Amy Clark

The Best Books of 2018

Can you believe I stuck around and blogged for another year? Me either! Yet, I’m STILL HERE talking to you about books after all these years.

Books are magic, aren’t they?

2018 was another incredible year of reading and I am so honored to have a place where I can share my thoughts on books.

Once again, I set the lofty goal of reading 100 books. This year, I barely squeaked by and really sweated it out this last month.

It makes no sense to me because the year prior seemed much breezier. Thanks to GoodReads though, I figured out why I was barely cha-cha sliding through 2018.

A Few Quick Reflections on My Year in Reading

I am a numbers person, so please humor me for a few seconds while I reflect on my GoodReads Challenges.

In 2014, I would have been so amazed at my goal of 100 books. Just who does she think she is, kind of amazement. Like, GET OVER YOURSELF side-eye stuff.

Yet, my 2018 self is JADED because I could have done better.

I read 100 books in 2017 and I could have aimed higher.

I am such a loser.

The reason I share this is because I see how hard I am on myself and how ridiculous it is that I can’t just be proud of this enormous thing that I pulled off, in the midst of being a mother, wife, and my job. I get bogged down hearing about people cranking out twice the amount of books and their plates seem fuller than mine. I am, truly, my own worst enemy.

I had to see this though to realize that I did WAY better than 2017 and feel like I deserve a congratulations.

I read 2,763 MORE pages than I did in 2017 which means that I can now say I’m proud of myself.

It’s so dumb.

Don’t get me started.

Just ask my dad about me. He witnessed my meltdown in front of a librarian because I set a reading goal too high and she wouldn’t give me a prize when I was little.

Some people never change.

I’m setting my goal again for 100 so I can set myself up for some real disappointment (hardy har har!). If you want to see more of what I am reading,  please feel free to friend me on GoodReads! You can find me right here and I am always happy to connect with people there! 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.

Looking to add some variety to your stack? Feel free to join our book club! I announced our selections and you can find them pinned at the top of the group page. Did I mention that our book club is FREE and welcoming to ALL? You will be so glad you joined.

Are you ready to hear about the best books I read in 2018? I couldn’t trim my list to ten so I hope you enjoy a my list of 20 favorites this year. Please note, if the books I have read have not been officially published, they will be moved as potential picks for 2019!! 

Let’s get to it-

The Best Books of 2018 (sign up for my newsletter and never miss a book review AGAIN! No spam, I promise!):

Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce

Dear Mrs. Bird, is, truly, one of the most charming novels I’ve read in a long time.

Set in 1940, Emmeline Lake discovers a help wanted ad for a job with the newspaper in town and can’t believer her luck to secure a job as a reporter as she dreams of all the important stories she is going to be able to cover during the war.

When she arrives for her first day though, she realizes she is greatly mistaken about her war correspondent duties and discovers that her job is really just a typist and the person who must screen all of the letters that the advice columnist, Mrs. Henrietta Bird, receives, to be answered in a tired woman’s publication.

Mrs. Bird has a verrryyyy long list of topics she refuses to cover (referred to as UNPLEASANTNESS)  and Emmeline is required to tear these “racy” letters up into tiny pieces as soon as she realizes what unladylike topics are being asked of her.

Emmeline knows that these topics deserve responses though, although she feels too young and unqualified to always give the best responses.  She secretly begins responding to the letters under Mrs. Bird’s name and, as she becomes braver, she begins publishing  her responses too.

Emmeline quickly discovers why giving advice isn’t always what it is cracked up to be, especially as her own life begins to unravel and the consequences of war hit too close to home.

Pearce was inspired by real letter submissions from this era and topics that were explored in women’s publications around the time of World War II and, cleverly, crafted these elements into her own witty debut.

If you are a fan of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, I just know you will adore this read too.

The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain

If you haven’t read Diane Chamberlain before, you really must! She is, truly, one of the most gifted writers.

Time travel is MY JAM so I was REALLY excited to see that her newest historical fiction novel had a science fiction spin that would be focused on time travel.

Diane Chamberlain AND time travel?

SIGN.

ME.

UP.

Set in the 1960’s, Carly’s husband has passed away in the Vietnam War before she can even share with him the news that she is pregnant.

At her routine doctor’s visit, they discover that this baby has a heart condition that cannot be treated and that her baby will die.

It is when she gets this news that her brother-in-law, a gifted physicist, shares with her that there is actually a surgery that can be done, but this surgery won’t be available until 2001.

How could he know this?

Well, let’s just say that he has time traveled a bit…

With his help, Carly time travels so her child can be part of this experimental surgery. Nothing is guaranteed, but Carly will do anything to save her daughter.

Chamberlain creates such suspense with this story that I could not put it down. This could have quickly turned corny, given the time travel aspect, but she does it with such beauty and believability, even crafting strain on the relationships of those left behind.

I hate to pick favorites, since I have loved so many of her books, but this is definitely one of my top 5 from this author!

Fans of, The Time Traveler’s Wife, will really embrace this one and the clever plot twists that surprised even me!

A River of Stars by Vanessa Hua

Debut novelists are my favorite and Vanessa Hua comes into the writing arena with, A River of Stars, like a seasoned pro.

It goes without saying, but if Celeste Ng puts her stamp of approval on it, I will be adding that book to my book stacks.

I have loved reading so many books about immigrants this year and Hua tells a gorgeous story of Scarlett Chen, a scared girl who has been taken far from her home in China.

Scarlett worked in a factory where she met and fell in love with the owner, Boss Yeung. When Boss discovers she is pregnant with his first son, he sends her away to America where she can be cared for by the top doctors and kept on the right diet and regime to insure he will have the healthy son he has always wanted.

Oh, and he needs her to leave too because he is already married with three daughters of his own.

Unfortunately, this place that Boss has sent her to is nothing like it had been described in the brochures. The conditions are horrible, the caretaker is evil, and Scarlett would do anything to escape.

In the end, that is exactly what she does, with a surprise stowaway in the back of the stolen van she hijacked.

What Scarlett doesn’t know is that Boss needs her baby in his life to fight a battle of his own. He will stop at nothing to find Scarlett and his child, because it means life or death for him. His unrelenting hunt for her terrifies Scarlett because she knows she will be punished for running away.

Scarlett will stop at nothing to keep them both safe and Boss will stop at nothing to make sure they are found.

This book is just INCREDIBLE and, again, you will see this one on my top ten list, FOR SURE. Hua’s writing has the rich qualities of Lisa See where she is able to see a story through with these characters from beginning to end.

She also told a story that I just did not want to end.

I really hope there is a sequel in the works because it is that good.

This novel is gripping and perfectly timed for understanding more of what it is like to be an immigrant. Hua dives deep in exploring the definition of home, family, and belonging.

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

This book selection was made for my stack after hearing that it would be a great selection for, A Little Life fans.  As you guys know, I am a huge fan of this book and even scored this amazing tee from a friend after we talked about our undying love for these characters.

Shortlisted for the National Book Award, this is a beautiful story of friendship during the height of the AIDS epidemic and offers similar themes of beautiful male friendships during the thick of a crisis in the gay community.

There are two intertwining stories being told in this story. Yale Tishman is a development director for an art gallery in Chicago and, as his career begins to really flourish, his friends are dying around him, one by one.

Meanwhile, thirty years later, Yale’s younger sister is in Paris desperately trying to reconnect with her daughter who has joined a cult. While staying in Paris with an old friend, she also is forced to deal with what AIDS has robbed of her and how it affected her relationship with her estranged daughter.

While many of us can never fully understand what the AIDS epidemic looked like during this time in history, particularly for gay men, Makkai does an incredible job bringing humanity and compassion to these devastating stories. The friendships that are weaved are beautiful and believable. I loved these characters and the gorgeous writing that Makkai brings to the table. She is definitely deserving of the National Book Award and I am so glad I got to read it this month.

If you are looking for something to fill your, A Little Life void, I highly recommend this touching read. It would be an excellent book for discussion for book clubs too!

Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras

I can tell you now that, Fruit of the Drunken Tree, will be on my favorite reads of 2018. I was so swept away by the vivid storytelling and the poetic descriptive language in this book.

The author uses elements of her own life story (a discovery I made after reading the author’s notes at the end) to create this incredible coming-of-age story from two markedly different Columbian girls, growing up during the time that Pablo Escobar has captured the nation’s attention.

Chula & Cassandra are sisters that grow up in a more protected gated community, although they are still surrounded my unsafe elements outside of their neighborhood walls. They are well-cared for, adored by their mother, and given everything they need.

While Chula & Cassandra are carefree and curious, Petrona (who is around their same age) is folding under the burden of being the breadwinner for her family. She ends up finding a job, working as a live-in maid for Chula & Cassandra’s mother.  Living in their home is a true blessing since she has grown up in the guerrilla-occupied slums.

When Petrona meets her first love though, she finds herself in the middle of a horrible situation that threatens her safety, the safety of her family, and the safety of the family she is working for. This relationship really sets the plot in motion as you worry for each of these girls and their safety.

I am not sure why I’m not hearing more about this novel because it is a powerful and devastating read. While I have read a lot of historical fiction, this is an era and country that I have not read a lot about so it made the story even more impactful for me.

If you love a good coming-of-age story, I have a feeling you will really connect with this incredible read.

Rust & Stardust by T. Greenwood

I didn’t know anything about this book going into it and, perhaps, that is why it shocked me in both its beauty and darkness. Although I had also known the general premise of Lolita, I had no point of reference that this novel had been based on a true life kidnapping crime. In Rust & Stardust, Greenwood pulls back the curtain on this horrific case and chillingly illuminates what all this girl had been through.

In 1948, Sally Horner is desperate to get into the cool club with a group of girls from school. As part of her initiation process, she has to steal a notebook at a local drugstore.  When a man with the F.B.I.  sees her take this notebook, he tells her that she must pay for her crime and that he won’t rat her out to her parents, as long as she follows all of his instructions.

He poses as a father from a friend from school and says that they are going on a beautiful beach vacation and would like to take Sally along with them. Sally’s mother, struggling with debilitating arthritis and pain, knows that Sally will have a wonderful adventure and begrudgingly allows her to accept the invitation. Sally knows that she must go on this trip for her court hearing and punishment for the stolen notebook.

The thing is, this guy is actually a dangerous child predator who has just been released from prison and Sally is his latest conquest.

This book wrecked me in the same ways that, A Little Life, ripped a little of my heart out. Nabbing criminals back then is a frustrating process to witness, let alone be a victim too. It takes a strong reader to read this one and I have a feeling Sally’s story is going to be imprinted on my heart for a very long time. Greenwood’s writing is poetry in motion, even in the evil bits of it.

I doubt you will be able to put this one down, but given the context of the story, know this is a dark read.

The One by John Marrs

I think I have been reading too many thrillers because they just haven’t been grabbing me in the same way. I can’t say that though about, The One, which will be my top thriller recommendation this year.

Black Mirror fans may recall an episode of the show where potential mates are matched in a very science-fiction type of way. This thriller explores the concept of DNA matching in a similar fashion, but goes much deeper into the complexities of love and lust that happen when we are told that someone is scientifically matched to you.

There are several amazing stories going on- a straight man who finds out he is matched to a man, a woman who discovers her match has died before she has connected with him, a woman who finds out that her match is terminally ill, the founder of the profiling system and the relationship with her match…oh, and a serial killer who is out on the loose and pursuing a few matches of his own.

I listened to this one on audiobook and the narration is absolutely fantastic. There wasn’t a dud in the stories and I loved, loved, loved the plot twists in this one.

If you want a thriller you can’t put down, this is better than any of the summer buzz book thrillers I have read. I think you will love it!

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang

Described by one reviewer as Charlotte’s Web for grown-ups, one of my favorites this year was definitely, Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance. I can’t recommend this one enough for a gorgeously written escape, with equal parts myth and relatability.

Weylyn is an orphan and has been raised by a pack of wolves which is just one of many reasons why he can’t seem to fit in with others.  When he finds that he can single-handedly stop a tornado, with his own powers, he realizes just how different he really is.

Weylyn finds a sweet friendship with a girl named Mary and her devotion has never ended, even as they have gotten older. This beautiful relationship is followed as Weylyn brings magic into everything he does, even as an adult trying to hold down a regular job. The gift he has though is a blessing and a curse and we get to hear his story through the eyes of many in this book.

I could not put this one down and would recommend it for anyone who enjoyed, The Snow Child, because it has that fairytale quality to it that makes you never want to stop flipping the pages until you reach the very end of the story.

Although not labeled as a YA, I would confidently pass this one on to my children because it is a clean, sweet, and magical story. In fact, that’s just what I did. It’s the type of book that you just want to share with others, with unforgettable characters and unbelievable storytelling.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

A coming-of-age story combined with a murder mystery, Where the Crawdads Sing, has the framework for a book that anyone would love.

Kya Clark is a little girl who has found herself abandoned by her family and will do anything to keep anyone from finding out, knowing she would be taken from her home. Resourcefully, Kya finds ways to secure food and clothing, with help from a shop owner who takes mercy on her. Thanks to her love of nature, Kya never feels entirely abandoned because the animals and world around her make her feel like she is surrounded by friends.

As she grows up, her beauty and the mystery around her intrigues two local boys, that both make a way into her heart.

Years later though, one of those boys is found dead and the locals immediately suspect that Kya is the suspect. Known as the, “Marsh Girl,” no one in town likes or trusts her. How could they possibly trust her though because they don’t even know her?

The story goes back and forth through time as Kya goes from a frightened young girl to a more confident author to becoming the main suspect in a murder investigation. This story begs the question, can we ever escape our past?

If you are looking for an audiobook to enjoy this month, this one is BEAUTIFULLY narrated and should be savored. The writing is exquisite, the story is heartbreaking, and the characters are so well-developed that they lift off the pages.

Each year I get asked what book someone could confidently share for the holidays. I would put this book at the top of the list this year because it is one that I could hand to my mom, grandmother, or sister and know that they would be just as swept away as me. Buy this one in multiples for all the people you want to share a book with this year.

This book has had a lot of buzz already, thanks to being picked up by the Hello Sunshine book club, but I just had to add my stamp of approval too!  This is a buzz book that REALLY delivers and I think you will love it too.

Educated by Tara Westover

If you are looking for a gripping memoir to add to your book stacks this year, you MUST, MUST, MUST read this book. I polished this one off in a day because I had to know how Westover’s story would end.

If you haven’t heard about this one, I will try to briefly fill you in. Educated is the story of Tara Westover who was seventeen before she had ever stepped into a classroom. Born to Mormon survivalists, her parents spent their days stockpiling for the end-of-days, salvaging metal from the junkyard, and stewing herbs for the healing and midwifery that her mother did as her job.

Tara’s father is mentally ill and and has a strong distrust for the medical establishment and government. She grows up never seeing a doctor, never going to school, and doesn’t even have a birth certificate. If you lived a rather normal existence, this might work, but it doesn’t work in the treacherous world that Tara must live in.

My heart was in my throat almost this entire story as Tara is physically abused by a sibling, neglected by her parents, and mentally abused through her father’s version of God and the church.

Tara decides to teach herself math, grammar, and science so she can take the ACT. It is through this act that she finds her own salvation, while trying to navigate a secular world that is foreign to her.

Fans of, The Sound of Gravel and The Glass Castleare sure to love this achingly beautiful story.

Between Me & You by Allison Winn Scotch

If you are looking for a book that you can really escape with, Between Me & You was a fantastic read that I savored this month.

Loved the plotline of, A Star is Born? This is a similar love story of two people on the search for fame and what happens when one person moves forward in their career while the other is struggling.

Ben has all the cards stacked in his favor in Hollywood. He comes from a privileged family and seems to have the right connections. Tatum, however, is a struggling actress who is working as a bartender at an NYC dive bar. When the two meet, they fall in love and get married.

The thing is, Tatum’s career takes off and Ben finds his own career is fading.

This touching love story is told from two perspectives with one rewinding history and one moving their story forward, both laced with their own bias and regret.

Told from their unique perspectives and with this shifting timeline, the raw honesty in each of their stories really pulls through in a really unique way.

Usually, I find I gravitate toward one perspective, but this wasn’t the case with this one. I loved seeing each of these viewpoints and Scotch does an incredible job fleshing these out.

I must admit, I have read all of Scotch’s books and her debut has always been my favorite…

That is, until I read this one.

The Storyteller’s Secret by Sejal Badani

If there has been one Kindle book that has consistently been top of the charts these past few months, it has been, The Storyteller’s SecretBadani graciously joined me for an interview, after releasing her debut novel, so I had a feeling that this book was going to be another incredible treat and I wasn’t wrong. This book is GORGEOUS start to finish and, as the title suggests, if you just love beautiful storytelling, this book is one I would hand to you.

Jaya is a New York journalist who has suffered her third miscarriage and has found herself in a struggling marriage and emotionally drained. Desperate to relieve her anguish, she goes to India to uncover the answers of her family’s past.

When she arrives, she is greeted by Ravi, a trusted former servant of her family, and he has been waiting for Jaya to share the beautiful stories of her grandmother’s life. Growing up in the traditional Indian culture, her grandmother is a gifted storyteller with a big heart and strong spirit. Her husband dislikes these glimmers of independence, but also gives her the space she so desperately craves.

When a school is opened in the village, she is given the generous offer of being a teacher at the school and in exchange Amisha will be gifted English lessons. This generous offer is gifted to her by a handsome soldier who is stationed there during the British occupation. He can never know what a joyful gift it is and the heartache that will, in turn, come from that gift.

Badani writes again with kindness and wisdom for Indian customs and the religious beliefs they have built upon. I always learn so much from her writing and she does a phenomenal job of showing the beauty of India while also acknowledging the harder to swallow truths of the caste system and superstitious punishments that have been gifted within the family.

More importantly, given tasked to write the poetic stories of Amisha AND the task of telling Amisha’s story…well, that would take a talented storyteller to pull off. It comes as no surprise, Badani delivers the storytelling magic with abundance.

I would recommend this beautiful read to fans of, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats.

What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera

Fans of Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda will absolutely ADORE What If It’s Us and will not be able to put this charming coming-of-age love story down.

Arthur is in New York for the summer and never expected that a trip to the post office would change his life. While standing in line though, he chats with another guy who is at the post office to rid himself of his ex-boyfriend’s items. The two strike up such a great conversation that Arthur just knows that the two were destined to meet.

Wouldn’t you know that a flash mob decides to come in to perform on that day and Arthur realizes that the boy of his dreams has left before he was able to get his name or number?

With encouragement from friends, he decides to put in an ad on Craigslist to see if he can find this newly single guy.

Magically, the universe delivers and the two find each other and end up going on some really terrible dates.

They aren’t willing to give up though and repeat their “first date” many times, getting to know each other through the process. What unfolds is an awkwardly sweet and honest teenage love story that I am such a sucker for.

I listened to this one on audiobook and it was a really fun one to listen to. The chapters alternate between Arthur and Ben and I found myself laughing out loud and even quite teary as I remembered my own dating struggles when I was growing up.

This was charming, adorable, heartfelt, and perfectly imperfect…as all love stories are.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

This gorgeous story is set in the seventies and is about a former POW father who comes home from the Vietnam War completely changed. His behavior and decision-making is wildly erratic and when a property becomes available in rural Alaska, he decides that they should seize the opportunity to live off the grid and make a different life for themselves.

Braving harrowing and life-threatening conditions is what is all about and thirteen-year-old Leni is caught in the middle of it all as they attempt to carve a new life in the wild frontier.

Living off the grid is not all it is cracked up to be and neither is surviving the difficult Alaska winters.

Braving the wilderness is tough and Hannah writes so eloquently about this impossible marriage and the honest struggle of a Vietnam veteran. I couldn’t have loved this more and was honored to also help showcase some fun ideas for a book club discussion around this book.

The Impossible Girl by Lydia Y. Kang.

If you are looking for a historical fiction pick that you won’t be able to put down, The Impossible Girl is a book I would HIGHLY recommend. Kang uses her own background in medicine, working as a practicing physician on the side, and crafts the incredible story of a girl born with two hearts in 1850.

Cora, born out of wedlock to a wealthy socialite and nameless immigrant, is the stuff that legends are made of. At a time in history where grave robbers would dig up freshly buried bodies for profit, she knows that her own body would garner a fine wage for a resurrectionist and builds her own business as a trusted resurrectionist to protect her identity and her own phenomenal medical miracle.

Acting as herself and posing as a brother, she is able to both administer the deals and help with the digging.

She isn’t the only one though looking for bodies that can serve as specimens for dissection and display. A series of murders has begun, beating Cora to her profits and worrying her that she could be the next victim.

Well-written and beautifully researched, I devoured this book and can’t wait to dig into Kang’s debut novel next.

If you are a fan of Fingersmith (please say you are!!), you are going to flip for this incredible read!

Every Note Played by Lisa Genova

If you are looking for a tear-jerker to add to your book stack this month, then be sure to add Genova’s latest novel, Every Note Played.

I have read everything that Genova has written and this has been my favorite of all her incredible books.  This story explores the disease ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and the swift decline that occurs when someone is faced with this illness.

Richard is a world-renowned pianist that has chosen to make playing music the focus of his life, even over his family. Divorced and estranged from his daughter, he bounces from one relationship to the next. When he begins having difficulties playing piano, particularly with his right hand, he sees a doctor and is faced with the devastating news that he has ALS and will soon see paralysis throughout the rest of his body.

Unable to afford the care that he needs, he must ask his ex-wife to help care for him, someone he had cast aside and cheated on during their marriage. This dynamic is quite toxic as Richard and Karina must learn to live together again and face the horrific and heartbreaking decline of Richard’s health.

Richard is an unlikable character from beginning to end and I do think that this makes Karina’s sacrifice even greater because he is so ungrateful. Some readers may struggle with a connection to him, but you definitely won’t struggle to sympathize as you see the gravity of this illness and how quickly it takes over the body.

I cry about once a year over a book, thanks to a hardened soul and reading so much.

This book WRECKED ME.

I was crying reading it and then two days later I was still crying about it. It moved me emotionally, in ways that books rarely do.

Once I came to the end and saw all of the people that Genova lovingly mentions that shared their journey with ALS with her, you see how much thought and research went into this project. Genova’s compassion in telling this story is, truly, a gift.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

So many of my readers said that this book made their top ten and I can see why! This book was beautiful from start to finish and told the sweeping story of several generations of a Korean family in Japan and the cultural struggles that they face over the years.

The book begins in the early 1900’s with the unplanned pregnancy of a Korean girl, named Sunja. Sunja faces a lot of humiliation when she discovers she isn’t the only one who has captured her lover’s eye. When her path crosses with a tubercular minister, he offers to marry her and bring her to Japan to start a new life as thanks for helping him through his difficult illness.

The story then unfolds as generation after generation deal with their own cultural challenges, the discrimination they must face, and the poverty that threatens to take everything away from them.

This story is RICH in beauty and detail. Lee’s writing is just gorgeous and she weaves this tapestry of characters so very well.  At almost 500 pages, this one is a bit of a commitment, but I finished it in just a few short days because I had to know what would happen to these characters. I highly recommend adding this one to your stack!

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center

If you are a Me Before You fan, you won’t want to miss this gorgeous read. Center’s builds a beautiful and believable story that I think you are going to be completely swept away with.

Imagine you were terrified of flying and, just as you always suspected, you are in a tragic accident. This is exactly what unfolds from the opening chapters of How to Walk Away, and the reader is taken along the journey as Kit’s life, as she knows it, is forever changed.

Also, imagine that the person you love walks away from the experience unscathed.

The book centers around the difficult recovery, the surprises of those who step up in tragedies, the sadness around those that walk away, and how to find love again.

I devoured this book in a single day and can’t say enough good things. Fans of Emily Giffin or Taylor Jenkins Reid are sure to fall in love with this book.

My Name is Venus Black by Heather Lloyd

If you are looking for a really good YA read to add to your stack, My Name is Venus Black REALLY captured my heart this month.

Venus Black is a good kid, fascinated by astronomy and a strong student. That is why it is so unbelievable and shocking when she commits a crime that tears apart her family.

No one knows why she commited the crime and Venus refuses to talk about it, yet puts much of the blame solely on her own mother.  In the chaos of this crime, her developmentally challenged brother, Leo, goes missing.

Five years late, Venus is released from prison, but struggling to be released from her own identity. She tries to get a fresh start in a town, but no matter how hard she tries, she is unable to escape her own past.

Meanwhile, Leo is living his own challenging life and it has been doubly challenged by his environment and the person who kidnapped him. This change in residency though just might yield a different kind of family for this boy as those around him come to know and love sweet Leo.

I couldn’t put this one down and I know that these characters will be in my heart for a long time!

Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran

What I heard frequently from our book club members was that this was a book that they would have not picked up on their own and that it ended up being a book club reader favorite. The best part, for me, was also hearing that it changed people’s viewpoints and made them more empathetic to refugees and immigrants that have come to America.

This story is about two women- one who is in her teens and coming to the states illegally and the other who is living the American dream version of the immigrant story in Berkley. When Soli, our teen narrator, becomes pregnant on her perilous journey to the states, she decides to keep her son and do her best to juggle her job as a housekeeper and care for her child.

The other woman is struggling with infertility and would do anything to have a child.

When Soli’s little boy enters her life, she must do everything she can to keep him in it.

Our “lucky” boy is loved fiercely by two women and both will stop at nothing to keep him in their lives.

Need More Book Ideas? Here are my top ten lists from the past eight years!!

Best Books of 2017

My Top Ten Books of 2016

My Top Ten Books of 2015

My Top Ten Books of 2014

My Top Ten Books of 2013

The Best Books Read in 2012

My Top Ten Books in 2011

The Top Ten of 2010

For more great suggestions, check out the NPR Book Concierge– swoon! It is heavenly stuff!

Tell me, what your favorite books were in 2018 or share your links to your own round-ups!

Anything I should 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 or on IG or hang out with me in the book club!

This post contains affiliate links. I promise to only recommend what I truly love!

Published December 30, 2018 by:

Amy Clark

Amy Allen Clark is the founder of MomAdvice.com. You can read all about her here.

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