I hope everyone has been enjoying a lot of great reads this month. The book reviews section of our site has become one of my favorite elements of our site and I just love sharing new books that I read with all of you. If you missed my top ten of 2011 post, be sure to head right over and get the scoop on a few of my personal favorites from last year.
I was determined to start 2012 with some incredible books and I tried to be a little ambitious this year and start with a few of those, “You really should read this…” books. You know, those books that people keep dropping in conversations, but you never make the time to read them. This is the year for that for me.
If you are looking for a little inspiration this new year, be sure to check our MomAdvice fan page for a weekly check-in on what everyone is reading each week on our Facebook Fan Page. I hope you will swing by on Fridays and share about the books you are working on or request recommendations with one another. So far it is a huge success and I have gotten a few new ideas for my own stack!
Just as a reminder, I read many more books than are just featured here, but try to feature the ones that are my absolute best picks of the month here. If you want to read more, please feel free to friend me on GoodReads! You can find me right here and I am always happy to connect with people there too! There is nothing more motivating than seeing what other people are raving about and my to-be-read pile continues to grow with all of my new friends on there! In fact, many of the books featured are ones that I have found through my friends on GoodReads.
The Other Life by Ellen Miester
I love books that explore the, “what if’s,” in life and Ellen Miester’s novel explores what I am sure each of us wonders at times, “What if I had chosen another path for my life?” This book tells the story of Quinn Braverman who is living a happy and idyllic life with her husband and son. Quinn’s life is anything but ordinary though because she has discovered a portal in her basement that can take her into a parallel life where she has chosen to live her life with her boyfriend instead of the one that she is living with her husband & son. She knows that the portal is there, but stays away from it until a routine ultrasound shows that there is something wrong with the child she is expecting. Suddenly she is drawn into the portal to escape the sadness of her own reality.
The best part about the portal for Quinn is being with her mom in this parallel universe because her mom is no longer with her after taking her own life. Quinn has the mother she has been missing in this life, but her husband and child reside in the other life. Quinn must decide which life she wants to lead as the portal begins to shrink and she must choose which world she wants to live in.
This book is thought-provoking, beautiful, and delivers honest writing about mother-daughter relationships as well as how differently our lives could have worked out if we had chosen a different path. This would make a fabulous book club discussion!
If you liked this you might like Time of My Life, The Time Traveler’s Wife, or The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars)
The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon
On a stormy night an unlikely couple knocks on an unlikely stranger’s door, when they come to seek shelter from the storm. Lynnie, a woman with an intellectual disability and Homan, a deaf man, have run away from a brutal institution where they have been placed because of their disabilities.
A friendly schoolteacher answers her door and finds that she has opened the door to a journey she never could have anticipated. Because the couple have ran away from the institution, the police begin to bang on the door looking for them and Lynnie hands to her a brand new baby and utters just two words to the teacher, “Hide her.”
Lynnie is returned to the school, Homan runs away and is thought to have been dead, and Martha is left in charge of a child when she has never had a child of her own. The story chronicles forty years following each of these characters as their lives take an unlikely path.
The premise of the story is captivating and the love story between Lynnie & Homan is beautifully told. The challenges faced by each of these characters with disabilities is told with sensitivity and offers unique insight into what it would be like to be deaf or intellectually handicapped. I found myself tearing up in parts and rooting for each of these characters.
Although the book is slow in parts, the story is worth pushing through and would also lend itself well to book club discussions since it is the kind of book you just want to talk about when you are finished with it. Definitely add this one to your to-be-read piles!
(MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars)
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
I am trying to tackle a few of those books that people say to me, “I can’t believe you haven’t read that yet.” Outlander has been recommended to me time and time again so I decided I would start this year out with a few of the books that I have been intending to read. At over 600 pages, I can see why I have not attempted to tackle this before, but after reading it I can honestly say that it was an amazing story and I can’t wait to read more in this series. A book of this size has never been devoured so quickly and I don’t think my family saw me for three weeks while I worked on this one.
This story follows Claire Randall, a young combat nurse in WWII who recently moved to Scotland with her husband. While they are out hiking one day, Claire accidentally passes through the stones of an ancient stone circle and awakens to find herself in 16th century Scotland. Confused as to what has happened to her Claire’s path crosses with a Highland warrior named James Fraser that forever alters Claire’s path and begins a love story that rivals any other that you may have read.
This book is definitely not for the faint of heart it is violent and sexually charged throughout. At times I felt like I was reading a Harlequin romance novel as some of the love scenes were a little fluffy for my usual taste, but the good in this book definitely outweighs the bad.
This is historical fiction at some of its finest and I felt like I was transported while I read this. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series and be transported once again.
(MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars)
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
Nothing about, “The Pillars of the Earth,” sounded interesting to me and, to be honest, the sheer size of this book scared me to death. Our book club selected this book though and as others in our book club read it, they shared how amazing it was. I just knew I had to take the plunge despite my misgivings that it was going to be a boring read. I am so, so glad that I did. It is a book filled with amazingly developed characters, fabulous plot twists, and historical fiction at its finest. I could not put it down, I had to know how it would all work out, and I was captivated from the opening paragraph until the very last page.
Tom Builder has lost commission on a home that he was to build and begins to roam England seeking work. As he is turned away from each job they find, their family begins to starve and his pregnant wife dies during childbirth in the woods. Without food to give the baby, they abandon the child in the woods and Tom immediately comes into a relationship with a resourceful woman named Ellen and their son Jack who become a part of their family and help them navigate the forest life.
When Tom seeks shelter at a church his life never becomes the same again as he finds work through an unlikely fire that damages the church and then finds that his life is interwoven with the church in more ways than he could ever imagine. The building of a new church brings together unlikely characters and a determined character who threatens to destroy it all.
A story of good and evil that riveted me and one that will truly captivate you from start to finish, this book moved me and will probably reside firmly in my top ten books I have ever read.
Editor’s Note: This contains sexually graphic scenes.
(MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars)
As an aside, I read, “The Pillars of the Earth,” on my Kindle. After lugging, “Outlander,” around town and the sheer girth of that book, I thought it might be easier to just read it on my Kindle so I could pop the book in my purse. I have the original old school Kindle though so I only had the progression bar to go on to figure out how far I was. Those dots never moved more slowly and every week I thought I was done, I realized I was nowhere near done. Perhaps, this can be my campaign to upgrade my reader at some point. For now, I was happy to see the dots finally coming to a close so I knew that I had actually completed it.
After reading two books of this magnitude back-to-back though, I feel like I should receive some type of badge or at the very least a personal pan pizza just like I did when I was a kid in the Book-It program.
I guess I will just have to settle with the smugness I now possess and getting to finally say, “Oh, you haven’t read that yet! You really must!”
Not enough great reads for you? Check out our Books section of our site for monthly recommendations and ideas for making reading a priority again in your busy mom life!
Disclosure: All of the links above are affiliate links and are provided so you can locate the books quickly and easily. Feel free to order a book, but we encourage utilizing the library system and buying me a latte instead. Then we both would be really happy and we could have our own little book club together! Wouldn’t that just be so much more lovely? Happy Reading!
What has been in your book stack this month? Feel free to share your book recommendations or feedback on any of the books that have been mentioned above! I love getting new suggestions for my book pile!