Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Great Reads for Moms: May ’11 Edition

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Hurray for summer reading! I know many of us are signing our children up for summer reading programs, but don’t forget to get yourself on a reading program too. Summer reading is my favorite kind of reading and next week, I am going to do a round-up of simply great beach reads to add to your beach bag this summer.

I believe summer reading should be a light and fun time for reading with a heavy classic mixed in to round things out and help keep things balanced. In the meantime, I wanted to showcase four more Great Reads for Moms to snag at your local library!

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.

Happy reading, everyone!

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.

(MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars)

If you liked this book you might like: Julie & Julia


Matched by Ally Condie

Fans of the Twilight and The Hunger Games series will have a new book series to love in Ally Condie’s ew new young adult dystopian novel, “Matched.”  In Cassia’s world, nothing is ever left to chance. Everything from what she will eat to who she will marry is decided by the Society Officials. When Cassia attends the ceremony to find out who her match for marriage is, she is surprised to discover that it is her childhood best friend. It is almost impossibly rare that one would know who their match is so it is a happy surprise to realize it is someone she has known her life.

When Cassia arrives home to find out more information about her match on the microchip she is given, it is another boy’s face that she sees…another boy that she has also known.  Cassia quickly spirals down the path of wondering if this really was who she was meant to be with as she discovers the power and consequence of free will.

Unlike, “The Hunger Games,” & “Twilight,” the one ingredient missing in this book is action. The element that brings the reader in is Cassia’s choice to love the person she has been chosen to be with, or to rebel against it all and going after the more dangerous choice. Unrequited love stories are always my favorite kind and the ending to this book left me anxious for the next book in the series from Ally Condie.

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars)

If you liked this book you might like: The Hunger Games & My Name is Memory


Night Road by Kristin Hannah

Kristin Hannah strikes again with another tear-jerker of a book that brings into focus all the blessings that we have as mothers and how quickly it all can slip from our reach.

Jude is the quintessential perfect mother who has done everything she can to put the needs of her twins, Mia and Zach, first in her life. When Lexi Baill moves into their small knit community, Lexi immediately finds a kinship and friendship with Mia, an outsider and introvert who struggles to fit in at school. It is not long after becoming Mia’s friends that Zach finds himself falling in love with Lexi. While both struggle with how their relationship can work, while not taking away their relationship from Mia, they soon all find themselves as inseparable as the three musketeers.

Jude’s overprotectiveness of them cannot protect them from a fateful decision that her teenagers make that will alter the course of their lives forever. As their family falls apart and Lexi loses everything, the reader is taken through every excruciating moment of their pain-filled lives.  The book takes you down the harrowing journey of the consequences of that fatefull decision and how even when we desire strongly to keep our children safe that the unthinkable can happen.

Get out your tissues for this one and know that as a reader, you will be in for a bumpy ride and be haunted by this chilling account of this family’s fate.

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars)

If you liked this book you might like: Winter Garden, Red Hook Road, The Year of the Fog

The Murderer’s Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers

Lulu and Merry have never had an idyllic childhood, but their lives are forever changed when their father is kicked out of their home and comes knocking on the door, just before Lulu’s tenth birthday. Lulu could never know the fateful decision she was making by letting her father in, as he brutally murders her mother and stabs her sister , finishing the brutality by attempting to kill himself.

Their father is sentenced to a thirty year prison stay for murder and the girls are shuffled from home to home, never really finding their place anywhere. With no family willing to keep them, they only have each other.

Despite Merry being stabbed by her father, she visits her father weekly and seems to see past his mistake, as she continues to cultivate a relationship with him. Lulu, on the other hand, refuses to ever speak to him again and is burdened by her own guilt for letting him into their house when her mother had told her not to. Both girls must find a way to just survive, and the book follows each of them through adulthood, showcasing how their past also shadows their future, as they make decisions, build relationships, and struggle daily with who they are without a family to shape them.

All can remain well when their father is locked away, but when their father appeals his parole, the girls must learn how they can live with their mother’s murderer on the outside and how they can ever find forgiveness….for themselves and for him.

This has a slow build with great character development.  Fraught with emotion, tragedy, and survival instinct, I thoroughly enjoyed this read from Randy Susan Meyers.

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars)

If you liked this book you might like: I’d Know You Anywhere & The Good Daughters

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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!

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: April ’11 Edition

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

April brought in another round of fabulous reading and I got to tackle some great books by some new-to-me authors as well as a book that I have had in my book stack for years waiting for just the right moment to read it. I have added a little blurb at the end of each book review that will let you know if there are books similar to it that I have enjoyed. I love to find a new book to read, but I really love it when I find something and then someone lets me know something that I might like that has the same feel to it. Each link should take you to the review for the similar books, to help when making your book selections.  I hope it helps you when creating your library lists!

I am not the only Clark doing some reading this year. If you are looking for some fun reading material for your husband, my hubby has been happily plugging away at the new, “River Monsters: True Stories of the Ones That Didn’t Get Away,” by Jeremy Wade and he absolutely loved, “The Disappearing Spoon,” by Sam Klean. Each time I go to the library, I try to pick up a reading gem for my husband and those have been two of his favorites.

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.

Happy reading, everyone!

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

In anticipation of the movie release, I decided to finally dig into Water for Elephants this month.  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!

(MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars)

If you liked this book you might like: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Let the Great World Spin, or Those Who Save Us.

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!

(MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars)

If you liked this book you might like: Something Borrowed, Time of My Life, or Last Night at Chateau Marmont.

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.

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars)

If you liked this book you might like: The Help, The Kitchen House,  & Mudbound (see review below)

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!

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars)

If you liked this book you might like: The HelpThe Kitchen House, & The Dry Grass of August (see review above).

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

If you have a sister, are a book lover, or have a love for Shakespeare, you will find, “The Weird Sisters,” is a fun and enjoyable read. Sisters Rose (Rosalind; As You Like It), Bean (Bianca; The Taming of the Shrew), and Cordy (Cordelia; King Lear) are the product of a Shakespearean professor who speaks primarily in…you guessed it, Shakespearean verse.

Rose has been caring for their mother as she undergoes treatment for cancer and often plays the martyr since she has been burdened with the responsibility of her care. Under the guise of aiding their mother, both Cordy & Bean make their way home at the same time burdened with their own secrets, and the sisters find themselves together once again. As the children all return home, the sisters find they each are slipping into their old childhood antics and roles, while each trying to figure who they are as adults. Dealing with issues of pregnancy, embezzlement, cancer, and finding love, the book takes you on a journey as each sister strives  to solve their own dilemma, ultimately, finding that they really aren’t so different from one another.

While certainly quirky and charming, the book fell a little short for me because the sisters do seem to behave rather selfishly while their mother is ill. The Shakespearean quotes also worked at times, while others it seemed forced rather than a natural entry into the plot. Regardless, it was a quick and enjoyable reading about returning home and the bonds of sisterhood.

(MomAdvice Rating- 3 Stars out of 5 Stars)

If you liked this book you might like: The Good Daughters, All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, & The Wednesday Sisters.

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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!

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: March ’11 Edition

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

Some of my reading months are better than others, and this month was filled with a few fantastic books that I can’t wait to share with you!  I read more out of my library pile than I have in a long time and really tried to tackle some of the books that have been in my to-be-read pile for a long time.  My goal is to read one book off of my to-be-read pile each month and then tackle the newer books that I happen upon when I am at the library.

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.

Don’t forget to make your own commitment towards a reading challenge this year! So far I have read 14 books out of my goal for 80 books read this year. We will see if I can really make it to 80!

Without further adieu, here are four wonderful books that I recommend for this month’s reading:

The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman

I have heard many friends talk about this book and I have had it on my list for awhile as a book that I wanted to tackle.  The cover and the title made me think that I was diving into a book about a cookbook collector, but this book was so much more than I had expected and unlike anything I had expected.

The story follows two sisters who could not be more opposite if they tried. Emily is a CEO of an internet start-up company while Jessamine is  a free-spirited philosophy major and participating in environmental activism on the side. Jessamine falls in love with a true tree-hugger who lives a nomadic lifestyle fighting for the rights of trees while Emily finds the love of her life in another CEO of a dot com start up.

As Emily tries to make millions with her new start-up, Jessamine is happily working a used bookstore. When a customer comes in with an unusual collection of cookbooks that she would like to have appraised, it sets the stage for Jessamine to find a new passion and question her own identity of who she is and who she loves. Emily meanwhile grapples with how she can cultivate a long distance relationship and still be a success in her company. When she confesses a secret project that her company has been working on to her boyfriend (who also works in his own start-up), it sets the reader up for a suspenseful ride as Emily tries to figure out who she can trust and Jessamine figures out just who who she is.

As the two sisters are on two entirely different paths, the reader is taken on a ride along with them as the rise of the dot com happens, the fall of the stock market, the devastation of September 11th, and the realization that the sisters are more alike than they might think.

Readers may have difficulty keeping up with the sheer volume of characters in this book and the author does fail to tie up loose ends as neatly as you might hope, but you have to pride the author on the ambition of this book.

The true appeal of the book for me was how vividly Allegra was able to capture this time period and the significance of how big the dot com bomb rose and fell.  It really brought back so many memories of the start-ups that my husband & I both ventured into when we first were married.  Anyone who survived the dot com bomb will have a true appreciation for this read!

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars)

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!

(MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars)

These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf

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

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

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

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

(MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars)

Deep Down True by Juliette Fay

Shelter Me,” was one of my favorite reads last year and was a book that I immediately became enchanted with.  I was hoping to be just as enchanted with Fay’s latest release, but it fell a little short.  That being said, I still love her writing and loved this book, just not as much as her first book.

Dana Stellgarten is newly divorced and has found herself dealing with issues that she never thought she would have to deal with- a bulimic daughter, a moody son, a Goth teenage niece who has come to live with them, and a very tight money situation thanks to her ex-husband’s lack of sales.

As Dana’s world seems to be crashing in on her from all angles, Dana must try to find out who she really is without her husband and learn to solve the families problems on her own.  The story builds as Dana finds a job to help support her family and then must learn to juggle the needs of her children with her own needs- for love, for friendship, and the money to keep their family afloat.

Dana’s most surprising discovery though is that it is just as hard to make true friends in your middle age as it is when you are a teenager. As her daughter’s eating disorder stems from wanting to fit in with the cool girls at school, Dana finds herself being reeled in by the town’s queen bee and compromising what feels good to her to make friends.  Both Dana & her daughter must learn what really will ultimately make them happy, and find that place within themselves.

Readers will be in for a bumpy ride as you go on the journey of Dana’s love life after divorce, but the message that we all have to find that “deep down true” place, no matter how old we get, will really resonate with readers. The takeaway message was a beautiful one, but the everyday minutiae to get there might be why the book wasn’t a knockout for me like, “Shelter Me.”

(MomAdvice Rating- 3  1/2 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!

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: February ’11 Edition

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

Welcome to this month’s edition of great reads!  This month was a little slow for me, in terms of reading, as I have been doing a lot of knitting this month instead of reading. One of these days I will embrace the power of audio books, but for now I am content alternating between reading and knitting. I just restocked my book stack for next month’s reading list so I look forward to sharing more wonderful reads next month.

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. Don’t forget to make your own commitment towards a reading challenge this year!

Here are a few book ideas this month to add to your reading pile and I look forward to hearing what you are working on too!

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.

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars)

The Usual Rules by Joyce Maynard

After reading, “Labor Day” and “The Good Daughters,”  I was excited to read another book from Joyce Maynard. A girlfriend shared this read with me and I am so glad she did! The Usual Rules, published in 2004, was a wonderful and heartbreaking read about a family of those left behind after the tragic 9/11.

Wendy is just a typical thirteen year-old little girl who lives in Brooklyn with her mother, stepfather, and half-brother Louis. She is struggling with the things all thirteen year-old little girls do until her mother heads off to work over at The World Trade Center and never comes home again. Maynard beautifully captures every emotion that a family might go through from the moment they find out the building has been hit, as they hang fliers of their missing family member, to the realization that she really is not coming home.

Surprisingly unannounced and virtually unknown in Wendy’s world, her father shows up to take Wendy to live with him in California. Wendy uses this opportunity to leave behind the memories and heartache of her family home, to seek a new identity in a new state. With her father being unexperienced in his role as a father and more laid back than her mother & stepfather were, Wendy rebels against the good girl that she has always been. She begins skipping school and spending her days wandering around town, befriending an unlikely cast of characters, and spending her days at a bookstore instead of at school.

The book is filled with enchanting memories of Wendy’s amazing mother, a mother that I would strive to be, and the family that she left behind in Brooklyn. A beautifully told coming-of-age story is told where Wendy finds where her true home lies and finds love and acceptance can exist in two different places.

I could not put this book down, as heartbreaking as the story was, and it was a wonderful reminder of what being a family is all about. Don’t overlook this wonderful read!

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars)

I’d Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman

Elizabeth Lerner was kidnapped and raped by serial killer, Water Bowman fifteen years earlier in her life. Elizabeth is the only victim of Walter’s that is not killed and remarkably escapes the experience relatively unscathed and is now leading a happy & normal life with her husband and two kids.  After living in London, the family returns to the US for her husband’s job and Eliza (formerly Elizabeth) receives an unexpected letter from Walter, who is now facing death row, that begins,  “I’d know you anywhere,” after running across Eliza’s picture in a newspaper article.

Walter desires to have a relationship with Eliza and through the help of an advocate who believes in Walter’s innocence, he has found a way to contact Eliza through letters. Eliza feels the safe world she has created for herself and her family is threatened to unravel if Walter tells anyone about her or what has happened as the letters and visits from his friend on the outside start to intrude in her life. With the threat of her safe life in jeopardy, she agrees to speak with Walter weekly about what happened, in hopes that her children and others will not find out what happened to her as a child.

The reader is taken through Eliza’s harrowing ordeal as the book flashes back to the incident fifteen years ago where Eliza is kidnapped for over a month’s time, and how she survives the ordeal with Walter.

Eliza continues to talk to Walter and consents to a visit with him when Walter dangles a carrot in front of Eliza that she just can’t refuse. He agrees that if Eliza meets with him, he can tell more about the other victims he has killed and it is that carrot that brings Eliza and Walter together again.

This book is a fast page turner that can easily be read in a day or two. The book would have gotten four stars from me if the ending had not fallen short, and if Eliza had been a character that I could have related to. Walter is perhaps the most interesting character in the story, and it was his story (rather than the victim’s) that really seemed to hold my attention.

Nominated as a Best Book of 2010 on Amazon, it has not deterred me from reading another book by Laura Lippman and definitely would make an interesting read for a book club discussion.

(MomAdvice Rating- 3 1/2 Stars out of 5 Stars)

Red Hook Road by Ayelet Waldman

The book opens with a tragedy when a bride and groom die in a car accident on the way to their wedding reception.  John & Becca are a modern-day Romeo & Juliet who come from two families from different sides of the tracks. John’s family is a hard-working Maine family that is rough around the edges. Becca’s family is filled with old money and they vacation in Maine during the summers. When John & Becca die, these two families are thrust together as they plan their funerals and cope with the tragedy of losing their children.

The book is divided into summers following the death and the reader experiences how each of the seven characters deal with the loss of their loved ones. Marriages are challenged, unlikely relationships are forged, grief is experienced, and the lives of Becca & John are celebrated in surprising ways.

This was a good solid read although I thought it was a book focused on character development rather than plot development since the truly pivotal moment in the plot starts within the opening chapter. This book is great for fans of Joyce Maynard or Anna Quindlen as the focus seems to be simply on character development following a family tragedy, which I find with those authors as well.

The book was really brought into fruition in the final two chapters with the beautiful Coda & ending thoughts on the struggles in a marriage.

(MomAdvice Rating- 3 1/2 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!

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: January ’11 Edition

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

It is a new year and with that comes new books and a new commitment to read!  This year, you can make a commitment for the year to challenge yourself to reach a reading goal on GoodReads which can really help you reach those reading goals. My hope this year is to squeeze in eighty books. I know it is a lofty goal, but I never have claimed to be an underachiever! Just ask my mother about my commitments to read a hundred books over the summer and only reading eighty during those summer reading programs at the library….Oh, the tears that were shed those cold, cold summers.  In all seriousness,  it is so fun to make a goal and see your progress towards something… especially when that something is leisurely evenings of reading!

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. Don’t forget to make your own commitment towards a reading challenge this year!

Here are a few book ideas this month to add to your reading pile and I look forward to hearing what you are working on too!

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 extremely 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.

(MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars)

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!

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars)

Labor Day by Joyce Maynard

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

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

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

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

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

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars)

The Stormchasers by Jenna Blum

It is rare to find a great story that contains a mystery, a great romance, and proof of the ties that bind family members, but Jenna Blum has created just that in this gripping novel. Told through the narration of Karena, the book begins with a phone call from a hospital as they tell her that her twin brother has requested that they notify her that he has been admitted. The shocker though is that Karena has not seen her brother in twenty years and Karena has been desperately searching for him ever since.

Unfortunately, when Karena makes it to the hospital, she is told that Charles has already checked out. In a last ditch attempt to chase her twin down and be reunited with him, she decides to join a storm chasing team that is set to tour because the one thing that brings Charles joy in his life is storm chasing. She knows where there is a great storm, she will find her brother there, documenting and charting the storm and its course. Karena hits the road with an unlikely tour group covering the story of storm chasing for an article for the paper she writes for.

So begins Karena’s journey on the road and the reader begins to learn about her brother’s obsession not only with storm chasing, but his downward spiral with mental illness. These two storms fuse together in the middle of the novel as the novel flashes back to their younger years and the incident that has estranged Charles from his family and haunted his life ever since.

Jenna Blum has the ability to seamlessly tie together the stormy mind of the mentally ill with the storms that rage on land. It is a truly beautiful book that I enjoyed thoroughly from beginning to end.

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars)

How to Be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway

How to Be an American Housewife is a fast-paced book told from two perspectives of a mother and a daughter and the ties that bind them.

In this beautifully rendered story, Shoko leaves her home in Japan by marrying a young American GI named Charlie, who has been serving in WWIII. Although Shoko is not madly in love with Charlie, she does find him endearing and also sees him as a way to escape Japan and start a fresh new life. What she doesn’t expect is just how difficult it will be to acclimate herself to the American culture and how hard it will actually be to leave her familiar world behind. Burdened with a secret that she carries with her when leaving Japan, she does her best to raise her daughter and adapt to the American lifestyle. Faced with the prejudice from others and the difficulties of mastering the American language, it proves to be a more difficult life than Shoko had envisioned for herself.

Decades later, Shoko decides that she would like to return to Japan and make right her relationship between herself & her brother, as the secret that she has been carrying prevents her from true happiness and peace. She is told by her doctor that her health is deteriorating and that she is no condition to travel.

To make things right between herself and her family, Shoko begs her daughter Sue (Suiko) to travel to Japan in her place and ask for forgiveness for her. The second half of the book chronicles Sue’s journey to Japan for her mother, the secrets that are discovered, and the deepening bonds between not only herself and her own mother, but the bond between herself and her own daughter.

How to Be an American Housewife is a surprisingly strong debut novel that focuses on the relationship and dynamics of mothers and daughters. Each chapter opens with an excerpt on an old book on how to be an American Housewife, written specifically for Japanese brides to understand what an American man would expect from his wife. The excerpts offer clever openings into what Shoko will be struggling with on her journey towards being the ideal housewife. This is a quick and wonderful read that is definitely worth picking up!

(MomAdvice Rating- 3 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!

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 Top Ten of 2010 Edition

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

I am proud to say that 2010 was truly a great year of reading for me.  One of my New Year’s resolutions last year was to get back into the groove of reading and I really felt that I did that and found a fun new feature to incorporate into our site. It not only has offered an avenue for me to promote reading on MomAdvice, it also inspired me to start volunteering and sharing my love of reading with others.

This year I began reading to two children in my son’s elementary school and it has been one of my biggest blessings this year. Each week I get to select fun new reads for each of the children and come to read to them weekly and share my passion for reading with them. I have seen within them such growth a new appreciation for literature that I can not begin to tell you what a privilege it has been to have them in my life. Perhaps this year, you can find a new way to share reading with others. Start a book club, read to a child in your community, start a book club with your spouse or children, embrace a new series…the possibilities are just endless!

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 2010 that you could add to your book basket this year! I read sixty-four books (in total) for the year so it was very difficult to narrow it down to ten of the best. That being said, I decided to add a few honorable mentions that almost made the cut!

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

This book was one of the most unbelievably beautiful, heart-wrenching, unexpectedly laugh-out-loud funny in portions, make me weep in others, and heartwarming books that I have read in my life. I had never read or heard of the book before, but am trying to tackle some literary classics this year and this book was the most beautiful coming-of-age story that I have ever read. I can’t believe that I am 32 years old and just now reading it and discovering what a beautiful book this is.

The book is about Mary Frances Nolan (also known as Francie) and shares the story of her life from the tender age of eleven until she turns sixteen. Growing up as a poor girl in Brooklyn, it shares the story of the survival that they must go through to keep food on the table and the difficulties of family life when ends just don’t meet. With a mother who is doing the best she can to keep their family afloat and an unreliable, but loving father who works as a singing waiter and takes to drinking at night to cope with the realities of his life, the family lives in a tiny flat in Brooklyn where they try to make the most on the very least.

Francie is forced to be older than she is from the very beginning of her life. Often saddled with the task of bartering at the grocery store, figuring out a way to get into a better school so she can get her education, and made to get jobs to help with the family finances or assist her mother on jobs, you can’t help but admire Francie’s resourcefulness throughout the book.

The Christmas scenes, the things that the children treasured the most,
the tin can filling with pennies of earnings that would later feed them, the diary entries carefully edited because of her mother who didn’t want Francie writing about her father’s alcoholism, the impractical gifts that the children gave to each other (and their mother let them) only to discover their mother was right, those feelings of first love- all beautifully captured in prose that held me and wouldn’t let me go.

While I can’t say that there is a definite plot to the story, the book is told almost in short story format sharing the daily trials and tribulations of growing up in a poor family, it really did not need a focused plot because the writing was so beautiful.

I would say that it mainly focused on the self-discovery that Francie makes about herself and about her parents as she becomes more aware of what is happening around her and as the responsibilities later shift to Francie’s shoulders when she struggles with wanting to be an adult and support the family, but also desires to get an education.

No words can describe what a treasure this book is to read. Despite being written so long ago, the themes are still so current- the need to keep up with one’s reputation, the importance of hard work and honesty in life, the discovery that money isn’t everything, but that it does make it easier when you don’t have to focus on it, and the importance of loyalty to your family.

If you haven’t read this one, add it to your pile today!



Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

You know when you read a book and you have a strong desire to tell everyone that they must read it? Well, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is that book for me. The book is an endearing story about Henry Lee, a Chinese American living in Seattle, who has just lost his wife to cancer. After he hears that the belongings of Japanese immigrants were found in the basement of the Panama Hotel, the book begins a journey through his life currently and flashing back to his childhood where an unlikely friendship began with a Japanese girl named Keiko that has carried with him through his adulthood.

Henry Lee’s father desires for him to have the “American dream,” and he receives a scholarship to attend an all-white private school where he can get the education he needs to succeed in America. The other students taunt him mercilessly and his only reprieve from the taunting is when he is serving food in the cafeteria. While serving the food, he finds the only other student of minority, a beautiful girl named Keiko, and they develop a fast friendship. Unfortunately, Henry’s father wants nothing to do with the Japanese and his growing love for Keiko has to be kept a secret.

When Keiko is shuffled over to a camp, to protect the Japanese from the anti-Japanese sentiments during WWII, Henry knows that he must find a way to go to her and to be with her. Through the help of the lady on staff in the cafeteria, he scores a position working on Saturdays where he can see and be with Keiko. Their friendship and love grow through their letters and Saturdays together and Henry is forced to choose between his family or the girl that he loves.

There is so much color in this novel and the twists are beautifully written. I found myself cheering for Henry as he stands up to the bullies in his life and to his parents, and also feeling misty-eyed as this unexpected relationship takes place.

I don’t want to give away anymore of the plot than is necessary because this book is so worth reading and experiencing for yourself. While some may argue that it isn’t always historically accurate or that the switching back and forth between present and past is choppy, the story is so beautiful that it will have you overlooking those technicalities and rooting for Henry & Keiko the whole way through! Lisa See fans will love this one and I can’t wait to read another book by this author!

As an aside, we read this for my book club and when I tweeted that I was hosting a book club for this book, Jamie Ford tweeted back to me to give my book club his best. And that is when I became  just a regular fan to a super fan. How awesome is that? Hurray for tweeting authors that seek feedback and share through Twitter.



The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell

You know when a book sweeps you in and envelopes your day and won’t let you go until it is over? This book did that for me and I could not be more impressed with the author’s beautiful prose, the pacing of the book, or what a gift Maggie O’Farrell has for character development and the art of intertwining two beautiful stories into one.

The book opens with the stunning Lexie Sinclair, a rebellious young woman, and a chance meeting for her and a very sophisticated man named Innes Kent. It is in the post-WWII era, a time when such spirited youthfulness is frowned upon, but Lexie is ready to start a new life in London and she begins her new life with Innes. What begins between them starts a very unlikely love story that is vividly captured with O’Farrell’s words. Innes quickly takes her under his wing and not only loves her, but guides her into a journalism career that Lexie had never thought to explore.

In the next chapter, you are introduced to Elina and her boyfriend Ted and it is fifty years later. They have just brought home their baby boy, never realizing how different both of their lives will be. Elina, who suffered from a difficult delivery, is learning what a challenging role motherhood can be, while Ted grows more and more distant from Elina and the baby. Ted is suddenly having snippets of memories that he can’t recall and the baby forces to light a shadowed past that he did not know he possessed.

It is a book that builds and builds upon these stories and the chapters suddenly twist together and you find out how these stories are interwoven. It took me by surprise how they would weave together and throughout most of the book, you are trying to discover just what it is that brings these two stories together. I hate to say more than that, for fear of giving away the experience of discovery for yourself!

The book’s prose is so visual and almost cinematic in the way the story is told. In some scenes, it feels as though you are reading a script as the characters, setting, and mood are described in vivid detail. It is because of the writing style that I look forward to reading more of O’Farrell’s. This book was a fantastic and fast-paced read- add it to your reading list today!

One Day by David Nicholls

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

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

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

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

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

Fans of, “The Help,” will truly appreciate and enjoy this fantastic novel from Kathleen Grissom that documents a story of slavery told from two perspectives, with enough plot twists and turns to leave the reader on the edge of their seat until the final page.

Orphaned while aboard a ship from Ireland, a seven year-old Lavinia is taken in by the captain and placed in his kitchen to work among the servants. As a white girl, working in the kitchen and serving the master’s family is an unlikely place for her to be, but she is taken in and embraced by Belle, the captain’s illegitimate daughter.  As unlikely as it seems, Lavinia is taken in as part of the family and finds that she truly is loved by all who know her.  Despite being white, she is treated like the rest of the children with the same amount of love and discipline that their own children are shown.

Unfortunately, her white skin sets her apart and she finds herself grappling with difficult situations as she grows older and who she must side with when racial situations arise. At sixteen, under the guidance of the captain’s family, she is sent away to get a proper education and to be among her own race. Through an unlikely turn of events, she finds herself returning to the captain’s home,  now in the unique role as the mistress of the home. Lavinia struggles with her new role and being in charge of instructing the staff (her own former adopted family) on the household maintenance and chores that must be done. Her life takes one sad turn after another, as Lavinia struggles to find her place in a world that is so divided.

Likewise, Belle’s life is filled with sadness as she loves a man that cannot belong to her and is victim of abuse. Being the illegitimate child of the captain comes with no extra perks, and she works the kitchen as the rest of the staff, struggling to decide if she wants her papers to be set free, especially when her freedom  comes with the price of losing the love of her life.

his book is a very sad tale told through the eyes of Lavinia & Belle, both offering a unique perspective on what is happening in the home and around them  It has so many plot twists and turns that you will be up all night reading this one and sheds light on the true issues that faced slaves and the difficulties of the politics that surrounded race in those days.

The Hunger Games Triology by Suzanne Collins

This story follows an unlikely heroine, named Katniss, who lives in District 12 with her mother and sister. It is not an easy life as Katniss is responsible for the hunting for her family just to make sure their family has food on the table, especially since the death of her father.

Even tougher for the family though is the annual reaping day where the government chooses two children from each district to compete in a battle to the death, leaving only one winner of their annual Hunger Games. When Katniss’ sister’s name is drawn, Katniss does the only thing she can think of…she volunteers to take her sister’s place to save her life. Paired with the baker’s son, Peeta, whom she has known since she was a child, she is thrown immediately into the ring to begin a battle to the death.

The battle is televised for everyone in the district and it is the stories of those in battle that the audience can find endearing or come to hate. Should they love who is competing, they can gather the proceeds in their district to offer their team’s district team gifts to help sustain them in battle.  The coaches for the District 12 team realize that one way that they can make the audience members truly love Peeta & Katniss is by creating a love story between them.  It is this story that they must continue to act out throughout the battle as alliances are made, broken, and lives are lost.

Lucky for Katniss, she is strong with a bow and arrow and it is her strength that will help carry her through the battle. The series is written for young adults and young girls will definitely find a lot of love for Katniss as a strong female who can measure up to the men in battle.

This series is fabulous and was devoured by both my husband and I. We actually fought over the books because we both were reading through them so quickly. I am so glad that we were able to read it together and I can’t wait until my children are old enough that they can enjoy it too.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee-

I can admit that I was not exposed to a lot of classical literature. In my English classes, we were exposed to only excerpts of the classics, but not the full books. Maybe that is why, as an adult, I have an interest in exploring the classics for the first time. When I spotted an entire table of Harper Lee’s, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” at our local library, I grabbed a copy to attempt to read it!

To Kill a Mockingbird is set in the 1930’s in the Deep South where race and social standings are of great importance within the Maycomb community. When lawyer, Atticus Finch, is the assigned defense to an African American charged with raping a white woman, he compromises his social standing by defending his case before the court. The entire story is told through the eyes of Atticus’ children as they try to understand what it means to be white during a time of great racism.

The story opens with Jem & Scout, Atticus’ two children, spying on their neighbor who is a town recluse and never leaves his home. The story of Boo Radley is how the children keep themselves entertained during those long summer days and Boo’s story is interwoven through the book. They are simple children that just love to fight, to play in the dirt, and who love to play pretend games with their neighbor boy.

Their entire world changes when Atticus is assigned the defense of an African American man who is accused of raping Mayella Ewell. While the Ewell family are the lowest in the white class, they are still accepted and believed more than Tom Robinson who has always been an honest and kind family man.

Everyone is against Tom even when all of the evidence points somewhere else and Atticus has to defend the toughest case of his career to a jury of white men.

The court scenes were riveting, the twists in the plot added depth to the story and characters, and telling the entire story through a child’s eyes was priceless to the story. The characters in this novel are so rich and beautifully written that a piece of yourself can identify with so many of them. Admittedly, I had a hard time with some of the racist language and derogatory terms that were used towards African Americans during that time, but it shapes the story and makes you realize how horrible these times were.

I can’t rave enough about this book and wish I could share more in my review, but I don’t want to give away the beautiful plot, twists, and turns that you would experience as a reader if you haven’t read it!

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This book came highly rated by so many of my friends and I have to say that this one did not disappoint.

The story is told through the unique perspective of Death, which adds a certain darkness to this book, as he shares the story of taking souls and the increase in unnecessary and cruel deaths during the terrifying reign of Hitler.

While so many books I have read have concentrated on all that the Jewish people had to endure, this book told their story, but also told the story of a poor German girl who is taken in by a foster family enduring poverty and the heartache of the loss of her family members.

Her moments of joy come when her adopted father teaches her how to read and she becomes engrossed in learning and reading the written word. In a time of great poverty and where books were scarce, the little girl becomes a “book thief” stealing books for these sweet moments of treasure during a time of aching heartbreak in her life.

When her adopted parents hide a Jewish young man, by the name of Max, in their basement, they form a fast friendship and this protection of this man becomes of great importance to their family.

The book takes you on so many twists and turns and I found myself weeping for all that this little girl has to go through. The book truly touched me and I believe it is one that will stick with me for many, many years!

As an aside, while the novel started out very slow for me, the second half really picked up and made it all worth the time invested to read the first part of this book. If you have a hard time getting through that first part, keep on reading…it will be so worth it! I promise you!


Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

In 1974, Philippe Petit decided to pull a stunt that both shocked and thrilled New York when he walked a tightrope wire between the World Trade Towers. This true life story is the common thread that ties all of the chapters of Colum McCann’s beautiful fictional novel entitled “Let the Great World Spin,” together.

Each chapter is its own short story, yet each story seamlessly weaves into the other as the reader makes the surprising discovery that the characters are not only drawn together by this exciting stunt in some small way, but in many more ways than the read could ever anticipate.

The book opens with a kind-hearted priest who has decided to plant himself in the roughest New York neighborhood to act as an aid to the prostitutes that have set up shop. His small and sparse apartment becomes a place of refuge for the prostitutes in his community and he puts his own reputation on the line to care for them and many others in his community. From there the writer takes you on a journey as each chapter segues into the next as you learn about other elements of the story that somehow seem unrelated, but then are pulled together magically in this book. To share what each chapter is about would give away a beautiful plot that is worthy of any reader to discover on their own.

I will say it was a difficult read for me at times and a little labor intensive. The dialogue was also, at times, a struggle to read as the dialogue and writing mimic the speech of the characters that the chapter is being written about. Just like most books of short stories, some chapters were far more interesting in others, but it was one of the most unique novels I have read in a long time. It is a book that will stick with you long after the book is shut and will remind you how our own stories are so easily interwoven into others as the great world spins on.

Editor’s Note: There is graphic language in this book.

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier-

Remarkable Creatures is a beautiful historical fiction story based on the real life story of Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot. These two women pioneered the uncovering of fossilized creatures and lead many of the scientific discoveries of the nineteenth century.

Set in the city of Lyme, Mary is a girl who has been unusual her whole life. Her uniqueness begins after being struck by lightening as a baby and she continues to be considered different by her community because of her unusual habit of searching for fossils on the beach… a trait that has been passed down to her by her father.

Elizabeth, a middle-aged woman who has never been married, and her sisters move to the town and each take to their own hobbies. All of the sisters have the usual hobbies of gardening, keeping home, and baking… all of them except Elizabeth. Elizabeth soon finds her own hobby of fossil discovery, although she lacks the eye of training that Mary possesses.

An unlikely friendship between two women of very different social classes form because of their mutual interest in these fossils as they make rare scientific discoveries by gathering these bones.

When a man comes between the two women, neither can put their egos aside to apologize and they are left to their discoveries alone. When Mary discovers something that their community thinks cannot be made by God’s hands, the only person that can preserve her reputation is Elizabeth, because of her social standing.

Will Elizabeth put aside her feelings to defend her friend’s honor or will she allow nature to take its course and discredit Mary’s standings in the scientific community?

I found the book to be a fast read and a very interesting look at a time when talk of fossils challenged the very belief system of people and a time when women were never intended to pioneer anything other than the keeping of their homes. It was a great book and I look forward to reading more books from Chevalier!

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Of course there were a few other books that just have to get an Honorable Mention this year!  Here are just a few more that I would recommend adding to your reading pile!

Room by Emma Donoghue

“Room,” is a stunning book written by Emma Donoghue that will stick with readers long after they have read the final pages. Told through the eyes of a five-year-old little boy named Jack, Room & his Ma the only things he has ever known because he has been held, and was even born in Room, his entire existence. His only glimpses of the outside world are through a skylight above their room and the limited amount of television he has watched through his time there. Of course, he doesn’t believe that anything in the television is real because he has never had the chance to experience what lies outside of the room.

His Ma was kidnapped and held hostage for seven years. She was just a child herself when she was taken and she has done everything she can to make Jack’s life just as rich as can be without being able to leave Room. In fact, she put me to shame as a mother reading all that she was doing with her child. Ma has thought of everything from celebrating Jack on his birthdays, to art time, to gym time…she manages to make it work in this tiny room.

The book is written in the language of a child which I thought would be very annoying, but quickly found it to be both endearing and poignant. I am sure it was a true challenge as an author to write in this style and to not make it unbearable to read. Emma Donoghue captures the voice and innocence of Jack perfectly in this stunning book.

While I wish I could say more about the book, it would definitely take away from the plot and the beauty of enjoying this one through fresh eyes. As a reader though, know that your heart will ache and root triumphantly for this mother & child to see the outside world!

Still Alice by Lisa Genova-

My great-grandmother suffered from Alzheimer’s so I was very familiar with the topic and the emotional toll that it can take on one’s family members when they suffer from this disease. What I did not know was that over a half million people in the United States alone suffer from early-onset Alzheimer’s and that it is possible to suffer from this disease at a much earlier stage in your life than I had ever imagined.

Alice Howland is a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and is known for her great intellect. She is admired not only by the other faculty members, but by her students for her amazing ability to captivate an audience when speaking about what it is she is most passionate about. Her husband is a scientist, and together they have collaborated on book projects and have a mutual love for each other and the intelligent and scientific dialogue that they can have together.

When Alice starts becoming confused and begins losing her words, forgetting what she is supposed to teach on, and even forgetting where she lives when she goes for a run, she blames it on menopause and decides to contact her doctor about her memory loss.

After going through screening, it is determined that Alice, at the age of fifty, is suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s.

Alice’s quick spiral into memory loss is heartbreaking and her story is especially poignant because she is the chosen narrator of the story. At times, as the reader, you can even become confused along with Alice as scenes are repeated and her family member’s begin to lose their names, or she believes she is talking to strangers when they are well-known characters throughout the book.

The book sheds light on a very real disease in a way that can only be told through the narration of Alice. Although Alice is slipping, she is “still Alice,” even when her family feels her mind is very far away.

This book pulled at my heartstrings in a way that I can’t describe and has made me thankful for the beautiful memories that my mind can retain. It is a wonderful reminder how essential memory is in our daily lives and how important it is to love and respect those who are suffering from Alzheimer’s.


Fragile by Lisa Unger

It has been a long time since I have read something so suspenseful that I could not put it down, but Fragile by Lisa Unger is the kind of book that sucks you in and won’t let you go. It is reminiscent of Jodi Picoult’s earlier work with just the right balance of suspense and mystery to keep a reader enchanted until the final page. I must say that I am smitten with Lisa Unger and can’t wait to read some of her older novels now that I have had a taste of her writing style.

In the town of The Hollows, a fictional small town just outside of New York City, a young girl goes missing after a fight with her parents. The disappearance reminds the people in this town of another similar disappearance of a girl named Sarah, who had suddenly disappeared in the eighties, and many of the main characters find themselves flashing back to that first disappearance.

While the main characters are revisiting the disappearance of Sarah, they are also desperately trying to find the current girl who has disappeared. Charlene is a bit of a rebel-child and born to a family from the wrong side of the tracks. She is the girlfriend of Ricky, who is the child of Jones ( a cop) and Maggie (a psychologist) on the other side of the tracks, yet Ricky has no idea where Charlene has gone even though he loves Charlene.
When Charlene posts a status update on her Facebook page that she has left for New York City, Ricky and his friends are suspicious that someone has logged into her account because the status update sounds nothing like something Charlene would write. They began to fear the worst as the clues are uncovered and there are a cast of suspects that could have taken Charlene.

With Charlene gone, the clock is ticking to find her and bring her back to her family. Unfortunately, there are many suspects, but few clues as to where she could have gone. The reader is taken along on the journey as they try to uncover what has happened to Charlene as it is told through the eyes of everyone from the cop on the case, the psychologist whose family is battling their own demons, through the eyes of a troubled child, and even an exterminator who happens to have witnessed a few clues of his own to help the case.

While there are many characters, the plot somehow flows seamlessly as each person shares their innermost secrets and does not create confusion for the reader. Through these characters, the reader can begin to piece together both disappearances for a surprising twist that will bring the two stories colliding together, reminding us how small the world is and how intertwined our stories can be.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is a book that will stick with you for a long time after you have closed the pages. To me, the book encompassed my favorite scene in the movie Ratatouille when the food critic takes a bite of food and it sends him spiraling back in time. He is a child and his mother made him the dish and remembering the feeling of being young and what that dish symbolized to him. This book is a moment like that, but deeper and more magical as Aimee Bender captures this instance and takes it further into a more magical place.

It begins with Rose’s ninth birthday. Her mother has decided to make her favorite lemon cake to celebrate the occasion and Rose is so excited to eat it. As Rose eagerly dives into the cake, hot from the oven, and takes a bite, this bite changes her life forever. For within that bite, she is able to feel an aching sadness and sorrow in her mother that she never knew her mom possessed. It makes the cake taste horrible to her and forces her to realize that her mother is very unhappy.

The gift is not much of a gift for her as she struggles to eat foods that she normally liked that are filled with emotions that a nine year-old child is unaware that people experience. Relying heavily on prepackaged foods and one sad woman at her school cafeteria whose foods don’t taste bad to her, Rose has been forced to rethink everything about everyone.

Rose isn’t the only one with a secret though and as you read the book, you discover that each member in her family is living with their own complex secrets. To say more than that, would give the surprising plot away, but know that the secrets add much beauty and depth to the story.

Not a single word is wasted in this book. The story is beautifully told, magical, and unlike anything I have ever read. I can’t wait to read more from this author. This was definitely one of the best books of 2010!

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

All children mythologize their birth… Ask him to tell you about when he was born. What you get won’t be the truth; it will be a story. And nothing is more telling than a story.” So begins the beautiful debut novel of Diane Setterfield, a book that took me on an adventure that I did not want to end. It was a book that interweaves two stories together seamlessly with some of the most beautiful writing I have had the pleasure of reading.

Margaret Lea has led a quiet little life, working in her father’s bookshop, and being proud of a few small autobiography write ups that she has done. She has a difficult relationship with her own mother and harbors a secret of her birth that has caused her to not be able to be close to the people she loves and has always left her feeling incomplete in her life.

When a surprising letter comes from the world-famous and reclusive author, Vida Winter, she is shocked to discover that Vida has requested her presence at her home to write the untold story of her life. She is famed for the surprising volume of books she has written in her life and is well-known the world over for her beautiful prose. Her most famous includes the book of thirteen fairy tales, that only held twelve, a mystery that has never been solved.

Even more famous though is Vida’s gift for the storytelling she has weaved for other past reporters about her life story. She has never truly told the real story to anyone, but it is her dying wish to have Margaret write her life story for the first time. She promises to tell Margaret the real story, provided she allows her to tell it in her own way at her own pace. There will be no jumping ahead in this story, but it is a story that she promises will surprise Margaret and that she will tell as truthfully to her as possible.

The story is unlike anything ever told and Margaret becomes enchanted with the life of Vida and how, in many ways, it has reflected her own life story and who she is. The story is about her mother, a set of feral twins named Adeline & Emmeline, a beautiful topiary garden that holds deep secrets, and a tragic fire that changes her life forever.

To tell the story would take away the gift of reading it, but what I can tell you is that it is every bit of suspense with each shocking and creepy turn. It is written beautifully, has references to so much literature and loveliness, and is the perfect book for any true book lover. Enjoy this book with a big cup of tea on a rainy day and you will be transported on an incredible journey.

The Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald

I feel like I have been on a journey after finishing this 410 page novel that manages to transcend the different decades of culture from the middle of the twentieth century and on through the wild and psychedelic sixties, following the story of Henry House. Built upon the fascinating true-life home economics programs that were offered in the thirties, Henry House is a test baby for a home economics house to teach women the basic life skills of running a house and caring for a child.

Henry House is an abandoned orphan who is taken in by the strict house mother, Martha, as a test baby who is cared for by six house mothers who alternate weeks and routines with him. Martha is of the firm believe to never pick up a child if the child is crying unless it follows her strict scheduled regime and requires that the mothers in the house follow suit. They all are immediately smitten with Harry and Harry lives a strange and enchanted existence where six women are at his beck and call while following the regime that Martha has ordained for all of them.

Martha develops an attachment to Harry unlike she has experienced ever before to any other test infant in the house, and decides to keep Harry instead of returning him to the orphanage. Martha soon finds that her ways of child rearing become challenged when she keeps Harry longer and has to deal with him as he grows older, something she has never experienced before. She begins to question if her ways are really right and if she really was as qualified in the role of a house mother when she has never had a real child of her own.

When Martha tells Harry that his mother died in a car accident instead of telling Harry the truth that his mother abandoned him because she had the baby out of wedlock, his relationship to Martha is forever altered from that point on and he vows he will pretend to be mute so he does not have to speak to her.

You then follow Harry’s life as he lives his life through a mute, as he discovers the healing powers of art, as he discovers his sexuality, as he finds that it really isn’t all about that, as he searches for love through a cast of unlikely characters, as he finds a career in animation, and then as he finds where he thinks he might finally belong.

If you are a fan of Forrest Gump, Mad Men, or even The Curious Case of Benjamin Button…this book is for you! While slow paced in some parts and a dissatisfying ending, it still was a fascinating premise of a book that I will long remember!

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 were your favorite books that you read in 2010? What are you looking forward to tackling in the new year?

Great Reads for Moms: December ’10 Edition

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

While I am still reading away,  I am so incredibly proud to say that I have tackled SIXTY books this year! I am really excited about that considering my goal this past year was to get my reading groove back.  Doing these monthly round-ups has truly been a powerful motivator to get back into the habit of reading again, so thank YOU for helping me accomplish my goal this month!

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.

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

Fans of, “The Help,” will truly appreciate and enjoy this fantastic novel from Kathleen Grissom that documents a story of slavery told from two perspectives, with enough plot twists and turns to leave the reader on the edge of their seat until the final page.

Orphaned while aboard a ship from Ireland, a seven year-old Lavinia is taken in by the captain and placed in his kitchen to work among the servants. As a white girl, working in the kitchen and serving the master’s family is an unlikely place for her to be, but she is taken in and embraced by Belle, the captain’s illegitimate daughter.  As unlikely as it seems, Lavinia is taken in as part of the family and finds that she truly is loved by all who know her.  Despite being white, she is treated like the rest of the children with the same amount of love and discipline that their own children are shown.

Unfortunately, her white skin sets her apart and she finds herself grappling with difficult situations as she grows older and who she must side with when racial situations arise. At sixteen, under the guidance of the captain’s family, she is sent away to get a proper education and to be among her own race. Through an unlikely turn of events, she finds herself returning to the captain’s home,  now in the unique role as the mistress of the home. Lavinia struggles with her new role and being in charge of instructing the staff (her own former adopted family) on the household maintenance and chores that must be done. Her life takes one sad turn after another, as Lavinia struggles to find her place in a world that is so divided.

Likewise, Belle’s life is filled with sadness as she loves a man that cannot belong to her and is victim of abuse. Being the illegitimate child of the captain comes with no extra perks, and she works the kitchen as the rest of the staff, struggling to decide if she wants her papers to be set free, especially when her freedom  comes with the price of losing the love of her life.

his book is a very sad tale told through the eyes of Lavinia & Belle, both offering a unique perspective on what is happening in the home and around them  It has so many plot twists and turns that you will be up all night reading this one and sheds light on the true issues that faced slaves and the difficulties of the politics that surrounded race in those days.

(MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars)


The Good Daughters by Joyce Maynard

The Good Daughters is a slower paced novel, built around an unlikely relationship that occurs after the Plank & the Dickerson families have daughters that are born on the same day in the same hospital. While the two families could not be more unalike, the Planks seem insistent on keeping up with the Dickerson family and keeping the two “birthday sisters” forever intertwined.

The Planks farm their land while the Dickerson family is artsy and lives hand-to-mouth in a nomadic life.  The Dickerson’s daughter Dana is obsessed with biology, struggling with her sexuality and feels she is as different as her family as she can be. Ruth, on the other hand, loves art and becomes fascinated with that world while trying to find a love to call her own.

The book is told in alternating points of view from Dana and Ruth as they go through Woodstock, love, marriage, divorce, jobs, and what happens when their parents become older.

The slow-moving plot and character build leads to a twist at the end of the story that the reader just might be expecting, but adds another little twist that gives the reader some satisfaction in understanding why these two families will forever be intertwined together.

A solid read with great character build make it a good read to tackle this winter!

(MomAdvice Rating- 3 Stars out of 5 Stars)


Honolulu by Alan Brennert

Honolulu happened to be recommended by two of my readers last month  (thanks Jennifer & Susan!) so I decided to pick this one up and give it a read. I am so glad that I did read it as it was a tiny bit reminiscent of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, which was one of my favorite books this year.

This book chronicles the life of Regret, whose name speaks volumes about how her father felt about having a daughter, in 20th century Korea. Regret has a strong desire to read and learn and through some unlikely assistance from her aunt, she makes friends with a prostitute who offers to give Regret lessons in reading.  As Regret learns, she begs her family to allow her to go to school, but her father has no desire to have a learned daughter. When he discovers Regret knows how to read, he raises a hand to her and Regret knows that she cannot stay in their home any longer.

When she hears that prosperous Korean men that have moved to Hawaii are looking for mail-order brides, she decides that this will be the best way to get away from her traditional family. She submits her picture and is accepted as a bride, she looks forward to beginning a new chapter in Hawaii.

Prosperous does not begin to describe the men that meet these mail order brides though. Many are much older and much poorer than the pictures led these brides to believe and Regret finds herself with a field worker who has very little and expects no less than a traditional bride.

The reader gets to go on the journey with Regret as she is in a loveless marriage, as she struggles to make ends meet, as she makes friends with unlikely people, as she finds true love, and as she finds that her best friends and allies just happened to be her fellow mail order brides.

is a beautiful tale filled with the politics and history of 20th century Korea, including well-documented research surrounding court battles and politics that were happening during this era.  I truly was captivated until the last page- a fabulous read for any historical fiction buff!

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars)

The Hunger Games Triology by Suzanne Collins

I spent the rest of the month reading The Hunger Games series that everyone has been raving about.  I hate to do a separate review of each of these books, since it would give much of the plot away, but I will say that I was over the moon about the first book, really enjoyed the second one, and the third book was a disappointment to me after experiencing how fantastic the first and second book were. That isn’t to say that the third one is not good, it just is not as strong as the first two books in the series.

The story follows an unlikely heroine, named Katniss, who lives in District 12 with her mother and sister. It is not an easy life as Katniss is responsible for the hunting for her family just to make sure their family has food on the table, especially since the death of her father.

Even tougher for the family though is the annual reaping day where the government chooses two children from each district to compete in a battle to the death, leaving only one winner of their annual Hunger Games. When Katniss’ sister’s name is drawn, Katniss does the only thing she can think of…she volunteers to take her sister’s place to save her life. Paired with the baker’s son, Peeta, whom she has known since she was a child, she is thrown immediately into the ring to begin a battle to the death.

The battle is televised for everyone in the district and it is the stories of those in battle that the audience can find endearing or come to hate. Should they love who is competing, they can gather the proceeds in their district to offer their team’s district team gifts to help sustain them in battle.  The coaches for the District 12 team realize that one way that they can make the audience members truly love Peeta & Katniss is by creating a love story between them.  It is this story that they must continue to act out throughout the battle as alliances are made, broken, and lives are lost.

Lucky for Katniss, she is strong with a bow and arrow and it is her strength that will help carry her through the battle. The series is written for young adults and young girls will definitely find a lot of love for Katniss as a strong female who can measure up to the men in battle.

This series is fabulous and was devoured by both my husband and I. We actually fought over the books because we both were reading through them so quickly. I am so glad that we were able to read it together and I can’t wait until my children are old enough that they can enjoy it too.

The Hunger Games (MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars)

Catching Fire (MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars)

Mockingjay (MomAdvice Rating- 3 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: November ’10 Edition

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

I hope you are still enjoying our round-up of great reads each week.  I am still happily plugging away at my to-be-read pile, and just love sharing ideas for great books to read with our readers. This month’s reading includes both a couple of more serious reads, while still offering a couple of fun chick-lit books that would be great to tackle.  I don’t know about you, but as holiday preparations are underway, I find myself longing for a little escape through fun literature that can take my mind off of my endless to-do list. I hope that my suggestions will offer just that for you!

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.

Room by Emma Donoghue

“Room,” is a stunning book written by Emma Donoghue that will stick with readers long after they have read the final pages. Told through the eyes of a five-year-old little boy named Jack, Room & his Ma the only things he has ever known because he has been held, and was even born in Room, his entire existence. His only glimpses of the outside world are through a skylight above their room and the limited amount of television he has watched through his time there. Of course, he doesn’t believe that anything in the television is real because he has never had the chance to experience what lies outside of the room.

His Ma was kidnapped and held hostage for seven years. She was just a child herself when she was taken and she has done everything she can to make Jack’s life just as rich as can be without being able to leave Room. In fact, she put me to shame as a mother reading all that she was doing with her child. Ma has thought of everything from celebrating Jack on his birthdays, to art time, to gym time…she manages to make it work in this tiny room.

The book is written in the language of a child which I thought would be very annoying, but quickly found it to be both endearing and poignant. I am sure it was a true challenge as an author to write in this style and to not make it unbearable to read. Emma Donoghue captures the voice and innocence of Jack perfectly in this stunning book.

While I wish I could say more about the book, it would definitely take away from the plot and the beauty of enjoying this one through fresh eyes. As a reader though, know that your heart will ache and root triumphantly for this mother & child to see the outside world!

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars)

Last Night at Chateau Marmont by Lauren Weisberger

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

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

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

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

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

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars)

Ape House by Sara Gruen

Isabel is an ape researcher who has devoted her life to working with the bonobo apes. The apes are like family to her and they use sign language and a linguistics chart to communicate what it is they need. Isabel & the staff accommodate to what the apes need from getting them lattes to filming their excursions for the apes to watch later. All that they do is meant to study & research the apes while keeping them in a safe environment, and learn about how they communicate with one another.

John Thigpen is a journalist who has been assigned the story of the bonobo apes and comes to document what the research lab is doing with them. He finds he is immediately drawn to Isabel and the apes and is excited to write a piece about them.

Shortly after his visit though, the ape lab is bombed and Isabel is injured and hospitalized after the bombing. She is in pain, but concerned more for the apes and their well-being. When news footage shows the apes hanging in the trees because they are so frightened, Isabel becomes increasingly agitated about where they will end up. Where they end up though, no one could have guessed.

After the apes are captured, they are thrown into a reality series home called, “Ape House” and documented twenty-four hours a day on television that can be viewed for the price of a membership. A seedy former pornographer producer has decided to exploit the apes as they subject them to ridiculous situations in order to make money off of them. Particular concentration seems to be on making the apes act or do things in sexual ways, in hopes to boost the ratings.

When John begins working as a reporter for a tabloid paper, after being let go from his last job, he is assigned coverage of the Ape House series. He is once again trying to find out information about Isabel and what happened at the lab that would have caused the explosion. He ultimately is faced with blowing the cover off of the whole situation and uses his investigative reflexes to find out who would have bombed the lab and how the apes came into the hands of this producer.

I was so excited to dive into, “Ape House,” and couldn’t wait to see what Sara Gruen came up with next. Although she spent years researching and spending a great deal of time with the bonobo apes, which was evident throughout the storyline of the bonobos, the story just wasn’t as solid or the characters as endearing as I had hoped. I was hoping for more from this book and there were too many characters and side stories that took away from the research and beauty of the story of the apes. I still breezed through the book and found it to be a quick read, but wished that the storyline didn’t have so many loose ends and unnecessary characters, focusing more on the storyline of the apes themselves.

(MomAdvice Rating- 3 Stars out of 5 Stars)

Mini Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

Over the years, I have enjoyed reading Becky’s shenanigans and expenditures in the Shopaholic series more than I can say and the new Mini Shopaholic is just as enjoyable and endearing as Sophie Kinsella’s earlier books in the series.

Becky is now happily married to Luke Brandon, the love of her life, and they have a two-year-old little girl who is Becky’s biggest challenge yet. Minnie is a strong-willed child who has a love and fascination for shopping just like her mother. As she is banned from stores for her bad behavior and tantrums uncontrollably when things don’t go her way, you wonder how Becky will be able to manage their child.

As Luke is wrapped up with work and the difficulties of managing his business & they struggle with their badly behaved Minnie, Becky decides to take it upon herself to throw a surprise birthday party for Luke that will include all of his friends and colleagues. The catch is that a financial crisis in London has forced everyone to be on a budget, and this will include Becky and the party of the year that Becky is hoping to throw. Since Becky has rarely had to do anything on a budget before, hilarity ensues as Becky tries to pull off a budget-friendly party and not have Luke catch on to her plan.

Readers will be entertained as Becky tries to find jugglers and fire-eaters by bartering through Craigslist with her high fashion wardrobe pieces and as she crafts homemade pom poms for the party décor. As a YouTube, “Happy Birthday to Luke” campaign is underway and newspapers are blasting about the party of the year, you will be giggling to the last page at what lengths Becky will go to as she tries to celebrate Luke’s birthday and extinguish the fires as the word begins to spread about the party.

I really enjoyed this quick read although the last two chapters really made the whole book for me. It is the glimpses of the realness of Becky and her everyday struggles with a strong-willed child that made this a great read for moms and her shopaholic ways that add that little bit of escape to every day life.

(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 ’10 Edition

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

I can’t believe it, but eight more books were devoured this month. No, I have no idea how that was possible  except that I did some traveling this month and all I did was read.  Does it help to know that my house has been suffering because I have so many great books in my book stack these days?  Or that my husband has been working a lot in the evenings and I have been unwinding with bubble baths and books since I have a little bit of solitude?  Or that the books that I read were just too simply awesome to put down? Or perhaps, that I have no social life at all? Deep thoughts!

A reader requested that we do 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.

One Day by David Nicholls

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

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

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

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

(MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars)


Fragile by Lisa Unger

It has been a long time since I have read something so suspenseful that I could not put it down, but Fragile by Lisa Unger is the kind of book that sucks you in and won’t let you go. It is reminiscent of Jodi Picoult’s earlier work with just the right balance of suspense and mystery to keep a reader enchanted until the final page. I must say that I am smitten with Lisa Unger and can’t wait to read some of her older novels now that I have had a taste of her writing style.

In the town of The Hollows, a fictional small town just outside of New York City, a young girl goes missing after a fight with her parents. The disappearance reminds the people in this town of another similar disappearance of a girl named Sarah, who had suddenly disappeared in the eighties, and many of the main characters find themselves flashing back to that first disappearance.

While the main characters are revisiting the disappearance of Sarah, they are also desperately trying to find the current girl who has disappeared. Charlene is a bit of a rebel-child and born to a family from the wrong side of the tracks. She is the girlfriend of Ricky, who is the child of Jones ( a cop) and Maggie (a psychologist) on the other side of the tracks, yet Ricky has no idea where Charlene has gone even though he loves Charlene.
When Charlene posts a status update on her Facebook page that she has left for New York City, Ricky and his friends are suspicious that someone has logged into her account because the status update sounds nothing like something Charlene would write. They began to fear the worst as the clues are uncovered and there are a cast of suspects that could have taken Charlene.

With Charlene gone, the clock is ticking to find her and bring her back to her family. Unfortunately, there are many suspects, but few clues as to where she could have gone. The reader is taken along on the journey as they try to uncover what has happened to Charlene as it is told through the eyes of everyone from the cop on the case, the psychologist whose family is battling their own demons, through the eyes of a troubled child, and even an exterminator who happens to have witnessed a few clues of his own to help the case.

While there are many characters, the plot somehow flows seamlessly as each person shares their innermost secrets and does not create confusion for the reader. Through these characters, the reader can begin to piece together both disappearances for a surprising twist that will bring the two stories colliding together, reminding us how small the world is and how intertwined our stories can be.

(MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars)


Still Missing by Chevy Stevens

Before I begin, I want to warn you that this thriller is not for the faint of heart and to please consider yourself warned before picking this book up! Chelsea Cain fans though will find a new author and psychopath to love-to-hate in this debut novel from Chevy Stevens.

Annie O’Sullivan has been trying to put her life together after a year of captivity as she rehashes what has happened to her through her weekly therapy sessions. As the story of her time in captivity unfolds, the reader is taken on a haunting journey and is able to witness the psychological traumas that face Annie as she tries to break the habits that she had to endure and find a new normalcy to her life.

Before her abduction, Annie is a Realtor who is hosting an open house on a relatively quiet Sunday. When a handsome young man comes to the house, she is thrilled to show him around and hoping for her first big sale. She realizes quickly, when a gun is pushed into her back, that this may be her last open house.

After giving her a drug to knock her out, she awakens to find herself in a cabin in the middle of nowhere, held in captivity by a man that she only refers to as, “The Freak.” The Freak has thought of everything to make her stay in the cabin as comfortable and sterile as possible. He has thought of every simple little detail from the childlike dresses he wants her to wear, to her grooming schedule, to her dinner schedule, and even how she is to meticulously care for the cabin. One misstep in this OCD world, calculates into beatings, the loss of food, and the loss of any human connection for days on end. When she is told that she is to have his baby, she knows that she may never see her friends and family again and that her stay may be a permanent one.

As the pieces are pulled together, it is shocking how The Freak has found Annie and who ultimately caused her captivity. Through the sessions with the therapist, you discover right along with Annie how she was betrayed and the irreversible damage that she has had to suffer, through this surprising ending.

The chapters are short, reminiscent of a James Patterson book, and the writing is not as solid as I would have hoped. I think that the story and the plot really held it together though for me, and ultimately was a book that I managed to read in a day because I just could not put it down.

Editor’s Note- This book contains violence, sexuality, and adult language. Did I mention it is not for the faint of heart? You were warned, friends!

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars)


A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff

Phoebe Swift surprises her friends when she leaves a coveted position at Sotheby’s auction house to open her own vintage clothing shop in London, but Phoebe knows that she is fulfilling a lifelong dream to have her very own store. The reader is taken on the journey of the opening of Phoebe’s shop, the relationships with her customers, finding love again, and the intricacies of friendship.

Phoebe is fascinated with the clothing from other eras and loves gathering the collections, pieced together by visiting the attics and closets of wealthy families. It is these chance meetings where she develops a very unlikely friendship with an elderly woman named Therese Bell.

Therese has an amazing collection of clothing that she is getting rid of and asks Phoebe to come to her home to sell her the clothes. Phoebe is instructed that she can only take items before a certain point in the closet, but Phoebe notices an unusual item tucked in Therese’s closet…a sky blue child-sized coat in mint condition.

It is through this coat that Phoebe hears a story of friendship and regret that Therese has lived with her entire life. She has never told a single person, but wants to tell Phoebe her story so that she can make peace with her life, as she is dying. What surprises Therese is that she is not alone in her tale of friendship of regret and betrayal because Phoebe has been living with a secret of her own that has caused Phoebe so much pain that her life has taken an entirely different direction than she could ever expect.

This book is a breath of fresh air and highly recommended to my fashionista friends because it feels as though you are transported in the shop and can enjoy all of the detail and thought that Phoebe has put into her shop of vintage frocks. Every piece of clothing has a story and the author carefully interweaves those stories of the customers and how the dresses find them in this charming book!

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars)


Chosen by Chandra Hoffman

Chloe Pinter is the director of the Chosen Child’s domestic-adoption program and feels like she has the perfect job of completing and bringing families together through adoption. She is organized and meticulous about the details of the adoptions and does her best to insure that the mothers that are offering their children for adoption are cared for.

Chloe is dealing with three very different couples during the adoption process while she is struggling to hold her own life together with her demanding job. These three couples could not be any more different and the author tries to share their story without judgment of who is right or wrong in these cases, allowing the reader to make their own conclusions.

The Novas are a very well-off couple who have suffered with fertility for years and are finally blessed with their very own pregnancy, the McAdoos are a well-to-do couple whose marriage is on the rocks after years of failed adoptions and are hoping that this adoption will create the family that they have always wanted, and Jason & Penny who have absolutely nothing except a baby that everybody wants. Their stories are told in alternating points of view and the stories weave together when a child goes missing as the reader discovers how people will do just about anything to get that one thing they want.

While a fascinating premise for a book, it did not captivate me the way that I had hoped it would. It was a quick read, but the build-up for the story was a slow one and not one that gripped me the way I had hoped!

(MomAdvice Rating- 3 Stars out of 5 Stars)


Husband and Wife by Leah Stewart

Many books glamorize infidelity, but Leah Stewart does nothing to glamorize the tragedy that happens in a home when a spouse is unfaithful. The reader is taken on a journey through a demise of a relationship and when this happens, how you begin to wonder what-if about other relationships in your life.

Novelist Nathan Bennett seems to have it all and he thinks he finally has a success on his hands with his new novel, “Infidelity.” Just before the novel is set to be released, Nathan sits his wife Sarah down to tell her that the novel isn’t a fictional one and is based on his own infidelity with a woman that he met at a writing conference.

Sarah is now faced with what she should do with their two kids and begins to consider how different her life would have been if she would have acted on a relationship with a man that she always had feelings for before she got married.

When Sarah kicks Nathan out of the house, she decides to see what would happen if she explored that past love opportunity and tries to discover who she is and if she is the person she is because her spouse wanted her to be, or if she is that person because that is who she truly is. She asks the questions and expresses the sentiments of any woman who is in her thirties and looking back on love that has been lost and the new ailments and issues that plague us as we grow older, but I found that was where relating to her really ended.

I found this book to be a very depressing one, although it was well-written. I found both of the characters were acting very selfishly and it made me sad for the children that were involved in this relationship. I did love the sense of humor that Leah Stewart interweaved through the story, but was ready for this book to end so I could move on to something a little more uplifting. I am still a fan, but hope that her next novel will tackle something a little less gloomy!

(MomAdvice Rating- 3 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: September ’10 Edition

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

Welcome to this month’s gathering of great reads for moms! I tackled five great books this month that I think you guys will really enjoy! There is everything here from great chick-lit to a fifties throwback to a couple of modern-day thrillers. I hope that you will be able to check out a few of these on your next library visit!

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.

I am traveling a lot over this next month for work and am looking forward to sharing some of the great reads that I encounter over those trips. Always the frugal girl, a library book is always tucked in my purse for those layovers and time spent on the plane. Even with the new fall television line-up and the busyness of a new school year, I still would much rather curl up on my couch with my favorite quilt and a great new read.  It is just what I need after a hectic day! Happy reading, everyone!

The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond

For photographer, Abby Mason, she loves to view life through the eye of her camera lens. One day as she is photographing her fiancee’s daughter on the beach, she is distracted for a moment by an animal that has been injured and washed up on the sand. As she turns her head for that one moment, the unthinkable happens and six year-old Emma seemingly disappears in thin air.

Michelle Richmond vividly captures those sheer moments of initial panic as Abby scours the beach for Emma, the call that she must make to Jake to let him know that Emma has disappeared, and the search for Emma as Jake and Abby become consumed by Emma and her disappearance.

While Emma’s father, Jake, is willing to go along with the police investigation and only what is considered police protocol, Abby, on the other hand, is living with the guilt of knowing that she is the one who lost Emma and is determined to bring their happy little family back together. She begins trying the unconventional routes of discovery like hypnotism and even putting herself in harm’s way to post Emma’s picture anywhere and everywhere she can over the course of that year of her disappearance.

When a clue finally comes through a hypnosis session, Abby travels to a foreign country to try to unearth where Emma may be and ultimately discover who could have kidnapped Emma. Surprising discoveries are made that will leave the reader guessing up to the final pages about who could have taken Emma and what the motives could have been to take her from a family that loves her.

It is a book that tugged at my heart as I read it, and the pacing is so slow at times in order to build up that anticipation and ache in your heart that makes you hang on to the last page to figure out what has happened to this little girl.

Fantastically written, beautifully paced, and a great gentle reminder of how life can change in an instant- this one is a must read!

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars)

something borrowed by emily giffin

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

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

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

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

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

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

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars)

something blue by emily giffin

After wrapping up, “Something Borrowed,” I was anxious to dive into this sequel and can honestly say that is one of the first sequels that I have ever read that I loved even more than the first.

Giffin takes a smart approach towards the sequel and decides to tell the story from a different perspective, this time from Rachel’s best friend Darcy’s perspective, about what has transpired in the first book and how Darcy saw her friendship with Rachel and relationship with Dex.

While it goes over the old ground of what has happened to Darcy’s relationship, it begins to take shape when Darcy decides to head to London to stay with an old classmate from school, and try to start a new life that is away from the Rachel/Dex drama. She also happens to be pregnant with a Hampton-fling’s baby and quickly discovers that she is alone in the world. For the first time, Darcy is not wanted by any man and now must figure out how she is going to make a life for her child on her own.

Instead of focusing on the baby though, she immediately moves into a routine of continuously shopping and then waiting for Ethan, the best friend with whom she is staying with to come home. While Ethan encourages her to think outside of herself for once, Darcy really doesn’t decide to start to change until she has a tift with Ethan and realizes that staying there is really her last hope. She has ostracized all of her friends and family and now must find who Darcy really is.

I don’t want to give any of the plot away so you can enjoy this book as much as I did, but will admit that it was a bit predictable in parts. The predictability and the ease that this one is to read makes it perfect to tuck in your bag for a trip.

For a character that will be easy to love to hate though, Giffin puts a spin on Darcy’s story that finds you empathetic towards her as Darcy ultimately learns to love someone other than herself and the series ends with that fairytale ending that you will be craving as you conclude this amazing sequel.

(MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars)

The Nobodies Album by Carolyn Parkhurst

Caryolyn Parkhurst is a vividly descriptive writer and has a uniqueness to her writing style and perspective that is unmarked by many authors. The Nobodies Album is an ambitious novel that is almost three novels in one. The concept for this book offers a unique plot unlike any that I have read before.

Octavia Frost is the fictional bestselling author who has decided to take on the enormous task of rewriting the previous ending to all of her past books. As she is on the way to deliver this book to her literary agent in New York, a headline captures her attention in Times Square. The reason it captures her attention? The headline claims that her son, a rock star with whom she is estranged, has murdered his girlfriend.

Blindly she heads to San Francisco to support her son Milo, knowing that he couldn’t have possibly murdered Bettina, the love of his life. Upon her arrival, she is unsure if she will even be welcomed into his circle because of a mistake that she made many years ago. She is warily enveloped into Milo’s fold, as Milo confesses that he can’t remember what happened the night of the murder.

With all evidence pointing to Milo, Octavia takes a writer’s perspective and begins to piece the story together, just as she has done with all of her books in the past. As she tries to figure out who would have murdered Bettina, you are taken on a journey through the chapters and then the revised chapters of the books as the story begins to unfold. You also are taken on a journey as you discover the deep secret that has kept Milo and Octavia apart and the tragedy that has enveloped their lives since Milo was a child.

The fact that Parkhurst can grab the reader as each chapter is shared, you almost wish that she would write a book of her own that would build upon the brilliant chapter ideas she has created for Octavia’s book. The chapters are interjected in a suspenseful plot which can be agonizing at times because you want to read the real story so much.

It was a great book by a great author and I am looking forward to reading more of her future books.

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars)

The Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald

I feel like I have been on a journey after finishing this 410 page novel that manages to transcend the different decades of culture from the middle of the twentieth century and on through the wild and psychedelic sixties, following the story of Henry House. Built upon the fascinating true-life home economics programs that were offered in the thirties, Henry House is a test baby for a home economics house to teach women the basic life skills of running a house and caring for a child.

Henry House is an abandoned orphan who is taken in by the strict house mother, Martha, as a test baby who is cared for by six house mothers who alternate weeks and routines with him. Martha is of the firm believe to never pick up a child if the child is crying unless it follows her strict scheduled regime and requires that the mothers in the house follow suit. They all are immediately smitten with Harry and Harry lives a strange and enchanted existence where six women are at his beck and call while following the regime that Martha has ordained for all of them.

Martha develops an attachment to Harry unlike she has experienced ever before to any other test infant in the house, and decides to keep Harry instead of returning him to the orphanage. Martha soon finds that her ways of child rearing become challenged when she keeps Harry longer and has to deal with him as he grows older, something she has never experienced before. She begins to question if her ways are really right and if she really was as qualified in the role of a house mother when she has never had a real child of her own.

When Martha tells Harry that his mother died in a car accident instead of telling Harry the truth that his mother abandoned him because she had the baby out of wedlock, his relationship to Martha is forever altered from that point on and he vows he will pretend to be mute so he does not have to speak to her.

You then follow Harry’s life as he lives his life through a mute, as he discovers the healing powers of art, as he discovers his sexuality, as he finds that it really isn’t all about that, as he searches for love through a cast of unlikely characters, as he finds a career in animation, and then as he finds where he thinks he might finally belong.

If you are a fan of Forrest Gump, Mad Men, or even The Curious Case of Benjamin Button…this book is for you! While slow paced in some parts and a dissatisfying ending, it still was a fascinating premise of a book that I will long remember!

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars)

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