Book Club: Bitter Orange

***Thanks so much to Carrie of Normal Level of Crazy for bringing us this Bitter Orange Orange Book Club Discussion!***

Hey, Book Clubbers!! Hope your fall is going well and you’re not buried under kids activities like I am! I’m guessing you might be though… (*groan*)

More and more lately, I’ve been finding myself torn between reading a great book or bingeing Netflix. With very little free time, it definitely feels like an either/or. I just binged Making a Murderer, Season 2 and completely forgot that I have a life to live and I should probably feed my kids. I’m noticing that my attention span is horrible lately (if a chapter is more than 3 pages I am legitimately frustrated). Everything seems to need to be a grab and go, a task I can do super quick, or something I can do when I’m half asleep.

Looking for a good read? Our virtual book club is delighting in our latest book club pick! Join us for our Bitter Orange book club discussion and chat the discussion questions with us! We're so glad you're here! Make sure to chime in for the chance to grab next month's pick for FREE!

Bitter Orange Book Club Discussion

Reading Bitter Orange for our book club this month was a definite challenge! It is a slow burn novel … emphasis on slow. Not always bad, but requires time I don’t feel like I have. Were it not for this book club, I would have definitely given up on this novel at around page 100. Honestly, though, I’m glad I didn’t.

I had heard the story is reminiscent of Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. I had read Rebecca years ago for a different book club. It’s not a book I would have picked up on my own, but I knew it was considered a classic. I was excited to read it and really enjoyed it.

Looking for a good read? Our virtual book club is delighting in our latest book club pick! Join us for our Bitter Orange book club discussion and chat the discussion questions with us! We're so glad you're here! Make sure to chime in for the chance to grab next month's pick for FREE!

Bitter Orange, the story of a couple living in the same old, grand, dilapidated house as another woman, for sure gave off a Rebecca vibe. All of the characters seemed a little off … a little odd … a little strange. The house itself was a character and itself a little off and odd, with a strange history not completely understood or explained. Let’s just say the eyes were delicately and precisely removed from all of the peacocks on the wallpaper in the library … that kind of weird.

If you love themes and symbolism, this book has plenty! Birds, cows, a fox, and obviously oranges, all have symbolic meaning and it was interesting to connect the dots. I saw some reviews where people went back and looked at various passages in the Bible to understand better. I’m not that hardcore, but I’d be curious to know if any of you did that?

The theme of guilt was a huge one with every character in the book struggling. Except maybe Frances’ mother? It was interesting to see how each character handled their guilt and how it ultimately affected their lives.

Looking for a good read? Our virtual book club is delighting in our latest book club pick! Join us for our Bitter Orange book club discussion and chat the discussion questions with us! We're so glad you're here! Make sure to chime in for the chance to grab next month's pick for FREE!

Speaking of her mother – anyone pick up on the odd repeated mention of Frances having to bathe her? I wasn’t sure if I was overanalyzing or not. Every time she brought it up (at least three times) I got the creeps. Was something else going on?

This was a great book for October – dark, gothic, mysterious, strange. While it’s not my favorite book, the second half made up for the slowness of the first half, I feel, and I found myself rushing to the end to find out what happened. And, of course, I always love a good last-minute twist!

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Our next pick is by one of our favorite authors … Liane Moriarty!!! Meredith and I feel so lucky to have received an ARC from Flatiron as they were few and far between!!

Looking for a good read? Our virtual book club is delighting in our latest book club pick! Join us for our Bitter Orange book club discussion and chat the discussion questions with us! We're so glad you're here! Make sure to chime in for the chance to grab next month's pick for FREE!

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Big Little Lies

Could ten days at a health resort really change you forever? In Liane Moriarty’s latest page-turner, nine perfect strangers are about to find out…

Nine people gather at a remote health resort. Some are here to lose weight, some are here to get a reboot on life, some are here for reasons they can’t even admit to themselves. Amidst all of the luxury and pampering, the mindfulness and meditation, they know these ten days might involve some real work. But none of them could imagine just how challenging the next ten days are going to be.

Frances Welty, the formerly best-selling romantic novelist, arrives at Tranquillum House nursing a bad back, a broken heart, and an exquisitely painful paper cut. She’s immediately intrigued by her fellow guests. Most of them don’t look to be in need of a health resort at all. But the person that intrigues her most is the strange and charismatic owner/director of Tranquillum House. Could this person really have the answers Frances didn’t even know she was seeking? Should Frances put aside her doubts and immerse herself in everything Tranquillum House has to offer – or should she run while she still can?

It’s not long before every guest at Tranquillum House is asking exactly the same question.

Combining all of the hallmarks that have made her writing a go-to for anyone looking for wickedly smart, page-turning fiction that will make you laugh and gasp, Liane Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers once again shows why she is a master of her craft.

This book comes out on Tuesday! (11/6) Hope you can give us your thoughts next month! Super anxious to dive into this one!

As always, we are giving away a copy of Nine Perfect Strangers to one of our readers! Enter by leaving a comment before 11/9/18 at 5:30am EST. As long as you are 18 or older and live in the continental United States, you are eligible to win!

Looking for a good read? Our virtual book club is delighting in our latest book club pick! Join us for our Bitter Orange book club discussion and chat the discussion questions with us! We're so glad you're here! Make sure to chime in for the chance to grab next month's pick for FREE!

Thanks so much to Flatiron for providing us with copies of Nine Perfect Strangers for review and giveaway! All opinions share are always 100% our own!

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Book Club: How to Walk Away

Book Club: How to Walk Away

Hello, Book Clubbers!!  Hope your summer is treating you well and you’re not sweating through all of your clothing as I am.  As I’ve been saying repeatedly (I’m sure to the annoyance of others), we might as well have 12 inches of snow on the ground … it’s too hot to do anything!  So I’ve been pumping my AC down to 65 degrees (shhhhh … don’t tell my husband), wrapping myself in a blanket and curling up on the coach with a ton of books.  It’s messed up, but that’s the joy of being an adult!

I hope you all loved this month’s pick, How to Walk Away by Katherine Center!  I absolutely adored it and found myself recommending it to numerous friends and family … and one stranger at the library!

Speaking of libraries, how many of you use them?  I was recently chatting with my mother-in-law and she innocently asked if anyone even uses the library anymore.  As per the usual, I was unable to hide my shock and, quite frankly, horror, that she would ask such a question!  I’m there every week!!  Sometimes more! While I do love frequenting my local independent bookstore and giving them my business, I’d be hardcore broke (and maybe divorced??) if I didn’t use the library.  Plus I find it gives me the chance to “try out” books that I’m not sure about without the guilt of spending $30 on a hardback.

I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on this!

So, back to Katherine Center’s How to Walk Away

How about that beginning?!  I was drawn in immediately and found I couldn’t put it down … much to the dismay of my family and my hygiene.

I love when a book starts out intense and grabs you right away!  Especially as a summer read … with your feet in the sand and the ocean in the background and your whole day ahead of you.  Not that I’ve seen that in 20 years, but you get the drift.

I found some of the secondary character’s reactions to Maggie’s situation to be a little extreme (i.e. the mom and the fiancé) … would people really say and do some of the things these two said/did?!  But all is forgiven when it’s fiction (and good fiction at that!) and it certainly added more depth to the story.

Meanwhile, back at the home of my teenage self,  romance was blooming and I was, for sure, all over that! I found this one to be both a slow build up and a nice addition to the plot without overtaking it.  Plus, I loved uncovering the mystery of why Ian was so standoffish.  Nothing like getting a cute guy to open up!!


Kit, Maggie, and their parents provided both comic relief and interesting, dysfunctional family dynamics. I found all the characters, if not likable, at least interesting!

The ending was so fun and I enjoyed that they didn’t tie everything up nice and neat.  *SPOILER*  I thought it was more realistic and contributed more to the story that Maggie did not end up being able to walk again.

This was such a no brainer for a book club pick for me that I’m really interested to hear if you all felt the same!  I highly recommend this book and could even see myself re-reading it!

Now onto our next read!!

 

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All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin

Description from Amazon:

Nina Browning is living the good life after marrying into Nashville’s elite. More recently, her husband made a fortune selling his tech business, and their adored son has been accepted to Princeton. 

Yet sometimes the middle-class small-town girl in Nina wonders if she’s strayed from the person she once was.

Tom Volpe is a single dad working multiple jobs while struggling to raise his headstrong daughter, Lyla. His road has been lonely, long, and hard, but he finally starts to relax after Lyla earns a scholarship to Windsor Academy, Nashville’s most prestigious private school.

Amid so much wealth and privilege, Lyla doesn’t always fit in—and her overprotective father doesn’t help—but in most ways, she’s a typical teenaged girl, happy and thriving.

Then, one photograph, snapped in a drunken moment at a party, changes everything. As the image spreads like wildfire, the Windsor community is instantly polarized, buzzing with controversy and assigning blame.

At the heart of the lies and scandal, Tom, Nina, and Lyla are forced together—all questioning their closest relationships, asking themselves who they really are, and searching for the courage to live a life of true meaning.

It seems it’s been a bit since Emily Giffin came out with a new novel … or maybe I’m just impatient!  I loved Something Borrowed and found her others books enjoyable as well.  Have you all read her?  She’s certainly been a great summer read in the past, so I’m hoping we get the same general fare from her this time as well!

As always, we are giving away a copy of All We Ever Wanted to one of our readers! Enter by leaving a comment before 7/13/18 at 5:30am EST. As long as you are 18 or older and live in the continental United States, you are eligible to win!

Thanks so much to St. Martin’s Press for providing us with copies of All We Ever Wanted for review and giveaway! All opinions share are always 100% our own!

Book Club: Mr. Dickens and His Carol

Looking for a good read? Our virtual book club is delighting in our latest book club pick! Join us for our Mr. Dickens and His Carol book club discussion and chat the discussion questions with us! We're so glad you're here! Make sure to chime in for the chance to grab next month's pick for free!

Happy January!! … but for real, is it?! Happy, I mean. I read somewhere recently that January is the ‘Monday‘ of the all the months and that seems about right. I sit here writing this during our first January snowstorm which is adorable, but I’m sure will be highly annoying when we hit the 5th or 6th snowstorm of the winter. Oh, and by the way, it’s not a snowstorm anymore, but a BOMB CYLONE, in case you needed some drama in your life. Also, this weekend is supposed to be colder than Mars here. Like Mars the planet. So it’s good to know that, were we to end up on Mars (a la The Martian), we could handle the temps.

Anyhooooo …

Every December, Meredith and I try to find a cute holiday/Christmas book for the book club and, honestly, I’m always surprised at how hard it is! What about you all? Do you know any fantastic Christmas reads? Anything you read this year that put you in the spirit?

We were lucky enough to find our pick this year via my intense scrubbing of the internet with a fine tooth comb (meaning my 3am ‘why am I awake’ research). Actually, I’m finding Instagram to be a book lovers paradise. So many wonderful people posting recommendations and reviews! I could be on there all day (and I am).

So, lo and behold, I found on several sites and a few podcasts, the charming and engaging Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva.

Looking for a good read? Our virtual book club is delighting in our latest book club pick! Join us for our Mr. Dickens and His Carol book club discussion and chat the discussion questions with us! We're so glad you're here! Make sure to chime in for the chance to grab next month's pick for free!

Mr. Dickens and His Carol Book Club Discussion:

I absolutely loved Silva’s gorgeous writing style. It truly transported me into that time period in London (“Fog hovered in the hat brims of cabdrivers, rolled into stairwells to blanket snoring beggars, crept down the Thames bridge by bridge.”) and into Charles Dickens’ fascinating mind. His anxiety and frustration was palpable and I loved how Silva really immersed us in his thoughts, especially during his long late night walks. I particularly enjoyed the scene where he is walking the streets with his children and is asked for his autograph, only to find out that the person, a Jacob Marley (wink, wink), thought he was a different author. Ouch!

I also personally appreciated her description of Dickens’ struggle with the writing process. His time in his office at his desk, frustration teeming from him to the point that he throws a clock out the window. Funny and relatable!

Silva really does make all of this light and fun which, I felt, made it a great holiday read! With the craziness of December, a cute read was just what I needed.

And I adored all the Easter eggs … The Ebenezer Temperance Society, the man who wanted his autograph, Jacob Marley, and Eleanor’s young son, who of course, is named Timothy and has hurt his leg.

My only complaint would be that I did find it a little slow at times. Don’t let this deter you, though, if you haven’t read it yet! It really is a delightful read!

Looking for a good read? Our virtual book club is delighting in our latest book club pick! Join us for our Mr. Dickens and His Carol book club discussion and chat the discussion questions with us! We're so glad you're here! Make sure to chime in for the chance to grab next month's pick for free!

Grab your copy HERE!

What were your thoughts? Good holiday choice for our Mr. Dickens and His Carol book club? And on the topic of choices, what would you all like to see more of in our picks? Certain genres? Diversity? I’m putting together my New Years resolutions for my reading life (I know, hardcore nerd here!) and we’d love to hear your thoughts on what you’d like to read more of. As always, leave a comment!! We truly love hearing from you!

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Next up …

So to make your January a little more interesting, we’ve chosen a real thriller for our next pick! I am so excited to read this!!

Looking for a good read? Our virtual book club is delighting in our latest book club pick! Join us for our Mr. Dickens and His Carol book club discussion and chat the discussion questions with us! We're so glad you're here! Make sure to chime in for the chance to grab next month's pick for free!

Grab your copy HERE!

The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn

Amazon’s description:

For readers of Gillian Flynn and Tana French comes one of the decade’s most anticipated debuts, to be published in thirty-six languages around the world and already in development as a major film from Fox: a twisty, powerful Hitchcockian thriller about an agoraphobic woman who believes she witnessed a crime in a neighboring house.

It isn’t paranoia if it’s really happening . . .

Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.

Twisty and powerful, ingenious and moving, The Woman in the Window is a smart, sophisticated novel of psychological suspense that recalls the best of Hitchcock.

Sounds good, right?!

As always, we are giving away a copy of The Woman in the Window to one of our readers! Enter by leaving a comment before 1/12/18 at 5:30am EST. As long as you are 18 or older and live in the continental United States, you are eligible to win!

Happy Reading!! Thanks for joining us for this Mr. Dickens and His Carol book club discussion. And best of luck with this wicked winter season!!

Book Club: Summer Reading List and Giveaway!

From my favorite Book Club buddy, Meredith!!  Hope you love this list as much as we do!!

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Friends, you know we love our books around these parts! We love sharing our latest picks and favorite finds through our monthly virtual book club, and we LOVE hearing what YOU think as we break it all down. One of the coolest parts of our book club year is partnering with blogging friends at the kick-off of summer and compiling a list of the best summer books and why we think you’ll love them. In addition to sharing our picks, we celebrate the start of summer reading in a big way–with a fantastic giveaway for a $250 Amazon gift card and EIGHT free books! So tune in below for the 20 Best Summer Books List and then make sure to enter the Rafflecopter at the end for your chance to score big. And this year we have a fun bonus–WE ARE GIVING AWAY 100 COPIES OF OUR TOP ALL-TIME PICK too! Wa-hoo!

It's here! The annual list of the 20 best summer books! All come highly recommended and are perfect reads to kick back with this summer! Plus, check out this incredible giveaway--100 copies of ONE book, a $250 Amazon giftcard and a bunch of new beach reads? Enter now!!

20 Best Summer Books:

  1. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Femme Frugality: “Psychology, philosophy and theology have a way of blending together. In this book, psychologist Viktor Frankl relates his experiences as a prisoner in Hitler’s concentration camps, using it as a way to underpin his philosophy that man can get through anything if he assigns meaning to life. Great for anyone going through a difficult time, or anyone who has detached from organized religion but is still seeking the meaning of life.”
  2. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Lindsay of See Mom Click: “If you’ve ever felt like the days are slipping by and you’re just trudging along, The Happiness Project is a must-read. Rubin’s writing really speaks to me, the perfect balance of hard facts and science combined with practical wisdom about proactively making yourself happier and living in the now.”
  3. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver. Wendy of ABCs and Garden Peas: “An inspiring, food-filled story of the Kingsolver family’s adventure as they move to a farm in southern Appalachia and begin living their lives in a way that works with the local food chain. This year’s 10th Anniversary Edition also gives readers a glimpse into how their family has carried their inspiring “real food” journey with them throughout the next decade.
  4. A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline. Mikaela Fleisher of Iris and Honey: “Christina Baker Kline brings an artist and his muse to life in this novel that blends fact and fiction. Based on Andrew Wyeth’s painting, Christina’s World, Kline gives readers a truly beautiful glimpse into the life of the woman behind the painting.
  5. Red Water by Kristen Mae. Kristen Mae of Abandoning Pretense: “An Amazon best seller, Red Water will slither under your skin and stick there. Erotic, raw, and disturbing, and with deeply flawed but relatable characters, Mae’s sophomore novel is a dark, unflinching examination of the psychology of self-loathing and the secret, unspeakable lust for depravity that lies dormant within us all.”
  6. My Lame Life: Queen of the Misfits by Jen Mann. Jen Mann of People I Want to Punch in the Throat: “My Lame Life is a great summer read for teens and adults because it’s a funny and endearing book that is entirely relatable!”
  7. Famished by Meghan O’Flynn. Meghan O’Flynn: “Famished is a bestselling psychological thriller that explores the darkest parts of the human psyche. Hailed as “Thrilling, emotional and depraved,” this novel is one you won’t want to put down.”
  8. Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach. Stephanie of When Crazy Meets Exhaustion: “This one is part cookbook with fabulous, EASY recipes and part narrative by Jenny, fellow frazzled Mama juggling personal and professional responsibilities. When she realizes a family meal is the best shot at quality time with her husband and kids, so begins her journey to make it happen. Witty, relate-able, and educational (I learned how to cook things, you guys!) I went through Jenny-withdrawal when I finished the book!”
  9. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson. Shari of Adore Them pick: “Jon Ronson is an incredible author who combines objective observations with his own take on these experiences. For this book he spent years meeting people who had been subject to public shaming. It is fascinating (& horrible) to see how one tweet could ruin someone’s life.”
  10. The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner. Kim Bongiorno of Let Me Start By Saying: “The story is told in alternating voices of three best friends as they begin their senior year: one knowing she is OUTTA THERE, one being OK with staying exactly where he is because he has his stories to escape into, and one not feeling like he can or is deserving of going anywhere but right where his father’s crimes put him. I felt so many things while I read this, but mostly that I will now read literally anything this author writes from now on.”
  11. The Most Beautiful by Mayte Garcia. Suzanne of Toulouse & Tonic: “I devoured this book about Prince by his ex-wife Mayte Garcia. At first I was afraid it would be exploitive but after reading reviews carefully, I gave it a try. It was so worth it. A great portion of the book is the story of HER life. It’s interesting and insightful. The parts of her life she shared with Prince are handled in a respectful but honest way. I feel like I actually know something about this enigmatic man now. I still miss him but 4 me, it brought a little peace.”
  12. Redemption Road by John Hart. Lydia of Cluttered Genius: “Redemption Road caught me from page one and had me guessing the entire way through. I don’t generally choose murder mysteries or thrillers, but Hart’s novel has me wanting to find the rest of his books to read more!”
  13. Everyone is Beautiful by Katherine Center. Natalie of a Turtle’s Life for Me: “Everyone is Beautiful is a heartwarming and humorous look at one woman’s journey through marriage and motherhood as she tries to find small moments of personal fulfillment. The epiphanies and insights she gains along the way are told in a light-hearted manner, but resonate deeply in a way that will have you thinking about it months later. I read this with my book club and we found we were bringing it up again even a year later, because it struck such a deep chord with us.”
  14. Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda. Dani of Meraki Lane: “I loved this book. It explores so many emotionally sensitive topics – infertility, adoption, motherhood, and interracial marriage – and the author did such an amazing job of jumping back and forth between the United States and India. She described each with such vivid detail, and the story truly encapsulated the meaning of the word ‘family.’ It was an easy, yet complex read, and the ending brought me to tears. I highly recommend this one!”
  15. The Twelves Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti. Jana of Jana Says: “I LOVED this book. Dark and twisted and violent and a thriller complimented with a father/daughter/coming of age story told between alternating POV and bouncing back and forth in time until it all catches up to itself. It’s so well done and well written and I cannot recommend it enough.”
  16. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Kimberly of Red Shutters: “It’s the story of a family, torn apart by slavery. One branch of the family aids in the slave trade in Ghana, later becoming involved in conflict with the British, and finally finding their way to America. The other side of the family is sold into slavery and generations later experience an America of incarceration, poverty, and drug abuse. Despite its challenging subject matter, Homegoing is captivating, an extraordinary story about hope, connection, and loss. I couldn’t put it down, and when it did end, I was disappointed–I wanted more. That’s the sign of an extraordinary book!”
  17. The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles. Janine of Confessions of a Mommyaholic: “This is the beginning of a supernatural, romance YA series that struck all the right notes for me. Honestly, think it could be in the leagues of Twilight or even Harry Potter as the writing was superb. Plus, the storyline was unique, fast moving and heart tugging, as well. Therefore, recommend as the perfect summer vacation read.”
  18. The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian. Rabia of The Lieber Family: “Lianna’s mom has disappeared. The most plausible explanation is that her frequent sleepwalking took her over a bridge to her death. But on closer inspection, that doesn’t really make a lot of sense. And the good looking detective assigned to the case is trying to help, isn’t he? So what really happened? I can’t wait to find out!”
  19. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman. Anne of Once Upon a Mom: “I haven’t read this one yet but it looks amazing! It’s a story about a quirky kid with an even quirkier grandma who, after her death, leaves a a series of letters apologizing to people. I’m looking forward to finding out about all of Grandmother’s secrets!”
  20. City Mouse by Stacey Lender. Carrie of Normal Level of Crazy and Meredith of The Mom of the Year: “This defines a beach read for me! So relatable to our own lives as it is all about mom trying to find out exactly where she fits in the in the scheme of suburbia–all that goes along with it. Plus, when a book is described as ‘The Stepford Wives meets Bad Moms’, how can you go wrong?”

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It's here! The annual list of the 20 best summer books! All come highly recommended and are perfect reads to kick back with this summer! Plus, check out this incredible giveaway--100 copies of ONE book, a $250 Amazon giftcard and a bunch of new beach reads? Enter now!!

And that’s it, friends! Our list of the 20 Best Summer Books you need to kick back with during all the sun-soaked days ahead of us! As promised, the giveaway for a $250 AMAZON GIFT CARD and copies of some of the titles on this list (Red Water, Famished, My Lame Life: Queen of the Misfits, The Sleepwalker, Man’s Search for Meaning, Homegoing and Redemption Road) is below! No better way to keep your reading stash well stocked and you can use the gift card to grab some other titles that are on your own wish list. Sweet!

As long as you are 18 or older, live in the continental United States, and enter before June 16, 2017 at 5:30am EST, you are eligible to win!

It's here! The annual list of the 20 best summer books! All come highly recommended and are perfect reads to kick back with this summer! Plus, check out this incredible giveaway--100 copies of ONE book, a $250 Amazon giftcard and a bunch of new beach reads? Enter now!!

Also as promised, we are tickled to be giving away 100 COPIES of the favorite title our book club has ever read, This is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel! Read the whole post HERE to find out why it is such an exceptional book, and then hop over quickly to enter the giveaway! Thanks to the generosity of Flatiron Books, copies will be sent to the first 100 people who enter the giveaway* (The grand prize winner included! The same giveaway deadline and rules as above apply.) We could go on and on about This Is How It Always Is, but to put it simply: it is important, life-changing, and beautiful. This isn’t just a book you want to read, it’s a book you need to read.

*Note: remember each person can gain multiple entries, so don’t assume that all 100 copies have been claimed when the entries total goes over 100! I will be updating on social media how many copies are left if you want to check in on this as the giveaway progresses!

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Thanks for joining us in this kick-off to summer reading celebration with this list of the 20 best summer books! Happy summer and happy reading, friends!

It's here! The annual list of the 20 best summer books! All come highly recommended and are perfect reads to kick back with this summer! Plus, check out this incredible giveaway--100 copies of ONE book, a $250 Amazon giftcard and a bunch of new beach reads? Enter now!!

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***Thank you to Flatiron Books, Jen Mann, Kristen Mae, Meghan O’Flynn, Macmillan Publishers, Anchor Books, Beacon Press and Vintage Books for providing copies of the books for the giveaway. All opinions are entirely our own.***

Book photo in second graphic: depositphotos.com, Image ID:9056658, Copyright:belchonock

Last image credit: depositphotos.com, Image ID:13362963, Copyright:coolfonk

 

This Is How It Always Is – Book Club

Meredith so generously offered to let me write this review since I have gushed like a teenager consumed with her first crush raved about this book incessantly!  This book just “got me” (to keep the embarrassing comparison going) and even though I’ve not dealt with the particular issue this family dealt with, I sense that I probably would have felt and done a lot of the same things.

Oh, did I not mention the name of this book??  It is This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel and while I feel like no one can ever remember this title (I may have told a few hundred people about it), it is definitely far better than her original title, And.  Can you imagine googling that??  I’ll get back to the title in a minute, but in case you haven’t read this book (GET ON IT!), it is about a family that tries to protect one of it’s own and ends up keeping a very large, very life altering secret.

What struck me most about this book were the parents, Rosie and Penn.  I could not count the amount of times I nodded “YES!” to some of the parenting dilemmas they faced.  I particularly loved when Rosie or Penn would think about where a particular problem or issue with one of their kids would fall on the “list”.  For example, my son hasn’t been wearing deodorant for a week, but, honestly, that’s 10th on the list this morning of stuff I’m worried about or dealing with in relation to my kids.  So while I may think about it, I might not say anything.  Or I may say something in passing, but not follow up.  Does this make sense?  Because this was so on target with me, that I felt a true relief reading it.

And then there was Penn’s gorgeous attempt at explaining all the fun that is parenting (I may frame this and hang it in my bathroom for reference and reassurance).  It is also where the title of the book comes from.

‘When was the last time something was bothering one of the kids or he was acting strange or he wasn’t sleeping or doing well in math or sharing nicely during free-choice time, and we knew why?’

‘Knew why?’ Rosie said.

‘Knew why.  Absolutely knew what was wrong and what should be done to fix it and how to make that happen.’

‘As a parent?’

‘As a parent.’

‘Never?’

‘Never,’ Penn agreed.  ‘ Not ever. Not once.  You never know. You only guess.  This is how it always is.  You have to make these huge decisions on behalf of your kid, this tiny human whose fate and future is entirely in your hands, who trusts you to know what’s good and right and then to be able to make that happen.  You never have enough information.  You don’t get to see the future.  And if you screw up, if with your incomplete, contradictory information you make the wrong call, well, nothing less than your child’s entire future and happiness is at stake.  It’s impossible.  It’s heartbreaking.  It’s maddening.  But there’s no alternative.’

PREACH!!!  This is why I’m in therapy, people!

I found the growth of both the parents and Poppy to be realistic and inspiring.  Near the end, Rosie, who, to me, seemed to have the hardest time, presented this sweet, little nugget to her daughter.  And frankly, I think we all can benefit from it!  Poppy (Claude) starts …

‘There are only two choices, and they aren’t even choices, at least not ones you get to choose.  If you only tell some of the truth, that’s a lie.  If only one tiny stupid part of you is a boy, you can never be a girl.’

‘All of that seems true.  It does.’ His mother reached across the water and took his hands. ‘But it’s not.  I think the middle way is right.’

‘Why?’

‘Because it’s invisible.’

‘Like in a fairy tale?’

‘No,’ his mother said to the fish, then looked up at him.  ‘Actually, yes, sort of like a fairy tale.  There’s a fork in the road.  It seems like there are only two choices.  It seems like the task is to figure out which way to go, left or right, forward or back, deeper or safer, but in fact any of those choices is easy compared to the real trick.  The real trick is you have to forge your way straight ahead through the trees where there is no path.'”

Wow.

I could talk all day about this book!  I would love to know your thoughts and feelings!

Did you feel it was realistic?

What about the therapist, Mr. Tongo?!  (Meredith and I adored him!)

Do you think moving across the country was the right decision?

What about Thailand? (I was afraid I was going to hate it, but then actually loved it.)

The ending was tied up fairly neat and tidy- did you like that?  Or would you have preferred something different?

Now is the time I wish we were all able to sit in a big room and discuss!!  But, alas!, at least we have the internet.

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So even though I feel I will never read a book as fantastic as This Is How It Always Is again (#drama), we are running a book club here!  I thought it would be best to completely switch it up.  I went on the hunt for a page-turning thriller.  What better way to throw ourselves into summer?  And maybe if I’m consumed with a book, I’ll forget that I have to wear a bathing suit soon.

Our next pick is …

I Let You Go by Claire Mackintosh

Amazon’s description:

On a rainy afternoon, a mother’s life is shattered as her son slips from her grip and runs into the street . . .

I Let You Go follows Jenna Gray as she moves to a ramshackle cottage on the remote Welsh coast, trying to escape the memory of the car accident that plays again and again in her mind and desperate to heal from the loss of her child and the rest of her painful past.

At the same time, the novel tracks the pair of Bristol police investigators trying to get to the bottom of this hit-and-run. As they chase down one hopeless lead after another, they find themselves as drawn to each other as they are to the frustrating, twist-filled case before them.

As always, we are giving away a copy to one of our readers here. Enter by leaving a comment on this blog post or Meredith’s Mom of the Year blog before 5/12/17 at 5:30am EST. As long as you are 18 or older and live in the continental United States, you are eligible to win!

*Thank you to Penguin Random House for providing copies!!*

Grab a copy HERE and read with us! We always love hearing your thoughts!! Happy Reading!!

My (Not So Perfect) Life – Book Club

I’m going to be honest here, it is probably ridiculously unfair for me to write this review right now.  While I enjoyed this month’s book pick, Sophie Kinsella’s My (Not So Perfect) Life, the book that came after (our next book club pick – see below) quite literally blew me away.  It’s all I can talk about.  It’s all I can think about.  If I could hand it to each and every one of you personally, I would.  That being said, I am going to try my best to give Sophie’s latest, quite adorable, book it’s due diligence.

Recently I was listening to a podcast (From the Front Porch) and they were discussing how, after reading some rather sad books (that they enjoyed, by the way) they sometimes needed a palate cleanser, if you will. These types of books are my palate cleansers.  I read just about everything – nonfiction, heavy literature, smut books, YA, etc, and when I’m done reading something rather heavy (I’m guessing, say, after I read Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life or after I read Lilac Girls a few months ago), I find myself hitting up an Emily Giffin, Jojo Moyes, Liane Moriarty or, as in the case here, Sophie Kinsella.

While most people know Sophie from the Shopaholic series, I’ve actually never read them (gasp!).  I did, however, read Remember Me? and absolutely adored it.  Those sunflowers killed me!

Anyway, I was excited when Meredith mentioned doing one of Sophie’s books.  I figured it would be fun and witty and insightful, albeit on the hokey side.  And that’s just what I got.  It is a perfect “palate cleanser” book!  Maybe “beach read” is a better way to put it? You get the point.

Katie Brenner, the main character, was not always my favorite, but I did grow to like her.  Maybe it’s because I’m 42 and I could give two craps anymore what people think of me (one of the amazing perks of getting older), but I thought it was a little ridiculous that she was trying so hard to be someone she wasn’t – down to her own voice.  But maybe I’ve been out of the twenty-something loop for too long and this actually was relatable.

What did you all think about Katie’s attempt to erase and/or hide her background?

Demeter, Katie’s boss, felt a little like Meryl Streep’s character from The Devil Wears Prada but much more scatterbrained. She was an interesting character to follow and I felt the revelations at the end of the book really transformed her character.  Honestly, I liked her.

Thoughts on Demeter?  Too stereotypical?  Too ridiculous to believe?  Would anyone have ever fallen for that nature walk Katie subjected her to?

My favorite parts of the book were when Katie was back home and then of course when Demeter shows up. Although Katie being mistaken for a homeless person comes in at a close second.  On a side note, I actually really want to go to Ansters Farm!!  It sounded amazing and I found myself googling places my husband and I could go to similar to this.

Would anyone have ever fallen for that nature walk Katie subjected Demeter to? Would Demeter REALLY not recognized her?  And, more importantly, have you ever been glamping???

I thought the love interest part (Alex) was pretty small and not overly interesting.  I always like a book with a little bit of romance, but I had a take or leave it attitude about this one.

What were your thoughts on Alex? 

Overall, I’d give the book a 3 out 5 stars.  It was a fun and amusing read, and actually had a half way decent message.  As long as you don’t take things too seriously, I think you’d enjoy it.

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So, I don’t know if you remember from a couple paragraphs ago, but I am IN LOVE with our next book club pick.  I have posted it all over social media, harassed family members to read it, and am seriously considering emailing the author just to gush. If you read no other book this year, pick up this one.

This Is How It Always Is

by Laurie Frankel

Amazon’s description (which will not do it justice!):

This is how a family keeps a secret…and how that secret ends up keeping them.

This is how a family lives happily ever after…until happily ever after becomes complicated.

This is how children change…and then change the world.

This is Claude. He’s five years old, the youngest of five brothers, and loves peanut butter sandwiches. He also loves wearing a dress, and dreams of being a princess.

When he grows up, Claude says, he wants to be a girl.

Rosie and Penn want Claude to be whoever Claude wants to be. They’re just not sure they’re ready to share that with the world. Soon the entire family is keeping Claude’s secret. Until one day it explodes.

Laurie Frankel’s This Is How It Always Is is a novel about revelations, transformations, fairy tales, and family. And it’s about the ways this is how it always is: Change is always hard and miraculous and hard again, parenting is always a leap into the unknown with crossed fingers and full hearts, children grow but not always according to plan. And families with secrets don’t get to keep them forever.

As always, we are giving away a copy to one of our readers here. Enter by leaving a comment on this blog post or Meredith’s Mom of the Year blog before 4/14/17 at 5:30am EST. As long as you are 18 or older and live in the continental United States, you are eligible to win.

Grab a copy HERE and read with us! We always love hearing your thoughts!! Happy Reading!!

Book Club: Moonglow

26795307So, I think it’s time we discuss something that can be quite controversial.  I’ve certainly been grappling with this over the last month or so.  I’ve been reading about it and listening to podcasts about it and I think it’s time we finally discuss the elephant in the room.  *deep breath*

I’ve abandoned a book.

Ok, ok!  Everybody calm down!!  Don’t all speak at once!  SIMMA DOWN NOW!

I know, I know, but seriously, guys, I just could NOT get into this month’s pick, Moonglow.  I tried.  I tried really hard!  Like, 81 pages hard.  And the worst part?  It was MY pick!  In my defense, it’s been on every must read list lately and it has a 4.01 on Goodreads and a 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon!

You know what, though?  Life’s too short (my excuse for everything lately … like eating 3 donuts and never working out).  Yes, this sounds like a total cop out, but I have 171 to-be-read books on my Goodreads account as of right this second.  By the time you finish reading this post, it will probably be up to 2,000.  And there are soooo many good books out there!  Books that are right for me.  And they may not be the same books that are right for you!  Clearly a lot of people loved Moonglow.  (And I don’t understand those people AT. ALL. … I am totally just kidding!)

I’ve been listening a lot to the Modern Mrs. Darcy podcast, What Should I Read Next, and if you are a crazy book nut like me and haven’t been over to her site, you must!  She asks people three books they love, one book they hate, and what they are currently reading.  Based on that information, she gives them specific books that she thinks they will love.  (This is why my Goodreads to-be-read is currently at 3,246 … I know, that fast!!)  Anyway, my point is that she and her guests often talk about books they’ve abandoned. There are a myriad of reasons why … the book is too long, too hard to read, it’s a busy time in the readers life, and  so on and so forth …

So back to Moonglowmoonglow

It sounded super interesting.  A deathbed confession, a grandson searching for answers, WWII, the space program, love and retirement villages, jail time and mystical cards … what’s not to love?!  But honestly, and I’m not trying to garner sympathy comments of “not true!” here … but I began to feel like I wasn’t smart enough to read this book.  Chabon’s writing is impeccable, but I found I had to really focus on what I was reading.  That sounds lame, I know.  I mean, the guy is a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist.  His stuff is good.  I actually listened to a podcast reviewing the book and the people on it were so incredibly pretentious smart that I thought, yeah, not my kind of book.  I want a book to get lost in.  A book that makes me crazy to get back to it.  A book where I keep saying “one more chapter” until I’m literally falling asleep on it.

I do think I will finish this book.  I don’t think it’s the right time for me.  (Listen to me, trying to redeem myself)  Or maybe I can read it while reading other books?  Taking a chapter here and there when I feel like it?

Have you ever abandoned any books?  Or do you feel like you need to finish what you start?  I want to hear all of your deep, dark confessions on this topic!  Because it’s so, so juicy.

I am truly curious about what you guys thought of Moonglow.  Did you enjoy it?  Did you struggle like me?  

What did you think of the fact that Chabon never named his characters (i.e. it was always “grandfather” and “grandmother”)?

Personally, I hated it.  I always struggle a little with keeping characters straight and this just added confusion for me.  (Did I mention I’m not smart?)

What did you think of the odd mix of topics?  

I’m sure by the end of the book, Chabon wrapped everything up, but I was feeling like we were all over the map between his grandmother, his grandfather’s younger days, his grandfather and the space program, and his grandfather in the retirement village.  And then that creepy encounter with the prostitute? I mean, I’ve read Fifty Shades and this was creepier.

Did you find the grandfather likable?

This was another problem for me.  I just was not connecting with the characters.  Especially the grandfather, who threw a cat out a I don’t remember how many story window when he was young just to see what would happen.  And I don’t even like cats!

Did you finish it and feel I should give it another go?

I’ll be honest, I almost gave up on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  Those first 50-75 pages were brutal, but I am so glad I listened to everyone and kept reading.  That’s one of my favorite books!

winter-booksSo now that we’ve got that off our chests (and I mean I’ve got that off my chest), let’s dive into our next book club pick!!  This time we’re going with a little YA that’s turning into a Netflix series!  Our next pick is Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher and I cannot wait to start this one!

Here’s the synopsis from Amazon:

You can’t stop the future.
You can’t rewind the past.
The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker—his classmate and crush—who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.

Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.

While I’m not overly anxious to dive into teenage suicide – as I have two teens myself and enough worry on my plate to make any person both rationally and irrationally insane – I’m hoping this book provides some good insight and much needed conversation.

As always, we are giving away a copy to one of our readers here. Enter by leaving a comment on this blog post or Meredith’s Mom of the Year blog before 2/10/17 at 5:30am EST. As long as you are 18 or older and live in the continental United States, you are eligible to win.

Grab a copy HERE and read with us!  We always love hearing your thoughts!!  Happy Reading!!

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