December 2019 Must-Reads

December Must-Reads from

Looking for your next great read? MomAdvice has 16 new books you can check out and cozy up with this winter. This book list has a phenomenal thriller, women’s fiction escapes, a riveting memoir, and several filled with exquisite storytelling.  Be sure to bookmark this list for your next library visit!

I hope everyone is cruising through those GoodReads goals and in the home stretch. 

I am, in fact, hobbling to the finish. 

holiday dress was only $20 and shoes for $35 thanks to thredUP

I am WAY behind this year and have been starting to get worried that I won’t hit my goals.

I also started to panic that I wouldn’t remember all the great books I have read. 

I am hitting that age… (*ahem*)

Between a busy season of fa-la-la-ing and a slowed pace, as I selected our book club selections, I am sweating my way to my 100 book goal this year. 

I am still reading and will add the next stack to my January reviews, but DID want to share SIXTEEN incredible reads that I read with you.

I am hoping that will keep you a *little* busy while you wait for my final wrap up.

By the way, did you know Prime members get a read for free every single month? The Kindle First Reads program is so much fun and a great way to sample a book before it hits the store shelves. Grab your FREE book over here. 

Here are 16 must-read books I tackled in December (and reading for our book club selections!)

Formation by Ryan Leigh Dostie

Formation by Ryan Leigh Dostie

If you are looking for a fantastic coming-of-age memoir that will give you SO much to think about, I have the book for you. Formation is the incredible true story of a woman joining the army and leaving behind all that is familiar. 

Growing up in a sheltered Christian community, Ryan strikes up a conversation with an Army recruiter (who visits her high school), that leads her to sign up to join the troops.

Ryan is hired as a linguist and finds the environment challenging, as a woman and as someone who has been sheltered so lovingly by her family. 

One night Ryan is raped by a fellow soldier and this story, HER story, is about the aftermath of reporting the soldier and how this begins to impact her career and reputation.

While the story of the assault is just a couple of pages, it is powerful, raw, and honest.

What makes this one more compelling though is the journey that Ryan takes as she learns to love herself again and find peace within her body.

It’s such a journey too and I’m thankful she shared it in such an honest way.

I also learned SO MUCH about what it would be like to be serving in the Army as a woman.  There are so many aspects to this complicated role that I never knew about.

I, truly, have even more respect for our women soldiers and the obstacles they face daily. 

I reached out to Ryan to share how thankful I was to read her story and she has agreed to join us for our book chat this year.  I can’t wait to talk about her story with you and I know that EVERYONE will learn something new after reading this one.

You can learn more about this year’s book club here.

5 out of 5 StarsNothing to See Here by Kevin WilsonNothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson

Does anyone else love a quirky story? 

If you do, you will LOVE, Nothing to See Here.

Lillian & Madison were roommates, when they attend their elite boarding school. Unfortunately, Lillian left abruptly, after a school scandal, and they now do not speak.

This is why Lillian is so surprised when Madison sends her a letter, begging for help.

She needs Lillian to act as the caretaker, for her twins, but it does come with some unusual problems.

You see, the girl can spontaneously combust when they get agitated. 

No big deal, right? Kids are catching fire all the time!

While the premise is unusual, this is a beautiful story of how Lillian finds her place and peace caring for these girls.

This story is charming, heartwarming, and a fantastic quick read.

The audiobook was done really well, if you prefer to listen to your novels.

This book was also selected for the MomAdvice Book Club. You can learn more about this year’s book club here.

5 out of 5 Stars

Minor Drama & Other Catastrophes

Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes by Kathleen West (pre-order for February 4, 2020)

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

Fans of, The Gifted School, will get a big kick out the latest parenting dramas in, Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes.

This story pits a teacher with a very progressive curriculum up against the school’s #1 helicopter parent. 

Julia Abbott demands a lot from her kids, their teacher, and their school. As big donors, she feels that her “charitable gift,” to the drama department should yield a great role for her son in the play.

When her son doesn’t answer his phone, to tell her the casting, she takes it upon herself to plow all the kids down to see the posted cast list.

While bullying her way to the top, she accidentally hurts a student and the whole incident is captured on social media.

Both these women’s stories are amplified by the secret Facebook group, where parents complain about the staff, other parents, and anything else they feel they deserve.

This was a fun one if love those “rich parents behaving badly,” stories. 

It also showcases how teens can assist in making their schools better, if we just give them a chance to do it.

4 out of 5 Stars

The News from the End of the World

The News from the End of the World by Emily Jeanne Miller

This layered family story takes place in a short four day time span. The News from the End of the World is about twin brothers who both carry new secrets, old secrets, and their own unique viewpoints on how they remember these stories.

Vance Lake comes to stay with his twin brother, after losing his job and his girlfriend.  He knows that he doesn’t have the money to keep doing this on his own and decides Craig’s house would be the perfect refuge.

When he arrives though, he discovers that his niece, Amanda (17), is pregnant. Craig is heartbroken and full of rage, towards his wife and his daughter.

When he takes off, Vance must decide who he will side with on how they will handle this unexpected pregnancy.

This story is told in alternating viewpoints and, with each section, the reader discovers how layered these old resentments are.  The novel does a great job showing the challenges of returning home, in a very real and honest way.  Each of the characters are endearing and I love how they rally together for Amanda.

If you have a book club, this would be a great one to chat about!

4 out of 5 Stars

The Other Mrs. by Mary Kubica

The Other Mrs. by Mary Kubica (pre-order for February 18, 2020)

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

I am a HUGE Mary Kubica fan and could not wait to get my hands on her next thriller, The Other Mrs

Since I am such a big fan, I am delighted to tell you that this (in my opinion) is her best book yet. 

I try to keep my thriller reviews vague, so I don’t take away from these smart plot twists, but I will share the basic premise. 

Sadie & Will Foust move from Chicago to a small-town in Maine. They have barely moved in though when their neighbor, Morgan Baines, is found dead. 

Who else could have done it except the new family in town?

This murder case is all that anyone can talk about. Sadie, in particular, becomes obsessed with what has happened.

She is intent on uncovering what happened to Morgan, even if it puts her own safety at risk. 

Lucky for you, she takes on you every twisted turn.

As a seasoned thriller writer, it takes a lot to surprise me, but this one delivered some REALLY incredible twists that will have you flipping pages until the wee hours of the morning.

This thriller was so good, in fact, that I thought it would be perfect for discussing in our book club. The plot is a bit more layered than I can fully disclose.

I am so excited that Mary will be joining us for an author chat this year and can’t wait to hear how she came up with these smart twists. 

You can learn more about this year’s book club here.

5 out of 5 Stars

The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake

Each year, I discover one YA book that becomes a beloved favorite. This year, that book was, The Last True Poets of the Sea

Even if you aren’t a YA reader, this book is a beautifully written coming-of-age adventure story that I doubt you could forget.

I loved it so much, I ordered my daughter a copy as a gift. 

The legendary story that Sam and Violet are told is that their great-great-great-grandmother was the only surviving passenger in a shipwreck. Fidelia not only survived, but she swam to shore, found the love of her life, and founded Lyric, Maine.

It is, just one reason why,  Sam and Violet love to spend their summers there. 

When Violet’s brother, Sam, attempts to take his own life, he is sent to a treatment facility.

Violet finds herself missing her brother and begins to fixate on finding this shipwrecked boat and learning more about her family’s past. Could this hold the keys to understanding her family better?

She isn’t the only one who would love to crack the case, and the local historian (Liv Stone) is interested too. They partner up with their pal, Orion, to try to crack the case…and find love and acceptance in the promise.

This is such a beautiful read. I laughed, I cried, and I didn’t want Violet’s story to end.

Drake did an incredible job writing flawed characters and combines it beautifully with a fantastic adventure story. 


I am so excited to be discussing this one in the MomAdvice Book Club and I KNOW you will love it as much as me. 

You can learn more about this year’s book club here.

5 out of 5 Stars

All This Could Be Yours

All This Could Be Yours by Jami Attenberg (currently on sale for just $2.99!!)

I was intrigued by the premise of, All This Could Be Yours, when I read that it was the perfect book for fans of, Big Little Lies.

Honestly, I would not categorize the two as being similar because this read like a great episode of, The Sopranos.

The subtitle to this dysfunctional family novel should be, “It’s complicated.”

Victor, a real estate developer is on his deathbed, but few people seem that sad about it.

In fact, everyone seems pretty angry and bitter about Victor. 

The truth is, the guy is a terrible, toxic, cheating, abusive person and his family seemed to be his top target for his frustrations. 

Told through alternating points of view, we get to see Victor’s life through his children’s eyes, his wife, and the woman he had an affair with. 

The meatiest layer to this story is identity and how we fit in our family’s story when they are terrible people. 

Lots of self-discoveries are made (including why Barbara would have stayed married to him) and much is uncovered as they congregate at Victor’s bedside.

Victor has no redeeming qualities, but the reader can appreciate how the others have evolved in spite of it all.

4 out of 5 Stars

We Came Here to Forget by Andrea DunlopWe Came Here to Forget by Andrea Dunlop

I can’t remember how I stumbled on, We Came Here to Forget, but I am so thankful I did. 

This novel is about a young Olympic skier, Katie Cleary, who decides to head to Buenos Aires when a family tragedy strikes.

Determined to be anonymous, she changes her name (to Liz Sullivan) and finds a colorful group of ex-pats who all seem to be escaping their own demons.

Katie feels that if these people knew her family secret, that they would want no part of her life.

There are just so many layers to this story, and Dunlop leads you through alternating chapters (the past and the current situation) that builds to a shocking discovery of why Katie left (and what she lost). 

I refuse to give anything away, but the tragedy that Dunlop choses made me think about certain situations in a very different way and allowed me to extend more empathy to others. 

It is very thoughtfully done, the minor characters are just compelling, and she challenges you to think about these scenarios in fresh ways.

The narration is also beautiful, if you are on the hunt for an audiobook. 

Best of all, we get to discuss this one with Andrea in our book club- yay!

You can learn more about this year’s book club here.

5 out of 5 Stars

The Warehouse by Rob HartThe Warehouse by Rob Hart

I know many have dipped their toes into science fiction, thanks to Blake Crouch and his incredible books.

Well, I have to say, if you are a fan of Blake’s books, The Warehouse is the book for you! 

Cloud is the giant tech company that has taken over the entire American economy. 

Cloud’s warehouse is what the world relies on for food, shelter, communication, currency, and anything else you might need. 

Told in different perspectives, you are lead down a clever path with Cloud’s founder, who is sick with cancer, and through the viewpoints of those who now have to rely upon Cloud to survive. 

When a woman (Zinnia) decides to go undercover, she is determined to figure out all of the company’s secrets and how they rose to power. She uses Paxton, who works in security, to help her get to the bottom of Cloud’s corporate greed and what they are hiding from the world. 

I love, love, love the themes in this book. As we become increasingly reliant on the corporate giants (like Amazon or Walmart), do we face a similar economy? In the same way that Black Mirror brings me discomfort, this one strikes a little too close to home. 

The narration, on audiobook, is just genius. I couldn’t stop listening because it was so cleverly done.

Told from these alternating viewpoints, you begin to see why decisions are made and why the world might not always understand those decisions.

In the same regard, you see what is asked of us if we become too reliant on one source.

I could talk about this one all day and that’s why I’m thrilled to talk about it in our book club. 

I’m so happy that Rob has agreed to be a part of our interview series and I know you will love it as much as I did.

You can learn more about this year’s book club here.

5 out of 5 Stars

The Book of HarlanThe Book of Harlan by Bernice L. McFadden

I cannot begin to explain how beautiful and heartbreaking this book was. 

I admit, I have developed a thick skin because I read so much, and sometimes that means books don’t always emotionally overwhelm me the way they should.

This was NOT the case with, The Book of Harlan.

I, originally, had this as a book club selection, but then felt like this was too heavy to expect everyone to jump into this one for a book chat. 

The honest truth is that I weeped through a good portion of this book and there are images that can’t leave my mind. 

I also learned a different side of the Holocaust that I didn’t realize existed.

I apologize if this was naive, but I did not know that other people of color were also rounded up, on the streets, and sent to concentration camps. 

Harlan’s experience, as a concentration camp survivor, is harrowing and ripped my heart to shreds.

I have read so much literature on this era and McFadden opened my eyes by using her own research into this (and her own ancestor’s stories), to bring to light something that I didn’t know. 

This is one reason I am so grateful for historical fiction.

Starting with the marriage of his parents, we are taken on a journey  through Harlan’s life and how difficult it was (and still is) to be a black man, growing up in such a bigoted world.  Spanning six decades, Harlan’s story from beginning to end is beautifully told. 

This book is graphic, as McFadden pulls back the curtain on the concentration camp. I really did have to take a break through this section, in particular. In the same way, A Little Lifemoved and wrecked me, this story captured my heart and made Harlan one of the most special characters I’ve read.

I’m thankful that I read this one this year.

10 out of 5 Stars

The Grace Year by Kim LiggettThe Grace Year by Kim Liggett

If you combined, The Handmaid’s Tale with The Lord of the Flies and added a splash of, The Hunger Games, you have this incredible novel that you just won’t want to put down.

In Garner County, girls are told that they have extreme powers that lure men and drive other women crazy with jealousy. These girls are told that their skin takes on a scent, when they are on the edge of their womanhood.

It is why the girls are banished from the safety of their homes and into the woods, when they turn sixteen, so they can release their crazy powers into the wild before being married. 

Unfortunately, many girls don’t survive the trip. 

Tierny isn’t like other girls though and dreams of a different kind of life. She is willing to test these boundaries, even as she becomes increasingly aware of what is at stake.

This YA read is FANTASTIC and I loved all of the creative elements that Liggett brought to create this dystopian world.

I listened to this one on audiobook and was thankful that I did not turn off my headphones at the end because they interview Kim about this novel.

Her overwhelming emotional response to the story, and seeing it out in the world, made me love it even more. 

Catch this one before it comes to the big screen with Universal Studios and is directed by Elizabeth Banks!

I’m so excited that Kim has agreed to join us for our interview series and look forward to discussing this one in our book club. 

You can learn more about this year’s book club here.

5 out of 5 Stars

Wolfpack by Abby Wambach

When I asked our book club for recommendations on short books to read (to nail that GoodReads goal), several members recommended, Wolfpack

At just 112 pages, I wasn’t expecting such a powerful punch, but that’s what Abby delivers in this book.

This book is based on a viral commencement speech she delivered in 2018 to Barnard College graduates.

Abby, a U.S.  Soccer Olympic Gold Medalist, challenges women to not compare and pit themselves against other women, but to come together. The pack mentality allows us to use our powers for good and help facilitate change in our world. 

She challenges women to not be Little Red Riding Hood and follow the path, but to be curious and open to going off the beaten path…even if we fail.

Wambach uses elements in her career in ways that are, truly, inspiring. Even when benched, due to injury, she finds a way to love and support her team so that she still feels part of everything.

I am continually wowed by her work and this was no exception.

If you have a daughter, no matter your side in politics, share this one with her.

When women come together, beautiful things really do happen! 

5 out of 5 Stars

November Road by Lou Berney

November Road by Lou Berney

If Stephen King says a novel is, “exceptional,” you better believe that I will read it. November Road was not on my radar until I started researching the best books for discussion.

This one is very different than anything I’ve chosen before and I am so glad that I discovered it.

The story takes place during the assassination of JFK and centers on a desperate cat-and-mouse chase across America, to hunt down someone who might have the key to discovering what happened to JFK.

A street lieutenant to New Orleans’ mob boss Carlos Marcello, Guidry has learned how quickly one’s luck can change. When the mob thinks he knows too much about this crime of the century, he immediately becomes a target. 

One by one, people that are tied to Marcello end up dead.

To try to escape his certain demise, he heads to Las Vegas to try to vanish from the mob scene. 

On his way, he sees a beautiful housewife on the side of the road with a broken down vehicle. She has a dog and two girls.. and he thinks this family might help his disguise be even more believable.

Posing as an insurance agent, he offers to help her reach her destination. 

What he doesn’t know is that she happens to be on the run too. 

This is a REALLY great story. Berney builds believable suspense and a great little love story in the process.

Fans of, Labor Day, are sure to love this one.

Fittingly, this has become our November Book Club selection. I am so excited to talk to you about this one! Berney is an incredible storyteller and I was completely sucked into this wild adventure that he created for these characters.

You can learn more about this year’s book club here.

5 out of 5 Stars

Beside Herself

Beside Herself by Elizabeth LaBan

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

Lately, I have been reading a lot of Women’s Fiction books that surround infidelity and open marriages. 

What can I say?

Sometimes women want to fictionally escape (or at least watch the train wreck when fictional people do it).

Beside Herself, is another exploration of a marriage that has gone off the rails, thanks to infidelity.

Hannah is desperate to find out what her husband has planned for her surprise birthday party.

When she hacks into his phone, the surprise isn’t what she expected at all.

She finds numerous texts between her husband and another women, who have been meeting at a hotel together.

When confronted, he shares that he had been cheating, but that he would never do it again.

Now that the secret is out he wants them to put the pieces back together with a marriage counselor.

In retaliation, Hannah decides that she will explore online dating and cheat on Joel, to even the score. 

As readers, we get to go on one awful date after another with Hannah.

We also get the opportunity to see what brought Joel & Hannah together in the first place. 

Guess what? It is absolutely heartwarming!

LaBan builds a realistic plot with a father in the nursing home, a friendship that can’t withstand the situation, and an unlikely support person that helps her through this difficult patch in her life. 

Fans of, The Arrangement, will love this escape with Hannah as she searches for love in unlikely places.

4 out of 5 Stars

When All Is Said by Anne GiffinWhen All Is Said by Anne Griffin

When All is Said has a very unique premise for a novel. The narrator lifts a glass five times for a toast to five different people that impacted his life.

Griffin immediately envelopes you into Maurice’s story. At the bar of a grand hotel in a small Irish town, this 84-year-old man has decided to share his REAL life story with you. We are lead to believe that this will be his final night.

I will admit, at first I wasn’t completely enraptured with Maurice and feared that I wouldn’t connect with his story. As he reveals his soul deeply and truthfully, I began to feel more and more connected to Maurice.

His unspoken joys and regrets are mixed with a secret tragedy that he has always kept hidden. 

I was a little teary-eyed through this one because Maurice is so beautifully layered and his confessions will give you pause and reflection on your own life.

Anne will be joining us for our interview series, as we discuss her beautiful book. 

You can learn more about this year’s book club here.

5 out of 5 Stars

The Stationary Shop by Marjan Kamali

The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali

Let me be honest, it is the cover of this book that initially sucked me into picking it up. You can’t always judge a book by its cover, but in this case you can! 

I adore a good love story and that’s just what you will get in, The Stationary Shop

In 1953, Roya is a teenager who happens to be growing up in the midst of political upheaval.

This is why Mr. Fakhri’s neighborhood book and stationery shop is such a beautiful respite from the chaos. 

Bahman is one of Mr. Fakhri’s favorite customers and ends up catching Roya’s eye. He is a passionate young man who has a deep passion for justice..and soon discovers a deep passion for Roya. 

Falling in love when the world is in turmoil proves to be awfully challenging.

The reader is taken along each treacherous turn as Royal and Bahman try to find one another again. 

This story is BEAUTIFUL! I had a few local women (MomAdvice Beta Book Club Testers) read it and everyone was so moved by this passionate romance.

And, yes, there were tears.

I can’t say enough good things and I can’t wait to talk about it with you in book club.

You can learn more about this year’s book club here.

5 out of 5 Stars

Virgil WanderVirgil Wander by Leif Enger

Our final discussion, for the MomAdvice Book Club, was for Virgil Wander and I was so excited to read this one.

This is one of those cases where I felt like it was me, and not the book, that was the problem. Trying to read a slower build story in the middle of December made it really challenging around the holiday chaos.

Although this one took awhile for me to warm up to, Enger creates a beautiful Midwest town and shapes a beautiful little community, in his story.

Virgil is involved in a car accident where he drives off the road and right into the lake. 

Miraculously, he is saved, but he isn’t the same man he was before the accident. He has trouble finding words and forming sentences, something he used to be quite good at. 

With difficulty retaining his old memories, he decides to change his life. Where he used to be more quiet and highly productive, he finds that he wants to approach his life differently after the accident. 

Virgil’s new identity allows space for unlikely friends and relationships. Enger builds this small town up beautifully and anyone who has a deep appreciation for character-driven books will enjoy this one. 

It is gorgeously written, but slowly paced. 

That said, sometimes that is just what your stack needs.

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Read With Me This Year

January 2019 Must-Reads

February 2019 Must-Reads

March 2019 Must-Reads

April 2019 Must-Reads

May 2019 Must-Reads

June 2019 Must-Reads

July 2019 Must-Reads

August 2019 Must-Reads

September 2019 Must-Reads

October & November Must-Reads

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


9 cozy books for winter reading

19 thrillers to keep you up all night

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53 historical fiction novels to escape with53 historical fiction novels to escape with

What did you read this month? Looking for book ideas? Check out our entire Book section of the site! Don’t forget to friend me on GoodReads! xo

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Published December 19, 2019 by:

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

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