Archive for the ‘Reads’ Category

Amy’s Notebook 02.12.14

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

canning_grape_jelly Source: My Humble Kitchen

 

Did you know you can make and can jelly from store bought fruit juice in the winter? I didn’t – and it seems like  it would be a fun way to bring a bit of summer to these cold days!

I’m in love with this updated mid-century modern dresser – you won’t believe the before and after!

Oh, how I wish I could sew just to create one of these adorable fleece-lined kid’s robes.

Yes to chocolate cookies, and double-yes to flourless chocolate cookies!

Thinking about making a souffle for Valentine’s Day? Find out how to make a chocolate souffle here, plus 3 tips for success.

I’m finding a lot of international dishes that are gluten free – and these Indian Chickpea Crepes are also vegan with a soft middle and a crisp edge. Yum.

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I hope you enjoyed this collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, and thrifty ways to spruce up your home. Nothing brings me more joy then to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

 

Amy’s Notebook 02.05.14

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Crochet Hearts

Source: Everything Etsy

 

I’m simply in love with these adorable crochet hearts - I can think of so many ways to use them!

This is a super cute and simple Valentine’s Day Wreath that would be fun to make.

Here’s a fun craft to do with our daughters – make no-sew elastic hair ties and headbands! There’s even a suggestion on how to package them for gifts.

I’m completely inspired to try some of these yummy looking 11 cauliflower recipes.

My kids will flip for chocolate shortbread heart cookies – especially since they are dipped in chocolate!

Are you loving this diy mudroom bench as much as I am?

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I hope you enjoyed this collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, and thrifty ways to spruce up your home. Nothing brings me more joy then to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

 

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February Book Club Selection: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (GIVEAWAY!)

Friday, January 31st, 2014

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

I am so excited to share with you our next book club selection for the month of February. The book for this month is, “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena,” by Anthony Marra.

My intention this month was to step away from historical fiction and read a lighter book. I proceeded to read five good books, not *the* book. When I picked up A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, it hooked me within it’s opening sentences.

“On the morning after the Feds burned down her house and took her father, Havaa woke from dreams of sea anemones. While the girl dressed, Akhmed, who hadn’t slept at all, paced outside the bedroom door, watching the sky brighten on the other side of the window glass; the rising sun had never before made him feel late. When she emerged from the bedroom, looking older than her eight years, he took her suitcase and she followed him out the front door. He had led the girl to the middle of the street before he raised his eyes to what had been her house. ‘Havaa, we should go,’ he said, but neither moved.”

Just as, “The Paris Architect,” moved me to tears, this book is one of the best books I have ever read and brings to life a country and time of war that I was completely unfamiliar with.

In this novel, two doctors risk everything to save the life of a hunted child named Havaa.  Havaa is just eight years old when her neighbor Akhmed finds her hiding in the woods, watching her house burning down. Akhmed knows getting involved means risking his life, but her father is an old friend, and he risks it all deciding to take her to an abandoned hospital where a woman named Sonja Rabina runs a hospital almost single handedly.

Sonja does not love kids…at all. Akhmed convinces her to keep Havaa for a trial, and over the course of five extraordinary days, Sonja’s world will change in ways she never imagined. The reader is taken on a journey through each of these character’s past on an extraordinary journey of love, loss, and ultimately what it means to be human.

Again, because we are dealing with a wartime topic, there is a lot of graphic violence, gory medical scenes, and violence in this book. One torture scene in particular is difficult to read (but can be skimmed over).  It is a necessary part of the book though to truly capture what is happening to the Chechens.

For me, it took a little bit to really get into the meat of the story, mainly because of my own lack of education of what had happened in this country. If you struggle in the beginning, I encourage you to keep pushing on. This book is one of the most accomplished books I have ever read. It reads like poetry, the narrative is so unique, you will connect with every character in some way, there are moments of unexpected humor, and there is beauty in the pulling & weaving of these characters together.

Anthony Marra

The author, Anthony Marra,  is the winner of a Whiting Award, a Pushcart Prize, The Atlantic’s Student Writing Contest, and the Narrative Prize, and his work was anthologized in Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012. He holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and is currently a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. He has lived and studied in Eastern Europe, and now resides in Oakland, CA.

I know you will want to become a fan after you read this one!

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

To enter to win a copy of, “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena,”  please enter via the Rafflecopter widget below!  

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Our book club discussion for this novel will take place on February 25th. I will try to collect your questions for the author before that though via our Facebook groupSign up for our newsletter to stay informed and connect with me on GoodReads too!

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*This post contains affiliate links.

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Amy’s Notebook 01.29.14

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

The-Beatles-Love-Me-Do-lyrics-in-a-heart-free-printable-NoBiggie.net_

Source: No Biggie

 

I’m loving this sweet (and free!) Valentine – or any time – printable created from a Beatle’s song printed in a heart shape.

Anyone have a glue gun that doesn’t need to be cleaned? Not me, making this glue gun cleaning tutorial perfect timing.

This diy homework and art station is sooo adorable!

I’m completely drooling over these chocolate almond butter bites – going gluten free is looking better and better!

Goodness, one pot of vegetable stock stretched to make 5 dinners? Fabulously thrifty!

Doesn’t this Broccoli Slaw with Cranberry Orange Dressing sound like the perfect mid-winter salad?

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I hope you enjoyed this collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, and thrifty ways to spruce up your home. Nothing brings me more joy then to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

 

January Book Club Discussion With the Author: The Paris Architect

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

January Book Club Discussion With the Author: The Paris Architect

I am so excited to discuss our first book club pick, “The Paris Architect,” with you this week. Even more exciting than that, we were able to collect your questions for the author through our Facebook page and we are sharing Charles Belfoure’s answers with you today.

I have to say that when I picked this book, I set the standard really high for what you could come to expect from our selections. This is truly one of the most interesting historical fiction books I have ever read and it is an era in history that I am fascinated with. When so many stories from this era are told, it is hard to put a unique spin on this time period, but Belfoure does it with ease, thanks to his background as an architect. 

The Paris Architect  is set in 1942 in Paris and tells the story of a gifted architect named Lucien Bernard. In a time of true economic strife and rations in the city, Lucien is commissioned to design secret hiding places in homes to hide wealthy Jews to prevent them from being taken by the Nazis. Although, Lucien is no way supportive of assisting the Jews, he is very hungry for money and if he can design these spaces, he is also given other jobs that can help him continue leading a rather comfortable life.

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

Now that you have read it, I want to say that I found the transformation of Lucien quite remarkable. In the beginning of the book, I really disliked him… a lot. He seemed very selfish and hungry for fame and fortune. Usually when I dislike a character that much, I have a hard time seeing a book through. It is the transformation of Lucien that makes this such a compelling read. I had to see what would happen to him and what would happen to those he helped.

There were many scenes were I felt my heart racing and a couple that brought tears to my eyes. As a compulsive reader, it is rare to tap into emotions like that when I am usually disconnected from plotlines. The scene with the Jewish couple who passed away due to Lucien’s faulty design, moved me to tears. The fact that they kept that secret safe even when death was certain, was a truly emotional moment for me as a reader.

Let’s dive in with a discussion with Charles Belfoure. I am so honored he agreed to answer our questions and be a part of this discussion. 

MomAdvice Book Club

Are you new to the MomAdvice Book Club? You can read all about it here and follow along through our Facebook community!

Charles Belfoure

What a brilliant novel that was! I wonder if there really were hiding places like the architect in the book designed? (Cindy)

Although there were crude or makeshift hiding places in barns, attics, and at the backs of closet during the Occupation, I never came across anything like I described. I made up all these elaborate hiding places from my imagination and my architectural knowledge, but they were based on my main inspiration: priest holes in the age of Elizabeth I.

These were just temporary hiding places unlike one of the most famous, Anne Frank’s, which was a hidden apartment used for long-term living.

This book was riveting! How closely aligned was this story to actual happenings in Paris during the occupation? (Linda)

The main plot came from my imagination but the everyday events like the food rationing, priests hiding children, arrests by the Gestapo, German soldier-tourists, and French prostitutes servicing Germans all came from my research of the Occupation. I studied the way Parisians behaved – both heroically and cowardly, how they interacted with the Germans, how they were always hungry and scared of dying. I wanted to include small details of the period in the book, like how people kept rabbits for food but never ate their cats, or how they smoked cigarettes made from grass.

What a great book! Where did the author get inspiration for the story and characters? (Lisa)

The whole idea for the book came from an actual historical event during the reign of Elizabeth I, when Catholicism was outlawed and saying of mass was banned. Priests defied the ban by saying mass in manor houses out in the countryside. When the Queen’s soldiers raided the house, the priest hid in a “priest hole,” a temporary hiding place designed by a carpenter. The soldiers would search the house for hours and never find the priest who was hiding right under their noses.

Some characters in the book were inspired by real people – Adele was patterned after Coco Chanel, who was known to have slept with German officers. Father Jacques was based on the priests who hid Jewish children and were deported. Herzog was based on some information I found about a German officer who kept a diary and wrote that he was ashamed by the roundups of Jews, especially children.

The main character, Lucien, goes through a major transformation from the beginning of the book to the end of the book. Did you always have this in mind for him or did it evolve as you wrote it? (Amy)

I always had that in mind. I wanted him to undergo a moral transformation from a selfish, anti-Semitic guy to a man with a sense of humanity and courage. A main character in a novel shouldn’t be static but should change in character in some regard – from good to bad or vice versa.

Your writing has been compared to Ken Follett.  Do you find your writing to be similar? What authors inspire you the most? (Amy)

I was flattered by the comparison. His book, Eye of the Needle, is one of my all-time favorites.  But I don’t find my writing style to be anything like Follett’s; it isn’t nearly as polished and seamless as his prose. I’m a first-time novelist and have a long way to go to match those books.

I like authors who use their professional backgrounds to write fiction, like how John Grisham, because he’s a real-life attorney, uses his legal training for his novels, and I like his no nonsense prose style. William Golding used his experience as an English schoolmaster to write the classic Lord of the Flies. The exception to this is Anne Tyler. I’ve read all her novels because I like her insight and writing style, plus I like the references to Baltimore because I grew up there.

One of the hardest scenes for me, as a reader, was the scene when Lucien designs the “safe place,” for the Jewish couple that ends up not being safe at all once a fire is lit. It is heart-wrenching as a reader.  Was that a difficult scene to write? (Amy)

When you’re writing any scene, your imagination projects you into that scene to feel and experience it. So, yes, it was tough to put myself in the shoes of the couple and try to feel how it would be to accept death, to physically stuff handkerchiefs in your mouth and keep from crying out and betraying Manet and Lucien. I wanted to show the reader an act of incredible bravery. It’s a moral turning point for Lucien when he sees that these strangers, Jews whom he really didn’t care about, would rather die such a horrible death than betray him.

 Have you started thinking about your next project? Do you see yourself continuing to write historical fiction or delving into other genres? (Amy)

I’ve written the second draft of a novel about an architect in the Gilded Age in New York who is forced to become a criminal to save his family. Although that’s also historical fiction, I plan to also write contemporary novels. Because I’m an architect, I want to continue use my professional training along with my imagination to write novels that have architecture as the basis of the plot. There are some similarities between architecture and writing a novel. The basic plot idea forms the structure of the story, much like a steel skeleton holds up a building. Once the structure is up, you flesh out the story with detail and description like an architect would clad and detail the inside and outside of a building.

Thank you to Charles Belfoure for joining us today in our book club discussion. Isn’t he amazing? I was so honored that he took our questions on his book!

Our next book club pick will be announced on February 1st- stay tuned! 

This post does contain affiliate links! 

What did you think of The Paris Architect? Were there any scenes that you really struggled with? Did you like the evolution of the main character of Lucien?  Share your thoughts on our first book club pick below and offer recommendations for what you might like to see on our list in the upcoming year!

 

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Amy’s Notebook 01.22.14

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

Felt ball coasters-706x1024

Source: Inspired By Charm

 

Oh, my, these wool felt ball coasters are SO cute. I.must.have.

I love a good Mod Podge craft and this list of 20 Mod Podge projects includes everything from shelf upcycles to pencil makeovers. Inspiring!

Looking for some creative ways to celebrate Valentine’s day? The 28 Valentine’s day ideas here are some of the most beautiful I’ve seen!

I can’t wait to try this black bean and quinoa enchilada bake – I’m loving quinoa lately and this fits my new gluten-free diet, plus it looks like the whole family will like it, too!

Drooling over this unique take on traditional morning glory muffins: morning glory oats. What a healthy and yummy way to start the day.

And using window CD envelopes and printable tags for Valentine treat pouches is simply genius – and so adorable!

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I hope you enjoyed this collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, and thrifty ways to spruce up your home. Nothing brings me more joy then to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

 

Amy’s Notebook 01.15.14

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Chicago Loft

Source: Design Sponge

 

Now one part of me wishes I lived in a Chicago loft with brick walls and cool vintage finds. Love.

I think this adorable rolled-up paper Valentine Wreath would make such a fun project to do with my daughter!

This black bean soup with chorizo and chicken looks so yummy – what a nice, hearty middle-of-winter meal!

Oh my, I love one-dish dinners like this drool-worthy baked salmon & vegetables that are both quick & healthy, don’t you?

This amazing weathered gray IKEA coffe table hack is genius!

Mmmm, here’s a slow cooker lentil chili that’s sure to warm you up on a cold night.

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I hope you enjoyed this collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, and thrifty ways to spruce up your home. Nothing brings me more joy then to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

 

Amy’s Notebook 01.08.14

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

Heart themed party

Source: Kara’s Party Ideas

 

This is an adorable heart-themed party idea – there are so many applications for this from birthdays to Valentine’s Day to wedding showers!

I’m not sure I could actually make this, but I could sure use this diy scarf hanger – actually a couple of them!

I love this detailed tutorial on how to create a vision board, but I love the title even more: Dare to Dream. Yes.

I’m thinking with all of our cold and snow my kids would flip for this caramelized white chocolate “hot chocolate.” Who am I kidding? They’d flip for this anytime!

I’m simply drooling over these spinach and feta stuffed chicken breasts.

Here are 7 ways to eat (& drink) turmeric – nicely timed since I keep hearing about the benefits of eating turmeric!

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I hope you enjoyed this collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, and thrifty ways to spruce up your home. Nothing brings me more joy then to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

 

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Amy’s Notebook 01.01.14

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

Happy New Year! How about we start the year off with some great recipes, diy ideas, and even a fantastic list of iPhone apps for 2014? I’m looking forward to another year of discovering wonderful things to help us to grow, learn, and have fun – and of course, sharing them with you!

Almond-Joy-Pancakes-The-Lemon-Bowl

Source: The Lemon Bowl

 

I’m so excited to make these almond joy pancakes – gluten free or not, I think my family will flip when they see them!

Start the new year with some black-eyed pea dip – it may bring luck {or not!}, but either way it looks yummy and good for you!

Do you think any of these 15 kitchen shortcuts will change the way you cook in 2014?

Thinking about simple ideas for holiday organizing as you’re putting things away this year can help to make sure next year is a breeze!

These before & after photos of IKEA hacks from 2013 are truly inspiring – I’m seeing a trip to the blue box in my future!

Here’s a really nice roundup of must-have iPhone apps, many that can help you get organized in the new year.

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I hope you enjoyed this collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, and thrifty ways to spruce up your home. Nothing brings me more joy then to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

 

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My Top Ten Books of 2013

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

In no particular order, here are my favorite books of 2013!

11/22/63

11/22/63 by Stephen King

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forever Interrupted

Forever Interrupted by Taylor Jenkins

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

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

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

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

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

Me Before You

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

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

 

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

 

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

eleanor & park by rainbow rowell

Eleanor & Park was an Amazon Book of Month in young adult fiction in 2013 and once these characters weave their way into your heart, you will understand just why this book was selected.
Eleanor just doesn’t fit in with her peers, wild hair and patchwork outfits, do not seem to help her blend in better. When she is forced to choose a seat on the bus she ends up sitting next to Park, a quiet kid who is obsessed with comic books and an outsider himself.
When Park notices that Eleanor is reading his comic books over his shoulders, he starts sharing them with her, which later develops into a sharing of great mixed music tapes, and then develops into more than either of them can imagine.
Set in 1986, this book made me laugh out loud and made me cry. Eleanor is one of those quirky characters that you just can’t help rooting for. Although this is written for young adults, anyone who ever survived those awful days of high school will love this book.
Editor’s Note: Adult Language

Necessary Lies

Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain

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

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

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

East of Eden

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

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

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

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

The Storyteller

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

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

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

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

Tell the Wolves I'm Home

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

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

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

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

The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

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

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

The Paris Architect The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honorable Mentions

Wonder

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

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

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

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

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

Z

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler

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

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

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

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

A Hundred Summers

 A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams

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

Orange is the New Black

Orange Is the New Black by Piper Kerman

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

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

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

Editor’s Note: Adult Language & Sexuality

The Fault In Our Stars

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

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

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

The Girl You Left Behind

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes

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

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

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

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

Night Film

Night Film by Marisha Pessl

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tell me, what your favorite books were in 2013 or share your links to your own round-ups!? Anything I should be adding to my library bag?  Leave your suggestions in the comments below! Looking for book ideas? Check out our entire Book section of the site! Don’t forget to friend me on GoodReads!

 

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