Archive for the ‘Reads’ Category

The Life-Changing Device I Found For My Chronic Pain

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

Quell for Ehlers Danlos

It is hard to explain what a day looks like with chronic pain, but I will do my best to try. Imagine that you are in a quiet and pleasant room and you begin to hear the buzzing of a fly. You are trying to read a book, but all you can hear is this soft buzz and it is distracting you from this beautiful story. You try to deal with it, but can’t locate where the heck it went and it continues to buzz all day long.

You try a variety of homeopathic methods of ridding yourself of the fly, but it has found its way in somewhere and it won’t go away.

You go about your day and the fly is still buzzing along while you are trying to concentrate on your job. Instead of focusing and producing good work, you find yourself on Google trying to find a solution AGAIN.

If you could just find the source, you could swat it out of your life.

You will try anything at this point.

Tonight you are supposed to have friends over and you have this lovely evening built up in your mind, but you are afraid that they will notice the fly too. Why can’t you just have one normal evening without this annoyance? You enjoy your company so much so the buzzing deadens a bit, but that fly is still in the room.

You go to bed and it is now it has followed you to your bedroom. You lay there tossing and turning and praying for this thing to get the hell out of your life, but you wake up and guess what?

That jerk is still there.

Yeah, chronic pain is like that annoying fly that will never leave.

In an answer to many a prayer though, I finally have found relief and a solution that I can live with. You see, I was at the end of the interwebz when I happened upon a device called Quell that has been transformative for my day-to-day existence and I am SO excited to share about it with you.

Amy Allen Clark

Before I begin sharing my story,  I should probably let you know a few things (especially if you are new here!):

1. I am in no way affiliated with this company at the time I am writing this. That means I purchased this product with my own money and all of these thoughts are my own personal experience with it. As always, I write from an authentic place, but I think it is important to share that today especially because most of the reviews that I read were from bloggers that were given the device by the company. I will say since I love the product so much, I’d love to reach out for their ambassadorship to see what new features they decide to test launch so I could be a part of that process as they develop it. Fingers crossed on that!

2. I am not a doctor and I don’t even play one on television! You guys, bloggers are awesome, but doctors are a better source for medical information. If you are considering using this device than please discuss this with a medical professional for your own personal pain relief needs.

3. My chronic pain is linked to a condition called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Type 3. Due to my joints being overly flexible, it causes a great deal of pain and discomfort since the joints  are loose and unstable. This means they are prone to frequent dislocations and/or subluxations and that I don’t always have a normal range of motion since my joints are hyperextensible and can move beyond those normal ranges. If you want to learn more about my diagnosis, I shared about it over here.

4. I am 39 (!!!) and was relatively healthy before diagnosis last year.  I also had tried EVERYTHING including OTC meds, Vicodin, steroids, and prescription anti-inflammatories all with little success. I also tried homeopathic things with mild relief, particularly from CBD oil, massage, and acupuncture. Most options were expensive as were the co-pays for all these doctor visits and fancy massages.

Let’s also note, I was probably doing a bit of damage to my bones and organs to be taking so much medication and I was getting less relief on the lower dosages that were prescribed.

Quell Pain Relief Device Review

Basically, I was at the end of my pain rope when I went searching on Google for pain relief that wouldn’t involve drugs. Thanks to my most recent joint issues, I was down to typing with just my middle finger because all my other fingers hurt too much. My elbow pain also had increased to an uncomfortable level so sitting at my desk was unbearable. I even had to order a device to hold my books for me because it hurt so bad.

It was a late night search (pounded out with that poor middle finger)  that lead me to a pain relieving device called Quell.

Specifically, I watched this video on YouTube and thought maybe this device might be able to help me too. Although the person in this video is dealing with different issues, she is young and dealing with widespread pain throughout her body that causes joint pain.

I am lucky to know several doctors and nurses (including my incredible sister!) and asked their opinion and if this device might be worth a try. The consensus was…it could work or not. Basically, there was no guarantee it would help with MY pain or how my body would respond to this type of pain relief. The company even shares that it has helped 81% of people manage their pain and 67% reported a reduction in pain medication use. That means it doesn’t work for everyone.

I just knew with my luck, I’d be the one that it didn’t help with. 

I was so very wrong. 

Fifteen minutes after I slipped this device on my leg, my pain levels went from an 9 to a 3. Was it because I wanted it to work so bad or was it real? After a few weeks of wearing it, I am telling you it is real and it has been life-altering.

I am sitting here typing with all my fingers while this little gadget is doing pain therapy and I haven’t taken any meds since I got it.

I am in awe of this technology and how much it has changed my day.

I want to dive deep for those of you that are struggling with pain and explain what Quell is, how I am using it, and a few hurdles I have had with the device.

 

Quell Review

What is Quell?

Quell is a newer technology, a wearable intensive nerve stimulation device, that is clinically proven to help manage chronic pain. It is 100% drug free, doctor recommended, and FDA cleared for 24/7 use, during the day while active and at night while sleeping, so you can get relief when and where you need it.

This device is worn just below the knee and activated by simply clicking a button. This position (on the calf)  is where a lot of the sensory nerves are located so the pain can be blocked at the spinal cord, which helps you feel widespread relief from your pain and not just relief in a specific part of your body.  These sensory nerves send neural pulses to your brain that then trigger a natural response that blocks pain signals, leading to widespread pain relief for many people.

The company refers to it its intuitive abilities as “OptiTherapy” technology that can automatically adjust therapy and dose to ensure you receive optimal pain relief.

The best part is that you can start and stop therapy sessions, as well as adjust the intensity of therapy from the Quell app on your smartphone (app works for both iOS and Android). You can also review therapy and sleep trends over time. Advanced sleep insights allow you to monitor 8 important dimensions of sleep such as sleep quality and time asleep as well as your body movement and position during the night, giving you even more insight into your chronic pain management.

If you aren’t a smartphone user, they also have ways that you can manage your device just from the button on the side with instructions on that too.

What does the Quell App Look Like & What Does It Tell You?

Let’s take a peek at a few things I took a screenshot of from the app on my phone…

Quell Review

Here is a screenshot of a session that I was in the middle of when I was grocery shopping. I have my settings set so I can visually see the level of intensity instead of just a plus or minus for intensity.

Going along the bottom of the screen, the far left is the battery life. The battery has lasted four days for me before I had to plug it in for a charge. It is easy to do and takes a couple of hours to fully charge with a cord, kind of like your phone!

The person icon is telling me that I have completed five sessions that day. Most days I am averaging about seven sessions. The sessions are for one hour on and then one hour off. They say that the positive effects of the therapy usually carries over for about 40 minutes so there are about 20 minutes where I start to feel like crap. Every single time, I look and it says 20 minutes ON THE DOT. It’s manageable though because I know relief is coming in 20 more minutes.

The bandage icon is telling my pain levels. It also has lots of other things you can input in the tracking screen that can help you analyze the good and the bad days. On this day, I was at a level one so that’s pretty incredible for someone who has been between a 7-9 on a pain skill.

The last icon is how many more days I have on the electrode I am using. We will talk about that a little later because that is one thing you do have to maintain.

 

Quell Review

 

Here is that tracking screen I was telling you about. I can look at this and tell you why my levels were this way.

Thursday I drank too much wine with my husband (hahaha!) so I slept like crap. We also had a lot of family stuff going on that day. The next day was my daughter’s dance recital which was beautiful, but tiring. Sunday was MY DAY (yay for Mother’s Day!) so I took a nap and felt awesome because I did nothing. Monday was back to the grind and another family thing came up so I was tired.

This documentation tells me 1) stop drinking so much wine 2) that would have been a hard week for any mom 3) Every day should be Mother’s Day.

Quell Review

You can customize it a lot and one of the things you can do is put it on Sleep Mode and set it up to the intensity levels you need. I tried sleeping with it and it drove me crazy since I sleep on both sides and I found the device to be too bulky for sleeping. The analytics didn’t really tell me enough or help my quality of sleep enough to wear it so I slip it off at night and this is when I can charge it if needed.

What Is the Cost of Quell and Is It Covered By Insurance?

This device is not covered by insurance. The starter kit comes with everything you need for one month and costs $249. The electrodes last for two weeks each and come with a reusable liner that you can also jot down the date of when you started to use the liner so you know how many days, particularly if you aren’t using the app. I have found the durability on these to be great, BUT I am not sleeping in mine and I also have adjusted my wardrobe a bit to accommodate the device.

I would imagine if you sleep in it, the electrodes might pull a bit and the same would be the case in a tight pair of skinny jeans so to help these last the full two weeks, I choose to do neither.

It is important to register your device because the company does offer a sixty day return policy. That means if you discover this device does not work for you, you can contact customer service for a refund. Please don’t send your requests to me, I cannot help you!

Who Can This Device Help?

They clearly state that it will not help migraine sufferers so I am sorry if that is the type of pain challenge you are dealing with. On the site it says it helps with chronic nerve pain, chronic joint pain, leg and foot pain, lower back pain, and widespread pain for people like me!

dance-recital

What Are the Negatives With This Device?

Well, as streamlined as it is, for a girl who lives in skinny jeans and short a-line dresses this has been a bit of an adjustment. As you can see, it is peeking out on the right of my leg in our family photo. Yes, this is a complete vanity thing, but that’s also a dose of honesty. I ended up buying a couple of midi skirts and am looking at pants a little differently to accommodate the side bulk of this device.  I know at some point I will feel more confident with wearing it out, I just need to get used to it.

You do need to move the device around and the app will let you know that it is “time to air out,” those electrodes.  I did skip it on the recital day and I got a little rashy under those spots where the electrodes were. It’s important to heed their advice on that to avoid a skin reaction.

It has a light-up display that I didn’t realize you could disable that flashes as a session is happening. At my daughter’s recital, it looked like a disco globe going off, under my dress, when the stage went dark. Now that I know I can turn off that display, I’ll feel a little better about going to the movies- ha!

I wish there were no maintenance things to buy, but the electrodes must be replaced every two weeks. Broken down the maintenance cost is roughly over $7 a week and I know I was paying a lot more than that and would have continued to pay more to treat the pain with doctor visits and medications.

This does not cure the pain, it just breaks the pain cycle so you your body can rest and do what it needs to do for the day. It doesn’t mean that I am healed, but it means that I can function. I don’t want to give anyone any false hope that this will rid you of what is ailing you, it just helps you manage and reduce the pain in a drug-free way.

Quell for Ehlers Danlos

What Are the Positives With This Device?

I have broken the cycle of pain. This weekend I sat through a beautiful graduation, watched with tears in my eyes as my daughter danced, and was present for a family member when they had surgery. I couldn’t have done that if I was still at that level of pain I was in.

Going off medication is rough. I felt blue and foggy before and now I feel like me again.

I’m sleeping better.

I am clear-headed and present again in my daily life with my family.

I feel like I can manage this again.

I am grateful.

Technology, you can be a beautiful thing sometimes!

I don’t know if this will help you, but I pray that if you are dealing with chronic pain that you can find the right answer for YOU.

Please feel free to ask me any questions and I will try to answer them for you!

Please note, this does contain affiliate links that help maintain our site. Thank you so much! 

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The Virtual Librarian Experience: Give Me a Good Mystery

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

The MomAdviceVirtual Librarian (2)

It’s been awhile since I have dove into our Virtual Librarian requests so I thought today would be the perfect day to share a few selections for our mystery-loving reader! Today’s reader, Leah, is trying to get back to reading and is looking for books that will get her back to embracing her love for reading again.

Since I’m not much of a mystery reader, but more of a thriller reader, I’d love to hear your recommendations for your favorite mysteries!

If you would like me to pick some books for you, just fill out this quick questionnaire and submit it. I will send you an email when your post is live to let you know my favorite picks for you! You can also leave comments on books you would recommend for this reader too in our comment section below!

reader-profile

Reader Profile

Name?

Leah

What is Your Favorite Book Genre?

Mystery

Who Are Your Favorite Authors?

Agatha Christie

Nancy Drew Series

What is Your Favorite Book of All-Time? 

The Nancy Drew Series

What Do You Look for In a Book?

I LOVED reading when I was young. I devoured books daily. I loved mysteries (Nancy Drew in particular) and also historical fiction. I also read a lot of YA in my teen years.

I really haven’t read much since my teen years and I really want to get my passion for reading back! I love mysteries, thrillers, fiction, and historical fiction. I have no clue where to start!

I can’t do anything too gory or dirty…. I would like to keep it PG or PG-13 ;) I do love the Miss Marple series which I am reading through right now.

The Virtual Librarian Selects…

A Murder in Time

A Murder in Time by Julie McElwain

I am not big into series books, but since Leah loves a good series, I had to start with this one. A Murder in Time is the first in the Kendra Donovan mysteries series and is a promising start for time travel and historical fiction lovers.

The story follows an FBI agent, Kendra Donovan, that is involved in a case that goes horribly wrong and claims the life of her colleagues. When she finds out that they are using the murderer as an informant, she decides to take revenge at a period piece party he is attending at a castle. Hiding from him when her revenge takes an unexpected turn, she goes into a corridor and then comes out in the same castle, but in an entirely different era- the 1800’s. Her ability to sleuth out cases comes in handy though when a serial killer is on the loose and no one else can solve it. Without her modern day tools though, this case isn’t an easy one.

Oh, and she’s a woman and a low level employee at the castle so she’s not respected either.

Although far-fetched, as most time travel books are, this is a fun escape. I actually learned a lot about that era that I had never been before. Twist in a fun love story, and you have a great escape that fans of the Outlander series will enjoy with this fun modern spin!

The Woman in Cabin 10

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Ware’s debut, In a Dark, Dark Wood, was so fantastic that I couldn’t wait to dig into her second thriller. The Woman in Cabin 10 feels a bit like a Hitchcock film or a finely crafted Agatha Christie murder mystery. Playing into the unreliable narrator theme, that seems to be so popular these days, Lo Blacklock is dealing with anxiety following a break in at her home. Assigned to cover a boutique cruise ship for a travel magazine, Lo believes she witnesses a murder in the cabin next to hers.

When she reports it and starts investigating what has happened, someone is not too happy about it, creating an already unhinged woman into a state of even more heightened anxiety. As a reader, this whodunit murder mystery was solid all the way through and kept me guessing until the final pages.

Be sure to check out my interview with Ruth Ware as we discussed her debut, In a Dark, Dark Wood!

I Let You Go

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

I Let You Go will be the psychological thriller you need to pull you out of a reading slump. The book opens with a mother crossing the street with her child. She lets go for just a moment and that child is hit by a car. This hit-and-run case leaves little clues to the killer and the reader follows this grief-stricken survivor as she tries to form a new life in a new town, far from the reminders of the accident. Hold onto your hats though because nothing is as it seems and the reader is taken on plot twists that will leave you gasping. This is, truly, the next Gone Girl, friends, don’t miss it!

Check out my interview with Clare Mackintosh and hear about the case that inspired her book and the life experience that shaped the raw grief of the mother in her story!

Arrowood

Arrowood by Laura McHugh

This is a solid gothic mystery about twin girls who go missing and their sister who is haunted and filled with guilt because their disappearance happened when she was supposed to be watching them.

When a true crime writer decides he wants to figure out the answer to this unsolved case for a book, we begin to realize that Arden’s memories of that fateful day may not be entirely accurate. McHugh then takes the reader down a winding path of suspects to answer where these children could have gone in a classic mystery format.

I will say, the ending was not as conclusive as I would have liked and if you prefer a clearly defined ending, this might be an unsatisfactory ending for you. It did serve as an excellent book for discussion as you think about your own childhood memories and what it would be like as a family to have old wounds reopened for the sake of true crime writing.

I really enjoyed this one and would recommend it for Leah since she is such a big mystery lover!

Little Deaths

Little Deaths by Emma Flint

Set in the summer of 1965, Flint’s novel reads like a true crime story as the author weaves the story of two missing children in Queens, New York and the story of their single mother who doesn’t fit the typical mother mold.

Ruth Malone, their mother, raises her children alone and doesn’t conform to the idea of what a good mother and wife should be. Working as a cocktail waitress, she is gorgeous with an overly done face and wardrobe. Ruth instantly becomes the suspect worth scrutinizing by the cops, the neighbors, and the press. When a tabloid reporter, intent on getting his first big story, begins covering the story of these missing children, he just can’t help but to become obsessed with her.

Much of the story is told through a series of interviews as Pete Wonicke tries to get the scoop and the reader is taken through this heart wrenching story from lost children, to found, to the agonizing building of the case.

Well-crafted and developed with a dramatic conclusion, Flint paints Ruth in such a way that she practically lifts off the pages. Although the conclusion was a bit too swift for me, I found this to be a solid read that left me guessing through much of it. I would recommend this one for fans of crime fiction, especially if you are a big fan of police procedural books since this book takes you through the case from start to finish.

The Bullet

The Bullet by Mary Louise Kelly (on sale today for $4.99!!)

The Bullet  is a beautifully written mystery that echoes some of my favorite thrillers from Chevy Stevens.  The premise of the book is when a woman discover a bullet in her body that she was never aware of it, it sends her life spiraling in a direction that she never expected. The origin of that bullet and the people around her that it has affected, cause this cold case to be reopened… reopening wounds of the family and friends around her.

Despite the gravity of the case and the circumstances surrounding it, the book is laced with great humor and a cast of endearing characters. I really enjoyed this one for a quick escape and can’t recommend it enough.

You can read my interview with the author once you finish this captivating read!

What would you pick out for Leah based on her preferences? Leave your suggestions in the comments below!

This post contains affiliate links. I only recommend what I love though! Dig into the Virtual Librarian series this year for more great selections! 

The MomAdviceVirtual Librarian (2)

Amy’s Notebook 05.10.17

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

Kitchen Makeover

source: emily henderson

I can’t stop scrolling through these pictures of this kitchen makeover. I just love all these beautiful details!

Did you know you can make jam in your Instant Pot? As if I couldn’t love this kitchen gadget more!

Pretty sure if my iPhone could talk it would say ALL OF THIS.

9 easy ways to get busy people to respond to your emails.  I love this advice for getting favorable responses!

Do you need strategies for work/life balance? I loved this advice and have been trying to work on that for myself too!

It’s official. These are my new favorite shoes for spring. I can’t rave enough about them!

Easy Vegan Naan

source: minimalist baker

This vegan naan recipe looks absolutely delicious and easy too!

It is insane that anyone goes camping! My thoughts exactly- hahaha!

My heart is all wrapped up in this memoir this week. If you are a fan of beautiful memoirs, this is definitely one to add to your stack!

This shrimp & tomato sheet pan supper looks lovely & light for a weeknight meal! Adding to our menu planner!

Um, have you heard of this? I am all about ways I can get better sleep.

Shibori Kitchen Towels

source: a beautiful mess

I have been wanting to give shibori dying a spin and loved this tutorial for getting started!

I always appreciate advice on how to reduce inflammation. This anti-inflammatory food pyramid has some great tips!

3 cute ways to style a vest. I love having these in my capsule wardrobe!

There is some language in this, but my husband shared this incredible piece with me on the backfire effect and I had to share it with you. It really made me think about my reactions to things!

This diy overhead camera mount is genius for those overhead IG shots!

This is a great list of 30 books you should read at least once in your lifetime.

I hope you enjoyed our notebook, a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, thrifty ways to spruce up your home, and thoughtful reads. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration! Please note, there are affiliate links that do help support our site- thank you! xoxo

 

Amy’s Notebook 05.03.17

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

Breakfast Meal Prep

source: damn delicious

I love this strategy for tackling breakfast meal prep so you can eat a good breakfast.

Professional organizers share their tips on how to keep order in spaces under 500 feet. I had never heard of the 3-4-3 rule!

I’ve been all wrapped up in this book this week. REALLY different than anything I’ve read.

I must try this make-ahead risotto trick when we have company for a meal!

How yelling can hurt and how to stop it- I can always use pointers like this!

Girl friendships have a lot of dynamics- loved the reminder that our kids are taking in our behaviors in our friendships too.

Truly awesome kitchen hacks- can’t wait to try a few of these out.

Gallery Wall

source: claire body designs

This gallery wall NAILED IT!

7 habits that will prepare your body for sleep- I am definitely working on this one!

I’ve always been curious about eyelash extensions. Unfortunately, I have poor follow through on good beauty habits!

Has anyone ever tried these? I’m terrible about cleaning my grill- ha!

Sheet Pan Chicken

source: simply recipes

This sheet pan meal looks perfect for a Spring feast!

This was your top purchase this week (and this girl just got a shipping notification that mine is in route- yay!)

What a fascinating piece on this show. I’m only in the second episode- are you guys watching?

I don’t use a bullet journal, but I love seeing how people do use these.

This 31-day career detox looks like a really good way to get my business back on track.

Comments of the Week:

Whoa. You have overwhelmed me with love and I couldn’t be more grateful after I shared a little about what life is REALLY like over here. I’m going to try to respond to each comment, but there were some gems in there, particularly if you also struggle with balancing your health & family. I also want to thank you for your compassion and encouragement to not be afraid to share this stuff with you. I struggle with creating the right balance here and it helps to know that you would rather see this side than the fakely polished one.

“I have lived with muscular dystrophy for the last 25 years. Some days are better than others. Fill the margins of your day with what works best for you…don’t try to fill them with ‘busyness’. Although you might feel briefly accomplished for the clean house, great meal, scratched off to do list, you may ultimately pay for it later. As I’ve grown older I’ve tried to embrace the nooks and crannies of my days instead of filling them up. Good luck to you!”- Lisa

“One of the things I so appreciate about your blog is that you ARE honest and open about your physical struggles. I think we as readers tend to only see bloggers as two dimensional–we only know what you tell us (unless you are ultra famous and the media gets involved) and since many bloggers only tell the good stuff (or only talk about cooking or whatever), then your lives look a little perfect from this end. Which, of course, they never are, but we can’t tell. So you, being honest with us, lets us in a tiny bit on the realities, and I want to say thank you for that. We ALL have something–a chronic condition, a special needs child, an addiction, depression, etc. All of us. And the more honest we are, the better off we all are, because help and healing are found in community. So, Thank you. Sincerely!”- Tina

“Oh Amy I totally understand since I live with chronic illness as well. I really like how you explained this and realized that before this I was very black and white as well. Now I can see I’ve shifted more to the gray side of life and you know what? It’s okay, in fact it’s so much better. Learning to be flexible and embracing the Plan B has been huge as well. I also work in the cracks…15 minutes up and then 30 minutes resting. I’m always amazed at what can be done when I focus hard for that short period of time. If there is anything I can do please let me know. So sorry you’ve been feeling crummy :(“- Laura

“Vulnerability is proof we are human and are a part of this race, that says my body doesn’t work sometimes, my heart is lagging but I can find the help, encouragement and love if I open my heart, I think in doing so, that lets our spirits soar. I know it’s not easy but it’s possible and we must rest, heal and then press on, as women. I love the song ” I lived” by One Republic. It says it all. Praying for you!”- Monica

“Thanks so much for being honest. I would love for you to share as much as you feel comfortable sharing on this hard journey, because it helps me have more empathy and compassion for you and many others who experience chronic, ongoing pain. And I think there is much we can all learn from it. Also, I’m so sorry you are carrying this. I can’t imagine how weighty, overwhelming, and discouraging it must feel so much of the time.”- Crystal

I think more of us live in the gray than we think. Social media makes us think either we’re great, perfect moms with perfect homes, or we’re neglectful and should be on an episode of Hoarders. Reality falls in the middle, and we have to figure out where we’re comfortable and what we can and can’t handle. Satisfaction is in the effort, not in the end result.”- Mindy

You may be here for me to teach you something, but you are teaching me so much more than I can give you! I am thankful to have such an incredible village by our side. I promise to share more as this journey unfold! xo

I hope you enjoyed our notebook, a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, thrifty ways to spruce up your home, and thoughtful reads. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration! Please note, there are affiliate links that do help support our site- thank you! xoxo

April 2017 Must-Reads

Monday, May 1st, 2017

April 2017 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

Can you believe it is already May? This past month really flew by and I’m so excited to share ten books that I read in April. As a book reviewer, this tends to be a really busy season so I have a large stack of advanced readers to still get through in preparation for all that summer reading that will be happening. Summer, to me, means thriller season so I’ll be sure to add a few of those to my stack for next month.

I’m still working my way through the MomAdvice Reading Challenge and tackled six categories this month! It has, truly, diversified my reading this year. This month, in particular, I read some books that I would have not normally have picked up in order to complete certain categories.

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.  If you want to see more of what I am reading,  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.

PS- Don’t forget to join our FREE book club! It’s so awesome!

10 Must-Read Books from April 2017

Setting Free the Kites by Alex George

Setting Free the Kites by Alex George

If you haven’t read Alex George’s first book, please do add it to your reading list- it’s beautiful! In his second novel, George weaves a gorgeous coming-of-age story, set in the late 70’s, that chronicles the life and friendship of two boys that find each other in their eighth grade year. This friendship blossoms as a tragic event unfolds in each family’s life and brings them closer together.

It’s hard to say more about this so you can be surprised by these tragic twists, but the setting and characters are so beautifully written that your heart will quickly be wrapped up in this sweet story.

This book reminded me a lot of Ordinary Grace, in what appears to be a simple story, but is told with such beauty, heart, and soul that you can’t help but fall in love with this book . Be sure to have a box of tissues as you read this one as this book dives deep into heartbreak and loss.

5 Out of 5 Stars

My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

I don’t read as much chick lit as I used to, but Sophie Kinsella books are always like curling up with an old friend. In My Not So Perfect Life, Katie Brenner looks upon the life of everyone else with a lot of envy as she is broke, sharing a flat with some terrible roommates, and struggling at her job. When she is fired, she has to return home, but can’t bear to tell her parents the truth about her failure  so she tells them that she is on sabbatical instead.

What unfolds is adorably sweet as Katie helps her family launch a glamping bed and breakfast and secretly hunts for a new job on the side. The only problem is, her former boss shows up as a guest and Katie decides to teach her a lesson or two, but ends up getting a lot of lessons of her own.

In a social media obsessed world, Kinsella showcases how those Instagram photos aren’t always the reality of life and few lives are as perfect as they seem. Written with some really smart characters, it was a fun escape this month and, truly, made me laugh out loud.

5 Out of 5 Stars

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give is one of those books that everyone has been talking about this year. This YA novel was riveting and a definite must-read this year.

Starr Chase has a double life at a mostly white prep school while living in a poor neighborhood. On the way home from a party, her friend is pulled over and fatally shot by a white officer.

The death becomes a national headline and Starr has to decide where her loyalty lies especially when it means risking her safety and the safety of her family.

This is a book that has made me feel ALL THE FEELINGS and this story has so many great lessons in it that it would be impossible to not have your viewpoint shift as you see the story from Starr’s perspective.  I can’t recommend this one enough.

Reading Challenge Category Completed- A book that challenges a viewpoint

5 Out of 5 Stars

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zetner

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

I became a huge fan of Jeff Zentner after reading his incredible book, The Serpent King (check out my interview with him on that one!) so I couldn’t wait to dive into his next book.

Goodbye Days opens with a tragic accident that claims the lives of three teens when their best friend, Carver, texts to ask if they are on their way. When the driver tries to answer the text, they are killed in a collision with another vehicle leaving Carver without his dearest friends.  An investigation unfolds as the families decide if they will be pressing charges against him and Carver must forge a new life without three of the people that have been such a big part of him.

In an effort to bring closure to the families, he has a Goodbye Day where they share a day to share memories of the person they lost. The Goodbye Days don’t go always as expected as feelings of anger and blame are placed upon Carver’s role in the accident and Carver must work through these guilt-filled days with his therapist.

Zentner has a way of writing friendships that feel authentically real. As an adult,  I truly appreciate the message from this book and think it would be a great one to share with your teen to warn of the dangers of texting and driving.

More than that though, it showcases the power of forgiveness over our lives.

4 Out of 5 Stars

Everything You Want Me to Be by Mindy Mejia

Everything You Want Me To Be by Mindy Mejia

If you are looking for another solid thriller, I have to say that Everything You Want Me To Be was excellent and had me guessing up until the final pages!

Hattie Hoffman has always spent her life dutifully doing exactly what she is supposed to.  That is why it shocks the town when Hattie is found brutally stabbed to death since no one could ever imagine something like that would happen to someone who is so perfect.

Ah, but things aren’t what they seem and Hattie has a few secrets up her sleeve that include a scandalous relationship that leave the reader guessing just who would have wanted Hattie dead more.

I really enjoyed this one and Mejia carves a few smart twists that I think you will really enjoy. I couldn’t put this one down and finished it in a single day!

4 Out of 5 Stars

Kindred by Octavia Butler

Kindred by Octavia Butler

I have always been a fan of time travel novels and selected Kindred as my time travel book for the MomAdvice Reading Challenge.  I can’t believe this book had never been on my radar before because it completely blew me away.

Dana is a black woman married to a white man in the late sixties. After becoming dizzy one day, she finds herself transported to the South in 1815 when a little boy, named Rufus, is drowning in a river. Dana saves him and this begins the first of many visits where he risks his life and Dana is pulled back into the 1800’s. Her role as a black woman is not a free one though and she must work as a slave at the house and witnesses the true brutalities of an unkind slave owner.

Butler layers a great dimension by giving Dana a white husband and when they are transported together, he must act as her slave owner in order to keep her safe. The dynamics in these roles causes stress and doubts between the two.

If you are highly sensitive, this book is brutal in the telling of the treatment of slaves. It unsettled me a lot to read these horrific accounts, yet I know that I need to know them too.

The ending was a little strange to me, but reading through the reader guide helped me understand better the dimensions that Butler was hoping to achieve through this ending.

Overall, this was a riveting read that I could not put down!

Reading Challenge Category Completed- A book about time travel

5 Out of 5 Stars

The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve

The Stars are Fire by Anita Shreve

Thank you to the publisher for sending an ARC of this novel- all thoughts and opinions are my own! 

I finished Anita Shreve’s latest book in less than a day and really enjoyed this story of a marriage set in the late ‘40’s.  Shreve uses Maine as her backdrop and in October of 1947, a summer-long drought caused fires to breakout all along the Maine coast that killed many and destroyed their homes.

The book opens with the telling of a really loveless marriage. When the fires break in Maine, Grace is able to save herself and her two children, but has no idea what has happened to her husband. Without money, a home, a husband, or even clothing on her back, she takes her children back to her deceased mother-in-law’s home and waits for her husband to return.

It’s through this experience of independence that Grace must find herself from getting a job to learning to drive to managing money. Of course, as she finds her footing, she knows that her husband may return at any moment to take it all away from her.

It was a really great escape and would be an ideal one for your beach bag this summer!

Reading Challenge Category Completed- A book about marriage

4 Out of 5 Stars

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

This sparse novel, mostly set in the 1970’s, documents the story of a friendship as they grow up in Brooklyn. The Brooklyn they know is a dangerous place where these girls can quickly lose their innocence and Woodson paints her story in almost a stream of consciousness that makes you feel as though you are in the mind of these characters, from past to present, presented in a lyrical prose format.

Despite its short length, this book packs a powerful punch as it examines coming-of-age in a dark place and the realities of poverty without a mother.  This quote says it all about this book-

“Everywhere we looked, we saw the people trying to dream themselves out. As though there was someplace other than this place. As though there was another Brooklyn.”

Reading Challenge Category Completed- A book written by a woman

3 Out of 5 Star

How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell

How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell

I picked up Cat’s memoir on a whim not knowing anything about her or her work. Marnell had a promising career working as a beauty editor for Lucky magazine, but struggled with many addictions that prevented her from delivering on that promise.

Her addictions started with a prescription for ADHD medication, as a teen, and it spiraled out from there. The reader is taken on each cringe-worthy moment as she self-destructs on pills, binges on food, and gets involved with some shady people sabotaging relationships and her various writing gigs.

She chronicles the realities of rehab and the differences between treatments when treated at a higher end facility and then what a real rehab experience looked like. She also shares her own confusion over being celebrated for her raw honesty in writing about her addictions, yet being chastised for her drug abuse by her coworkers.

This book circles and circles repeating the same abuse cycles again and again. The writing feels manic at times and you just want Marnell to get her crap together.

But, it isn’t that kind of book

And it isn’t that kind of ending.

It’s real, unflinching, and showcases the truly ugly side of drug addiction.

Reading Challenge Category Completed- A book on mental illness

3 Out of 5 Stars

Desperation Road by Michael Farris Smith

Desperation Road by Michael Farris Smith

I’m surprised that I haven’t heard a lot of buzz about Desperation Road, a beautiful Southern Gothic novel that is gorgeously written from start to finish. Fans of Ron Rash are sure to love this haunting story of redemption and the unlikely companionship that blossoms, particularly when they realize the way that their two lives intertwine.

Maben & her young daughter are trying to escape their life and the mother must use her last dollars to provide shelter for them through the night at a hotel. In order to earn money to get them through the next day, Maben finds herself involved in the murder of a police deputy and they must flee before she is caught.

She pulls over Russell, a man who has just finished his prison term for a crime he committed,  by gunpoint. When he picks up Mabel & her daughter he finds that he is now involved in a crime he did not commit.

Michael Farris Smith certainly has a way with words and I was sucked into this book from page one. If you are just in the mood for a good story, this book is beautiful and satisfying!

Reading Challenge Category Completed- Southern Gothic

4 Out of 5 Stars

Amy Allen Clark

Read With Me This Year:

January 2017 Must-Reads

February 2017 Must-Reads

March 2017 Must-Reads

April 2017 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

What did you read this month? Looking for book ideas? Check out our entire Book section of the site! Don’t forget to friend me on GoodReads! xo

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though.

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Amy’s Notebook 04.26.17

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

Maple Bacon Grilled Cheese

source: joy the baker

Hello, heavenly grilled cheese combo! I want to try this sticky finger maple bacon grilled cheese for our next sandwich night!

I loved these suggestions for a social media diet. Who couldn’t use one of those?

How to read a whole damn book every week. Couldn’t agree more with these suggestions!

If you are watching 13 Reasons Why with your teen, these are 13 great conversations to have with them about the show.

We are going to have to try some of these drink suggestions for our next board game night.

I started this memoir and it has been such a welcome escape this week.

DIY Bouquet Tips

source: the house that lars built

These tips for how to diy your own bouquets are so great and perfect for a beautiful  Mother’s Day gift.

Do you struggle with anxiety too? I love these tips for cultivating calmness and understanding your own triggers.

This cheesy bruschetta chicken is going on my menu planner!

I spent my Etsy gift card on one of these beauties for my kitchen. Can’t wait to use it!

5 ways to teach your kids about consent- such great reminders for parents!

I love these ideas for making Alexa your sous chef. Lots of things I would have never thought of.

Easy Messy Top Bun

source: a beautiful mess

I love this twist on an easy messy top bun.

Bookmarking this post since the comments are full of great suggestions for my next beach read.

You must be stocking up on your summer staples because this was your top purchase this month! I love these (PS-size up one!)

Do you find yourself fighting the crazy this time of year too? I loved the suggestion to under-react to the crazy- that’s definitely one I need to work on!

Here is the mental trick you need to maintain your focus. I loved all of these suggestions especially the one about starting your day in a positive way!

I hope you enjoyed our notebook, a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, thrifty ways to spruce up your home, and thoughtful reads. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration! Please note, there are affiliate links that do help support our site- thank you! xoxo

Amy’s Notebook 04.19.17

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

Flat Iron Curls from A Beautiful Mess

source: a beautiful mess

My sister was raving about using her flat iron to curl her hair. I loved this picture tutorial this week. I wonder if I have the coordination to do it though- ha!

Thinking about downsizing your wardrobe? Check out this post for some inspiration!

This made me laugh so hard. I TOTALLY would do that!

This is a great read for newbies to cooking and purchasing chicken thighs. These are my favorite these days!

Adult friendships are tough aren’t they?

Boho Top

source: ali on the boulevard

I hate to pick favorites in my capsule wardrobe, but I couldn’t love this top more and have gotten so many compliments on it!

I’ve been under the weather which gave me plenty of time to curl up with this book this week. What an incredible read! You MUST read it!

Some great tips for making a great pressure cooker chicken stock!

DIY Painted Floors

source: old brand new

I would never think to diy a painted tile floor, but this patio floor is stunning!

5 women run podcasts to listen to- girl power! I’d also love to tackle this great list of episodes worth discussing.

This was a pretty fascinating read on the immoralities of being wealthy. I am definitely going to be chatting about this one at the dinner table tonight!

You must be preparing for Mother’s Day because this was your top purchase this week. So sweet and I love supporting Etsy makers!

Eight powerful habits that can make your more successful. I really need to get motivated this year and this is a great start! I also REALLY enjoyed this piece on how to make it easier to be awesome.

An underrated places travel bucket list is happening after reading these highlights from each state!

I have a pile of these under my sink and I never knew all the things I could do with them!

Books to read that will soon be movies! Yay!

If you need me, I’m over here reading this book. I loved his first book so much, I can’t wait to dig into this next one!

Comments of the Week:  In response to my piece on S-town“Catching up on my blog reading since were on spring break as well! We went from Ohio to Orange Beach, AL and you know I totally stared down Woodstock, AL as we drove past. The deep dive into John B. McLemore’s life was fascinating and haunting and addicting. Brian Reed is a master storyteller, and his ability to thoroughly investigate this scenario was amazing. It’s stayed with me for quite some time…and I don’t see it leaving any time soon.”- Beth

I could not agree more, Beth! I even convinced my Dad to give it a listen and he’s loving it. I can’t wait to have a daughter-father chat about that.

I have loved reading what you all are up to in the summer months to enter our Brain Quest giveaway this week. This was one of my favorites- “Baking and cooking competitions are a big hit here! Lots of researching and concocting a plan and recipe hunting beforehand to extend their learning (and time ).”- Abbie

Isn’t that so fun? What a great way to get your kids engaged and off their electronics. Hope you all are having a wonderful day! xo

I hope you enjoyed our notebook, a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, thrifty ways to spruce up your home, and thoughtful reads. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration! Please note, there are affiliate links that do help support our site- thank you! xoxo

The Importance of S-Town

Monday, April 10th, 2017

minneapolis-2

We rolled in last night after the most lovely little getaway to explore Minneapolis. Things have felt a bit off this month with our family’s rhythm that I can’t really explain right now, but that have made our down time feel a little more stressful and less enjoyable.  As I surfed Midwest adventures on Groupon, I came across a deal for a cute hotel and we decided to just head on over there for a little escape.

For us, this trip was just WILD. Unplanned, poorly packed, and flying by the seat of our pants. A need to get the heck out after a gloomy, freezing, and dreary week in Indiana.

minneapolis-1

One of the coolest things about this job is the ability to find and connect with someone just about everywhere we go and my dear friend, Kelly Whalen, offered to spend a day with us and take us on a tour of the city. Since we had no plan, this sounded like heaven.

It was a magic-making kind of day where the kids hit it off like crazy, we ate incredible food,  the conversations never dwindled, and we explored areas in her town that she hadn’t even got to do yet. Magic, I tell you!

Each of our trips end up having some kind of theme to them where we dive into something and just binge the heck out of it. Our fall trip, for example, was the trip of Hamilton that ultimately lead to our Christmas gift of tickets for our kids.

This trip ended up being the S-Town trip where my husband & I listened to seven hours of the most fascinating podcast I had ever encountered in my lifetime that has had my brain going nonstop since I finished it.  (please note, no, this podcast is not for the kiddos- headphones were on them with something else going!)

s-town-1

If you haven’t heard of S-Town, it is a history-making podcast from the producers of Serial & This American Life where host, Brian Reed, leads their investigative team into a small town in Alabama to investigate a murder. John B. McLemore of Woodstock, Alabama, had emailed the producers of This American Life saying he had a story to tell about a covered-up murder that happened in his town. He calls his town, Shittown (thus the podcast name) and begins a year-long conversation with Reed that leads him all the way out to Woodstock to investigate McLemore’s claims. The series takes an immediate sharp turn that, honestly, shocked me to my core and the podcast becomes something entirely different than a true crime story.

They wisely released the show in it’s entirety which allows you to binge listen to this whole series without the usual Googling that I might have been doing between episodes, like I unapologetically did between episodes of Serial. Since the story develops and evolves so quickly, each chapter feels like almost its own unique listening experience and is almost like taking in a short story audiobook collection that come together in wild ways.

I don’t want to spoil anything if you haven’t dove into it, but I will say that the themes are dark, sexually graphic at times, and the language could be bothersome to some. The last two episodes, in particular, were unsettling on many levels, in what John might have wanted to have kept private and the fact that I don’t think much of it really added to the story of John.

What I will say is that this moved me in ways that I had not expected. It is a portrait of a tortured genius who desperately wanted love in his life. It’s about the cyclical nature of poverty, mental illness, frustrations with world issues that we cannot change,  the struggles about leading a life that is true to you for fear of perception by those in a small town, and the rich layering of all people. Reed’s compassion flourishes even through, in my opinion, some of its more dicier moments.

Since John B. McLemore was a horologist, one of the most poignant moments in it were McLemore’s own reflections on time and how we use our time. He reflected on how many hours we actually have in our life to make use of.  It was very mathematical and analytical, but so very rich.

Our time on earth is so fleeting and we are all gifted only so many hours in our day. How am I using this precious time and how can I make those moments really and truly count? Why are so much of my efforts and anxieties focused on things that just don’t matter and how can I make a better use of these hours given? 

It made me thankful we had taken that trip.

They were precious hours that filled my cup.

There is much that I found to be profound in S-Town and there are far more thoughtful commentaries to read than I what I can share with you. What I can say though is that it moved me and made me think about a lot of things in new ways and it challenged me in ways that only the best documentaries and nonfiction books have.

I plan to relisten to this one to see what new nuggets I can get out of it and what I will hear in the story now that I know where Reed is leading me.

Once you finish the show (and not before!), you can head down the rabbit trail of articles and podcast commentary like I did:

S-Town Host Brian Reed on True Crime Podcasts and That Major Twist

Brian Reed, maker of S-Town: ‘People’s minds go to paranoid places very easily’

What does the song at the end of S-Town mean?

Who is John B. McLemore

Pop Culture Happy Hour’s Take On S-Town

Sorta Awesome’s Thoughts On S-Town

Longform Interview with Brian Reed

10 Podcasts You Need in Your Life After ‘S-Town’

Have you listened to S-Town? What did you think about this podcast?

 

 

 

Amy’s Notebook 04.05.17

Wednesday, April 5th, 2017

carrot-greenery

source: camille styles

This is an adorable way to wrap a little greenery for Spring!

I love these tips on ways to curb your phone addiction. I’m going to be playing in my settings this week to make some adjustments!

Are you a fan of the audiobook trend too? Here are some great suggestions for books to listen to!

As a crafter, I couldn’t be more excited about this show!

This is the season of overcommitment- this was a great advice on what to do when you find yourself with too many obligations.

Speaking of overcommitted, I shared this reminder this week.

As summer approaches, I needed this reminder on managing screen time. We also have a free printable for tech & chore tickets that should come in handy!

Birthday Pancake Tradition

source: dinner: a love story

Don’t let Pinterest fool you, traditions need not be grand to be appreciated by our kiddos.

I’m spending my spring break with this thriller and I’m really enjoying it!

How motivating is this to turn off your television? #goals

What a great way to think about comparison. Compare up versus down.

I’m a big fan of these online classes too and loved peeking at what other people are taking.

Whoa Wait Walmart Lace Swing Top

lace swing top

This was your top purchase this week- so proud of my friends who launched this adorable line!

I’m going to work on under-calendaring my life.

This is one smart money tip for takeout purchases. I’m going to have to remember that one!

A couple of quick tricks to improve your Instagram shots. I’m an Afterlight lover myself!

Sheet Pan Salmon Recipe

source: cookie rookie

I definitely want to give this sheet pan honey mustard salmon recipe a spin!

Looking for a cute spring wreath for your door? I love this inexpensive idea!

I just was talking to our school staff about this one- here is some advice on social media in middle school. For now we are exercising the right to delay as long as we can!

How to make bacon, eggs, and hash browns with one eye open. This looks like a great way to do breakfast!

I’m scooting off for the week to spend some time with my family while we are on spring break! I hope that you all have a wonderful week and I’ll be back in the ol’ office on Monday to share more with you on the blog- xoxo

I hope you enjoyed our notebook, a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, thrifty ways to spruce up your home, and thoughtful reads. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration! Please note, there are affiliate links that do help support our site- thank you! xoxo

 

March 2017 Must-Reads

Friday, March 31st, 2017

March 2017 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

I think I am setting a record for most pages read this month thanks, in part, to my commitment to give up social media and email checking after 5PM for Lent.  This month I managed to consume 11 (!!) books to share with you today for our March Must-Reads list. As always, I like a little variety in my stack so today’s list should have something for everyone and several 5-star books that you must, must read!

As I know many of my friends are leaving on Spring Break this week, I am hoping this list arrives just in time for a little vacation reading!

I’m still working my way through the MomAdvice Reading Challenge and tackled five categories for this month. It has really helped me to broaden a bit outside my normal genres. I hope you are enjoying working your way through it too.

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

11 Must-Read Books from March 2017

 

Little Deaths by Emma Flint

Little Deaths by Emma Flint

Set in the summer of 1965, Flint’s novel reads like a true crime story as the author weaves the story of two missing children in Queens, New York and the story of their single mother who doesn’t fit the typical mother mold.

Ruth Malone, their mother, raises her children alone and doesn’t conform to the idea of what a good mother and wife should be. Working as a cocktail waitress, she is gorgeous with an overly done face and wardrobe. Ruth instantly becomes the suspect worth scrutinizing by the cops, the neighbors, and the press. When a tabloid reporter, intent on getting his first big story, begins covering the story of these missing children, he just can’t help but to become obsessed with her.

Much of the story is told through a series of interviews as Pete Wonicke tries to get the scoop and the reader is taken through this heart wrenching story from lost children, to found, to the agonizing building of the case.

Well-crafted and developed with a dramatic conclusion, Flint paints Ruth in such a way that she practically lifts off the pages. Although the conclusion was a bit too swift for me, I found this to be a solid read that left me guessing through much of it. I would recommend this one for fans of crime fiction, especially if you are a big fan of police procedural books since this book takes you through the case from start to finish.

3.5 Out of 5 Stars

Exit, Pursued by a Bear

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

Exit, Pursued by a Bear is a MomAdvice Book Club selection this year and I can’t wait to discuss this with our readers. This YA novel packs a coming-of-age punch as it examines the story of a rape and the aftermath for its victim.

Hermione is a flyer on her cheer squad and proud to be their captain. While away at cheer camp, she attends a party where someone  puts something in her drink and she is brutally raped and assaulted. When she awakes, she has no recollection of what has happened to her, but must deal with the devastating consequences of this assault.

I love that this book focuses less on being a victim and more about continuing to fight through the pain, not allowing this horrible situation to continue to define your life. Hermione is a true hero as she picks up the pieces of her life and is determined to carry on.

Heavier than a typical YA read and filled with a supportive cast of characters, Johnston deserves all the accolades she has received for this one including being listed as a finalist for the L.A. Times Book Prize.

Brave and unflinching, it’s a beautiful, beautiful read! Join our book club to discuss! You can also check my exclusive interview with the author this month!

5 Out of 5 Stars

Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach

Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach

Dead Letters is a cleverly structured mystery that I devoured in a single day. Ava and Zelda are estranged twin sisters and their names happen to be the bookends to the alphabet. Ava is summoned to come home to her wildly dysfunctional family when Zelda is said to have possibly perished in a fire.

Zelda just might not be dead, however, and decides to send her sister Ava on a scavenger hunt to unwind the mystery of where she is. This craftily drawn goose chase will remind readers of a well-developed Agatha Christie novel.

The authors turn-of-phrase and creatively written characters make this book a treat from start to finish.

Do not miss this debut and have a wonderful time trying to piece together whatever happened to Zelda.

Reading Challenge Category Completed-A book by a debut author

5 Out of 5 Stars

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Born a Crime was our MomAdvice Book Club selection this month and I am quite confident this book will be on my top ten list for 2017. Although I have been a big fan of his work on The Daily Show, I have an entirely new respect for this man and the survival skills he used during his youth in apartheid South Africa.

Noah is truly, “born a crime,” because his birth is seen as a criminal act since he was born to a white father and black mother. To keep him from not being rounded up for an orphanage, he often was sidelined indoors instead of playing outside with his peers. His mother also employed survival techniques, like pretending to be his maid instead of his mother, to just be able to play at the park with her son.

The reader is taken through the story of his childhood that, even in its darker moments,  Noah manages to add heart and humor to each and every story. This brave little mischievous boy’s story will pull at every heartstring and illustrates why he is now so passionate about politics and the world.

DO get this one on audiobook to appreciate every nuance and accent that Noah can bring to the table. It’s like listening to the most polished standup comedy routine to hear him read this out loud.

As soon as I finished it, I just wanted to listen to it all over again.

Reading Challenge Category Completed- A book on race

5 Out of 5 Stars

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

A Gentleman in Moscow was chosen by my local book club for our selection this month. This one happened to be on my list from last year so I definitely looked forward to reading it. I will admit though, this book was a slow burn for me.

Set in 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to house arrest in Metropol, a grand hotel that happens to be across the street from the Kremlin. Due to the sentence, the entire book’s plot centers on this hotel and the unlikely friends, lover, and even child that become a part of the Count’s life.

While I appreciated the glimmers of stories throughout and the relationships that help sustain him in his time in Metropol, I really slogged through the book as this book really didn’t necessarily move plot, but was more of a study of character.  The Count was certainly a charming guy and I can see why so many are enamored with this book, but I was craving a little more action in this story.

Reading Challenge Category Completed- A historical fiction novel

3 Out of 5 Stars

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid’s Tale has been on my reading bucket list forever and with the upcoming Hulu series soon to be released (watch the trailer here!), I knew I wanted to get this one under my belt before I watched it. Since the election season,  this book has seen resurgence in popularity and Atwood even shared about what her book means during the Trump era with the New York Times,  as it rocks the bestseller list once again.

This timeless dystopian novel, written all the way back in 1984, explores what the world looks like when women lose power over their own bodies and a religious totalitarian government dictates how and when they can reproduce. Women are given roles and seen as objects limiting them to roles like wives, Marthas, Handmaids, Aunts and Unwomen and everyone’s main focus is on procreation.

This book is disturbing in many ways, but I couldn’t put it down. I’m glad I waited to read this because it hit me at just the right time and gave me a lot to chew on, even if I found the ending to be an unsatisfying one.

I highlighted almost the entire book because there are so many beautifully written passages. Atwood certainly has a way with words! One line in particular has stuck with me…“We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.”

I couldn’t put this one down- be sure to add it to your stack in preparation for a Hulu-binge session!

Reading Challenge Category Completed- A Dystopian novel

5 Out of 5 Stars

The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel

The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel

The Stranger in the Woods shares the remarkable true story of the last true hermit. Christopher Knight, at the mere age of 20, decided to leave his home in Massachusetts, drive to Maine, and disappear into a forest to not return for almost three decades.

Yup, I said TRUE story.

Knight relied upon the neighboring homes for stealing the items he needed to survive and upon his capture, Finkel reached out to write him and to learn more of his own personal story.  Through those initial letters, Finkel formed as much of a friendship as one could with a hermit, and learned of Knight’s survival skills through brutal Maine winters and why he preferred the isolation.

With commentary from many experts, it’s a fascinating read on why some people flourish better in isolation and why humans crave relationships in the way that we do. The amount of effort Finkel goes through to carve an accurate story of Knight is admirable, but at times uncomfortable because a hermit doesn’t necessarily want to share his life story with the world. That’s kind of why he disappeared…

Reading Challenge Category Completed- A book you can read in a day

4 Out of 5 Stars

 

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

The Roanoke Girls gave me flashbacks of the days of shoving V.C. Andrews books under my mattress for guilty consumption. It is that kind of twisted, dirty, and weird familial experiences that you are going to have if you decide to crack open this thriller.

This book is about a dirty family secret that has had great power over the wealthy Roanoke Girls and the power is so strong that many of them die. When one of the girls goes missing, her cousin returns to face the demons that have always haunted her.

Do a little research if you have issues with triggers because this one might not be for you.  I found the audiobook to be a great escape this week and would recommend it for people who like their thrillers dark and dirty.

Oh, you know who you are! Shame on you!

4 Out of 5 Stars

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

I adored Jennifer Niven’s YA debut novel, All the Bright Places (read my interview with the author on that one over here!), so I was thrilled to hear she had a new book out called,  Holding Up the Universe. In this book, she alternates chapters between Jack, a popular teenage boy who has prosopagnosia (a neurological condition that causes facial blindness) and Libby, who enters high school after an astounding 300 pound weight loss that caused her to be a social media sensation in her town.

These two are both placed into an after-school detention program where they find solace in one another and their shared difficulties. These difficulties are just the tip of the iceberg though as they each struggle, in different ways, with the loss of a parent.

I knew very little about prosopagnosia and Niven develops the most advanced case of it in Jack where he cannot even recognize his family. It definitely sent me down a rabbit trail especially after discovering that Brad Pitt is believed to have this too (who knew?).

Written in short chapters, this is a sweet YA novel with a lot of heart and would be a great one for teens as she writes about the importance that all people feel and be seen.

3.5 Out of 5 Stars

White Tears by Hari Kunzru

White Tears by Hari Kunzru

White Tears is one of those books that I think you are really going to love and appreciate the genius of the writing or you will just be left utterly confused by the trip that Kunzru takes you on.

It is described as a ghost story, but I don’t really think that this describes it at all. This book is a deep reflection on race and what white privilege affords us and how white people often take what doesn’t belong to us.

It opens with two kids, one privileged and the other riding on his coattails, who are fascinated by recorded sound and music. When the narrator happens to pick up a blues song of a street musician, they try to pass it off as an early blues recording, adding the pops and hiss of vinyl to make this song feel authentic. Naming the unknown musician as Charlie Shaw, they set out to share and sell this music that doesn’t belong to them.

Of course the music wasn’t theirs to begin with and when they discover that there really is a Charlie Shaw out in the world, bad things begin to happen for the credit they took for music they never owned.

The second half of the novel took me awhile to really understand what was happening and I can’t even really say that I *got* it all, but I will say that the message that pulls through is brilliant and gave me a lot to think about after I finished the book.

This is a thought-provoking read and would be a good one to dive into with a book club!

Reading Challenge Category Completed- A book published this year

4 Out of 5 Stars

 

The Body Doesn't Lie by Vicky Vlachonis

The Body Doesn’t Lie by Vicky Vlachonis

Vicky Vlachonis is an osteopath and musculoskeletal specialist that works with a lot of celebrities and dancers. Her holistic approach to pain management is what has made her famous among these celebrity circles and she believes that chronic pain can be managed through better habits.

The big focus on pain is, of course, on sleep. Of course, most habits in this book do feel intuitive, but I needed reminding. From creating sleeping rituals that help your body to fall into better sleep to understanding the trigger points on your body to help relieve pain to food choices that can improve digestion. These tips make you think about where your pain stems from and help you find better ways to repair it.

Intuitive, perhaps, but a year of broken sleep makes me so thankful for this book and finally getting restorative sleep. If you have broken sleep or suffer from chronic pain, this is a book worth checking out.

4 Out of 5 Stars

Amy Allen Clark

Read With Me This Year:

January 2017 Must-Reads

February 2017 Must-Reads

March 2017 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

What did you read this month? Looking for book ideas? Check out our entire Book section of the site! Don’t forget to friend me on GoodReads! xo

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