Archive for the ‘Reads’ Category

Virtual Librarian Experience: Great Character-Driven Fiction

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

The MomAdviceVirtual Librarian (2)

I am getting such great feedback on our virtual librarian series. What is making me extra happy though is hearing how people are actually digging into these suggestions and truly enjoying them. What a gift to get to share a good book with someone, isn’t it?

Sorta Awesome Ep. 44

Speaking of books, I was so honored to get to join the Sorta Awesome Show this past week and share about books, fashion, and a few of my favorite parenting hacks as a mom of a teen & tween. One of the big questions Megan asked me to share was three life-changing books. I picked three fiction books that changed my perspective on life and I’d love for you to listen in on that.

It meant so much to be a part of one of my favorite podcasts and the generous comments from her listeners after it made it doubly special. If you are new to podcasts, I found the Overcast app has made my listening so much easier. You can read more about it in my favorite things list!

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

Reader Profile

Name?

Amy

What is Your Favorite Book Genre?

Fiction

Who Are Your Favorite Authors?

Kristin Hannah, Diane Chamberlain, Liane Moriarty, Jojo Moyes

the-time-travelers-wife-book-cover

What is Your Favorite Book of All-Time? 

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

What Do You Look for In a Book?

It’s all about the characters

The MomAdviceVirtual Librarian (2)

The Virtual Librarian Selects…

This is one of those lucky draws for me because I know our reader well and I also have read all of the authors she loves and even have read her favorite book! I also know that Amy is a Christian so I am selecting books based on that as well!

the-life-intended

The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel

This book was charming from start to finish and a perfect selection for Amy. I am a big fan of books that explore the what-if’s in life and this one does it beautifully. When Kate loses her husband in a tragic accident she finally feels like she can move forward in a new relationship twelve years later. When her husband begins to visit her in her dreams though, she begins to fall into an alternate universe where the lines between reality and imagination are blurred.

One of my  favorite movies is Sliding Doors and this book reminded me so much of that movie. Harmel truly explores what does it take to move forward in life without forgetting your past.

In this story, Kate blames her lack of sleep on stress. But when she starts seeing Patrick, her late husband, in her dreams, she begins to wonder if she’s really ready to move on. Is Patrick trying to tell her something? Attempting to navigate between dreams and reality, Kate must uncover her husband’s hidden message. Her quest leads her to a sign language class and into the New York City foster system, where she finds rewards greater than she could have imagined.

This is the best piece of chick lit I have read this year and would highly recommend for anyone who needs a little reading escape! I have been telling everyone to escape with this one and I keep hearing how much they loved it too. I think Amy will love this one because of her love for magic realism as she has embraced in her favorite book, The Time Traveler’s Wife.

After she finishes it, I recommend diving into our interview with Kristin Harmel to learn more about her story behind the story.  

Walking on Trampolines by Frances Whiting

Walking on Trampolines by Frances Whiting

This is one of those books that you think will just be a quick escape, but ends up being a beautiful story with endearing characters that you think about after you close the final pages. Since Amy is a big fan of Kristin Hannah, I think she will love this one as it reminded me of the beautiful friendships crafted in her novels.

This coming-of-age story follows the friendship between two teen girls and then the consequences of them both falling for the same guy, which destroys their friendship. Thankfully, it was just so much more than that and really built around a cast of flawed characters, the bonds & love of our family, first loves, true loves, and how friendships between unlikely people can reshape your destiny. There were some really great themes in this one and it is the kind of book that reminds you of your own coming-of-age story and the friendships that can endure those tumultuous years. The theme seems simple, but the story was not. I highly recommend this one!

I was so lucky to chat with Frances about this book in our Sundays With Writers series and recommend reading that interview when you finish it, particularly for the illustrated series that was created around this book (I still think about it a year later!). Read more here

The Same Sky by Amanda Eyre Ward

The Same Sky by Amanda Eyre Ward

This is the third book on immigration that I have read this year and definitely packed a powerful punch about how hard it would be to come to America. Ward alternates two stories- one of a typical middle-class woman who is struggling with infertility and becomes a mentor to a struggling teen and the other story of a young girl and her brother who face the harshest kind of poverty and are trying to get to America where they can finally be reunited with their mother and safe. The story of her journey to America is harrowing and devastating to read. Ward doesn’t hold back on setting the scene, giving you an eye-opening look at the real struggles of coming to America. Their lives intertwine and provide a satisfying conclusion to this sad story.

I found this book disturbing in some parts and I have been carrying some of the scenes around with me this month. There is poverty and then there is POVERTY. We are talking, eating flour and water for dinner (if you are lucky), addictions to glue to feel full by small children, parents abandoning a child to take care of another child and head to America. It was really heartbreaking.

I am glad I read it, but it was just really heavy.

Ward does a great job of contrasting the struggles of a typical middle-class white suburban mother against the struggles of a child in poverty effectively without being mean about it. It made me think about how my struggles are so minor compared to the struggles of others.

I think Amy will enjoy this one because of the alternating chapters in storytelling, a technique that is used often in Diane Chamberlain’s books to tell her stories. Amanda Eyre Ward joined me to share about this compelling book and I recommend reading that interview when you finish. This is a heavier pick for Amy, but I think it is a book that will really make her think and see immigration in a different way…at least it did for me! 

The Status of All Things by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke

The Status of All Things by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke

I selected this book for my local book club this month for our annual mimosa kick-off. Well, it wasn’t an annual mimosa kick-off until now, but I am hoping it sticks! I was looking for something a little lighter that people who were just jumping back into the reading game for the year might enjoy and this one really delivered. I am thinking this also would make a fantastic selection for Amy as a great escape this winter.

Although the premise of the book is light, it still speaks a lot of truth about how we use social media and the image that we put out there for the world to see. So many times what is really happy and what we are sharing are so different and this lead to a good discussion on how we use social media in our own lives and how we filter those images and updates for the public.

Kate is a thirty-five-year-old woman who is obsessed with social media. So when her fiancé, Max, breaks things off at their rehearsal dinner—to be with Kate’s close friend and coworker, no less—she goes straight to Facebook to share it with the world. But something’s changed. Suddenly, Kate’s real life starts to mirror whatever she writes in her Facebook status. With all the power at her fingertips, and heartbroken and confused over why Max left her, Kate goes back in time to rewrite their history.

Kate’s two best friends, Jules and Liam, are the only ones who know the truth. In order to convince them she’s really time traveled, Kate offers to use her Facebook status to help improve their lives. But her attempts to help them don’t go exactly as planned, and every effort to get Max back seems to only backfire, causing Kate to wonder if it’s really possible to change her fate.

I love books with a magical realism theme and the idea that you can rewrite your own history through your Facebook status was such a good one. It also makes you think about how we present ourselves online and how our reality are often so different!

Going back to Amy’s love for magic realism, I think she will love The Status of All Things. I was so happy to have our first writing duo in my Sundays With Writers series and you can check out their interview over HERE! Have a good laugh at their FB status updates they would post if they would come true. Our book club sure did!

What would you pick out for Amy 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! 

January 2016 Must-Reads

Friday, January 29th, 2016

January 2016 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

Oh, I always love sharing the must-reads of the month and it is so exciting to kick off another new year with books.  This month I have quite an array of great books to choose from thanks to a fresh GoodReads yearly reading goal that I am working towards. This year I’m hoping to read 75 books- fingers crossed!  What’s your goal this year?

Here are six great books I read this month that I think you will really enjoy!

 

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

I feel like I have 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! I am mourning the loss of finishing this one and the sadness of ending my journey with these four fantastically written characters.

10 Out of 5 Stars

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

So many friends have been recommending that I read  The Boston Girl so I added it to my library pile this month!

I really enjoyed this beautiful coming of age story told through Addie Baum’s eyes at the tender age of 80 as she reflects back on her youth through stories she shares with her granddaughter.  In this story, Addie Baum was born in 1900 to immigrant parents who were unprepared for and very suspicious of America and its effect on their three daughters. Growing up in the North End, then a teeming multicultural neighborhood, Addie’s intelligence and curiosity take her to a world her parents can’t imagine – a world of short skirts, movies, celebrity culture and new opportunities for women. Addie wants to finish high school and dreams of going to college and it all starts with a book club that she joins.  She wants a career and to find true love.

Bucking many traditional roles and requirements of being a Jewish woman in the early 20th century, Addie challenges these roles with her traditional family, work environment, and in finding love. The chapters were short and sweet and a bit disjointed, just as the stories we hear from our own elders are and I loved the strong focus on friendships that last through the ages.

I have a feeling that if I hadn’t have read Brooklyn the month before (read my review here) that I probably would have enjoyed this one more. The stories felt very similar, but it didn’t take away the beauty in this one as Diamant proves herself again and again to be such a gifted storyteller. I have heard the audiobook is a real treat so it might be a good one to indulge in that way if you enjoy audiobooks.

4 Out of 5 Stars

Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes

Hidden Bodies (YOU #2)  by Caroline Kepnes

(editor’s note- I received an ARC of this from Netgalley. All thoughts & opinions are my own)

Hidden Bodies is the next installment from Kepnes in the erotic thriller series from the author of, YOU. Joe is one of those characters that just really stands out for me as a reader and Kepnes has done an incredible job fleshing out Joe as he ages and falls in love in this next installment.

In this story, Joe gets duped by a woman that he thinks he has fallen in love with only to discover that she used him to steal from the bookstore he works for. Determined to make her pay, Joe follows her to California and creates a life for himself there until he can kill her. What ends up happening is that Joe finds many hurdles along the way towards the path of revenge and he still is dealing with the skeletons in the closet from the last murder that are still haunting him. What he didn’t bargain for though is finding unconditional love and a family in California and how this changes the entire outlook of a psychopath who has never experienced that.

Once again, a solid read from Kepnes and I can’t wait to read the next book in this series! Read my interview with Caroline as we discuss her first book in our Sundays With Writers series!

4 Out of 5 Stars

The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende

 

The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende

Have you joined our online book club? If you have, you know that this was our first selection. This also happens to be my first novel by Allende. Have you read her? Feel free to make recommendations of other books I should tackle by her.

In 1939, as Poland falls under the shadow of the Nazis, Alma Belasco’s parents send her away to live in safety with an aunt and uncle in San Francisco. There, as the rest of the world goes to war, she encounters Ichimei Fukuda, the quiet and gentle son of the family’s Japanese gardener. Unnoticed by those around them, a tender love affair begins to blossom. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the two are cruelly pulled apart as Ichimei and his family, like thousands of other Japanese Americans are declared enemies and forcibly relocated to internment camps run by the United States government. Throughout their lifetimes, Alma and Ichimei reunite again and again, but theirs is a love that they are forever forced to hide from the world.

Decades later, Alma is nearing the end of her long and eventful life. Irina Bazili, a care worker struggling to come to terms with her own troubled past, meets the elderly woman and her grandson, Seth, at the nursing home she is living in. As Irina and Seth forge a friendship, they become intrigued by a series of mysterious gifts and letters sent to Alma, eventually learning about Ichimei and this extraordinary secret passion that has endured for nearly seventy years.

This had a slow start for me, but once I started diving into the love story more of Alma & Ichimei, I could not turn the pages fast enough to see how this story would unfold. Allende crafts some really surprising twists at the end that I did not see coming making this a really solid story for me about love and the sacrifices we make for those we care about.

4 Out of 5 Stars

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.

4 Out of 5 Stars

A-Manual-For-Cleaning-Women

A Manual For Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin

This is my first book of short stories and I really enjoyed it. Although some of the stories were repetitive and the book could have been edited a bit more, this really showcased what a talent Berlin was and what a knack she had for descriptive writing. She passed away in 2004 and was a well-known short story writer. This book was included on many lists this year as one of the best books fo the year.

Many of the short stories were based upon her own life and some of the heavier ones, particularly regarding her struggle with alcoholism, were very hard to read. She wrote very honestly about the challenges in her life as a mother and in her marriages. That said, many though made me laugh from her childhood antics at Catholic school to her observations about her clients as a cleaning woman. This is rich with storytelling and was a delight to read! It would be a good one to put on the bedside table to indulge in a story or two at the end of your day!

4 Out of 5 Stars

January 2016 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

Read With Me This Year

GoodReads 2016 Books

January 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

Amy’s Notebook 01.27.16

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

Kitchen trends via Style by Emily Henderson

Source: Style By Emily Henderson

 

13 kitchen trends that are stronger than ever- noted.

9 most-read books in American prisons- there are some surprising picks on here.

Tips for finishing a basement on a budget.

I love the simple things in life.

How to turn your kid into a reader.

Glazed donuts via A Subtle Revelry

Source: A Subtle Revelry

 

Colorful doughnut glazes. So pretty!

I never knew about these hidden Instagram features!

I love this honest look at decorating mistakes.

I’m working on this.

I am mom. Hear me roar.

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!

 

Sundays With Writers: Trail of Broken Wings by Sejal Badani

Sunday, January 24th, 2016

Sundays With Writers

Happy Sunday, my friends! What a joy it is to share another debut author with you today. As I’ve said before, debut authors are among a favorite of mine because I love the joy of discovery of finding someone new to add to my favorites.  Today Sejal Badani is joining me for a virtual coffee to share more about her beautiful book, Trail of Broken Wings. I discovered this book through her GoodReads Choice Award Nomination for Best Fiction and dove into it over our holiday break. After reading more on Sejal’s backstory, I just knew she would be such an incredible author to feature here for our interview series.

Trail of Broken Wings by Sejal Badani

 

In Trail of Broken Wings, domestic abuse is fully brought to light in this account of one family and the man who abused them. As he lays in a coma, each of the sisters and the wife replay the events that happened through their traumatic years and the reader uncovers the dark secrets that they each have carried. 

This one delved a lot into the Indian culture and the traditional roles of women in their culture, many of which I was not aware of! It would make for a compelling book club discussion and did not shy away from some of the demons people battle when they have been abused.

The book had a great twist at the end that really added some depth to one of the character’s storylines. Raw and honest, it would be impossible to read and not feel a new awareness and sadness for those abused.

Editor’s Note: At this time as I write this, the Kindle version is listed for a mere $2.00

I included this book in our November/December Must-Reads list!

Now grab your coffee and let’s settle in with Sejal about her incredible debut novel!

Sejal Badani

I have read in past interviews that you have said that you felt compelled to write Trail of Broken Wings after witnessing and surviving your own childhood abuse. What was that process like writing this story and how hard was it to put such a deeply personal journey out in the world?

This story was one I searched for as a young adult and never found. I mentioned it to my good friend and editor Benee who really got behind the story. The characters’ individual stories were challenging to tell but important. They were three very strong women who had to discover themselves outside the framework of their childhood. Though the events in the story are fictional, the emotions and struggles of the characters felt very familiar to me either because of my research or own experience. When the story was finished, I was relieved but also really pleased that the characters’ stories were honest and inspiring.

Trail of Broken Wings

I’d love to quote a passage from your story… “Everyone must a reach a point in their life when they stop running. When it is easier to stand still than to keep being chased, even if the person chasing you is only in your head.” At what point did you stop running and change the story of your own life?

Though my mom didn’t have a lot of choices when we were growing up, she made it make very clear to us that we should carve out a very different path for our future. Because of her, my sisters and I were very fortunate to believe in ourselves and love. Law school was pivotal in my life because it gave me a better understanding of options available to people in similar situations. Later, in my research for the book, I learned about so many incredible individuals who had to make the decision to stop running. The journeys they took are truly inspiring. This quote is really a testament to their strength and perseverance.

The issues that each of the daughters struggle with in the aftershock of abuse were all written in such a raw and beautiful way, unflinching from many things that most books shy away from. Have you heard from any of your readers who may have suffered these same traumatic moments and how much they could relate to this family’s story and the raw honesty that you wrote it?

I have and every single time I am so touched and amazed by the human spirit. Countless number of readers have reached out to tell me that the book resonated with their own childhoods or those of someone they love. Their honesty and willingness to share their story is incredibly humbling and I’m very grateful. I’ve also had a number of readers tell me this book encouraged them to start their own healing process – that it gave them hope for their future. When I hear that I can’t even describe what it means to me. To know that it has helped even one person is really an extraordinary feeling.

Trail of Broken Wings

I know this may seem a silly question, but was there a reason you chose Brent as the name of the father, which feels so different than the other Indian character names in the book? Do you think that readers sympathize with him since he too suffered as a victim of racism? Do you sympathize with him?

It’s actually a question I get quite a bit so not silly at all.  I consciously chose Brent because I wanted readers to know that there are no racial or socio-economic limitations on abuse. Though the story is set in an Indian-American home, it was very important to me that the characters be seen as universal. Brent is really a composite character from my research. I think his character chose to take the actions he did without thought to the consequences or effects. As an author, I wanted to give background as to why he made those choices but I’m not sure it can excuse them.

Trail of Broken Wings has garnered so many wonderful reviews and has been so well-received, even scoring a GoodReads Choice Award Nomination this year! What has that experience been like with a debut novel and what has surprised you most about this process?

I’ve been so honored and humbled. It’s really been an amazing journey. I’m incredibly grateful that readers have connected with the story and the messages in the book. I’ve been a writer for a number of years and have been on the other end of the spectrum with more rejections than I care to count. So the success of Trail of Broken Wings has been very welcome. From my editor, agent, publishing house and publicist, Trail of Broken Wings has been supported and championed. My biggest surprise is how smooth it has all been. I credit that to the people mentioned above and all the amazing readers and bloggers like yourself who have featured the book. Trail of Broken Wings wouldn’t be where it is without all of you and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.

You carved out an excellent twist at the end (which I do not want to give away). Did you always see this as the surprise you wanted to reveal to your readers or was it something that developed once you started writing it?

It was something I had planned for the story from the beginning. Without giving too much away I knew the mother had to discover her own strength. She had endured so much but when her daughter left I think that really made her see what her life had become. She was foremost a mother and just wanted her daughter to come home. To me, the truly heroic moment was when she admitted what she had done. She chanced her own freedom for that of her daughter’s and I think that’s when Sonya finally understood how much her mother really loved her. It finally allowed Sonya to love herself and open her heart to a normal life.

Are you working on your next book? Can you tell us anything about what you might have in store for us next?

I’m actually working on two novels simultaneously right now. One is a novel of a young attorney who journeys to India to discover the tragic story of her grandmother’s love and loss with a member of the British Raj during the 1940’s. The other is a young adult dystopian novel that tackles the issues of choice, freedom and finding your true self in an unrecognizable world.

 Lastly, what is one of your all-time favorite books? (This will be added to one of our most visited posts of must-reads from the authors featured in Sundays With Writers)

It’s so hard to pick one! I’m a huge fan of Malcolm Gladwell and just finished his book David and Goliath so I’m going to go with that. It’s very insightful and made me think differently about the obstacles we face in life and how overcoming them often helps us develop our greatest strengths. I’m also a huge admirer of J.K. Rowling so I have to throw that in there.

You can connect with Sejal Badani on her website or through Facebook!  I’m always thankful for these moments with writers and I hope you will pick up this amazing book! You can always connect with me on GoodReads, through our books section of our site, and you can read our entire Sundays With Writers series for more author profiles. Happy reading, friends!

*This post contains affiliate links!

Pin It

It’s the 3 Little Things: Magic, Pet Hair Free, & Card Game Hilarity

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

birthday

Well, hello there! I hope you guys are having another wonderful week! It has been a cold one in Indiana so the fireplace has been going, the cocoa has been flowing, and I have been curled up with a good stack of books this week.  I’m really looking forward to diving into this one this weekend. Her books are always such a special treat and I’m hoping I can snag the author for an interview for the Sundays With Writers series too- fingers crossed!

I also started Parks & Recreation over on Netflix. Is it okay to admit that I have never seen a single episode of this show? I have been laughing hysterically at this one and so happy I waited so I can binge on them all with my husband. It’s been our new favorite evening routine at our house!

weekly-chore-chart

I promised our newsletter subscribers we would continue to build on our home management binder and today you will be receiving a brand new weekly chore chart to add to your binders. If you haven’t used one before, here is a great tutorial on how to make this organizational tool work for you! Be sure to check your email for our newsletter!

##NEWSLETTERFORM##

Here are 3 other little things that are bringing me joy this week! 

Just Add Magic

Just Add Magic

We just finished the first season of the Great British Baking Show over here, which was such a delightful little cooking show to watch with my daughter. We don’t use our Prime membership as much as we could so we have been trying to watch more shows through that since we pay for those member perks.

Just Add Magic is our next obsession together and it is an adorable show for tweens that is fun and family-friendly and something that is definitely worth indulging in with your Prime membership.  Kelly Quinn and her two best friends, Darbie and Hannah, stumble upon her grandmother’s mysterious cookbook in the attic and discover some far from ordinary recipes. Part mystery with just the right amount of spookiness, this show is a great one to watch with your daughter as you try to unravel where this cookbook came from and what potential dangers cooking from the book unlocks.

It reminds me of the evenings I spent with my own family on Friday nights watching TGI Fridays and getting a few life lessons in each episode. When Kelly’s mom has a spell cast on her that makes her only tell the truth, she admits that she feels like her daughter ditches her for her friends. That led to such a great talk with my girl about how special our time together is and even how moms feel left out of their lives sometimes. It’s just been such good stuff for conversation and for snuggling.

This first season is exclusively available on Amazon Prime and I hope you love it as much as we do!

Bissell Pet Hair Eraser

Bissell Pet Hair Eraser

Pet hair can be a bit problematic around here especially when it comes to my couches and chairs. I decided to get this Bissell Pet Hair Eraser and it is THE BEST investment for tidying up your upholstery. It has a rubber nozzle head for gathering and suctioning the pet hair off your your surfaces and then another attachment that can be used on hard surfaces, like cleaning up a food or litter spill.

The first time I used it on my couch, I suctioned the equivalent of a small cat off my furniture. Who knew? If you are battling pet hair too, it’s a fantastic investment and only $24.99!

Exploding Kittens Card Game

Exploding Kittens

Have you heard of the Exploding Kittens card game? I happened to find this game when searching for something else on Amazon and it sounded like a game that my kids would love. What I didn’t realize was how much WE would love it and how often we would be playing it…even after those kids went to bed.

Exploding Kittens is a highly strategic kitty-powered version of Russian Roulette. Players take turns drawing cards until someone draws an exploding kitten and loses the game. The deck is made up of cards that let you avoid exploding by peeking at cards before you draw, forcing your opponent to draw multiple cards, or shuffling the deck.

The game gets more and more intense with each card you draw because fewer cards left in the deck means a greater chance of drawing the kitten and exploding in a fiery ball of feline hyperbole.

This game was created by Elan Lee (Xbox, ARGs), Matthew Inman (The Oatmeal), and Shane Small (Xbox, Marvel).  It’s smartly designed, a bit of family-friendly potty humor, and a blast with kids (or with a couple glasses of wine when your children retire for the night!).  They also sell an adult version, if that’s your thing. I’m talking to you Cards Against Humanity crazies!
I can’t recommend this one enough and this can be played with up to five people and is intended for ages 7 and up. The best part? It should only take you about two minutes to catch on and costs a mere $20.
*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though. Check out past editions of  It’s the 3 Little Things

 

Our First Community Reads Day

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

Community (1)

Keeping up with the Books section of our site and the author interviews for our Sundays With Writers is fun and challenging. I feel so honored to share about great books with you. The pacing to keep things fresh is challenging for a single reader though!  With that in mind, today we kick off a new monthly feature called Community Reads. If you are a part of our MomAdvice Hangout Group, each month I will ask about what you are reading and ask for a short blurb on a book.  You can also email books you are loving to me to amy(at)momadvice(dot)com and I can also add them to our monthly lists.

My hope is to inspire you to connect with at least one incredible book this year and I hope you will enjoy this new feature with even more reads each month!

Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey

Read It: Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey

Recommended by: Kristen (who also happens to be a librarian- DREAM JOB!)

Maud is an elderly widow with dementia. Her daughter is getting fed up with Maud’s insistence on finding her friend Elizabeth. The whole thing reminds Maud of something else- when she was a child, her beloved sister also disappeared suddenly. Maud’s unreliable narration fascinated me in a similar way to The Girl on a Train or the film Memento.”

In A Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

Read It: In a Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

Recommended by: Rhonda

This was an awesome thriller that kept me turning the pages! I can usually figure things out but this had a few good twists!

The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

Read It: The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

Recommended by: Ana

This was a quick read and I really enjoyed it. If you love food and good writing, you won’t be disappointed.

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

Read It: My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

Recommended by: Beth

I just read Elizabeth Strout’s MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON. I loved it. It is a simple but deep story about a woman and her relationship with her family.

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

A Pocket Full of Shells by Jean Reinhardt

 

Read It: The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom & A Pocket Full of Shells by Jean Reinhardt

Recommended by: Mimi

I enjoyed The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom. It’s about a young girl from Ireland who was stolen and forced into slavery. It is an older novel, 2010, but worth reading.

I also read the first of a series, A Pocket Full of Shells by Jean Reinhardt. It’s the story of an Irish family that survived the great hunger. I am Irish and have been on an Irish novel reading jag for a few years now.

Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

Read It: Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

Recommended By: Elly

The Orpheus Clock by Simon Goodman

Read It: The Orpheus Clock by Simon Goodman

Recommended by: Alice

Goodman seeks restitution for his Jewish family’s stolen heirlooms during World War II. The first half of the book is the story of the his great-grandparents and grandparents who collected the priceless pieces, many of whom lost their lives during the Holocaust. The second half of the book is the story of finding these lost pieces and restoring them to his family. Because of the first half, the reader is invested in his family and cheers Goodman on to vindicate them in this small way.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to get these books and read them myself! What did you read this month that you loved? Feel free to recommend your favorite reads below or join us in the group to chat about your favorites! We love new friends!

This post contains affiliate links. I fully trust and back my community of readers and their opinions on their favorite books!

The Virtual Librarian Experience: Easy to Digest Books For Busy Moms

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

The MomAdviceVirtual Librarian (2)

Moms get busy and reading time ends up getting put on the backburner as so many of us struggle to keep with our kids, running a home, and jobs. I remember when I came to the revelation just a few years ago that I missed my favorite hobby and made a resolution to make reading a priority again in my life. I am so glad I renewed my commitment to get reading again and I am hoping that this series is inspiring to you so that you can find some new books for your stack. My hope is one of these readers sounds just like you and you will want to try out a few of the recommendations of your own.

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?

AnneMarie

What is Your Favorite Book Genre?

Fiction

Who Are Your Favorite Authors?

Any who write well.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

What is Your Favorite Book of All-Time? 

Little Women by Louisa M. Alcott

What Do You Look for In a Book?

It must be fast-paced. 

Anything else I should know?

Right now, easier/quicker engrossing reads are what I am looking for! Honestly, I have been reading lots of YA books lately, but “grown-up” books are good, too!

The MomAdviceVirtual Librarian (2)

The Virtual Librarian Selects…

Easy and engrossing books are something many people look for especially in these dreary winter months when you need a quick pick-me-up. I love YA books and I also love to read lighter books in between heavier selections so I don’t get too bogged down with my reading. The first recommendation I would make for someone like AnneMarie is that she explore the world of audiobooks. Since I know that she happens to be a local, my favorite resource right now for audiobooks is through hoopla which is connected with our library. You can check up to ten out over the course of a month and this can be a great way to get in a easy read rather effortlessly between running kids and doing household chores! 

I love YA, but thought it might be fun to pick some books that are out of that genre, but easily as engrossing!

Here are my top selections for AnneMarie based on her reading profile:

Arranged by Catherine McKenzie

Arranged by Catherine McKenzie

I know that AnneMarie will love this deliciously fast-paced chick-lit book because I count it among my absolute favorites in this genre. I admit that the premise sounds a little cheesy, but once I really fell in love with this one and think she will too.

Anne Blythe seems to have everything. She has sold her first book, has a fabulous life, and fabulous friends. When it comes to being lucky in love though, she can’t seem to ever find the right guy. novel. After her best friend announces her engagement and her latest relationship ends, she decides to take a risk and contact a dating service in hopes of finding the perfect match. Upon her first appointment with the dating service though, she realizes that it is not a dating service at all, but a matchmaking service for an arranged marriage.

Once she starts the process, there is no turning back and Anne finds herself traveling to a Mexican resort where she will meet and marry (all in the same weekend) her “perfect,” guy.

This book has great twists and turns that you will really enjoy and can be devoured in a single day making it a fantastic reading escape for AnneMarie! 

Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain

Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain

Diane Chamberlain is one of those authors that I always recommend when people are looking for something quick and a book that is easy to fall into. Necessary Lies is the first historical fiction book I have read by her and one of her meatier novels! 

Necessary Lies is one of those books you just want to share with a book club because it lends itself to such a great discussion on what role our government should play (if any)  in our lives when they happen to be the system our families need to rely on in financial struggles. I know AnneMarie loves a good political discussion so that is why I am recommending it for her. 

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

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

the-rosie-project

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

I’m hoping that AnneMarie hasn’t tackled this one yet because I can’t recommend this one enough for an unusually fun & sweet love story.  I just know if she started this one, she couldn’t stop! 

Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don’s Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.

I fell in love with Don and found myself laughing out loud often at so many of the scenes in this one. I wish the ending had not felt so rushed and I did have a hard time figuring out The Father Project results (told from Don’s perspective), but I adored this book anyway! This was a great summer read!

Did you read the sequel to this one? I’m not seeing great reviews on it so I’m on the fence if I want to read it or not! Let me know!

Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

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

At Finn’s funeral though, June notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd. A few days after the funeral, June receives a package that has a note from a man named Toby, who claims to be a friend of Finn’s. He sends to her Finn’s teapot, a treasured item that June has always loved, and says that he woud like to meet with her.
An unlikely friendship is forged, but it is a secret friendship that threatens her family in unlikely ways.
This book is so beautiful it makes your heart hurt and pitch-perfect. Brunt writes the angst and emotions of a teenage girl in an achingly beautiful way that will remind you of your own youth.It is a really beautiful coming-of-age story that I think AnneMarie will really appreciate. I also though this one moved at a good pace so it will easily grab her attention. 
A-Tree-Grows-In-Brooklyn

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Since I know AnneMarie loves classics, I am going to add one classic to today’s book selections because this one is such a readable and enjoyable classic. 

This book was one of the most unbelievably beautiful, heart-wrenching, unexpectedly laugh-out-loud funny in portions, make me weep in others, and heartwarming books that I have read in my life.The story is about Mary Frances Nolan (also known as Francie) and she shares the story of her life from the tender age of eleven until she turns sixteen.

Growing up as a poor girl in Brooklyn, she shares the story of the survival that they must go through to keep food on the table and the difficulties of family life when ends just don’t meet. With a mother who is doing the best she can to keep their family afloat and an unreliable, but loving father who works as a singing waiter and takes to drinking at night to cope with the realities of his life, the family lives in a tiny flat in Brooklyn where they try to make the most on the very least.

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

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

While I can’t say that there is a definite plot to the story, the book is told almost in short story format sharing the daily trials and tribulations of growing up in a poor family, it really did not need a focused plot because the writing was so beautiful. Since it is written in this format, I think AnneMarie will really enjoy it since it can be read in small batches like a short story collection. 

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

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

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

This post contains affiliate links. I only recommend what I love though! 

 

Amy’s Notebook 01.20.16

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

Paint it Black via SF Girl By Bay

Source: SF Girl By Bay

 

Paint it black. WOW!

Finger knit a statement necklace.

I love peeking at other people’s favorite books of the year!

Quinoa Bowl with Kung Pao Edamame- this combo sounds heavenly!

15 genius tips for living in a small space.

This looks like an effortless weeknight meal.

Bookshelves envy.

Pesto-Roasted Tomato Omelette via Cup of Jo

Source: Cup of Jo

 

This pesto and roasted tomato omelette sounds divine!

Wow! An impressive grout makeover.

12 other documentaries you might like if you loved Making a Murderer.

Contentment often requires boundaries. This really spoke to me!

Did you read all of the Oscar nominations?

Being a bookworm is hard work.

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!

 

How To Make a Dream Catcher (GIVEAWAY- Star Darlings Book Sets)

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

This post is sponsored by Disney Press. Thank you for supporting the companies that support this site! 

I am so very excited to share with you an incredible new book series from Disney that just recently launched, perfect for girls in the age ranges of 8-12 years old.  Star Darlings  focuses on answering the question of where wishes come from, and features a diverse array of star-charmed girls who encourage and help others to fulfill their heartfelt wishes. Each Star Darling has her own wish that she pursues with the help of her faithful friends.

These shared journeys and experiences provide exceptionally positive examples to inspire tweens to follow their dreams and helps to  harness the power of their individuality, highlighting the power of making positive choices, and shows that they can make anything possible.

Star Darlings Book Review

Star Darlings A Wisher's Guide to Starland

These books are rich with themes of friendship, confidence, leadership, and teamwork, the Star Darlings as they are known, go on many magical adventures together. Determined to succeed in spite of their youthful inexperience, the girls show courage and ingenuity—plus a whole lot of humor—as they guide Wishers to discover happiness and fulfillment.  You can learn lots more about the Star Darlings series on their webpage and find fun activities, music, and videos to watch about these inspiring girls!

My daughter is an advanced reader at ten and found these books to be fun AND challenging. Within record time she had finished the first book and could not wait to start diving into the next ones.  If you have a tween girl, these have been a great step towards reading more advanced books! She really loved them and also told me that she has already found something in each character that feels a little like her.

Since the new Star Darlings series is all about the power of wishes, we wanted to share with you a few of our dreams and wishes for this year and show you a fun way to capture those by crafting a DIY dream catcher together. Not only that, but we would love to share with you the chance to win these books for a special young lady in your life so be sure to scroll all the way to the end of this post to participate in the giveaway!

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

Supplies Needed:

Glue Gun & Glue Sticks

Embroidery Hoop (we detached the inner hoop for our project)

Fabric Scraps or squares

Hemp Cord (available in the jewelry supplies section of your craft store)

Feathers (any amount/color- we used 3)

Colorful embroidery thread

Scissors

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

How to Make a Dreamcatcher

1. Begin by cutting a small cut on the longest side of your fabric piece and then begin ripping it down until you have a nice even piece.  Holding it in place at the top, begin wrapping the fabric around and round the hoop. When you come to the end, add a dab of hot glue to secure it and then repeat the process until you have covered the entire hoop. Once you get to the end, finish again with a dab of hot glue.

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

(source)

2. The most challenging part is, of course, creating the webbing inside the dreamcatcher.  Here are lots of examples that you can see on Pinterest. Depending on your child’s age and craft level you can make this very easy, like we are showing here, or more difficult!

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

Measure approximately five feet of hemp and start with a knot at the top of your dreamcatcher. Then begin creating loops, twisting and looping until you get to the beginning again. Then begin the next loop of webbing by going between those circles to create the next round of loops. You can then keep repeating this pattern, as the circle begins to get smaller and smaller.

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

3. Have your child tear strips of fabric to tie to the bottom of the dream catcher. We chose two colors and alternated them in our dream catcher.

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

4. Finish with decorative details like feathers or beads to complete the look. We used a little embroidery thread to secure these to our dreamcatcher.

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

When I asked Emily what her big wishes and dreams were for this year, they were all focused on our big jump to middle school next year. Starting at a new school is a big challenge and I can tell that this has been on her mind a lot as she asks her brother many questions about the school and how her day will look there. She said that her big dream is for middle school to be full of good stuff. Doing this craft together gave us time to really talk about that and focus on catching all the good things in life and focusing on the positivities of new friends and new experiences at a new school.

With our busy schedules these days, crafting together has gotten pushed off and I loved making time to create with her this week. This was an easy one hour project that really gave us some time to bond and talk about our wishes for the upcoming year.

Star Darlings

Star Darlings Book Review

In honor of this new series I am giving away a Star Darlings prize pack. One (1) winner will receive:

  • A Wisher’s Guide to Starland
  • Sage and the Journey to Wishworld
  • Libby and the Class Election
  • Leona’s Unlucky Mission
  • Scarlet Discovers True Strength
  • Vega and the Fashion Disaster

This giveaway open to US addresses only and prizing and samples will be provided by Disney Press.  Please check out the widget below for more details on this contest! Good luck, everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

This post is sponsored by Disney Press. Thank you for supporting the companies that support this site! 

Pin It

Sundays With Writers: Mosquitoland by David Arnold

Sunday, January 17th, 2016

Sundays With Writers

It has been awhile since we have featured a YA pick on Sundays With Writers so I am excited to share with you a book that I think offers the same charm that I have appreciated so much, like in Rainbow Rowell’s, Eleanor & Park. 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.

I am so excited to be sharing a little behind David Arnold’s journey as he brings the story of Mim to life for us. I really appreciate hearing how he figured out a way to balance his dream of writing with being a new father and his conscious effort to develop a real and true partnership with his literary agent. It’s really inspiring to hear about!

Mosquitoland by David Arnold

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!

Can we also talk about that cover? SWOON!

Grab your coffee and let’s settle in with David Arnold and hear more about his incredible novel, Mosquitoland!

David Arnold

I am always so thrilled to feature debut novelists and Mim and the other characters you created for Mosquitoland completely captured my heart in such a beautiful way in this debut. I understand that you never had intended to go the YA fiction route, but found yourself down that path with this book. How did Mosquitoland end up falling in this genre and do you think you have found your niche moving forward as a writer?

Thank you so much for having me! And yeah, it’s true I never really set out to write “young adult”—but it’s not like I set out to write “adult,” either. As an author, I feel it’s my job to tell whatever story I have in me at the time, and to do so as honestly as possible. As this was my first real serious go at writing a novel, I didn’t focus on what kind of book it would be or where it would be shelved, because I honestly didn’t think it would ever get to that point. I wrote Mosquitoland because I had to, because this voice wasn’t going to leave me alone, but only in my wildest dreams did I ever think it would get published. So yeah, I didn’t necessarily intend to write young adult, but I absolutely could not be happier about it.

The last couple of YA books that I have read have shared about the struggles with mental illness in those teenage years. All the Bright Places & Every Last Word are just two books we have featured on the site recently that speak to this struggle with mental illness. You said in a past interview that there are some very brave writers out there in the YA genre and I also find your own writing to be quite brave too in talking about this topic. Why do you think so many YA writers are sharing about this and did you do any research in order to prepare for writing these scenes with Mim?

I can’t speak for anyone else, but (much like my answer above) I didn’t set out to write a book about mental illness. However, once I realized this would be part of Mim’s story, I did feel a certain burden of responsibility, a duty to get it right. In addition to extensive reading on the front end, I ran the manuscript by a number of mental health professionals. Mental illness looks so different for so many different people, it was important Mim’s experience, her responses and reactions, be plausible. It’s a tough thing writing outside your own experiences—I did everything I could to get this one right, and I can only hope it was enough.

  Greyhound Bus source: wikipedia

Fleshing out a whole Greyhound bus of characters seems like a challenge as a writer and this book overflows with both passengers and new friends that Mim meets along the way. First of all, do you diagram out the bus and all the people on it with a seating chart or do you just dive in and create them as you are writing out the story? Secondly, have you ever taken a Greyhound bus anywhere and did you use any of that experience to help create Mim’s crazy adventures (I’m hoping there is a funny backed-up toilet story for us!)

To answer the first part of your question: no, I never did a seating chart, though I should have! That would have been helpful. I do pretty extensive timelines for my characters, so I’m not sure why I didn’t think of this. But yes, I did take a Greyhound from Nashville to Newark, though this mostly shaped the descriptive language of traveling by bus (sorry to disappoint! All toilets functioned properly. :/), rather than provide any actual fodder for Mim’s experiences.

You are the second musician that also happens to be a book writer to be featured on our Sundays With Writers series this month (we just got to chat with Josh Malerman from The High Strung who also wrote Bird Box this past week.) He spoke very honestly about the difficulties to do both and that now that his book has garnered attention and praise that he is struggling to make the time for writing music. Do you face the same balance struggle now that Mosquitoland has gotten such incredible reviews?

It’s sad, but I haven’t written any new music in probably two years or so. I used to have a home studio where I wrote and recorded music for indie films, commercials, and youth camp videos. That all fell by the wayside when my wife and I found out we were going to have a baby (surprise!). I said goodbye to music (though at the time I would have sworn this would be a temporary goodbye) and became a stay-at-home dad. You can’t really record music with a newborn, but whatever down time I got became writing time. I wrote most of Mosquitoland while he napped or, when he got a little older, watched Sesame Street. Any stay-at-homes out there who are looking for time to write, but also happen to be on a budget, I have a helpful tip: child care at the YMCA is free (with membership), and while they don’t allow you to leave the premises, they say nothing of setting up your laptop in the lobby. A huge portion of Mosquitoland was written at the YMCA. Writers write, under any circumstances. But I digress. Yeah, music has definitely taken a backseat to writing novels. But I’m okay with it, because I want to take every advantage of the opportunities I’m given, and right now, that means pouring everything I have into my books.

Why did you decide to put that age gap between Mim & Beck when you know we wanted them to be together so bad? Darn you, David! Although my mom heart would be pleased if my daughter was reading it…so maybe that is why?

Ha, yeah. There may be something to the parent thing, but the real reason I wrote it that way—and man, I’m going to take some flack for this—is because generally speaking (NOT in every case, you understand) I am fairly indifferent toward love interests in books. THERE ARE EXCEPTIONS. Plenty, actually. But I never wanted a love interest for Mim. I mean—it just didn’t feel like part of her story. But when I toyed around with the age gap between Beck and Mim, I found myself intrigued in a way I hadn’t been before. Here’s this guy who is just old enough to make a romantic relationship morally questionable, but just young enough that it almost wouldn’t be. It was a challenging in-between, but also opened up a whole new arena of writing for me.

As a writer, I know as soon as that book hits the world (and often before that), you are already working on the next book project which can be so challenging to push forward. What do you have in store for us next and was it hard to move into something else after spending two years on Mosquitoland?

Book two is the worst. I don’t mean, you know, as a book (at least, I hope not). I mean its execution. In my case, I had a two-book deal, so when Penguin bought Mosquitoland they also bought a second novel based on a one-paragraph synopsis. When the time came to actually write the thing I was paralyzed. As I mentioned before, I wrote Mosquitoland for myself, on my own time, with zero expectations. I was now being asked to write a book, which had already been paid for, on someone else’s time, with many expectations. I’m not complaining by any means—I know how lucky I am to have gotten the opportunity. But I think there’s a romanticized notion that once you get a book deal, you’ve got it made in the shade. Aside from parenting, writing a novel is the most challenging thing I’ve done. This was exponentially true of book two. That said, I absolutely struck gold with my professional writing team—my editor and publisher, my agent, everyone has been incredibly patient and smart and kind. I’ve only written two novels (the second comes out in September), but they are both a product of teamwork.

One thing that really stands out to me about you is that in other interviews you have shared about taking your time to find the right literary agent that gets you and not just going with the first one who gets back with you. I had the same experience as a writer and find that there is something magical when you find someone who just gets you and gets what you write about. Can you speak to that for just a moment about why you really took your time selecting your agent and do you think the time you spent on selecting this partnership really helped with the success of your book?

Absolutely! As professional relationships go, your editor is buying your book; your agent is buying you. If things go well, the writer/agent relationship could last years, even decades. I think there’s this common misconception that just getting an agent is enough. But just like all manuscripts and authors are different, so too are agents. This is part of why form queries are a horrible idea. Each agent has their own personality, and each agent looks for something different on the page, which is why you hear now famous authors talk about their stacks of rejection letters. I spent about two months getting a query letter into shape, then another 4-6 weeks researching agents—who they represented, what they were looking for, even their tones during interviews. Agents can tell when an author has done their homework.

Your cover is just perfection and one of my favorite covers probably ever. How did your team come up with such a great concept and is there anywhere we can purchase a print of it? It’s just fantastic!

THANK YOU. I love it too, and would love to say I had even an ounce of its conception/execution, but alas… I have very limited artistic skills. The cover was designed by the very talented Theresa Evangelista at Penguin, and illustrated by Andrew Fairclough at Kindred Studios. I had some small input toward the end, but they’d already done such a fantastic job there was little for me to say or do.

Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters by J.D. Salinger

Lastly, what is one of your all-time favorite books? (This will be added to one of our most visited posts of must-reads from the authors featured in Sundays With Writers)

I have “Raise High the Roof Beam” tattooed on my forearm. I am unapologetic in my love of J.D. Salinger, specifically the Glass family novellas. Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters really struck a chord in me, and of course, the original poem by Sappho is outstanding.

You can connect with David Arnold on his website or through Facebook!  I’m always thankful for these moments with writers and I hope you will pick up this amazing book! You can always connect with me on GoodReads, through our books section of our site, and you can read our entire Sundays With Writers series for more author profiles. Happy reading, friends!

*This post contains affiliate links!