Posts Tagged ‘Book Club Picks’

What The World’s Top Authors Say You Should Be Reading (Updated WEEKLY!)

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

What You Should be Reading According to Today's Top Writers (Updated Weekly)

When I started the Sundays With Writers series, I had no idea how beautifully it would blossom and how happy it would make me.  I decided to have one question that I would always end with when interviewing our authors. It was this…

If you could tell anyone to read one book right now (other than your own) what would that book be?

Since I started asking that, I have discovered and read books that would have never found their way into my book pile. Of course, browsing through the entire series to find their answers can be a bit tedious so I am putting all of these responses into one post that I encourage you to bookmark, pin, and share with others as this will be updated weekly as we feature the gifted writers in our Sundays With Writers interview series.

If you wanted to read more about each of the authors that have shared their recommendations, a link is provided to our interview about their incredible books. There is a reason they have been featured and you will discover why when you open their books. It has been my honor to interview each of these incredible voices.  

What I have discovered is, if I really like a book that they recommend…chances are, that author is going to be a GREAT one to read since there is usually a reason why they are in love with a writer’s words.

Without further adieu, here are the books that the world’s top authors say you should be reading!

Please note, this file will now be updated after each Sundays With Writers. The list will start moving down from now on so the latest book will now be at the top. Keep this bookmarked for your library list!

Please also note, these are affiliate links.  A small portion of your sales goes to support the work we do at MomAdvice.com. Please follow me on GoodReads for more great book recommendations!  xo

Room by Emma Donoghue

Read It: Room by Emma Donoghue

Recommended By: Chris Bohjalian

What makes this novel so remarkable is not merely how authentically Donoghue captures the voice of a five-year-old boy, but the deft way she slowly conveys the horrific reality of a mother and son’s captivity. If you want a poignant, powerful novel about a mother’s desperate love for her child, it doesn’t get better than this.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

 

Read It: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Recommended by: Rene Denfeld & Kristin Harmel

Rene says- Oh, that is a tough one, because there are so many wonderful books. I just read All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. It was stunning.

Kristin says-  All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I realize that’s sort of a lame response, because the book is so popular right now, but it’s truly one of the most beautifully crafted and beautifully written books I’ve ever read. I recommend it all the time!

americanah-book-cover

Read It: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Recommended by: Maggie Shipstead

I just finished reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which I loved. That’s the book I’m talking up to everyone right now.

The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay

Read It: The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay

Recommended by: Suzanne Redfearn

black-and-blue

Read It: Black And Blue by Anna Quindlen

Recommended by: Jillian Cantor

That’s a tough question! I don’t know that I can pick just one book. But my favorite author is Anna Quindlen. I read Black and Blue years ago and it has always stayed with me. Every time she has a new book out, I buy it right away!

The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel

Read It: The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel

Recommended by: Torre DeRoche

I don’t think I can prescribe a cure-all because books are so personal to each individual, but I’ll share with you the most important book I ever read—a book that burst open my imagination and taught me that it’s possible to create an incredible alternate reality on the page.

When I was thirteen, my older sister told me I had to read this book, giving me only the title and a pinch of her fingers to demonstrate its approximate spine width. I went to my school library to look for the book and, having no idea where to start my search, I said to a friend, “I’m looking for a book that’s about this thick.” I extended my finger to poke the spine of a random book. It was Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel: the very book my sister told me I must read. It was a bizarre, serendipitous first encounter. That book rocked my world.

Long Man by Amy Greene

Read It: Long Man by Amy Greene

Recommended by Patry Francis

It’s hard to choose only one, but Amy Greene’s,  Long Man has everything I look for in a novel: a compelling protagonist named Annie Clyde who faces impossible odds with great courage and resilience, an engrossing plot, and a setting so vivid, you really feel as if you are there.

The Stand by Stephen King

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Read It: The Stand by Stephen King, Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry, & Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Recommended by: Susan Crandall

When I’m asked this question, I always reach way back, looking for a book that has stuck with me so vividly that I can remember the details of the characters very clearly even after a long time. I try to pick something that isn’t a classic, those already stand out and find audiences. I’m a character writer. Suspenseful plots are enjoyable, but it’s the beauty of the character and his/her journey that touches me. So after all that rambling, I always come back to two books, very different genres: Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry and The Stand, by Stephen King. I’m also a fan of Diana Gabaldon’s, Outlander (the first book in the series is my favorite).

father-of-the-rain

Read It: Father of the Rain by Lily King

Recommended by: Michelle Gable

I recommend Father of the Rain by Lily King to everyone. It is the perfect book.

My Antonia by Willa Cather

Read It: My Antonia

Recommended by: Heather Gudenkauf

My favorite book of all time is My Antonia by Willa Cather. My parents always had hundreds of books on shelves and in neat stacks around the house and for a long time I passed right over the thick novel with the illustration of a woman standing in a field of tall yellow grass and holding freshly picked wildflowers. I finally pulled it from the shelf when I was eighteen and immediately fell in love with Cather’s beautiful description of turn-of-the-century Nebraska and the lifelong friendship between a farm boy and a young Czech immigrant. I reread My Antonia every single year, each time with new eyes, always finding something new within the pages. Whenever I visit a bookstore I’m always on the search for a different edition of My Antonia to add to my collection.

The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe

Read It: The Shadow of the Torturer

Recommended by: M.R. Carey

So many possible answers to that!  You could ask me a couple of dozen times and get a different answer each time.  Today I’m going to say The Shadow Of the Torturer, by Gene Wolfe.  It’s the first volume in a tetralogy, so if you read it and liked it you’d have to read the other three.  But they’re so worth it. It’s a story of a far future Earth where the sun is dying.  Humanity has spread to the stars but that was long ago.  Now there are other galactic empires, other non-human civilisations that call the shots.  What’s left of humankind is back on an old, old planet that hasn’t got much time left to it.  But there’s a Messianic religion that preaches that the New Sun, sometimes known as the Conciliator, will be born on Earth as a man and rekindle all our hopes.  Reborn, rather, since he’s been here once before.  And Severian of the Torturers’ Guild believes this to be true since he’s found a holy relic, the Claw of the Conciliator, that heals all wounds.

It’s a very hard book to describe, and there’s no denying that it goes to some very dark places.  But Wolfe’s imagination is vast.  He creates a world and peoples it.  And he has a very serious purpose which takes in faith, physics and the importance of storytelling.

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

Read It: The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien & Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

Recommended by: Mary Kubica

My favorite book of all time is The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. This is one that I tell everyone to read. It’s a Vietnam War memoir, but is much more than that. You don’t need to be a history guru to fall in love with this book. When it comes to my own genre though, psychological suspense, Before I Go To Sleep is one I often recommend. I just loved this S.J. Watson novel.

Room by Emma Donoghue

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

The Bees by Laline Paull

 

Read It: Room by Emma Donaghue, Every Last One by Anna Quindlen, Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, and The Bees by Laline Paull

Recommended by: Carla Buckley

Emma Donaghue’s Room, Anna Quindlen’s Every Last One and Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge. Just a few days ago, I finished Laline Paull’s fabulous debut, The Bees; I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Awareness by Anthony DeMello

The Lover by Marguerite Duras

Read It: Awareness by Anthony de Mello & The Lover by Marguerite Duras

Recommended by: Rebecca Rotert

IMPOSSIBLE. I NEED TWO AT LEAST, AMY! However, a book I have to read over and over is Anthony de Mello’s Awareness.  It’s not fiction.  It might even be called self-help (choke).  It reminds me of the troublesome human pitfalls that can really muck up our short  little jaunt on earth.  I also return to Duras’ The Lover over and over because it reminds me of longing and waking up to life. These are a few of my favorite things, as the song says.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Read It: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Recommended by: Caroline Leavitt

The Great Gatsby. I hated it in high school, but then years later, I had to teach it in a high school, and I began to realize what a perfectly structured novel it is, how moving, how sad, and how beautiful a book it really is.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Read It: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Recommended by: Anthony Doerr

Oh, gosh, my answer to this question changes all the time, but a novel I’m absolutely in love with right now is Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. It’s about family, siblinghood, memory, storytelling, and particularly about our society’s treatment of animals. It’s also structured in this beautiful, organic, perfect way—I hope a few of your readers will give it a look!

I, Robot by Iasaac Asimov

Read It: I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

Recommended by: Andy Weir

I, Robot” by Isaac Asimov. In my opinion, it’s one of the greatest sci-fi books of all time.

The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck

Read It: The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck

Recommended by: Kathryn Craft

Ah, the dreaded one book question, asked of a multiple-book lover! Since I know nothing about the reader, including why he or she reads—and given my answers to the question about critical subjectivity—I’ll assume your real question is “What book could someone read that would reveal the most about you?” You said “book,” not “novel,” for which I am grateful, since novels are such delicious slices of life it would be like asking if you could only taste one food what would it be. So I am going to go the nonfiction route and say The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck. A brilliant life guide that I’ve read many times, my sensibilities are all over its pages.

Get In Trouble by Kelly Link

Read It: Get In Trouble by Kelly Link

Recommended by: Karen Joy Fowler

I’m not sure I can answer this question.  It would depend on the anyone – I don’t think books are a one-size-fits-all sort of thing.   But a current enthusiasm is Kelly Link’s new short story collection, Get In Trouble.  I will be so happy if you all buy and read it.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Read It: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Recommended by: William Kent Krueger

My all-time favorite novel is To Kill A Mockingbird. Anyone who hasn’t yet read this American classic absolutely must.

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Read It: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Recommended by: Cristina Henríquez

That’s so hard. But this one has been very much on my mind lately so I’m going to say Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty

Read It: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, & The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty

Recommended by:  Frances Whiting

Oh My! What a hard question! I love books so much, choosing just one is almost impossible. But I’ll bite the bullet and say…no I just can’t do it! So instead I’ll say The Shadow of the Wind, The Great Gatsby, anything by P.J. Wodehouse, The Last Anniversary, anything by Mary Wesley, Nick Hornby, Tony Parsons and Clive James.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Read It: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Recommended by: M.O. Walsh

This answer would likely be different on any day you asked me. There are so many great books out there!  Right now, however, I will say Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. I’ve found myself missing that book lately, sort of yearning to go back and re-read it for maybe the 12th time.  Who knows why?  This is the great mystery of beautiful fiction; it speaks to us in fundamental ways that we ourselves don’t always understand. It’s a glorious thing.

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

Read It: Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

Recommended by: Mary Louise Kelly

I would tell my brother to read Birdsong, the 1993 novel by Sebastian Faulks. It’s about a British soldier in France during World War I, and it is the most gorgeous epic of love and war and regrets. I’ve been telling my brother to read it for twenty years now, and he keeps refusing, at this point out of sheer orneriness. C.J., consider yourself publicly challenged.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Read It: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Recommended by Annabel Smith

My all-time favourite novel is Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto, the incredible story of a prolonged embassy siege and the relationships which form between the hostages and their captors. Patchett has the most incredible insight into human behaviour and her prose is simply gorgeous. I have read this book at least half a dozen times and I get something new from it every time.

Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson

Read It: Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson

Recommended By: Amanda Eyre Ward

My favorite book last year was Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson. It’s dark, riveting, gorgeous, important.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Read It: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez & To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Recommended by: Jandy Nelson

Two books: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. My all time favorite novels.

Light Years by James Salter

 

Desperate Characters by Paula Fox

Read It: Light Years by James Salter & Desperate Characters by Paula Fox

Recommended by: Molly Ringwald

Light Years by James Salter. It’s just one of those books that I keep picking up again and again. There is not a lot of fiction that I read while writing because I don’t want to be overly influenced. His writing is somebody, of course I write differently, but I just feel like he is a master. I also love, and we were recently talking about Desperate Characters by Paula Fox is a really wonderful book and Jonathan Franzen wrote the forward on it!

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara Read It: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Recommended by: Jessica Knoll

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. I’ve been tweeting about this book a ton, and I am probably starting to scare the author a little. But it’s a stunning book—gorgeous prose, and an epic and powerful tale about friendship.

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Read It: I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Recommended by Tamara Ireland Stone

That’s easy. Jandy Nelson’s “I’ll Give You the Sun.”

If you like Every Last Word’s message about the healing power of writing, you’ll love the way this novel celebrates the healing power of art. It’s so brilliantly crafted, told in alternating viewpoints by brother and sister twins—his story tells the past while hers tells the present. I’m simply in awe of Nelson’s ability to weave together different timelines and points of view into a beautifully written, emotionally gripping story.

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April 2015 Must-Reads

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

April 2015 Must-Reads

April was another fantastic month of reading and I am excited to share the April Must-Reads list from the books I tackled this month. I hope that you are also following along with my Sundays With Writers series where I interview the authors about their books and try to find out more about their stories behind the stories. This series happens to be my favorite and it is such a treat to share why they created their books.  I will be sure to share below any interviews that have happened (or will be happening) so you can enjoy them after the book.

Speaking of interviews, I can now say that I have interviewed a Pulitzer Prize winning author! A big congratulations to Anthony Doerr on his win for All the Light We Cannot See. It was such an honor to interview him last year about this book and, and after penning it for an entire decade, it is worthy of every accolade it has received. Be sure to check it out!

I think it is important to be honest. Sometimes books just don’t make the must-read cut, but I want to mention them anyway, as we all have our cups of literature tea.  These two that didn’t make it are well-written, but I did not love them.  I read this book and this book this month, but didn’t feel like these were must-reads for you.

This one definitely gave me a lot to think about, but it took it to a level that I wouldn’t feel comfortable recommending it to a lot of people.  It was, frankly, the most graphically disturbing book I have ever read. I am no prude. I read these (and they were terrible). Nutting exposes the sensationalized topic of female teachers pursuing teens for sexual relationships for what it is…pedophilia. Through this narcissistic sociopath’s eyes, we are able to see exactly what type of child a teacher would target, how she would initiate a relationship, and how she permanently and unapologetically ruins children for their future relationships. The writing is on-point, but the unnecessary pushing of the sexual envelope, lowered the rating for me, as it did not move the plot forward and seemed instead to intentionally shock the reader. Compared to Lolita & American Psycho, the author truly creates the most unlikable character you might ever read.

This book was one that everyone was raving and raving about and I read it just because everyone said it was so fantastic.  It was beautifully written although a much slower read than I had expected after hearing such great things.  The premise is that when a birthday party is held in an unnamed South American country, a famous soprano opera singer sings at a birthday party in honor of a visiting Japanese industrial titan. The party is interrupted when 18 terrorists enter the vice-presidential mansion in hopes to hold the president hostage. Unfortunately, the president never showed up because he was watching his favorite soap opera, defeating the purpose of the terrorist visit. Instead, they hold the people from the party hostage to try to get their demands met and what develops are unexpected relationships between the party guests and even the guests with their captures.  The book developed the characters well, but I felt hostage too when the plot did not drive itself forward enough for me. If the book had been scaled back in pages, I would have enjoyed it so much more. That said, it read more like a play to me more than a book as this is such a character-driven piece all taking place in one setting.  I would recommend this one for readers who love REALLY slow builds and rich characters, but it did not make the must-read cut. I know, I know…throw rotten tomatoes wildly at me! Am I missing something? I know there are people out there loving this one so tell me what in the world is wrong with me and why you love it so much!

Let’s move on to the things I think you SHOULD read!

The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel

The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel

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

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

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

This is the best piece of chick lit I have read this year and would highly recommend for anyone who needs a little reading escape! I have been telling everyone to escape with this one and I keep hearing how much they loved it too. It’s one I would be packing in my beach bag this summer, for sure!

5 Out of 5 Stars

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

What a beautiful story of two sweet kids who find each other just when they need one another the most. Niven sheds light on a topic rarely discussed in YA literature sharing the true struggles of mental illness as Finch, the main character, struggles with bipolar disorder.

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

The stigma attached to mental illness and the reaction of his peers to this, make this a compelling read for any teen in understanding what it would be like to live with mental illness. This was heartbreaking, beautiful, and provided a thoughtful ending with a great resources & info list for kids struggling with (or who have family/friends struggling with) mental illness at the end of the book. I highly recommend this one for a well-captured idea of what living with bipolar disorder would feel like.

Jennifer Niven will be joining me for a future Sundays With Writers so be sure to check back for that interview as we chat about mental illness in teens and her first YA book (that we will soon be able to see Elle Fanning starring in the movie adaptation of!!).

4 Out of 5 Stars

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll (currently available for pre-order, hits stores on May 12th!)

I received an ARC from NetGalley for my honest thoughts & opinions on this book.

How can this book not be on your top list? The title has GIRL in it (like this, and this, and this…), Gillian Flynn’s name is dropped on the front cover for the endorsement, the narrator is unlikable, AND Reese Witherspoon will be producing the movie version of this book (only just recently announced). I’d say this has a winning combination for this to be the book that everyone will be talking about this summer.

Much like other thriller books, I don’t want to give away the plot too much so that you have the satisfaction of discovering the twists yourself. Ani is a girl who never has the ability to fit in at her prestigious private school, no matter how many brand name clothes her mother buys her. When Ani intrigues the popular kids, they decide to invite her in and Ani discovers, maybe it was better to have never been a part of the group at all. In a horrible turn of events, she finds solace in another kid at school that will, ultimately, change the destiny of the school and the kids in it forever.

The book flashes back to Ani’s painful teen years and then alternates chapters as they film a documentary about what happened at their school and how much happier Ani is now that she is working at a high-profile magazine, beautiful, thin, and has the guy of her dreams. Of course, things are never as good as they seem and getting to the root of why Ani is so unlikable helps the reader to connect more as the story progresses despite the excruciating shallowness and weight obsession of this woman.

With just the right amount of sass to balance the darkness of this book (think Gillian Flynn for how dark we get), this read is a quick page-turner that I can’t wait to see adapted into film.

5 Out of 5 Stars

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

This book is achingly beautiful in so many ways exploring the beauty and anguish of first loves. This story is uniquely told by a twin sister & brother, alternating chapters, yet one is telling the story three years later while the other is telling the story as it happens. It creates a journey experience for the reader when characters begin to overlap together in these stories.

Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah’s story to tell. The later years are Jude’s. What the twins don’t realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.

Nelson’s words read like watching a painting unravel on a page, as though it all is coming to life, especially when told through artistic Noah’s eyes as his words are the most visually vivid. Nelson beautifully paints the portrait of the typical teenage angst of Jude & Noah, while focusing strongly on the difficulties of being a gay teen and the hostility of classmates that force Noah to try to fit in with his peers.

I laughed and cried through the pages of this one especially because I have never read a writer like this, making me Nelson’s latest fan. It really surprised me in so many ways. I would recommend it for fans of Rainbow Rowell or John Green.

Read my interview with Jandy Nelson in our Sundays With Writers series this month!

5 Out of 5 Stars

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler (available for pre-order, hits stores on June 23rd)

I received an ARC from NetGalley for my honest thoughts and opinions on this book.

I knew I was going to love this book because it had so many ingredients in it for success with me- librarians, old books, a bit of magic, and a glimpse at the old carnival life. The book has been compared to Water For Elephants and Night Circus, but definitely stands on its own and is an ambitious debut novel from this first-time author. When Simon, a young librarian, receives the gift of a book that is a travel log for a carnival in the 1700’s, he discovers a drowning death of a circus mermaid that is coincidental to his own mother’s drowning death (a former circus mermaid herself) that happened even on the same day. If their family is cursed, his sister could be the next victim and he will do anything to save her. The chapters alternate between the travel log (complete with unique sketch drawings) and present day as Simon tries to stop the curse on his family. The author manages to bring these stories together in a beautiful way with a satisfying conclusion to these mysterious drownings.

This was definitely a slower read for me and the length could have been shortened a bit, as the plot lagged a bit for me. The sketches, however, add a fun interactive element for the reader and help keep you engaged in the story. If you appreciate a good circus story with a modern-day mystery, you will enjoy this escape. I imagine there will be a lot of buzz surrounding this book this summer.

4 Out of 5 Stars

April 2015 Must-Reads

Read With Me This Year:

January 2015 Must-Reads

February 2015 Must-Reads

March 2015 Must-Reads

What should I be adding to my library bag?  Leave your suggestions in the comments below! Looking for book ideas? Check out our entire Book section of the site! Don’t forget to friend me on GoodReads! xo

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

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Sundays With Writers: The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld

Sunday, May 4th, 2014

Sundays_With_Writers-1_Final

Sundays With Writers is quickly becoming my new favorite feature on MomAdvice. Is it for you too? I really hope so!  My only dilemma is reading enough that we always have fresh new authors to feature. This week I finished a riveting book called, “The Enchanted,” by Rene Denfeld and I can’t wait to share our interview with the author.  As soon as I finished it, I knew that I needed to email her to see if she would participate in our discussion. Not only is the book itself a fascinating look at prisoners on death row, but she is, in her real life, a death penalty investigator. She uses this background well to plot out the corruption of the prison world and what an investigator does to present facts about a death row inmate before going to trial.

You know that I always disclose if a book is graphic in language or in nature. This book is graphic and, as we learn in the interview with Rene, it is altogether true that many of these things do happen in the prison system.  There were points where I had to detach myself from the book in order to press on through it. Although in many cases, it infers violence and sexual abuse, sometimes it allowed my mind to fill in those blanks and I had to step away from it.

the_enchanted

In, “The Enchanted,”  we are viewing a stone wall prison through the eyes of a death row inmate who finds escape in his books and in re-imagining life around him, weaving a fantastical story of the people he observes and the world he inhabits. Though he is confined in a cell,  he sees visions of golden horses running beneath the prison, heat flowing like molten metal from their backs with the devastating violence of prison life.

We follow through the story through his eyes of two outsiders, a fallen priest and the Lady. The Lady is an investigator who searches for buried information from prisoners’ pasts that can save those soon-to-be-executed. Digging into the background of a killer named York, she uncovers wrenching truths that challenge familiar notions of victim and criminal, innocence and guilt, honesty and corruption which reveal many secrets of her own.

I promise to never post any spoilers in these interviews so please read on as we learn more about Rene and her amazing debut novel (picked as a Best Book of the Month by Amazon)!

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As a death penalty investigator, you truly have the background to write about death row. The story that you weave is a tough one to swallow for someone who is on the outside- corruption within the prison system, constant sexual abuse of prisoners, lack of basic resources, and most of the death row inmates are products of their sad upbringing. Has this really been your experience and how did you get drawn into this type of profession?

The story is very much the narrator’s story—what he sees in this enchanted place. But much of what he sees I recognize from my work. Sadly, what happens in the book to the character called the white-haired boy is real and common. I got into the work in 2008 when I was looking for a day job. I had been a journalist, but had adopted three kids from foster care, and writing wasn’t paying the bills. Truth be told, I needed a job. I had met death penalty investigators as a journalist and was fascinated. It seemed like a chance to really learn the truth of a person and a crime. I love the work. It is often terribly sad, but I can also bring moments of profound insight.

I reread many lines and paragraphs in your book because they were filled with so much truth and made me stop and think. On page 119, It says, “She thinks about how sad it is that we remember the killers and not their victims. What if the world forgot Hitler and remembered all the names of his victims? What if we immortalized the victims?” Do you find that in your job that people are often more worried about the killers than those who were victims in your cases?

I worry that in our society we focus so much on the criminals we erase their victims. For all our focus on crime and violence—all the graphic televisions shows and movies—we don’t stop to really dig deep to understand why some people hurt each other. We devalue the gravity of what they have done, to real people.

As our narrator imagines the world he is in with majestic golden horses, that also happen to grace the cover of your book, do you believe that the narrator is just highly imaginative, mentally ill, or do you think that being locked away in a cell is causing hallucinations after being away from the outside world? Are these golden horses meant to symbolize something to the reader?

The narrator truly believes he lives in the most magical, enchanted place. And for him, he does. I spend a lot of time with people with profound mental illness, and one thing I remind myself is they could be right and I could be wrong. Perhaps they are seeing something I cannot. It is real to them, that’s what counts. I think the narrator has a lovely view of the world. The golden horses in particular—to me they symbolize his hunger to escape the confines of his bars, to feel and see wild passion and beauty in the world.

Since books are such an escape for me, I loved that the narrator’s escape was also literature. His favorite book, The White Dawn, brings him so much joy. What made you pick this particular book for your narrator?

What a lovely thing to have in common with you! Books have been my escape, too, since I was a young child. The library was my sanctuary. The White Dawn happened to be one of my favorite books as a child. I kept my tattered copy on my bed stand the entire time I was writing the novel. At night I would touch it and hope the narrator would continue to come and bless me with his story.

What is one common misconception about death row and the death penalty that you wish more people understood?

That we will never prevent crime if we don’t truly understand why it happens. And that the human capacity to find joy and beauty—no matter what our circumstance—cannot be extinguished.

If you could tell anyone to read one book (other than your own) what would that book be?

Oh, that is a tough one, because there are so many wonderful books. I just read All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. It was stunning.

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April Book Club Discussion With the Author: The Bear

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

The Bear by Claire Cameron

Welcome to our April Book Club! I am so excited to be talking about this month’s selection, “The Bear,” by Claire Cameron.  Claire has truly been such a generous author to share in our book club discussion today and her book was so beautifully written that I could not wait to talk about it today.

Just as a recap from our announcement last week, here is a little on the basic premise of this book.

While camping with her family on a remote island, five-year-old Anna awakes in the night to the sound of her mother screaming. A bear has found their campsite and her parents become the bear’s victims.

As her mother lays injured on the ground, she convinces Anna to take her brother in the canoe, getting them away from the bear and (hopefully) to safety. Anna & Sticky must fight for survival as they are lost and alone in the wilderness.

Told through the eyes of five-year-old Anna, we see the struggles and triumphs as she tries to find safety with her brother.  A survival story unlike any other I have read, it is one that you just won’t be able to put down because you must know what happens to these children.

Wow, I don’t know about you, but this novel kept me on the edge of my seat until I finished it. I could not close the final pages until I knew if Anna & Sticky were safe.

As readers, we are swept away in the suspenseful story of Anna & her brother Alex (nicknamed Sticky). While their family is camping on a remote island, five-year-old Anna awakes in the night to the sound of her mother screaming. A bear has found their campsite and her parents become the bear’s victims.

As her mother lays injured on the ground, she convinces Anna to take her brother in the canoe, getting them away from the bear and (hopefully) to safety. Anna & Sticky must fight for survival as they are lost and alone in the wilderness.

Told through the eyes of five-year-old Anna, we see the struggles and triumphs as she tries to find safety with her brother.

Although telling the story through the eyes of a five-year-old can get a little old, I think it lends itself well in this survival story because we have to understand what Anna’s motives are for keeping her brother safe.

In the author’s note, we learn that in October of 1991, Ryamond Jakubauskas & Carola Frehe pitched a tent on Bates Island on Lake Opeongo in Algonquin Park and were attacked by a large male black bear.

Both of them died from injuries inflicted by the bear and there were no clear reasons why this bear attacked, other than hunger.

The author worked as a counselor at a summer camp at the park and used these stories and theories about what happened as a basis for her novel, adding in the children.

Since this story is only about the children, it is told through Anna’s eyes and her interpretation of what happened to her parents, who attacked them (referred to as a dog), and, ultimately, how they will survive.

Of course, since it is told through a child’s eyes, we also sometimes follow along confused about what is happening to them and what is real versus what is imagined. This helps us to truly understand Anna’s own confusion about the situation.

I loved that the story, in the end, had them come back to the place where the attack happened, in a small ceremony bringing a little more peace to them both.

Claire Cameron

Born in 1973, Claire Cameron grew up in Toronto. She studied History and Culture at Queen’s University. She then worked as an instructor for Outward Bound, teaching mountaineering, climbing, and white-water rafting in Oregon. Next she worked in San Francisco for Pearson Plc before moving to London in 1999. There she was director of Shift Media, a consultancy whose clients included the BBC, McGraw-Hill, and Oxford University Press. Her first novel was the taut thriller, “The Line Painter.”  Claire lives in Toronto with her husband and two sons. You can become a fan of Claire Cameron on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, follow her on IG, and on GoodReads.

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Getting in the head of a five-year-old voice can’t be easy. Who was your inspiration and how did you capture it in this novel?

It might not surprise you to hear that my son was five when I started writing the novel. He was in a really talkative stage and I used conversations with him to establish the emotional scope and ability of the character. The first draft was actually about two little boys. At some point in the endless rewrites, I realized there was a lot of me in Anna. That’s when she became a girl. I let her be me.

 I read an interview where you shared that, “the bear,” symbolizes our fears at parents. What is, “the bear,” to you as a mother?

Writing the novel was emotionally challenging as, in some ways, I was typing out my greatest fears. It was hard to live that way. In retrospect, though, it helped me relax as a mother. My story ended up being about how kids can be resilient and how they can cope. When I finished, I knew that was true and that they would be fine, whether or not I was there to help.

I suppose that’s ‘the bear’ to me, the idea of not being there to help my kids when they are in trouble.

 Have you camped at all since writing this book? Do you think it has made you nervous or added another perspective on camping?

Last summer I took my family on a canoe trip back to the island in Algonquin Park where the bear attack that I reimagined in The Bear took place. I did think about the attack, but I also found that I’ve slept in a tent so many nights before that I knew we were fine. It helped that it was a great blue berry season. The bears were full!

The first night we were back home, I tucked my son into bed and asked him if he felt safer in his bed, rather than sleeping in a tent. He said no, it’s scarier at home. Why? Because when camping we were all together in the same tent, but in our house we sleep in different rooms so his Dad and I are farther away. It helped me realize that feeling scared is different for everyone. Fear is a perspective and a mindset, not a set thing.

Did the father leave the family during arguments or did I misinterpret that part of the narrative? (from reader, Sarah)

I purposely left the details of Anna’s family situation in the state that 5 year olds often experience them, a bunch of vague details that don’t quite make sense because I child is rarely told the whole story. My hope is that a reader will use her experience to fill in the details (sorry that is probably a frustratingly vague answer).

Some of the scariest scenes for me are the ones where Sticky disappears and Anna isn’t watching him. As a mom, I think I held my breath until he came back. Of course, there are terrifying moments like that peppered throughout the book. What were some of the most difficult scenes for you as a mom?

The scariest scene to write was the same, when Sticky disappears. I know this because I skipped over it in the first draft. It was my editor, Sarah Murphy at Little Brown, who pointed it out–that I had worked up to this moment and then only vaguely sketched it in. When she said this I thought, “oh no, I’ve been caught out. Now I’m going to have to buck up and write it.”

That is the definition of a great editor, I think. Someone who is so in tune with the story that they can see the emotional gaps.

In, “The Room,” by Emma Donoghue, she utilizes a young narrator to tell a story of survival and a reader can’t help but notice the similar theme in your book. Have you read this book and what do you think makes your narrator different than Donoghue’s?

The book that was the bigger influence at the beginning of writing THE BEAR was LORD OF THE FLIES. I re-read it and, having boys of my own, couldn’t accept the mean take on human nature it shows. When I was about 1/3 of the way through the first draft. I got tired and wondered who would want to read a story told in a 5 year olds voice. That’s when I thought of ROOM. I read it and loved it, so I knew it was possible and I got a lot of strength to keep going from that. Both books have a child in a survival situation, but Anna is a very different child with more varied experience than the child in ROOM, Jack. Her voice reflects that. She needs to make a new normal after her rescue, whereas Jack has to find out what normal might be for him.

If you could tell anyone to read one book (other than your own) what would that book be?

Such a hard question! Maybe TREASURE ISLAND by Robert Louis Stevenson because it is such a great adventure story. I love Long John Silver as he’s the best kind of bad guy–one that feels so complete that you can’t help rooting for him.

What do you have in store for us with your next project?

I am writing a lot at the moment, but I’m not entirely sure what the book will be just yet. It will involve the wilderness, as that is a long time passion. I am interested in capturing the amazing things that happen in the outdoors between people. That’s at the heart of my interest. When you go through a survival situation with another person, you get to know them in a whole new way.

What did you think of The Bear?  Share your thoughts on our  book club pick below and offer recommendations for what you might like to see on our list in the upcoming year!

Our book club will now be going to a quarterly selection. Be sure to pick up our summer selection, “Love With a Chance of Drowning.” In the meantime, catch up on what is happening this year and explore our past book club selections here!

 

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MomAdvice Summer Book Club Selection: Love With a Chance of Drowning

Friday, March 28th, 2014

Love With a Chance of Drowning

First, I just want to thank everyone for your feedback today about the MomAdvice Book Club. I hope you didn’t feel like I was coming down too hard about it, but the MomAdvice Book Club was a special project for me this year.  I have spent an unbelievable amount of time investing into reading so many books to find the perfect books, coordinating with publishing houses to get free books to giveaway, gathering questions for authors, and then posting/sharing each discussion. In all honesty, it became a little part-time job for me on top of my full-time job.

I didn’t mind doing it until the discussion and participation dwindled.

Based on your feedback, you are 1) very busy mamas 2) are waiting for library copies 3) didn’t have time to read this year.

Again, I get that! I totally do.

In order to make things more relaxed and fun again, we will be selecting a quarterly selection moving forward. This gives you plenty of time to get books, read them, and have questions for our featured authors. On alternate months, I will just share my book reviews as we have done in the past. 

Love With a Chance of Drowning

This summer we will be reading the AMAZING memoir of Torre DeRoche called, “Love With a Chance of Drowning.” It is our first non-fiction selection and I am so excited to share this book with you because I am enjoying it so much.

Not sure if you can get on board with a non-fiction pick? Just picture me laughing until tears are rolling down my cheeks ever since I picked this book up. Then picture me reading aloud almost the entire book to my husband, while trying to read it to him, still laughing with tears rolling down my cheeks and trying to catch my breath so I can read every word to him. It is that funny and that awesome.

Here is a book synopsis from Amazon…

City girl, Torre DeRoche,  isn’t looking for love, but a chance encounter in a San Francisco bar sparks an instant connection with a soulful Argentinean man who unexpectedly sweeps her off her feet. The problem? He’s just about to cast the dock lines and voyage around the world on his small sailboat, and Torre is terrified of deep water. However, lovesick Torre determines that to keep the man of her dreams, she must embark on the voyage of her nightmares, so she waves good-bye to dry land and braces for a life-changing journey that’s as exhilarating as it is terrifying.

 

Somewhere mid-Pacific, she finds herself battling to keep the old boat, the new relationship, and her floundering sanity afloat. . . .

 

This sometimes hilarious, often harrowing, and always poignant memoir is set against a backdrop of the world’s most beautiful and remote destinations. Equal parts love story and travel memoir, Love with a Chance of Drowning is witty, charming, and proof positive that there are some risks worth taking.

Our discussion for this book will be the last Tuesday in July! I will touch base with you in the upcoming month if I am able to secure a discussion with our author. If not, I still think this is a book that is perfect for your beach bag!

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In the meantime, this month’s selection, “The Bear,” is a short and powerful novel that I think you will be able to finish in just a couple of short days. It is hard to put down and is an author discussion that I am excited to participate in. I am doubly honored since Claire was featured in a glowing review from People Magazine, that she would take the time to chat with us.

I hope that you can join in and thank you for being candid in your thoughts about what works best for you!

xo,
Amy

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