Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

The Good Life for Less: My First Book Available NOW!

Friday, October 5th, 2012

After much waiting and years of hard work, I am so excited to share with you that, “The Good Life for Less,” (my first book, published by Penguin) is now available in bookstores nationwide. This is, perhaps, one of the most surreal moments of my life and I am so proud that I finally get to share it with all of you. It is such an honor to have my family on the cover (shot by Nancy Lary Studios) of this book and it was one of the most special days of our lives and one I will forever remember.

This book is the handbook that I wish someone had given to me when I started my family. It is a book rooted in great family traditions on a dime, how to get delicious and inexpensive meals on the table, how to care and decorate your home for less, how to have fabulous family celebrations without spending a lot, and truly living the good life for less!  It is nine years of hard research and sharing the very best gems of wisdom I have learned over the years, much learned  through my own trial and error, as well as the beautiful words of wisdom you have shared with me over the years that have helped to shape our family.

Even as a child, I also wanted to be a writer and to write my own book. I used to type furiously on an old typewriter in my parent’s basement, writing my own little books of stories of my own imagination.  I am fascinated with writers and have often admitted out loud that the main reason I have a Twitter account is simply to talk to my favorite writers. I am the girl that sends fan mail to my favorite writers. I am forever a bookworm. To be among them, is a childhood dream come true.

We so appreciate your love and support. Without you, a moment like this would have never been possible. This is one of those projects though that I truly need your help supporting- please share about it with your friends, tweet it, pin it, Facebook it, share it, buy it, etc… It would mean so much to my family!

The book is NOW AVAILABLE for ordering, both print and digital versions!  Here are some options for great places to order it! I also encourage you to hit your local bookstore to pick it up! 

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Walmart

Powell’s

Indiebound

I am so thankful for you and your belief in me over the years. Nine years ago, I would have never envisioned where this journey would take us and it has far surpassed anything I could have ever dreamed.

I thank you and love you all dearly!

xo,

Amy

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Great Reads for Moms: Summer ’12 Edition

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

I hope you all are enjoying some fabulous eading this summer. I have had my nose in a book almost every day this summer and I have gotten to read some really great summer reads. I am excited to share with you a few of my favorites from the past two months.

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.

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!

MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars

 

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.

MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars

 

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.

MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars

 Heaven is Here by Stephanie Nielson

Stephanie Nielson began sharing her family’s story on her blog NieNie Dialogues in 2005. She quickly attracted a loyal following that was captivated by the upbeat mother happily raising her young children, madly in love with her husband, Christian (Mr. Nielson to her readers), and filled with gratitude for her blessed life.

Everything changed in an instant in August of 2008 when Stephanie and Christian were involved in a horrific plane crash. Christian was burned over 40 percent of his body, and Stephanie was near death, with burns on over 80 percent of her body. She would remain in a coma for four months.

Stephanie shares her journey from the very beginning of her courtship to her perfect soul mate, the beautiful life they were able to build together, her own struggles with motherhood, the accident, and then the aftermath of recovering from the accident and rebuilding her life again.

Stephanie’s faith and the family that she has created through her church and in her own family are what help sustain her through her recovery. Her story is heart-wrenching and inspiring. It left me feeling inspired and gave me a new appreciation for my health and my family.

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 2012 (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 summer? 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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Great Reads for Moms: May ’12 Edition

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

I can’t believe that is already the time for summer reading. Next week I am going to try and round-up a few of my favorite beach reads for your summer enjoyment. I am running a bit behind on my May reviews, but only because I really wanted four really great books to share with you.

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.

The Healing by Jonathan Odell

A Mississippi plantation mistress, Amanda Satterfield, loses her daughter to cholera after her husband refuses to treat her for what he refers to as a, “slave disease.” In turn of these events, Amanda begins to lose her mind and decides to take a newborn slave in as her own, taking her from her family that loves her. She renames the little girl Granada, and begins to parade her around in her daughter’s clothing and allowing her to be part of family dinners, despite her husband and their friends discomfort.

Troubled not only by his wife’s mental illness, but by the plague that seems to be sweeping through his slave population, Master Satterfield purchases Polly Shine, a slave who is known to be a healer. When Polly sets eyes upon Granada, she knows that she has the gift and requests that Granada be removed from the home so she can shadow Polly.

Seventy-five years later, Granada is now known as Gran Gran and takes in an abandoned girl in her care. To help the girl to come out of her shell, she shares with her the powerful story of learning to let go of the girl that she thought she was to be to the mistress, to the amazing road of being a healer herself.

I guarantee that you will love this book if you are fans of The Kitchen House, Dry Grass of August, or The Help. The story is achingly beautiful and written in such a way that you will long remember it in your heart. I can’t recommend this one enough, friends!

(MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars)

The Song Remains the Same by Allison Winn Scotch

If there is one author that I rely upon for really good chick lit, it is Allison Winn Scotch. I really loved her latest book a lot, but have to say that, “Time of My Life,” still resides as my all-time favorite piece of literature that she has written. She delivers another strong book though that would be perfect beach reading material.

In this book the author explores who we are without our memories and how much of our future seems grounded in our past. While many of her books have a magical spin to them, this one offers a more real-life slant while still exploring the, “what if’s,” that I think you will really enjoy.

Nell Slattery awakens in a hospital without a single memory of who she is or was after being only one of two survivors in a tragic plane crash. She now must piece together her life with the help of her family and friends. What she doesn’t realize is that each of the people in her life have their own agenda and have found themselves having a fresh start with Nell.

Nell is constantly questioning everyone in her life whether it is her mother about where her father is, her sister and the business that they have created together, or her husband who seems overly thrilled at her attention.

Nell begins to piece together her past through the bits and pieces she discovers in her home and office. What she discovers is that maybe she doesn’t want to be who she was anymore, but if she isn’t who she was….who is she?

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars)

 

Sister by Rosamund Lupton

I have never read a book by Rosamund Lupton before, but after reading this one, I immediately picked up her next book. Sister is a combination of a murder mystery, a medical thriller, and the beauty of love between two sisters.

Beatrice grew up in London and has made a new life for herself in New York. She has everything that she could ever want- a fiance, her own place, and a promising career. Her life is forever changed when she receives a call and is told that her sister, Tess, has gone missing. She abruptly leaves her New York life behind to assist the police in their missing persons case.

Tess has never been the responsible sister and lives her life in a small apartment as an art student. She was pregnant when she went missing and had been having an affair with an art teacher. With her history and the people she has in her life, everyone is a suspect in her murder.

With a list of suspects a mile long, the writer takes you on a case that is woven with many layers and possible suspects. The reader learns all the aspects of the case through Beatrice’s eyes as she assists in the murderer’s trial by sharing how she figured out who he/she is.

This book has a very slow build which could turn off some readers. The final twist at the end of this book though makes the building of plot worth pursuing. This would be a great book to add to your beach bag this summer!

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars)

The Good Father by Diane Chamberlain

Diane Chamberlain is one of those authors that rarely disappoints and her books are always my go-to books when I am in a reading slump. The Good Father is an amazing emotional novel about what a young father will do in order to provide for his daughter.

Travis Brown is a single father in his early twenties on the verge of being homeless and is the sole provider for his beautiful daughter Bella, who is only four years old. He desperately moves to Raleigh in hopes of finding a great job as a contractor, but once he arrives, things turn out very differently. The job that he is to take as a contractor is actually a job that could put him in prison. Sadly, he has no money for food or shelter for his little girl and he decides to take the job to make some quick cash until they can get back on their feet again.

Bella has never met her mother, but Robin is leading a life that is in sharp contrast to her own. She is engaged to a wealthy politician and leading a life of luxury, assisting the family with their bed & breakfast. She hasn’t really thought about the daughter she gave up until recently. When the family faces their own controversial teen pregnancy, it is when she begins to reflect on her own and wonder what has happened to her daughter and to Travis.

Erin and her husband have recently lost their own four year old daughter in a terrible accident on a pier. Erin spends her life on forums for parents that have suffered the loss of a child and finds herself detached from the real life. As she is chatting on her forum in a coffee shop, she meets Travis & Bella, and immediately becomes drawn to them. She has no idea what an important part she will play in Bella’s future, but their lives will soon collide in an unexpected way.

Told in alternating points of view, as is characteristic of Diane’s novels, you get to see the story from many different angles. It is a gripping novel that I read in a mere 24 hours and promptly handed on to my girlfriend so I had someone to discuss it with. I know you will love it too!

(MomAdvice Rating- 5 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 2012 (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 month? 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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Great Reads for Moms: April ’12 Edition

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

I hope everyone is getting in some good reading time as we head into Spring. I read four fabulous books that I wanted to share with you this month. I have everything this month from a multi-generational family story to a fun bit of chick lit to a fabulous love story that will simply take your breath away.

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.

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 this year.

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!

(MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars)

A Good American by Alex George

I love to read books that are sweep me quickly into their story line, whose words read like lyrics, and prose that reads as beautifully as poetry. Alex George offers a book that you will long remember that has been elegantly and eloquently crafted in a way that I have not read in many years. It is a book that I found myself reading paragraphs aloud to my husband, simply because they were written in such a descriptive manner that you felt as though you were watching a movie.

“Always there was music.” The book opens with Frederick, an amateur opera singer, serenading an unlikely girl named Jette who is tall in stature and just as equal in her elegance & family upbringing. Frederick quickly woos Jette in a whirlwind love affair and Jette discovers she is pregnant, forcing the couple to leave as quickly as possible from her family’s disapproving eyes. The year is 1904, Jette and Frederick board a ship to New Orleans instead of their originally intended boat to New York when they discover that the boat is full. “What’s the difference? They’re both new,” they say.

They end up settling in the tiny town of Beatrice, Missouri where we meet a cast of unlikely characters who all find refuge in this German speaking town. The book chronicles the journey of their family through prohibition, the Great Depression and the Kennedy assassination. Despite the depth of the book and the plots it carries, it moves swiftly and is well-executed, leaving the reader hanging until the final page.

I loved this book so much that I emailed the author when I finished it to tell him just how much I enjoyed this book. He immediately replied with heartfelt thanks for the compliments, which makes a reader like me feel even more connected to this amazing story.

I can’t recommend this one enough!

(MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars)

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker

Julia Win, a young lawyer from New York, is on a mission to find out what happened to her father.  Tim Win, of Burmese origin, was a prominent Wall Street lawyer disappeared without a trace four years before, leaving Julia wondering if her father had been leading a double life.

One day, she finds a very old letter written in the 1940s by his father to a woman named Mi Mi in Burma. An address in Kalaw is all she needs to follow her instinct and begin a search for her father. Once she arrives in Kalaw, she is approached by a gentle man in a restaurant  named U Ba, who seems to know all about her even though Julia has never met him before. He wants to tell Julia a story… a story about her father. It is a story that confuses Julia and causes her to realize that the man she knew has her father, is not who he really was.

This is a love story that will captivate your heart with vivid imagery of a blind man falling in love with a disabled and beautiful woman. It is a love story that pulled at my heartstrings and was so moving that I still cannot stop thinking about it. This story will pull you in from the first page.

(MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars)

 

Home Front by Kristin Hannah

I have read several of Kristin Hannah’s books and she has rarely disappointed me. Kristin Hannah delivers another tear-jerking book sharing a vivid story about two women, Jolene & Tami,  two best friends who serve in the millitary flying Black Hawk helicopters.

Both women are being deployed to Iraq and Jolene is heartbroken to leave her daughters and husband. She has found that her marriage is failing and her husband, Michael does not understand her military background or why she must serve her country. Tami’s family, on the other hand, is strongly supportive and believe in her missions to serve her country.

When Michael tells Jolene, just before she leaves, that he no longer loves her, Jolene leaves heartbroken. Her daughters are confused and are both embarrassed and  distraught that their mother would leave them. It is a jumble of emotions for all involved. Through it all though, Jolene knows she will always have Tami and the two friends survive the worst together in Iraq.

The story told of war is eye-opening and heartbreaking. It gives you a new appreciation for our military and what they have done to serve our country. The characters, however, are not as likable in the book and can cause the reader to become detached from some of the story line. It was not my favorite Kristin Hannah read, but I still enjoyed it very much.

All in all, this is a strong book and a great story of two wonderful friends who loyally serve their country together.

(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 2012 (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 month? 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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Great Read for Moms: March ’12 Edition

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

It is rare to read so many good books in one month, but March was filled with four great reads that I really encourage you to snag from your local library. I have a feeling that most of the books on this month’s list will be appearing on our, “best of the year,” list. This is a list filled with just-can’t-put-it-down books and all of these books would make great reads for your book clubs.

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.

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.

(MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars)

The Snow Child by Eoywn Ivey

The Snow Child takes place in 1920 in Alaska where a city-bred girl Mabel and her husband Jack are trying to make a life for themselves in the isolated woods of an Alaskan farm. More than anything Mabel & Jack have longed for a child, but have remained childless and are beginning to drift apart. Mabel is in the throes of a deep depression and Jack is beginning to wonder if their decision to move to Alaska was a sound one.

One night, amid the first falling snow, Jack & Mabel have a moment of tenderness and begin playing in the snow. They decide to make a snow child and add little additions from Mabel’s wardrobe to wrap her in.

The next morning, their snow child is gone, but they begin catching the glimpse of a child running through the woods wearing Mabel’s items that were once on their snow child.  This child  of the woods  contentedly runs around the forest in the freezing cold with a red fox. Mabel and Jack are left wondering…is this a real child or is this a fairytale child that they are simply hallucinating?

This is a grown-up fairytale that is just so beautifully written that your heart will be aching for Mabel and Jack that they can make this child that they have longed for to be their own.  I was enraptured with the story from the first page and I have a feeling you will too!

(MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars)

Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

Honolulu was one of my favorite books, but I had heard from other readers that Alan Brennert’s Molokai, was even better than the first book that I read of his. I was not disappointed. I loved this book from start to finish and appreciate everyone recommending this one to me!

Rachel Kalama is a spirited little girl who captures your heart immediately. Rachel is living a typical life of a little Hawaiian girl- she has spats with her sister, she dreams of getting out of Hawaii, and she is beloved by her family. When a rose colored mark appears on her leg, her mother pricks her leg and finds that Rachel does not react. Rachel’s mother knows immediately that Rachel has leprosy. In fear of protecting her daughter, she covers the mark and hides other marks that appear on Rachel’s body. It is the family’s dark secret since all people afflicted by leprosy are quarantined and taken from their families.

When Rachel’s sister gets in a fight with Rachel, she calls her a, “leper,” and the authorities are immediately notified that Rachel is suspected of leprosy. When she is taken to the clinic for testing and the results come back positive, Rachel is taken from her family and moved to the island of Kalaupapa, a quarantined leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka’i.

Rachel’s life should be over, but it is just beginning. Rachel’s spiritedness pulls her through the devastation of losing her family as Rachel begins to find a new family among an unlikely cast of characters. She will capture your heart until the final page.

This book was so unbelievably good and fascinating that I could not put it down. What should have been a book of heartbreak has you walking away with such positivity about the human spirit and its ability to overcome tragedy. I hope you will add this one to your reading list!

(MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars)

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

This is one of those books that everyone said, “I can’t believe you haven’t read that book yet.” I purchased the book when it came out and it sat on my bookshelf since I graduated high school. I had picked it up several times over the years, but just could not get into it. After tackling, “Outlander,” and “The Pillars of the Earth,” this year, I knew it was time to pull my dusty copy off of the shelves and indulge.

The Red Tent is very loosely based upon the Biblical story of Dinah. It is a character in the Bible that is only briefly hinted at, but the story is told through her eyes, the daughter of Jacob and sister to his twelve sons that we know from our Bible stories.

The red tent in the book is the place where the women would gather during their cycles, to give birth, and where they went when they were ill. This little tent is a sorority of sorts where the women sit to share their stories and sing songs. It is a refuge of safety for the women in a life that four mothers and wives (Rachel, Leah, Zilpah, & Bilah) must share together. Dinah tells the story of her four mothers and shares the struggles of being a woman during Biblical times, the passion that the women have for their husband, and the jealousy and rivalry that would exist with sharing a husband.

The reader gets to follow the lives of these women through her childlike eyes until she becomes a woman herself and finds herself in a calling towards midwifery and as she journey into a foreign land. It is beautifully told as you, literally, see her dialogue changing and own awareness of her own womanhood. This book is rich with tradition and beautiful storytelling.

I liked this story a lot and enjoyed the fictional perspective of Dinah. I wouldn’t say that the book was life changing for me, but it was beautifully written and a fun, fictional way to look at characters in the Bible.

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars)

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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 2012 (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 month? 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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Great Reads for Moms: February ’12 Edition

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

I hope everyone has been enjoying a lot of great reads this month.  The book reviews section of our site has become one of my favorite elements of our site and I just love sharing new books that I read with all of you. If you missed my top ten of 2011 post, be sure to head right over and get the scoop on a few of my personal favorites from last year.

I was determined to start 2012 with some incredible books and I tried to be a little ambitious this year and start with a few of those, “You really should read this…” books. You know, those books that people keep dropping in conversations, but you never make the time to read them. This is the year for that for me.

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.

The Other Life by Ellen Miester

I love books that explore the, “what if’s,” in life and Ellen Miester’s novel explores what I am sure each of us wonders at times, “What if I had chosen another path for my life?” This book tells the story of Quinn Braverman who is living a happy and idyllic life with her husband and son. Quinn’s life is anything but ordinary though because she has discovered a portal in her basement that can take her into a parallel life where she has chosen to live her life with her boyfriend instead of the one that she is living with her husband & son.  She knows that the portal is there, but stays away from it until a routine ultrasound shows that there is something wrong with the child she is expecting. Suddenly she is drawn into the portal to escape the sadness of her own reality.

The best part about the portal for Quinn is being with her mom in this parallel universe because her mom is no longer with her after taking her own life. Quinn has the mother she has been missing in this life, but her husband and child reside in the other life.  Quinn must decide which life she wants to lead as the portal begins to shrink and she must choose which world she wants to live in.

This book is thought-provoking, beautiful, and delivers honest writing about mother-daughter relationships as well as how differently our lives could have worked out if we had chosen a different path. This would make a fabulous book club discussion!

If you liked this you might like Time of My Life, The Time Traveler’s Wife, or The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars)

The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon

On a stormy night an unlikely couple knocks on an unlikely stranger’s door, when they come to seek shelter from the storm. Lynnie, a woman with an intellectual disability and Homan, a deaf man, have run away from a brutal institution where they have been placed because of their disabilities.

A friendly schoolteacher answers her door and finds that she has opened the door to a journey she never could have anticipated. Because the couple have ran away from the institution, the police begin to bang on the door looking for them and Lynnie hands to her a brand new baby and utters just two words to the teacher, “Hide her.”

Lynnie is returned to the school, Homan runs away and is thought to have been dead, and Martha is left in charge of a child when she has never had a child of her own. The story chronicles forty years following each of these characters as their lives take an unlikely path.

The premise of the story is captivating and the love story between Lynnie & Homan is beautifully told. The challenges faced by each of these characters with disabilities is told with sensitivity and offers unique insight into what it would be like to be deaf or intellectually handicapped. I found myself tearing up in parts and rooting for each of these characters.

Although the book is slow in parts, the story is worth pushing through and would also lend itself well to book club discussions since it is the kind of book you just want to talk about when you are finished with it.  Definitely add this one to your to-be-read piles!

(MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars)

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

I am trying to tackle a few of those books that people say to me, “I can’t believe you haven’t read that yet.” Outlander has been recommended to me time and time again so I decided I would start this year out with a few of the books that I have been intending to read.  At over 600 pages, I can see why I have not attempted to tackle this before, but after reading it I can honestly say that it was an amazing story and I can’t wait to read more in this series. A book of this size has never been devoured so quickly and I don’t think my family saw me for three weeks while I worked on this one.

This story follows Claire Randall, a young combat nurse in WWII who recently moved to Scotland with her husband. While they are out hiking one day, Claire accidentally passes through the stones of an ancient stone circle and awakens to find herself in 16th century Scotland. Confused as to what has happened to her Claire’s path crosses with a Highland warrior named James Fraser that forever alters Claire’s path and begins a love story that rivals any other that you may have read.

This book is definitely not for the faint of heart it is violent and sexually charged throughout. At times I felt like I was reading a Harlequin romance novel as some of the love scenes were a little fluffy for my usual taste, but the good in this book definitely outweighs the bad.

This is historical fiction at some of its finest and I felt like I was transported while I read this. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series and be transported once again.

(MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars)

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

Nothing about, “The Pillars of the Earth,” sounded interesting to me and, to be honest, the sheer size of this book scared me to death. Our book club selected this book though and as others in our book club read it, they shared how amazing it was. I just knew I had to take the plunge despite my misgivings that it was going to be a boring read. I am so, so glad that I did. It is a book filled with amazingly developed characters, fabulous plot twists, and historical fiction at its finest. I could not put it down, I had to know how it would all work out, and I was captivated from the opening paragraph until the very last page.

Tom Builder has lost commission on a home that he was to build and begins to roam England seeking work.  As he is turned away from each job they find, their family begins to starve and his pregnant wife dies during childbirth in the woods.  Without food to give the baby, they abandon the child in the woods and Tom immediately comes into a relationship with a resourceful woman named Ellen and their son Jack who become a part of their family and help them navigate the forest life.

When Tom seeks shelter at a church his life never becomes the same again as he finds work through an unlikely fire that damages the church and then finds that his life is interwoven with the church in more ways than he could ever imagine. The building of a new church brings together unlikely characters and a determined character who threatens to destroy it all.

A story of good and evil that riveted me and one that will truly captivate you from start to finish, this book moved me and will probably reside firmly in my top ten books I have ever read.

Editor’s Note: This contains sexually graphic scenes. 

(MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars)

As an aside, I read, “The Pillars of the Earth,” on my Kindle. After lugging, “Outlander,” around town and the sheer girth of that book, I thought it might be easier to just read it on my Kindle so I could pop the book in my purse. I have the original old school Kindle though so I only had the progression bar to go on to figure out how far I was. Those dots never moved more slowly and every week I thought I was done, I realized I was nowhere near done. Perhaps, this can be my campaign to upgrade my reader at some point. For now, I was happy to see the dots finally coming to a close so I knew that I had actually completed it.

After reading two books of this magnitude back-to-back though, I feel like I should receive some type of badge or at the very least a personal pan pizza just like I did when I was a kid in the Book-It program.

I guess I will just have to settle with the smugness I now possess and getting to finally say, “Oh, you haven’t read that yet! You really must!”

**********************************************

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!

What has been in your book stack this month? 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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Great Reads for Moms: The Top Ten Books of 2011

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Another year of great reading is behind us and I am so excited to share with you my list of the top reads for 2011. My goal this year was to read 80 books and I think I may have thought I would have more time than I did with both my kids in school all day.  Even though I did not reach my goal, I am so proud to say that I did read 53 books  this year, which is still a pretty awesome feat.

This year I am taking on the challenge of writing my own book on raising a family on a budget which will be a very different experience for me since I am usually the reader and not the writer. With that project on the horizon, I scaled my reading goal back to 60 books this year.  Within my goal, I would like to read two literary classics this year.  I was one of those kids that seemed to avoid reading classical literature in my youth and now I am trying to find an appreciation for it in my old age.

I document my reading challenge through GoodReads so I can track my progress while I am doing my reading. If you are planning to make a reading goal yourself, be sure to sign up for a reading challengeyou can create your own goal too through GoodReads and track your own progress.

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! My username is momadvice 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.

 

Today I wanted to share with you my top ten reads of 2011 that you could add to your book basket this year! As always it is difficult to narrow it down to ten of the best when you read so many wonderful books.  Since I am running behind on my reviews for last month, December’s picks will carry over into the best of 2012 reviews.

Without further adieu, here are my favorite reads of the year (in no particular order)! 

 

Those That Save Us by Jenna Blum

This book is so haunting, gripping, gritty, and heartbreaking that I have been thinking about it for days since reading it. It is the type of book that you beg your friends to read just so you have someone to talk to about it, and is a tribute to the beautiful storytelling and Jenna Blum, whose writing I have quickly and wholeheartedly fallen in love with.

The author took a great risk by sharing the story of the difficulties that many German people suffered during the Holocaust. As most books take a heartbreaking look at what the Jewish people suffered, this book focused on the survival tactics that many Germans had to employ to survive and stay alive.

The book opens with the funeral of Anna’s husband and the father to Trudy. Following the burial, the ladies rush back to their home to prepare the food for the guests to come and pay their respects, as it is their tradition in their small town. As nightfall comes, they realize that no one is coming to visit them and Trudy’s mother heads to bed without a word. Trudy reflects that the town no longer has to be nice to them and so begins the journey for the reader to discover why they would be shunned by their own community.

The book follows Anna as a youth who is under the thumb of her demanding and unkind father. Anna’s father is a Nazi lawyer who can’t seem to keep anyone on hand to help with the day-to-day maintenance of the home and makes Anna do all of the chores and care for him & his home. When Anna believes her dog to be dying, she heads to a Jewish doctor for help and an unlikely friendship and love blossoms between the two. When the Jewish doctor must go into hiding, Anna keeps him in a hidden place in their home for as long as she is able.

When the doctor is captured, Anna must runaway as she has discovered that she is pregnant. Unfortunately following the birth of her daughter, Anna finds she must go into survival mode and ends up catching the eye of an SS officer who takes advantage of his position and visits her weekly for sexual trysts. When the officer comes, he brings with him gifts for Anna that can help keep herself and her child alive. Anna knows that if she does not give up her body to this officer that she could compromise the safety of both herself and her daughter. She also knows that they would also lose the gifts of food that sustain them. The reader witnesses the spirit of Anna being broken and the effects that this relationship has on her daughter later in her life.

The book alternates between the present and the difficulties that Trudy has with her own identity, believing that she is the love child of Anna & the SS officer and being a professor of German History. Trudy can’t seem to sustain a relationship and has a difficult relationship with her mother. In efforts to reconcile the conflict she feels about her mother, Trudy takes on a video project to document the German perspective on the Holocaust and what happened. You see Trudy becoming sucked into their stories, searching for the evidence she needs to be at peace with her mother’s relationship with the officer.

I can’t say more- it truly is a book worth picking up. This book is a true page turner filled with great twists and bends, with characters that you will truly become attached to. The ending may not satisfy everyone, but it seemed a realistic resolution to a difficult story and followed what one would expect from these characters.

Editor’s Note: This is sexually graphic and violent. As with all books that share about the Holocaust, it is not an easy read, but a memorable angle for discovering the story of survival from the German perspective.


The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin

It is rare for me to feel completely transported by a book, but Melanie Benjamin’s latest book swept me off my feet and literally had me searching for corners to read in until I could finish it. Fans of Benjamin’s last book, “Alice I Have Been,” will not be disappointed with this book and the unique perspective that Benjamin adds to sharing the story of Mercy Lavinia “Vinnie Bump.

Vinnie stood at a mere two feet and eight inches tall, but her small stature is the only small element to her big story.  Born in the nineteenth century, most families were encouraged to keep children plagued with genetic abnormalities or disorders hidden away from the public eye. Vinnie always wanted to be in the spotlight though and despite her parent’s longing for her to choose a quiet simple life of being home with them, Vinnie became a school teacher in her town. This wasn’t the path she wanted most in her life though and she felt she was destined for bigger things. When a “cousin” decides to start a traveling show, he reaches out to see if Vinnie might be interested in being a part of it. With Vinnie’s eyes always set on the prize of being on stage, she accepts the job to be in the traveling show, despite her parent’s best judgment.

The show isn’t what Vinnie ever had hoped it would be and she finds she is paraded as a freak rather than the life singing and dancing she thought she was going to have. Ever determined to be and make more of her life, she sends a letter to P.T. Barnum that will forever alter the course of her life and create a friendship with a man that she never dreamed she would have in her life.

Benjamin writes the story of Vinnie in such an honest and raw way that, in parts, I found myself a little teary-eyed. She perfectly captures the challenges of being small, the ridicule from others, the admiration when she finds her place in society, and the continual challenges of believing in your destiny no matter what.  While Vinnie is not always likeable, she is admirable.

I can’t recommend this book enough, if I tried. Vinnie’s story is captivating as are the other amazing characters in this story.   Read this one today!

 

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.


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!

 

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

In anticipation of the movie release, I decided to finally dig into Water for Elephants .  I actually have no idea why I waited this long to read it, but I think I really just wanted to savor this book and read it right before the movie was released so I would be able to remember all of the characters.  This book did not disappoint and was one of the best books that I have read this year!

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!


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 comitted,  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. I look forward to reading more from this author!

 

The Midwife’s Confession by Diane Chamberlain

There are few authors that deliver consistently good books with amazing plotlines, but Diane Chamberlain is one of those authors for me.

Noelle, Tara, and Emerson have been best friends since college. When Noelle unexpectedly commits suicide, Tara and Emerson are left with trying to figure out the puzzle pieces as to why she would do something like this to herself especially when she loved her job as a midwife so much. Noelle never seemed depressed and it was the last thing that her two best friends would ever expect her to do.

When they discover an unfinished letter written to a woman named Anna apologizing to her, they are left wondering just how well they knew their friend Noelle and have to begin pulling together the clues to the secrets that Noelle had been hiding for so long from everyone that she loved. Everything from Noelle’s past to her career to her true relationship with the other characters in the book comes into play as the women learn more about Noelle’s secrets.  Tara and Emerson discover that Noelle had more secrets than they could ever imagine… secrets that could threaten the very core of their lives and the lives of others.

This book is a fabulous mystery with a great family drama woven throughout and each chapter is told from alternating viewpoints from the women themselves and Tara & Emerson’s daughters, who are dealing with their own emotions surrounding the death of Noelle.

The ending will take you by surprise and I guarantee that this is a book that you will not be able to put down until the final pages.

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.

This book would lend itself well to any book club discussions you might be having and was truly one of the best books that I read this summer!

 

The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew

How lucky am I that I have a friend that works at Barnes & Noble who can help recommend books to me? My girlfriend, Tara, recommended this book to me because she knew that it would be a book right up my alley and she is so great to let me know when she reads something I would love.

On a hot day in August in 1954, Jubie leaves her town of Charlotte, North Carolina to head to Florida on a vacation with her mother, three siblings, and their African American maid named Mary.  For all of Jubie’s life, Mary has been essential to their family and their household. Mary has been there when her alcoholic father and neglectful mother have not been and Jubie knows that Mary will always be around to love and care for her.

As the family heads further south on their trip to Florida, they see many signs of intolerance and signs of anti-integration along the way. Jubie’s  mother finds it difficult to even find a place for Mary to go to the restroom, or eat, or sleep for the night, while Jubie wonders if Mary is sensing the hatred and shift towards intolerance as all signs begin to point towards racism. In a twist that no one could have anticipated a tragic string of events turn their lives upside down and Jubie is forced to fully realize the shortcomings of her parents, their marriage, and the essential role that Mary played in her life.

This is a surprisingly moving and beautifully narrated story as a debut novel from by Mayhew, but was is even more surprising is that this first novel came at the age of seventy-one. I can only hope that there will be many more novels in the future from her as this book is a truly amazing first piece of work that, Mayhew says,  was eighteen years in the making.


The Dirty Life: On Farming Food and Love by Kristin Kimball

If ever there is a book that truly makes me appreciate the food that is on my dinner table, then it is this book on an unlikely relationship between a farmer and a city girl who take on the daring task of building their own organic cooperative farm together.

This book documents the true life story of Kristin Kimball, a typical city girl who loves her shoes, fashion, and a good bubble bath, as she goes out to interview a man for a piece about farming. A city girl through and through, she becomes captivated not only with the farm life, but with the farmer that she interviews. Although she knows nothing about growing vegetables or how to care for farm animals, she decides to move to 500 acres of land and start a cooperative farm with her farmer, whom she quickly falls in love with.

The story shares the transformation of Kristin as she finds herself transformed by the land, the animals, the fresh air, and a love like she has never known. She shares the daily quips and struggles of farm life with humor, but in gritty (at times a little too gritty for my taste) details about the circle of life and how the food must arrive to one’s table on the farm. There is a true honesty and warmth in Kristin’s stories whether it be about her family’s struggle with her leaving it all for a dirty life on a farm, the story as they pull together a wedding in the middle of a busy farming season, the animals as they try to escape , and even the difficulties with just keeping up with the menial tasks that are such a part of the grueling farm life.

Coming from a lineage of farmers on my mother’s side, I always knew that I would never be cut out for the farm life. This sealed the deal for me that I don’t think I would have the willpower and stamina to keep up with the daily chores of living on a farm, but made me admire the strength of farming families and all they endure to provide food for our tables. Refreshing and written with a splash of humor and a lot of grit, I would highly recommend this book as a fun diversion from your normal reading schedule!

 

 

Honorable Mentions for 2011

Here are just a few other great reads that almost made the cut for the top ten reads of the year. Go ahead and add these to your library list and I promise they won’t disappoint!

 

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!

Bossypants by Tina Fey

 

With advance praise like, “Tina Fey is an ugly, pear-shaped, overrated troll- The Internet” on the back of the book, you know that you are going to be in for a big laugh over Tina Fey’s book, “Bossypants.” I found myself laughing until tears streamed down my face while reading this one. I also admit that I read almost the entire book aloud (thanks to my uncontrollable laughing) to my husband who also loved it as much as I did.  I have been a longtime fan of Tina Fey and this book was such a treat to read and a fun light read that really made me giggle.

 

Part memoir, part comedy routine, part story-telling, the book is a little messy and a whole lot of fun.  As a mom, you will really relate to the juggling routine that Tina endures while working on 30 Rock and her obligations as a mom. More relatable than that are Tina’s stories of teenage angst and some of the hilarious self-depreciating humor that Tina seems to do so well. Tina also weaves in truths and life lessons from trying to break into the male-dominated sketch comedy world.

 

This book isn’t for everyone, but if you loved her comedy routines on SNL or are a big fan of the show, “30 Rock,” then you will really appreciate the humor in this book.

 

Editor’s Note- This book contains adult language and adult humor.

 

Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

Being a huge fan of Lisa Genova’s, “Still Alice,” I could not wait to dive into her latest novel.  The novel chronicles the lives of Sarah & Bob Nickerson a couple that truly seems like they have everything. Sarah and Bob both have fabulous careers, their children seem to want for nothing, and they lead the lives of a typical busy family.

Sarah’s life is always filled with multitasking and balancing her career and family. As a mother, you can relate to Sarah’s difficulties balancing all of it in her life. Sarah is moving at the speed of light and is so busy multitasking that she awakes eight days after crashing her car on the way to work, and finds that her entire world has changed. Diagnosed with a condition called, “left neglect,” Sarah discovers that the impact of this car crash is more than she could ever imagine. Left neglect is a lesser known condition where the brain cannot process anything on the left side of the brain, including awareness of what is happening to the left of her own body.

Sarah struggles with physical therapy, desiring more than anything to get back to her fast-paced career and continuing to provide financially for her family. When her condition does not improve, her mother moves in to assist Sarah, a mother whose relationship that Sarah has lacked her entire life. Suddenly, Sarah is dependent on the help of her mother and others, when she has lived a life that is fiercely independent and is forced to put her career on hold until she can get better.

After a difficult medical journey, she discovers that there is more to life than her career and the importance of learning to slow down.  I loved that particular message and it served as a wonderful reminder that sometimes moving at the speed of light and the ability to multitask can take us away from the things we should most treasure.

Dreams of Joy by Lisa See

Lisa See is one of my favorite all-time authors and, “Shanghai Girls,” was one of my favorite books by her. If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend reading it and then following it with this fantastic sequel.  I wish I would have waited to have read the first one so it was all still fresh in my mind because I had a hard time jumping into the second one after having read so many books in between. Once I got into this one, I couldn’t put it down, although I must warn you that See brings with it a lot of heartbreaking honesty about the lives that were lost and the difficulties that were faced during China’s Great Leap Forward.

In Shanghai Girls, Joy finds out that May is her true mother, despite believing that Pearl had been her mother her whole life. Joy is very angry at both her mother and her aunt and decides to head to China to find her birth father and pursue a new life in China.

When Joy finds her birth father, it is a dream come true. He is an artist and seems very influential in the community. What she doesn’t know is that her father, Z.G., is actually falling out favor with the government and is sent to the country to help with Mao’s Great Leap Forward and to teach painting classes. Joy blindly follows her father, unaware of the danger she may be in, and finds herself falling in love with one of these boys… a mistake that is riddled with many consequences of which it appears she may never recover.

Her aunt, who she had always believe was her mother, is determined to get Joy back to safety and sacrifices everything in her life to try to get to China to save her. A woman who has went from modeling to cleaning the streets, has sacrificed everything for her daughter. What Pearl doesn’t know is that Joy is in grave danger.

The book is a heart-wrenching rollercoaster, particularly the letters that Joy is so desperately trying to send to Pearl to let her know the famine and demise that is happening where she is.  Death and heartbreak are everywhere and the book will leave you hanging and praying that these two will be reunited.

Annabel by Kathleen Winter

I happened upon this book in an Oprah book list and couldn’t wait to pick this one up at our library.  Fans of Middlesex will really and truly love this debut novel by Kathleen Winter about the difficulties of gender identification and the beauty that can bring the genders together in this lovingly crafted finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.

In 1968, in a remote seaside town in Eastern Canada,  a child is born in a typical home birth with a midwife present. When the midwife, Thomasina, presents the baby to the parents she notices that the child is neither fully formed as a boy or as a girl. Jacinta and Treadway are disturbed by the news and must make the difficult decision to decide if their child will be a boy or a girl. The mother wishes to identify the child as a girl or to not identify the child, letting the child choose his/her own gender. Despite Jacinta’s wishes, they live in a traditional home where the man is the one in charge and Treadway makes the decision that the child will be a boy. The surgery is performed and hormones are given to the child, whom they name Wayne, and Treadway makes every effort for Wayne to identify with the masculine side of himself.

Meanwhile, in secret, Jacinta is quietly nurturing the female side of Wayne and allowing him to indulge in the things that make him happy, as long as Treadway is not privy to what is happening. Wayne has never been told that he was born a hermaphrodite and does not understand why he cannot seem to identify with the masculine side of himself, but finds himself drawn more to the female side.

When the shocking secret is discovered after a terrible twist of events, Wayne finally comes to the realization of why he has always felt like two different people. Inspired by the postcards he receives  from Thomasina, the midwife who delivered him, from other countries, Wayne decides to leave his small town and see if he can figure out who he is on his own.

The story is beautifully woven together as the reader struggles with what they might do as parents and hoping that Wayne can find an identity and a world that will be accepting of him…or her.

This is a book that would make a fabulous book club book and would lend itself to really great discussion!

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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!  Be sure to also visit our Top Ten Books of 2010 for even more great recommendations!

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 were your favorite reads this year? How many books did you read this year? How many do you hope to read in 2012?  Feel free to share your book recommendations or feedback on any of the books that have been mentioned above!



Great Reads for Moms: November ’11 Edition

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

I hope everyone has been enjoying loads of good reads this year and I hope I have added a little inspiration to your library wish lists this year.  Next month I will share with you my top ten for the year. I had a lofty goal to read 80 books this year, but I don’t think I am going to make it to this goal.  I am seriously short on my goal this year thanks to all the crafting and writing I have been doing this year, but I am sitting pretty at 52 books so far this year so I won’t hang my head in shame.

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! My username is momadvice 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.

Pictured above is my favorite reading corner in our house. I put my feet up on my favorite chair in my office for at least an hour a day and try to make a little me time no matter how crazy life gets.  Snag one of these books on your next trip to the library and find a reading corner in your home this month amid the holiday craziness!

Happy reading, friends!

The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin

It is rare for me to feel completely transported by a book, but Melanie Benjamin’s latest book swept me off my feet and literally had me searching for corners to read in until I could finish it. Fans of Benjamin’s last book, “Alice I Have Been,” will not be disappointed with this book and the unique perspective that Benjamin adds to sharing the story of Mercy Lavinia “Vinnie Bump.

Vinnie stood at a mere two feet and eight inches tall, but her small stature is the only small element to her big story.  Born in the nineteenth century, most families were encouraged to keep children plagued with genetic abnormalities or disorders hidden away from the public eye. Vinnie always wanted to be in the spotlight though and despite her parent’s longing for her to choose a quiet simple life of being home with them, Vinnie became a school teacher in her town. This wasn’t the path she wanted most in her life though and she felt she was destined for bigger things. When a “cousin” decides to start a traveling show, he reaches out to see if Vinnie might be interested in being a part of it. With Vinnie’s eyes always set on the prize of being on stage, she accepts the job to be in the traveling show, despite her parent’s best judgment.

The show isn’t what Vinnie ever had hoped it would be and she finds she is paraded as a freak rather than the life singing and dancing she thought she was going to have. Ever determined to be and make more of her life, she sends a letter to P.T. Barnum that will forever alter the course of her life and create a friendship with a man that she never dreamed she would have in her life.

Benjamin writes the story of Vinnie in such an honest and raw way that, in parts, I found myself a little teary-eyed. She perfectly captures the challenges of being small, the ridicule from others, the admiration when she finds her place in society, and the continual challenges of believing in your destiny no matter what.  While Vinnie is not always likeable, she is admirable.

I can’t recommend this book enough, if I tried. Vinnie’s story is captivating as are the other amazing characters in this story.   Read this one today!

 

If you liked this book you might like: Alice I Have Been, Water for Elephants, & Shanghai Girls

(MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars)


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!

 

If you liked this book you might like: The Last Will of Moira Leahy, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, & The Murderer’s Daughters.

(MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars)

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.”

If you liked this book you might like: The Hunger Games, Matched, & Mudbound.

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars)

 

The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian

I love a good thriller and Chris Bohjalian’s, “Night Strangers,” offers part mystery, part thriller, part horror in this latest book.

Chip & Emily Linton decide to relocate their family of four to a new town in Northern New Hampshire in hopes of a fresh start. Chip was a pilot whose plane had a double engine failure and thirty-nine of his passengers perished.  Chip is weighed down with the burden of all the passengers he has lost and knows that a fresh start is just what they need.

When they find a town filled with neighbors who seem to want to include them in their circle, are constantly running food to them, who want to help care for their twin daughters, and all have a love for gardening… well, who wouldn’t they feel like they picked the perfect place to raise their family?

In a dusty corner of their old Victorian home though lies a secret that threatens to change their lives forever. A door has seemingly been sealed with thirty-nine carriage bolts. Thirty-nine is a very significant number to their family and the irony of that is not lost on Chip.  When he decides to takes his aggression and anguish out on the door and rid it of the carriage bolts, he unlocks a nightmare for their family that they never expected.

The build on this book is slow and the descriptions are labor-intensive. The story did not grab me right away, but when I hit about halfway in this one, I really wanted to solve the mysteries in the town and discover just what these helpful neighbors were up to.  Regardless of the slow build, it did have a great story that just might give you a nightmare or two.

If you liked this book you might like: The Things That Keep Us Here, These Things Hidden, & Never Knowing.

(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!

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 month? 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!

 

 

Great Reads for Moms: October ’11 Edition

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

It is time for another round-up of great reads for my favorite readers!  With life still buzzing along at a frantic pace, I am having a hard time finding pockets of time to read like I used to. As the weather cools down though, there is nothing more that I look forward to than snuggling up in my flannel sheets with a great book in the evenings. I am hoping I can tackle quite a few books in my book pile this month so I can share more with you in November. I am definitely behind on my big reading goals, but I am still proud that with all that is going on in our life that I am still trying to make reading a priority!

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! My username is momadvice 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 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.

If you liked this book you might like: The One That I Want, Skipping a Beat, and Last Night at Chateau Marmont.

(MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars)


Never Knowing by Chevy Stevens

Chevy Stevens is quickly becoming one of my favorite thriller writers. If you read her last book, “Still Missing,” and loved it, then you will understand Chevy’s approach with the story told in a psychologist’s chair as the narrator discusses the horror and terror going on in their life. While I wish she would have taken a different approach with this novel, the story was so solid that I was able to overlook that it had the same story formula as her first book.

Sara Gallagher has always wondered who her birth mother is, especially since she didn’t have the most ideal childhood and has always felt so different from her two siblings and parents. She decides to pursue finding her birth mother, but is disheartened when her birth mother is so unhappy to be found.

With the help of a private investigator, she finds out why her birth mother is so unhappy to see her. The truth is that her birth mother was the only living victim of a serial killer and Sarah is their daughter.

When the media becomes aware of this story, word gets back to her serial killer father who finds Sarah and wants to speak with her. When the police want to use Sarah  to pursue an investigation against her father and find where his victim’s bodies are, Sarah becomes part of a complex game of cat and mouse that will leave the reader on the edge of their seat.

A fast-paced and delicious read, this is definitely a great one to add to your book piles!

If you liked this book you might like: Still Missing, Room, and I’d Know You Anywhere.

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars)

Dreams of Joy by Lisa See

Lisa See is one of my favorite all-time authors and, “Shanghai Girls,” was one of my favorite books by her. If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend reading it and then following it with this fantastic sequel.  I wish I would have waited to have read the first one so it was all still fresh in my mind because I had a hard time jumping into the second one after having read so many books in between. Once I got into this one, I couldn’t put it down, although I must warn you that See brings with it a lot of heartbreaking honesty about the lives that were lost and the difficulties that were faced during China’s Great Leap Forward.

In Shanghai Girls, Joy finds out that May is her true mother, despite believing that Pearl had been her mother her whole life. Joy is very angry at both her mother and her aunt and decides to head to China to find her birth father and pursue a new life in China.

When Joy finds her birth father, it is a dream come true. He is an artist and seems very influential in the community. What she doesn’t know is that her father, Z.G., is actually falling out favor with the government and is sent to the country to help with Mao’s Great Leap Forward and to teach painting classes. Joy blindly follows her father, unaware of the danger she may be in, and finds herself falling in love with one of these boys… a mistake that is riddled with many consequences of which it appears she may never recover.

Her aunt, who she had always believe was her mother, is determined to get Joy back to safety and sacrifices everything in her life to try to get to China to save her. A woman who has went from modeling to cleaning the streets, has sacrificed everything for her daughter. What Pearl doesn’t know is that Joy is in grave danger.

The book is a heart-wrenching rollercoaster, particularly the letters that Joy is so desperately trying to send to Pearl to let her know the famine and demise that is happening where she is.  Death and heartbreak are everywhere and the book will leave you hanging and praying that these two will be reunited.

If you liked this book you might like: Shanghai Girls, Honolulu,  and Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars)


Long Gone by Alafair Burke

Alice Humphrey has been unemployed is down on her luck, but that all seems to change when she meets Drew Campbell at an art opening and he is looking for a manager for a brand new art gallery opening in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District.

Drew informs her that the owner is a bit eccentric, as is his bizarre art, and that he prefers to keep a low profile. She is to help handle fulfilling the orders and keeping the gallery up and running. Anxious to create her own identity away from her famous filmmaker father, Alice decides that this is just the break she needs.

When Drew asks to meet her early at the gallery, Alice arrives to find the windows covered in paper, the gallery stripped bare of all of its art, and Drew lying dead in a pool of blood on the floor.

Unfortunately, Alice is a woman who doesn’t know a lot of information about her employer or the owner and artist. With no answers and all signs pointing to her, Alice becomes the prime suspect in the case. Alice is forced to figure out who has set her up and prove her own innocence for herself.

This is a fantastic thriller that incorporates such great 21st century elements in it from using Facebook to frame her as the killer to the art containing hidden images in jump drives that gave it a great technological twist to a fabulous murder mystery.

I can’t wait to read more from this author and I bet you won’t be able to either!

If you liked this book you might like: Before I Go to Sleep, Still Missing, and  The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

(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!

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 month? 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!

Great Reads for Moms: The Summer ’11 Edition

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

Now that summer is coming to a close, I can get back to one of my favorite sections of our site and start sharing again our favorite book reviews. I read so many fabulous books this summer and I can’t wait to share a few of those with you.

I vowed I would tackle a million books this summer and would escape to our neighborhood pool with a stack of library books and lots of reading time.

I went to the pool once alone.  With one book. And took this one lame picture with my phone doing it.

Ah, maybe next year?

It was nice to take a break from the reviewing and just read for the pleasure of reading again.  I read a lot of great books and I am looking forward to sharing with you those reviews again this year and can’t wait to hear what you have been enjoying this summer too!

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! My username is momadvice 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.

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.

If you liked this book you might like: Room, Still Missing, & Fragile

(MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars)

The Midwife’s Confession by Diane Chamberlain

There are few authors that deliver consistently good books with amazing plotlines, but Diane Chamberlain is one of those authors for me.

Noelle, Tara, and Emerson have been best friends since college. When Noelle unexpectedly commits suicide, Tara and Emerson are left with trying to figure out the puzzle pieces as to why she would do something like this to herself especially when she loved her job as a midwife so much. Noelle never seemed depressed and it was the last thing that her two best friends would ever expect her to do.

When they discover an unfinished letter written to a woman named Anna apologizing to her, they are left wondering just how well they knew their friend Noelle and have to begin pulling together the clues to the secrets that Noelle had been hiding for so long from everyone that she loved. Everything from Noelle’s past to her career to her true relationship with the other characters in the book comes into play as the women learn more about Noelle’s secrets.  Tara and Emerson discover that Noelle had more secrets than they could ever imagine… secrets that could threaten the very core of their lives and the lives of others.

This book is a fabulous mystery with a great family drama woven throughout and each chapter is told from alternating viewpoints from the women themselves and Tara & Emerson’s daughters, who are dealing with their own emotions surrounding the death of Noelle.

The ending will take you by surprise and I guarantee that this is a book that you will not be able to put down until the final pages.

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars)

If you liked this book you might like: These Things Hidden, The Good Daughters, & Fragile


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.

This book would lend itself well to any book club discussions you might be having and was truly one of the best books that I read this summer!

(MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars)

If you liked this book you might like: Red Hook Road, Every Last One, Let the Great World Spin, & To Kill a Mockingbird


The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels by Ree Drummond

If you are looking for a great love story with a whole bunch of laugh-out-loud humor in it, then head to your library and pick up this gem of a book. In full disclosure, I do not read Ree’s blog regularly, do not have her cookbook, and never read the story of how she met Malboro Man before, but I ate this book up with a spoon. My poor husband found me with a stack of tissues as I read about their courtship and marriage to the love of her life.

A chance encounter at a bar finds Ree out with her friends enjoying a quick drink when she spots a cowboy across the room that takes her breath away. After a brief meeting and weeks of waiting for him to call her, he finally does and so begins their whirlwind courtship. This city girl, born and bred, finds herself head over heels in love with a cowboy and brings into focus what really matters in life. Embracing the simple life of the quiet evenings spent on the porch rather than out about town and fumbling her way through the kitchen, it is so sweet to see how the two of them fall in love with one another. The book chronicles the story of their courtship all the way through their first year of marriage. As Ree learns the ins and outs of the cowboy life, you will have a hard time not laughing as she weaves that self-depreciating humor that has become her signature style!

This tender love story had great elements of humor throughout that made this book a fun and lighthearted read. The book was a bit choppy in the beginning, as the story had been shared through blog entries and did not translate as well into book format, but it evened itself out and offered a sweeping ending that will have you laughing and crying at the same time.

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars)

If you liked this book you might like: The Dirty Life, True Colors, & Fireworks over Toccoa

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!

What has been in your book stack this month? 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!