The Virtual Librarian Experience: Give Me a Good Mystery

May 16th, 2017

The MomAdviceVirtual Librarian (2)

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

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

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


Reader Profile



What is Your Favorite Book Genre?


Who Are Your Favorite Authors?

Agatha Christie

Nancy Drew Series

What is Your Favorite Book of All-Time? 

The Nancy Drew Series

What Do You Look for In a Book?

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

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

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

The Virtual Librarian Selects…

A Murder in Time

A Murder in Time by Julie McElwain

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

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

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

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

The Woman in Cabin 10

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

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

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

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

I Let You Go

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

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

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


Arrowood by Laura McHugh

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

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

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

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

Little Deaths

Little Deaths by Emma Flint

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

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

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

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

The Bullet

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

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

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

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

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

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

The MomAdviceVirtual Librarian (2)

Small-Budget Crushes 05.15.17

May 15th, 2017

Midi Wrap Skirt

midi wrap skirt

(just got this in green and denim- they have POCKETS!!) Use coupon code SOGOOD for 40% off! True to size & comes in Petite!)

Long Cardigans

long cardigans (20% off!!)

(these are my favorite cardigans for a light spring layer)

Classic Trench

classic trench

hello summer hat

hello summer hat

Boatneck Tee

boatneck tee (on sale this week 2 for $20!!)

Pom Pom Clutch

pom pom clutch

Striped Daybreak Dress

striped daybreak dress- comes in petite too! (use code PICNIC for free shipping!)


Should Would Could Did Mug

should would could did mug (great grad gift!)

Palm Shorts

palm shorts (use code THANKYOU for 30% off or 40% off for cardmembers)

Lace Halter One Piece

lace halter one piece

Going for a Swim Print

going for a swim limited edition print

Jessica Simpson Libra Shoe

lace-up nude suede flats (49% off!!)

Work Like a Captain, Party Like a Pirate Tee Set

work like a captain, party like a pirate tee set

Cross Front Blouse

cross-front blouse

Fringed Pom Pom Sandals

fringed pom-pom sandals

Custom Initial Stackable Ring Set

custom initial stackable ring set

Scoop Front Tee

scoop front tee (on sale this week 3 for $20!!)


thanks dad for killing all the spiders print

thanks dad for killing all the spiders print

Keep on window shopping by visiting all of my Small-Budget Crushes. This post contains affiliate links that help our site! Thank you for supporting me! xoxo 



Amy’s Notebook 05.10.17

May 10th, 2017

Kitchen Makeover

source: emily henderson

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

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

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

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

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

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

Easy Vegan Naan

source: minimalist baker

This vegan naan recipe looks absolutely delicious and easy too!

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

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

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

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

Shibori Kitchen Towels

source: a beautiful mess

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Small-Budget Crushes 05.08.17

May 8th, 2017

Heart Hair Clip

heart hair clip

Sleeveless Pintuck Dress

sleeveless pintuck swing dress (use coupon code MAY for 40% off!!)

Cut Out Lace Up Flats

cutout lace-up flats (come in black too!)

Round Initial Necklace

round initial necklace

Striped Tee

perfect stripes (60% off!- as marked!)

Just One More Chapter Pillow

just one more chapter pillow

Quilted Sneakers

quilted sneakers (buy one pair of shoes, get the second at 50% this week!!)

Stag Bar Tool Set

stag bar toolset

Camping Shirt

camping shirt

Bouquet Toss Jumpsuit

bouquet toss jumpsuit (comes in petite too!)

Shoreline Sneakers

shoreline sneakers

Embroidered Midi Dress

embroidered midi dress


Decorative FitBit Bracelet

decorative fitbit bracelet

Waxed Canvas Lunch Bags

waxed canvas lunch bags

Tapestry Drawstring Skirt

tapestry drawstring skirt

Somerset Hat

somerset hat

Cotton V-Neck Tee

the perfect v-neck tee (many colors!)

Fit & Flare Dress

fit & flare dress, several patterns and comes in petite (use coupon code MAY for 40% off!!)

Striped Sun Hat

striped sun hat

Floral Twill Garden Gloves

floral twill garden gloves

Keep on window shopping by visiting all of my Small-Budget Crushes. This post contains affiliate links that help our site! Thank you for supporting me! xoxo 

Gluten-Free Orange Creamsicle Pancakes (Plus FUN Contest!!)

May 4th, 2017


I am so excited to be partnering this year with the Florida Department of Citrus to celebrate National OJ Day today. You may recall that we celebrated last year with these super cute cup printables! Today I am sharing a delicious gluten-free Orange Creamsicle Pancake recipe for a fun breakfast treat and sharing about a fun contest you can enter in TODAY ONLY to celebrate National OJ Day.


First up, let’s just talk about these pancakes for a minute!

We are big fans of pancakes around here and gluten-free pancakes are surprisingly easy to create when you start with a good premade pancake mix. What makes these special is that we are replacing the milk in these with Florida Orange Juice. I love how small switches like these can yield a completely different pancake flavor, don’t you?


We can’t stop there though! Layered between the pancakes, I have a delicious whipped cream made with heavy cream and vanilla pudding. If you have never mixed a vanilla pudding mix into your whipped cream, you are in for such a delicious treat. The pudding mix elevates these pancake layers and creates that creamy flavoring that we are after.  If you end up having extra cream filling left, it is so good to layer between layers of your favorite fruits for a dessert on another day.

gluten-free-orange-dreamsicle-pancakes-2 gluten-free-orange-dreamsicle-pancakes-3 gluten-free-orange-dreamsicle-pancakes-5

Serve these pancakes sandwich-style for all that Orange Creamsicle flavor. Aren’t these gorgeous? These pancakes only require a little syrup since they are such a sweet treat!

How to Freeze Your Orange Creamsicle Pancakes

If you have extra pancakes, you can freeze the leftovers for your week. If you have the time, you can place your extra pancakes on a cookie sheet (make sure they aren’t touching!) and place them in your freezer for 30 minutes. Once they are frozen, you can place them in a freezer bag for easy grabbing.

Don’t have space in your freezer for a whole cookie sheet? No worries! You can just stack them with wax paper or parchment paper in between them instead and then place them into a freezer bag.

I love to have things like this in my freezer for those chaotic school mornings. I just grab a couple for each kid with a couple of breakfast sausages and zap them in the microwave for 1 minute.

gluten-free-orange-dreamsicle-pancakes-6 gluten-free-orange-dreamsicle-pancakes-8

These can be served with a glass of Florida Orange juice to round it all out. The recommended daily intake of Florida OJ is eight ounces for adults and four to six ounces for kids!

Did you know that one glass of Florida Orange Juice provides a total of 5 amazing nutrients in every glass? In just one glass you have Taste, Vitamin C, Folate, Potassium and No Added Sugar! Pretty darn cool!


Enter the National OJ Day Contest TODAY!

I don’t want to just talk about National OJ Day though- how about a fun contest you could enter instead?

To celebrate National OJ Day, you can enter a sweepstakes to win 1 of 5 six-month meal delivery subscriptions! What mom couldn’t use that? To enter, share a picture of your family enjoying Florida Orange Juice on Facebook and Instagram TODAY between 8AM (EST) and 5PM (EST) and be sure to hashtag your picture with #HOWDOYOUFLOJ. If you enter via Instagram, be sure to also use the hashtag #sweepstakes. Just by submitting a picture, you are entered to win one of these six-month delivery subscriptions! For the official contest rules, you can read more here!

Gluten-Free Orange Creamsicle Pancakes (Plus FUN Contest!!)
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 servings
These gluten-free pancakes taste just like an orange creamsicle! Be sure to read the post for freezing instructions so you can enjoy these all week long!
  • 1 cup Florida Orange Juice
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 ½ cups gluten-free pancake mix (I’m using Bob’s Red Mill mix, other mixes may not require the same liquid ratio so follow the instructions on the back of your mix)
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 1 (3 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  1. Make your cream filling by beating your heavy cream with your mixer until stiff peaks form. Fold in the vanilla pudding mix and milk. Set aside.
  2. Preheat skillet to medium-high heat.
  3. In a bowl, whisk together Florida Orange Juice, eggs, and melted butter. Add pancake mix and whisk until smooth.
  4. For each pancake, pour ¼ cup batter onto a hot skillet. Cook until the top is bubbly (approximately three minutes). Flip and cook two more minutes.
  5. Place one pancake on each plate, add a dollop of your cream filling and then finish with another pancake on top. Serve with warmed syrup.

gluten-free-orange-dreamsicle-pancakes-4 This blog was sponsored by Florida Department of Citrus. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site!

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Amy’s Notebook 05.03.17

May 3rd, 2017

Breakfast Meal Prep

source: damn delicious

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gallery Wall

source: claire body designs

This gallery wall NAILED IT!

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

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

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

Sheet Pan Chicken

source: simply recipes

This sheet pan meal looks perfect for a Spring feast!

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

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

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

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

Comments of the Week:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Small-Budget Crushes 05.02.17

May 2nd, 2017


Please Don't Die Pots

please don’t die pots


pompom clutch


custom bookplate stamp (great teacher gift!)

Off-the-Shoulder Shift

off-the-shoulder shift (comes in black too!)

Ruffle Sleeve Shift

ruffle sleeve shift


been there, scratched that watercolor scratch map

Photo-Print Flamingo Beach Towel

flamingo beach towels (under $10!!)

mongrammed ring dish

monogrammed ring dish

Bar Necklace

bar necklace

Ikat Maxi Dress

ikat maxi dress (half off!!)

Bookcase for Kindle

bookcase for kindle

Flamingo Pool Drink Holder

flamingo pool drink holder

Standing Figure Art

standing figure art


ombre tassel earrings

Custom Name Rings custom name rings (cute baby shower gift!)


Lush Cross-Front Blouse

cross-front blouse (runs large, size one down!)

Leather Yoga Mat Strap

leather yoga mat strap

Keep on window shopping by visiting all of my Small-Budget Crushes. This post contains affiliate links that help our site! Thank you for supporting me! xoxo 




Living in the Gray

May 1st, 2017


Last week I had another little health setback. My body has been unreliable so I often feel like I am moving two steps forward and then five steps back. One of my big pain issues stems from my elbows and if my elbows are hurting then the hand pain worsens to the point that sitting at a desk and typing hurts with each keystroke.

I couldn’t do my usual ALDI route since I needed to rest my arms so I took advantage of the groceries-to-go instead so I didn’t have to lift bags. In a total God moment, a girlfriend pulled up next to me to pick up her groceries too.

First of all, steroids are THE WORST so I was a big sobby mess when I saw her, but the conversation I had with her was the stern-I-love-you-but-this-can’t-continue conversation that I needed to hear. As a nurse, she talked me through changes that I needed to make in my life.

I needed to acknowledge that this disease is not going away and that it may be progressive.

I needed to go to physical therapy and not talk about doing it someday.

I needed to structure my workday in a way that makes sense for my body and for my business, utilizing the hours that I feel best.

I needed to save my typing hands for the important stuff and let social media be more for my business.

I needed to start finding shortcuts for work, speech recognition programs on days that are hard, an assistant for the site, and just being okay that someone else might need to help me.

I needed to make rest a priority and not push myself through pain when I shouldn’t.

She’s good, right?

The next day, I started putting in calls to get lined up with physical therapy, I put my phone on do not disturb so I could work in the daytime hours when my hands felt their best (it is a quick decline), and I made one other call…

To a counselor.

He actually suggested that I open up a bit more to you because being vulnerable is a lot more attractive sometimes than being perfect.

We shall see!

I felt like I had worked through these health issues, but I haven’t. I can’t seem to ride the wave of setbacks and chronic pain in the way I want to. I want to put this BEHIND me because I don’t even want to talk about this anymore. I don’t want to be a burden to the people that love me so, frankly, I’d rather pay this guy to listen to my whining for an hour and have a better time with the people I love.

I actually had no idea how all pent-up this was until I started hiccup-sobbing in his office before I even sat down.

There was a lot of blubbering and personal stuff, but I will try to give you a less exciting example of one thing that upset me to demonstrate what we talked about.

“I can’t even go to the (hiccup) gym because of my elbows.”

“Why not? Did you talk to your instructors and see if you could modify? Do you think they would understand if you needed to take a breather or skip the things you couldn’t do? You see things as black-and-white, but they don’t have to be that way.

Living in the gray is not something that I can naturally do. I’m a go-getter, a perfectionist, a people pleaser, a goal setter, and an overcommitter (not a word, but it should be!)

Today I started making a list of the things that I do where a gray hue could exist.

Black- I make a fantastic meal to wow my whole family.
White- We eat cereal and I feel like garbage.
Gray- I start stocking up on a few convenience food items so I have a few nights off from cooking.

Black- I manage my time really well and feel productive.
White- I don’t work and watch Netflix, stressfully doing my deadline on the day of the project due date.
Gray- I work for a few hours and then let my body rest. I can come back to it the next morning because I plan ahead.

Black- I maintain a pristine home.
White- I let it go to hell in a handbag.
Gray- I try to pick up, but hire someone to help me clean every other week.

Black- I do everything because I am the only one who does everything the right way.
White- I can’t do everything so nothing gets done. I resent all the sloths in my home.
Gray- I make a list and ask everyone to help me. It isn’t the way I do it, but I have to be okay with that. THIS ONE IS HARD!

Black- I spend my week socializing with friends and get behind on my work.
White- I spend my week working at home alone feeling isolated.
Gray- I schedule more meaningful times with friends having coffee and still manage my work.

Black- I push through my pain so I can have an incredibly productive week.
White- I don’t do anything because I’m having a bad day.
Gray- I do what I can, but I don’t push through creating another setback for my life.

Black- My body feels great and I go to the gym.
White- My body doesn’t feel good so I sit on the couch all day.
Gray- My body doesn’t feel good, but I plan walks with family and friends. I get fresh air and keep my old joints moving.

You get the idea!

Pulling back the curtains is always humbling.

It also, I hope, makes me more human.

I share this because maybe I’m not the only one with black-and-white vision.

Perhaps, there is a whole new world waiting for you too in the gray.


April 2017 Must-Reads

May 1st, 2017

April 2017 Must-Reads from

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

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

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

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

10 Must-Read Books from April 2017

Setting Free the Kites by Alex George

Setting Free the Kites by Alex George

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

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

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

5 Out of 5 Stars

My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

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

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

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

5 Out of 5 Stars

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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

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

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

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

Reading Challenge Category Completed- A book that challenges a viewpoint

5 Out of 5 Stars

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zetner

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

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

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

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

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

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

4 Out of 5 Stars

Everything You Want Me to Be by Mindy Mejia

Everything You Want Me To Be by Mindy Mejia

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

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

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

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

4 Out of 5 Stars

Kindred by Octavia Butler

Kindred by Octavia Butler

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reading Challenge Category Completed- A book about time travel

5 Out of 5 Stars

The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve

The Stars are Fire by Anita Shreve

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

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

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

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

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

Reading Challenge Category Completed- A book about marriage

4 Out of 5 Stars

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

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

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

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

Reading Challenge Category Completed- A book written by a woman

3 Out of 5 Star

How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell

How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell

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

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

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

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

But, it isn’t that kind of book

And it isn’t that kind of ending.

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

Reading Challenge Category Completed- A book on mental illness

3 Out of 5 Stars

Desperation Road by Michael Farris Smith

Desperation Road by Michael Farris Smith

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

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

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

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

Reading Challenge Category Completed- Southern Gothic

4 Out of 5 Stars

Amy Allen Clark

Read With Me This Year:

January 2017 Must-Reads

February 2017 Must-Reads

March 2017 Must-Reads

April 2017 Must-Reads from

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

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Amy’s Notebook 04.26.17

April 26th, 2017

Maple Bacon Grilled Cheese

source: joy the baker

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

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

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

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

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

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

DIY Bouquet Tips

source: the house that lars built

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

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

This cheesy bruschetta chicken is going on my menu planner!

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

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

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

Easy Messy Top Bun

source: a beautiful mess

I love this twist on an easy messy top bun.

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

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

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

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

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