The Virtual Librarian Experience: Fast Paced For A Patterson Lover

January 14th, 2016

The MomAdviceVirtual Librarian (2)

I really hope you are enjoying our fresh new series on the blog as I virtually select books for our readers. Today I am selecting books for a reader that loves a fast-paced thriller and I have to say that I have read a lot of these over the years. I think there is no greater pleasure than those especially when they keep me up until the wee hours of the morning trying to finish it.

I stay away from the big names that crank out the books that are often found on the bestsellers list because I love discovering new writers and sharing about them with you all. That might put me at a disadvantage since I can’t always speak to those writer’s styles that, but simply their genre. Fingers crossed I can still deliver on today’s selections despite not being as familiar with these writers as our reader is!

If you would like me to pick some books for you, just fill out this 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!

 

The Virtual Librarian Experience from MomAdvice.com

Reader Profile

Name?

Kelly

What is Your Favorite Book Genre?

Thrillers

Who Are Your Favorite Authors?

Stuart Woods, James Patterson, Carol O’Connell

harry-potter-series

What is Your Favorite Book of All-Time? 

The Harry Potter Series

What Do You Look for In a Book?

It must be fast paced.

The MomAdviceVirtual Librarian (2)

 

The Virtual Librarian Selects…

If there is one thing I REALLY love it is a fast-paced thriller. For me, thrillers often sound spectacular on their jackets and then end up missing the mark so I am REALLY choosy about this genre and few reach over a 3-star potential for me. That’s why I feel REALLY good about my choices for Kelly today. I also would love to introduce her to a new writer she may not have known about before so I am selecting a few fast-paced reads that have kept me up until the wee hours of the morning!

Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes

Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes

Into the Darkest Corner is just the book for you if you are looking for a book that you just can’t turn the pages fast enough and causes you to be groggy the next day because you just had to finish it!

Catherine Bailey is a young, single, and beautiful woman that catches the eye of a guy named Lee who is working at a nightclub one night that she is at one night with her friends. She is quickly taken in by him and she isn’t the only one. All of her friends seem just as smitten with Lee as she is.

While their relationship starts out with a passionate fury and a surprising attentiveness that Catherine has never experienced before, she soon realizes that there is also another darker side to Lee that, frankly, scares her. Lee continually is both physically and mentally abusive to Catherine and begins to wedge doubt of her own character by planting seeds in the minds of all of her friends who all begin to question Catherine’s own stability.

Four years later, Lee is behind bars and Catherine, who is now going under the name Cathy, has become a shell of her former self, and is riddled with obsessive compulsive disorder as well as post-traumatic stress disorder. Although she has no friends and no one to lean on, an unlikely relationship blossoms between herself and the her upstairs neighbor, Stuart. Just when she begins she thinks she can find happiness, Lee is released from prison and first on his agenda of people to visit….Cathy. What happens though when everyone believes you just have OCD and there really IS someone after you?

At several points I realized I was holding my breath because the book was so suspenseful as the character, Lee, is in pursuit of her. For those of you left wondering is there any life after Gone Girlthis book is for you.  This book is perfectly timed with a great story build of a woman before and after an abusive relationship came into her life.  
This is a fantastic read, but not for the faint of heart due to extreme violence and graphic sex scenes.  This is just as dark and twisted as Gone Girl,  but brings a level of suspense that I have been waiting a long time for in a book.
If Kelly isn’t faint of heart (ha!) and can handle the darkness in this one, then I think she will love this one for its quick pacing! 

The Bullet by Mary Louise Kelly

If you are looking for a fast page-turner of a book, this is it. This is a beautifully written mystery that echoes some of my favorite thrillers from Chevy Stevens. 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!

I have NO DOUBT that Kelly will love this one! After finishing it, I highly recommend our interview with Mary Louise Kelly to find out how she came up with such a creative concept for her storyline! 

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

 The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

The book opens with the following words, “I’ve been following her for the past few days. I know where she buys her groceries, where she has her dry cleaning done, where she works. I don’t know the color of her eyes or what they look like when she’s scared. But I will.”

Born to a prominent Chicago judge and his stifled socialite wife, Mia is unlike her parents in every way, content with her life as an inner-city school teacher. When she finds herself at a bar one night alone, after being stood up by her boyfriend,  she meets a guy. Her plans for a one-night stand turns into the worst mistake of her life.

I don’t want to say anymore because the beauty in this book is those plot twists you never see coming! This is such a strong debut novel from Kubica and I also loved her second thriller too, just in case you haven’t checked it out yet!

I am recommending this one to Kelly because I think the plot twists are stellar in it and the pacing is quick. After she finishes, Mary joined us in our Sundays With Writers series to talk about her debut as a writer! 

Defending Jacob by William Landay

Defending Jacob by William Landay

Legal thrillers aren’t usually my cup of tea, but I REALLY loved this one and I think Kelly will too!

Andy Barber has been a district attorney for over twenty years. He is well respected and knows how to command the courtroom. When a murder happens at his son’s school, he is among the first on the scene and is ready to help bring vindication to the murderer.

What Andy never suspects is that his own son is the one who is charged with the murder. Andy is removed from the case when all clues begin to point towards his son. Andy doesn’t want to believe that his son could commit such a heinous crime, but as mounting evidence points towards Jacob, he is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Does he hide the evidence he finds that he knows that the police might be after or let the justice system decide the fate of his child?

Part family drama, part thriller, I could not put this book down. My heart ached for this family who is now ostracized from their friends and coworkers, while the other part of me ached that Jacob would be proven guilty of the crime. The reader will be taken on a wild ride from start to finish with this book. It is a twisty ending that will leave you breathless.

Whatever you do, add this deeply moving book to your list. I highly recommend this read for book clubs because it gives readers a chance to think what they might do to protect their child.

I think this will be a variation on the typical thriller I would recommend for Kelly and found it to be REALLY compelling with some great twists! 

Hush Little Baby by Suzanne Redfearn

Hush Little Baby by Suzanne Redfearn

Hush Little Baby is the story of a woman named Jillian Kane who has the life that she always dreamed of. She is a successful businesswoman, she has two beautiful kids, she wants for nothing financially, and her husband is a well-respected cop who every woman wish she had. Jillian is living with a secret though.  For nine years, her husband has abused her and he is calculating enough to abuse her in ways that no one would ever suspect that she is a victim.

When things escalate too far, Jillian decides to run away from him with her two kids. Unfortunately, she has no money, no plan, and no one that she can turn to.  It is in this most pivotal moment of her life that she develops unlikely friendships and learns to finally save herself and her kids. Her husband though, is a cop and is determined to do everything in his power to get his children back…and kill her.

I could not put this book down because I was so worried about Jillian and her kids. For two days, every moment I had, I was reading this to make sure that they could get to safety. When I say that I had my heart all wrapped up in this one, it would not be an understatement.

I have a feeling that Kelly will love this well-paced psychological thriller and recommend reading this interview with Suzanne Redfearn about her book after she is done! 

What would you pick out for Kelly 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 01.13.16

January 13th, 2016

Knitting Station via Whipperberry

Source: Whipperberry

 

What a cozy knitting station!

Easy homemade ramen- this looks so good.

Take a 30-day capsule wardrobe challenge!

A round-up of reading challenges for 2016.

3 ways to be more grateful in the new year.

The foolproof way to roast any vegetable.

I just joined this feminist book club. I can’t wait to see the selections!

Colorful Stairs via Design Mom

Source: Design Mom

 

I love a home with unexpected color.

5 steps to inspire kids to love books more than screens.

Why Making a Murderer is more important than church.

It doesn’t matter whether Steven Avery did it…compelling piece.

8 ways to wear a gingham button up.

Inspiring ways to develop a better morning routine.

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!

Transitioning Your Holiday Decor

January 11th, 2016

Transitioning Your Holiday Decor from MomAdvice.com

This post is sponsored on behalf of BHG at Walmart.

Now that the holidays are behind us, it is the natural time for many to declutter and organize their spaces . I am partnering up with the BHG Live Better Network to show you some tips for transitioning your holiday decor and adding some organization to a hutch or any open shelving unit in your home.

Transitioning Your Holiday Decor from MomAdvice.com

Here is what my hutch looked like before I added some thoughtful winter touches. I got this hutch  from a thrift store many, many years ago for less than $100, painted it black, and spray painted the handles all on the same day I got it. It was my first DIY, before that was even a thing here, and I loved this piece because it gave me confidence to try painting furniture.

I often think of repainting it in a fresh color or doing something with the backs of those shelves, but for now it serves its most important purpose as extra storage in our home. My kitchen is smaller and I was always struggling with space to prepare our meals on my counters. Relocating our microwave, coffeepot, coffee cups, and fruit bowl help keep my counters clear and made this piece a true workhorse in my kitchen.

As far as decorating goes?

I never have!

That said, these long months after the holidays can feel a little barren with decor and I wanted to make this a little more decorative while still making the most of storage.

Transitioning Your Holiday Decor from MomAdvice.com

I got some little houses and trees from the holiday section of our local Walmart store and added these for decoration, got a beautiful fruit basket (available in stores only) to allow the oranges to bring more color to this set-up,  got plate stands (over by the photo frames) to display my Better Homes & Gardens metallic plates, and added a decorative wood top jar to house my homemade cocoa mix nestled next to a jar of snowy white marshmallows.

The side of our coffeepot got a sprinkle of family photos with a little washi tape. I later discovered this side is also magnetic so now my daily to-do list hangs there too!

Transitioning Your Holiday Decor from MomAdvice.com

Transitioning Your Holiday Decor from MomAdvice.com

Transitioning Your Holiday Decor from MomAdvice.com

 

These affordable and simple additions will help me power through these winter months and then I will tuck them away to be used again next year. Mini trees and houses are perfect for adding a sprinkle of beauty to any bookcase or shelf.  Be sure to check out all the great organization and storage solutions that Better Homes & Gardens offers at Walmart as you ready your home for another winter season!

 

Live-Better-Network-Badge

In accordance with the FTC Guidelines, I am disclosing that I received compensation from BHG at Walmart for my time and participation in the BHG Live Better Network. Although we have material connection to BHG, any publicly stated opinions of BHG and their products remain my own.

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Sundays With Writers: Bird Box by Josh Malerman

January 10th, 2016

Sundays With Writers

I am so excited to be sharing our first Sundays With Writers of 2016 with such a special writer today. You know I am all about embracing all the book genres so I am VERY excited to share an interview with Josh Malerman who penned Bird Box, our first horror novel featured on the site.  This book is building so much buzz for a lot of reasons you will discover through this interview, but it also has received incredible reviews from readers too. Just look at those reviews and tell me it doesn’t make you want to snag a copy for yourself!

If you are good friends with me you know that I love a good scare. Horror flicks (scary not gory) are my jam! I only recently discovered that I get this from my Dad and now anytime a good one comes out, we go and get the heck scared out of ourselves together. I don’t have to to worry though because MY DAD is there to protect me.

Horror books though just haven’t captivated my attention as much until I read this gem of a book and the more I read about the story behind his success, the more I wanted him to pull up a virtual chair at my kitchen table and share about his book with you.

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Malerman succeeds in writing a perfectly gripping and creepy psychological page-turner. With the creatures lurking, a woman and her two children try to flee to safety blindfolded along a river. If they see what is lurking, they die a horrific death inflicting pain upon themselves to stop seeing the horrors of what they have seen. Interweaving past (pre-creatures) and present (a post-creature world), you go along on a horrific ride as Malorie tries to save herself and her children blindfolded, never knowing what is lurking around every turn.

I am recommending you dig into this one, particularly if you are a Hitchcock fan like me- I just know it is a book he would have loved and would have wanted to create into a film. You will also really love it if you love classic Stephen King or if you enjoyed The Girl With All the Gifts as much as I did. Do yourself a favor and read this one so we can talk about it!

I included this book in our November/December Must-Reads list last month and I am still thinking about it since I shut it. That’s the power of a great book, I tell you!

Now grab your coffee and let’s chat with Josh about his delightfully creepy book, Bird Box.

Josh-Malerman

You are our first author joining us who has written in the Horror genre so I am particularly thrilled to introduce Bird Box to our readers and a completely different genre that I love. How did you come up with this terrifying concept of Infinity and what about it do you think terrifies your readers the most?

Strange germination; long ago (back before I had a personality of my own), an elementary school teacher mentioned that (ahem) “a man might go mad if he were to contemplate infinity.” Every word of this admonition worried me and I have a very strong memory of sitting in the carpeted hall as Mom and Dad got ready to go out… worrying that I might accidentally “contemplate” infinity. Many years late I found myself with an exciting image; a mother and two children are rowing down a river blindfolded… why? What are they fleeing? I didn’t think about it long, the words of said teacher returned, and I had myself a book.

Hitchcock's, The Birds

One of my greatest fears is birds. It’s a deep fear because my mother terrified me of diseases if I picked up feathers and then the fear was solidified after I watched Hitchcock’s, The Birds. I understand you let your pet finches fly around freely around you while writing this book in a pretty unique location. Can you tell us about that so I can have more nightmares?

I’d love to give you more nightmares. Yes, I had five finches and I felt very bad about keeping them locked up, so I left the door to their cage open. It’s not as messy as you might imagine; you get to know their haunts and you lay newspaper below. I was renting the third floor of a magnificent home in Detroit’s Boston-Edison (this is where Motown singers once lived; Berry Gordy had a place; Mark Twain built one of the homes for his daughter), so there was all kinds of ballroom space for the birds to fly. With Bird Box I woke up at 7AM each day, got to work by about 8AM, and wrapped it up by noon. The birds were really active in those hours, constant fly bys, until they eventually landed in the story itself.

You wrote 15 novels before Bird Box was picked up by a publishing house. Do you think that the success of this novel will allow some of your other pieces of work to finally be published? Had you pursued getting these published before or was this your first time trying to get your book out in the world?

I didn’t shop the other books for no reason other than I was completely satisfied with writing one, then moving on to the next. Partly I didn’t know what to do with a manuscript and partly I was touring with the band, writing novels in the passenger seat, and just didn’t see the rising stack of novels with desperation in my eyes. This is not to say it was/is a hobby, it most certainly is not, but for who-knows-why I was content with knowing they existed and nothing more. Now that Bird Box is out I plan to release all 24 of the other books I’ve written. Every last word. To me, they’re all episodes of the same show; Bird Box just felt like a good debut after I’d met the people who could bring her to a publishing house.

This book has been compared to some of Stephen King’s classic novels and I would dare say it feels a little like some of Hitchcock’s creepier works. Do you have any authors or filmmakers that have inspired you as a writer and has this genre always intrigued you?

Oh yeah… I’ve been a horror fan all my life. And because of that, this question is very hard to answer. I love so many of them for so many reasons, but since you asked I’ll tell you that I did go on a real Hitchcock tear after I wrote Bird Box, watched twenty or so of his movies and really started to sink into his world. I loved him. I love Stephen King, too. Charles Beaumont. Richard Matheson. Dan Simmons. Robert McCammon. Kathe Koja. John Skipp. This list gets big fast with me, as it does with most horror lovers. I think we’re all very open minded and will read just about anything that passes through the genre… because you just don’t know. And we’re all looking for that thrill, constantly, and are willing to read things that fall short of that on the way and/or are able to find exciting peaks in books that other people might think are flat.

Are you a horror movie lover as well or just a reader of horror fiction? Can you share some of your favorite films for us to check out after we read Bird Box?

Yeah sure. The first scary movie I saw was Twilight Zone: the Movie. Blew my mind straight up the middle. The Anthony skit, where the boy can do anything with his imagination; so good. The Invisible Man, the original, is crazy and features a Heath Ledger-Joker-esque villain in the title role. It’s one of my favorites. Hitchcock’s Rope is magic.

The ending made the story feel open to a sequel. Do you think we will be able to continue along on this journey with the survivors? Oh, and you can only say yes….

Yes. Or… no. You know what… there are too many ideas right now to spend another year in this world. But that doesn’t mean I’m against returning. Just… not yet.

Andy Muschietti

I read the exciting news that we can expect a movie and that the film was optioned by Universal for six figures back in 2013 when it was only in the manuscript stage! As a writer, can you explain how that happened so early and what will your involvement be in the film?

Universal Studios optioned it, yeah. And you know, I changed some of that manuscript before publication but it’s made its way into the script! So, that’s pretty wild because the book will be different than the movie but I may be responsible for some of those differences despite not writing the script myself. Crazy. The whole thing is nuts, really, and exciting, but I don’t wanna think about it too much. You know what I mean? I wanna keep my mind on the books and if the movie gains traction, is green-lit, starts to roll, then I’ll have the biggest smile in the room.

The High Strungs

source: paste magazine

I also understand that you have quite the juggle with being a musician (in The High Strung) and a writer. As a creative, how do you make time for both of these in your life particularly when you are on tour? How excited were the others in the band about this book being published?

Well we haven’t done much touring since the book deal and I understand that’s mostly my fault. I haven’t written any new songs! And this is something I used to ponder all the time; take a band like the Beatles. People adored them from the get-go, heralded as geniuses long before they actually imagined their genius works of art, they’re middle and later albums. So what happened there? Was the world right? Did the world predict this greatness? Surely they didn’t suspect Sergeant Peppers after hearing “Love Me Do,” right? So maybe they’re achievements have something to do with the encouragement the whole world gave them. You see? In other words; would they have written the White Album without this zany global support? I’m not sure. And I’m experiencing that phenomenon in a different way, but by the same rules: I’m focusing so much of my attention on the books and it’s probably because many people are encouraging me to do so whether they really mean to or not. And the songs have suffered as a result. I’m okay with that, but I need to check my soul (in a manner of speaking) and make sure I’m addressing both and if I’m not addressing both it better be for good, noble reasons.

Since you are a fast producer of words, how many books have you written since Bird Box and any expectations on what you might be publishing next?

The next book is coming out early 2017. Sounds like a long time and it is. I’m working hard on fixing that scenario and I’ll have it righted by then. Regarding how many books: the total is something close to 25 books now and like I said earlier, I see them all as episodes of the same television show, my own Outer Limits, and so the way I see it I’ve probably written the first two seasons by now.

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)

The Howling Man(TOR 1988) Charles Beaumont. It’s got about 30 of his short stories and for those who don’t know him… hang on tight; you’re about to feel a tidal wave of wonder wash over you.

You can connect with Josh Malerman on 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!
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It’s the 3 Little Things: True Crime, Sir Mix A Lot, & Cozy Legs

January 8th, 2016

Christmas Eve

As much as I enjoyed my break, it has felt weird to not share here! Can I say that we had the best Christmas ever? Not only did we have fun with both sides of our family on Christmas Eve, but we had a really untraditional and fantastic Christmas Day, just us four. That day involved playing hours and hours of Just Dance 2016 and then gorging ourselves on a sushi dinner called THE OCEAN PLATTER intended for 4 people, but ate by just my husband and I while our kids slurped calamari. We certainly are a weird bunch.

We did ask if we could get our names on the wall or something for the ridiculous amount of food we ate, but apparently it was only a big event for us and must be quite common in our town. We still felt proud!

You Serious Clark T-Shirt

I also showed up to the Clark Christmas wearing this shirt (be sure to size up if you are buying it)  from this famous movie scene. It seemed like a great shirt for the Clark Christmas, don’t you think? It will be my new favorite holiday pajama shirt now because it makes me laugh.

I also consumed way too much good food, snuck in almost four books, binged repeatedly on Netflix, and got to try a load of new classes at my gym since we weren’t on a tight schedule. Overall, GREAT stuff and a lovely break from the hustle and bustle of our typical weeks.  I dove into this book this week and I am LOVING it. Have you read it yet?

Here are three other things I enjoyed this week!

Baby Got Book Tote

Baby Got Book Tote

I sure do love a good book bag for my library trips and got this Baby Got Book Tote after adding it to my Christmas wish list this year from my in-laws.  How funny is that? I certainly loaded it up a few times over break and I can attest that not only is it funny, but it has a big bottom…I’m not lying. I’m dead serious. It stands up on its own and is the perfect library book bag for a book hoarder like me! I highly recommend it for your favorite book lover! ($19.99)

Netflix Making a Murderer

A True Crime Addiction

When I was growing up, my parents regularly watched Unsolved Mysteries.  Since indulging in last season’s Serial, I have found a new love for discussing and learning about true crime cases.  People were chattering about the Netflix Making a Murderer documentary in our MomAdvice Hangout group over the holidays so I thought I would dive into that over my break.

There are no words for my frustration and sadness for both of these families that the case centers around. I don’t want to give too many details away, but Steven Avery was wrongfully convicted of a crime that he spent many years in jail for and then goes after the police for wrongfully convicting him to receive a settlement. Two years later, he has to stand trial again and is accused of murder by the same people he sued. There is a lot of shadiness going on that you see over and over again as the series unfolds and it was super frustrating to witness. It led to a lot of dinner discussions between my husband and I about these two families.

It also sheds light on things that I felt like I read about so much in Bryan Stevenson’s, Just Mercy, and what happens when our judicial system fails those who are unable to help themselves.

The Jinx

Once I finished this series, my husband and I rented, The Jinxa six part miniseries that focused on Robert Durst and the his possible involvement in three murders. If you haven’t watched it, it’s absolutely fascinating from beginning to end and binge-worthy about the life and deaths of Robert Durst.  I now want to watch All Good Things (also available on Netflix) that was based upon Durst’s life too.

Not only is the whole case absolutely bizarre and unbelievable, but you find yourself sympathizing so much with Durst from things that happened in his childhood and his struggles with having such a well-known family. Just when you think you have it figured out, the last episode leaves you reeling with some crazy clues and confessions that will just blow your mind. We were able to snag this from the local library and I can’t recommend it enough for true crime fans. It was really well done and worthy of your time.

Free People Marled Legwarmers

Cozy Legs

I love to wear capri pants to the gym (I scored a few pairs that were gently used off of thredUP now that they sell activewear), but I hate to run errands in them in the colder months because my legs freeze to death. My sister-in-law got me these Free People Marled Legwarmers and they are so awesome for throwing on over my workout capris to keep my legs warm while I am out running around after class. The fabric is super soft, warm, and I like the neutral colors of them. I can’t recommend these enough for a way to stay cozy after working out in the winter!  ($24)

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

Now it’s your turn! What’s making you happy this week?

 

The Virtual Librarian Experience: It’s All About the Characters for a Kingsolver Lover

January 7th, 2016

The Virtual Librarian Experience from MomAdvice.com

I am so excited to be unveiling a new feature on MomAdvice this year. The main features that many of our readers come here for are the book reviews and to check out the stories behind the stories in our Sundays With Writers series. As a ferocious reader,  I have reviewed hundreds of books on here, but so many of these reviews for incredible books have sunk to the bottom of our archives and I just have not found a way to bring them back to life…

Until now.

Welcome to the MomAdvice Virtual Librarian series! I have created a quick questionnaire you can fill out to share with me a little about your reading tastes, your favorite authors, and what you look for in a good book. I will act as your virtual librarian to create a list of suggestions for you that I think you will enjoy based on books and authors you already love. My hope is to pair you with a book that may have never been on your radar and it will give the books that I have loved over the years a time to shine again on the site. My favorite thing in the world to do is to share good books with friends so this is a way that I can do that for you and share it with our readers in the process.

If you would like me to pick some books for you, just fill out this 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!

I put this questionnaire together and asked my own Facebook friends if they would fill it out so we could get a solid start on our series. 30 people have submitted questionnaires so I am excited to start diving in and pairing readers with new books this year. I will answer your requests in the order they are received and send you an email with a link to my responses when your turn comes up. At times, this series may be a substitute for our favorite things list when nothing really is standing out to me as something to share for the week. I always want to be honest with my favorites and sometimes I don’t buy/do/use anything worth mentioning so I would rather not force it and keep the consistency true. I think this will be a great substitution for those quieter weeks!

The Virtual Librarian Experience from MomAdvice.com

Reader Profile

Name?

Helen

What is Your Favorite Book Genre?

Fiction

Who Are Your Favorite Authors?

Barbara Kingsolver, Robert B. Parker, Diane Chamberlain, Suzanne Collins, Diana Gabaldon, Anne LaMott

Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver

What is Your Favorite Book of All-Time? 

Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver

What Do You Look for In a Book?

It’s all about the characters

The MomAdviceVirtual Librarian (2)

 

The Virtual Librarian Selects…

Helen has such a wide range in personal taste, but you can instantly tell that she loves a good storyteller. I have read most of the authors she has listed and have enjoyed books by them so I feel pretty confident in making some good recommendations for strong storytellers that I think she will love.

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

 

The Stories Life of A.J. Fikry

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island-from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.’s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.

And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore that changes his life forever…

This story is enchanting from start to finish. This book is a must-read for book lovers as it references so many of my favorite books and centers around a little bookshop in a seaside town. I could not put this one down and, truly, did not want the story of these beautiful characters to end.

I think Helen would love this book because it is a book that really targets the heart of a true book lover and storyteller and is very character driven, which is something you can tell she really loves.

The Orphans of Race Point by Patry Francis

The Orphans of Race Point by Patry Francis

This book is absolutely stunning from start to finish. It was filled with words that begged to be read again because they felt like poetry to me.  It is a  beautifully woven story with big moral messages about love, forgiveness, and redemption. The plot twists? I never saw them coming, which happens rarely when you are an avid reader like I am.

Set in the close-knit Portuguese community of Provincetown, Massachusetts, The Orphans of Race Point traces the relationship between Hallie Costa and Gus Silva, who meet as children in the wake of a terrible crime that leaves Gus parentless. Their friendship evolves into an enduring and passionate love that will ask more of them than they ever imagined.

On the night of their high school prom, a terrible tragedy devastates their relationship and profoundly alters the course of their lives. And when, a decade later, Gus—now a priest—becomes entangled with a distraught woman named Ava and her daughter Mila, troubled souls who bring back vivid memories of his own damaged past, the unthinkable happens: he is charged with murder. Can Hallie save the man she’s never stopped loving, by not only freeing him from prison but also—finally—the curse of his past?

Told in alternating voices, The Orphans of Race Point illuminates the transformative power of love and the myriad ways we find meaning in our lives.

The author is just as fabulous as this book so be sure to read my interview with her after you finish it- her story of becoming an author is REALLY inspiring and made me appreciate this beautiful book even more!

I am recommending this one for Helen because of her love for Diane Chamberlain. I am a huge fan of her writing and found The Orphans of Race Point to be as compelling as some of  Chamberlain’s stronger novels!

Heft by Liz Moore

Heft by Liz Moore

This is a novel that can be appreciated by all people and is a story that leaves you rooting for some of the most unlikely characters in the most unlikely friendships. I consider this book to be storytelling at its finest, yet, this one really went under the radar when it came out,  making it a great hidden gem for Helen.

Eighteen years ago, Arthur had a promising career as a professor, and loved his work. He is now  a 58 year-old man who cannot leave his home due to his incredible size of 500 pounds. Since 2001 he has managed to stay within the confines of his home relying on services like grocery and food deliveries that can be ordered from his own computer. He has no friends, no family, and the only bit of human contact he receives are letters occasionally sent to him from his old student, Charlene Turner.

When Charlene contacts Arthur, out of the blue, to see if he will help her with her son Kel Keller and offer guidance to him to help him, Arthur hires a cleaning service to help him get his house back in shape. His house is a place that has been grossly neglected because Arthur has lost the will and lacks the energy to clean it, due to his size. When a young 19 year-old Yolanda shows up on his doorstep, he can never know how this will change his life. An unlikely friendship unfolds and brings new purpose to Arthur’s life that he never expects.

The author not only takes you through Arthur’s difficulties in his life, but the story of Kel and his mother Chelsea alternate in these chapters as you see the difficulties that this young man has had to overcome and will leave you begging for the happy ending that this boy so deserves.

Beautifully written and great stories that are woven together in such a way that you can vividly picture each of these characters and feel their stories resonate in your own heart. I think Helen would have a hard time putting this one down because of these compelling characters Moore has created.

11/22/63 by Stephen King

11/22/63 by Stephen King

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

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

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

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

I am selecting this one for Helen because of her love for Diana Gabaldon and her writing on time travel (and apparently her love for big books). I think she would find this one to be another fantastic time travel escape!

Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg

Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg

On the eve of her daughter’s wedding, June Reid’s life is completely devastated when a shocking disaster takes the lives of her daughter, her daughter’s fiancé, her ex-husband, and her boyfriend, Luke—her entire family, all gone in a moment. And June is the only survivor.

Alone and directionless, June drives across the country, away from her small Connecticut town. In her wake, a community emerges, weaving a beautiful and surprising web of connections through shared heartbreak.

Clegg ambitiously illuminates how interwoven we are as people in this beautiful and haunting story of a town tragedy and the people left behind. Although the sheer amount of characters that share in each of the chapters (some once, other main characters more often) is confusing to piece together as a reader, you become a detective as each person is woven into another.

The grief-stricken mothers left behind leave you with an ache in your own heart and are written so beautifully they feel real. You are also reminded that even in chance meetings with others you can play a powerful part in someone else’s story. This is, by far,  one of the best books I have read this year!

Don’t miss my interview with Bill Clegg about his haunting book and process for creating this gorgeous story!

I am suggesting this one for Helen because it focuses on an entire town of characters with smart layering of each one in the story and how this tragedy affects them. Since it’s all about the characters with her, this ambitious book would be fantastic for her! 

What would you pick out for Helen 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 01.06.16

January 6th, 2016

Read more this year via Modern Mrs. Darcy

Source: Modern Mrs. Darcy

 

Seven simple ways to read more this year.

Oh, this cowl is gorgeous!

The joy of experiences over things. YES.

The joy of choosing one word for the year. Do you have one?

The best pieces of culture we watched, read and listened to in 2015. Be sure to read the comments for more ideas!

Don’t forget to give thanks.

A big bow DIY with no sewing required!

2016 Goals via Elise Blaha

Source: Elise Blaha

 

Inspiring goals for a new year.

How to read an entire book in a single day.

Have a plain brown paper package? Here’s a few ideas how to dress it up!

Why not try a 30-day shop your closet challenge to try out a capsule wardrobe? So smart!

13 best Google Chrome life hacks.

Snowfall crochet mittens – what a cozy design!

Top 10 mistakes we make when grocery shopping – and how to fix them.

10 ways your freezer can make everyday cooking easier.

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!

3 Ways to Find More Joy This Year

January 5th, 2016

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

3 Steps to Finding More Joy (4)

No matter how many posts and articles I read (or write) about not making New Year’s resolutions and setting realistic goals and starting a new diet (or organizational system or meal plan or reading challenge) on any day other than Monday, I can’t help but start the first day of the first week of the first month of the new year with some degree of expectation.

When I woke up yesterday, I literally began the day with a smile on my face. And, as anyone who’s ever witnessed my reluctant rising can tell you, this night owl does NOT usually wake up happy! But it was a big day, the first “real” day in the new year! A day full of so much opportunity, a day destined for fresh starts and productivity and greatness.

Except, as it turned out, it was just another day.

Another MONDAY at that.

I had to remind my older daughter 17 times to brush her hair and her teeth – and to put her empty banana peel in the trash can, please and thank you. I had to change my toddler’s diaper and convince her that wearing her coat was a good idea, given the 20-degree air blowing around outside. I put on my sunglasses as we walked out the door, only to take them off again when I realized it was actually quite cloudy. And as I backed out of the driveway, I noticed that the recycling truck had knocked over our trash can, spilling bags of garbage all over the street and yard.

It was just another day. Another day we have chores and arguments and projects and appointments, another day with clouds and trash and cat hair and dirty dishes.

But you know what? It was also another day full of beauty and hope and joy. It was another opportunity to choose my outlook, to determine my attitude, to make a difference – even if it’s just for me, even if it’s just for a moment.

See, I believe that we can find joy – true joy! the kind that can’t be stolen by cloudy skies or spilled garbage (literal or figurative) – every single day of the year. I believe it’s possible and even necessary for our mental health and our relationships and our productivity and success. And I believe that just a few simple steps can help us find a whole lot more of this crucial, beautiful joy this year.

3 Steps to Finding More Joy (1)

3 Steps to Finding More Joy in 2016

1. SAVOR YOUR MOMENTS.

My friend Sara said once that moments are her favorite things. Not Oreos or the fifth Harry Potter book or the color purple or spicy queso, but moments. Much as I love all those other things, I’d have to agree. After all, capturing and savoring moments is why I used to scrapbook years ago – and why I love Facebook now. It’s why forgetting my camera is reason for turning the car around, no matter how far from home I’ve driven.

And it’s why I’ve been known to tear up at random times when I look around and realize this – THIS! – is beautiful. This life, this family, this conversation, this laughter. Even when it’s loud or messy or awkward or weird, a moment sometimes strikes me as so beautiful that I can’t contain my ridiculous tears.

Every day – the regular days, the cloudy days, the hardest days – has sweet moments. Even on days that come with banana peels and mountains of laundry and overdue bills, we can find something to savor.So when you’re struggling to find a silver lining or a glass half full of anything, look for those moments: your favorite song on the radio, the first sip of that cold tea or hot coffee, baby giggles or a side hug from a tween, rain showers or sunsets, an encouraging text message or inspiring quote posted on Facebook at just the right time.

Find those moments – and then savor them. Take a mental picture, close your eyes and bask in the joy for a few seconds, and save it for the next “just another day.”

3 Steps to Finding More Joy (2)

2. EXPRESS YOUR GRATITUDE.

I know, I know, this is nothing new! When she writes about how listing out the things we’re thankful for can be truly life-changing, Ann Voskamp boils it down to this: “Being joyful isn’t what makes you grateful. Being grateful is what makes you joyful.” Just like that – even when it’s hard to find something to be thankful for.

Sara, my friend I mentioned earlier (and, as it happens, my co-author in a book about joy), suffered from an extremely painful, debilitating disease. And yet, throughout her life, she learned to choose joy anyway. She wrote about that after spending another Thanksgiving holiday alone:

“I’m not in the least bit bothered to be here alone on the holiday of gratitude, because it’s the same as any other day. I am simply grateful. I appreciate my life because it’s the one God has given to me, and I don’t want to waste a moment of it wishing for anything else.”

She was simply grateful – every day, good or bad, no matter what. Wow! Personally, I’m still working on making that kind of gratitude such an ingrained habit. But I believe we can take strides toward this in 2016.

Perhaps for you it will help to keep a written journal of your thankfulness. Or maybe, like me, you need to commit to verbally thanking someone each and every day. I try to send my husband a text message every night before bed (he works nights), thanking him for something – even on days we argue, even on days we don’t see eye to eye. The habit of gratitude that leads to an attitude of joy is something I’m pursuing big time this year.

3 Steps to Finding More Joy (3)

3. MAKE YOUR CHOICE.

Sara’s and my book is called, Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts. It was named after Sara’s mantra and mission: choose joy. That’s what she named her blog, and it’s what she painted on a wall in her condo. When she shared a picture of that painting, she pointed out that the biggest word, the most important part wasn’t JOY; it was CHOOSE.

If we’re going to make this year different than the last one, we have to make a choice. We have to choose to pursue joy, just like we will commit to health and love and hard work and fun. We must make a choice. We must draw a line in the sand, step over it and never look back. No matter what 2016 brings us, it will bring us moments of joy and opportunities for gratitude.

Let’s choose to find them and savor them – and to enjoy the beautiful picture they create!

Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts by Sara Frankl and Mary Carver was released by the Hachette Book Group in 2016. It is a must-have for those searching for meaning and beauty in a world full of tragedy. Sara’s words breathe with vitality and life, and her stories will inspire smiles, tears, and the desire to choose joy. To learn more about CHOOSE JOY, visit TheChooseJoyBook.com.

 

Lemon Paprika Chicken

January 4th, 2016

Lemon Paprika Chicken from MomAdvice.com.

I’m back!! The holiday break was so good for my family and my soul. I trust that you all had a wonderful holiday season too!  It always surprises me how good a break is for getting my creative wheels turning again. I found myself back in the kitchen again over this break and enjoying a slowed down supper or two with my family. I found myself with piles of cookbooks from the library and a new desire to create in my kitchen again.

Our MomAdvice Hangout group has been a really great place to chat with you all about what you are looking for in the upcoming year especially when it comes to food. Two things really stood out to me. 1) You struggle with keeping the grocery budgets down and the eating out to a minimum (ME TOO!) and 2) You are hoping to be inspired to get in the kitchen with a better plan in place (ME TOO!)

With that in mind, today’s meal is for a lemon paprika chicken that our whole family absolutely loved thanks to its light and lively lemon sauce that will be making its way into our weekly rotation.

The reason I really loved it though was that ALDI had marked down their meat that day and I was able to purchase eight chicken thighs for about $4.19. That was enough to feed my family of 4 and have a couple of lunches for another day in our refrigerator. With the accompaniment of a simple potato side (coming soon!), we had the makings for a truly affordable meal.

Lemon Paprika Chicken from MomAdvice.com.

I have always thought chicken breasts were best, but the chicken thigh meat has become our new family favorite after finally mastering the technique of getting a perfect thigh thanks to the inspiration from Damn Delicious in her Garlic Brown Sugar Chicken. Why is meat we haven’t worked with before so intimidating? With all the tools I have at my fingertips, I can admit that I was scared of chicken thighs until I tried her roasting technique and now we eat chicken thighs weekly.

Her technique of browning the meat in butter yields a crispy skin and then throwing it in the oven to roast creates a chicken that is bursting with flavor. While the chicken roasts, I typically add a rotation of other roasted veggies on a cookie sheet or add a quick steam bag of baby peas and a jar of applesauce for times when the cupboard is more lean. These have become my go-to when entertaining and are always a hit with dinner guests.

If you haven’t given the chicken thigh a chance before, you are missing out on the big M word (I will not say it, I won’t…you know that word.). White meat can be very dry and lacking in flavor, this is the opposite of that and I will let you think on that word that I am referencing now.

Once you master that technique the possibilities with a pan sauce are endless and I have made these so often now that it takes me just a few minutes to pull everything together and I have the kitchen cleaned by the time the chicken is done roasting. A one pan dish that is affordable and yields great leftovers? Sign me up!

Lemon Paprika Chicken from MomAdvice.com.

My husband hates a heavy-handed lemon taste, but agreed that this was just the right amount of citrus in this recipe. The lemon not only adds depth to the flavoring, but it helps to tenderize the meat. The smoky paprika adds an additional layer of flavoring that perfectly compliments this sauce. I love that these humble ingredients can bring such a complex and balanced flavor to the chicken. Humble, affordable, and impressive…that’s a winner in our book.

I hope this dish inspires you to give that chicken thigh a try because it will save you a lot of money if you have been buying chicken breasts and I often find these marked down at our store. Bone-in is my personal preference for the word that shall not be said.

These reheat beautifully too so be sure to pack a few away in microwavable containers to keep the cost of lunches down!

Lemon Paprika Chicken from MomAdvice.com.

Lemon Paprika Chicken
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-6 servings
 
An easy one-pot dish that makes a great weeknight meal or is impressive enough to entertain your dinner guests with!
Ingredients
  • 6-8 bone-in chicken thighs
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Zest & juice of one lemon
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced, divided
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a mixing bowl mix together olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika, thyme, lemon zest, lemon juice, and two minced garlic cloves.
  3. In a resealable bag, pour these ingredients into the bag with the chicken thighs, rubbing the mixture evenly over all the chicken. Refrigerate for two hours.
  4. Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet.
  5. Add chicken and, cooking over medium heat, brown the chicken on both sides; about 3 minutes per side.
  6. Remove chicken from skillet and set aside.
  7. Add remaining minced garlic to the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, for one minute. Do not burn the garlic. Carefully whisk in wine to the skillet and cook for one more minute.
  8. Transfer chicken back to skillet and roast uncovered in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until done.
  9. Serve chicken with the wine sauce spooned over it and garnished with additional parsley.

 Adapted from Diethood

 

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See You in 2016

December 22nd, 2015

Happy Holidays!

We hope you have a wonderful, wonderful holiday season! I am planning to take a much-needed break to rest, read, and love on my people. We are so thankful for your continued love and support of this site and our family.  In January, we will be celebrating 12 years of this funny made-up job and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Sending all of our love as you celebrate all the things! xoxo