Archive for the ‘Reads’ Category

MomAdvice 2017 Book Club Selections

Thursday, January 12th, 2017

2017-MOMADVICE-BOOK-CLUB

I hope your year of reading is off to an incredible start this month!  Between my two book clubs and our MomAdvice Reading Challenge, every surface and moment is book-filled over here!

How obsessed have I got with my reading this year? Totally figured out my wireless headphones are perfect for soaking in the bathtub with a book in my ears (just avoid sliding down into the water!) and I bought a $10 plant stand for my coffee propping so I can soak until the water gets cold every single day.

I do it for you guys. You need my recommendations!

Just kidding!!

Last year our MomAdvice Book Club on Facebook really began to take shape for our readers. I envisioned a place where bookworms could gather, a good spot to share the daily book deals that happen on Amazon, and a monthly book club discussion. It’s grown SO MUCH and last week we grew to over 700 bookworms last week.

Do you want to join my book club? Let me explain how it works!

How Does the MomAdvice Facebook Book Club Work?

I will be your book club hostess this year and have selected the first seven books to get you started on a fun journey of reading.  The discussion is held on the last week of the month and posted in the group with a thread for each question. You can jump in to answer questions at any time throughout that week, interacting with loads of other fellow bookworms.

How fun is that?

This post will be updated with our monthly selections so you can join in at any time with our group! Feel free to join us and let your friends know about the group too.

The more the merrier!

How Much Does it Cost?

Nada.

Well, What Do You Get Out Of It?

I want this to be fun and free for you. I post the daily Kindle book deals and I share our book club picks though through something called an affiliate link. Basically, this link gives me a few pennies on each of your purchases that help pay for the web hosting on our website. The web hosting currently costs me about $200 monthly and your purchases from this group basically help to offset that cost for our family at no cost to you.

I try to only share the good stuff and good books.

In fact, I have been reading our book club picks before we get to them to make sure that not a moment of your time or penny is wasted.

For example, one of the books I selected, I did not enjoy. It has been removed from the list and replaced with a better selection. I want to make sure this book club is an enjoyable thing and that you don’t feel ripped off if you are purchasing books.

I know I can’t appeal to everyone’s taste, but I am really trying!! 

I also would like to think I made a lot of great bookworm friends too in this group. It’s been fun to have a place to obsess about books, to share what we are reading each week, and just hang out with other people who just get you.

I have tried to cultivate a positive environment and the group is filled with those kinds of drama-free people that you want to have filling your Facebook feed. Escape the political nastiness and join a feel good kind of space.

Here are the books we will be talking about this year!

MomAdvice 2017 Book Club Selections

Miss Jane by Brad Watson

January

Miss Jane by Brad Watson

Carrying Albert Home by Homer Hickam

February

Carrying Albert Home by Homer Hickam

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

March

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

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

April

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

The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda

May

The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda

Darktown by Thomas Mullen

June

Darktown by Thomas Mullen

All the Birds in the SKy by Charlie Jane Anders

July

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

August-December TBA!!

2017-MOMADVICE-BOOK-CLUB

Join in on the MomAdvice Book Club HERE! 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.

 

Pin It

Amy’s Notebook 01.11.17

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

Chicken Pesto Bowls

source: damn delicious

I want to dive into one of these chicken pesto bowls face first.

Here are 10 books to read before they hit movie theaters!

A 31-day healthy comfort food planner- these dishes look so good!

Understanding the line between frugality and deprivation- what a great piece to read as you recommit to your financial goals for the year!

I’m in love with this happiness jar idea. What a great reminder of the best moment of your day!

Follow 6 people as they tackle real 2017 resolutions- could you take one of these on?

Customized Turntable

source: a beautiful mess

I’m in love with this customized turntable!

Entitlement is optional.

I dug into this book for my reading challenge this year. It’s incredible and important!

If you have always wanted to learn to knit, this looks like a great series to follow!

I’m all for a hygge marathon to get me through this winter.

Okay, it’s official. Getting hygge obsessed.

Empty Drawers after Kon Mari

source: thrifty decor chick

This is just the declutter post I needed.

I’d also like to embrace digital minimalism this year.

A 4-step wardrobe edit for the new year!

I find making new friends as an adult very challenging!

“I started to look at the other people I was trusting to know what was best for me. Maybe they didn’t know after all.” I needed to read this today!

The most anticipated books of 2017- what are you excited to read?

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

It’s the 3 Little Things: 5-Minute News, Getting a Weave, & the Fanny Pack Life

Friday, January 6th, 2017

christmas-decorations

Well, hey, there! Have you missed your Friday happy? So good to be getting back in the swing of things this week. We are concluding a rather lazy and lovely holiday break. It was filled with documentary marathons, board game nights almost every night, trying new recipes for our family meals, and pajamas.

A lot of pajamas.

Before I forget, I was VERY honored to be featured in Design Mom’s Living With Kids series to share a holiday home tour last week. It is always a little scary to open your home and life up for critique, but it has been really incredible to receive emails from parents who are struggling with similar health issues and feel like they just might have their answer.

If you were one of the people that emailed me, I have thought of you a million times and prayed that you are down a better path too.

We have so many unfinished projects here and I have put off for years sharing this house because of that. Guess what? There will ALWAYS be unfinished business in our home though so I put aside my doubts and opened it up anyway.

I am so glad I did.

Enough about me, let’s talk more about ME! I love a good narcissistic post so enjoy! (wink, wink!)

theSkimm

5-Minute News Without the Angry Stomping (Sort Of)

Turns on news, gets super angry, and stomps around the house shouting headlines at husband with hands in the air, “CAN YOU EVEN BELIEVE THIS?”

What a great way to start the day!

batman

Obviously, this news listening is not helping me start my days in a healthy way so I switched my routine and became a subscriber to theSkimm. Have you heard of it? So many of my friends are subscribers so I thought I would jump on the bandwagon after my NPR listening was causing undue stress during my mornings.

Each morning, I have a 5-minute email to read that breaks down the important news I need to know including references to the back stories on each of those headlines. theSkimm was founded by 2 friends who are former NBC News producers and has a polished wit about the headlines that is sure to make you feel smarter just to read it. It’s intention is to deliver an unbiased look at the news with a healthy dose of snark. It’s kind of like having your best friend share the headlines with you!

They also share quick and lovely book reviews, an important note for my fellow bookworms.

It gives you everything you need to know to remain informed and hold conversations, but delivers it in a funny way so you don’t have to be stomping around your house maybe as much.

theSkimm

Like the idea of someone else skimming your news and you getting the important stuff? You can sign up to receive the free daily newsletter over here.

 

Namaste.

Basic Loom

Learning to Weave

My mom and dad got a loom for me for my Christmas gift and it has been SO MUCH fun to start learning to weave. Per my usual crafting routines, I get SUPER obsessive when I learn something new and it consumes me. This has been my new relaxing evening routine as I try to figure out the world of weaving.

One of our top selling items on the site last month was this loom set that I had linked to when sharing that I had asked for this for the holidays. If you happened to have bought a loom for the holidays too, here are a few things I am finding helpful as I teach myself how to use it.

Weaving for Beginners Series from Creative Bug- This free 5-part YouTube course was great for learning some of the basics on my loom.  If you don’t want to purchase a loom, she also shows you a way to make one yourself. The big takeaway I got from this series has been that many of the tools needed can be made from inexpensive things we already have around our house. This is such a solid intro to weaving and it is beautifully shot.

DIY Woven Art Book- This book on weaving offers great step-by-step instructions for beginning weavers. Although I find videos are a better medium for me for learning, I have found that I am enjoying seeing the materials and ideas for construction that this book offers.

Modern Weaving Book- This book is another beautiful one that offers step-by-step tutorials. I love how this one breaks down each of the stitches.

So far I have figured out how to set my loom up, how to do basic weaving, how to add tassels, and how to remove it from the loom. I have just been practicing with some scrap yarn in the evenings and I am finding it so calming. The best part is that I can pair this with a great audiobook to stay on track with my reading goals.

I look forward to figuring out how to do more with my loom!

My Tagalongs Fanny Pack

The Yardwork/Housework Fanny Pack

I didn’t want to pay anyone to help up with our leaves this fall, but ended up paying for it when my phone fell out of my pocket, shattering my screen. These giant phones are annoying to carrying around, but I found this fanny pack is PERFECT for wearing my phone around the house to listen to my audiobooks or music. Since my headphones are wireless, I almost forget that it is there and it protects my phone from another inevitable drop.

Did I ever think I would sing the praises of fanny packs?

Nope.

Do I now realize how dang practical they are?

You bet.

As a side note, the phone I have is the iPhone 6, just in case you are wondering what I’m able to fit in this! I also love that this is washable so if I wear it for a workout, I can run it through the washer and air dry it to remove my perfume-smelling gorgeously sweet sweat smell.

family

Reading: I am loving working through our first MomAdvice Reading Challenge! I just finished a really heavy book so I needed to break up my reading a bit. Late last night, I started this thriller and I’m already intrigued. His last book was so solid for me so I am hopeful this one is just as good!

Eating: 7-Minute Risotto is always a winner over here in our Instant Pot! I served it up with baked salmon topped with pesto and lemons. Whenever I make it, I feel like we are back in Italy again.   floyd-norman-an-animated-life

Watching: We caught Floyd Norman: An Animated Life this week on Netflix. If you haven’t seen it, it shares the story of the first black animator for Disney and his incredible career as an artist. Portions of it are animated (with true hilarity) by Floyd and it is really an eye-opening look at what it was like to work for Walt as well as his blossoming career for lots of other animation companies.

We watched this one with our kids and there were a couple of things that could have been bleeped for little ears, but other than that my kids both felt really inspired to take up a drawing class at our local museum after watching this one.

I HIGHLY recommend this documentary for your weekend plans!

Writing Down: My intentions for fitness this week, with our free printable fitness tracker,  and I can’t believe what a difference it has made in my motivation levels. I have one more workout to do and I will have reached my goal this week. Go me!

Well, I’m off to make birthday magic happen for my daughter this evening with an epic sleepover party.  I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Happy Fri-yay!

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though. Check out past editions of It’s the 3 Little Things!

 

 

 

 

The 2017 MomAdvice Reading Challenge (FREE Printable!!)

Wednesday, January 4th, 2017

The 2017 MomAdvice Reading Challenge (FREE Printable!!)

It has been a dream of mine to put together a reading challenge for you and this is FINALLY my year to make it happen! This challenge is a 52-week challenge to help motivate and inspire you to tackle your reading goals.

I am so thankful for what reading has brought to my life.  I had such a good chat with my dad on the phone yesterday and, through our conversation, I brought up a bit of my own disappointment in myself for not finishing that college degree.

As silly as it seems, sometimes I wish I could say that I completed something that I had initially walked away from. It isn’t even a field I’m interested in anymore, but it is that sense of completion.

He said, “Amy, you have something way better than a degree. You read. Reading helps shape your viewpoints, it helps you travel, and it gives you so much knowledge to continue growing and learning. So many people don’t have that.”

Even as an adult, who wouldn’t want to hear that from her dad?

Books are my education and my addiction. There are so many books that have challenged my views on life and made me a better person. Challenges, like the one I am sharing today, are intended to push and stretch you even further. 

Can you imagine how differently you will view the world after a touching memoir from someone you never knew about, a book on poverty, a book about a religion you are unfamiliar with, a new look at race, or a political memoir? I can’t wait to reflect back on how much this year’s challenge has shaped my new viewpoints!

I’ll try to have a printable diploma for you at the end of this year to hang on your wall. If you read 52 books, you should have that and a printable medal too! Ha!

Not only am I sharing my reading challenge with you, but I am also sharing how I plan to tackle this challenge for myself this year! Of course, do not feel pressured AT ALL to select the same books, but just as ideas if you are looking for a little inspiration in any of these categories!

The 2017 MomAdvice Reading Challenge (FREE Printable!!)

My Picks for the 2017 MomAdvice Reading Challenge

1. A book about travel- The Geography of Bliss

2. A book that’s more than 500 pages- Illuminae

3. A GoodReads Choice Award Winner (from any year)- A Tale from Time Being

4. A memoir from someone you have never heard of- Alligator Candy

5. A book recommended by a library- Nine Women, One Dress

6. A book you own, but haven’t read- Rebecca

7. An audiobook- The Sound of Gravel

8. A book that’s becoming a film- The Zookeeper’s Wife

9. A book about a culture/religion you are unfamiliar with- Pull Me Under

10. A book that takes place in your state or town- A Girl Named Zippy

11. A book that you loved as a child- Anne of Green Gables (truth be told, I never finished it, but I think I will now!)

12. A book that will help you be a better person-  An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth

13. A book on mental illness- The Bell Jar

14. A political memoir- The Speechwriter

15. A book that challenges a viewpoint- Consequence

16. A PEN/Faulkner Award Nominee or Winner (from any year)- Delicious Foods

17. A book about marriage- Commonwealth

18. A classic novel- Jane Eyre

19. A book written by a comedian- The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo

20. A book written by a woman- Another Brooklyn

21. A book written by an author under the age of 30- Homegoing

22. A YA Novel- The Sun is Also a Star

23. A book you meant to read in 2016, but never got to- Lilac Girls

24. A sci-fi/fantasy book- Version Control

25. A book about time travel- Kindred

26. A book that takes place during a war- Mischling

27. A book set in a place you wish you could live- Four Seasons in Rome

28. A book by a debut author- Sweetgirl

29. A story that takes place in a bookstore- Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore

30. A book published this year- Juliet’s Answer

31. A thriller- Her Every Fear

32. The first book in a new series- Red Queen

33. A true crime book- The Stranger Beside Me

34. A book you can read in a day- The Vegetarian

35. A historical fiction novel- Darktown

36. A book recommended on a podcast- Spill Simmer Falter Wither

37. A book of short stories- American Housewife

38. A Southern Gothic book- The Heaven of Mercury

39. A book from the NPR Book Concierge (any year)- Eleanor & Hick

40. A book recommended by an author- Long Man

41. A book about financial hardship- The Short & Tragic Life of Robert Peace

42. A Dystopian novel- The Handmaid’s Tale

43. A book with an unlikable narrator- A Pleasure & a Calling

44. A book recommended by a blogger- The Passage

45. A book written by an author that wasn’t alive in your lifetime- Persuasion

46. A National Book Awards Finalist (from any year)- News of the World

47. A book on race- Born a Crime

48. A book about art- The Mirror Thief

49. A book from your TBR (to be read) stack- Brutal Youth

50. A MomAdvice Book Club selection- Carrying Albert Home

51. A nonfiction book- The Latter Days

52. A book you will be proud to share you finally read this year- Evicted

Get Your Free 2017 MomAdvice Reading Challenge Download !

The 2017 MomAdvice Reading Challenge (FREE Printable!!)

The 2017 MomAdvice Reading Challenge Printable

designed by MJ from pars caeli!!

The 2017 MomAdvice Reading Challenge (FREE Printable!!)

Start your engines, friends! I hope this helps you reach your reading goals- xo

This post contains affiliate links. I promise to only recommend what I truly love!

 

 

Amy’s Notebook 01.03.17

Wednesday, January 4th, 2017

Organizing Christmas Decorations

source: apartment therapy

Lots of great tips for packing away your Christmas decorations.

Reading this incredible and heartbreaking book. The way this author writes requires you to read passages out loud.

Looking forward to getting back to my podcast listening with this list.

Why time management is ruining our lives.

This wellness challenge looks like a great way to start your year.

These are the best books of 2016 based on all the lists. How many have you read? I’m clocking in at 5 so far!

A strong grilled cheese game, for sure!

This middle school gig is tough!

Slow Cooker Chicken Pot Pie Soup

source: thirty handmade days

This slow cooker chicken pot pie soup looks so warm and comforting!

A year of dinners to inspire you in 2017.

Nail tough dishes and techniques with this post.

These are the books to read to prepare for this year’s television season!

Tax Organization Tips

source: i heart organizing

I want to do better with my receipts and tax paperwork in the new year.

10 important morning habits of super successful women- I need this nudge!

Well, that was terrifying.

I can’t rave enough about this board game. Short rounds, belly laughs, and the entire family absolutely loves it!

In 2017, pay yourself first. I love these ideas for building financial security.

Bookmarking these recipes for my menu planner- yum!

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 Best Books of 2016

Saturday, December 31st, 2016

The Best Books of 2016 from MomAdvice.com

Hey! It’s that time of year where I, LITERALLY, select my favorite child.

Well, that’s what it feels like as a bookworm.

This has felt like a long year in many ways, but a short year in others. When it comes to reading,  I am always wishing I could squeeze in just one more book and this year has been no exception to that rule. 2016 delivered on some of the best books I have read in my lifetime and I’m excited to share my top ten books of 2016 with you.

Reading has the power to change my viewpoint on the world, through stories I’m not familiar with and stories I have heard, but could benefit from a hard retelling. I think that is one of the greatest gifts for me, especially living in a small Midwestern town. I travel and learn so much through books that it helps round out my narrower viewpoints.

It’s a gift to read and to share my selections with you today.

A Few Quick Reflections on This Year

Reading Goals

Goodreads has been a great motivator for me to stay on track with my reading. As you can see, each year I am increasing my goals by just a little bit based on the year’s reading from before. I was a little nervous to move my goal to 75, but making audiobooks a part of my regular routine when tackling household chores and even when I’m soaking in the tub has been an incredible way to sneak in more books. If you get these headphones, it will make reading really convenient no matter what you are doing.

It’s also great for ignoring everyone in your family like the excellent mother you are!

You can put my mom of the year trophy in our front room!

 

Reading Goals Met

If I was going to say what changed the most this year, it would be that I did not shy away from big books. Normally, I “allow” myself one big book a year. This year, I read what I wanted to read and disregarded the number of pages. Some of the books were really challenging, but I tried not to let that hold me back from making a commitment.

It’s kind of crazy to see that this year I read 30,787 (!!!) pages.

I wonder if I will do that again next year?

While you are browsing around on today’s list, be sure to visit our Sundays With Writers series to see which authors were interviewed this year and hear more about their stories behind their stories. The series has been on hiatus (this girl’s plate was a little too full this year!), but I’m hoping to revisit it in 2017!

Can I Motivate You?

I started a small  MomAdvice Hangout Facebook group and we will be running a monthly MomAdvice Book Club discussion there. If you are interested in joining in the fun, be sure to send me a request. We are keeping the group private for now so people can really chat and get to know one another! It’s also the spot where you can get a list of the daily Kindle deals to take advantage of the big discounts on books you are reading.  We have over 600 enthusiastic bookworms you can connect with and it is completely FREE!

This year we are also sharing a Reading Challenge Printable for the new year to help you branch out a bit on your reading goals. Be sure to check back next week for that freebie. We are tailoring in for each bookworm demographic. This will be a great one to do if you are just getting read to dip your toes back into reading and could be a really challenging one if you want to tackle a new book each week.

Can We Be Friends?

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 year.  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.

In no particular order, here are My Top Ten Books of 2016:

Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt

Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt

I have always enjoyed Leavitt’s books (you can read an interview that I did with her over here), but this book…this book is EXCEPTIONAL and, I believe, her best book yet. The Girls had a lot of hype (I still need to read this one), but I think this is the book that should have received the hype as Leavitt explores this era in such a beautiful and compelling way.

When I interviewed Caroline she was working on this book and she had said, “Cruel Beautiful World was sold on the basis of a first chapter and a thirty page synopsis. It’s set in the 60s and early 70s, the time when all the free love movement was starting to turn ugly, with the Manson murders and Altamont. It’s about a 16 year-old girl who runs off with her 30 year-old hippy teacher to join the “back to the land” movement that began in the 70s, a so-called-paradise that turns into a nightmare for her.

Who better to describe it than the author herself? What I would like to say about it is that she carves such incredible dynamics between the sisters and the fear that she creates in Lucy, as she worries for her safety during the Manson murders, is so poignant as she is being held captive herself by the man she thought she was in love with. These characters are written in a way that they feel so real and you can’t help but worry for each of them after Lucy disappears from their family.

If you are wanting to step back into that crazy time in history, this book is a perfect way to do it!

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

I am not much of a science fiction reader, but there are those exceptions that have lead me to embrace a little sci-fi in my life. If you enjoyed The Girl With All the Gifts, Ready Player One, or The Martian, do NOT miss Dark Matter.

It’s very hard to review this book without giving away some of the reader surprises. Crouch creates a fictional exploration that allows his character, Jason Desson, to explore different paths that his life could have taken if he had made different choices. When he is abducted on his way to the grocery store, he awakens and discovers that his wife is not his wife, his house is not his house, and nothing in his life is the way it seems. You are then lead through adventure after adventure as Jason tries to find his old life again in a rather unique way.

Equal parts science fiction adventure and equal parts a beautiful love story, there is SO MUCH to love in this book. The reader can’t help but root for Jason to be reunited with his family and there is never a dull moment with a hefty duty delivery of smart plot twists. The screenplay is already in the works so read this one before you catch it on the big screen

Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

I’m not a big fan of books about animals so as soon as I see if a book is about an animal, I promptly dismiss it. I asked Sasha, from Pathologically Literate, to lead our book club discussion one month though and she selected, Lily and the Octopus, as her pick for us to read because she loved it so much she wanted to read it again.

I can’t tell you how much I love book clubs for this VERY reason because it pushed me to pick up this book, a book I would have dismissed,  and it is one of my new favorite books. I just can’t stop thinking about this sweet story that had SO MUCH humor and heart.

Teddy is a single gay man who has found the love of his life in his sweet little dog, Lily. Sounds basic, right? It isn’t though, it is rich and laugh-out-loud funny and heartfelt and gorgeous from start to finish. Rowley writes from Lily’s perspective in the most wildly unique way that it makes your heart hurt with its sweetness. When the two of them face a big challenge together, the story really begins to build.

The ending? Sheer perfection.

If a book moves me to tears, it’s a treasure. Get those tissues ready because it’s a tearjerker!

As soon as I finished it, I wanted to pick it right back up and read it again. I’m so thankful for this gentle nudge from our book club hostess to read this beautiful book. It was, truly, one of my favorite read this year.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

This book has been on my to-be-read list forever, but I felt like I needed to mentally prepare for it. This is the least glossed over story of slavery I have ever read and it is brutal in its honesty and the writing completely wrecked me at times.

It is the story of Cora who is leading, the difficult life of a slave and is brutally mistreated over and over again. When a fellow slave, Caesar, receives word about a new underground railroad that has been built, he and Cora try to escape to seek freedom. Ah, but freedom isn’t ever easy to achieve especially in this awful world.

Whitehead envisions in this story an actual underground railroad with conductors and in a Gulliver’s Travels twist, each time Cora gets off, she is in a different place with different rules. In one town, she is respected, educated, and treated with respect. In another, black face shows ridiculing her people are on display in the town park. In another she has to remain hidden in attic for months on end to protect herself and the family who houses her. It gives the reader a chance it experience that shaky ground, that uncertainty, that feeling of never feeling safe. The reader gets to experience the tiniest of fractions of this painful and true story of many slave stories that Whitehead has gathered.

I listened to this one and it was a great audiobook if you are looking for somewhere to spend that audio credit.

It’s brilliant, it will gut you, and it is important.

Everyone should read this story.

Everyone.

miss-jane

Miss Jane by Brad Watson

If I was going to pick a book that surprised me the most this year in its beauty, it would be, Miss JaneWatson pens the story of his great-aunt, Miss Jane, and her struggles with a genital birth defect that alters Jane’s life path greatly. Set in the early twentieth century in rural Mississippi, Jane knows that she is not like other girls. Her struggles with this defect every moment of her day are told in ways that often feel unfathomable.

Her kind doctor takes her under his wing and has honest discussions with her about limitations and continuing research to try to help her. He becomes her confidant in a time of true loneliness. As she ages, she knows that her biggest hurdle will be having her own love story and Watson writes poetically of Jane’s love for a boy. Yet, in a time when a woman’s most useful task is to bear children, Jane knows that her love story must be a different one and she bravely accepts what this path looks like.

Her kind doctor takes her under his wing and has honest discussions with her about limitations and continuing research to try to help her. He becomes her confidant in a time of true loneliness. As she ages, she knows that her biggest hurdle will be having her own love story and Watson writes poetically of Jane’s love for a boy. Yet, in a time when a woman’s most useful task is to bear children, Jane knows that her love story must be a different one and she bravely accepts what this path looks like.

The peacock design on this cover is beautifully woven into this story and brings together all the beauty in this gorgeous book. It reads like a well-versed literary classic. I doubt you won’t fall in love with Miss Jane too.

Get this on your book pile stat! You can also join us for our January discussion of this one in our book club group!

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

This book is incredibly compelling and gave me so much to think about as it explores Vance’s life growing up in a hillbilly family. He writes in a very real and unflinching way about the difficulties growing up in poverty and how the hillbilly mentality seems to force people to continue living in poverty even when opportunities are presented that could enable them to finally get ahead.

There are many moments in this book that helped illustrate a few of my own life moments that helped me understand my own Southern family better. Vance’s life was far more extreme, but I still could identify with a few of his stories that I hope help me feel more compassion for my own roots.

I would highly recommend this one for a book club because you would have so much to discuss and I think anyone who reads it will be able to understand this pocket of America better.

The Nix by Nathan Hill

The Nix by Nathan Hill

If I was going to select one buzz book that actually delivered this year, it would be The Nix. Samuel is a professor and struggling writer who has found solace in an online alternate world as an elf.

No, I am not kidding.

His coping mechanism is to escape into this world and not address why his marriage failed and why he can’t write that book.

When he receives a call that his mother has been arrested for assaulting a politician, he is baffled. Not that his mom would do this necessarily, but that it has been over twenty years since he has spoke with her. The thing is, it has made national news and he can’t seem to come up with a book idea for his publisher. He strikes an agreement with his agent to write a telling memoir of being abandoned by his mother. This memoir will require to get to know her better and the life she lead.

The book jumps around in time from the ’60’s hippy love movement, to Samuel’s childhood friendship and first love, to his current struggling adult life.

I was laughing out loud through many parts in this as Hill’s chapters read like many short stories that have been gathered together. The stories from Samuel’s childhood, in particular, have a cinematic quality to them. As the wife of a gamer, his online world made for a lot of hilarity for me (especially when Samuel decides to end it all). Perhaps, one of my favorite scenes is when a student cheats and then justifies it in only the way a Millennial could making my sides split from laughing. It’s basically a million short stories all pulled together as Samuel tries to figure out why his mother would leave him and if they can come together again.

Did it need some trimming? YES! I am sure that the story could have been tightened in many places.

That, however, did not take away from my enjoyment of this incredible book!

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

I felt like I had been emotionally gutted reading this book. I am usually not an emotional reader, but it is impossible to not to have your heart involved in this heartbreaking story of Jude and his inconceivable childhood. What makes these raw moments even slightly bearable is the incredible company that he keeps, a friendship masterfully told, a circle that never gives up on Jude, even when he is most broken.

This book chronicles the journey of four friends from their late teens until their fifties. At the center of it all is Jude St. Francis, their shy and quiet friend. The friends know very little about Jude and his past, but they suspect, just as you begin to, that he may have been abused in his childhood. What they don’t know is the extent to the abuse and how much this abuse has taken from him.

The writing is exquisite- I have never, ever read writing like this in my life. The turn of phrasing that is used, the descriptive language telling stories in a way I have never heard, it is a gorgeously prepared book that had me reading passages aloud over and over again.

That said, I can’t recommend this one for everyone. The brutal and violent passages were so unbearable that I would put the book down and walk away for a bit or find myself holding my breath or weeping uncontrollably for the beautifully broken Jude. They are powerfully written in a way that you feel as though you are in these rooms with these people and you can’t get out. It’s a claustrophobic feeling and it is often stifling.

If you or someone you love has been abused or if you are a highly sensitive person, I don’t think I would recommend this one for you. I am still carrying around some of the abuse scenes and my eyes are still welling up over Jude. In fact, if you ask me about this book, do not be surprised if I just start crying.

Even saying that, it will be, perhaps, one of the best books I will have read in my lifetime and the writing is so brave and so beautifully descriptive that I feel like I will hold these fictional people in my heart forever! For many months I was mourning the loss of finishing this one and the sadness of ending my journey with these four fantastically written characters.

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

How about a beautiful YA read to add to your pile?  This book is about three unlikely friends growing up in the rural South that are all fighting demons of their own. Dill’s father is a Pentecostal preacher, known for his snake charming church, that becomes part of a town scandal that has left his family open to scrutiny and struggling financially. Travis is obsessed with a book series called Bloodfall that helps him escape into another reality away from his abusive father. And Lydia is a blogger ready to start a new life in New York while struggling to leave behind what is familiar and those she loves. These three unlikely people bond together and end up facing a struggle none of them could have ever predicted.

This friendship is beautifully woven with humor and heart.

I could not put this book down and read it in a single day.

Be sure to check out my interview with Jeff about this book.

Want a fun fact?

He wrote the book on his iPhone!

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

If you are a regular reader on the blog, you know I have talked, and talked, and talked about this book. What I want to say is that you should only read my brief description below and go into this one without knowing anything. It will make the book so much more enjoyable- I promise.

This book reads a bit like a mystery as you try to solve the puzzle of a child’s unusual first years of life. The story intertwines with a doctor nearing the end of his career due to a deadly diagnosis and he could be the only one who could make Noah and his mother’s life better. What Noah is suffering from is beyond what any parent could comprehend.

Gripping, thought provoking, and and an excellent pick for any book club!

After you are done reading it, you can read my interview with Sharon Guskin as we discuss her debut novel. It’s a REALLY interesting interview and it gave me a lot to think about! 

Honorable 2016 Mentions

YOU GUYS! Narrowing down books is ridiculous. Here are just a handful more that you must read!

The Assistants by Camille Perri

The Assistants by Camille Perri

Tina Fontana works for the head honcho at her company who is swimming in money. When a technical error occurs with an expense report, Tina uses it to her advantage to pay off her student loan debt…to the tune of $20K.

Only one problem though… other people in the office have been noticing and want their loans paid off too.  More people become involved, more money is funneled, more loans paid, and more stress that Tina will get busted.

Imagine a Robin Hood story, but with a modern twist. This book is just the medicine for anyone who has struggled with student loan debt (raises hand high!). I love this book so much and found the ending to be pure perfection!

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Jodi, with the exception of The Storyteller, hasn’t been a go-to for me in a long time for reading, but when I read about the premise of this story, I couldn’t resist giving her another spin. Honestly, I was REALLY glad I did.

The story focuses on a nurse, named Ruth Jefferson, that has been working in labor and delivery for over twenty years. When a couple requests that Ruth not care for their family, following the birth of their child, she is stunned to find out that she has been removed from their care because of the color of her skin.

When the baby goes into cardiac arrest while Ruth is on duty, she finds herself in the middle of a grueling murder trial and without a job to support her. Kennedy is the lawyer that is assigned to this tough case and the reader gets to go along on this journey with Ruth as she agonizes over a split second decision that may have cost her the job she has loved for so many years.

In a predictable Picoult fashion, there is a twist at the end that you may or may not see coming. That said, it was a solid read all the way through, even though it may have felt a little predictable at times.

Valley of the moon by Melanie Gideon

Valley of the Moon by Melanie Gideon

Wife 22 happened to be one of my past favorite vacation reads so I was thrilled to see that Gideon had a new novel out. Time travel is always such a fun escape and this story was a delight from start to finish.

Set in 1975, Valley of the Moon chronicles the story of a single mother who takes a camping adventure on her own to find herself again. What she doesn’t expect to find is that just beyond this thick fog is a community frozen in time in the year 1906.

The community welcomes her into their community and she finally feels a sense of purpose, worth, and love… all that have been missing as she tries to raise her son alone.

The reader gets to follow Lux as she travels back and forth through time, finding love in a different era, and learning many consequences of trying to live in parallel worlds.

Lots of lovely plot twists and the ending Gideon carves for the end is movie-worthy. Although the idea of this portal might feel a little cheesy at first, you can’t help but fall in love with both worlds and eras that the author has crafted. Time travel fans will love this one!

The Longest Child by Andria Williams

The Longest Night by Andria Williams

I love historical fiction, especially when that historical fiction involves a story that I had never been aware of. Williams shares the true story of the SN-L Nuclear Reactor and the only fatal nuclear attack to occur in America in her beautiful novel, The Longest Night.

When Nat & Paul Collier move to the town, Paul is not only frustrated with his immoral boss, but he has a growing concern with the safety at the plant. When an altercation sends Paul away, Nat becomes friends with a man in town and lines between friendship and attraction for one another becomes blurred.

Set in Idaho in 1959, Williams builds a beautiful tension between her characters. It reminded me a lot of Mad Men and Masters of Sex. Once you finish the book, you will be running to look up the facts of this little known tragedy to learn more.

I know I was.

Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson

Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson

Good grief, Be Frank With Me, was just adorable from start to finish- I can’t recommend it enough!

Reclusive literary legend M. M. “Mimi” Banning has been holed up in her Bel Air mansion for years. But after falling prey to a Bernie Madoff-style ponzi scheme, she’s flat broke. Now Mimi must write a new book for the first time in decades, and to ensure the timely delivery of her manuscript, her New York publisher sends an assistant to monitor her progress. The prickly Mimi reluctantly complies—with a few stipulations: No Ivy-Leaguers or English majors. Must drive, cook, tidy. Computer whiz. Good with kids. Quiet, discreet, sane.

When Alice Whitley arrives at the Banning mansion, she’s put to work right away—as a full-time companion to Frank, the writer’s eccentric nine-year-old, a boy with the wit of Noel Coward, the wardrobe of a 1930s movie star, and very little in common with his fellow fourth-graders.

As she slowly gets to know Frank, Alice becomes consumed with finding out who Frank’s father is, how his gorgeous “piano teacher and itinerant male role model” Xander fits into the Banning family equation—and whether Mimi will ever finish that book.

Frank is one one of the sweetest characters that is so perfectly formed that you just want to give this sweet little boy a hug when you get done with this book. I found myself giggling through some of Frank’s antics and well up when he just couldn’t fit in with his peers. I can’t imagine the research that went into forming all of Frank’s numerous thoughts about actors, movies, and all the fun facts that he had gathered over the years that seemed to consume him. The supporting characters were just as fascinating especially Frank’s eccentric mother.

The only criticism with this one is the ending felt unresolved and wasn’t wrapped up very tidy- it just left me dangling. I am wondering if that is because the author plans a sequel. If so, I can’t wait to read it because I already miss Frank.

Check out my interview with the author when you are done!

All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

It is difficult to find thrillers that are solid all the way through, but All the Missing Girls, truly delivers a strong thriller from start to finish. This is Miranda’s first novel for adults (she had previously been writing just for young adults) and shines as one of the best thrillers I have read this summer.

This story is told backwards from Day 15 to Day 1 as the mystery of a missing girl, named Annaleise, is trying to be solved by local police.  As luck would have it, the main character (Nic) has been through a missing person case before when her best friend Corinne went missing, a decade ago, and no one ever heard from her again. Her family goes under scrutiny once again as they try to figure out where Annaleise has gone.

You are taken down a bumpy road as these two cases collide in shocking ways and everyone is suspect. Reading in reverse chronological order is a challenge for a reader and reading it digitally made it more difficult to page back to figure out where these sections came together. I would recommend reading this one as a good old-fashioned book to really pull the storyline together in a way that you can really grasp.

If you enjoyed, In a Dark, Dark Wood or Luckiest Girl Alive, I have a feeling you will really enjoy this twisty book and trying to solve the case of these missing girls. If you are like me, you really won’t know until the final pages what these family secrets hold.

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

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!

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I find Reid’s writing to be just the right amount of heart with just the right amount of reality and her storytelling truly shines in this beautiful story of loves found and lost. When Emma’s husband dies in a helicopter crash, she is left to rebuild her life without her high school sweetheart and you feel that devastation through Reid’s words. After years of sadness though, she finds love again with an old high school friend and begins to find that happiness she has been missing. Just before her wedding though she receives a call that her husband, Jesse, is still alive and coming home to be with her again.

A heart aching love triangle is formed and Emma must choose between the man she loved and lost or the new love of her life. I couldn’t put this one down and read it in less than a day!

Mosquitoland by David Arnold

Mosquitoland by David Arnold

I am big on quirky characters and I’m also big on coming-of-age adventures and Mosquitoland now tops my list of incredible YA debuts with this heartfelt story of an oddly charming girl, named Mim,  who runs away from home and takes a Greyhound bus to be reunited with her mother.

After the sudden collapse of her family, Mim Malone is dragged from her home in northern Ohio to the “wastelands” of Mississippi, where she lives in a medicated milieu with her dad and new stepmom. Before the dust has a chance to settle, she learns her mother is sick back in Cleveland.

So she ditches her new life and hops aboard a northbound Greyhound bus to her real home and her real mother, meeting a quirky cast of fellow travelers along the way. But when her thousand-mile journey takes a few turns she could never see coming, Mim must confront her own demons, redefining her notions of love, loyalty, and what it means to be sane.

I really began to fall in love with all of these well-crafted characters that Arnold created in this charming book. Each character that she encounters comes with his own set of quirky oddities as Mim’s bus ends up making an unexpected detour and she ends up on a road trip with two unlikely friends in search of her mom. I really loved this one!

I am recommending this one for fans of Eleanor & Park and All the Bright Places. Be sure to read my interview with David Arnold about the story behind this story (and the surprising spot he crafted it!) in our Sundays With Writers series.

The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman

The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman

The Two-Family House is a sweet literary escape telling the story of brothers living in a two-family house in Brooklyn in the ‘40’s. While the men are away to work, in the midst of a winter storm, both of their wives go into labor and end up delivering their babies at home, thanks to one determined midwife. It’s the birth of these two babies that begins to threaten and unravel the two families, particularly their mothers, as they carry around a family secret that begins to impact them all.

A strong debut novel rich with characters and the raw emotional impact of family secrets, it is one that you will be unable to put down, and a storyline rich with lots to chat about for book clubs. If you prefer character-driven stories, this book is for you!

Need More Book Ideas? Here are my top ten lists from the past six years!!

My Top Ten Books of 2015

My Top Ten Books of 2014

My Top Ten Books of 2013

The Best Books Read in 2012

My Top Ten Books in 2011

The Top Ten of 2010

For more great suggestions, check out the NPR Book Concierge- swoon! It is heavenly stuff!

Tell me, what your favorite books were in 2016 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!

This post contains affiliate links. I promise to only recommend what I truly love!

The Best Books of 2016 from MomAdvice.com

Pin It

December 2016 Must-Reads

Friday, December 30th, 2016

December 2016 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

My goal this month was to finish strong despite doing ALL THE THINGS for the holidays! Thankfully, I ended up taking this entire week off of work and have spent it curled up with a great book until the wee hours of the morning. I’m completely off schedule, have no idea what day it is, have slept in every morning, and I am loving every minute of it.

 My GoodReads goal was 75 books and I ended up clocking in at 85. I am feeling PRETTY proud this year!

Stay tuned next  week for my best of 2016 list and our 2017 MomAdvice Reading Challenge printable.  If you haven’t joined our book club yet, get on it! We just announced our first six books for the year.

I will be sure to post these in January for you, as well, if Facebook just isn’t your thang!

7 Must-Read Books from December 2016

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

I may be one of the only people in the world that wasn’t a big fan of Where’d You Go, Bernadette.  Semple’s latest book has gotten a lot of buzz though so I thought I would give her books one more try this year. I am SO glad I did because this book was laugh-out-loud funny, wildly quirky, and such a relatable read as a mom. Based on the reviews of this one though, if you were a fan of her first book, you probably won’t love it. And if you didn’t love her first, you might feel completely differently about this latest installment.

This book is the day in the life of Eleanor Flood. Just as we all do, she wakes up with a big list of things that will happen if she can pull off the perfect day. Working out, being a good mom, being nicer to her annoying friend, sex with her husband, etc… Of course, the first thing that happens is that she gets a call from school letting her know that her son, Timby, is faking sick again. Eleanor’s day continues to progress with finding out her husband is not going to work (where is he!?!) an old colleague comes back to see her for a lunch and share his career success story (it’s better than her career story thankyouverymuch), and a long ago family secret starts resurfacing that she’s kept buried forever.

Wildly adorable and adventurous- I loved every page of it. Semple even pulls off an abbreviated graphic novel in the middle from Eleanor’s career days as an artist. I had a good giggle over the pictures of these two sisters.

Even better news,  Julia Roberts is also slated to play Eleanor Flood in a limited television release of an adaptation of this book so read it before you see it!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one when you are done!

4 Out of 5 Stars

The Nix by Nathan Hill

The Nix by Nathan Hill

If I was going to select one buzz book that actually delivered this year, it would be The Nix. Samuel is a professor and struggling writer who has found solace in an online alternate world as an elf.

No, I am not kidding.

His coping mechanism is to escape into this world and not address why his marriage failed and why he can’t write that book.

When he receives a call that his mother has been arrested for assaulting a politician, he is baffled. Not that his mom would do this necessarily, but that it has been over twenty years since he has spoke with her. The thing is, it has made national news and he can’t seem to come up with a book idea for his publisher. He strikes an agreement with his agent to write a telling memoir of being abandoned by his mother. This memoir will require to get to know her better and the life she lead.

The book jumps around in time from the ’60’s hippy love movement, to Samuel’s childhood friendship and first love, to his current struggling adult life.

I was laughing out loud through many parts in this as Hill’s chapters read like many short stories that have been gathered together. The stories from Samuel’s childhood, in particular, have a cinematic quality to them. As the wife of a gamer, his online world made for a lot of hilarity for me (especially when Samuel decides to end it all). Perhaps, one of my favorite scenes is when a student cheats and then justifies it in only the way a Millennial could making my sides split from laughing. It’s basically a million short stories all pulled together as Samuel tries to figure out why his mother would leave him and if they can come together again.

Did it need some trimming? YES! I am sure that the story could have been tightened in many places.

That, however, did not take away from my enjoyment of this incredible book!

5 Out of 5 Stars

Miss Jane by Brad Watson

Miss Jane by Brad Watson

If I was going to pick a book that surprised me the most this year in its beauty, it would be, Miss JaneWatson pens the story of his great-aunt, Miss Jane, and her struggles with a genital birth defect that alters Jane’s life path greatly. Set in the early twentieth century in rural Mississippi, Jane knows that she is not like other girls. Her struggles with this defect every moment of her day are told in ways that often feel unfathomable.

Her kind doctor takes her under his wing and has honest discussions with her about limitations and continuing research to try to help her. He becomes her confidant in a time of true loneliness. As she ages, she knows that her biggest hurdle will be having her own love story and Watson writes poetically of Jane’s love for a boy. Yet, in a time when a woman’s most useful task is to bear children, Jane knows that her love story must be a different one and she bravely accepts what this path looks like.

The peacock design on this cover is beautifully woven into this story and brings together all the beauty in this gorgeous book. It reads like a well-versed literary classic. I doubt you won’t fall in love with Miss Jane too.

Get this on your book pile stat! You can also join us for our January discussion of this one in our book club group!

5 Out of 5 Stars

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

This book has been on my to-be-read list forever, but I felt like I needed to mentally prepare for this one. This is the least glossed over story of slavery I have ever read and it is brutal in its honesty and the writing completely wrecked me at times.

It is the story of Cora who is leading, the difficult life of a slave and is brutally mistreated over and over again. When a fellow slave, Caesar, receives word about a new underground railroad that has been built, he and Cora try to escape to seek freedom. Ah, but freedom isn’t ever easy to achieve especially in this awful world.

Whitehead envisions in this story an actual underground railroad with conductors and in a Gulliver’s Travels twist, each time Cora gets off, she is in a different place with different rules. In one town, she is respected, educated, and treated with respect. In another, black face shows ridiculing her people are on display in the town park. In another she has to remain hidden in attic for months on end to protect herself and the family who houses her. It gives the reader a chance it experience that shaky ground, that uncertainty, that feeling of never feeling safe. The reader gets to experience the tiniest of fractions of this painful and true story of many slave stories that Whitehead has gathered.

I listened to this one and it was a great audiobook if you are looking for somewhere to spend that audio credit.

It’s brilliant, it will gut you, and it is important.

Everyone should read this story.

Everyone.

5 Out of 5 Stars

 

Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett

Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett

Haslett’s novel is hitting all of the top book lists and winning many awards this year so I was looking forward to diving into this one.  Listed as a TOP 10 NOVELS OF THE YEAR — TIME, Newsday, TOP 10 BOOKS OF 2016 — San Francisco Chronicle, 20 BOOKS THAT DEFINED OUR YEAR – Wall Street Journal, ONE OF THE YEAR’S BEST BOOKS: Barnes & Noble, BookPage, BuzzFeed, Elle, Financial Times, Huffington Post, Kirkus, NPR, Refinery29, Seattle Times, Shelf Awareness, WBUR’s On Point, LONGLISTED FOR THE 2016 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD and ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDAL FOR EXCELLENCE IN FICTION, and KIRKUS PRIZE FINALIST…you know, just to name a few….

This is a family drama chronicling the life of a father who is struggling with mental illness and how this illness, in turn, affects their children and his wife. Told in alternating viewpoints,(from the wife to the children) it shares how their father’s illness alters their life course as they grow older.

The struggle for me with this one wasn’t that it was so depressing to read (it was!), but that I struggled to connect with the story and its characters. One of the son’s is so pretentious that it was painful. Honestly, Haslett didn’t build enough of a story around the father for me to really feel attached to him or his struggle. He does provide a great foundation though for showing how illness can alter your life path and how one can shield themselves from finding true love because they have learned to distance themselves from others.

Haslett is a brilliant writer, but like many of the buzz of books of 2016, this just didn’t connect with me in the way I would hope a dramatic story like this would.

3 Out of 5 Stars

The Girl Before by Rena Olsen

The Girl Before by Rena Olsen

I love a good psychological thriller and this debut is a solid one. I think this is one that surprised me in its depth and it gave me a lot to think about after I finished it. It isn’t the typical thriller story that I have been reading over and over again in 2016.

Clare is removed from everything she loves in an instant when her home is invaded and her husband and daughters are taken from her.

The last thing her husband says to her is say nothing.

The story alternates from past to present and begins to tell the story of Clare in a very different way than the reader might expect. Clare isn’t necessarily leading the life you probably think she is and her love story is a little off. Something just doesn’t feel right and that growing sense of dread of what she might be involved in begins to intensify as the story unfolds. The story actually tackles a news topic that I think you might want to understand better and the victims of it.

If you love a deep psychological story, this is for you. Please know that this one is dark and contains violence and sexuality in it. I would recommend this for fans of Behind Closed Doors or Pretty Girls!

4 Out of 5 Stars

Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequest

If you want to start your next year out right, this book is for you. Niequist really explores our lack of presence in our lives as this becomes overshadowed by busy schedules and pleasing the wrong people in our lives. Basically, this book is giving you the side-eye, overcommitted extrovert. You know it is!

Shauna shares her own struggles of overcommitting, guilt about what she isn’t doing, and how we look for validation through social media instead of the people sharing our home.

Yup, it hit me right in the gut.

Why are we so scared to sit in silence and what can be learned from a slowed down life? This soulful way of living is something I hope to embrace in 2017 and this book just seemed to speak to me at the right time in my life. If you are seeking present over perfect, you should pick this one up.  I just know it would be a great way for you to start your year too as you shift your focus from others to the people that should be the most important in your life.

4 Out of 5 Stars

 

Read With Me

Read With Me This Year:

January Must-Reads

February Must-Reads

March Must-Reads

April Must-Reads

May Must-Reads

June 2016 Must-Reads

July 2016 Must-Reads

August 2016 Must-Reads

September 2016 Must-Reads

October 2016 Must-Reads

November 2016 Must-Reads

  December 2016 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

 

What should I 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! xo

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

Pin It

It’s the 3 Little Things: Virtual Reality, Minimizing, & Great Skin

Friday, December 23rd, 2016

salvation-army

I feel like I am finally in the home stretch- hallelujah, praise Jesus, amen.

I wrapped up my last client of the year (blogging around this time of year is NO JOKE!), the last of the gifts have been purchased, the food preparations are ready to go, and everything is wrapped underneath the tree.

I don’t know about you, but it was a hobbling to the finish kind of year.

I also managed to not order enough holiday cards, didn’t make a single homemade gift this year, and we didn’t even do a magical tree experience with our kids because we were too tired. I, seriously, sent my husband alone to Lowe’s to grab whatever was affordable and didn’t require me to get in the car.

emily-11

As it does every year, Emily’s birthday snuck up on me too. I had plans of making a beautiful birthday dinner and cake. The weather took a turn though and I could barely move around my house.

Joint pain and negative 15 degree temps just don’t mix- who knew?

Oh, wait. I did.

Instead, we went out to eat and ordered a slice of flourless chocolate cake to share with promises of a sleepover over the holiday break. Mom was definitely low on the birthday magic, but Emily seemed to take it in stride, something a December child has to do every year.

All of that is to say, if you don’t have the magic this year….IT IS OKAY!

This has been a big year of learning that.

I am a big giver.

A perfectionist.

A magic maker.

An organized and responsive person to those who need me.

As I am digging into this book this week though, I realize that just being present is gift enough and, perhaps, a better gift than the other stuff I’ve been doing. One of my favorite lines in this book reads, “I don’t want to get to the end of my life and look back and realize that the best thing about me was I was organized.”

OUCH! That hits home.

And another beautiful nugget, “What I eventually realized is that the return on investment was not what I’d imagined, and that the expectations were only greater and greater. When you devote yourself to being known as the most responsible person anyone knows, more and more people call on you to be that highly responsible person. That’s how it works. So the armload of things I was carrying became higher and higher, heavier and heavier, more and more precarious.”

YES!

This is so me.

I’m that person with an armload of crap.

how-to-decorate-gift-wrap-with-acrylic-paints-4864

This year, the bar was set low, a lot lower than the year where I knitted a gift for each teacher, made handmade goodies for the entire staff, and handed out knitted coffee cozies right down to our mailman.

Part of me still wishes I was that girl.

The other part of me realizes that gestures need not be grand to let someone know they are appreciated. 

If the magic is lacking this year, I’m with you!  Bloggers are required to share the pretty stuff and these expectations can feel grand and my delivery sometimes feels false.

Did you know that I lose followers if things don’t feel magazine worthy?

TRUE STORY!

Sometimes it is difficult to keep delivering that optical illusion though.

Less magic and optical illusion, more presence and truth in the upcoming year.

The site will be here, but I won’t! I’m popping back in next week to share what I read this month and the top book list that you look forward to each year. Other than that, I’ll be offline enjoying my kids while they are on their holiday break.

Here are three things that are making me REALLY happy this week!

westworld

Westworld

We ditched our cable years ago, but even when we had it, we never carried a package with the premium channels. While browsing the list of Golden Globe nominations this year, there was a television show that I hadn’t heard of before, called Westworld, that was up for a bunch of awards. It happened to be an HBO series and now that Amazon is offering HBO, I realized that we could take advantage of it as an add-on to our Prime package with a 30-day FREE trial.

Since we are on holiday, we could do this FOR FREE and then cancel it before the $14.99 charge per month starts rolling in.

The best part?

The entire first season of Westworld was on there and we are finishing the last episode in the season tonight.

The people who can’t finish a single series or watch more than a single show at a time, watched an entire season in less than a week.

I am not kidding.

It is THAT GOOD!

If you haven’t seen it yet, the premise is pretty freaking genius! It is a virtual reality amusement park for wealthy individuals (the rate is $40,000 a day to be there!) that inhabits the wild west and all the people who make up this world are robots programmed to deliver an adventure experience for their guests. These robots live a scripted life where they can die multiple times and then are rebooted and reprogrammed to come back into the world and perform again. The problem occurs when the robots begin to remember those tragic past lives, creating an unstable world for their guests and their programmers. When the robots began to go off script, that is when the real adventure of the viewers really begins.

Anthony Hopkins brilliantly plays one of the founders of this world and Ed Harris makes for a great villain as he tries to solve the hidden maze.

There is lots of nudity and violence in this one, but it strangely feels compartmentalized when you think of everyone as robots.

Isn’t it funny how our brains can process things?

We also enjoyed this incredible documentary about Anderson Cooper & his mother, we were fascinated by this documentary on Scientology,  and I’m really excited to give this series a spin too.

Basically, we are milking this free cow for all it’s worth.

Do you have any other recommendations for us?

Get that freebie trial and blow through a season of this over the holidays- you won’t regret it. It’s a great series to pick up with your hubby too, thanks to its sci-fi spin!

minimalism

Minimizing Inspiration

I’m not sure if you heard, but the Minimalism documentary just hit Netflix last week. I ended up watching it one afternoon and it was extremely inspiring to see two of my favorite bloggers in action (as well as so many of my real-life friends featured!). I feel like this didn’t necessarily break any new ground on minimalism, for me, but reinforced my own feelings about wanting to own less in my life. It would be a great reminder to start this new year as it offers great encouragement in discovering the freedoms that come with minimizing in your life.

I encourage you to pair it with this documentary- a film that pushed me to reexamine everything in my own life.
Give Back Box

Speaking of minimizing, have you heard of Give Back Box? If you are feeling inspired to whittle away at the excess, as you try to make space for all those new holiday gifts, this new free service looks like the ticket! The premise is simple, just reuse a box that you had an item shipped in and fill it with donations for those in need.

Type in an address and the company creates a free shipping label (you can also schedule your pickup!) that sends your shipment to a nearby charity for you.

How awesome is that?

I can’t wait to put the boxes that I planned to put in the recycle bin to work!

Burt's Bees Cleansing Oil

The BEST Skin Cleanser

I’m not sure if it is hot yoga or hormonal, but my skin has been giving me a lot of issues lately. I even had to do six weeks of antibiotics to try to clear up a weird burning rash that was on my face. Man, getting old is the worst!

I kept reading about cleansing oils for washing your face and it has been on my beauty bucket list to try. After learning that Argan Oil is heaven sent, I thought it might be worth looking into for facial cleansing too. Lots of these cleansing oils are really pricey though and I wasn’t willing to drop $60 on a facial cleanser, even if my skin is struggling.

Did you know that Burt’s Bees makes a cleansing oil? I got a sample of it and I can’t tell you how different my face looks and feels after a week of using this stuff. The dry patches on my face feel restored and my skin finally feels balanced for the first time in a long time. You can’t beat that price (I even found it cheaper on Amazon!) either! With just a teaspoon of this stuff, it took off all my makeup easily, even my waterproof eye makeup that usually requires a separate remover. Just be careful to not get it in your eyes while doing this!

I highly recommend this if you are struggling with your skin. These people were right- cleansing oils are a skin game-changer.

blind-book-club-exchange

Thankful: For another epically fun blind date book exchange with my book club. We also decided to make these books into a traveling library of sorts and are bringing them to our book club meetings so we can enjoy these purchases all year long! I shared this book (if you haven’t read it- read it now!) and I won this book. Have you read it?? It looks so good!

Gluten_Free_Chicken_Noodle_Soup_Header

Eating: Gluten-free chicken noodle soup season is on. I’m actually working on adapting this one into a frugal and fast pressure cooker dish. Fingers crossed you got one of these gadgets or it is wrapped under the tree for you. I can’t believe how much time and money we are saving with it. No joke!

 

Oh Hellos Holiday Tiny Desk Concert

Loving: A fascinating look at the secret chord that makes Christmas music sound Christmas-y, when cheap people go Christmas shopping (Bahahaha!), and the Oh Hellos perform a gorgeous Christmas Tiny Desk Concert (if you haven’t watched Tiny Desk Concert, make it a weekend priority- you will thank me!!)

How to Make a Pom Pom Wreath

pom-pom wreath

Reading: I am finally digging into this book this week and so far it is a very moving read on mental illness. I will let you know next week in our reviews my final thoughts on it!

I also ran across this piece on how to explain Santa to your kiddos. If the question should arise, I love this tactic for keeping the magic alive!

And for those that are hurting and missing the magic altogether, this is a reminder on how those small gifts really do make a difference in the world.

Faux Painted Fireplace

faux painted fireplace/pom pom garland

Happy Fri-yay!

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though. Check out past editions of It’s the 3 Little Things!

Amy’s Notebook 12.21.16

Wednesday, December 21st, 2016

5-minute-hair

source: the beauty department

5-minute hair for the holidays. I’m in!

Moscow reindeer cocktails- sign me up!

These tweets about cleaning are hilariously true (especially right now!).

So happy to see that this is your favorite article this month- I knew I had great readers!

The top Pinterest home style trends of 2016- I love them all!

I’m glad to hear that fake news will now be flagged.

A professional organizer’s advice for staying organized around the holidays. Lots of thoughtful tips in here!

 

10 Simple Ways to Say No

source: be more with less

10 simple ways to help you say no- what a great reminder in this upcoming year. Oh, and if that isn’t enough, start using this tactic.

I love seeing what people are adding to next year’s reading stacks. You can participate in her reading challenge over here.

How about THIS for the a minimalist home tour. Such a great and needed reminder!

Homemade Irish Cream in just 5 minutes!

I just finished this book yesterday and I can’t rave enough. READ IT RIGHT NOW!

A best of 2016 books list with some rather unique picks!

Bookmarking these sweet & simple holiday decorating ideas for next year.

4 liquid eyeliner internet hacks- hilariously tested and results shared! I won’t lie, I’m terrified of it!

I’ll have to remember these faux garland greenery touches to make it look more real.

Pan Seared Salmon With Roasted Vegetables

source: joy the baker

This looks like a healthy & easy one bowl meal.

I love reading about what it would be like to attend the White House holiday party.

Thankful for these cozy boots this winter- even at negative twenty, my feet were toasty warm! Bonus, deeply discounted this week!

I love these tips and results of painting over wood trim and doors. So stylish!

Swooning over this staircase wall update- what a difference!

10 books to inspire your children to embrace a minimalist attitude.

Bookmarking this delicious snickerdoodle recipe. They are my husband’s favorite!

This woman is a genius.

Looking to join a book club this year? Hurry on over and join for our next year of book club selections!

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

It’s the 3 Little Things: Ramen, Proper Form, & the Scientology Scoop

Friday, December 16th, 2016

love-actually

We have a weekend filled with holiday celebrations with our family and friends over the next few days!  We are praying for the roads to be less treacherous than our last trip, but the weather reports are looking a little rough this week.

Not to mention, I am not sure if I will ever be warm again.

Prepare for a winter of whines about cold temperatures.

Hey, is Love Actually one of your favorite holiday films too? I invited my neighbor over (PAJAMAS REQUIRED) to indulge in this holiday classic with me and we had the best time.

Okay, this is an embarrassingly funny story.

We have been neighbors for eight years and haven’t hung out until this year.

WHY?

I have no clue, but this goes to show that it is NEVER too late to love your neighbors.

It turns out, she’s into books, NPR, Indian food, and independent films just like me!

Seriously, why did we wait so long?

Maybe think about the people who are living near you and see if you can form an unexpected friendship too! It’s the best, even if we did wait eight years to figure it out!

Here are a few other things that are making me happy today!

Lotus Foods Gluten-Free Ramen Noodles

Gluten-Free Ramen is THE BOMB!

OMG! Ramen is such a guilty pleasure food for me and I haven’t had it in years, thanks to this gluten-free lifestyle! A few of my friends started posting about this gluten-free ramen deliciousness and I begged my bestie to snag a bag of it for me from Costco. If you love ramen, but hate the preservatives/high sodium or are rocking the gluten-free life too, these gluten-free ramen noodles from Lotus Foods are so good, you won’t even know you are missing anything.

Unfortunately, it was a seasonal item at Costco, but I do know that they had them at Target too. Amazon has several different flavorings offers and they all look absolutely delicious.

There is nothing more comforting than a big bowl of noodles in the winter so this has made me awfully happy this winter!

Fellowes Standard Foot Rest

A Place to Prop My Feet

I spend a good deal of time at my computer and even though I have a great chair, being petite means my feet aren’t always in great proper placement. I got this no-frills foot rest (you can certainly splurge for one that is higher end!) and I have it under my desk to help give my feet a place to rest and to get my body in a better alignment while working. I can’t believe what a difference it has made on how my back and knees feel at the end of the day.

It is one of those little things that makes a huge difference in my comfort levels while working!

leah-remini-scientology-tv-show

Fascinating Documentary Series

Have you heard about the new A&E Leah Remini: Scientology & the Aftermath series that is airing? It kept popping up in my newsfeed so while I was waiting around for a plumbing estimate (the glamourous life I lead!), I decided to watch the first episode…then the second episode…then the third episode. This is one of the most fascinating documentaries I have watched on this religion, a religion that I knew very little about.  This is an eight-part documentary series which explores allegations of abuse, lies and sexual misconduct within the church that Leah and many of the other leaders experienced during their time there.

In a statement issued by A&E, Remini explained the purpose of her series. She said that she hoped to “shed light on information that makes the world aware of what is really going on and encourages others to speak up so the abuses can be ended forever.”

I am looking forward to watching the rest of the episodes in this series and wondered if you had caught it too?

3-ingredient Instant Pot Ribs

Eating: Instant Pot Ribs on repeat! OMG! If you bought one of these gadgets, you must give this recipe a try!



Loving: Mad love for Bruno, meowing revenge (LOL!), this Chris Pratt prank is hilarious, & I need to make a Wreath Witherspoon for our door (so cute!)!!

Reading: This incredible book that I read about on NPR. It is so beautifully written and I happen to think that cover is exquisite too! Have you read it?

shake-shack-2

Happy Fri-yay!

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though. Check out past editions of It’s the 3 Little Things!