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…
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!
What is Your Favorite Book Genre?
Who Are Your Favorite Authors?
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 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 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
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
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
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
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!