Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

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)

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: August ’10 Edition

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

I hope you have been getting in lots of reading time during these long days of summer! I started counting how many books I have read so far this year and I am just starting my 39th book since January. I think that I have officially gotten my reading groove back on! Summer is always when I get my best reading done and I have so many fun new reads for you to add to your library wish lists!

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!

I have another big stack of books that I have started for the next month’s reading round-up and I hope these book suggestions are offering some inspiration for diving into a new read yourself!

My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares

Ann Brashares, best known for her Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, is an author that I have not had the pleasure of reading yet. Her novel, “My Name is Memory,” sounded like a promising beach read though and perfect for those of us that are Time Traveler’s Wife fans and missing that “love through the ages” romance that we have been longing for. I expected a lighthearted read and instead found myself reading a fantastically paced novel full of beautiful characters and a cliffhanger of an ending, perfect for this planned trilogy.

Daniel has been searching for the love of his life, Sophia, for years. Not just a few years though… for over 1,200 years he has been looking for his one true love and hoping that they will be reunited at the perfect time and find love together again. Daniel has had many souls that transcends centuries from the eighth century in Turkey to WWI. Each time he dies, his soul returns and he spends his entire lifetime looking for Sophia.

The stars finally align for them when Lucy, a shy high school student, and Daniel meet. Lucy has an inexplicable connection to Daniel and when Daniel tries to explain to her that she is his Sophia, it pushes Lucy away because she is so scared and confused.

After Lucy heads to college, she decides to try to uncover the mystery of this Sophia and find out if Daniel is telling the truth. She admits that she feels a connection to him and a connection to the name Sophia, even though she has no idea why. The need to discover this sends her on a wild goose chase discovering and learning more about their relationship.

Daniel gives Lucy the space she needs to discover who he is while trying to protect Lily from imminent danger. You see, Daniel isn’t the only one with an old soul. His brother, and Sophia’s former husband in a past life, also wants Sophia in his life and to punish his brother for taking his wife away from him in a past life.

The book is a fast-paced adventure that transports you into different centuries as Daniel is reborn and trying to find the love of his life. His character is endearing and you will find yourself rooting for Daniel and Sophia to find true love again.

While this is an adult read, it still has the feel of a young adult book. The ending was also admittedly a little cheesy. That being said, it is a satisfying read that reads a little like Twilight and a little like The Time Traveler’s Wife- a story of unrequited love that transcends the ages. If you are a fan of either of those books, then I have a feeling you will love this book!

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars)

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 for a summer read. 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.

(MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars)
Every Last One by Anna Quindlen

This is my first book by Anna Quindlen, but after reading this haunting book, I doubt it will be my last read from this author.

The book moves at a slow build and shares about an altogether typical family suffering from the same everyday life issues that so many families are facing. With three teen children, Mary Beth Latham is trying to play an active role in her children’s lives while still allowing them to become the adult people that they are shaping to be.

As her son becomes increasingly depressed, Mary Beth focuses her efforts on her son and trying to help him overcome his emotional issues, often to the detriment of other members in the family. You find that Mary Beth is trying to find that perfect balance in motherhood where she balances her career and loving each of her children equally, and the duties in her role as a wife. As we all know, it is not a balance that is very achievable.

In a shocking twist that I will never reveal, something happens that shakes the utter core of this family unit. It was so shocking that it literally took my breath away and caused me to think about how I, as a mother, would react if such a situation happened to me. More importantly though, how would I feel if my community and friends felt that something from my past or a decision I had made had caused harm to my family?

Mary Beth’s character really takes shape after the tragedy and we then begin to get small glimpses into her soul and her own struggles as a mother and wife that, I am sure, face many of us. We also see as Mary Beth reflects on her past decisions that cause others to place shadows of doubt upon her.

I will say, if you are feeling blue, not a good book to pick up. It is something that has stuck with me since I closed it and I can’t stop thinking about what has unfolded in it. For a book club discussion though, this would provoke a lot of discussion!

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars)

The late, lamented molly marx by Sally Koslow

Molly Marx dies at the tender age of thirty-five, but she is unable to pass into the next life and held into a place of duration, witnessing life continuing to unfold around her. As she stands at her funeral, she is faced with wondering who at the funeral murdered her. While it sounds like the premise for a deep novel, it actually moves into a lighthearted book of fantastic chick lit as Molly reflects on the past and follows the life that is happening around her.

A wretched mother-in-law, a husband whose infidelity begins on their wedding day, a spunky twin sister whose anger over what has happened to her sister has consumed her, and a best friend that would have moved mountains for her, and the determined detective who has been assigned her case to figure out which of these people could want Molly Marx dead are a sampling of the strong characters within this book.

Molly is beautifully flawed and is a character that you will enjoy following despite those flaws as she discovers what really and truly makes her happy. Molly is discovering who she is and the decisions she could have made to have prevented her death, but it can’t change the outcome. It can, in the end, identify her killer though.

A perfect whodunit mystery with wonderful chick-lit flavor, this is a great book that is perfect for Sophie Kinsella fans or any fans of a great murder-mystery with a surprisingly fun heroine. I can’t wait to read more from this author!

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars)

Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin

I really love Emily Giffin’s books and this was no exception the other books I have read by her. Heart of the Matter is a fantastic quick read that would be perfect to tuck in your beach bag for summer.

Tessa Russo is a mother of two children and wife to the most successful and renowned pediatric surgeon in town. She is a wife that seems to adore her husband and is able to take his career and the nuances of being a doctor’s wife in stride.

One night their anniversary dinner is interrupted with an emergency surgery that must be performed. Six year-old Charlie, is involved in a tragic accident that will forever change his life and the life of single mom, Valerie Anderson.

Nick Russo, Tessa’s husband, immediately makes Valerie and Charlie feel at ease with his great bedside manner and his easygoing attitude with Charlie. As Charlie is under his care, they both began to rely more and more on Nick to help them through the tragic situation that has faced them. The comfort that he offers to Valerie quickly eases into a deep friendship and then a relationship that crosses the patient/doctor relationship borders.

The book is told in alternating pitches and allows you to glimpse into and sympathize with both women in the story. You began to empathize with both of the characters and find that you can find your heart torn between all of the characters.

As a mother, I really hated how Valerie’s relationship with Nick, at times, seemed more of her focus than caring for her son. I also hated how, as the relationship unfolded, it affected Charlie and his own world. I found myself sympathizing a lot more with the wife than I did with Valerie.

In the end, the book is about forgiveness, the discovery of love, the loss of love, and the healing that comes from all of those experiences.

(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: June ’10 Edition

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

Has your library bag been overflowing like mine? I have embarrassingly taken out far too many books than I could ever read, but love being able to have a tiny little library of my own at home. Summer reading is my favorite kind of reading and I have been enjoying lots of great books in the sunshine while the kids play.

As I have mentioned before, 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!

I hope you are continuing to enjoy these reviews as much as I have enjoyed putting them together. It is so fun to indulge in my bookworm ways and can’t wait to hear about your own summer reading.

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.

If I could have given this book ten stars, I would. Thank you all for recommending it for my reading list!

(MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars)

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!

(MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars)

the one that i want by Allison Winn Scotch

I am a huge fan of Allison Winn Scotch and still count her, “Time of My Life,” as one of my favorite reads and a great book to recommend to just about anyone. Her books are filled with women who have come to a crossroads at their life and must make a decision on what path to choose.

The One That I Want explores another crossroad of a woman who seems to have it all. Tilly is living the life that she has always dreamed of. She loved where she grew up and has a career as a guidance counselor and is married to her high school sweetheart. They live in a tidy little home that was purchased for them with the help of her father and, in her eyes, she has everything that she could ever want.

At a local carnival she runs into an old high school friend who has now become a fortune teller. Her old friend, Susie, decides to give Tilly a gift that she think that Tilly has never had…the gift of clarity. With the gift, if Tilly sees any pictures of the people she loves, she immediately passes out and can see visions of the future and what is to come.

What Tilly sees shocks her and she soon realizes that the life of perfection she has always thought she lived might not have been perfect. Her father is heading down a road towards alcoholism again, her husband isn’t really happy anymore, and Tilly is forced to decide if this “perfect life” is what she really wanted.

You will find yourself rooting for Tilly as the character is learning to rediscover who she really is. Her exploration comes through the help of her friends and family as Tilly rediscovers what a perfect life really is.

I love Allison’s magical spin on stories and loved this book a lot. I related much more to the characters in, “Time of My Life,” but still felt this was a strong book from the author. I was, once again, immediately sucked in and now will be drumming my fingers on the table awaiting another fantastic read from her.

PS- Allison is also on Twitter and very engaging with her fans! I spoke to her a few times and she is just as lovely as can be. I wish her all the luck in the world with this fantastic new release from her! Congrats to Allison!

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars)

The Lies We Told by Diane Chamberlain

I have been a huge fan of Diane Chamberlain since reading, “The Secret Life of Cee Cee Wilkes.” I was contacted by her publicist to see if I would be interested in reading her latest book, “Lies We Told,” and sharing my thoughts on it with my readers.

This story is about two sisters who are both hardworking doctors, but that is where their similarities end. Maya & Rebecca are as different as night and day and both harboring secret about the murder of their parents that have shaped them as adults.

Maya is married to a wonderful husband, but suffers from infertility that has caused a strain in her relationship with her spouse. Rebecca, on the other hand, is a free spirited woman who works for a disaster aid program where her job changes from day to day. The sisters are close and Rebecca acts as Maya’s fill-in mother since their mother has passed away.

After two hurricanes hit the state of North Carolina, Maya and her husband, Adam, decide to join the relief effort and help the organization care for those who are sick and injured since the devastating hurricanes came through. When Maya is sent to care for a group of patients being airlifted to the hospital, her helicopter crashes and Maya is thought to not have survived the crash.

While Rebecca and Adam continue to work for the disaster aid organization, they are both left devastated without Maya. They turn to one another for comfort as they cling to the small piece of hope that Maya may have survived.

Maya, meanwhile, awakens to find she is being cared for on an isolated island by a very pregnant Tully and her husband. They work hard to nurse her back to health and care for her until she can be rescued, while her family never knows that she is still alive and is planning her memorial service.

I loved this book, but hated the improbable and tidy ending of the book. I wished that the author went a little further after all of the character development. The ending left me shaking my head and wishing that it hadn’t ended the way it did. If you can look past the ending, the book was a good summer read.

(MomAdvice Rating- 3 Stars out of 5 Stars)

Fireworks Over Toccoa by Jeffrey Stepakoff

I took a gamble on reading this book because it is nothing like anything I would normally pick up. I am not a big fan of the romance genre though so my thoughts on this book come from that place.

This book was a cross between The Notebook and Bridges of Madison County… a beautiful story of unrequited love that will leave you a tad frustrated and rooting for true love in the end. I read about it in a magazine and considering the author’s credits (producing shows like The Wonder Years, Dawson’s Creek, & Sisters) thought it would be a great book to add to my beach bag.

The story takes place during WWII and Lily Davis is awaiting the return of her husband, Paul, from the war. The two married too soon and had only been together two weeks before Paul was shipped off to war. Lily is left for three years on her own waiting for the man she hardly knows to return so they can begin their life together. During that three years though, Lily has changed so much and her fiery, independent spirit has grown even more fiery and independent.

As the town prepares for the soldiers’ return, Italian firework expert, Jake Russo, is hired to put together a welcome home firework show for the town. A chance encounter, brings Lily and Jake together and Lily finds herself falling deeply in love with Jake…a love like she has never experienced before.

Within a few short days, Lily begins to question who she is and who she would be if she stayed with her husband Paul. She is left with the tough decision of honoring her soldier husband and family’s wishes or following her heart and leaving with Jake.

The author captures their love beautifully in this short book with a surprising twist at the end that will leave your heart aching for Lily and the decisions she had to make.

A quick read that is perfect for the romance-loving reader and Nicholas Sparks die-hards. This is definitely chick flick material!

(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: May ’10 Edition

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

May was another wonderful month of reading for me although I will admit that I am segueing into a time of lighter summer reading and swinging back into a fun summer of working on crafting and knitting projects. The picture here is the picture I took of what I asked to do for Mother’s Day. I sat in my favorite chair with a pile of books and managed to read three books over that Mother’s Day weekend. Wrapped in my favorite summer quilt, feet sprawled up on my little bench, and a giant cup of coffee in hand…it was the perfect way to spend my day!

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 is now over a hundred entries long.

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell

After reading The Hand that First Held Mine, I immediately became a super fan of Maggie O’ Farrell. I was anxious to dive into another book by her and The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox is perhaps one of the most haunting and twisted family drama stories that I have read since my high school years of devouring V.C. Andrews.

Iris Lockhart is a single young woman who spends her days tending to a vintage-clothing shop and trying to sidestep a commitment with her married boyfriend. To her surprise, she receives a call one day letting her know that her great-aunt Esme is going to need to find a new place to stay because the insane asylum that she has been staying at is going to be closing. The clincher is, Iris never knew that her great-aunt existed and that she has been housed in the asylum for over sixty years.

The story that unfolds is both dramatic and, at times, very confusing. It is told through the schizophrenic eyes of a young girl whose only true fault is being strong-willed and dedicated to her academics. It is told through the eyes of Iris, as the young woman is trying to discover her family secrets while carrying the burden of knowing she can’t make a commitment to any man until she deals with her own secrets. It is finally told through the eyes of Esme’s sister, Kitty, a nursing home patient who has been struck with Alzheimer’s in a fragmented and disjointed prose that mimics the mind of Kitty.

The story is haunting, the betrayal is shocking, and the twisted ending just begs for a sequel. It will leave you wondering what will become of Esme and it made me want to read it all over again once all the pieces have slid into place.

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars)

The Last Will of Moira Leahy by Therese Walsh

Moira Leahy always struggled growing up in the shadows of her wildly talented and fun-loving twin sister, Maeve. In the fall of their sixteenth year, Moira falls in love with a boy named Ian. What she quickly realizes though is that Ian’s love is meant for Maeve,and once again Moira feels as though she is in Maeve’s shadow. Thanks to being identical, she can easily pass herself off as Maeve to receive Ian’s affection. They meet secretly at night and Ian falls deeper and deeper in love with Maeve…never knowing that he is actually meeting Moira.

Secrets are hard to keep from a twin sister, and Moira has to make a conscious effort to block Maeve from reading her thoughts and discovering her secret. When the lies become too much, a fateful
accident occurs that changes Moira and Mave’s lives forever.

Now grown, Maeve has become a workaholic and professor of languages at a small college in upstate New York. She dreams often of her twin and is haunted by what happened that fateful night. She is detached from everyone in her life, but one night an auction changes her life.

At the auction a keris (a Javenese dagger) is put up for auction and it reminds Maeve of the long lost days of playing pirates with her sister. An uncontrollable urge to win it, whatever the cost, allows her to be the proud owner of the keris.

This dagger takes her on a wild adventure to Rome, to discover its origin and ultimately, to find a love that she thought she lost. Her adventure is full of magic, mystery, love lost, and love found. It is a story of self-discovery through an unlikely antique that will take the reader on a lovely little ride.

The beginning was a slow build for me, the middle was fast-paced and exciting, the ending a little long, but full of great twists that surprised me. It was a fantastically solid read from a brand new author,whom I discovered through GoodReads by author Allison Winn Scotch (a personal favorite of mine).

What I love even more though was that Therese is also a tweeter and I received several sweet tweets from her when she saw that I was reading her book. There is something special about an author that engages like that and I am excited to not only get the opportunity to share about her book, but also engage with her personally.

A fantastic debut and I look forward to reading more from Therese Walsh.

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars)

Hush by Kate White

Lake Warren is running a busy marketing firm and is hired by a Manhattan fertility clinic to devise a new marketing plan for the busy clinic. Her personal life is not going as well as her business though and she finds herself in the middle of a divorce battling for the custody of her children. Her lawyer’s best advice that he can give her is to not get involved in any relationships or engage in any behavior that can upset this custody battle.

Just days later following a company dinner, she is seduced by a doctor that she had been flirting with, and decides to risk it all and spend the night with him. After falling asleep on his penthouse terrace, she comes back to the bed and finds Dr. Keaton has been murdered.

Not willing to jeopardize her own custody battle for a one-night stand, she can tell no one that she was there that evening. Unfortunately for her, the killer knows that she was there and begins to stalk her and send her messages to let her know that she could be the next victim.

Instead of becoming the victim, Lake begins her own investigative case to figure out who the killer is. As she begins to discover more and more clues, she finds shadows are cast on the credibility of the clinic she is working for. As her case builds, she begins to wonder if her stalker is after her because of being witness to the murder or if someone at the clinic is worried that their reputation might be at stake.

I read this book in a day and thought it was a fun beach read. It is a typical thriller read, but it still had me guessing until the very end who the killer might have been. With a likable cast of characters and a solid storyline, I would recommend tucking this book in your beach bag for a great little murder mystery reading.

(MomAdvice Rating- 3 Stars)

Love in Mid Air by Kim Wright

Before you all send me horrible emails, throw rotten tomatoes at me,  and add comments on my GoodReads page, I just want to add this disclaimer that this book is pretty darn smutty. I add this as a fun beach bag read and want to be up front about that before reviewing it! Now that you have my disclaimer, here are my thoughts on the book!

Elyse Bearden is a typical suburban wife living the American dream. Her husband, Phil, is a dentist and they have a beautiful home, a beautiful neighborhood, a church family, and a beautiful daughter. Elyse is not happy though and has not been happy in her (almost) ten years of marriage.

A chance meeting an unexpected stranger on a flight throws Elyse’s life in a tailspin that she could never imagine. As she clutches this stranger’s business card in her purse, she contemplates if she should risk it all for a stranger and see if a relationship can happen. Elyse has been so unhappy for so long in her marriage, that she believes that she is entitled to a little bit of happiness and decides to see what will happen.

As the affair goes on, she attends marital counseling with her husband, and gab sessions with her girlfriends on marriage, sex, love, and freedom. Her best friend and fellow book club members all begin to reflect on their own relationships and what these issues mean to them. As Elyse heads down her own road to self-discovery, they are on their own journeys which add to the plot line of the story.

While this may seem like typical chick lit fare, it is actually a really great story with fantastic character development. I wanted Elyse to be committed to her marriage and family, but as the character of Phil is developed, you begin to understand Elyse’s longing to be desired and validated.

In the end, of course, Elyse learns that the validation really must come from within.

This is a fantastically fun novel that is perfect to throw in your beach bag this summer!

Editor’s Note-  There is graphic language and sexuality in this book.

(MomAdvice Rating- 3 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: April ’10 Edition

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

April was a rich, rich month of reading for me. I think I have read 22 books so far since January and I couldn’t be more proud!  If anyone complains about laundry not being done, floors not being swept, or the house looking like a tornado has been through it I have the perfect excuse. I am forced to remain dedicated to my site and to my readers and leave all of these things to the wayside to provide great reading ideas for you each month. Oh, the sacrifices I make…well, at least that is the case I present to my family! To my credit, is there anything more frugal than reaping the beautiful benefits of the library system?

As the television seasons are winding down, this is the perfect time to pick back up a little reading and start a new “season of shows,” that is ultimately, way more satisfying! Get back into the groove of reading this month and let me help with some new ideas to add to your beach bag this summer!

Here are my top picks for the month of April! Just as an aside, 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 is now over a hundred entries long.

Shelter Me by Juliette Fay

Four months after the tragic death of her husband, Janie is greeted at the door by a contractor who has come to make a porch addition on her home. The twist is that Janie did not request the contractor and had no idea that any renovating would even be happening. This porch was a gift that her husband, Robby, had decided to buy for her as a surprise before he passed away.

Although Janie is in no mood and has no desire for a new porch, the job has already been paid for and the contractor, Tug, insists that it was definitely something her husband would have wanted.

As the construction begins on the house, Janie’s heart and life are under construction as she discovers who she is without her spouse. An unlikely support group forms- the well-intentioned priest who comes even when Janie swears at him and dreads his visits, the busy-body aunt who fills in for her absent mother, her cousin who brings her treats from his bakery with his Barbie-look-alike photographer girlfriend, the bossy neighbor who knows exactly how Janie should handle things, and even the quiet contractor that witnesses the comings and goings of this unlikely cast of characters that help Janie get to a place of healing and acceptance for what has happened.

The novel is moving in a way that I can’t describe. It made me laugh out loud because of Janie’s brutal honesty, it made me cry when Janie faced her times of loneliness and the way that the children react to their father’s absence, and it made me wish to see the character to find happiness again, even if it means she must move on from her husband, the love of her life.

The book immediately sucked me in, but it was a little longer than probably necessary as some of the character development that didn’t necessarily need to be there, had been developed by the author. Other than a little bit of dragging at the end, it was a flawlessly beautiful novel that will make me hug my husband a little tighter and created an awareness of how fragile our relationships can be. I can’t recommend this one enough!

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars)

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!

(MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars)

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.

(MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars)

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!

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars)

Men and Dogs by Katie Crouch

Katie Crouch’s, “Men and Dogs,” is the first book that I have read by this author. The story centers around Hannah, who is in her thirties, struggling with a drinking problem, an unfaithful spouse (although she is unfaithful herself), and a marriage that is teetering on the edge of divorce. To resolve things once and for all, Hannah attempts to break into her own house, to confront her husband about his cheating ways, and falls three stories and suffers a head injury. Hannah ends up in the hospital and is forced into a journey home to her parents so they can help Hannah get back on track.

Hannah knows that the reason she is living like this is because of the mysterious disappearance of her father. At the tender age of eleven, Hannah’s father goes on a fishing trip and never returns again. In her heart, she truly believes that her father is not dead, but simply missing. She is set on discovering what really happened to her father on the night of his boating accident and to know once and for all if her husband is dead or alive.

Her gay brother Palmer, on the other hand, has his own demons to deal with and has always secretly believed that he is the cause of their father’s disappearance. He is finally in a great relationship, in a fantastic house that they have created together, and his career is going great. When his partner decides that he wants them to have a baby, Palmer knows that he can’t commit, mainly because of the deep-rooted feelings that he has surrounding their father’s disappearance.

While the book was fast paced, the story never really went anywhere for me. I could not relate to Hannah’s selfishness, even with the disappearance of her father, and how the other family members accommodated her behavior.

It was just an okay read for me and the story of her dad did not take a satisfying turn or add the resolution to the story that I hoped.

Editor’s Note-  There is graphic language and sexuality in this book.

(MomAdvice Rating- 3 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: March ’10 Edition

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Photo Credit: Charles Williams

I am so enjoying sharing what I am reading each month and I hope it inspires you to crack open a book or two as a special treat just for yourself.  Whether you challenge yourself to join a book club or you just do a solo challenge of reading, I really encourage you to make your reading a priority!

This month I read five books and I am sharing my thoughts here on each of them.  I hope that these reviews and book ideas are helpful to you when choosing a great read at your library!

You can also join the GoodReads community and friend me (my username is momadvice), if you would like to get an early sneak peek into what books I have my nose in. to read my past reviews, visit our Books category to get more ideas for your reading list!  Happy reading!

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin

Alice I Have Been was one of the best historical fiction books that I have read in a long time and surrounds the life of the real life Alice in Wonderland. As someone who was not familiar with the story of Alice or Lewis Carroll, I found the story both intriguing and disturbing. Alice led far from the enchanted life that you might have thought and ultimately, the friendship between her & the author lead to the demise of many relationships in her life.

Alice Liddell was the muse for Mr. Dodgson, a professor at Oxford, who later wrote the book of Alice in Wonderland under the pen name of Lewis Carroll. Alice and her sisters spend many days exploring the grounds, going on boat rides, and spending time in the company of Mr. Dodgson. He is fascinated, in particular, with Alice and tells a story to her one night about her adventures in wonderland. Alice begs him to write her story out and he later does, which becomes the book series that he is so known for.

As their friendship grows, Mr. Dodgson and Alice began to have a relationship that is both confusing and exciting to Alice. Mr. Dodgson has an interest in photography and tells Alice that he would like to take her on a special outing where he can take special pictures of her. He writes her letters and Alice writes him back in an almost courtship that would be very inappropriate for a child of her age. That day of photography ends the friendship of Mr. Dodgson and the Liddell family, causing difficulties for Alice to find true love later in her life under her clouded reputation.

As Alice grows into her own person, she finds and loses loves in her life and increasingly finds the burden of being the Alice in Wonderland that everyone is dying to meet very cumbersome. She later decides to use her celebrity status and the sacrifices that she made in her childhood later aid Alice to have a better life than she could have had on her own.

If you don’t know anything about the story of Mr. Dodgson or about the real-life Alice, it is a fascinating look into a friendship that was altogether inappropriate and, in this historical fiction perspective, caused a lot of heartache for Alice in finding love later in her life.

This is a book that you just want someone else to read so you can talk about it! A fantastic first novel from Melanie Benjamin and makes me excited to read more books from her in the future!

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars)

The Things That Keep Us Here by Carla Buckley

Ann Brooks is a newly single mom taking care of two little girls while her estranged husband is busy doing scientific research surrounding an H5N1 virus (avian flu) that has struck their community. It starts in the bird population and quickly jumps species and becomes a level 5 pandemic among the human population. Now this estranged family must come together to survive the worst scenario of their life- being quarantined together while they must rely on the government and medical system to find a vaccination to stop the virus before it kills them.

The portrait of what life would be like if this situation would happen is terrifying. It begins with Ann rushing to the grocery store to stock up on food, where people are hurting and even killing each other fighting over bottled water and food. They lock themselves in their home where the electricity is out for over a month, garbage is no longer being picked up, hospitals are not operating, and everyone must be scared of their neighbor and friends to prevent being struck with the H5N1 themselves.

The family is forced to make tough decisions that they never thought they would face and learn to live without the luxuries in life of clean water, how to protect those you love while still caring for others in your community, and how precious life really is.

As the situation escalates, the character development builds and you began to root for this family to pull together and to survive this ordeal.

This book was amazing, thought-provoking, and made me question what I would do in such a scenario. Could I still stick to my virtues when I have to protect my family or would I become as many of the people become, fighting and stealing to protect what is mine?

The book slowed down a little in the middle and I did not really like the narration switching in the last chapter over to the daughter, but overall, it was an excellent book that will make you hold your children a little tighter and make you aware of all of the precious blessings we all take for granted.

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars)

House Rules by Jodi Picoult

I am a huge Jodi Picoult fan and could not wait to dive into her new book, “House Rules.” I have found her books lately to be a little predictable and formulaic and I was hoping for a little more with this book. In some ways it was a huge success in the exploration and research of Aspergers syndrome, in others, the book fell a little short with me.

Jacob Hunt is a teenage boy who has Asperger’s syndrome. He is intelligent, can memorize facts and movie quotes better than anyone, and he has a huge love of forensic sciences. He lacks the ability though to connect with people, can only understand literal meanings of words, can easily become overly stimulated, and has never understood the social cues and unwritten rules of personal space or relationships.

His true obsession with forensic science is what takes up the majority of his day and research. He has a love for a CSI show and keeps hundreds of journals on the episodes, trying to crack the cases himself and documenting each case dozens of times. His obsession with forensic science and his inability to engage with others makes high school tough for this teenager.

Thankfully, he has a great friend, Jess, who has stepped in to offer guidance on learning social behavior and who has been hired by the family to help him survive the tough world of high school. Jess is a college student and an all-around golden girl who has a true devotion towards helping make Jacob’s life easier and help him understand all of this cues that we take for granted.

When Jess is murdered, her abusive boyfriend is the first person to taken into custody and seems the most likely suspect. His boot print is found at the scene of the crime and his previous physical abuse towards
Jess makes him seem the perfect murderer.

When the news shows the victim’s body wrapped in a quilt that could only belong to Jacob, his mother steps forward and says that she is concerned that Jacob may have had something to do with the crime. Jacob is taken into custody and the entire world of the Hunt family is sent into a downward spiral.

All of Jacob’s behaviors, due to his Asperger’s, are behaviors that are often exhibited in someone who is guilty. Jacob can’t make eye contact, he can act violently or inappropriately if he is over stimulated, and he seems to have no emotion. His lawyer, Oliver, has a tough case on his hands and must convince a jury that Jacob acted innocently because of his emotional detachment and inability to understand the social cues of others.

As a reader, I really enjoying the pacing of Picoult’s books and the usual twist that occurs at the end. Unfortunately, I was able to solve the case on my own within the first twenty pages and then had to read another 500 pages in hopes that the twist was not so obvious.

The worst part about this book was that the book seems to be missing a final chapter, as though Picoult was on a writing deadline and just stopped short before bringing the reader into a conclusion of how the case actually ended or where the relationships of this family went. For all of that research and the bulk of this book, it was a disappointment for me.

The careful research and beautiful prose were definitely there, but the ending and predictable twist made it not as solid of a read as some of Picoult’s earlier work.

(MomAdvice Rating- 3 Stars)

Julie & Julia by Julie Powell

I might be a little late to the Julie & Julia bandwagon, but I have finally arrived and read this fun little read that was just what this blogger needed for a fun pick-me-up! I will admit, it was not one of the best books I have read, but in many ways I related to Julie’s commitment to her blog and recreating recipes in her kitchen for her blog audience. That being said, I have heard from many that the movie was much better than the book itself, and that is why I am looking forward to watching the movie soon.

Julie Powell is a frustrated secretary living in a small New York loft apartment, with her husband and cats, who decides that the thing that she needs to do to jumpstart her life again is to become passionate about something. When she runs across her mother’s old copy of Julia Child’s, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” she remembers how her mother whipped out that particular cookbook for special occasions and created recipes out of it to impress their dinner guests. She decides that she will challenge herself to cook all 523 recipes within a year and chronicle those adventures through a blog, in hopes that the challenge will add something into her life that has been missing.

It is a laugh-out-loud funny book that had me giggling from the bottom of my toes as she tries to find rare ingredients, attempts making dishes out of live lobsters, and goes on a journey of self-discovery as she attempts to master the art of a little of her own French cooking. It really isn’t a book about cooking, unless you are looking for a person that is simply struggling to cook, but more about what is discovered about herself through this adventure.

As she works her way through this cooking challenge, you see how it brings her closer together with those she loves and how those around her (both in the blogging world and her real life world) come together to eat, share, and become a part of her cooking adventures.

The book wasn’t enlightening at all, the language was rough, and Julie was not always a likeable character, but I appreciated her realness and how so many of us find our place and discover ourselves through blogging.

It didn’t change my life, but it did make me giggle…and sometimes you need that!

Editor’s Note-  There is graphic language in this book. (MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars)

All We Ever Wanted Was Everything by Janelle Brown

To be honest, this was definitely not my favorite read this month, but I am including my thoughts on it for my mom friends who love a good soap opera or Melrose Place type of drama.

All We Ever Wanted Was Everything is a Silicon Valley satire that takes a glimpse into one family’s life and showcases how the threads began to unravel when they discover that money really is not the key to happiness.

Janice is a relatively happy trophy wife who has helped her husband in every way that she knows how to be the roaring success that he is. She reads her Gourmet magazine and replicates the dishes, she is carefully groomed and has maintained her figure over the years, and her family lives in the immaculately tidy home of their dreams.

When her husband’s stocks soar, after making an important pharmaceutical drug, she runs out to grab the ingredients for the most perfect celebration dinner. When she arrives at home, she finds a note from her husband letting her know that he is leaving her for her best friend and that he will be filing for a divorce.

What happens to a woman when her whole career and existence are based upon caring for her husband? Janice quickly spirals out of control and the reader is taken through Janice’s downward spiral and the downward spiral of her two children who are both trying to find themselves after making bad decisions.

One daughter who grew up the valedictorian in her graduating class, now is deeply in debt after her the feminist magazine she started failed to bring in any profits. The other daughter has a desire to be liked by her peers and begins sleeping with her classmates to garner attention and her feelings of self-worth. She later decides that Jesus might be the key to her salvation, but her poor choices have taken her so far off path that you are unclear where her life will really end up. Janice, meanwhile, has decided to take crystal meth because she feels happier and more in control when she is drugged. With their mother drugged out and the two children both choosing their own destructive paths, the reader can only hope that the resolution will be filled with deep discovery and a realization that they have each other and money is not everything. It just did not end the way that the reader might hope.

I found the book to be a fun and impressive premise of self-discovery when each of the characters are trying to find who they are without their fortune, but the book was depressingly dark and never went anywhere other than the dark and dreariness that it began with. If you are into dark satires though that is filled with a little bit of dreary, this just might be the ticket for you!

Editor’s Note-  There is graphic language, sexuality, and drug use in this book. (MomAdvice Rating- 3 Stars)

Great Reads for Moms: February ’10 Edition & a Giveaway

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

Sorry! This giveaway is now closed! We would like to congratulate Jodi (Commenter #3) on winning this great prize from BookSwim. Happy reading, Jodi!

I am so excited to share about another month of great reading for moms and to also get the opportunity to couple it with a giveaway on our blog. Despite our life being in constant chaos last month, I still got a chance to read five great books to share with all of you. I am sure having the television being inoperable for three weeks definitely helped boost more reading time for me!

These days, you will find me in the evening with some decaf coffee in my little French press and a library book in my hands. There is no better way to spend an evening than with a big stack of library books and a warm drink.

I am really looking forward to the weather warming up so I can spend it wrapped in a blanket and sitting outside in a wicker chair by our little fire pit. Spring just can’t come soon enough to Indiana!

Without further adieu, here are the wonderful books that I read this last month and ideas for you to add to your to-be-read piles!

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!

Those that live in the Michiana area can participate in a unique opportunity called, “One Book, One Michiana.” They are encouraging everyone to read this classic and then will have community-centered activities and events surrounding this book. I am excited to participate in this and excited for any opportunity that encourages me to step out of my comfort zone when it comes to literature.

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 Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton-

Wednesday Sisters was a gem of a book that was reminiscent of some of my favorite books about friendship and the bonds that women have. The story followed along the vein of some of my favorite girlfriend literature like, “Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons,” and “The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood Club.” It is a book about friendship that spans the decades and shows the power of great girlfriends and the power that the written word has!

The book takes place in the 1960’s and tells the story of five different women who meet in the park one day and find a mutual interest in literature. Deciding to go against the obvious and form a book club, they decide to challenge each other and start a Wednesday Sisters group, where they would meet each Wednesday morning and share stories they had written with one another. Some take the writing assignment as a fun outlet, while others have ambitious dreams of being published and known for their writing.

While starting a writing club in this decade wouldn’t seem like a big deal, it was revolutionary in its own way because women were left with caring for the home, caring for the children, and caring for their man. Women with ambitious dreams and lofty goals were not the norm, yet as the book progresses each of these women finds their own voice and their own purpose in life.

It deals with some of the tough topics of the decade- racism, feelings about beauty pageants, women in the workplace, protests against government, and the stand-by-your-man philosophy that so many women were encouraged to do even in the face of adultery from their spouse.

As someone who writes, I found their journey through writing endearing and touching. When the women reached specific writing milestones, my heart would leap a bit knowing how each of them discovered themselves and their own potential for their lives.

While the beginning started a little slow for me, the beautiful story that developed held me to the beautiful ending and made me want to start a little writing club of my own.

More importantly though, it made me so thankful for my girlfriends and the power that women have to encourage one another toward our goals, to celebrate life’s great accomplishments, and to hold each other up when we face challenges.

Peony In Love by Lisa See-

I will admit that this book was nothing like I had ever expected and like no other book of Lisa See’s that I have ever read.

The story surrounds a self-centered Peony who has always been cared for and had everything provided for her. She has quickly approached the age of marriage and, as is customary, has been betrothed in marriage to a man that she does not know. She knows that it is her daughterly and wifely duty to be a good wife to him and has no trouble with this arrangement until the evening that she meets her true heart’s desire.

She meets this handsome poet one night during the performing of her favorite opera, “The Peony Pavilion.” She knows that it is wrong for her to even speak to the man, yet they arrange a meeting each night of the opera and she feels, for the first time, the feelings of true love. At the tender age of sixteen, these meetings are all that can she think about and she knows that she should marry this man.

In the days leading up to her wedding day, thinking of this man causes her to become sick, weak, and obsessed knowing that she cannot be with her true love. Much like the ill-fated lovers in The Peony Pavilion, her life takes a turn that the reader will never expect and her life mirrors the story told in this opera.

I wish I could say more, but to say more would reveal the twists and turn in the plot that makes this book an unexpectedly different read than what I had anticipated. It is a true look inside the ancient rituals surrounding what happens in the afterlife and how the Chinese view the importance of their ancestral heritage.

I encourage you to read the author’s notes after which helps to explain why this story must be told and the importance for all women to be able to tell their stories and poems to the world!

Look Again by Lisa Scottoline-

Jodi Picoult fans will appreciate this suspenseful book by Lisa Scottoline that gives us a glimpse into an adoptive mother’s worst nightmare. What if you found out that everything you thought about your perfectly legal adoption was wrong?

Newspaper reporter Ellen Gleeson became the adoptive mother of her little boy Will after covering a story about the sick little boy who was abandoned by his mother because of numerous health problems. The mother did not feel she could care for him and decides to make the heart wrenching decision to give him up. After his surgery though, the hospital discovers that his health problems were resolved and Ellen finds herself in love with this little boy and decides to adopt him and make him her own.

When she picks up the mail one day two years later though, she notices a missing child flier that has a little boy that looks exactly like her son. Even though her adoption is perfectly legal and the mother has signed off on all of the papers, could this little boy be the exact same little boy as the one in the flier?

Being an investigative journalist, she can’t shake the feeling that something may have been wrong with her adoption and decides to seek legal counsel to find out if she has any parental rights. When she finds that her adoption lawyer, a happy mother of three, has supposedly committed suicide she begins to wonder if something more sinister is to blame.

Ellen is sent spiraling into mysterious deaths, a fascination with the family that has lost their only son, and clues that lead the reader through this mysterious thriller. It makes you wonder as a mother what you would do if you were faced with the moral dilemma of turning the information in to the authorities and giving up what is most precious to you or harboring the secret so you can selfishly keep your little boy as your own.

It was a good solid read although, at times, very predictable. It was my first novel by Lisa Scottoline and was chosen because it was a new Target book club pick and I have never been lead astray by their choices. It was a really quick read that would be fun to take to the beach or on a family trip.

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah-

Winter Garden is a wonderful heart wrenching and riveting read from Kristin Hannah that her fans will really and truly love. If you have not read Kristin Hannah before, this is a standout read that will have you spending a little time with your tissues and even giggling out loud at the dynamics of sisterhood and family.

The book is about two sisters who are as different as two sisters can be. The sensible Meredith has taken over the duties of the family business and remains the rock for her family. Her sister Nina, on the other hand, chooses to be a traveling photographer who finds great joy in the travel and the inconsistency of her life.

When their father brings the two sisters together on his deathbed, he makes them promise to take care of their seemingly unemotional and detached mother and to listen to one of her Russian fairy tales in its entirety. Neither daughter has a true relationship with their mother and both find spending time with her to be difficult.

Meredith is left to care for her mother, Anya, and quickly discovers that the task will not be an easy one. Her mother is becoming frustrated, confused, and her behavior is becoming more and more bizarre. As Meredith’s marriage and job are becoming more demanding, she is forced to put her mother in a nursing home to help her with the duties.

When Nina returns home and finds her mother in the nursing home, she insists that she is brought home where she can care for her. Nina forces Anya, a woman that neither daughter really knows, to share about herself each night through the fairytale that their father has requested that she share.

This fairytale takes the three women on a journey that none of them expect. What starts as an innocent story about a girl being swept off of her feet by a handsome prince becomes altogether too real as the story begins to unfold. It will leave the reader with her heart in her throat and shows the fragility of life and the heart of the human spirit.

Not enough great reads for you? Be sure to visit my past book highlights to add to your to-be-read pile:

Me Time: Making Your Reading Time a Priority

How to Get Back in the Groove of Reading (December ’09 Reading)

January ’10 Reads

October ’09 Reading

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 if I told you that you could read all of these books for free? Well, today we are offering a fun reader giveaway for the avid reader in you! There is a great innovative book program out there called BookSwim that is a book rental program to help feed the bookworms in your family.

For the past few months, I was given a trial membership to share with you the details of how it works. The best way I can describe it is that it is just like Netflix. They send you a stack of books that you can read, you read and keep them as long as you want, and then you drop them back in the mail to return them to the company. They will then ship your next round of books for you to enjoy and the process goes on from there. The plans start at $9.95 a month and up, which is exactly the same price you might be paying for a movie club.

For me, the rental plan would not make sense. My library is the mecca of brand new books and (it seems) has unlimited amount of copies of the bestsellers. When I lived in Massachusetts and had a dated library that was never stocked with current books, I would have given my left arm to have a membership to BookSwim.

Here’s who it makes sense to for me:

1. My readers with small children who don’t have time to enjoy a leisurely visit to the library and are instead keeping their children well-read rather than themselves.

2. My readers who don’t have a great library system or access to great free books.

3. My readers who want to switch out their movie club membership for a book membership that they can enjoy with their whole family.

Lucky for you, I am giving away a free membership to BookSwim to one lucky reader. We will be giving one reader a three month subscription on their 3-at-a-time book plan!

To enter to win, please do one or all of the following:

1. Leave a comment and tell me one great read you have read so far this year or why you would like to make reading a priority.

2.  Please subscribe to my blog. We are offering our readership full feed access into the blog daily and I would love to have our site becoming part of your daily routine. Leave an additional comment to let me know that you have subscribed!

3. Tell us one thing you would like to see offered on the site. I do my best to appeal to all of our readers, but if there is something special you would like to see, please let me know!

Entries will be taken through Tuesday (03/23) at 8PM EST. Our winner will be drawn at random. Good luck, everyone!

Great Reads for Moms: January ’10 Edition

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

I am so proud to say that I tackled eight books this past month which is the most I have read in a very long time. I imagine that my reading will slow down this month between our home renovation and all that is going on with our family this month, but I am still planning to set some time aside to sneak in a few cups of vanilla chai tea, a library book, and a soak in the tub. Just be careful in the tub with the library book. It can be a very expensive combination, as I have unfortunately discovered!

Here are my top picks for the month of January! Just as an aside, 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!

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.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson-

The book opens with a scene straight out of a movie. A prominent rich man is sitting in his office clutching another framed exotic dried flower in his hands. He receives one each birthday, a gift that had been given to him each year by his granddaughter. The problem is that his granddaughter has been dead for forty years and he is still receiving this gift. Is it a message from the killer meant to open the wounds, the wounds that he will never know what has happened to his granddaughter?

Henrik decides to take matters into his own hands and hire a down-on-his-luck investigative reporter and pay him a ridiculous sum of money to write his family’s life story and do his best to discover what happened to Harriet, his granddaughter, so that he can finally know the truth.

Mikael, the reporter hired, goes into the investigation with low expectations of solving the case. What could he possibly find that had not been analyzed over and over by the police and by Henrik himself?

When teamed with a genius hacker, Lisbeth Slander, though they quickly close in on the case and discover twisted and dark family secrets that will leave you on the edge of your seat. It all unfolds with the gripping conclusion of forty years of lies and twists that will have you guessing whodunit until the end.

The characters are pure magic together and their two stories are interwoven and create dynamic chemistry when paired!

This book is a fantastic read that I could not put down. I had a hard time in the beginning getting through some of the family history, but all of those details came into play and made it worth that dry bit of reading for the shocking conclusion.

Editor’s Note- There is graphic language, sexuality, & violence in this book.

The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson-

After reading, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” I was anxious to dive into this next book and find out how these characters would develop after such an exhilarating ride with the first book.

The relationship with Blomkvist and Salander ends within the opening pages as Salander realizes that she has fallen in love with Blomkvist and finds him arm-in-arm with his on again/off again lover on the street. She mistakes their history as a relationship that has continued and decides to cut off all contact and her relationship with Blomkvist.

Blomkvist, meanwhile, is at the center of the media after cracking the case in the last book and is unsure of how to address being the focus of the media attention when he once was the interviewer. He is also confused by his sudden end of the relationship between him and Lisbeth and seems to be living his life in a state of limbo.

When he decides to run a story in his magazine though on a sex trafficking operation between Eastern Europe & Sweden, he opens a can of worms that he never thought he would.

The story that will be published will bring to the center of the controversy many of the prominent officials in the Swedish government and endangers many careers and lives with its publishing.

As the story is about to go to press, two investigative reporters are murdered and the accused murderer? Lisbeth Salander.

Lisbeth goes into hiding and her perspective is missing from the story for a good two hundred pages as Blomkvist firmly believes in Salander’s innocence and decides to do his own investigative sleuthing to discover who the true murderer is.

Anticipation builds up as more and more evidence points in Salander’s direction, but the book takes you on a surprising journey through Salander’s past as it comes to the cliffhanger ending.

The only fault with this book is that you have to wait for the next one to find out the fate of Salander and Blomkvist.

Editor’s Note- There is graphic language, sexuality, & violence 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!

True Colors by Kristin Hannah-

I read Firefly Lane last year and was anxious to dive into another Kristin Hannah book. Since I had a flight this week, I thought this would be the perfect light read for my trip, and I was right.

This book is about the three Grey sisters who lost their mother when they were very young and the unfolding of their lives since their mother’s death. Their father, Henry Gray, seems to favor only one child and keeps his focus on making sure that their family upholds their ancestral heritage. His only concern is maintaining their appearance and reputation at all times in their town.

When Vivi Ann meets the true love of her life, their father is angry with her choice in choosing a rancher who is Native American and not from a “proper upbringing.” Vivi Ann follows her heart though despite her lover’s past and decides to make a commitment to him that will change their lives forever.

When a murder takes place in town, the first suspect is Dallas, Vivi Ann’s love, and everyone in the family is forced to choose sides and decide whether they believe Dallas to be guilty or not. With his difficult past and quick temper, could Dallas have been the killer?

The lives of all three sisters change as each sister decides her stance and the true secrets of each of their feelings. Their story is peppered with constant rivalry, the forgiveness that must be given, and the redemption that they must allow one another because of their sisterly bond.

I found the beginning of the book a little slow, the middle to be fast-paced with a fun twist, but the last quarter of the book really slowed down again for me.

I really enjoyed the character development of Vivi Ann and her sister Winona, and Noah, but Aurora’s voice was never heard in the book which would have definitely improved the story since it was about three sisters and not two.

Overall, it was a fast read that would be perfect to take with you when you travel or a fun summer beach read!

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!

In the Book Basket: October ’09 Reading

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

I can’t say that my challenge to eat breakfast each morning has been going very good, but I have definitely made reading time a priority this month. I hope that you also are squeezing in some great time to read especially with the holiday festivities quickly approaching. Your me time is more important than ever!

At the beginning of each month, I will share with you some of the great reads that I have been working on. If you want to add me to your Goodreads friend list, you can find me listed under “momadvice.”

My dear friend and fellow bookworm, Beth, also keeps a great book blog called, “Beth’s Book-Nook Blog,” where she shares some really fantastic reviews and ideas for great reading! Be sure to check her out!

This month I dove into these great reads that I would love to share with you!

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

This is the first novel I have read by Lisa See so I can’t offer any comparison on this versus her other novels. What I can tell you is that this book takes you on a journey that is beautifully told of the time in China and in the US during the Japanese invasion of Shanghai.

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

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

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

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

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

The ending could have been brought together better, but that was the only thing missing for me. I felt as though I had been on the journey with these sisters and the ending left me wondering if a sequel could follow.

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Anyone else a huge fan of The Time Traveler’s Wife? This was one of my favorite books of all time. It was so good, in fact, that my husband found me sobbing in a corner with snot dripping down my face because I was so moved to tears. Perhaps that is why I really, really wanted to love this next book by this author.

This story is about two sets of twins- Elspeth & Edie and Edie’s daughters Julie & Valentina. Elspeth passes away and bequeaths all of her estate and belongings to her nieces, Julie & Valentina. There is only one way to cash in on their inheritance though and it is to live in her old apartment for one year and their family is not allowed to enter.

The girls head to London to live in the flat and find that Elspeth is still residing there…in ghostly form. She is unable to pass into the next life and her soul is trapped in the house.

The girls get to know their neighbors like Robert, who is Elspeth’s former lover, and Martin, a man left by his wife because of his debilitating OCD. The story follows them as the girls explore London and Elspeth’s home.

Valentina begins to want to separate herself from her twin and become an individual while her sister craves the sameness that they have always had. In order to become independent, Valentina makes a decision that leads to consequences the reader will never expect.

While I enjoyed the book, it was nothing like what I had expected. I had a little difficulty following all of the different stories and characters that were woven into this story and I found the ending to have a great twist, but not one I could relate to or as believable as I would hope.

Regardless, it was a great read with a great deal of creativity and the history of London weaved in. This is definitely for someone looking for a dark read with a lot of great historical information about London.

Dismantled by Jennifer McMahon

I devoured this book in one day and could not put it down. I have never read this author before, but if this is any indication of her work, then I am completely hooked.

The book is about a group of four art students who form a group called the Compassionate Dismantlers. Their fearless leader, Suze, encourages them to commit petty crimes and vandalize with their motto being, “To understand the nature of a thing, it must be taken apart.”

The book flash forwards to ten years later and Henry & Tess, two people that were in the group, are now married and have a child together. They have been living with a secret for ten years of a prank that has gone horribly wrong and both seem haunted by the crime. It is pulling them away from their m
arriage and neither can seem to get over what has happened.

Their daughter is anti-social and has created an imaginary friend who is helping her to bring her parents together. She finds an old journal and pictures and sends a postcard to all of the former members of her parent’s group with their motto on it.

The postcard triggers a suicide and a chain of twists and turns that are as horrifying and thrilling as any good horror movie.

The book kept me up at night until the shocking conclusion that will lead you on a crazy roller coaster.

Just as a disclosure, this book had rough language in it!

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I can’t say enough about how much of a literary treasure this book is! It is rare that a book sticks with me and that I think about it long after I have put it down, but The Help is one of those books that does just that.

The book tells the story of the post-Civil Rights movement through the eyes of three different women. It is told through the eyes of Aibileen & Minny, two African American maids, and Skeeter, a young white woman.

Aibileen is a gentle soul that is intent on offering the best care that she can give to the white children that she cares for. She feels it is her duty to make them feel as special and loved because she knows many of the mothers do not give their children the love they need. Her tender spirit and soft motherly ways instantly makes you feel like she is an old friend.

Minny is a spunky character who has trouble acting as a maid because she doesn’t really like to be bossed around. She has so much spunk and humor that you can’t wait to see what kind of trouble she will get into and how endearing she truly is as you get acquainted with her own difficult home life.

Skeeter is a young woman who desperately wants to become a writer. She gets the idea to write an anonymous book with anonymous maids who could share their story and struggles as an African American woman acting as a maid and (often) being treated unfairly by their white bosses.

When these three characters come together it is pure magic!

After reading it, there were two things that I couldn’t believe:

1) The author was a white woman. To document the African American struggles of the post- Civil Rights movement was so authentically documented and the voice so “true” that I found it surprising and a tribute to a skilled author to capture that voice. It never felt false and the prose was simply beautiful to read.

2) That this was Kathryn Stockett’s first book. The skill of the writing in three different voices and the way she captured that era was something that you don’t normally see out of a first time novelist.

What can I say about this book? It is one that made me laugh out loud, it made me cry tears for the struggles and unkindness that so many had to endure, and I became so attached to the characters that it will be hard to let them go. I wish that the story would go on and that a sequel could tell what happened to these three women as they began the new adventures that each of these women will go on.

If you read anything this year, let it be this book!

What was in your book basket this past month? Any book recommendations you would like to share?