Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Sundays With Writers: Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

Sunday, June 29th, 2014

Sundays With Writers

I am so excited to be featuring a new-to-me author that I discovered this month.  I read her beautiful book, Whistling Past the Graveyard,  in just a couple of short days and absolutely fell in love with it. It was the kind of book that I thought about for many days after.  I would say that if you are a fan of, “The Help,” or young narrator’s with lots of spunk, you will want to get this book right away for your summer reading. If you don’t fall in love with these characters, I fear for you. It’s that endearing. As soon as I closed the pages, I did what any smart blogger would do. I emailed Susan and begged her to join me for Sundays With Writers so I could share it with you.

 

Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

In the summer of 1963, nine-year-old Starla Claudelle runs away from her strict grandmother’s Mississippi home. Starla’s destination is Nashville, where her mother went to become a famous singer, abandoning Starla when she was three. Walking a lonely country road, Starla accepts a ride from Eula, a black woman traveling alone with a white baby. Now, on the road trip that will change her life forever, Starla sees for the first time life as it really is—as she reaches for a dream of how it could one day be.

This book is so  beautiful your heart aches. A coming-of-age story about what it means to be family and how the most unlikely people can be a part of that despite all racial and societal barriers. Set in the ’60′s, the spitfire child narrator captured my heart. This story is a perfectly satisfying summer read that I highly recommend you add to your beach bag this summer.

Grab your coffee and let’s chat with Susan Crandall about this amazing tale of Starla Claudelle in her book, Whistling Past the Graveyard.

Susan Crandall

Writing in the voice of a child is one of those elements of writing that I am always fascinated with. Two books that we have talked about before, Room & The Bear, both used a child narrator and people either loved it or they hated it.

I can’t say I have ever heard a child’s voice captured more perfectly than in this book though. One scene that made me laugh is when Starla has the sex talk with her Dad and she is absolutely traumatized by it.

Do you hang out with a lot of nine-year-old kids or were you thinking about your nine-year-old self when you wrote this?

Thank you for the lovely compliment. Youthful characters are always fun to write, but with Starla as a main narrator, it afforded me many, many hours of reminiscing and amusement. I can’t say I’ve been around more nine-year-olds than most people. I’m the mother of two grown kids. I tapped into many things to give Starla her voice, and one of them was definitely my nine-year-old-self. It was a great trip down memory lane (although let me be clear, I was a rule following child, rarely impulsive, never sassy; for that I tapped into my younger sister).

Also, I have to admit, this character had a very distinct voice from the instant she walked into my mind. Sometimes I felt like I was taking dictation.

In one scene, Starla explains what Whistling Past the Graveyard means. She says, “My daddy says that when you do somethin’ to distract you from your worstest fear, it’s like whistlin’ past the graveyard. You know, making a racket to keep the scaredness and the ghosts away. He says that’s how we get by sometimes. But it’s not weak like hidin’…it’s strong. It means you’re able to go on.”

Have you ever done any whistling past the graveyard in your life?

Who hasn’t? That’s what makes the saying so applicable to many of the characters in this book. As for my version of whistling, I tend to bury myself in projects of various natures, the more brainless and physical the better, yard work, closet cleaning, house painting and the like. (From the looks of my house, I’m going to say that it’s been a while since I’ve needed that kind of distraction.) I can’t say I’ve ever honed in on a singular thing like Eula’s baking.

Plus I think there’s a lot of “whistling” we do as a society as a whole, so we don’t have to face our collective shortcomings.

Reading the scenes of abuse and seeing how broken Eula was were both tough for me. Did you have difficulty writing these scenes, particularly the scenes when Stella is captured?

I definitely had trouble making myself write those parts. But they were necessary to tell the full story, for Starla’s journey of discovery to be complete. When I write a scene, I mentally go to that place and endure it second by second along with my characters. Of course, no scene is completely fleshed out in one pass, so I had to fortify myself to go back there day after day.

One of the most difficult for me to write was when Starla meets her momma. As a mother it went against every instinct I had…that’s how I knew it was right.

Racial tension abounds in this book and there were a few scenes where I had a lump in my throat or had to speed read through to be assured that Eula & Starla would be safe. Did you do a lot of research about the ’60′s and what was happening during this time? What type of preparation did you do to really help us understand how hard it would be for a woman like Eula in the ’60′s?

I did extensive research. I do remember the mid-sixties, but grew up in Indiana, so my experience was much different than if I’d grown up in the South. That’s not to say there weren’t incidences of racism in Indiana that helped me sharpen my view. Fortunately there are plenty of resources from old news footage, documentaries, and I read several first-hand accounts written by African-Americans who lived through segregation in the fifties and sixties.

I think the way to really connect with any era, situation, or setting is through the common thread of our humanity. What would I have felt like in those situations. Of course, Eula’s inner trials were often beyond my imagining. One of the reason’s the entire book is from Starla’s point of view is because I can only say what Eula’s life would have looked like from the outside. I can’t imagine the fear and hardship in enough depth to write it from her perspective.

What do you have in store for us with your next book?

I’m working on a story set in 1923. Three people from very different backgrounds–a teenage orphan of German immigrant farmers, a debutant whose family has lost its fortune and a WW1 veteran pilot–are displaced from their lives and join together to travel the county in a barnstorming act. For those of you unfamiliar, in the early days of aviation after the first world war, many of the pilots took advantage of war surplus trainer planes and made a scrappy living by flying from small town to small town selling rides. They used farm pastures for landing strips, thus the name barnstormer. Flying circuses were formed when several pilots banded together to do daredevil exhibitions. They were quite the rage throughout the early and mid-twenties.

All three of my characters are running from something, each carefully guarding their secrets. They’re bound together by mutual need and yet have conflicting goals. It’s a great ride as we travel throughout the country with them, crossing paths with bootleggers, tycoons, farmers and tent revivalists. But their secrets are always right behind them. When they catch up … well, things get dicey.
It’s tentatively scheduled for release in July 2015

If you could tell anyone to read one book (other than your own) what would that book be?

When I’m asked this question, I always reach way back, looking for a book that has stuck with me so vividly that I can remember the details of the characters very clearly even after a long time. I try to pick something that isn’t a classic, those already stand out and find audiences. I’m a character writer. Suspenseful plots are enjoyable, but it’s the beauty of the character and his/her journey that touches me. So after all that rambling, I always come back to two books, very different genres: Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry and The Stand, by Stephen King. I’m also a fan of Diana Gabaldon’s, Outlander (the first book in the series is my favorite).

You can connect with Susan Crandall on Facebook or on her website! I’m always thankful for these moments with writers and I hope you will pick up this amazing book! You can always connect with me on GoodReads,through our books section of our site, and you can read our entire Sundays With Writers series for more author profiles. Happy reading, friends!

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The Best in Summer Reading With Scribd (FREE 3 Month Membership!)

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

The Best in Summer Reading With Scribd

 

*This post is sponsored by Scribd

I feel so lucky to be partnering with Scribd again to share a few of my favorite summer reads and an incredible giveaway they are offering for our readers so you can start tackling your own summer reading with their fantastic service.

I have really been enjoying my own Scribd membership over this year and, in fact, loved it so much that I gave it to my Dad for a birthday gift this year. It’s one of those services that I genuinely enjoyed that I just had to share it with my fellow book lovers.

Have you heard of Scribd? If you missed my last post about Scribd, it is an eBook service that works a lot like Netflix, but for books. You pay a low membership fee of $8.99 per month and can read as many books as you want on all of your major ebook reading devices like iPhone, iPad, iOS, Android & the Kindle Fire tablet. It also offers page syncing so you can move from device to device and simply pick up where you left off.

With Scribd you have unlimited access to over 400,000 books (and counting!) from nearly 1,000 publishers including HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Kensington, Open Road Media, & New World Library. The catalog includes fiction books, nonfiction books (like cookbooks), young adult books, and children’s books. Basically, your entire family can benefit from this service, all with the cost of just one membership. I can think of no better gift to give yourself this summer!

For today’s post, I scoured the Scribd site to pull together for you a few of my favorite summer reads that I have enjoyed so much and I am also sharing what I would love to read this summer while I am sitting in my shady spot (I am awfully pale!) by the community pool!

Books I Recommend for Your Summer Reading List on Scribd:

Arranged

Arranged by Catherine McKenzie

I have to say that this book is one of my favorite reads this summer, simply because it is deliciously fast-paced chick-lit at its finest.

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!

Before I Go To Sleep

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

If you are looking for a psychological thriller that will have you guessing until the very last page what is happening, then I have the book for you.  This is the best thriller that I have read this year and can hardly believe that it is the author’s first book.

Every single day Christine wakes up not knowing who she is, where she is, and who her husband is.  It is the same scenario every day as she makes her way to the bathroom, where pictures are layered upon the mirror that explain who she is and who her husband is. Each day she must go through the heartbreaking discovery that she has had a terrible accident that has caused her to have permanent amnesia. People she thinks are alive have died.  She can’t remember if she is a mother. She doesn’t know why she doesn’t have any friends. Some days she wakes up and she believes she is in her twenties and cannot even recognize the woman who looks at her in the mirror.

When Christine begins meeting with a doctor, he encourages her to begin journaling each day to help jog her memory of what has been happening in her daily life. As each day opens, Christine opens her journal and begins to read and as she reads, she begins to discover that the life that she is leading might not be all that it seems to be.  As Christine becomes more and more aware of her story and begins to challenge the information that her husband is feeding to her about what has happened, the reader is left wondering if Christine is obsessing about details because she can’t really recall them or if the stories she is hearing are even real?

If you read one thriller this year, let it be this one. I promise you, it is truly amazing and will leave you stunned when you read the final pages.  I can’t wait to read more from this author.

mudbound

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

Mudbound is storytelling at its very best and offers a beautifully rendered portrayal of race and politics in the South during the forties. This book is told from alternating points of view and shares the story of a Memphis-bred Laura McAllan who is struggling to adjust to being a farmer’s wife and living the idyllic dream that her husband Henry has for them to live off their own land. When Henry makes an error by trusting a handshake rather than a contract on the home they are renting, they find themselves living in less than ideal conditions in a shack that Henry had hoped to turn into his dream house. Laura not only must deal with the difficulties of living in this shack, but she has to do it with her racist father-in-law constantly judging and spewing hate at her.

As Laura struggles with this, the real story unfolds when Henry’s brother Jamie returns home from the war. Always the favored one, Jamie comes home as a raging alcoholic, struggling with nightmares and post-traumatic stress from the war he left. Ronsel, a son of the sharecroppers who have been hired to work on Henry & Laura’s land, also struggles with leaving the war after being a hero in fighting for his country; he is now seen as just a black boy and treated with only racism and hatred.

When a horrible crime is committed, the four lives of these main characters are woven into one and the reader is taken along on the journey every harrowing step of the way. Twist after twist creates a plot that illustrates racism in a very unique way.

This book is a fast-paced read, that will shock and grip you until the final pages. Not for the faint of heart- a great debut novel from Hillary Jordan worthy of the 2006 Bellwether Prize that she won for this.

Water For Elephants

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

This is an oldie, but a goodie! I actually waited a long time to read this one, but I think I savored it even more! The book opens with Jacob Janowski who is ninety (or ninety-three, a fact he can’t remember) and now living in a nursing home.  His days are now spent being shuffled from his room to the dining area, suffering from the everyday minutiae of life in a nursing home. Of course, his life wasn’t always like this, in fact, Jacob’s life was spent with a traveling circus after the untimely death of his parents. Circus life was a hard life for Jacob and one that he jumped to unknowingly when he boarded a train to escape after his parent’s death.

Gruen’s writing is as vivid as a movie screen as the reader is swept away into the hard and difficult life of being a part of the traveling circus during the Great Depression. When Jacob is appointed to veterinarian, he has a difficult role under August, a paranoid schizophrenic, who acts as the animal trainer of the circus. The reader is swept into the sad life of the animals and the repeated abuse that August inflicts on the animals.

The only sparkle of light in Jacob’s life is Marlena, a beautiful performer in the circus, who Jacob cannot stop thinking about. Sadly, it is August’s wife that he has fallen in love with, and the reader will sit on the edge of their seat as Jacob risks it all to free Marlena from the abusive life that she has been leading with August.

More than a love story, it is an unbelievably well-researched look into the life of the circus at this time, and a love story of how Jacob & Marlena fall in love with an elephant named Rosie who makes a reader’s heart melt in her beauty. Equally impressive is how Gruen is able to capture the life of the elderly as Jacob reminisces and longs for his youth. The ending is perhaps a little too neatly woven, but is a satisfying conclusion to it all as a reader!

Vivid, descriptive, cinematic, raw, chilling… I felt as though I was on a roller coaster just reading this one! Definitely give this one a read before hitting the movie theater! Let’s hope the movie is half as good as this book!

Forgotten

Forgotten by Catherine McKenzie

I can’t believe that I didn’t review this book sooner for you all! I am a HUGE Catherine McKenzie fan and this one is another excellent beach read that you won’t be able to put down.

Emma Tupper is a dedicated lawyer with a bright future. But when she takes a month-long leave of absence to go on an African vacation, she ends up facing unexpected consequences. After she falls ill and spends six months trapped in a remote village thanks to a devastating earthquake, Emma returns home to discover that her friends, boyfriend, and colleagues thought she was dead–and that her life has moved on without her.

As she struggles to re-create her old life, throwing herself into solving a big case for a client and trying to reclaim her beloved apartment from the handsome photographer who assumed her lease, everyone around her thinks she should take the opportunity to change. But is she willing to sacrifice her job, her relationships, and everything else she worked so hard to build?

In “Forgotten,” Catherine McKenzie tweaks a classic tale of discovering who we really are when everything that brings meaning to our lives is lost.

When She Woke

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

Imagine if your sins were on display for the entire world to see?  Hillary Jordan creates a futuristic spin on how society would look if our skin was colored based on the crime we committed.  The story follows Hannah Payne who has recently been, “chromed,” and is red because she has committed murder.  Hannah knows that this is the cross that she must bear for her crimes, but she has no idea how horrible her life will be now that society knows the sins she has committed.

Hannah was always a good girl and was raised in a very conservative family where it was even frowned up on to wear anything with color or that would draw attention to her natural beauty. The climate of the government also leans towards conservative views and the laws go along with the government views of what is right and wrong in this dystopian society.  She has always been a girl that has done the right thing, but she falls in love with a married man who sweeps her off her feet and causes her to make a decision that she will now spend the remainder of her sentence paying for.  To protect the future of the prominent man that she has fallen in love with, she must bear the burden alone and is now melachromed for her actions for all the world to see.

When an extremist underground group tries to help Hannah and reverse the chroming that has been done to her, the reader is taken on a thrilling journey as Hannah risks her safety and life for the crime she has committed.

Hillary Jordan could not have picked a book concept further from her fantastic debut, “Mudbound.”  This book would lend itself well to book club discussions as it flips every political debate on its head.  From abortion to women’s rights to Christianity to punishment for one’s crimes, no political rock is left unturned.  While one might not agree with Hannah’s viewpoint or those of the extremist views of the underground group, the concept of chroming is rich with discussion and a true modern day take on, “The Scarlet Letter.”

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow

I love debut novelists and the first book that I read on Scribd was The Girl Who Fell From the Sky.  This book deals with big topics like race identity and where we fit in the world when we are biracial. Rachel is the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I. who becomes the sole survivor of a family tragedy. With her strict African American grandmother as her new guardian, Rachel moves to a mostly black community, where her light brown skin, blue eyes, and beauty bring mixed attention her way. Growing up in the 1980s, she learns to swallow her overwhelming grief and confronts her identity as a biracial young woman in a world that wants to see her as either black or white.

Faith

Faith by Jennifer Haigh

Faith is a masterpiece of literature that I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish. The novel does have a slow build as it shares a bit about the history and the scandal of 2002 when many Boston priests were accused of molestation in the Catholic Church, but the story is worth the plot set up and is a book that you will want to share and discuss with your friends.

Art is the apple of his mother’s eye and is wholly committed to dedicating his life to God from the time he is a child and on. He lovingly serves his church and feels great satisfaction in his work as a priest. When suddenly he is thrust into the spotlight and is accused of molesting a child that he has grown close to through his work in the church, he is devastated as his life is under scrutiny by the media, by other church members, by other priests, and by his family.

While some in his family side with him, others do not. When shocking discoveries are made into his past and the relationship that he has had with the little boy, the reader must examine which side they might be on and see both sides of the coin as his family comes to terms with these accusations. How would you feel if your son, your brother, or the person you trusted in your church was accused of such an act? Could you stand beside them or would you shun them even if they told you they would never do such a thing?

Haigh’s writing is exquisitely rich and the story is told through a fresh set of eyes from the scandal that we witnessed in the media.  Haigh brings in an angle that led me to believe that there truly are two sides to every story.

Spin

Spin by  Catherine McKenzie

I would be remiss if I didn’t include one more book by Catherine. Her books are the perfect addition to your beach bag and this past month, she came up with a sequel to this book that I am dying to pick up. Although I don’t see the sequel listed on Scribd yet, you must read this first book and get ready for it because it is such a fun escape!

When Kate Sandford lands an interview at her favorite music magazine, The Line, it’s the chance of a lifetime. So Kate goes out to celebrate—and shows up still drunk to the interview the next morning. It’s no surprise that she doesn’t get the job, but her performance has convinced the editors that she’d be perfect for an undercover assignment for their gossip rag. All Kate has to do is follow “It Girl” Amber Sheppard into rehab. If she can get the inside scoop—and complete the thirty-day program—they’ll reconsider her for the position at The Line. Kate takes the assignment, but when real friendships start to develop, she has to decide if what she has to gain is worth the price she’ll have to pay.

Fun, fast-paced, and one I couldn’t put down- you will love it!

2014 Summer Reading List

Now that you have some tried-and-true ideas for your summer reading, here are nine books I am dying to read on Scribd this summer. Maybe you can read along with me?

The Condition by Jennifer Haigh

The Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry

Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman

The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Unless by Carol Shields

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

In celebration of summer reading, Scribd is offering EVERY MomAdvice a free three month trial membership by using our exclusive access code. To access your free membership head HERE and then input the following code: momadvice0614.   I’m so excited for you to try this service and I just know that you will love it as much as I do! Leave us a comment and let us know what you are excited to read on Scribd! 

This post is sponsored by Scribd. I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and effort in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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My Top Ten Books of 2013

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Best Reads of 2013 from MomAdvice.com.Well, it was another incredible year of reading and I am so excited to share with you my top ten picks for the best of reading in 2013. Not only will I share with you the top ten best books of 2013, but I’d also love to share a few honorable mentions to add to your reading piles.

This year I read 42 books, although I had a goal of 60. Does coming out with your own book this year count as a two or three books? I sure hope so!  I don’t waste my precious reading time reading terrible books and I value your time too, that is why I create this list every year to hopefully inspire you to pick up something new from your local library.

Be sure to connect with me on my  Author Profile on GoodReads and you will find my book is listed there too! I would be ecstatic if you became a fan of my writing and would love to see my book listed as something you might be reading in 2014. 

As always, if you are looking for a little inspiration this year, be sure to check our MomAdvice fan page for a weekly check-in on what everyone is reading each week on our Facebook Fan Page. I hope you will swing by on Fridays and share about the books you are working on or request recommendations with one another. So far it is a huge success and I have gotten a few new ideas for my own stack!

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 the month here. If you want to read more, 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 favorite books of 2013!

11/22/63

11/22/63 by Stephen King

It has been many years since I have read a Stephen King book, but I kept hearing that I should pick up this book from so many people (including my amazing friend Kristen from Dine & Dish) that I thought I would give this book a try. I can’t rave enough about this book. YOU MUST READ IT.

This is not horror fiction, but historical fiction offering up the hypothetical scenario that if you could change something in history, would you alter it and what would the consequences be if history was changed.

Jake Epping  teaches high school English in Lisbon Falls, Maine, and is recently divorced from his wife and going through the everyday minutiae of middle-aged life. When he happens upon an assignment from one of his students, a brain-damaged janitor’s story of a childhood Halloween massacre by their drunken father, it brings him to tears and he finds that he can’t stop thinking about what if his life had worked out differently.

When he has lunch at his favorite diner, the diner owner and friend, Al, shares that he has a secret portal to 1958 that he uses to time travel in the back pantry of his restaurant.  He has been taking notes and following Lee Harvey Oswald to see if he can alter the JFK assassination. His dying wish is that Jake can use his notes and actually complete the mission of killing Lee Oswald Harvey before he kills JFK.

Jake decides to fulfill Al’s dying wish and begins a new life in 1958 under the name of George Amberson. What Jake doesn’t expect is how quickly his life can become settled in this new era or how his life would change if he met his one true love?

I loved absolutely everything about this book and when I finished it, I wanted to read the story all over again. It has a beautiful love story, great suspense, and leads to the ultimate question, “Would you change history if you could?”

I can’t recommend this book enough- I would give it ten stars if I could!

Forever Interrupted

Forever Interrupted by Taylor Jenkins

In the summer I am always looking for a good reading escape and I have found that with, “Forever Interrupted,” by Taylor Jenkins. It is a love story that has been forever interrupted when Elsie Porter meets her soul mate, gets married, and finds herself being widowed… all in six short months?

What complicates the story further though is that Elsie’s husband has never told his family about her and his mother is less-than-happy to find out that Ben had a wife that he had never told her about.

It would be an awfully short story though if it ended there and Reid beautifully weaves together the amazing love story of Elsie & Ben from the very beginning while flashing forward as Elsie struggles to move on and finds comfort in one of the most unlikely of people.

I would recommend this one for fans of Emily Giffin, our readers that loved, “Arranged,” as much as I did,  and for those who appreciated the love story of, “One Day.” I found myself both laughing, crying, and sometimes laughing and crying all at the same time.

I bet you read this one in just a couple of short days- it is a hard one to ever put down! I can’t wait to read more from this author!

Me Before You

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

It is rare for a book to stick with me as long as this story has, but Me Before You holds a special place in my heart this year. Although I think it falls in the chick-lit vein, the story of the challenges and difficulties of becoming and living as a paraplegic made me think about those living with this challenge in a new way.

 

Louisa Clark is on the hunt for a job and unable to find work when she stumbles upon a job caring for a paraplegic. Although she has no medical background and feels this job isn’t really a good fit for her, she is simply asked to be a companion and keep Will Traynor company. Will is wheelchair bound after a tragic accident that has altered his entire life. A man who loved extreme sports and travel, he wonders how much longer he can live like this and if a life like this is worth living.

 

I absolutely loved this story and the reader will find themselves wondering what they would do if they were in these character’s shoes. Beautifully told with emotion and humor,  you just won’t be able to put this one down!
Eleanor & Park

eleanor & park by rainbow rowell

Eleanor & Park was an Amazon Book of Month in young adult fiction in 2013 and once these characters weave their way into your heart, you will understand just why this book was selected.
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.
Editor’s Note: Adult Language

Necessary Lies

Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain

I absolutely love Diane Chamberlain. Pair a Diane Chamberlain with a period piece? Well, I am there!  Necessary Lies is one of those books you just want to share with a book club because it lends itself to such a great discussion on what role our government should play (if any)  in our lives when they happen to be the system our families need to rely on in financial struggles.

Chamberlain weaves a fictional story about the very real North Carolina’s Eugenics Sterilization Program that was in effect from 1929 to 1975. In this story, 15-year-old Ivy Hart, her mentally slow 17-year-old sister, and young nephew “Baby” William all live with their grandmother who is in failing health. Jane Forrester becomes Ivy’s family’s social worker and she encounters the state program that seeks to sterilize “mental defectives,” among others with supposedly undesirable characteristics. Through every choice she makes from then on, Jane triggers an inescapable series of events that thrusts everything either she or Ivy ever held to be true into a harsh light, binding them together in ways they do not immediately comprehend or appreciate.

Although I felt this one had a slower build for me, it was worth powering through for the incredible discussion and the endearing characters that are told through this story.  I just can’t stop thinking about this one! If you love this book, be sure to check out her prequel!

East of Eden

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

I always try to tackle one classic each year and  I am so proud that I actually tackled this and Wuthering Heights this year, which was no small feat for me! My husband has been hounding me since high school to read this book and still had his old dog-eared copy for me in our nightstand. I finally relented and read it and I am SO glad that I did. It was definitely one of the best books that I have read this year!

The book takes place in California in the Salinas Valley, a home to two families whose lives are fatefully intertwined in many ways. Over the generations, between the beginning of the twentieth century and the end of the First World War, the Trasks and the Hamiltons replay out two of the Bible’s most memorable stories- the story of Cain & Abel and the story of Adam & Eve.

The story is so beautifully told and shockingly provocative for the time, it is said to be Steinbeck’s greatest work. After reading it, I would say that it is one of the greatest works I have ever read. I really want you to read this one too!
Editor’s Note: Adult Language & Sexuality

The Storyteller

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

I will admit that I have given up on the last few Picoult books that I have read. The books just didn’t have the spark that I was looking for anymore and started to feel predictable. Each week though, someone recommended this book to me on our reading thread so I decided to give in and read it. This is nothing like she has ever written before and will likely be one of my top ten books I have read this year. You really MUST read it.

Sage Singer works the night shift as a baker, preparing pastries and breads until the wee hours of the morning. She is scarred physically and emotionally and prefers to work alone, but finds that she is leading a lonely life.. When Josef Weber, an elderly man in Sage’s grief support group, begins stopping by the bakery, they strike up an unlikely friendship that will forever change both of their lives. You see, Josef has a secret that he has been living with his whole life, and he is about to ask Sage for a favor that he hopes she won’t refuse.

I wish I could say more, but this is one that I guarantee you will be thinking about and that would lend itself well to any book club discussion. I dare to say that this is the best book yet by Jodi Picoult!

Tell the Wolves I'm Home

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

Just at the tail end of this year, I was able to sneak in this gem of a book and I honestly can’t stop thinking about it. The characters in this one are so beautiful and Brunt writes the angst and emotions of a teenage girl in an achingly beautiful way that will remind you of your own youth.

The story is set in 1987. June Elbus is at the tender ag e of fourteen and her uncle (and best friend), a renowned painter has passed away from AIDS. At the time, it is still an illness that few people understand and there is much shame and secrecy about Finn’s death.

At Finn’s funeral though, June notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd. A few days after the funeral, June receives a package that has a note from a man named Toby, who claims to be a friend of Finn’s. He sends to her Finn’s teapot, a treasured item that June has always loved, and says that he woud like to meet with her.
An unlikely friendship is forged, but it is a secret friendship that threatens her family in unlikely ways.
This book is heartachingly beautiful and pitch-perfect. I hope you can give this one a try!
Orphan Train

The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Everyone has been talking about this book, but I didn’t read it until a couple of months ago. All I can say is, wow. Any book that teaches me something new about history and weaves in a beautiful story is a winner in my book. It was a book that I couldn’t stop talking about and would lend itself well to any of your book club discussions!
If you haven’t read this one yet, it is actually two stories told in alternating chapters. First it the modern-day story of  Molly Ayer who is close to “aging out” out of the foster care system. After stealing a beloved classic book from her local library, she is assigned community service. Through her boyfriend’s mom, she finds a job helping an elderly woman named Vivian sort through her possessions.

As they sort, Molly learns that Vivian was an orphan too. A young Irish immigrant orphan who was placed upon a train in the Midwest, just as hundreds of other children, in search of a home. The reader follows Vivian’s journey in and out of homes as she searches for the kindness of a family and a safe place to sleep. It is a heart-wrenching tale, but Molly & Vivian are going to find a way to help each other through their unlikely friendship.

The Paris Architect The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure

Did you hear? We started our first Book Club! I’m so excited and I hope you will join in. It wouldn’t be a top ten list without our book club pick.

I am so excited to be getting our first book club selection off the ground and have chosen, “The Paris Architect,” by Charles Belfoure as this month’s selection.

You know when you read a book and you can’t stop talking about it? That book was this book for me this month. The story is set in 1942 in Paris and tells the story of a gifted architect named Lucien Bernard. In a time of true economic strife and rations in the city, Lucien is commissioned to design secret hiding places in homes to hide wealthy Jews to prevent them from being taken by the Nazis. Although, Lucien is no way supportive of assisting the Jews, he is very hungry for money and if he can design these spaces, he is also given other jobs that can help him continue leading a rather comfortable life.

The problem is… by assisting the Jewish people he is risking his own life. The other problem is… what if he actually starts to care?

This book will be graphic in nature. There is violence, language, and sexuality. This will not be an easy topic. This is a book you will want to talk about. This will be a book you will remember.

I hope you will join us next month for our discussion! Get your questions ready for Charles by January 17th! I will be emailing them to him for his answers!

Although these are my top ten of the year, I do have a few honorable mentions for you to consider for your book bags as well! 

Honorable Mentions

Wonder

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

If you read one book with your kids this year, let it be this one. Wonder is truly one of the best kid’s books I have read in a long time and Augustus is the most fantastic little boy that you will want your child to emulate and look up to.

August Pullman was born with a facial deformity and thanks to his numerous surgeries he has been homeschooled by his family.  Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. 

The book is told from August’s perspective and then tells it from other kids that are around him, his sister, and even his sister’s boyfriend. When all of these stories are pieced together, it creates the perfect telling of what it is like to be someone who looks different then those around him and what it would be like to love or be friends with someone who is different.

This book is absolutely perfect in every single way from start to finish. It deals with big issues, but truly is captured in the voice of a fifth grade boy. I couldn’t put it down and can’t wait to share this book with my two children.

Z

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler

If there is one lady that I now have mad love for it is Zelda Fitzgerald after reading this fantastic historical fiction account of her life.

Zelda Sayre is anything, but typical. Reckless and a little wild, Zelda  meets F. Scott Fitzgerald at a country club dance in 1918,  when she is just seventeen years old and he is serving as a young army lieutenant stationed in Alabama.  Zelda has always been determined to never settle down, but Scott’s charms wear her down despite the fact that he has no wealth to his name, no prominence, and isn’t even Southern. Her family is unimpressed, but through a little trickery of her own, Zelda manages to push Scott into selling his first novel, This Side of Paradise, to Scribner’s.  Days later, Zelda boards a train north, to marry him in the vestry of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, believing that everything will work out in the end.

This wild pair earn the fascination and adoration of the public and become a public spectacle that is reported in the papers. They partake in wild partying and drinking as Scott tries to continue writing with little success and little money coming in. Zelda, a writer in her own right, tries to find herself and who she is when she is oh-so-much-more than just F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife.

I absolutely loved this book and reading about their relationship. You know it is good if you go on an evening of reading on Wikipedia after you are done reading a book. I loved this book from start to finish!

A Hundred Summers

 A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams

Although summer is long past, if you want to feel like it is summer again pick up this divine book for a quick and wonderful escape. When the ever-so-handsome football hero Nick Greenwald joins an Ivy League campus in the uncertain days of the Great Depression he falls madly in love with Lily Dane. Lily’s family, however, is not pleased that she has found her suitor in a boy from a Jewish family. Her beautiful best friend, Budgie, ends up marrying Nick shortly after they break off their relationship, leaving Lily brokenhearted and bewildered. Seven years later, the Greenwalds turn up at Seaview, Rhode Island, the same town where Lily’s family vacations and Lily finds all the answers she has been looking for all of these years in a minefield of plot twists and turns!

Orange is the New Black

Orange Is the New Black by Piper Kerman

If the television series on Netflix was too racy for you, this book is surprisingly tamer and a truly interesting read about what it would be like to be a woman prisoner.

Piper Kerman is the girl next door that we all love and admire. She has a career, a boyfriend, and a loving family, but Piper also has a past that few people know about. She got herself mixed up with the wrong people  and found herself assisting a drug ring with a suitcase of drug money ten years before. As our pasts often do, her past had a way of creeping up on her and Piper is convicted and sentenced to 15 months in prison.
This book offers a closer look into the prison system and what it would be like as a prisoner and what her life was like over the course of her sentence.

I couldn’t put this book down and read it in just a couple of short days. Although I didn’t feel the story flowed as well as it could have, the content within it was absolutely fascinating to me. The friendships between these women and what a day in the life of a prisoner really would be like, is a far cry from what I had envisioned. This is a very thought-provoking book that would be a great one to share with your book club pals and will have you seeing the whole prison system in a far different light.

Editor’s Note: Adult Language & Sexuality

The Fault In Our Stars

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

There is so much to love about this book from John Green and the characters are just as endearing as that fabulous Eleanor & Park book that I highlighted above. In full disclosure, this is a book that you need a big box of tissues with and one that will stick with you long after you close the pages.
This is the story of an unlikely group of friends that meet through their Cancer Kid Support Group. Hazel has experienced a medical miracle and her tumor has been shrinking, buying her a few more years, but she finds that she is depressed despite the good news. Her doctors encouage her to participate in a support group which permanently alters Hazel’s path. When she meets Augustus, they quickly form a deep bond that neither could have ever anticipated.

I don’t want to give too much of the plot away on this one, but it is so beautifully told, with heart-wrenching honesty, that these kids will wedge right into your heart when you read about them.

The Girl You Left Behind

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes

After reading Me Before You, I was dying to pick up this book, especially when I heard that it was historical fiction. I have to say that I loved this one almost as much as I loved Me Before You.

The first part of the story is set in 1916 in France. Artist Edouard Lefevre leaves his young wife, Sophie, to fight on the front lines.  When their  town falls to the Germans in the midst of World War I, Edouard’s portrait of Sophie draws the eye of the new Kommandant. As the officer’s dangerous obsession deepens, Sophie will risk everything—her family, her reputation, and her life—to see her husband again.

Almost a century later, this same painting is given to Liv Halston by her young husband shortly before his sudden death. A chance encounter reveals the painting’s true worth, and a battle begins for who its legitimate owner is—putting Liv’s belief in what is right to the ultimate test.

Once I started this book, I just couldn’t put it down. Both stories were equally compelling and the story behind this painting is beautifully told and heartbreaking, especially the lengths that Sophie will go to to reunite with her husband.

Night Film

Night Film by Marisha Pessl

This book was unlike anything I have ever read before and was one of those books that I have to say was super fun and interactive on my Kindle because of the mixed media approach towards piecing together this mystery and thriller.

Ashley Cordova, daughter of the famous horror movie producer Stanislas Cordova, is found dead in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Though her death is ruled a suicide, investigative journalist Scott McGrath suspects otherwise. As he probes the strange circumstances surrounding Ashley’s life and death, McGrath comes face-to-face with the legacy of her father: the legendary, reclusive cult-horror-film director Stanislas Cordova—a man who hasn’t been seen in public for more than thirty years.

If you love a good mystery, you will love the interactive nature of this book. The reader gets to surf through web discussions, magazine articles, medical files, news clippings, and photographs to piece together the mystery.

My only critique on this one is that it was about two hundred pages too long and the build-up kind of left me feeling a defeated as to what the mystery was surrounding the death.

I still give it a solid four stars for the genius use of mixed media and getting to feel like a detective for a week. It was the most fun I have had with a book in a long time, but I do recommend splurging for the Kindle version to really enjoy those features. I can’t wait to read more from this author!

Disclosure: All of the links above are affiliate links and are provided so you can locate the books quickly and easily. Feel free to order a book, but we encourage utilizing the library system and buying me a latte instead.  Then we both would be really happy and we could have our own little book club together! Wouldn’t that just be so much more lovely? Happy Reading!

 

Tell me, what your favorite books were in 2013 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!

 

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January MomAdvice Book Club Selection: The Paris Architect (GIVEAWAY!)

Friday, December 13th, 2013

I am so excited to be getting our first book club selection off the ground and have chosen, “The Paris Architect,” by Charles Belfoure as this month’s selection.

You know when you read a book and you can’t stop talking about it? That book was this book for me this month. The story is set in 1942 in Paris and tells the story of a gifted architect named Lucien Bernard. In a time of true economic strife and rations in the city, Lucien is commissioned to design secret hiding places in homes to hide wealthy Jews to prevent them from being taken by the Nazis. Although, Lucien is no way supportive of assisting the Jews, he is very hungry for money and if he can design these spaces, he is also given other jobs that can help him continue leading a rather comfortable life.

The problem is… by assisting the Jewish people he is risking his own life. The other problem is… what if he actually starts to care?

This book will be graphic in nature. There is violence, language, and sexuality. This will not be an easy topic. This is a book you will want to talk about. This will be a book you will remember.

Charles Belfoure

Charles Belfoure is a debut novelist and is an architect by profession, which is why this book is so beautiful in detail and thought. He runs his own blog called The Wicked Architect. I know you will want to become a fan after you read this one!

Charles has graciously offered two of our readers the chance to win his book. He has also offered to answer your questions, which I could not be more excited about! 

To enter to win a copy of, “The Paris Architect,” please enter via the Rafflecopter widget below!  

MomAdvice Book Club

Our book club discussion for this novel will take place on January 28th. I will try to collect your questions for the author before that though via our Facebook group! Sign up for our newsletter to stay informed and connect with me on GoodReads too!

*This post contains affiliate links.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Welcome to the MomAdvice Book Club

Friday, December 13th, 2013

MomAdvice Book Club

I’m so excited to be launching the much-anticipated (for me, anyway!) MomAdvice Book Club for our readers. This has been something that we have been talking about through our Facebook community as an opportunity to bring my favorite readers together with great book selections that we can share about and discuss.

Here is what you need to know about this book club!

There Will Be Monthly Selections

Each month I will select a book that we can read together starting this January. I will do my best to give you one month’s advance notice of the next selection to give you plenty of time to purchase, borrow, or download the monthly selection. If I am at all able to get books for you or give them away, I promise to do that.

This Won’t Be Your Average Book Club

For the most part, I am going to try to stay off the path of those bestselling books that have already been heard of and have probably already been read by you. My hope is to highlight those hidden gems of books that you may not have heard of before and embrace debut novelists. The purpose in this is really twofold. By selecting a novel that a first-time novelist is trying to promote or finding books you may not have heard of before, I am hoping that many of these authors will more willing to collaborate with us by providing books and/or participating in a book club discussion with our readers. The second reason is, I truly love finding these types of books to share with you and as an author myself, appreciate promoting someone who is just beginning their career!

I will always read the selection before selecting it because I really want to be assured that I am not wasting your precious reading time. I will be honest with you about the topic-matter. There will be tough books and there will be light books. I will be honest if I feel a novel is graphic in nature, but I will not censor books from making the cut if there are scenes in it like that. I want to pick books that I believe will stick with you and sometimes those scenes will be in there (as they are in this month’s selection). If it isn’t your cup of tea, you can always avoid those types of books.

You Can Always Connect With Me on GoodReads

If your goal is to read more books this year, I highly recommend joining the GoodReads community. I use the app and site daily when deciding what books to read and finding new books to add to my to-be-read pile! You can find me over here and thanks to my author profile, you can also find my blog and stay up to date with what is happening with the site!

When & How Will We Discuss the Books?

The announcement for the books will be made by or before the first of the month. Once the selection has been made, you will have (at least) three weeks to read it. The book discussions will be on the last Tuesday of every month. One week before, should we have an author participating in a discussion, we will ask for reader questions to submit to them. The timeline is tentatively based on if that author can return the questions in that time frame. It is best to join our Facebook community and our newsletter list (new newsletter coming soon!!) to stay up to date on what is happening! Be sure if you sign up for our newsletter that you check your email box for the confirmation link to click through to make sure you are signed up!  Following the conclusion of the discussion, the next book will be announced so you can get your selection.

We will try different ways of meeting up (please leave a comment below if you have a preference). Some questions may be asked on our Facebook page, we might try a Google hangout, or perhaps some other avenues of virtual meet-ups. For this first one, we will keep it simple here on the blog! 

MomAdvice Monthly Selections (updated monthly with an affiliate link)

the_paris_architect

January- The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure (announced HERE and book club discussion HERE)

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

February- A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra (announced HERE and book club discussion HERE)

A White Wind Blew by James Markert

March- A White Wind Blew by James Markert (announced HERE and book club discussion HERE)

the_bear_claire_cameron_book_cover

April- The Bear by Claire Cameron (announced HERE)

Love With a Chance of Drowning

Summer Selection- Love With a Chance of Drowning by Torre DeRoche

The_Orphans_Of_Race_Point

Summer Selection- The Orphans of Race Point by Patry Francis

 

If you have any questions at all, please leave them below! Happy Reading Friends!

This post contains affiliate links! 

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13 Great Books to Check Out In 2013

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

13 Great Books to Check Out in 2013 from MomAdvice.com.I admit it, I have fallen VERY behind on book reviewing and I am so sorry about that. I have been reading an awful lot lately so I am excited to share with thirteen books that I have enjoyed this Summer & Fall. I am just highlighting the best of the best on here so I am excited to hopefully offer a few books to your library lists that you might not have read yet this year!

Be sure to connect with me on my  Author Profile on GoodReads and you will find my book is listed there too! I would be ecstatic if you became a fan of my writing and would love to see my book listed as something you might be reading in 2013. 

As always, if you are looking for a little inspiration this year, be sure to check our MomAdvice fan page for a weekly check-in on what everyone is reading each week on our Facebook Fan Page. I hope you will swing by on Fridays and share about the books you are working on or request recommendations with one another. So far it is a huge success and I have gotten a few new ideas for my own stack!

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 the month here. If you want to read more, 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.

 

A Hundred Summers

 A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams

Although summer is long past, if you want to feel like it is summer again pick up this divine book for a quick and wonderful escape. When the ever-so-handsome football hero Nick Greenwald joins an Ivy League campus in the uncertain days of the Great Depression he falls madly in love with Lily Dane. Lily’s family, however, is not pleased that she has found her suitor in a boy from a Jewish family. Her beautiful best friend, Budgie, ends up marrying Nick shortly after they break off their relationship, leaving Lily brokenhearted and bewildered. Seven years later, the Greenwalds turn up at Seaview, Rhode Island, the same town where Lily’s family vacations and Lily finds all the answers she has been looking for all of these years in a minefield of plot twists and turns!

MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars

East of Eden

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

I always try to tackle one classic each year and  I am so proud that I actually tackled this and Wuthering Heights this year, which was no small feat for me! My husband has been hounding me since high school to read this book and still had his old dog-eared copy for me in our nightstand. I finally relented and read it and I am SO glad that I did. It was definitely one of the best books that I have read this year!

The book takes place in California in the Salinas Valley, a home to two families whose lives are fatefully intertwined in many ways. Over the generations, between the beginning of the twentieth century and the end of the First World War, the Trasks and the Hamiltons replay out two of the Bible’s most memorable stories- the story of Cain & Abel and the story of Adam & Eve.

The story is so beautifully told and shockingly provocative for the time, it is said to be Steinbeck’s greatest work. After reading it, I would say that it is one of the greatest works I have ever read. I really want you to read this one too!
Editor’s Note: Adult Language & Sexuality

MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars

Me Before You

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

It is rare for a book to stick with me as long as this story has, but Me Before You holds a special place in my heart this year. Although I think it falls in the chick-lit vein, the story of the challenges and difficulties of becoming and living as a paraplegic made me think about those living with this challenge in a new way.

Louisa Clark is on the hunt for a job and unable to find work when she stumbles upon a job caring for a paraplegic. Although she has no medical background and feels this job isn’t really a good fit for her, she is simply asked to be a companion and keep Will Traynor company. Will is wheelchair bound after a tragic accident that has altered his entire life. A man who loved extreme sports and travel, he wonders how much longer he can live like this and if a life like this is worth living.
I absolutely loved this story and the reader will find themselves wondering what they would do if they were in these character’s shoes. Beautifully told with emotion and humor,  you just won’t be able to put this one down!

MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars

Eleanor & Park

 eleanor & park by rainbow rowell

Eleanor & Park was an Amazon Book of Month in young adult fiction in 2013 and once these characters weave their way into your heart, you will understand just why this book was selected.
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.
Editor’s Note: Adult Language

MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars

I Couldn't Love You More

I Couldn’t Love You More by Jillian Medoff

This book was, honestly, a tough read for me, but I am so glad that I read it. It has stuck with me long after I closed the pages and was one that I talked about with my husband after I finished it.

Without giving too much of the plot away, Eliot Gordon has two step-daughters and a biological child with her partner Grant. They have never gotten married, but have been together for a long time and feel solid in their commitment with each other. When Eliot’s long-lost first love appears back in her life, a truly shocking chain of events occur that will haunt their family forever. Eliot’s one split second of error is an error that any mother can make, but shadowed by this relationship, it feels almost unforgivable. I am recommending this one for a book club pick because it would lend itself to a great discussion and is one that you just want to talk about after you finish it.

Editor’s Note: Adult Language & Sexuality

MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars

Necessary Lies

Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain

I absolutely love Diane Chamberlain. Pair a Diane Chamberlain with a period piece? Well, I am there!  Necessary Lies is one of those books you just want to share with a book club because it lends itself to such a great discussion on what role our government should play (if any)  in our lives when they happen to be the system our families need to rely on in financial struggles.

Chamberlain weaves a fictional story about the very real North Carolina’s Eugenics Sterilization Program that was in effect from 1929 to 1975. In this story, 15-year-old Ivy Hart, her mentally slow 17-year-old sister, and young nephew “Baby” William all live with their grandmother who is in failing health. Jane Forrester becomes Ivy’s family’s social worker and she encounters the state program that seeks to sterilize “mental defectives,” among others with supposedly undesirable characteristics. Through every choice she makes from then on, Jane triggers an inescapable series of events that thrusts everything either she or Ivy ever held to be true into a harsh light, binding them together in ways they do not immediately comprehend or appreciate.

Although I felt this one had a slower build for me, it was worth powering through for the incredible discussion and the endearing characters that are told through this story.  I just can’t stop thinking about this one! If you love this book, be sure to check out her prequel!

MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars

Orange is the New Black book cover

Orange Is the New Black by Piper Kerman

If the television series on Netflix was too racy for you, this book is surprisingly tamer and a truly interesting read about what it would be like to be a woman prisoner.

Piper Kerman is the girl next door that we all love and admire. She has a career, a boyfriend, and a loving family, but Piper also has a past that few people know about. She got herself mixed up with the wrong people  and found herself assisting a drug ring with a suitcase of drug money ten years before. As our pasts often do, her past had a way of creeping up on her and Piper is convicted and sentenced to 15 months in prison.
This book offers a closer look into the prison system and what it would be like as a prisoner and what her life was like over the course of her sentence.

I couldn’t put this book down and read it in just a couple of short days. Although I didn’t feel the story flowed as well as it could have, the content within it was absolutely fascinating to me. The friendships between these women and what a day in the life of a prisoner really would be like, is a far cry from what I had envisioned. This is a very thought-provoking book that would be a great one to share with your book club pals and will have you seeing the whole prison system in a far different light.

Editor’s Note: Adult Language & Sexuality

MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars

The Fault In Our Stars The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

There is so much to love about this book from John Green and the characters are just as endearing as that fabulous Eleanor & Park book that I highlighted above. In full disclosure, this is a book that you need a big box of tissues with and one that will stick with you long after you close the pages.
This is the story of an unlikely group of friends that meet through their Cancer Kid Support Group. Hazel has experienced a medical miracle and her tumor has been shrinking, buying her a few more years, but she finds that she is depressed despite the good news. Her doctors encouage her to participate in a support group which permanently alters Hazel’s path. When she meets Augustus, they quickly form a deep bond that neither could have ever anticipated.

I don’t want to give too much of the plot away on this one, but it is so beautifully told, with heart-wrenching honesty, that these kids will wedge right into your heart when you read about them.

MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars

The Girl You Left Behind

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes

After reading Me Before You, I was dying to pick up this book, especially when I heard that it was historical fiction. I have to say that I loved this one almost as much as I loved Me Before You.

The first part of the story is set in 1916 in France. Artist Edouard Lefevre leaves his young wife, Sophie, to fight on the front lines.  When their  town falls to the Germans in the midst of World War I, Edouard’s portrait of Sophie draws the eye of the new Kommandant. As the officer’s dangerous obsession deepens, Sophie will risk everything—her family, her reputation, and her life—to see her husband again.

Almost a century later, this same painting is given to Liv Halston by her young husband shortly before his sudden death. A chance encounter reveals the painting’s true worth, and a battle begins for who its legitimate owner is—putting Liv’s belief in what is right to the ultimate test.

Once I started this book, I just couldn’t put it down. Both stories were equally compelling and the story behind this painting is beautifully told and heartbreaking, especially the lengths that Sophie will go to to reunite with her husband.

MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars

The Husband's Secret

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

I am a big fan of Liane Moriarty and have to say that this is one of the best books I have read by her. When I got this book, I expected some typical chick-lit, but this one was so much more than that.  This book was selected as one of the best books of the month by Amazon this year and it is no wonder since it was a gripping page turner that I just could not put down.

Just imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Again, imagine this secret is so big that it could threaten the stability of your own life and the lives of others. But then imagine that you run across this letter when tidying your attic while your husband is still alive.

Cecilia Fitzpatrick  has it all- a successful career, she is well-respected with in her community, and she is one of those women that just seems to have it all together. This secret is about to crumble her perfect world and will forever alter the lives of others around them.

This one is another one that I just couldn’t put down and truly illustrates the point that our past has a way of catching up with us.

MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars

The Storyteller

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

I will admit that I have given up on the last few Picoult books that I have read. The books just didn’t have the spark that I was looking for anymore and started to feel predictable. Each week though, someone recommended this book to me on our reading thread so I decided to give in and read it. This is nothing like she has ever written before and will likely be one of my top ten books I have read this year. You really MUST read it.

Sage Singer works the night shift as a baker, preparing pastries and breads until the wee hours of the morning. She is scarred physically and emotionally and prefers to work alone, but finds that she is leading a lonely life.. When Josef Weber, an elderly man in Sage’s grief support group, begins stopping by the bakery, they strike up an unlikely friendship that will forever change both of their lives. You see, Josef has a secret that he has been living with his whole life, and he is about to ask Sage for a favor that he hopes she won’t refuse.

I wish I could say more, but this is one that I guarantee you will be thinking about and that would lend itself well to any book club discussion. I dare to say that this is the best book yet by Jodi Picoult!

MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars

Wonder

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

If you read one book with your kids this year, let it be this one. Wonder is truly one of the best kid’s books I have read in a long time and Augustus is the most fantastic little boy that you will want your child to emulate and look up to.

August Pullman was born with a facial deformity and thanks to his numerous surgeries he has been homeschooled by his family.  Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. 

The book is told from August’s perspective and then tells it from other kids that are around him, his sister, and even his sister’s boyfriend. When all of these stories are pieced together, it creates the perfect telling of what it is like to be someone who looks different then those around him and what it would be like to love or be friends with someone who is different.

This book is absolutely perfect in every single way from start to finish. It deals with big issues, but truly is captured in the voice of a fifth grade boy. I couldn’t put it down and can’t wait to share this book with my two children.

MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars

Z Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler

If there is one lady that I now have mad love for it is Zelda Fitzgerald after reading this fantastic historical fiction account of her life.

Zelda Sayre is anything, but typical. Reckless and a little wild, Zelda  meets F. Scott Fitzgerald at a country club dance in 1918,  when she is just seventeen years old and he is serving as a young army lieutenant stationed in Alabama.  Zelda has always been determined to never settle down, but Scott’s charms wear her down despite the fact that he has no wealth to his name, no prominence, and isn’t even Southern. Her family is unimpressed, but through a little trickery of her own, Zelda manages to push Scott into selling his first novel, This Side of Paradise, to Scribner’s.  Days later, Zelda boards a train north, to marry him in the vestry of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, believing that everything will work out in the end.

This wild pair earn the fascination and adoration of the public and become a public spectacle that is reported in the papers. They partake in wild partying and drinking as Scott tries to continue writing with little success and little money coming in. Zelda, a writer in her own right, tries to find herself and who she is when she is oh-so-much-more than just F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife.

I absolutely loved this book and reading about their relationship. You know it is good if you go on an evening of reading on Wikipedia after you are done reading a book. I loved this book from start to finish!

MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars

Disclosure: All of the links above are affiliate links and are provided so you can locate the books quickly and easily. Feel free to order a book, but we encourage utilizing the library system and buying me a latte instead.  Then we both would be really happy and we could have our own little book club together! Wouldn’t that just be so much more lovely? Happy Reading!

 

Tell me, what books you have been enjoying these past few months? 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!

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Book Review: The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan

The Engagements was a book that I picked up, looking for a quick chick lit escape this summer. What happened instead, was a book that has stuck with me since I put it down and surprised me with its depth and beauty. It was the kind of book that I couldn’t wait for someone else to read and the one that I drove my husband crazy sharing about in the evenings because of the smartly woven plot twists.

Each chapter alternates stories with each story deeply rooted in the engagement ring from the inception of the idea of selling the idea of an engagement ring to women to what this ring signifies to each character in the book.

The stories unfold beginning with Frances Gerety, an advertising copyright who works on the De Beers account and who is the creator of  the, “A Diamond is Forever,” campaign that De Beers is still known for today. She is the one who changes what the diamond ring means to women and, yet, receives very little recognition for her efforts in her career. Fans of Mad Men, in particular, will fall in love with Frances and her struggles to get to the top of her ad agency, much like the beloved Peggy Olson in our favorite television series.

All of the other chapters weave in stories from different decades of what the diamond ring means to the other characters in the book. Evelyn has been married to her husband for 40 years, ever since her husband slipped off her first wedding ring and put his own in its place. Delphine  has seen both the beauty and the awfulness in relationships and finds herself in a love triangle she never expected.  James is a paramedic whose constant struggle to prove to his family and wife that he is good enough when he  feels in his heart he is not,  and the story of Kate who has been with her partner for a decade, but refuses to be married because of her feminist beliefs.

The novel spans nearly a hundred years with these stories and, perhaps, the most surprising thing for me was how utterly enchanted I was with every single story and character. I am guilty of favoring certain characters more than others, yet with this book, every story and every chapter was so great that I enjoyed all of them equally.

Don’t let the slow start on this book discourage you- I promise that it will be worth it to see this one through to the end! This is my favorite book by J. Courtney Sullivan yet and I have a feeling it will be for you too!

MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars

The Engagements

If you are looking for a little reading inspiration, be sure to check our MomAdvice fan page for a weekly check-in on what everyone is reading each week on our Facebook Fan Page. I hope you will swing by on Fridays and share about the books you are working on or request recommendations with one another!

You can also follow me on GoodReads & Instagram for more reading inspiration! Don’t forget to check out our list of 20 Great Beach Reads and our Books section for your summer reading!

Disclosure: The link provided is an affiliate link and is provided so you can locate the books quickly and easily. Feel free to order a book, but we encourage utilizing the library system and buying me a latte instead.  Then we both would be really happy and we could have our own little book club together! Wouldn’t that just be so much more lovely? Happy Reading!

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Book Review: Forever Interrupted

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

Forever_Interrupted In the summer I am always looking for a good reading escape and I have found that with, “Forever Interrupted,” by Taylor Jenkins. It is a love story that has been forever interrupted when Elsie Porter meets her soul mate, gets married, and finds herself being widowed… all in six short months?

What complicates the story further though is that Elsie’s husband has never told his family about her and his mother is less-than-happy to find out that Ben had a wife that he had never told her about.

It would be an awfully short story though if it ended there and Reid beautifully weaves together the amazing love story of Elsie & Ben from the very beginning while flashing forward as Elsie struggles to move on and finds comfort in one of the most unlikely of people.

I would recommend this one for fans of Emily Giffin, our readers that loved, “Arranged,” as much as I did,  and for those who appreciated the love story of, “One Day.” I found myself both laughing, crying, and sometimes laughing and crying all at the same time.

I bet you read this one in just a couple of short days- it is a hard one to ever put down! I can’t wait to read more from this author!

MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars

Forever_Interrupted_2

If you are looking for a little reading inspiration, be sure to check our MomAdvice fan page for a weekly check-in on what everyone is reading each week on our Facebook Fan Page. I hope you will swing by on Fridays and share about the books you are working on or request recommendations with one another!

You can also follow me on GoodReads & Instagram for more reading inspiration!

Disclosure: The link provided is an affiliate link and is provided so you can locate the books quickly and easily. Feel free to order a book, but we encourage utilizing the library system and buying me a latte instead.  Then we both would be really happy and we could have our own little book club together! Wouldn’t that just be so much more lovely? Happy Reading!

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Beach Reads: 20 Books to Add to Your Beach Bag This Summer

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

20 Beach Reads for SummerIf there is one thing I love about summer it is catching up on my summer beach reads. Today I wanted to share with you 20 book ideas for stocking your beach bag this summer and that can provide a perfect escape during the summer months. While I lean heavy toward the chick lit genre in the summer, I am mixing in a few unexpected additions that I think you will equally enjoy in the thriller and historical fiction categories.

Beach Reads

Be sure to connect with me on my  Author Profile on GoodReads and you will find my book is listed there too! I would be ecstatic if you became a fan of my writing and would love to see my book listed as something you might be reading in 2013. 

As always, if you are looking for a little inspiration this new year, be sure to check our MomAdvice fan page for a weekly check-in on what everyone is reading each week on our Facebook Fan Page. I hope you will swing by on Fridays and share about the books you are working on or request recommendations with one another. So far it is a huge success and I have gotten a few new ideas for my own stack!

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 the month here. If you want to read more, 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.

What Alice Forgot

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

“What Alice Forgot,” opens with Alice sprawled on the floor of the gym after she has fallen and hit her head after passing out in a spinning class. Alice is certainly perplexed by this because she has never gone to the gym and certainly would never do a spinning class. Her main concern is for her unborn baby when she wakes up and she is anxious for her husband to meet her at the hospital to help calm her down. Everyone seems to know her and everyone looks so different to her, that she is beginning to wonder what is going on. When Alice’s sister, Elizabeth, arrives at the hospital, she has to break it to Alice that she is not pregnant, she is not 29, she has three children, and she is in the middle of a custody battle and divorce with her husband.

Alice has, in fact, lost her memory over the last ten years and what faces her is heartbreaking and unpleasant.  People don’t even seem to like her. Friendships she thought she had do not exist. Neighbors avoid her. She can’t remember ever having any children. And the one person she thought loved her the most can’t stand to even speak to her.

As Alice comes to terms with the person she can’t remember becoming she is faced with many terrible truths about herself as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend.  Will it be too late to repair the damage that has been done and if her memory returns, will she still long to be the woman she was ten years ago.

I absolutely loved this book as I love all books that explore the what-if’s in life.  This one had me laughing and even a little teary-eyed as Alice goes through the journey of discovering who she has become and how to capture the innocence of a girl in her twenties and in love.

Skipping a Beat

Skipping a Beat by Sarah Pekkanen

High-school sweethearts Julie & Michael have left behind their small town and are in pursuit of living a life better than their modest upbringings and achieving the American dream. When Michael decides to start a sports drink company, neither of them could ever expect how quickly his business would takeoff or what it would be like to be millionaires. As money is introduced into their life, their marriage begins to crumble as Michael is increasingly unavailable due to the success of his company and the separation that exists as a couple begins to grow apart.

The book opens as Michael has a near-death experience and Julie, a successful party planner, is called to the hospital to be with her husband.  Michael begins acting strangely and tells Julia that he has made the decision to give all of his money and company away.  Julie is stunned, as she has begun the process of filing for a divorce from her husband, and will lose half of the estate and money if he gives everything away. Michael pleads for Julie to give him just one chance.

This book then delves into the complex relationship that they share and how their marriage began to fail as they began to rediscover one another again once their fortune is taken out of the equation.

I went into it expecting a simple piece of chick lit, and it developed into one beautiful story! Perhaps it is not life-altering, but sometimes a girl just needs a good love story that renews her feelings about love and what is important in life.  It offered everything I love in a book:  great characters, a beautiful love story, a fabulous friendship between two women, and great humor interjected throughout the story. It really was so much more than I could have hoped for!

The Language of Flowers

 

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Victoria Jones was a child that has been unloved and unwanted by many.  After going from foster care home to foster care home, she finally find someone who loves her whole-heartedly and wants to adopt her as her own.  Elizabeth is a dream mother to this wounded child.  She spends hours teaching Victoria the Victorian names and meanings for flowers and how to care for them. These lessons t later become the tools that she must employ to share her feelings and find work later in her life. Through a traumatic turn of events though, Elizabeth never adopts Victoria and at eighteen she is declared emancipated with no money, nowhere to go, and no one who loves her.

Victoria makes her home in the local park, sleeping in the grass at night, and even begins to plant her own garden in the park. When a local florist happens upon Victoria and her talent for flower arranging, she is hired on the spot to help with her small floral shop. Word soon gets around about Victoria’s talent for arrangements, carefully chosen & arranged based on their Victorian flower names and what they mean for their recipients.

When Victoria runs into a floral vendor who happens to be someone from her & Elizabeth’s past, she must decide if she can ever move forward from the secret that she is harboring in her heart and if she can ever feel and find love again.

The story switches from Victoria’s childhood to her time now as an adult. It never is confusing, but outlines the heartbreaking story of a difficult childhood and why Victoria would have such difficulties as an adult.

It is so surprising that this is Diffenbaugh’s first novel as she writes with experience and description that you rarely find in a debut novel.  I have no doubt you will love this book as much as I did!

Gone Girl

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I love when I read a book and feel my real life slipping away from me. Gone Girl was a book that sucked me from the very first page and offered one of those amazing journeys as a reader.

Without giving the plot away the story begins with  Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Amy has carefully wrapped gifts and is making the perfect breakfast for her husband when she suddenly disappears one seemingly ordinary morning. Nick is quickly under suspicion since he appears completely unemotional with the news of his wife’s disappearance and has no real explanation for his whereabouts when Amy has disappeared. Clue after clue points to Nick and the police begin building a case against him. It leaves the entire town and those closest to Amy wondering what Nick has done to Amy.

Of course, with all good stories, things aren’t always as they appear and this story will take the reader on great plot twists that they will never suspect coming. Although, I found the ending of this book to be a bit flat and it didn’t wrap up the way I had hoped, I still believe this is one of the best thrillers I have read this year.

Editor’s Note- This book contains graphic scenes, language, & violence.

Wife 22

Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon

If you are looking for another great chick-lit escape, Wife 22 offers a fresh and modern-day perspective on finding love that I think you will really enjoy.

Alice Buckle is a typical middle aged mother who has found herself in a funk in her marriage. While Googling the search term, “happy marriage,” she suddenly receives an opportunity in her email to take part in a marriage survey. Since she is struggling in her marriage, she find this to be a fun and anonymous way to share about her marriage without judgement. She takes on the anonymous survey as, “Wife 22,” and finds herself completely engrossed in taking the survey and writing the answers to the questions. As she engages daily in the interaction with the researcher, their playful banter starts to turn into something that Alice never expected.

This modern day love story of love lost and love found again is one that you will really love. What adds to the charm of this book is the social media thread of viewing Alice’s friend’s Facebook status updates at the beginning of the chapters, the Facebook chats she engages in, and of course the emails back and forth between herself and the Researcher.

A solid ending to this story really pulls all the layers together beautifully. As an aside, there is an Appendix at the very end of the book that provides the questions that were asked of Alice when completing the survey. I wished I would have had those to help me pull the answers together more fully.

Arranged

Arranged by Catherine McKenzie

This book made my top ten list this past year, simply because it is deliciously fast-paced chick-lit at its finest.

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!

I've Got Your Number

I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella

Sometimes you just want to sit down with a good chick lit book and laugh. As always, Sophie Kinsella delivers a funny, charming, and hilarious book that will be perfect to tackle for your summer reading!

When Poppy Wyatt begins showing off her family heirloom engagement ring to all of her friends at a hotel reception, her ring ends up missing, amid the chaos of the fire alarms going off at the hotel. Not only is Poppy lost without her ring, her phone is stolen during the chaos with the number she has given the hotel staff to use to contact her if they do discover her ring.

When she spots a cell phone on top of a trash can, she gives that phone’s number out to the hotel staff, in hopes someone will find her engagement ring and call her on it. Of course, the phone belongs to someone and with that first call, Poppy’s life is turned upside down when businessman Sam Roxton begins chatting and texting Poppy.

The book is back to Sophie’s roots of hilarity that made her infamous Shopaholic series so delightful. I really enjoyed this cute modern day love story and I think you will too!

Labor Day

Labor Day by Joyce Maynard

Joyce Maynard is quickly becoming one of my new favorite authors and I found her book, “Labor Day,” to be a delight to read with great twists and character build that had me thinking about the book long after the pages were shut.

Henry is the narrator of this story and tells the story through his thirteen year-old eyes of a Labor Day weekend that changed his and his mother’s entire life. The strange story begins as he stands in a drugstore browsing the aisles, where he is approached by a man who asks if he can catch a ride home with him and his mother. The man appears to be injured, but seems harmless enough to catch a ride back with them. Henry doesn’t know it, but Frank is actually an escaped convict who is wanted for murder and is being searched for. His mother, Adele, is divorced and isolates herself from society, but offers to let Frank stay there for a few days as his injuries heal, in exchange for help around the house.

An unlikely relationship blossoms between the three characters and Frank quickly begins to fill the voids of a partner that Adele has always wanted in her life and the father that Henry wishes he had. Whether it is the simple act of dancing with Adele in the kitchen or throwing a ball with Henry, he fills those voids that they both have been missing. All of this would be perfect provided Frank wasn’t an escaped felon, but living in hiding is not a new thing for Adele, and both she & her son become quickly swept away with Frank.

The story telling in this is so vivid, despite the idea feeling a bit far-fetched, that I found myself rooting for a happy ending with the family that Adele & Henry have desired. As it seem is customary with Maynard’s books, a thoughtful twist is thrown in at the end that can lead to your own thoughtful reflection on what you would do in this situation.

Editor’s Note: Sexuality is in this book, as it is told through the eyes of an adolescent boy.

Before I Go to Sleep

Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson

If you are looking for a psychological thriller that will have you guessing until the very last page what is happening, then I have the book for you.  This is the best thriller that I have read this year and can hardly believe that it is the author’s first book.

Every single day Christine wakes up not knowing who she is, where she is, and who her husband is.  It is the same scenario every day as she makes her way to the bathroom, where pictures are layered upon the mirror that explain who she is and who her husband is. Each day she must go through the heartbreaking discovery that she has had a terrible accident that has caused her to have permanent amnesia. People she thinks are alive have died.  She can’t remember if she is a mother. She doesn’t know why she doesn’t have any friends. Some days she wakes up and she believes she is in her twenties and cannot even recognize the woman who looks at her in the mirror.

When Christine begins meeting with a doctor, he encourages her to begin journaling each day to help jog her memory of what has been happening in her daily life. As each day opens, Christine opens her journal and begins to read and as she reads, she begins to discover that the life that she is leading might not be all that it seems to be.  As Christine becomes more and more aware of her story and begins to challenge the information that her husband is feeding to her about what has happened, the reader is left wondering if Christine is obsessing about details because she can’t really recall them or if the stories she is hearing are even real?

If you read one thriller this year, let it be this one. I promise you, it is truly amazing and will leave you stunned when you read the final pages.  I can’t wait to read more from this author.

Something Borrowed

 

something borrowed by emily giffin

Rachel & Darcy have been best friends their whole lives. Darcy is the beautiful one and is the friend that is always hogging the spotlight, while Rachel has always been content to be in Darcy’s shadow, concentrating on her studies in school. As Rachel is out celebrating her thirtieth birthday with Darcy, her fiancée Dex, and their other friends, she finds that she drinks a tad more than she normally would and finds herself in a predicament that changes the outcome of her life.

That night, when Dex graciously offers to see Rachel home, one thing leads to another and they find themselves having an affair that neither one of them bargained for. Writing it off as a one night stand, Rachel decides that she will try to forget that the encounter ever happened.

Thinking that Dex likely had too much to drink too, she is stunned when Dex admits that he has had feelings for Rachel for a long time.

As the two of them try to resist each other, Rachel is forced to complete the duties as the maid of honor to Darcy, and help her with the decisions for her wedding to Dex. Rachel is consumed with guilt while Darcy continues to be consumed with herself and is oblivious to what is happening.

Told from Rachel’s perspective, you begin to sympathize with Rachel and the challenges that she has had to live with to be friends with a person like Darcy. As she reflects on childhood incidents and the way that Darcy has made her feel, you can’t help but to sympathize for her and root for her to be with Dex.

The twist is such a good one at the end and while it is more of the chick-lit genre, this book is more about the friendships and the dynamics within a friendship than anything else! I am so glad that I finally read this and dived into the sequel, “Something Blue,” as soon as I finished it.

Firefly Lane

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

This book was an unbelievably fun adventure that chronicles the life of two best friends from the time they are children until they are grown women. It goes through each decade, the hair, the pop culture references, and the politics that are happening as they are growing up.

Kate & Tully are as opposite as friends can be, but they are both outsiders in their own ways. Kate is a bookworm and shy while Tully has been uprooted to a new school and feels unloved by her mother. Regardless of their differences, they become fast friends whose lives become quickly entwined.

As they get older, new issues face them. Tully is career-driven and hungry for a job as an anchorwoman. Kate, on the other hand, is more laid back and unsure of her life goals. Kate really just longs to be with someone while Tully ends up with the someone she longs to be with.

In some ways the book was predictable, in others, it reminded me of the chick flicks I love to see with my girlfriends. I laughed out loud and I cried a little bit too. It was just an all-around fantastic read!

I gave this gift to my girlfriends for the holidays because it is just one of those books that you can’t not share!

Shanghai Girls

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

This book takes you on a journey that is beautifully told of the time in China and in the US during the Japanese invasion of Shanghai and happens to be one of my favorite Lisa See books of all time.

Pearl & May are sisters who deal with many of the insecurities and rivalry that most sisters endure. Pearl is studious and responsible while May is beautiful and has the ability to get her way in any type of situation. Both girls are living a life of privilege and are unaware of the poor and less fortunate. The girls enjoy the good life and are able to afford their lifestyle thanks to modeling for advertisements that help afford them what their family needs.

This all takes a turn when they discover that their father is in deep debt. In order to pay off his debts, he arranges for a marriage and marries off the girls to a set of brothers residing in the United States. They are expected to make the journey to the US and fulfill their father’s debts.

Getting to the United States proves to be more challenging than either sister bargained for as the invasion of Shanghai happens at the same time they are to be heading on the boat.

To say that this journey to the United States is epic, would be a small understatement. The girls endure incredible tragedy, untold brutality, and a journey that they never dreamed they would ever endure.

The story, above all else, is about sisters. Sisters that love each other in spite of it all…and sisters that would do anything for one another.

There is a sequel to this book and you can find my review of that here!

Last Night at Chateau Marmont

Last Night at Chateau Marmont by Lauren Weisberger

From the author of, “The Devil Wears Prada,” is a great read following a normal everyday couple and what happens when fame comes knocking.

Julian & Brooke live a relatively idyllic life as both have focus on their careers. Julian works a day job, but has high hopes of one day becoming a famous musician. Brooke, his wife, is his number one fan who works two jobs to help support her husband’s struggling career as he tries to break into the record industry. They both hope that he will one day become famous and do what he loves so much. Of course, the old adage, “Be careful what you wish for,” really rings true when Julian finally becomes the rock star he has always wanted.

While Julian is whisked off and surrounded by a PR team and record executives looking to boost his image and get him mentioned in tabloids, Brooke is left wondering what this will all mean for her and their marriage. When a scandalous picture is taken of her husband with another woman at Chateau Marmont, Brooke must decide if she can truly believe Julian or if the pressure from fans and the people he surrounds himself with have become too much.

As she struggles to continue doing her job while still supporting Julian and being there for all of the events that are happening in his career, Brooke now finds herself, at times, lonely and practically single. With every obstacle placed in front of their marriage, the reader is left wondering if any marriage could survive the fame and scrutiny of the public.

A heartbreaking and real look at fame and how it could alter a relationship, this is a little more than your typical chick-lit! Lauren Weisberger delivers another great new read filled with pop culture references and many cameos from some of your favorite celebrities!

One Day

One Day by David Nicholls

The concept for Nicholl’s book is a genius one that I loved from start to finish. It chronicles the lives of two friends, Dex & Em, over the course of twenty years and each chapter begins a new year on the same exact day. It begins with what seems like a romantic relationship in 1988 and then each year jumps into a new place of their friendship and what is happening that year with them.

You began the journey with Dex & Em when they are in college and each of them is dreaming big for what they have in store for their future. You then go along on the journey as Dex lives off of the wealth of his family, as Em is stuck in a dead end job, as Dex finds fame, as Dex loses fame, and as Em finally begins living her dream. To say more than this would give it all away, but know that as a reader of the book, you get to glimpse into the lives and evolution of how we change as people as we grow older.

The relationship with Dex & Em is at times endearing and at times exasperating. Em puts up with a lot as Dex falls down a slippery slope in the world of Hollywood. It is a, “When Harry Met Sally,” love story that I simply could not put down.

The ending was a shocking one, that may disappoint some readers, but it did not take away from the story for me. Because of the ending, try to avoid reading any reviews of the book until you have finished it so you can draw your own conclusion on this book!

The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes

The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes by Diane Chamberlain

I have never read a book by Diane Chamberlain, but if this is any indication of her writing style, I am permanently hooked on this author.

This book focuses on a sixteen year old girl who has lost her mother and seems to be very alone in the world. She works as a waitress and waits on the table of a handsome young man who sweeps her off of her feet. Despite their age difference, he seems to be very taken with her and she is head over heels in love with him.

He makes a confession that he is on a mission to release his sister from jail for a wrongfully accused crime. He asks her to partner with him and his brother to free their sister from jail. All she will have to do is to sit with the senator’s wife, whom they plan to kidnap, as bait to get the local senator to agree to release their sister.

The crime goes completely wrong and forever alters the path of CeeCee Wilkes. She is forced to change her identity and lives with a horrible secret of what has happened during that fateful night that she assisted with the kidnapping.

This one had me on the edge of my seat and I could not put it down until I knew what had happened. It is one of the best books that I have read in a long time and I would highly recommend it!

These Things Hidden

These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf

If you have not read The Weight of Silence, be sure to check out my review on Heather Gudenkauf’s first novel.  Gudenkauf is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors and her second novel is filled with suspense, fabulous plot twists, and a great storyline that I devoured in just two days!  Her books, to me, are like a really suspenseful movie and what I was so fond of in Jodi Picoult’s earlier books.

Allison Green was not the typical teenager, but a golden child who excelled at everything she ever did. Straight A’s, beautiful, and a strong soccer player, she seemed to have everything going for her. In a mistake that would forever alter her existence, and even cause her parents to disown her, Allison Green is accused of murder and spends five years serving a ten year sentence.  Her reputation is marred forever, but it isn’t the only reputation to be marred.

Allison’s sister, Brynn, was constantly in the shadow of her sister and never got any attention from her parents. Living in a small town and having your sister accused of murder is social suicide for Brynn, who has lost all of her friends because of her sister’s mistake. When Allison is released early for good behavior, she is the first to be called by Allison.  Brynn won’t take her calls and finds the new existence she has created at college once again is clouded by her sister’s past.

The two sister’s worlds are about to collide as the secret of one little boy threatens three families and the reader will be shocked at the twisted web that Gudenkauf  successfully spins, weaving an unlikely set of characters together and a suspenseful satisfying ending that will leave you begging for more!

Defending Jacob

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.

Time of My Life

Time of My Life by Allison Winn Scotch

If I had to give my vote to one of my all-time favorite chick lit books, “Time of My Life,” would be among my absolute favorites.

In this book, Scotch tackles an the what-if  question that many of us ask ourselves- what if I had held on to the one that got away? Jillian Westfield seems to have it all: a loving lawyer husband, a beautiful baby girl, and a gorgeous home in Westchester County, N.Y. While she has it all, she also is run down and covered in spit-up when she disocvers that her old boyfriend, Jackson, is getting married. The day after a chi-clearing massage, Jill wakes up and finds herself seven years in the past, giving her the chance to revisit her life with Jack in Manhattan, when she worked as an advertising executive.

The grass is always greener on the other side, and Jillian discovers what life would be like if she had never met her husband and had gone down the other path in life instead. Fast-moving and beautifully written, this is a definite must-read to add to your beach bag!

Great-Aunt Sophia's Lessons for Bombshells

Great-Aunt Sophia’s Lessons for Bombshells by Lisa Cach

Grace Cavanaugh is working religiously on proving her Women’s Studies dissertation thesis that beauty only leads to unhappiness. She figures what better subject for her dissertation could there be than her great-aunt Sophia, a former B-movie star? Now eighty-five and facing surgery, Sophia has asked Grace for her to come and stay with her for the summer.

Grace soon discovers that rather than a frail and aging starlet, Great-Aunt Sophia is happily holiding cord in a Pebble Beach mansion, that seems to captivate everyone in her presence. To make matters worse, she wants to focus on making Grace into the bombshell she never was and starts Grace on a strict regime of carbs, updating her wardrobe, and learning to talk like a lady. To practice she must practice her new feminine wiles on on two of them in the house and see what results.

Newly unleashed desires—and the discovery of a closely held family secret threaten everything that Grace has always believed about being a woman.

While slightly predictable, this is a sexy book with a better developed plot than your typical Harlequin-type romance. This one offers a fun escape into a love triangle that would be perfect for your summer reading!

Editor’s Note- Sexuality

The Best of Us

The Best of Us by Sarah Pekkanen

The most recent indulgence in my beach reading bag has been this fantastically wonderful escape in Sarah Pekkanen’s latest novel, “The Best of Us.”

I have a feeling you will absolutely love this story about old college friends who all go on an all-expense paid week in Jamaica, by invitation of an old college friend who has hit the big-time financially.
All four women are desperate not just for a reunion, but for an escape: Tina is drowning under the demands of mothering four young children. Allie is shattered by the news that a genetic illness runs in her family. Savannah is carrying the secret of her husband’s infidelity. And, finally, there’s Pauline, who spares no expense to throw her wealthy husband an unforgettable thirty-fifth birthday celebration, hoping it will gloss over the cracks already splitting apart their new marriage.

If you happen to be in the 35-year old range like me, you will appreciate the college flashbacks with music and discussion of that time their life and, with nothing to do but lay on the beach, there is plenty of time to reminisce about their former life. But as a powerful hurricane bears down on the island, turmoil swirls inside the villa, forcing each of the women to reevaluate everything she knows about her friends—and herself.

This is a fantastic read from one of my favorite chick-lit authors. This is definitely one to add to your beach bag this summer for a fun escape!

Editor’s Note: Sexuality

 Beach Reads

Not enough great reads for you? Check out our Books section of our site for monthly recommendations and ideas for making reading a priority again in your busy mom life!

Disclosure: All of the links above are affiliate links and are provided so you can locate the books quickly and easily. Feel free to order a book, but we encourage utilizing the library system and buying me a latte instead.  Then we both would be really happy and we could have our own little book club together! Wouldn’t that just be so much more lovely? Happy Reading!

 

Tell me, what’s YOUR favorite beach read? Anything I should be adding to my beach bag for the summer? Leave your suggestions in the comments below!

 

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Great Reads for Moms: March ’13 Edition

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

I hope everyone is off to a great reading start this year! If you are looking for more ways to squeeze in quality reading time, be sure to read this month’s article on how I made reading a priority in my own life again. I am off to another great start this year, although at a slower pace than I would like thanks to our busy schedule.

Be sure to connect with me on my  Author Profile on GoodReads and you will find my book is listed there too! I would be ecstatic if you became a fan of my writing and would love to see my book listed as something you might be reading in 2013. 

As always, if you are looking for a little inspiration this new year, be sure to check our MomAdvice fan page for a weekly check-in on what everyone is reading each week on our Facebook Fan Page. I hope you will swing by on Fridays and share about the books you are working on or request recommendations with one another. So far it is a huge success and I have gotten a few new ideas for my own stack!

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 the month here. If you want to read more, 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.

11/22/63 by Stephen King

It has been many years since I have read a Stephen King book, but I kept hearing that I should pick up this book from so many people (including my amazing friend Kristen from Dine & Dish) that I thought I would give this book a try. I have to say, that I believe already that this book will be among my top ten for 2013, simply because the concept of the book, the characters, and the beautiful weaving of history throughout it have stuck with me since I read it.

This is not horror fiction, but historical fiction offering up the hypothetical scenario that if you could change something in history, would you alter it and what would the consequences be if history was changed.

Jake Epping  teaches high school English in Lisbon Falls, Maine, and is recently divorced from his wife and going through the everyday minutiae of middle-aged life. When he happens upon an assignment from one of his students, a brain-damaged janitor’s story of a childhood Halloween massacre by their drunken father, it brings him to tears and he finds that he can’t stop thinking about what if his life had worked out differently.

When he has lunch at his favorite diner, the diner owner and friend, Al, shares that he has a secret portal to 1958 that he uses to time travel in the back pantry of his restaurant.  He has been taking notes and following Lee Harvey Oswald to see if he can alter the JFK assassination. His dying wish is that Jake can use his notes and actually complete the mission of killing Lee Oswald Harvey before he kills JFK.

Jake decides to fulfill Al’s dying wish and begins a new life in 1958 under the name of George Amberson. What Jake doesn’t expect is how quickly his life can become settled in this new era or how his life would change if he met his one true love?

I loved absolutely everything about this book and when I finished it, I wanted to read the story all over again. It has a beautiful love story, great suspense, and leads to the ultimate question, “Would you change history if you could?”

I can’t recommend this book enough- I would give it ten stars if I could!

MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars

 

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus is a book that I have picked up from the library no less than half a dozen times, but never could seem to get around to reading it. I usually abandon popular fiction, but this book kept coming up in conversations with fellow readers and everyone kept encouraging me to read it. I am so glad that you did, I really did enjoy this fresh take on the circus and the magical elements within this book.

Unlike a traditional circus papered with announcements of dates and times of arrival, the night circus arrives without warning. Within the black-and-white striped canvas walls is a circus called Le Cirque des Rêves, that appears out of nowhere and is only open at night. What lies within these black-and-white walls is a circus like no other with room upon room of optical illusions, magical acts, and a behind-the-scenes competition between two young magicians.

Celia & Marco have been both been training as magicians for this competition since they were children, although they never knew who or what they would be up against. Both of them are skilled magicians, each with a specific skill set that they are strongest at, and they are to be pitted against each other in a battle to the death.

What neither  Celia or Marco expects is that they will fall in love. What could the outcome be when only one opponent can remain standing?

This book is imaginative in concept and in its writing. I found myself sucked into a world of vivid imagination and could not put the book down because I needed to know what the fate of Celia & Marco could be. The book has many, many characters, which definitely kept me on my toes, but each character offers a different element to the circus that helps mold this unique story line.

Thank you all for recommending this one! I loved it!

MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars

Schroder by Amity Gaige

Schroder is an absolutely riveting read that I finished in a record 24 hours due to the captivating story. The book shares the story of  Erik Schroder. When he was just a boy, he applied to attend a summer camp, where he makes up a fictional name of, “Eric Kennedy,” with a rich East coast background contrary to  his real first generation East German immigrant background. Once he adopts this fictional identity, he severs contact with his father and starts his life free of his German roots, and enjoys what he believes to be the American dream.

Years later, Erik and his wife are going through a divorce and his custody rights are basically taken away from him. In an impulsive decision, Erik finds himself on an urgent escape to Lake Champlain, Vermont with his daughter on a week long journey filled with bad decision after bad decision.  In an explanation to explain his behavior his story is then told to his ex-wife Laura from a correctional facility where Erik confesses why he adopted a different identity, how it felt to not have his daughter in his life, and what he did on those six days on the run with his daughter.

There are so many things I loved about this book. First, Erik is truly one of the most unlikable characters you will ever read, yet the author still manages to pull at your heartstrings and make you feel sorry for Erik and his circumstances.  The second, is hearing this story told form Erik’s point of view makes you wonder what the story would be if told from Laura’s point of view or his daughter’s point of view.

There are some loose strings with this one, like the fact that Erik was able to go his entire life without getting caught with his new identity or how he was able to pull this identity switch over on his wife. Despite the improbability of that though, I really thought the characters were well-developed and the story would lend itself well to a book club discussion!

MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Each year I make a goal to read a literary classic or two and I was excited to read Wuthering Heights for the first time this year. The Masterpiece Theater adaptation of the book and the classic movie of this book both are among my favorites ever watched, yet I had not read it.

If you are not familiar with the story, Wuthering Heights is a love story of dramatic proportions between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, an adopted child of their family. When Mr. Earnshaw passes away, Heathcliff is bullied and humiliated by Catherine’s brother Hindley. He ends up leaving Wuthering Heights, believing in his heart that although he loves Catherine, she does not love him back

When he returns years later, successful and wealthy, he exacts his revenge for all of the cruelty invoked on him as a boy and for the love he lost.

Dark, cruel, twisted plot lines, and an unrequited love story are what make this book so darn good. You find yourself loving and then hating Heathcliff.

I am so proud I tackled this classic and am looking forward to reading more great classics this year!

MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars

Blue Asylum by Kathy Hepinstall

Virginia plantation wife Iris Dunleavy is put on trial and convicted of madness amid the chaos of the Civil War. The problem is that Iris is not actually insane, but simply does not agree with the way her husband is managing the slaves that they have on their plantation.  She is sent away to Sanibel Asylum to be counseled and restored back into becoming an agreeable wife. Unlike others there though, Iris knows that she did nothing wrong and refuses to change when her husband is the real criminal.

There is a mix of unlikely characters at the Sanibel Asylum, all with varying senses of lunacy. When Iris begins playing checkers with Ambrose Weller, another patient at the asylum, a relationship quickly blossoms and an unlikely love story develops.

Determined to escape the asylum, Iris finds herself conflicted as she falls more and more in love with Ambrose Weller, a man who is dealing with posttraumatic stress disorder after serving in the Civil War. Will she stay to be with Ambrose or will they runaway together and what will be the consequence of taking Ambrose out of his therapy setting?

This is a great, quick read, that historical fiction fans will love for a quick escape!

MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars

 

Not enough great reads for you? Check out our Books section of our site for monthly recommendations and ideas for making reading a priority again in your busy mom life!

Books I have read in 2013 (so far):

Disclosure: All of the links above are affiliate links and are provided so you can locate the books quickly and easily. Feel free to order a book, but we encourage utilizing the library system and buying me a latte instead.  Then we both would be really happy and we could have our own little book club together! Wouldn’t that just be so much more lovely? Happy Reading!

 

What has been in your book stack this winter? Feel free to share your book recommendations or feedback on any of the books that have been mentioned above! I love getting new suggestions for my book pile!

 

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