this one down and finished it in a single day!

4 Out of 5 Stars

Kindred by Octavia Butler

Kindred by Octavia Butler

I have always been a fan of time travel novels and selected Kindred as my time travel book for the MomAdvice Reading Challenge.  I can’t believe this book had never been on my radar before because it completely blew me away.

Dana is a black woman married to a white man in the late sixties. After becoming dizzy one day, she finds herself transported to the South in 1815 when a little boy, named Rufus, is drowning in a river. Dana saves him and this begins the first of many visits where he risks his life and Dana is pulled back into the 1800’s. Her role as a black woman is not a free one though and she must work as a slave at the house and witnesses the true brutalities of an unkind slave owner.

Butler layers a great dimension by giving Dana a white husband and when they are transported together, he must act as her slave owner in order to keep her safe. The dynamics in these roles causes stress and doubts between the two.

If you are highly sensitive, this book is brutal in the telling of the treatment of slaves. It unsettled me a lot to read these horrific accounts, yet I know that I need to know them too.

The ending was a little strange to me, but reading through the reader guide helped me understand better the dimensions that Butler was hoping to achieve through this ending.

Overall, this was a riveting read that I could not put down!

Reading Challenge Category Completed- A book about time travel

5 Out of 5 Stars

The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve

The Stars are Fire by Anita Shreve

Thank you to the publisher for sending an ARC of this novel- all thoughts and opinions are my own! 

I finished Anita Shreve’s latest book in less than a day and really enjoyed this story of a marriage set in the late ‘40’s.  Shreve uses Maine as her backdrop and in October of 1947, a summer-long drought caused fires to breakout all along the Maine coast that killed many and destroyed their homes.

The book opens with the telling of a really loveless marriage. When the fires break in Maine, Grace is able to save herself and her two children, but has no idea what has happened to her husband. Without money, a home, a husband, or even clothing on her back, she takes her children back to her deceased mother-in-law’s home and waits for her husband to return.

It’s through this experience of independence that Grace must find herself from getting a job to learning to drive to managing money. Of course, as she finds her footing, she knows that her husband may return at any moment to take it all away from her.

It was a really great escape and would be an ideal one for your beach bag this summer!

Reading Challenge Category Completed- A book about marriage

4 Out of 5 Stars

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

This sparse novel, mostly set in the 1970’s, documents the story of a friendship as they grow up in Brooklyn. The Brooklyn they know is a dangerous place where these girls can quickly lose their innocence and Woodson paints her story in almost a stream of consciousness that makes you feel as though you are in the mind of these characters, from past to present, presented in a lyrical prose format.

Despite its short length, this book packs a powerful punch as it examines coming-of-age in a dark place and the realities of poverty without a mother.  This quote says it all about this book-

“Everywhere we looked, we saw the people trying to dream themselves out. As though there was someplace other than this place. As though there was another Brooklyn.”

Reading Challenge Category Completed- A book written by a woman

3 Out of 5 Star

How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell

How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell

I picked up Cat’s memoir on a whim not knowing anything about her or her work. Marnell had a promising career working as a beauty editor for Lucky magazine, but struggled with many addictions that prevented her from delivering on that promise.

Her addictions started with a prescription for ADHD medication, as a teen, and it spiraled out from there. The reader is taken on each cringe-worthy moment as she self-destructs on pills, binges on food, and gets involved with some shady people sabotaging relationships and her various writing gigs.

She chronicles the realities of rehab and the differences between treatments when treated at a higher end facility and then what a real rehab experience looked like. She also shares her own confusion over being celebrated for her raw honesty in writing about her addictions, yet being chastised for her drug abuse by her coworkers.

This book circles and circles repeating the same abuse cycles again and again. The writing feels manic at times and you just want Marnell to get her crap together.

But, it isn’t that kind of book

And it isn’t that kind of ending.

It’s real, unflinching, and showcases the truly ugly side of drug addiction.

Reading Challenge Category Completed- A book on mental illness

3 Out of 5 Stars

Desperation Road by Michael Farris Smith

Desperation Road by Michael Farris Smith

I’m surprised that I haven’t heard a lot of buzz about Desperation Road, a beautiful Southern Gothic novel that is gorgeously written from start to finish. Fans of Ron Rash are sure to love this haunting story of redemption and the unlikely companionship that blossoms, particularly when they realize the way that their two lives intertwine.

Maben & her young daughter are trying to escape their life and the mother must use her last dollars to provide shelter for them through the night at a hotel. In order to earn money to get them through the next day, Maben finds herself involved in the murder of a police deputy and they must flee before she is caught.

She pulls over Russell, a man who has just finished his prison term for a crime he committed,  by gunpoint. When he picks up Mabel & her daughter he finds that he is now involved in a crime he did not commit.

Michael Farris Smith certainly has a way with words and I was sucked into this book from page one. If you are just in the mood for a good story, this book is beautiful and satisfying!

Reading Challenge Category Completed- Southern Gothic

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 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 2017 Must-Reads

Friday, March 31st, 2017

March 2017 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

I think I am setting a record for most pages read this month thanks, in part, to my commitment to give up social media and email checking after 5PM for Lent.  This month I managed to consume 11 (!!) books to share with you today for our March Must-Reads list. As always, I like a little variety in my stack so today’s list should have something for everyone and several 5-star books that you must, must read!

As I know many of my friends are leaving on Spring Break this week, I am hoping this list arrives just in time for a little vacation reading!

I’m still working my way through the MomAdvice Reading Challenge and tackled five categories for this month. It has really helped me to broaden a bit outside my normal genres. I hope you are enjoying working your way through it too.

Just as a reminder, I read many more books than are just featured here, but try to feature the ones that are my absolute best picks.  If you want to see more of what I am reading,  please feel free to friend me on GoodReads! You can find me right here and I am always happy to connect with people there too! There is nothing more motivating than seeing what other people are raving about and my to-be-read pile continues to grow with all of my new friends on there! In fact, many of the books featured are ones that I have found through my friends on GoodReads.

11 Must-Read Books from March 2017

 

Little Deaths by Emma Flint

Little Deaths by Emma Flint

Set in the summer of 1965, Flint’s novel reads like a true crime story as the author weaves the story of two missing children in Queens, New York and the story of their single mother who doesn’t fit the typical mother mold.

Ruth Malone, their mother, raises her children alone and doesn’t conform to the idea of what a good mother and wife should be. Working as a cocktail waitress, she is gorgeous with an overly done face and wardrobe. Ruth instantly becomes the suspect worth scrutinizing by the cops, the neighbors, and the press. When a tabloid reporter, intent on getting his first big story, begins covering the story of these missing children, he just can’t help but to become obsessed with her.

Much of the story is told through a series of interviews as Pete Wonicke tries to get the scoop and the reader is taken through this heart wrenching story from lost children, to found, to the agonizing building of the case.

Well-crafted and developed with a dramatic conclusion, Flint paints Ruth in such a way that she practically lifts off the pages. Although the conclusion was a bit too swift for me, I found this to be a solid read that left me guessing through much of it. I would recommend this one for fans of crime fiction, especially if you are a big fan of police procedural books since this book takes you through the case from start to finish.

3.5 Out of 5 Stars

Exit, Pursued by a Bear

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

Exit, Pursued by a Bear is a MomAdvice Book Club selection this year and I can’t wait to discuss this with our readers. This YA novel packs a coming-of-age punch as it examines the story of a rape and the aftermath for its victim.

Hermione is a flyer on her cheer squad and proud to be their captain. While away at cheer camp, she attends a party where someone  puts something in her drink and she is brutally raped and assaulted. When she awakes, she has no recollection of what has happened to her, but must deal with the devastating consequences of this assault.

I love that this book focuses less on being a victim and more about continuing to fight through the pain, not allowing this horrible situation to continue to define your life. Hermione is a true hero as she picks up the pieces of her life and is determined to carry on.

Heavier than a typical YA read and filled with a supportive cast of characters, Johnston deserves all the accolades she has received for this one including being listed as a finalist for the L.A. Times Book Prize.

Brave and unflinching, it’s a beautiful, beautiful read! Join our book club to discuss! You can also check my exclusive interview with the author this month!

5 Out of 5 Stars

Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach

Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach

Dead Letters is a cleverly structured mystery that I devoured in a single day. Ava and Zelda are estranged twin sisters and their names happen to be the bookends to the alphabet. Ava is summoned to come home to her wildly dysfunctional family when Zelda is said to have possibly perished in a fire.

Zelda just might not be dead, however, and decides to send her sister Ava on a scavenger hunt to unwind the mystery of where she is. This craftily drawn goose chase will remind readers of a well-developed Agatha Christie novel.

The authors turn-of-phrase and creatively written characters make this book a treat from start to finish.

Do not miss this debut and have a wonderful time trying to piece together whatever happened to Zelda.

Reading Challenge Category Completed-A book by a debut author

5 Out of 5 Stars

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Born a Crime was our MomAdvice Book Club selection this month and I am quite confident this book will be on my top ten list for 2017. Although I have been a big fan of his work on The Daily Show, I have an entirely new respect for this man and the survival skills he used during his youth in apartheid South Africa.

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.

Reading Challenge Category Completed- A book on race

5 Out of 5 Stars

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

A Gentleman in Moscow was chosen by my local book club for our selection this month. This one happened to be on my list from last year so I definitely looked forward to reading it. I will admit though, this book was a slow burn for me.

Set in 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to house arrest in Metropol, a grand hotel that happens to be across the street from the Kremlin. Due to the sentence, the entire book’s plot centers on this hotel and the unlikely friends, lover, and even child that become a part of the Count’s life.

While I appreciated the glimmers of stories throughout and the relationships that help sustain him in his time in Metropol, I really slogged through the book as this book really didn’t necessarily move plot, but was more of a study of character.  The Count was certainly a charming guy and I can see why so many are enamored with this book, but I was craving a little more action in this story.

Reading Challenge Category Completed- A historical fiction novel

3 Out of 5 Stars

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid’s Tale has been on my reading bucket list forever and with the upcoming Hulu series soon to be released (watch the trailer here!), I knew I wanted to get this one under my belt before I watched it. Since the election season,  this book has seen resurgence in popularity and Atwood even shared about what her book means during the Trump era with the New York Times,  as it rocks the bestseller list once again.

This timeless dystopian novel, written all the way back in 1984, explores what the world looks like when women lose power over their own bodies and a religious totalitarian government dictates how and when they can reproduce. Women are given roles and seen as objects limiting them to roles like wives, Marthas, Handmaids, Aunts and Unwomen and everyone’s main focus is on procreation.

This book is disturbing in many ways, but I couldn’t put it down. I’m glad I waited to read this because it hit me at just the right time and gave me a lot to chew on, even if I found the ending to be an unsatisfying one.

I highlighted almost the entire book because there are so many beautifully written passages. Atwood certainly has a way with words! One line in particular has stuck with me…“We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.”

I couldn’t put this one down- be sure to add it to your stack in preparation for a Hulu-binge session!

Reading Challenge Category Completed- A Dystopian novel

5 Out of 5 Stars

The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel

The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel

The Stranger in the Woods shares the remarkable true story of the last true hermit. Christopher Knight, at the mere age of 20, decided to leave his home in Massachusetts, drive to Maine, and disappear into a forest to not return for almost three decades.

Yup, I said TRUE story.

Knight relied upon the neighboring homes for stealing the items he needed to survive and upon his capture, Finkel reached out to write him and to learn more of his own personal story.  Through those initial letters, Finkel formed as much of a friendship as one could with a hermit, and learned of Knight’s survival skills through brutal Maine winters and why he preferred the isolation.

With commentary from many experts, it’s a fascinating read on why some people flourish better in isolation and why humans crave relationships in the way that we do. The amount of effort Finkel goes through to carve an accurate story of Knight is admirable, but at times uncomfortable because a hermit doesn’t necessarily want to share his life story with the world. That’s kind of why he disappeared…

Reading Challenge Category Completed- A book you can read in a day

4 Out of 5 Stars

 

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

The Roanoke Girls gave me flashbacks of the days of shoving V.C. Andrews books under my mattress for guilty consumption. It is that kind of twisted, dirty, and weird familial experiences that you are going to have if you decide to crack open this thriller.

This book is about a dirty family secret that has had great power over the wealthy Roanoke Girls and the power is so strong that many of them die. When one of the girls goes missing, her cousin returns to face the demons that have always haunted her.

Do a little research if you have issues with triggers because this one might not be for you.  I found the audiobook to be a great escape this week and would recommend it for people who like their thrillers dark and dirty.

Oh, you know who you are! Shame on you!

4 Out of 5 Stars

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

I adored Jennifer Niven’s YA debut novel, All the Bright Places (read my interview with the author on that one over here!), so I was thrilled to hear she had a new book out called,  Holding Up the Universe. In this book, she alternates chapters between Jack, a popular teenage boy who has prosopagnosia (a neurological condition that causes facial blindness) and Libby, who enters high school after an astounding 300 pound weight loss that caused her to be a social media sensation in her town.

These two are both placed into an after-school detention program where they find solace in one another and their shared difficulties. These difficulties are just the tip of the iceberg though as they each struggle, in different ways, with the loss of a parent.

I knew very little about prosopagnosia and Niven develops the most advanced case of it in Jack where he cannot even recognize his family. It definitely sent me down a rabbit trail especially after discovering that Brad Pitt is believed to have this too (who knew?).

Written in short chapters, this is a sweet YA novel with a lot of heart and would be a great one for teens as she writes about the importance that all people feel and be seen.

3.5 Out of 5 Stars

White Tears by Hari Kunzru

White Tears by Hari Kunzru

White Tears is one of those books that I think you are really going to love and appreciate the genius of the writing or you will just be left utterly confused by the trip that Kunzru takes you on.

It is described as a ghost story, but I don’t really think that this describes it at all. This book is a deep reflection on race and what white privilege affords us and how white people often take what doesn’t belong to us.

It opens with two kids, one privileged and the other riding on his coattails, who are fascinated by recorded sound and music. When the narrator happens to pick up a blues song of a street musician, they try to pass it off as an early blues recording, adding the pops and hiss of vinyl to make this song feel authentic. Naming the unknown musician as Charlie Shaw, they set out to share and sell this music that doesn’t belong to them.

Of course the music wasn’t theirs to begin with and when they discover that there really is a Charlie Shaw out in the world, bad things begin to happen for the credit they took for music they never owned.

The second half of the novel took me awhile to really understand what was happening and I can’t even really say that I *got* it all, but I will say that the message that pulls through is brilliant and gave me a lot to think about after I finished the book.

This is a thought-provoking read and would be a good one to dive into with a book club!

Reading Challenge Category Completed- A book published this year

4 Out of 5 Stars

 

The Body Doesn't Lie by Vicky Vlachonis

The Body Doesn’t Lie by Vicky Vlachonis

Vicky Vlachonis is an osteopath and musculoskeletal specialist that works with a lot of celebrities and dancers. Her holistic approach to pain management is what has made her famous among these celebrity circles and she believes that chronic pain can be managed through better habits.

The big focus on pain is, of course, on sleep. Of course, most habits in this book do feel intuitive, but I needed reminding. From creating sleeping rituals that help your body to fall into better sleep to understanding the trigger points on your body to help relieve pain to food choices that can improve digestion. These tips make you think about where your pain stems from and help you find better ways to repair it.

Intuitive, perhaps, but a year of broken sleep makes me so thankful for this book and finally getting restorative sleep. If you have broken sleep or suffer from chronic pain, this is a book worth checking out.

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 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.

February 2017 Must-Reads

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017

February 2017 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

How are you? I hope you guys had another great month of reading. It’s such a pleasure to connect with so many of you through our online book club and hear what is in your book stacks. I managed to get in seven great reads during the month of February in a variety of genres this month. This month I’m sharing a great fictional memoir, a genre-bending thriller, science fiction, young adult, a nonfiction memoir, and some good old-fashioned literary fiction. I am hoping you find a book or two in this month’s stack that can make its way over into yours.

I’m still working my way through the MomAdvice Reading Challenge and tackled four categories for this month. It has really helped me to broaden a bit outside my normal genres. I hope you are enjoying working your way through it too.

Just as a reminder, I read many more books than are just featured here, but try to feature the ones that are my absolute best picks.  If you want to see more of what I am reading,  please feel free to friend me on GoodReads! You can find me right here and I am always happy to connect with people there too! There is nothing more motivating than seeing what other people are raving about and my to-be-read pile continues to grow with all of my new friends on there! In fact, many of the books featured are ones that I have found through my friends on GoodReads.

7 Must-Read Books from February 2017

Carrying Albert Home by Homer Hickam

Carrying Albert Home by Homer Hickam

Carrying Albert Home happened to be our selection this month for the MomAdvice Book Club so it was the first one I wanted to tackle in preparation for our discussion.

Described as Big Fish meets The Notebook, this was one of the strangest, funniest, endearing reads I’ve read. This is the “mostly true,” story of Hickam’s own parents who went on a wild road trip with an alligator.

I told you it is unlike anything I’ve ever read.

Elsie isn’t sure that being a coalminer’s wife is all that it is cracked up to be and she longs for a different kind of life. After a whirlwind romance though, she finds herself married and the proud owner of an alligator that was gifted to her by an old flame.

Baby alligators are cute, giant alligators are a lot of trouble…especially when your husband isn’t so fond of him. Elsie & Homer decide it is time to take Albert somewhere warmer and the three go on an epic road trip that is both bizarre and wildly charming.

I doubt you won’t be swept away in this unlikely love story of a pretty girl, a simple coalminer, and their adorable alligator.

If you want something highly original, add this one to your book stack!

Reading Challenge Category Completed-MomAdvice Book Club selection

4 Out of 5 Stars

A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel

A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel

I love a good storyteller and Kimmel delivers classic storytelling magic with her memoir, A Girl Named Zippy. Set in a small town in Indiana, Kimmel shares stories of her childhood with humorous storytelling that rivals some of my favorite David Sedaris reads.

I had picked this one up numerous times at the library, but each time I seemed to have a trouble connecting with it. The audiobook on this though, is perfection and a great one if you prefer short story escapes with your dishes like me!

If you are a child of the ‘70’s you will relate to the parenting and antics of this fun family. As a girl growing up in a small town in Indiana, I found this one highly relatable in so many ways.

Reading Challenge Category Completed- A book that takes place in your state or town

4 Out of 5 Stars

The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman

The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman

In anticipation of the upcoming film, I wanted to make sure to read the true story of the Polish zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski who saved over 300 Jews from the Nazi’s.

There is SO MUCH to learn about in this book as Ackerman jams this story to the brim with the habits of its animal inhabitants as well as the survival techniques that were used to survive during this horrific time in history.

If you want to be inspired by a truly resourceful woman, Antonina is a powerhouse who was able to tap into basic animal instincts, even when it came to the Nazi soldiers, to protect those who were hiding secretly in her zoo.

Although the waters of storytelling are a bit choppy in this one, Ackerman delivered a story that I doubt I could ever forget of beauty and survival even in our history’s darkest moments. The author could have benefited from a bit of finessing in her storytelling instead of, at times, what felt like a book report.

Do read this one before seeing the film though. I highly doubt they can capture the animal magic as beautifully as it is told through this story and you will have loads of fun facts for your kids over dinner!

Reading Challenge Category Completed-A book that’s becoming a film

4 Out of 5 Stars

This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel

This Is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel

I devoured This Is How it Always Is in less than 24 hours and found it to be a compelling read as a parent. This fictional story is about a little boy named Claude who knows that, more than anything, he wants to grow up to be a girl.

Lucky for Claude, he has two parents who deeply desire for him to be happy and it is with his happiness in mind that they work together to help Claude be who he is. When they feel Claude’s happiness is at stake, they decide to move to a town who will be more open to who he is and Claude becomes Poppy.

Their new friends and neighbors do not know about Claude and it is a secret that they keep to protect her. The question becomes, what happens when people find out and what’s next for Poppy.

Frankel shares that she is the mother of a little boy who is now a girl, but reassures readers this is not their story, but a fictional story to discuss more of a broader social issue that roads are not always clearly defined for each child.

If you are looking for a book club book that will lead to a good discussion, you will find a lot to talk about in this beautiful story.

Read our interview with Frankel this month as we discuss this beautiful book!

5 Out of 5 Stars

behind-her-eyes

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

The latest big buzz thriller is called, Behind Her Eyes, and is a fun and highly imaginative psychological thriller. Her marketing team started the hashtag #wtfthatending that you can tweet when you finish. As a seasoned thriller reader, I thought I had it solved and then I didn’t… And then I REALLY didn’t.

It’s impossible to talk about this book without a big reveal so let’s focus on the generic plot points and say that this is a love triangle between a gorgeous wife, her dashing husband, and the slightly frumpy secretary. When the wife decides to pursue a secretive friendship with her husband’s secretary, a game of cat and mouse begins.

Here’s the thing, the reader will never guess the cat or the mouse and I told my husband, bewildered, that I was almost finished with the novel and still clueless where it is going. And then…well, #wtfthatending.

You’ll love it or you’ll hate it. I sat in the middle for a bit, not sure what to think about it. I will say, in the end, I appreciate that this wasn’t the same old, same old, BUT a reader must set aside a bit of reality for this genre-bender.

I’m excited to have Pinborough join us this Sunday to share more about her writing process for this book and what else we should read from her 20 (!!!) published works. Stay tuned and don’t say I didn’t warn ya!

4 Out of 5 Stars

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Oh, I am a sucker for a good YA novel and this one did not disappoint AT ALL.  Immigration is a hot button topic and it is addressed through this book through the children of two immigrants who find each other one fateful day and fall in love.

Natasha is from Jamaica, but does not consider it to be her home after growing up in the states. When her father gets pulled over, they discover their family is living in the states illegally and they are to be deported. Grounded and a head full of science, she couldn’t be more of an opposite of Daniel, when they meet.

Daniel is Asian-American and is working hard to fulfill his parent’s destiny for him to become a doctor. He wants to be a poet though and has always been a dreamer and a romantic.

12 hours before Natasha is to be deported, they meet and a beautiful relationship develops between the two. Although this sounds like a simple love story, it’s beautifully woven with many supporting characters that all have found their way in the threads of Daniel & Natasha’s destiny.

If you are a big fan of Eleanor & Park, I just know that you will love this sweet story that Yoon has developed. It’s no surprise that this one has been a National Book Award Finalist and a #1 New York Times bestseller.

Meaty enough for a book club or sweet enough for an escape this month, I can’t recommend it enough!

5 Out of 5 Stars

Reading Challenge Category Completed- A YA Novel

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

All the Birds in the Sky was selected by our local book club this month and also happens to be a book club selection for MomAdvice this year too. I was really excited to read this one because it was a coming-of-age story and is a science fiction/fantasy novel so it was a bit out of my usual comfort zone for reading. This is a highly quirky story of two kids that both have unusual special abilities. Patricia is magically gifted and Laurence is a scientific genius. They lean upon each other through the early years of not fitting in and then. Later, they go their separate ways when Patricia is selected to attend an academy for magic while Laurence focuses on inventing things like a machine for a billionaire that will allow for intergalactic travel to save humans after they have destroyed their own world. When technology brings them back together they think it is forever except for the whole world coming to an end thing.

This was quirky and had some laugh-out-loud moments, but I wasn’t in love with this one. The first half of the book was highly enjoyable and the second half hit a bit of a lull for me. This is one of those books that you have to truly appreciate quirk and fantasy to enjoy it. While it held my attention, it definitely did not end up being a favorite like I had hoped this year. Too many random elements and disjointed storylines made this one a difficult one for me to pick up and get into.

Reading Challenge Category Completed- A sci-fi/fantasy book

3 Out of 5 Stars

February 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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January 2017 Must-Reads

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

January 2017 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

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

Just as a reminder, I read many more books than are just featured here, but try to feature the ones that are my absolute best picks.  If you want to see more of what I am reading,  please feel free to friend me on GoodReads! You can find me right here and I am always happy to connect with people there too! There is nothing more motivating than seeing what other people are raving about and my to-be-read pile continues to grow with all of my new friends on there! In fact, many of the books featured are ones that I have found through my friends on GoodReads.

8 Must-Read Books from January 2017

Mischling by Affinity Konar

Mischling by Affinity Konar

I have read so many books about the Holocaust over the years, but I never feel like I am informed enough about the horrors and struggles that were faced during this time in history. Once again, I find myself oblivious to those who suffered as Konar unfolds the story of twins, Sasha & Pearl, who became a part of the experimental population of twins that were known as Mengle’s Zoo, based in Auschwitz.

Many begged and falsely claimed that their children were twins to be part of Mengle’s Zoo because they believed they had been saved from certain death. Unfortunately, these children were far from safe and became a part of tests to separate the twins from one another, both physically and psychologically. Konar explores this through these sisters, told from alternating perspectives, as they are brutally experimented upon.

How something so horrible could be written so beautifully is a true tribute to Konar’s writing.  Her writing style reminded me a lot of Eowyn Ivey’s writing in her beautiful book, The Snow Child, an almost magical quality even to the harshest of moments. It’s impossible to read Konar’s words and not feel deeply moved and surprised by her well-crafted language.  Beautifully told and based upon the stories of real victims of these crimes, Konar’s debut is strong and promising!

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

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

5 Out of 5 Stars

The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner

The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner

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

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

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

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

Reading Challenge Category Completed- An audiobook

 

5 Out of 5 Stars

Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson

Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson

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

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

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

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

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

Reading Challenge Category Completed- A thriller

3 Out of 5 Stars

Evicted by Matthew Desmond

Evicted by Matthew Desmond

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

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

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

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

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

5 Out of 5 Stars

The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule

The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule

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

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

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

Reading Challenge Category Completed- A true crime book

4 Out of 5 Stars

History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 Out of 5 Stars

Faithful by Alice Hoffman

Faithful by Alice Hoffman

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

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

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

4 Out of 5 Stars

I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi

I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Out of 5 Stars

January 2017 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

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

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

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The 2017 MomAdvice Reading Challenge (FREE Printable!!)

Wednesday, January 4th, 2017

The 2017 MomAdvice Reading Challenge (FREE Printable!!)

It has been a dream of mine to put together a reading challenge for you and this is FINALLY my year to make it happen! This challenge is a 52-week challenge to help motivate and inspire you to tackle your reading goals.

I am so thankful for what reading has brought to my life.  I had such a good chat with my dad on the phone yesterday and, through our conversation, I brought up a bit of my own disappointment in myself for not finishing that college degree.

As silly as it seems, sometimes I wish I could say that I completed something that I had initially walked away from. It isn’t even a field I’m interested in anymore, but it is that sense of completion.

He said, “Amy, you have something way better than a degree. You read. Reading helps shape your viewpoints, it helps you travel, and it gives you so much knowledge to continue growing and learning. So many people don’t have that.”

Even as an adult, who wouldn’t want to hear that from her dad?

Books are my education and my addiction. There are so many books that have challenged my views on life and made me a better person. Challenges, like the one I am sharing today, are intended to push and stretch you even further. 

Can you imagine how differently you will view the world after a touching memoir from someone you never knew about, a book on poverty, a book about a religion you are unfamiliar with, a new look at race, or a political memoir? I can’t wait to reflect back on how much this year’s challenge has shaped my new viewpoints!

I’ll try to have a printable diploma for you at the end of this year to hang on your wall. If you read 52 books, you should have that and a printable medal too! Ha!

Not only am I sharing my reading challenge with you, but I am also sharing how I plan to tackle this challenge for myself this year! Of course, do not feel pressured AT ALL to select the same books, but just as ideas if you are looking for a little inspiration in any of these categories!

The 2017 MomAdvice Reading Challenge (FREE Printable!!)

My Picks for the 2017 MomAdvice Reading Challenge

1. A book about travel- The Geography of Bliss

2. A book that’s more than 500 pages- Illuminae

3. A GoodReads Choice Award Winner (from any year)- A Tale from Time Being

4. A memoir from someone you have never heard of- Alligator Candy

5. A book recommended by a library- Nine Women, One Dress

6. A book you own, but haven’t read- Rebecca

7. An audiobook- The Sound of Gravel

8. A book that’s becoming a film- The Zookeeper’s Wife

9. A book about a culture/religion you are unfamiliar with- Pull Me Under

10. A book that takes place in your state or town- A Girl Named Zippy

11. A book that you loved as a child- Anne of Green Gables (truth be told, I never finished it, but I think I will now!)

12. A book that will help you be a better person-  An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth

13. A book on mental illness- The Bell Jar

14. A political memoir- The Speechwriter

15. A book that challenges a viewpoint- Consequence

16. A PEN/Faulkner Award Nominee or Winner (from any year)- Delicious Foods

17. A book about marriage- Commonwealth

18. A classic novel- Jane Eyre

19. A book written by a comedian- The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo

20. A book written by a woman- Another Brooklyn

21. A book written by an author under the age of 30- Homegoing

22. A YA Novel- The Sun is Also a Star

23. A book you meant to read in 2016, but never got to- Lilac Girls

24. A sci-fi/fantasy book- Version Control

25. A book about time travel- Kindred

26. A book that takes place during a war- Mischling

27. A book set in a place you wish you could live- Four Seasons in Rome

28. A book by a debut author- Sweetgirl

29. A story that takes place in a bookstore- Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore

30. A book published this year- Juliet’s Answer

31. A thriller- Her Every Fear

32. The first book in a new series- Red Queen

33. A true crime book- The Stranger Beside Me

34. A book you can read in a day- The Vegetarian

35. A historical fiction novel- Darktown

36. A book recommended on a podcast- Spill Simmer Falter Wither

37. A book of short stories- American Housewife

38. A Southern Gothic book- The Heaven of Mercury

39. A book from the NPR Book Concierge (any year)- Eleanor & Hick

40. A book recommended by an author- Long Man

41. A book about financial hardship- The Short & Tragic Life of Robert Peace

42. A Dystopian novel- The Handmaid’s Tale

43. A book with an unlikable narrator- A Pleasure & a Calling

44. A book recommended by a blogger- The Passage

45. A book written by an author that wasn’t alive in your lifetime- Persuasion

46. A National Book Awards Finalist (from any year)- News of the World

47. A book on race- Born a Crime

48. A book about art- The Mirror Thief

49. A book from your TBR (to be read) stack- Brutal Youth

50. A MomAdvice Book Club selection- Carrying Albert Home

51. A nonfiction book- The Latter Days

52. A book you will be proud to share you finally read this year- Evicted

Get Your Free 2017 MomAdvice Reading Challenge Download !

The 2017 MomAdvice Reading Challenge (FREE Printable!!)

The 2017 MomAdvice Reading Challenge Printable

designed by MJ from pars caeli!!

The 2017 MomAdvice Reading Challenge (FREE Printable!!)

Start your engines, friends! I hope this helps you reach your reading goals- xo

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

 

 

The Best Books of 2016

Saturday, December 31st, 2016

The Best Books of 2016 from MomAdvice.com

Hey! It’s that time of year where I, LITERALLY, select my favorite child.

Well, that’s what it feels like as a bookworm.

This has felt like a long year in many ways, but a short year in others. When it comes to reading,  I am always wishing I could squeeze in just one more book and this year has been no exception to that rule. 2016 delivered on some of the best books I have read in my lifetime and I’m excited to share my top ten books of 2016 with you.

Reading has the power to change my viewpoint on the world, through stories I’m not familiar with and stories I have heard, but could benefit from a hard retelling. I think that is one of the greatest gifts for me, especially living in a small Midwestern town. I travel and learn so much through books that it helps round out my narrower viewpoints.

It’s a gift to read and to share my selections with you today.

A Few Quick Reflections on This Year

Reading Goals

Goodreads has been a great motivator for me to stay on track with my reading. As you can see, each year I am increasing my goals by just a little bit based on the year’s reading from before. I was a little nervous to move my goal to 75, but making audiobooks a part of my regular routine when tackling household chores and even when I’m soaking in the tub has been an incredible way to sneak in more books. If you get these headphones, it will make reading really convenient no matter what you are doing.

It’s also great for ignoring everyone in your family like the excellent mother you are!

You can put my mom of the year trophy in our front room!

 

Reading Goals Met

If I was going to say what changed the most this year, it would be that I did not shy away from big books. Normally, I “allow” myself one big book a year. This year, I read what I wanted to read and disregarded the number of pages. Some of the books were really challenging, but I tried not to let that hold me back from making a commitment.

It’s kind of crazy to see that this year I read 30,787 (!!!) pages.

I wonder if I will do that again next year?

While you are browsing around on today’s list, be sure to visit our Sundays With Writers series to see which authors were interviewed this year and hear more about their stories behind their stories. The series has been on hiatus (this girl’s plate was a little too full this year!), but I’m hoping to revisit it in 2017!

Can I Motivate You?

I started a small  MomAdvice Hangout Facebook group and we will be running a monthly MomAdvice Book Club discussion there. 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! It’s also the spot where you can get a list of the daily Kindle deals to take advantage of the big discounts on books you are reading.  We have over 600 enthusiastic bookworms you can connect with and it is completely FREE!

This year we are also sharing a Reading Challenge Printable for the new year to help you branch out a bit on your reading goals. Be sure to check back next week for that freebie. We are tailoring in for each bookworm demographic. This will be a great one to do if you are just getting read to dip your toes back into reading and could be a really challenging one if you want to tackle a new book each week.

Can We Be Friends?

Just as a reminder, I read many more books than are just featured here, but try to feature the ones that are my absolute best picks of 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 too! There is nothing more motivating than seeing what other people are raving about and my to-be-read pile continues to grow with all of my new friends on there! In fact, many of the books featured are ones that I have found through my friends on GoodReads.

In no particular order, here are My Top Ten Books of 2016:

Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt

Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt

I have always enjoyed Leavitt’s books (you can read an interview that I did with her over here), but this book…this book is EXCEPTIONAL and, I believe, her best book yet. The Girls had a lot of hype (I still need to read this one), but I think this is the book that should have received the hype as Leavitt explores this era in such a beautiful and compelling way.

When I interviewed Caroline she was working on this book and she had said, “Cruel Beautiful World was sold on the basis of a first chapter and a thirty page synopsis. It’s set in the 60s and early 70s, the time when all the free love movement was starting to turn ugly, with the Manson murders and Altamont. It’s about a 16 year-old girl who runs off with her 30 year-old hippy teacher to join the “back to the land” movement that began in the 70s, a so-called-paradise that turns into a nightmare for her.

Who better to describe it than the author herself? What I would like to say about it is that she carves such incredible dynamics between the sisters and the fear that she creates in Lucy, as she worries for her safety during the Manson murders, is so poignant as she is being held captive herself by the man she thought she was in love with. These characters are written in a way that they feel so real and you can’t help but worry for each of them after Lucy disappears from their family.

If you are wanting to step back into that crazy time in history, this book is a perfect way to do it!

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

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

Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

I’m not a big fan of books about animals so as soon as I see if a book is about an animal, I promptly dismiss it. I asked Sasha, from Pathologically Literate, to lead our book club discussion one month though and she selected, Lily and the Octopus, as her pick for us to read because she loved it so much she wanted to read it again.

I can’t tell you how much I love book clubs for this VERY reason because it pushed me to pick up this book, a book I would have dismissed,  and it is one of my new favorite books. I just can’t stop thinking about this sweet story that had SO MUCH humor and heart.

Teddy is a single gay man who has found the love of his life in his sweet little dog, Lily. Sounds basic, right? It isn’t though, it is rich and laugh-out-loud funny and heartfelt and gorgeous from start to finish. Rowley writes from Lily’s perspective in the most wildly unique way that it makes your heart hurt with its sweetness. When the two of them face a big challenge together, the story really begins to build.

The ending? Sheer perfection.

If a book moves me to tears, it’s a treasure. Get those tissues ready because it’s a tearjerker!

As soon as I finished it, I wanted to pick it right back up and read it again. I’m so thankful for this gentle nudge from our book club hostess to read this beautiful book. It was, truly, one of my favorite read this year.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

This book has been on my to-be-read list forever, but I felt like I needed to mentally prepare for it. This is the least glossed over story of slavery I have ever read and it is brutal in its honesty and the writing completely wrecked me at times.

It is the story of Cora who is leading, the difficult life of a slave and is brutally mistreated over and over again. When a fellow slave, Caesar, receives word about a new underground railroad that has been built, he and Cora try to escape to seek freedom. Ah, but freedom isn’t ever easy to achieve especially in this awful world.

Whitehead envisions in this story an actual underground railroad with conductors and in a Gulliver’s Travels twist, each time Cora gets off, she is in a different place with different rules. In one town, she is respected, educated, and treated with respect. In another, black face shows ridiculing her people are on display in the town park. In another she has to remain hidden in attic for months on end to protect herself and the family who houses her. It gives the reader a chance it experience that shaky ground, that uncertainty, that feeling of never feeling safe. The reader gets to experience the tiniest of fractions of this painful and true story of many slave stories that Whitehead has gathered.

I listened to this one and it was a great audiobook if you are looking for somewhere to spend that audio credit.

It’s brilliant, it will gut you, and it is important.

Everyone should read this story.

Everyone.

miss-jane

Miss Jane by Brad Watson

If I was going to pick a book that surprised me the most this year in its beauty, it would be, Miss JaneWatson pens the story of his great-aunt, Miss Jane, and her struggles with a genital birth defect that alters Jane’s life path greatly. Set in the early twentieth century in rural Mississippi, Jane knows that she is not like other girls. Her struggles with this defect every moment of her day are told in ways that often feel unfathomable.

Her kind doctor takes her under his wing and has honest discussions with her about limitations and continuing research to try to help her. He becomes her confidant in a time of true loneliness. As she ages, she knows that her biggest hurdle will be having her own love story and Watson writes poetically of Jane’s love for a boy. Yet, in a time when a woman’s most useful task is to bear children, Jane knows that her love story must be a different one and she bravely accepts what this path looks like.

Her kind doctor takes her under his wing and has honest discussions with her about limitations and continuing research to try to help her. He becomes her confidant in a time of true loneliness. As she ages, she knows that her biggest hurdle will be having her own love story and Watson writes poetically of Jane’s love for a boy. Yet, in a time when a woman’s most useful task is to bear children, Jane knows that her love story must be a different one and she bravely accepts what this path looks like.

The peacock design on this cover is beautifully woven into this story and brings together all the beauty in this gorgeous book. It reads like a well-versed literary classic. I doubt you won’t fall in love with Miss Jane too.

Get this on your book pile stat! You can also join us for our January discussion of this one in our book club group!

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

This book is incredibly compelling and gave me so much to think about as it explores Vance’s life growing up in a hillbilly family. He writes in a very real and unflinching way about the difficulties growing up in poverty and how the hillbilly mentality seems to force people to continue living in poverty even when opportunities are presented that could enable them to finally get ahead.

There are many moments in this book that helped illustrate a few of my own life moments that helped me understand my own Southern family better. Vance’s life was far more extreme, but I still could identify with a few of his stories that I hope help me feel more compassion for my own roots.

I would highly recommend this one for a book club because you would have so much to discuss and I think anyone who reads it will be able to understand this pocket of America better.

The Nix by Nathan Hill

The Nix by Nathan Hill

If I was going to select one buzz book that actually delivered this year, it would be The Nix. Samuel is a professor and struggling writer who has found solace in an online alternate world as an elf.

No, I am not kidding.

His coping mechanism is to escape into this world and not address why his marriage failed and why he can’t write that book.

When he receives a call that his mother has been arrested for assaulting a politician, he is baffled. Not that his mom would do this necessarily, but that it has been over twenty years since he has spoke with her. The thing is, it has made national news and he can’t seem to come up with a book idea for his publisher. He strikes an agreement with his agent to write a telling memoir of being abandoned by his mother. This memoir will require to get to know her better and the life she lead.

The book jumps around in time from the ’60’s hippy love movement, to Samuel’s childhood friendship and first love, to his current struggling adult life.

I was laughing out loud through many parts in this as Hill’s chapters read like many short stories that have been gathered together. The stories from Samuel’s childhood, in particular, have a cinematic quality to them. As the wife of a gamer, his online world made for a lot of hilarity for me (especially when Samuel decides to end it all). Perhaps, one of my favorite scenes is when a student cheats and then justifies it in only the way a Millennial could making my sides split from laughing. It’s basically a million short stories all pulled together as Samuel tries to figure out why his mother would leave him and if they can come together again.

Did it need some trimming? YES! I am sure that the story could have been tightened in many places.

That, however, did not take away from my enjoyment of this incredible book!

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

I felt like I had 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! For many months I was mourning the loss of finishing this one and the sadness of ending my journey with these four fantastically written characters.

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

How about a beautiful YA read to add to your pile?  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!

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

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

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

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

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

Honorable 2016 Mentions

YOU GUYS! Narrowing down books is ridiculous. Here are just a handful more that you must read!

The Assistants by Camille Perri

The Assistants by Camille Perri

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

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

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

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Jodi, with the exception of The Storyteller, hasn’t been a go-to for me in a long time for reading, but when I read about the premise of this story, I couldn’t resist giving her another spin. Honestly, I was REALLY glad I did.

The story focuses on a nurse, named Ruth Jefferson, that has been working in labor and delivery for over twenty years. When a couple requests that Ruth not care for their family, following the birth of their child, she is stunned to find out that she has been removed from their care because of the color of her skin.

When the baby goes into cardiac arrest while Ruth is on duty, she finds herself in the middle of a grueling murder trial and without a job to support her. Kennedy is the lawyer that is assigned to this tough case and the reader gets to go along on this journey with Ruth as she agonizes over a split second decision that may have cost her the job she has loved for so many years.

In a predictable Picoult fashion, there is a twist at the end that you may or may not see coming. That said, it was a solid read all the way through, even though it may have felt a little predictable at times.

Valley of the moon by Melanie Gideon

Valley of the Moon by Melanie Gideon

Wife 22 happened to be one of my past favorite vacation reads so I was thrilled to see that Gideon had a new novel out. Time travel is always such a fun escape and this story was a delight from start to finish.

Set in 1975, Valley of the Moon chronicles the story of a single mother who takes a camping adventure on her own to find herself again. What she doesn’t expect to find is that just beyond this thick fog is a community frozen in time in the year 1906.

The community welcomes her into their community and she finally feels a sense of purpose, worth, and love… all that have been missing as she tries to raise her son alone.

The reader gets to follow Lux as she travels back and forth through time, finding love in a different era, and learning many consequences of trying to live in parallel worlds.

Lots of lovely plot twists and the ending Gideon carves for the end is movie-worthy. Although the idea of this portal might feel a little cheesy at first, you can’t help but fall in love with both worlds and eras that the author has crafted. Time travel fans will love this one!

The Longest Child by Andria Williams

The Longest Night by Andria Williams

I love historical fiction, especially when that historical fiction involves a story that I had never been aware of. Williams shares the true story of the SN-L Nuclear Reactor and the only fatal nuclear attack to occur in America in her beautiful novel, The Longest Night.

When Nat & Paul Collier move to the town, Paul is not only frustrated with his immoral boss, but he has a growing concern with the safety at the plant. When an altercation sends Paul away, Nat becomes friends with a man in town and lines between friendship and attraction for one another becomes blurred.

Set in Idaho in 1959, Williams builds a beautiful tension between her characters. It reminded me a lot of Mad Men and Masters of Sex. Once you finish the book, you will be running to look up the facts of this little known tragedy to learn more.

I know I was.

Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson

Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson

Good grief, Be Frank With Me, was just adorable from start to finish- I can’t recommend it enough!

Reclusive literary legend M. M. “Mimi” Banning has been holed up in her Bel Air mansion for years. But after falling prey to a Bernie Madoff-style ponzi scheme, she’s flat broke. Now Mimi must write a new book for the first time in decades, and to ensure the timely delivery of her manuscript, her New York publisher sends an assistant to monitor her progress. The prickly Mimi reluctantly complies—with a few stipulations: No Ivy-Leaguers or English majors. Must drive, cook, tidy. Computer whiz. Good with kids. Quiet, discreet, sane.

When Alice Whitley arrives at the Banning mansion, she’s put to work right away—as a full-time companion to Frank, the writer’s eccentric nine-year-old, a boy with the wit of Noel Coward, the wardrobe of a 1930s movie star, and very little in common with his fellow fourth-graders.

As she slowly gets to know Frank, Alice becomes consumed with finding out who Frank’s father is, how his gorgeous “piano teacher and itinerant male role model” Xander fits into the Banning family equation—and whether Mimi will ever finish that book.

Frank is one one of the sweetest characters that is so perfectly formed that you just want to give this sweet little boy a hug when you get done with this book. I found myself giggling through some of Frank’s antics and well up when he just couldn’t fit in with his peers. I can’t imagine the research that went into forming all of Frank’s numerous thoughts about actors, movies, and all the fun facts that he had gathered over the years that seemed to consume him. The supporting characters were just as fascinating especially Frank’s eccentric mother.

The only criticism with this one is the ending felt unresolved and wasn’t wrapped up very tidy- it just left me dangling. I am wondering if that is because the author plans a sequel. If so, I can’t wait to read it because I already miss Frank.

Check out my interview with the author when you are done!

All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

It is difficult to find thrillers that are solid all the way through, but All the Missing Girls, truly delivers a strong thriller from start to finish. This is Miranda’s first novel for adults (she had previously been writing just for young adults) and shines as one of the best thrillers I have read this summer.

This story is told backwards from Day 15 to Day 1 as the mystery of a missing girl, named Annaleise, is trying to be solved by local police.  As luck would have it, the main character (Nic) has been through a missing person case before when her best friend Corinne went missing, a decade ago, and no one ever heard from her again. Her family goes under scrutiny once again as they try to figure out where Annaleise has gone.

You are taken down a bumpy road as these two cases collide in shocking ways and everyone is suspect. Reading in reverse chronological order is a challenge for a reader and reading it digitally made it more difficult to page back to figure out where these sections came together. I would recommend reading this one as a good old-fashioned book to really pull the storyline together in a way that you can really grasp.

If you enjoyed, In a Dark, Dark Wood or Luckiest Girl Alive, I have a feeling you will really enjoy this twisty book and trying to solve the case of these missing girls. If you are like me, you really won’t know until the final pages what these family secrets hold.

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!

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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

A heart aching love triangle is formed and Emma must choose between the man she loved and lost or the new love of her life. I couldn’t put this one down and read it in less than a day!

Mosquitoland by David Arnold

Mosquitoland by David Arnold

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

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

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

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

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

The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman

The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman

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

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

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

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

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

Tell me, what your favorite books were in 2016 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!

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

The Best Books of 2016 from MomAdvice.com

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December 2016 Must-Reads

Friday, December 30th, 2016

December 2016 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

My goal this month was to finish strong despite doing ALL THE THINGS for the holidays! Thankfully, I ended up taking this entire week off of work and have spent it curled up with a great book until the wee hours of the morning. I’m completely off schedule, have no idea what day it is, have slept in every morning, and I am loving every minute of it.

 My GoodReads goal was 75 books and I ended up clocking in at 85. I am feeling PRETTY proud this year!

Stay tuned next  week for my best of 2016 list and our 2017 MomAdvice Reading Challenge printable.  If you haven’t joined our book club yet, get on it! We just announced our first six books for the year.

I will be sure to post these in January for you, as well, if Facebook just isn’t your thang!

7 Must-Read Books from December 2016

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

I may be one of the only people in the world that wasn’t a big fan of Where’d You Go, Bernadette.  Semple’s latest book has gotten a lot of buzz though so I thought I would give her books one more try this year. I am SO glad I did because this book was laugh-out-loud funny, wildly quirky, and such a relatable read as a mom. Based on the reviews of this one though, if you were a fan of her first book, you probably won’t love it. And if you didn’t love her first, you might feel completely differently about this latest installment.

This book is the day in the life of Eleanor Flood. Just as we all do, she wakes up with a big list of things that will happen if she can pull off the perfect day. Working out, being a good mom, being nicer to her annoying friend, sex with her husband, etc… Of course, the first thing that happens is that she gets a call from school letting her know that her son, Timby, is faking sick again. Eleanor’s day continues to progress with finding out her husband is not going to work (where is he!?!) an old colleague comes back to see her for a lunch and share his career success story (it’s better than her career story thankyouverymuch), and a long ago family secret starts resurfacing that she’s kept buried forever.

Wildly adorable and adventurous- I loved every page of it. Semple even pulls off an abbreviated graphic novel in the middle from Eleanor’s career days as an artist. I had a good giggle over the pictures of these two sisters.

Even better news,  Julia Roberts is also slated to play Eleanor Flood in a limited television release of an adaptation of this book so read it before you see it!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one when you are done!

4 Out of 5 Stars

The Nix by Nathan Hill

The Nix by Nathan Hill

If I was going to select one buzz book that actually delivered this year, it would be The Nix. Samuel is a professor and struggling writer who has found solace in an online alternate world as an elf.

No, I am not kidding.

His coping mechanism is to escape into this world and not address why his marriage failed and why he can’t write that book.

When he receives a call that his mother has been arrested for assaulting a politician, he is baffled. Not that his mom would do this necessarily, but that it has been over twenty years since he has spoke with her. The thing is, it has made national news and he can’t seem to come up with a book idea for his publisher. He strikes an agreement with his agent to write a telling memoir of being abandoned by his mother. This memoir will require to get to know her better and the life she lead.

The book jumps around in time from the ’60’s hippy love movement, to Samuel’s childhood friendship and first love, to his current struggling adult life.

I was laughing out loud through many parts in this as Hill’s chapters read like many short stories that have been gathered together. The stories from Samuel’s childhood, in particular, have a cinematic quality to them. As the wife of a gamer, his online world made for a lot of hilarity for me (especially when Samuel decides to end it all). Perhaps, one of my favorite scenes is when a student cheats and then justifies it in only the way a Millennial could making my sides split from laughing. It’s basically a million short stories all pulled together as Samuel tries to figure out why his mother would leave him and if they can come together again.

Did it need some trimming? YES! I am sure that the story could have been tightened in many places.

That, however, did not take away from my enjoyment of this incredible book!

5 Out of 5 Stars

Miss Jane by Brad Watson

Miss Jane by Brad Watson

If I was going to pick a book that surprised me the most this year in its beauty, it would be, Miss JaneWatson pens the story of his great-aunt, Miss Jane, and her struggles with a genital birth defect that alters Jane’s life path greatly. Set in the early twentieth century in rural Mississippi, Jane knows that she is not like other girls. Her struggles with this defect every moment of her day are told in ways that often feel unfathomable.

Her kind doctor takes her under his wing and has honest discussions with her about limitations and continuing research to try to help her. He becomes her confidant in a time of true loneliness. As she ages, she knows that her biggest hurdle will be having her own love story and Watson writes poetically of Jane’s love for a boy. Yet, in a time when a woman’s most useful task is to bear children, Jane knows that her love story must be a different one and she bravely accepts what this path looks like.

The peacock design on this cover is beautifully woven into this story and brings together all the beauty in this gorgeous book. It reads like a well-versed literary classic. I doubt you won’t fall in love with Miss Jane too.

Get this on your book pile stat! You can also join us for our January discussion of this one in our book club group!

5 Out of 5 Stars

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

This book has been on my to-be-read list forever, but I felt like I needed to mentally prepare for this one. This is the least glossed over story of slavery I have ever read and it is brutal in its honesty and the writing completely wrecked me at times.

It is the story of Cora who is leading, the difficult life of a slave and is brutally mistreated over and over again. When a fellow slave, Caesar, receives word about a new underground railroad that has been built, he and Cora try to escape to seek freedom. Ah, but freedom isn’t ever easy to achieve especially in this awful world.

Whitehead envisions in this story an actual underground railroad with conductors and in a Gulliver’s Travels twist, each time Cora gets off, she is in a different place with different rules. In one town, she is respected, educated, and treated with respect. In another, black face shows ridiculing her people are on display in the town park. In another she has to remain hidden in attic for months on end to protect herself and the family who houses her. It gives the reader a chance it experience that shaky ground, that uncertainty, that feeling of never feeling safe. The reader gets to experience the tiniest of fractions of this painful and true story of many slave stories that Whitehead has gathered.

I listened to this one and it was a great audiobook if you are looking for somewhere to spend that audio credit.

It’s brilliant, it will gut you, and it is important.

Everyone should read this story.

Everyone.

5 Out of 5 Stars

 

Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett

Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett

Haslett’s novel is hitting all of the top book lists and winning many awards this year so I was looking forward to diving into this one.  Listed as a TOP 10 NOVELS OF THE YEAR — TIME, Newsday, TOP 10 BOOKS OF 2016 — San Francisco Chronicle, 20 BOOKS THAT DEFINED OUR YEAR – Wall Street Journal, ONE OF THE YEAR’S BEST BOOKS: Barnes & Noble, BookPage, BuzzFeed, Elle, Financial Times, Huffington Post, Kirkus, NPR, Refinery29, Seattle Times, Shelf Awareness, WBUR’s On Point, LONGLISTED FOR THE 2016 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD and ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDAL FOR EXCELLENCE IN FICTION, and KIRKUS PRIZE FINALIST…you know, just to name a few….

This is a family drama chronicling the life of a father who is struggling with mental illness and how this illness, in turn, affects their children and his wife. Told in alternating viewpoints,(from the wife to the children) it shares how their father’s illness alters their life course as they grow older.

The struggle for me with this one wasn’t that it was so depressing to read (it was!), but that I struggled to connect with the story and its characters. One of the son’s is so pretentious that it was painful. Honestly, Haslett didn’t build enough of a story around the father for me to really feel attached to him or his struggle. He does provide a great foundation though for showing how illness can alter your life path and how one can shield themselves from finding true love because they have learned to distance themselves from others.

Haslett is a brilliant writer, but like many of the buzz of books of 2016, this just didn’t connect with me in the way I would hope a dramatic story like this would.

3 Out of 5 Stars

The Girl Before by Rena Olsen

The Girl Before by Rena Olsen

I love a good psychological thriller and this debut is a solid one. I think this is one that surprised me in its depth and it gave me a lot to think about after I finished it. It isn’t the typical thriller story that I have been reading over and over again in 2016.

Clare is removed from everything she loves in an instant when her home is invaded and her husband and daughters are taken from her.

The last thing her husband says to her is say nothing.

The story alternates from past to present and begins to tell the story of Clare in a very different way than the reader might expect. Clare isn’t necessarily leading the life you probably think she is and her love story is a little off. Something just doesn’t feel right and that growing sense of dread of what she might be involved in begins to intensify as the story unfolds. The story actually tackles a news topic that I think you might want to understand better and the victims of it.

If you love a deep psychological story, this is for you. Please know that this one is dark and contains violence and sexuality in it. I would recommend this for fans of Behind Closed Doors or Pretty Girls!

4 Out of 5 Stars

Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequest

If you want to start your next year out right, this book is for you. Niequist really explores our lack of presence in our lives as this becomes overshadowed by busy schedules and pleasing the wrong people in our lives. Basically, this book is giving you the side-eye, overcommitted extrovert. You know it is!

Shauna shares her own struggles of overcommitting, guilt about what she isn’t doing, and how we look for validation through social media instead of the people sharing our home.

Yup, it hit me right in the gut.

Why are we so scared to sit in silence and what can be learned from a slowed down life? This soulful way of living is something I hope to embrace in 2017 and this book just seemed to speak to me at the right time in my life. If you are seeking present over perfect, you should pick this one up.  I just know it would be a great way for you to start your year too as you shift your focus from others to the people that should be the most important in your life.

4 Out of 5 Stars

 

Read With Me

Read With Me This Year:

January Must-Reads

February Must-Reads

March Must-Reads

April Must-Reads

May Must-Reads

June 2016 Must-Reads

July 2016 Must-Reads

August 2016 Must-Reads

September 2016 Must-Reads

October 2016 Must-Reads

November 2016 Must-Reads

  December 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.

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Quick Reads to Reach Those Reading Goals

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

Quick Reads to Reach Those Reading Goals from MomAdvice.com

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

goodreads

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

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

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

Quick Reads to Binge On To Hit Those Reading Goals

Fast Paced Thrillers

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

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

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

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

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapeña

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

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

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

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

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

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

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

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

Defending Jacob by William Landay

Defending Jacob by William Landay

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

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

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

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

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

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

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

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

I don’t want to give very much away because half of the fun is the discovery of what is actually going on behind these closed doors. A perfect marriage though is rarely what it seems and Jack & Grace are the perfect example of a marriage that looks beautiful on the outside, but is far different on the inside. From page one, you realize the cat-and-mouse game that Grace is in and the reader is pulled along from the first day that they met, giving you a chance to witness a rather unique marriage in a chilling way.

Just know that if you pick this one up, you are going to have a very hard time putting it down. I would recommend a weekend of binge-reading with this for a fantastic holiday escape! Please know that this one is DARK so if you prefer to keep your thrillers in the lighter mystery category, you might need to skip this intense read.

Easy Breezy Chick Lit

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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

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

A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan

A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arranged by Catherine McKenzie

Arranged by Catherine McKenzie

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

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

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

Meaningful Short Books

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

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

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

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

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

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

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

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

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

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

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

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

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

Fast-Paced Historical Fiction

A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable

A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable

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

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

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

The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman

The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman

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

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

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

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

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

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

Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner

Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner

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

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

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

Binge-Worthy Literary Fiction

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

 

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

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

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

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

  Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave

Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave

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

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

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

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

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Assistants by Camille Perri

The Assistants by Camille Perri

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

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

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

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

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

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

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

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

Quick & Sweet YA Lit

Mosquitoland by David Arnold

Mosquitoland by David Arnold

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

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

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

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

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

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

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

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

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

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

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

eleanor & park by rainbow rowell

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

What is a book that you found quick and satisfying that would help someone reach their goals? Speaking of those goals, where are you at right now on your goals so I can cheer you on!! Looking for more great book ideas? Check out our entire Book section of the site! Don’t forget to friend me on GoodReads! xo

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

November 2016 Must-Reads

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

November 2016 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that there wasn’t a lot of time for reading this month with all the holiday preparations going on. Being a part of a local book club and our online book club is what pushed me to keep reading this month. I will also admit, this month’s books were a bit of a mixed bag. I am not sure if it was because I was tired all the time or if they just weren’t books that would normally grab me. That said, I do have a few solid recommendations for you for this month!

For upcoming reading, I did just purchase this book for my audiobook listening while tackling my holiday wrapping. I also, once again, believe those cheap bluetooth headphones are my secret to reading success while getting stuff done. I actually loved them so much, we bought four pairs to give as gifts for the holidays this year. I think everyone should have a pair!

Also, because I can’t wait until next month to tell you about it, this book is EVERYTHING right now. I have laughed out loud until tears streamed down my face and have read entire chapters aloud to my husband. It’s a brilliantly told coming-of-age novel that I recommend you grab ASAP for your holiday reading. It’s a BIG book, but each chapter feels like its own individual story.

Here is what I tackled this month!

 5 Must-Read Books from November 2016

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

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

I don’t want to give very much away because half of the fun is the discovery of what is actually going on behind these closed doors. A perfect marriage though is rarely what it seems and Jack & Grace are the perfect example of a marriage that looks beautiful on the outside, but is far different on the inside. From page one, you realize the cat-and-mouse game that Grace is in and the reader is pulled along from the first day that they met, giving you a chance to witness a rather unique marriage in a chilling way.

Just know that if you pick this one up, you are going to have a very hard time putting it down. I would recommend a weekend of binge-reading with this for a fantastic holiday escape! Please know that this one is DARK so if you prefer to keep your thrillers in the lighter mystery category, you might need to skip this intense read.

5 Out of 5 Stars

to-the-bright-edge-of-the-world

To the Bright Edge of the World by Eoywn Ivey

The Snow Child remains one of my all-time favorite reads (a perfect winter escape if you are looking for one!) and I was so excited to see that Eowyn Ivey had written a new book that has already gotten so much buzz this year. To the Bright Edge of the World could not be more different than her first book and is told uniquely through letters, photographs, and excerpts of other books to build a unique telling of an Alaskan expedition in the late 18oo’s. When a family member comes across journals and letters from his great-uncle and great-aunt from this time, he feels compelled to submit them to an Alaskan museum. The reader then gets to read the story of Colonel Allen as he leads a group through Alaska and the story of his wife, Sophie, who is newly pregnant and left behind while her husband makes this harrowing expedition.

The amount of research that Ivey would have to do to establish this story, I am sure, would astound us. The dialect and nailing down a historically accurate account of that era alone would be insane, but she also carves a hobby for Sophie that involves photography of birds that is incredibly detailed and astoundingly well told as well.

If you are into historical fiction, definitely pick this one up. Although letter format is always a struggle for me, this book is the first book I have read about Alaska during this era, and it really gave me a lot to think about after I finished this beautiful book.

4.5 Out of 5 Stars

Arrowood by Laura McHugh

Arrowood by Laura McHugh

Arrowood  was this month’s MomAdvice Book Club selection and since I was leading it, I had high hopes this would be a good one. Luckily for me, this one turned out to be a solid gothic mystery about twin girls who go missing and their sister who is haunted and filled with guilt because their disappearance happened when she was supposed to be watching them.

When a true crime writer decides he wants to figure out the answer to this unsolved case for a book, we begin to realize that Arden’s memories of that fateful day may not be entirely accurate. McHugh then takes the reader down a winding path of suspects to answer where these children could have gone in a classic mystery format.

I will say, the ending was not as conclusive as I would have liked and if you prefer a clearly defined ending, this might be an unsatisfactory ending for you. It did serve as an excellent book for discussion as you think about your own childhood memories and what it would be like as a family to have old wounds reopened for the sake of true crime writing.

I really enjoyed this one and would recommend it for our mystery reader fans!

4 Out of 5 Stars

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

This book, for me, is a hard one to review. Swing Time was one of the most anticipated books this year and I put my name on the hold list as soon as I heard about it. As a theater nerd and dancer, I could not wait to dig into this story of the friendship formed by two dancers.  The book started solid and beautifully, Smith’s turn of phrasing was so beautiful and unique that it was unlike any other book I had read before.

This is the story of two girls who begin dancing, but only one of them ends up having the talent. Tracey begins a career working in the chorus line of Broadway shows and Aimee falls into an assistant position to an iconic pop singer, getting the chance to observe how the one percent live. The tale swings from past to present as Smith builds layer upon layer in this friendship and, ultimately, if leaving home really does help to define our success.

There are profound moments in this book. An observation on race that had went unnoticed as a child, in her very opening chapter, moved me. There were moments where the writing was just brilliant and I wanted to read more. Yet, there was a lot of lag in this story where I felt if the novel had been trimmed in half, it would have been a more solid read for me. The swinging between decades, at times, also felt confusing and did not flow. I may be in the minority on those observations, but thought I would share that anyway!

I am still glad I read it and I want to read White Teeth next month since that seems to be the book that everyone loved from her.  Have you read it? For me, the brilliant moments made it worth the read, but I am not sure if this would be a good book for everyone.

4 Out of 5 Stars

Missing Presumed by Susie Steiner

Missing Presumed by Susie Steiner

Missing Presumed came out at the same time as All the Missing Girls and I decided I could only handle one missing girl story in the summer so I went with All the Missing Girls. This book was selected for our local book club and it also had received a lot of buzz from critics. I would not say this was a bad book, but I will say that I discovered that I do not enjoy police procedural books very much at all. The reason I am including it though is that I know many of you do so this might be a perfect pick for you especially if you are a fan of British mysteries.

This explores the case of a wealthy college girl who goes missing and the 72-hours that are spent trying to find where this girl went. With no signs of struggle and no real evidence left behind, the police have a case that seems almost impossible to solve. They begin with her closest friends and boyfriend, looking for any information that they can to find Edith. The reader gets to go through the case from start to finish, interview by interview, leading up to the discovery of what happened to Edith.

If you love a good British mystery, this book just might be for you! For me, not my favorite!

3 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-Reads

July 2016 Must-Reads

August 2016 Must-Reads

September 2016 Must-Reads

October 2016 Must-Reads

November 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.

October 2016 Must-Reads

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

October 2016 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

This was one of those reading months that really flew by for me and I didn’t even have time to sit down and really jot down my thoughts on all the books I read this month until today. I did some traveling this month and spent a couple of days curled up with some really great books on our little Michigan getaway so it gave some time to dive into some books that have been on my radar for awhile.

I also discovered that I really enjoy listening to audiobooks on flights which is something that I haven’t tried before. My eyes were so tired on my flight home, but I wanted to read so bad that I decided to download a book to listen to while flying. Once again those cheap bluetooth headphones pulled through for me and I enjoyed listening to a book on my flight. What a great way to sneak in another book!

I’m really excited to share with you this month’s list because I got in some REALLY incredible reads that I think you should check out. I tried to add a little variety to my stack this month so I read a couple of great memoirs along with some excellent fiction. 

7 Must-Read Books from October 2016

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

I heard about Hillbilly Elegy when I got the chance to share about my favorite summer reads on Sorta Awesome awhile back. Laura, who will always be Hollywood Housewife to me, mentioned that this was one of the best reads she read over the summer so I knew I needed to add this to my stack. This book is incredibly compelling and gave me so much to think about as it explores Vance’s life growing up in a hillbilly family. He writes in a very real and unflinching way about the difficulties growing up in poverty and how the hillbilly mentality seems to force people to continue living in poverty even when opportunities are presented that could enable them to finally get ahead.

There are many moments in this book that helped illustrate a few of my own life moments that helped me understand my own Southern family better. Vance’s life was far more extreme, but I still could identify with a few of his stories that I hope help me feel more compassion for my own roots.

I would highly recommend this one for a book club because you would have so much to discuss and I think anyone who reads it will be able to understand this pocket of America better.

5 Out of 5 Stars

I Will Send Rain by Rae Meadows

I Will Send Rain by Rae Meadows

I am always thankful for historical fiction because of how much it teaches me about times in history I was not aware of. I Will Send Rain was an absolutely phenomenal book on one family’s survival when the Dust Bowl storms hit their community in the 1930’s. Through alternating viewpoints, Meadows dives deep into what it would be like to live through these storms from eating, to farming, to raising your children, to growing up as a child, to the impact of a marriage during this difficult time in history.  My hard days pale in comparison to the survival of this poor family’s daily existence as this dust covers their land and home, impacting their lives forever.

This book is so well-researched and so beautifully told that I have been thinking about it ever since I finished it. It is heartbreakingly sad, haunting, and achingly beautiful. I know you will be thinking about this one as much as I do when you finish it. If you are looking for a good historical fiction escape with a great coming-of-age story, make sure you add this one to your book stack. If you like this one as much as I did, be sure to read Mudbound. It reminded me so much of that beautiful read!

5 Out of 5 Stars

The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan

The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan

I absolutely LOVED What She Knew and I even had Gilly join me for our Sundays With Writers series. I was so excited to read her next book, The Perfect Girl, after enjoying her first novel so much. This thriller is about a teenage girl, named Zoe, that is involved in a tragic car accident that kills three of her classmates. They relocate their family, her mother marries a wealthy guy, and they try to start a brand new life.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to escape a past like that and Zoe’s secret comes to life in a very public way at a piano concert she is doing. That same evening, her mother is murdered after the secret is revealed to the family, and everyone looks like a suspect. The reader gets the chance to try to solve who killed her and what other secrets this family might be carrying as the story unfolds.

This was a solid thriller, but the big reveal of who killed the mother was a bit of a let down after the length and build-up of the story. It just didn’t seem to have the same magic for me as I found with What She Knew, but I still enjoyed the story. Macmillan is a gifted storyteller and I can’t wait to read what she brings to the thriller table next!

3 Out of 5 Stars

The Mothers by Brit Bennett

The Mothers by Brit Bennett

One of the most buzzed about books this year is, The Mothers. The author, Brit Bennett,  is only 25 years old and was named to the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 this year so I have been anxiously awaiting this book’s appearance.

“The Mothers,” refer to the elderly women in a conservative congregation and their observations about their fellow church members, including observations about a girl named Nadia who is the main character in this story.

Nadia falls into a romantic relationship with the pastor’s son and their relationship ends when a secret that they carry becomes the primary focus of their relationship. Nadia continues to hide the secret, even from her dearest friend Aubrey, and ends up moving away to start fresh elsewhere. When she comes home though, she discovers that her feelings are still there for the man she left, but he has moved on with her best friend who has never known the secret past they carry.

This was a great read if you go into it knowing that this is more of a character piece than anything else. I really enjoyed Bennett’s writing and the unique viewpoint that, “the mothers,” offered to this.

I was excited to find this at the library, but if the wait list is too long, this was one of this month’s selections from the Book of the Month Club which is a great way to get great selections for a great price on books! Take 30% off 3 months plus a free BOTM tote with this coupon code: 30TOTE.

4 Out of 5 Stars

Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

I’m not a big fan of books about animals so as soon as I see if a book is about an animal, I promptly dismiss it. I asked Sasha, from Pathologically Literate, to lead our book club discussion this month though and she selected, Lily and the Octopus, as her pick for us to read because she loved it so much she wanted to read it again.

I can’t tell you how much I love book clubs for this VERY reason because it pushed me to pick up this book, a book I would have dismissed,  and it is one of my new favorite books. I just can’t stop thinking about this sweet story that had SO MUCH humor and heart.

Teddy is a single gay man who has found the love of his life in his sweet little dog, Lily. Sounds basic, right? It isn’t though, it is rich and laugh-out-loud funny and heartfelt and gorgeous from start to finish. Rowley writes from Lily’s perspective in the most wildly unique way that it makes your heart hurt with its sweetness. When the two of them face a big challenge together, the story really begins to build.

The ending? Sheer perfection.

If a book moves me to tears, it’s a treasure. Get those tissues ready because it’s a tearjerker!

As soon as I finished it, I wanted to pick it right back up and read it again. I’m so thankful for this gentle nudge from our book club hostess to read this beautiful book. It was, truly, my favorite read of the month!

5 Out of 5 Stars

It Was Me All Along by Andie Mitchell

It Was Me All Along by Andie Mitchell

I read about, It Was Me All Along, ages ago when Kristen from Dine & Dish recommended it on one of her reading round-ups. I was not familiar with Andie’s blog and this was not a memoir I would have typically grabbed, but Kristen never leads me astray. It also happened to be chosen as one of Amazon’s Top 100 Books of 2015, picked as People Magazine’s Book of the Week, one of Amazon’s Best New Books of January 2015, and a finalist in the 2015 GoodReads Choice Awards.

It Was Me All Along chronicles Andie’s lifelong difficulties with healthy eating and her transformative journey of losing 135 pounds and finally finding the balance she was missing with food.

Andie really illustrates what so many struggle with and how often our best memories and our greatest comfort comes from food. She writes in a raw and honest way about how difficult it was to have a healthy perspective on eating and why so many of her hurdles with her food addiction were deeply rooted in her childhood.

I have had issues of my own with food and my weight and recognize how difficult it is to not fall back into bad behaviors. Andie’s honesty with her journey makes this a compelling read and I look forward to now being a follower of her beautiful blog too.

4 Out of 5 Stars

Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt

Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt

I received an advanced reader copy from NetGalley- all thoughts and opinions are my own!

I have always enjoyed Leavitt’s books (you can read an interview that I did with her over here), but this book…this book is EXCEPTIONAL and, I believe, her best book yet. The Girls had a lot of hype (I still need to read this one), but I think this is the book that should have received the hype as Leavitt explores this era in such a beautiful and compelling way.

When I interviewed Caroline she was working on this book and she had said, “Cruel Beautiful World was sold on the basis of a first chapter and a thirty page synopsis. It’s set in the 60s and early 70s, the time when all the free love movement was starting to turn ugly, with the Manson murders and Altamont. It’s about a 16 year-old girl who runs off with her 30 year-old hippy teacher to join the “back to the land” movement that began in the 70s, a so-called-paradise that turns into a nightmare for her.”

Who better to describe it than the author herself? What I would like to say about it is that she carves such incredible dynamics between the sisters and the fear that she creates in Lucy, as she worries for her safety during the Manson murders, is so poignant as she is being held captive herself by the man she thought she was in love with. These characters are written in a way that they feel so real and you can’t help but worry for each of them after Lucy disappears from their family.

If you are wanting to step back into that crazy time in history, this book is a perfect way to do it!

5 Out of 5 Stars

Sundays With Writers

Read With Me This Year:

January Must-Reads

February Must-Reads

March Must-Reads

April Must-Reads

May Must-Reads

June 2016 Must-Reads

July 2016 Must-Reads

August 2016 Must-Reads

September 2016 Must-Reads

October 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.