Posts Tagged ‘Heft Review’

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

Thursday, 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! 

Great Reads for Moms: December ’12 Edition

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Although the reviews have been pretty quiet around here, I have still been slowly getting back to reading now that my own book is finally written! I am so excited to share with you just a few of the gems I have been enjoying these last few months and also excited to hear what you have been working on.

Even more exciting (for me), is that I now have an Author Profile on GoodReads and my book is listed there too! I would be ecstatic if you became a fan of my writing and would love to see my book listed as something you might be wanting to read in 2013. 

I have also listed my second book signing in Goshen, Indiana at Better World Books. Please accept my heartfelt invitation to come to this book signing. I would love to meet you! 

As always, 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.

Heft by Liz Moore

Heft is truly one of the best books that I have read this year and I know that this is a novel that can be appreciated by all. It is a story that leaves you rooting for some of the most unlikely characters and showcases the beauty of unlikely friendships.

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. You will have a hard time putting this one down and I look forward to reading more from Liz Moore in the future!

MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars


The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield

There is a certain richness that comes with great Southern storytelling and this amazing book by Jenny Wingfield is laced with that type of richness I am speaking of and beautiful storytelling that you can picture just like a movie screen.

Samuel Lake, his wife Willadee (Moses), and their three children find themselves back home in Arkansas after Samuel finds himself out of work as a minister. When tragedy strikes, the family bands together in unlikely ways and find their faith is challenged to the core of even God’s most faithful. The book offers the story of spunky Swan Lake (yes, her family did name her that), an unlikely little boy that the family takes in as their own, a town villain that has made it his life’s mission to make their family’s life miserable, and Toy, Swan’s uncle, who becomes her unlikely hero.

Each character is so vividly told with his/her own story line that Wingfield magically weaves together to create an incredible story that will stick with you long after you close the book. I can’t recommend this one enough!

MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars

These Is My Words by Nancy F. Turner

For a long time I have had, “These Is My Words,” in the back of my mind as a great book to tackle this winter and I am so glad that I finally did. This story is inspired by the author’s own family memoirs, and the words belong to Sarah Prine. Sarah is a spunky young woman who finds herself a pioneer as they travel the frontier in search of a place to call home.The story is told in diary format and  records her steps beginning from her childhood to a young adult to becoming a mother. What truly makes the book is the beautiful love story between herself and cavalry officer Captain Jack Elliot. It is a love story that rivals great love stories like Gone with the Wind and the Outlander series.

Although I am not typically a fan of writing that is written in diary or letter form, I did truly love this book, mostly, for the beautiful love story it offered. I understand that there are two more books in this series to tackle and I look forward to reading those in the upcoming year!

MomAdvice Rating- 4 1/2 Stars out of 5 Stars

Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes

Wow! It’s been a long time since a thriller kept me up all night, but 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 night club 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 experience 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 Girl,” this 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.

MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars

love anthony by Lisa Genova

Lisa Genova is an author that does not disappoint and has become one of the authors I rely upon for a great story. Love Anthony is a heartbreaking and also endearing story that will pull upon your heartstrings as a mother and would lend itself well to any book club discussion.

Olivia had always dreamed of being a mother, but her idea of what life would be like as a mom is changed when her son Anthony is diagnosed with autism at the age of three. Anthony struggles with sounds and crowds and “normal” childhood experiences and Olivia works hard to make sense of what life is like for Anthony when he cannot speak to her. Just when Olivia begins to make sense of what her new life with Anthony will look like, he unexpectedly dies.

She finds herself alone in a cottage on Nantucket, newly separated from her husband, and desperate to understand the meaning of her son’s life when a chance encounter with another woman facing her own loss brings Anthony alive again for Olivia in a most unexpected way.

The two stories of these women is beautifully woven and what I truly appreciated about this story, as heartbreaking as it was, is how Genova seems to get inside the head of what it would be like to live as an autistic child and how she seems to really bring light to the difficulties an autistic child would have to endure.

Beautiful and a sweetly satisfying ending for a heartbreaking tale, Genova continues to weave beautiful stories that linger in my mind long after I close the book.

MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars

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!

Books I have read in 2012 (so far):


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 winter? 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!


Pin It