Archive for June, 2020

33 Joyful Activities That Are Getting Me Through Hard Days

Friday, June 26th, 2020

Hands free reading

If there is one thing that I am NOT good at, it is being fake about my online life.

This has been a truly awful year, in more ways than I can count.

Just like you, I’m worried what this year holds, frustrated with the lack of empathy right now, and just can’t seem to focus on anything except the hard. 

I am also very aware that we are all bringing our own emotional and physical luggage into this pandemic and my scenario may look way more ideal than what you have been dealt. 

That’s why empathy is so damn important. 

I miss the days of, “we’re all in this together,” moments that we had in the beginning COVID days.

Pile on the heartbreaking and senseless death of George Floyd and I just don’t know how to do the internet anymore. 

I decided to take a couple of weeks and do some internal work.

I’ll be honest, even though I thought I was doing a great job with inclusion and showing up for others, I have learned that I have so many behaviors that I need to unlearn.

I’m also acknowledging that my history classes sure didn’t share a heck of a lot of this stuff. 

Doing anti-racist work and acknowledging my own bias is an ongoing project, but I think the biggest blessing that I’m taking out of this is that there is SO much room for expansion in my heart.

After all, when we see things we can’t unsee them. 

We must do our part right now, especially if our eyes weren’t open to the injustice before. 

And, when we know better we do better. 

Sprinkled within this miserable life cake though have been several difficult health diagnoses among our friends, the loss of employment for those in our circle, and my own mounting anxiety with an immune compromised family.

It’s just A LOT. 

I’m realizing it’s okay to not be okay.

This week I decided to start a gratitude list because, in all this hard,  there have been good things that have happened during this time of sheltering in place.

Our family feels closer than ever before.

Our kids have adapted in ways that I find quite admirable.

We have had important family talks because we are together so much. 

Although there is nothing life-changing in today’s gratitude list, I think any glimmer of joy is worth celebrating right now. 

If you have time, leave a comment and share something you are finding joy in right now. 

Big or small, joy is so needed right now. 


33 Joyful Activities That Are Getting Me Through Hard Days

cozy minmalist bouquet

One: Yard Bouquets

Inspired by Cozy Minimalist Home, I have been picking greenery in our yard to make bouquets for our home. What I didn’t expect was the same sense of satisfaction a real bouquet brings me.

Two: A Quiet Alarm Clock

I bought an affordable little step counter and use it now as an alarm. The gentle buzz on my arm is a lot less intrusive than a loud alarm and it’s been nice not waking everyone up when I sneak down for a quiet cup of coffee. 

It’s also been a handy reminder to move every hour (move? what’s that?) and to figure out what day it is.

Honestly, I’d have no clue otherwise.

Three: New York Times Cooking App

We haven’t subscribed to a newspaper in years, but the pandemic felt like a great justification to keep informed. When I activated our account, I added on the NYT Cooking app and it has been worth every dollar. I’m trying to do a recipe each week and it’s been a way to make all this cooking a tiny more fun.

iced coffee pitcher

Four: Unlimited Iced Coffee Refills

My new evening routine is making a batch of iced coffee for the next day. Although I used to make it without a pitcher, I am embracing this cold brew pitcher (a holiday gift) since it makes the process almost effortless. The inner filter holds all the grounds for you and screws into the cap. You just fill it up with cold water, screw in the filter, and give it a good shake. 

Five: Lunchtime Walks

Our life has gotten unbelievably boring. 

I mean, is the most exciting thing you do a prescription run? 

I’ve picked up a new lunchtime habit of taking a loop through our neighborhood with my husband.

Normally, he is at his workplace and while that’s come with some necessary adaptations (more below), we are embracing the challenge and taking a daily walk together on our lunch hours. 

Six: Working on Consistent Habits

My days had started to blur together and I realized that one of the reasons was because I had no real “goals” for the day. 

I was on the hunt for something to start helping hold me accountable and stumbled on The Fabulous app. I tried it out for a week and decided to buy a year to help me through this season. 

You set a goal that you have in mind (mine is to increase my energy levels) and then it works on habit-building by creating challenges for you each week. Although you don’t need an app to do this, it has some really great information on why these habits are important and how to reinforce them.

Right now, I’m working on an energy building trilogy of daily exercise, starting my day with water, and eating breakfast. 

I haven’t been doing any of these things consistently so I’m loving the accountability factor. 

Oh, and guess what?

It really is improving my energy.

Paint By Numbers for Adults

Seven: Painting & Audiobooks

I’m not very artistic so I’ve been embracing doing paint-by-number kits to get my creativity on. Once I started my painting, I realized that this pairs perfectly with audiobooks. 

I got a kit for my girl too so we sit with our respective earbuds and paint together.

If you have a teen girl, this is a joy-giver all around right now.

Eight: My New Oven

In the earliest days of all this mess, my oven decided to quit. It, honestly, was the most inconvenient time since no one would bring it into our house or (at that point) was even open.

I am sure we made a memory that day with all the teamwork involved trying to get the old oven out and a new oven into our home.  

Now that the oven drama is behind us, I can say that having the option for convection has made my dishes taste so much better. 

Also, is there anything better than a shiny new appliance after sixteen years?

I can now see my goofy reflection again when I peek at what’s cooking.

Absorbent Hair Towels

Nine: Hair Towel Time

I have never been big on washing my hair, mostly because my hair is so thick and it takes forever to dry.

I’m not sure why I’ve never bought a hair towel before, but it has motivated me so much more to wash my hair. I also love that it keeps my head cozy while my hair is drying.

Despite not seeing a hairstylist since August (yikes), my hair feels so much healthier.

These little self-care rituals are luxurious little treats these days.

Ten: A Minimized Wardrobe

A minimal wardrobe isn’t a new thing, but this summer I only got out about a quarter of my summer wardrobe. 

This pared down wardrobe includes only things that make ME happy and are super comfortable.

No need to impress the neighbors on our loop through the ‘hood.

Pull-on shorts, simple sundresses, and breezy skirts (HIGHLY recommend these if you are doing the same) are on repeat over here.

If you need a few comfortable go-to pieces:

This sundress with adjustable straps is my absolute favorite

Swing dresses for the win.

Anything labeled pull-on shorts, from this company, have been a hit.

This shirt is so lightweight and wrinkle-free with sleeves that look perfect rolled up. I wear it to death.

I hope you have these. I love the scoop & v-neck options (depending on what I’m wearing).



Eleven: A Renewed Appreciation for Oatmeal

In an effort to minimize charges for grocery delivery, I started making steel cut slow cooker oatmeal for our breakfast instead of buying multiple boxes of cereal.

Frankly, I just couldn’t keep up, even with the wholesale club size boxes. 

We had a couple of people who weren’t as big of oatmeal fans that have converted since I started making these. 

If I’m not making this, I’m baking up trays of granola

I feel so much better when I eat this way and, thanks to the habit tracker, this has become a new priority.

Twelve: A Hand Sanitizer That Moisturizes

If you have to use hand sanitizer, multiple times a day, it’s nice when you find one that smells good and doesn’t dry out your hands.

Add, this bottle of hand sanitizer to the surprising list of things you never thought you’d be grateful for in 2020. 

It smells soooo good, it dries fast, and it isn’t sticky.

If you want to add another layer, I discovered this inexpensive hand cream and add a layer of that before bed.  

Thirteen: News Without the Noise

Three Instagram accounts have made digesting all this news a little easier this year and THAT is something to be grateful for right now.

I highly recommend following these three accounts to stay updated on everything.

Kinggutterbaby– Laurel is an infectious disease researcher that does an incredible job on her Instagram Stories (you can check her highlight bubbles on her profile page too) translating science into layman’s terms and also explaining if headline news is real or not.

Jessicayellin– Jessica is a former White House correspondent that does a really great daily briefing of the news you need to know. I appreciate her reporter instincts to report the news without any particular agenda except making sense of all these headlines. 

Pantsuitpolitics– Sarah & Beth do a phenomenal job with their briefing on the headlines too. They focus on grace-filled politics which is something I think we desperately need right now. I’m really thankful for the compassionate way they help you understand what’s happening in the world.

ALDI Curbside

Fourteen: ALDI Curbside Pickup

I am so darn thankful for Instacart and now I’m doubly thankful because I can pick up my groceries and save money on tips.

Our local store recently joined the curbside gang and now I can order my groceries and pick them up in their newly designated spots.

We tried it out this week and the entire transaction took less than five minutes. 

Everything was bagged, loaded, and had contactless fulfillment.

I guess our prescription runs just got a whole lot more exciting.

We saved about $35 in delivery and tip fees on a single order alone. 

I’m planning to use this moving forward, until the unmotivated winter months.

Fifteen: A Unicorn Haircut

What did we do before YouTube and Pinterest? 

I am so thankful that we were able to navigate this time with some inexpensive clippers because it has been many years since I cut hair at our house. 

Outdoor haircuts are the latest pandemic craze and I’ve been cutting everyone’s hair, including my own.

Have you ever used the unicorn haircut trick for your long hair? 

Well, I did. 

Although it is a pretty shady haircut, I’m thankful I am able to stay away from the germs for now and my ends feel so much better.

Oh, the things I have learned in quarantine.

Panini Night

Sixteen: Dusting Off Those Small Appliances

So many dusty small appliances have been living in our basement and I’m thankful to be rotating them in our house again.

From my bread machine to the panini press, we have been using a lot of things in our home that have not seen any love in our house in a long time.

In fact, panini night is back at the Clark house.  (jazz hands!)

Our favorite combo is pesto, provolone, roasted chicken (try this easy method with frozen chicken), spinach, and tomato. 

Don’t have a panini press? Cover a brick with foil and smash those sandwiches in a skillet instead. 

Seventeen: Direct Care From My Physician

I didn’t know we would be in a pandemic when I switched to a direct care option for my medical stuff, but I am SO thankful I did.

It has been invaluable to have 24/7 access to a physician that knows my patient file inside and out.

Navigating all of this has been much easier because I know what is happening on a local level. 

If you can afford the monthly (or annual) rate, this is the year to pay for that access.

Eighteen: Podcast Nights Together

What could be better than a glass of wine and a really intriguing podcast that allows you to escape the current day issues for a little awhile.

Our happy hour is now paired with the Rabbit Hole podcast.

Once we started it, we couldn’t stop.

Imagine exploring someone’s YouTube journey, from start to finish, and witnessing how the algorithms affect their moral compass.

We thought we knew where this was headed, but we had no idea.

Nineteen: My New Workspace

We have a double desk in our office, but rarely worked side by side. With both of us working from home, we were getting pretty annoyed with each other.

Give me soft lights, bubbling essential oils, music, and YouTube breaks.

Give him bright lights, absolutely no talking or sound ever, and Zooming all day.

Not ideal.

This foldable desk and this foldable chair ended up being the perfect solution for a temporary workstation.

Of course, once I realized how glorious it is to have the windows open and sunshine on my face, this may be the permanent solution.

I’m looking forward to picking out some fun wallpaper to dress up the top of this desk.

Twenty: Watching The Office (For The First Time)

I am sure we are the only people on the planet that haven’t seen, “The Office,” but I can’t tell you how thankful I am that I waited. 

We have been belly-laughing through every single episode and I, FINALLY, can appreciate why this show is such a cult-classic.

Twenty-One: My Hair Coloring Smock

According to Madison Reed, I have been a hair color subscriber since 2018 and I am still appreciating the convenience of hair color delivery. 

The brush and bowl set has made application easier, but the hair coloring smock is being used so much more than I would have imagined. 

Now I get dressed and put this on over my clothes to protect them while doing my makeup and hair routines. 

Twenty-Two: Mastering a Favorite Takeout Dish

I’ve been more motivated to figure out some of our favorite takeout dishes, mostly because the delivery fees can really add up and the amount of packaging can be a little sickening.

The recipe of the summer, for sure, has been this sheet pan chicken shawarma

With all of these struggles in the meat plants though, I’m looking forward to working on some more plant-based dinner ideas to help do our part.

For now, gratitude for mastering a takeout favorite.

Twenty-Three: Socially Distancing With Neighbors

What’s the point of having a fire pit if you never use it? 

We had our first neighbor night (socially distanced) around the fire and it made me feel almost…well…normal. 

We ordered Papa John’s pizza (one for each of us), sipped wine, and gabbed forever in our backyard. 

If there ever is a time you are thankful for a huge backyard and sitting area, it is right now!

Also, it’s great that when they need to use the bathroom, they can just go to their house.


Twenty-Four: New Family Systems

A very first world problem is to miss the amazing crew that helped you maintain your home, but we are trying to not introduce any germs into our home, as much as possible.

These chore charts have really worked out well and I am proud that we are working together as a team through this.

My husband also suggested a dry erase board for our refrigerator, to help us use up the leftovers and to jot down any items that a family member uses up.

When you have a deep refrigerator, it is easy to have a lot of food waste, so this board is really helping us be more accountable to our food.

Twenty-Five:  Shower Pumps Changing My Life

I’m in charge of deep-cleaning the bathrooms weekly, and moving all of these bottles around (many of them emptied and sitting on ledges) was driving me bonkers. 

Are you ready for the thing that changed all that?

Wall pump dispensers in our bathrooms have removed ALL the ledge clutter. 

I reinforced these with some waterproof command strips (because kids), but it is one of my favorite purchases we have made. 

Not moving around all this clutter (or looking at it when I take my bath) is bringing me a ton of joy.

Twenty-Six:  Streaming Podcasts Through Spotify

I’m embarrassed to say that, despite paying for a premium membership, I have never used Spotify to stream my podcasts

I love how seamless this platform moves from episode to episode, unlike the apps I was using before. I find it way easier to navigate and follow my favorite podcasts.

Even better?

They are testing out ads that will help remember those promo codes for you, should you get sucked into an ad or two. 

P.S.- Need a playlist or 55 for these months ahead? You can follow me over here.

Twenty-Seven:  The New Family Lake House

Is there anything better than having someone in your family buy a lakehouse that you get to hang out at?

I think not.

We are so thrilled for my husband’s parents as they built a little slice of heaven as their next forever home. 

The view is so peaceful and it has the biggest porch for us to park on and watch the kids swim.

We can’t wait until this is all over, for fun sleepovers with grandma & grandpa, and catching that sunrise view. 

For now, the porch is the vacation destination we all need right now.

Twenty-Eight: Celebrating 20 Married Years With My Husband

I am not going to talk about any first world losses, but this pandemic wasn’t the 20th wedding anniversary trip that I was expecting.

 Katie Whitcomb is my dear friend and a phenomenal wedding photographer. 

To celebrate, we did a social-distancing photo session and got anniversary pictures.

We never had engagement photos or have had photos done without our kids, so what better time than 20 married years to get these?

These images are, honestly, something we will treasure forever and I’m planning to make an album.

If you are local, please hire her, and give yourself this gift. 

Oh, and every single thing I’m wearing (including those heels) was bought on consignment from thredUP.

I’m so proud of my new-to-me wardrobe.

Immune Compromised Button Pin

Twenty-Nine: Etsy Seller Protection

If anyone has showed up this year, it is CRAFTERS. 

After a horrible first outing (since March), I realized how weirdly confrontational people were being about social distancing and wearing a mask. 

I thought maybe a SIGN might help with that SIX FEET stuff. 

I wanted to figure out a way to get people to exercise that social distancing stuff so I ordered this inexpensive button.


My Spouse Has a Compromised Immune System Button

I also ordered a button for my husband because it’s, honestly, causing him more anxiety than me since he’s doing all the necessary errands for our family.

Speaking of Etsy sellers, I ordered these masks, as soon as this all started, and they are PERFECT.

They are pleated (for a wider expansion), have a metal nose piece to help it stay on better, and have a filter pocket for extra protection.

In all this fun, I also discovered that a coffee filter is perfect for this pockets and blue Dawn, smeared on your glasses (don’t rinse) help with the summer steam up. 

This paper clip trick has helped EVERYONE in our family. Pull it in tighter for a snugger fit and it makes taking a mask on and off a heck of a lot easier.

Yes, it seems weird that these things bring me joy right now.

I *DO* love supporting crafters though and I’m thankful for these well-made & well-thought products.

Thirty: “Free” Disney Plus 

Our cell phones are with Verizon so we were thrilled to discover that, if you have the unlimited plan, Disney Plus is free for the first year. 

Say what?

That freebie couldn’t have come at a better time.

My husband has been in Star Wars heaven and it didn’t cost us a dime extra.

Also, who couldn’t use a little Disney magic?

Thirty-One: New Post Workout Routines

I shared my favorite ways to work out at home, in my April happy list, and I’m still loving every minute of it. 

Since I’m saving so much time on a gym commute, I have a little more time for my post gym routines. 

The best combo I have found is dry brushing my skin before I shower (it REALLY helps if you struggle with ingrown hairs- although some say it has numerous health benefits) and after showering, I add a little Peppermint CBD Balm to my lotion. This is body tingling magic and helps my muscles recover a little better. 

BTW- If you are low-income or a veteran, I adore this CBD company because they give out a 60% discount to these families, on anything in their store. 

Thirty-Two: Still Finding the Funny

Gosh, it is hard to find anything that funny right now, but if we don’t laugh than we cry. 

I curate ten laughs every Tuesday and, I won’t lie, it takes the entire week to gather.

Finding these is half the fun and the other half is giving the joy to others. 

Here is the hashtag to laugh all day and you can follow me on Instagram if you need a little cheer-up.

Thirty-Three: Getting Back to My Infant Feet

I do miss that summer pedicure treat, this year, but this weird foot mask is my new treat.

It’s just as satisfying and gross as you might expect.

What better time to shed your skin than while your home.


That’s it from me! I’d love to hear the unexpected joy in your life. I hope something on MY list can make YOUR list during this crazy time. Sending giant virtual hugs!

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

This post contains affiliate links.

Love this post? You might enjoy these!

this happy list was the first one since the quarantine fun- tons of goodies made for you!

May 2020 Must-Reads looking for your next book stack. here’s what I’ve been reading this summer.

Creating a Weekly Cleaning Routine (Free Printable Charts) Header here is how we are dividing the chores right now

still working through your pantry from the panic stock-up? here are 45 recipes to try!

33 Joyful Things Getting Me Through Hard Days


May 2020 Must-Reads

Monday, June 1st, 2020

May 2020 Must-Reads

Looking for your next great read? Today I’m sharing 8 incredible books I read in May. In this stack you will find romance, a dark thriller, historical fiction that will sweep you away in another world, and a haunting #metoo story that I can’t stop talking about. Be sure to bookmark this post for your next library day!

Somehow, in the face of one of the most difficult months, I have found the best place to escape is still tucked within the pages of a book.

As always, I look forward to sharing these books with you today and I hope it provides another way to keep your mind occupied as we all face these daily challenges. 

Sending loads of virtual hugs to you today from Indiana. 

Before I share my stack, here are a few additional way to connect with books this summer.

Join Us for Our June MomAdvice Book Club Discussion

Formation by Ryan Leigh Dostie snag this month’s incredible book club book

Did you know that I offer a free virtual book club? Be sure to join the MomAdvice Book Club and you will never be without a book again!

This month we will be discussing this incredible #metoo memoir that you just won’t want to miss

This is one of my favorite reads this year and I really don’t want you to miss this phenomenal book OR participating in our discussion.

You can check out the 2020 MomAdvice Book Club picks over here

Don’t forget to send me a friend request over on GoodReads for more great book reviews.

here is what is on sale today- don’t miss it!

Check Our Daily Book Deals List– HUGE DEAL DAY TODAY!!!

I try to post a daily book deal list for you to keep your Kindle fully stocked while we wait for our libraries to reopen.

This list is curated with only the best books and nothing will ever be over $4.99. 

Check this list daily here or you can sign up for my daily deal newsletter and I will send them right to your inbox!

June 2020 Kindle First Reads pick your free book for june

Get a Free Book Just for Being a Prime Member

Did you know Prime members get a read for free every single month? 

Yup, I always try to remind you of this amazing little Prime perk!

Grab your FREE books over here.

June 2020 Book of the Month

Check out the June Book of the Month Club Selections:

A Burning by Megha Majumdar

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

One To Watch by Kate Stayman-London

The Last Flight by Julie Clark

June Coupon Codes:
Get your first book for just $9.99 with code SUN5 at checkout.
Now let’s talk about this month’s stack!

June 2020 Must-Reads

Here are 8 must-read books I tackled in April!

Conjure Women

Conjure Women by Afia Atakora

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishing house for providing a review copy of this novel. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

This debut novel, from Afia Atakora, needs to be on the top of your stack this month. I really am not sure why more people aren’t talking about this stunning novel because it will be on my top ten this year, for sure.

With vivid storytelling, that is written so beautifully that it reads like a classic. It is a Southern historical fiction novel, spanning generations of women, before and after the war.

The story is of three women- May Belle (a midwife and healer in their community), Rue (who discovers she has some of her mother’s gifts for healing), and Varina (the master’s daughter). 

Being the town healers means that May Belle & Rue know many of the secrets, both of the slaves and their owners. Knowing this information has life-altering consequences, especially when it comes to their unforgiving master. 

Afia Atakora’s historical novel moves forward and backward in time in episodes labeled Slaverytime, Wartime, Freedomtime, or the Ravaging. While shifting timelines can feel confusing, in the beginning, you soon start to fall into the rhythm and crave each section in this phenomenal book. 

The writing is masterful, evocative, and beautifully researched. I just know you will fall in love with this one from the first page.

5 out of 5 Stars

If you like Conjure Women  you might like these titles:


The Kitchen House

The Book of Harlan


Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishing house for providing a review copy of this novel. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I love darker thrillers and Jennifer Hillier is one of the absolute best! If you haven’t read her work before, you are in for a treat! I was REALLY hoping her latest wouldn’t let me down and I’m thrilled to share that this one is just as solid as her previous novels.

Marin seems to be leading the perfect life- a fantastic husband, a beautiful son, and successful careers. 

Her life comes to a crashing halt though when she is out holiday shopping and her son, Sebastian, is taken.  In this one split second of her looking away, her son goes missing and her entire world is shattered.

One year later, Marin’s marriage is struggling, they still have been unable to find her son, and she is in a spiraling depression. 

As a last ditch attempt to find Sebastian, she hires a private investigator to reexamine the case. 

What she digs up though isn’t information about Sebastian, but surprising information about her husband that changes everything. 

This is one of those addictive little thrillers that are sure to pull you out of your reading slump. I could not turn the pages fast enough and would recommend this for your summer stack!

5 out of 5 Stars

If you like Little Secrets you might like these titles:

Watch Me Disappear

My Lovely Wife

Fierce Kingdom

I Was Told It Would Get Easier

I Was Told It Would Get Easier by Abbi Waxman (hits store shelves on June 16th!)

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishing house for providing a review copy of this novel. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

It’s no secret that parenting teenagers is hard, but it is not something I see addressed a lot in fictional motherhood stories. Perhaps that is why I felt so SEEN when reading this mother and daughter story. Waxman is one of those charming women’s fiction writers that writes her stories with such relatable humor that I always find myself laughing out loud.

In her latest novel, Jessica and Emily Burnstein have decided to embark on a college tour together. Jessica is looking forward to bonding with her daughter, but Emily is less focused on the bonding experience and more on getting a preview of freedom. 

As the college tour bus takes them from campus to campus, both begin to discover new details about each other. Emily’s surprised to discover that her single mom might be attractive to men (for example) and Jessica begins to discover that her daughter’s idea of the future might look a heck of a lot different than what she expected. 

Waxman rounds out the story with a bus full of well-written characters and fun side plots that make this a great little summer adventure story. 

This story is sure to hit the right notes for parents of teens, in particular. 

4 out of 5 Stars

If you like I Was Told It Would Get Easier you might like these titles:

Class Mom

Standard Deviation

Dear Fang With Love


The Knockout Queen

The Knockout Queen by Rufi Thorpe

Rufi Thorpe is such a gifted storyteller and I was thrilled to see that her book was selected as one of the Book of the Month options, for May. I am such a sucker for a coming-of-age story and couldn’t wait to dig into this one. 

This book is dark and felt very different than Thorpe’s previous novels. I don’t think is going to be the kind of story for everyone, as it ventures into explorations of sexuality and has a very Mean Girls feel to it. 

Bunny & Michael are next door neighbors that lead very different lives. Michael lives with his aunt in a cramped cottage and struggles to make ends meet, while Bunny is leading a very princess-like existence next door. 

The pair make unlikely friends, but they both are facing struggles. While Michael is pretending to be straight, Bunny struggles with her body and height. More than anything, they both want to be loved and to fit in. 

When Michael falls in love, his sexuality secrets are leaked and he becomes the victim of brutal gossip at school. Bunny is by his side though and commits a shocking act, in his defense, that alters her life permanently.

This was so wildly different than I had expected and went into much darker terrain than I would have imagined. At its heart though, this is an unflinching portrait of adolescence that reminded me what a talented writer Thorpe is.

4 out of 5 Stars

If you like The Knockout Queen you might like these titles:

Exit, Pursued by a Bear


I’ll Give You the Sun

My Dark Vanessa

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

This book comes with some major trigger warnings- pedophilia, rape, and repeated sexual abuse. I just want to make sure that I put that out there first. 

Russell’s novel is one that has had everyone talking this year and I, honestly, could not put this brutal read down. I polished this one off in a single day and will be thinking about this for years. 

This story alternates between the years of 2000 and 2017, examining Vanessa’s complicated abusive relationship with Jacob Strane.

At just fifteen, she is groomed by her forty-two-year-old English teacher and finds herself entangled in her first sexual relationship. Although she is confused by Jacob’s advances, she is flattered that he finds her to be both smart and pretty.

Seventeen years later, the #metoo allegations are flying and female students began coming forward and make allegations about their teacher. They accuse him of unwanted advances and that he is a sexual predator. 

Vanessa is blindsided because Jacob has always acted as though she is the only student that he has ever had a relationship 

Alternating between Vanessa’s past and present really showcases the complications of sexual abuse as Vanessa has to come to terms with the fact that her story wasn’t a love story and that she is also a sexual abuse survivor.

It is astounding to me that this is Russell’s first book because the emotions she layered in these characters was so beautifully and believably done. 

The scenes in this are devastating, horrifying, and unapologetically written.

Although Vanessa interprets their time together as a love story, it is not a love story.

It is important to know that this does not glamorize pedophilia, but showcases the confusion of an adolescent who has never experienced a truly loving relationship. 

This haunting novel will, definitely, be in my top ten this year. If you can handle the plot, I encourage you to read it.

5 out of 5 Stars

If you like My Dark Vanessa you might like these titles:

Rust & Stardust

A Little Life

All the Ugly & Wonderful Things

Tweet Cute

Tweet Cute by Emma Lord

Looking for something a little lighter for your summer book stack? I have a feeling you find this YA rom-com absolutely adorable.

Pepper & Jack both have parents that own family restaurants. When the two end up getting in a Twitter war, over a grilled cheese recipe, the sparks don’t just fly online, but IRL too. 

If you are a fan of Wendy’s savage tweets, you will appreciate how perfectly Lord captures the meme generation.

The back-and-forth in their Twitter streams is perfection and builds into an adorably awkward love story for these teens.

More important than that though, it is the self-discoveries that they each make about how they see their roles playing out in these family restaurants that make it a, truly, satisfying read.

I listened to this one on audiobook and it was beautifully narrated. This is the perfect book to pop in your earbuds this summer and laugh along with in this meet-cute-tweet-cute story.

If you are looking for a clean rom-com for your teen, this would also be a great one for them.

4 out of 5 Stars

If you like Tweet Cute you might like these titles:

The Hating Game

Emergency Contact

What If It’s Us

Red, White, & Royal Blue

Beach Read by Emily Henry

If you are looking for a great love story with lots of depth, I just know you will fall in love with this beautiful read. 

January and Augustus are both writers that end up living next door to each other.

While January works hard to pen a perfectly romantic happily ever after, Augustus writes well-researched stories intent on killing off his entire cast of characters.

When they both find out they are suffering from writer’s block, they decide to strike a deal that’s designed to get their creative juices flowing. 

Augustus will have to spend his summer writing something happy while January is writing something that might rival the next Great American Novel.

As each of them learns more about each other’s process, they discover how challenging each of their writing styles is and find mutual respect for their craft.

Oh, and they also find that love can develop OFF the pages too.

This love story is charming and the kind that you can easily hand off to anyone and know that they will appreciate it too. 

I had a silly grin on my face through this one and found it as satisfying as the love stories that I’ve come to appreciate from Katherine Center. 

5 out of 5 Stars

If you like Beach Read you might like these titles:

Evvie Drake Starts Over

Things You Save in a Fire

The Unhoneymooners

Glorious Boy by Amy Liu

Thank you to the publishing house for providing a review copy of this novel. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Looking for a historical fiction book to sink your teeth into? You will definitely want to add this incredibly well-researched novel to your stack.

This story takes place just prior to World War II, in the Andaman Islands (in the Bay of Bengal). Claire is an aspiring anthropologist and her husband, Shep, is a physician and they decide to head to the Andaman Islands for their work.

They arrive in archipelago in 1937, where Claire documents and studies the Andamans’ indigenous tribe and Shep practices as a surgeon.

Shortly upon arriving, Claire becomes pregnant and ends up giving birth to her son, Ty. Ty doesn’t meet the typical milestones and is unable to communicate with her. Luckily, he finds a special friend on the island who he finds a deep friendship with.

Unfortunately, the approach of Japanese forces means that they must evacuate the island and their world is dramatically changed. Tragic consequences begin to unfold and beg us to examine these ramifications of the separation of this family.

This story is absolutely fascinating and grapples with such big issues that will keep you flipping the pages until way past your bedtime.  

If you are looking for a pandemic escape into a different world, you will find it tucked in this phenomenally told story.

4 out of 5 Stars

If you like Glorious Boy you might like these titles:

Lucky Boy

Green Island



Read With Me This Year

January 2020 Must-Reads

February 2020 Must-Reads

March- SKIPPED (pandemic brain)

April 2020 Must-Reads

Sign up for the MomAdvice Daily Book Deals Newsletter

Join Our FREE Book Club

Visit ALL my Book Reviews

enjoy these reviews? here are a few other reads you’ll enjoy this year!

The Best Books of 2019 from the best books of 2019

53 historical fiction novels to escape with 53 historical fiction novels to escape with

19 thrillers to keep you up all night 19 thrillers to keep you up all night

Happy Reading!

May 2020 Must-Reads