Memoirs | Recommended Reading

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In the past couple of years, memoirs have become one of my favorite reading genres. Memoirs have the ability to take you to places and perspectives that are so different from your own life and I learn so much from them. I am listening to Heavy on Audible and all of these other books I would highly recommend adding to your reading list.


Becoming by Michelle Obama

“An intimate, powerful, and inspiring memoir by the former first lady of the United States. In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As first lady of the United States of America – the first African American to serve in that role – she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the United States and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.

In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites listeners into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her – from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it – in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations – and whose story inspires us to do the same.”

My review of Becoming can be found HERE.


Heavy by Kiese Laymon

“In this powerful and provocative memoir, genre-bending essayist and novelist Kiese Laymon explores what the weight of a lifetime of secrets, lies, and deception does to a black body, a black family, and a nation teetering on the brink of moral collapse. 

Kiese Laymon is a fearless writer. In his essays, personal stories combine with piercing intellect to reflect both on the state of American society and on his experiences with abuse, which conjure conflicted feelings of shame, joy, confusion, and humiliation. Laymon invites us to consider the consequences of growing up in a nation wholly obsessed with progress yet wholly disinterested in the messy work of reckoning with where we’ve been. 

In Heavy, Laymon writes eloquently and honestly about growing up a hard-headed black son to a complicated and brilliant black mother in Jackson, Mississippi. From his early experiences of sexual violence to his suspension from college to his trek to New York as a young college professor, Laymon charts his complex relationship with his mother, grandmother, anorexia, obesity, sex, writing, and ultimately gambling. By attempting to name secrets and lies he and his mother spent a lifetime avoiding, Laymon asks himself, his mother, his nation, and us to confront the terrifying possibility that few in this nation actually know how to responsibly love, and even fewer want to live under the weight of actually becoming free. 

A personal narrative that illuminates national failures, Heavy is defiant yet vulnerable, an insightful, often comical exploration of weight, identity, art, friendship, and family that begins with a confusing childhood – and continues through 25 years of haunting implosions and long reverberations.”


And Now We have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready by Meaghan O’Connell

“When Meaghan O’Connell got accidentally pregnant in her twenties and decided to keep the baby, she realized that the book she needed — a brutally honest, agenda-free reckoning with the emotional and existential impact of motherhood — didn’t exist. So she decided to write it herself.

And Now We Have Everything is O’Connell’s exploration of the cataclysmic, impossible-to-prepare-for experience of becoming a mother. With her dark humor and hair-trigger B.S. detector, O’Connell addresses the pervasive imposter syndrome that comes with unplanned pregnancy, the fantasies of a “natural” birth experience that erode maternal self-esteem, post-partum body and sex issues, and the fascinating strangeness of stepping into a new, not-yet-comfortable identity. 

Channeling fears and anxieties that are still taboo and often unspoken, And Now We Have Everything is an unflinchingly frank, funny, and visceral motherhood story for our times, about having a baby and staying, for better or worse, exactly yourself.”


“One morning, Kim Brooks made a split-second decision to leave her four-year old son in the car while she ran into a store. What happened would consume the next several years of her life and spur her to investigate the broader role America’s culture of fear plays in parenthood. In Small Animals, Brooks asks, Of all the emotions inherent in parenting, is there any more universal or profound than fear? Why have our notions of what it means to be a good parent changed so radically? In what ways do these changes impact the lives of parents, children, and the structure of society at large? And what, in the end, does the rise of fearful parenting tell us about ourselves?

Fueled by urgency and the emotional intensity of Brooks’s own story, Small Animals is a riveting examination of the ways our culture of competitive, anxious, and judgmental parenting has profoundly altered the experiences of parents and children. In her signature style―by turns funny, penetrating, and always illuminating―which has dazzled millions of fans and been called “striking” by New York Times Book Review and “beautiful” by the National Book Critics Circle, Brooks offers a provocative, compelling portrait of parenthood in America and calls us to examine what we most value in our relationships with our children and one another.”

My review of Small Animals can be found HERE


Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

“Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

The stories collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.”


All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chuung

“What does it mean to lose your roots―within your culture, within your family―and what happens when you find them? 

Nicole Chung was born severely premature, placed for adoption by her Korean parents, and raised by a white family in a sheltered Oregon town. From childhood, she heard the story of her adoption as a comforting, prepackaged myth. She believed that her biological parents had made the ultimate sacrifice in the hope of giving her a better life, that forever feeling slightly out of place was her fate as a transracial adoptee. But as Nicole grew up―facing prejudice her adoptive family couldn’t see, finding her identity as an Asian American and as a writer, becoming ever more curious about where she came from―she wondered if the story she’d been told was the whole truth. 

With warmth, candor, and startling insight, Nicole Chung tells of her search for the people who gave her up, which coincided with the birth of her own child. All You Can Ever Know is a profound, moving chronicle of surprising connections and the repercussions of unearthing painful family secrets―vital reading for anyone who has ever struggled to figure out where they belong.”


Promise Me, Dad by Joe Biden 

 “In November 2014, thirteen members of the Biden family gathered on Nantucket for Thanksgiving, a tradition they had been celebrating for the past forty years; it was the one constant in what had become a hectic, scrutinized, and overscheduled life. The Thanksgiving holiday was a much-needed respite, a time to connect, a time to reflect on what the year had brought, and what the future might hold. But this year felt different from all those that had come before. Joe and Jill Biden’s eldest son, Beau, had been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor fifteen months earlier, and his survival was uncertain. “Promise me, Dad,” Beau had told his father. “Give me your word that no matter what happens, you’re going to be all right.” Joe Biden gave him his word.

Promise Me, Dad chronicles the year that followed, which would be the most momentous and challenging in Joe Biden’s extraordinary life and career. Vice President Biden traveled more than a hundred thousand miles that year, across the world, dealing with crises in Ukraine, Central America, and Iraq. When a call came from New York, or Capitol Hill, or Kyiv, or Baghdad―“Joe, I need your help”―he responded. For twelve months, while Beau fought for and then lost his life, the vice president balanced the twin imperatives of living up to his responsibilities to his country and his responsibilities to his family. And never far away was the insistent and urgent question of whether he should seek the presidency in 2016.

The year brought real triumph and accomplishment, and wrenching pain. But even in the worst times, Biden was able to lean on the strength of his long, deep bonds with his family, on his faith, and on his deepening friendship with the man in the Oval Office, Barack Obama.

Writing with poignancy and immediacy, Joe Biden allows readers to feel the urgency of each moment, to experience the days when he felt unable to move forward as well as the days when he felt like he could not afford to stop.

This is a book written not just by the vice president, but by a father, grandfather, friend, and husband. Promise Me, Dad is a story of how family and friendships sustain us and how hope, purpose, and action can guide us through the pain of personal loss into the light of a new future.”


Educated by Tara Westover 

“Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. When another brother got himself into college, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.”


Call me American: A Memoir by Abdi Nor Iftin

“Abdi Nor Iftin first fell in love with America from afar. As a child, he learned English by listening to American pop artists like Michael Jackson and watching films starring action heroes like Arnold Schwarzenegger. When U.S. marines landed in Mogadishu to take on the warlords, Abdi cheered the arrival of these real Americans, who seemed as heroic as those of the movies.

Sporting American clothes and dance moves, he became known around Mogadishu as Abdi American, but when the radical Islamist group al-Shabaab rose to power in 2006, it suddenly became dangerous to celebrate Western culture. Desperate to make a living, Abdi used his language skills to post secret dispatches to NPR and the Internet, which found an audience of worldwide listeners. But as life in Somalia grew more dangerous, Abdi was left with no choice but to flee to Kenya as a refugee.

In an amazing stroke of luck, Abdi won entrance to the U.S. in the annual visa lottery, though his route to America–filled with twists and turns and a harrowing sequence of events that nearly stranded him in Nairobi–did not come easily. Parts of his story were first heard on the BBC World Service and This American Life. Now a proud resident of Maine, on the path to citizenship, Abdi Nor Iftin’s dramatic, deeply stirring memoir is truly a story for our time: a vivid reminder of why western democracies still beckon to those looking to make a better life.”

 My review of Call Me American can be found HERE


A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold

“On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked into Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Over the course of minutes, they would kill twelve students and a teacher and wound twenty-four others before taking their own lives.

For the last sixteen years, Sue Klebold, Dylan’s mother, has lived with the indescribable grief and shame of that day. How could her child, the promising young man she had loved and raised, be responsible for such horror? And how, as his mother, had she not known something was wrong? Were there subtle signs she had missed? What, if anything, could she have done differently?

These are questions that Klebold has grappled with every day since the Columbine tragedy. In A Mother’s Reckoning, she chronicles with unflinching honesty her journey as a mother trying to come to terms with the incomprehensible. In the hope that the insights and understanding she has gained may help other families recognize when a child is in distress, she tells her story in full, drawing upon her personal journals, the videos and writings that Dylan left behind, and on countless interviews with mental health experts.

Filled with hard-won wisdom and compassion, A Mother’s Reckoning is a powerful and haunting book that sheds light on one of the most pressing issues of our time. And with fresh wounds from the Newtown and Charleston shootings, never has the need for understanding been more urgent.

(All author profits from the book will be donated to research and to charitable organizations focusing on mental health issues.)”


When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

“At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.

What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir.

Paul Kalanithi died in March 2015, while working on this book, yet his words live on as a guide and a gift to us all. ‘I began to realize that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed nothing and everything,” he wrote. “Seven words from Samuel Beckett began to repeat in my head: ‘I can’t go on. I’ll go on.”‘ When Breath Becomes Air is an unforgettable, life-affirming reflection on the challenge of facing death and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a brilliant writer who became both.”


The Sound of Gravel: A Memoir by Ruth Wariner 

“Ruth Wariner was the thirty-ninth of her father’s forty-two children. Growing up on a farm in rural Mexico, where authorities turned a blind eye to the practices of her community, Ruth lives in a ramshackle house without indoor plumbing or electricity. At church, preachers teach that God will punish the wicked by destroying the world and that women can only ascend to Heaven by entering into polygamous marriages and giving birth to as many children as possible. After Ruth’s father—the man who had been the founding prophet of the colony—is brutally murdered by his brother in a bid for church power, her mother remarries, becoming the second wife of another faithful congregant.

In need of government assistance and supplemental income, Ruth and her siblings are carted back and forth between Mexico and the United States, where her mother collects welfare and her stepfather works a variety of odd jobs. Ruth comes to love the time she spends in the States, realizing that perhaps the community into which she was born is not the right one for her. As Ruth begins to doubt her family’s beliefs and question her mother’s choices, she struggles to balance her fierce love for her siblings with her determination to forge a better life for herself.

Recounted from the innocent and hopeful perspective of a child, The Sound of Gravel is the remarkable true story of a girl fighting for peace and love. This is an intimate, gripping tale of triumph, courage, and resilience.”


 

What’s On Your Nightstand Series| Book Recommendations & More | Katy

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Hi everyone, happy Friday! Today I am excited to introduce you to my friend Katy. Katy was one of my roommates and best friends in college and she is one of the most wonderful and kind people I know. She and I have also always shared some of my most treasured hobbies… reading and drinking coffee.

Katy actually introduced me to lattes and Starbucks when we were in college. This was in the early 2000s when Starbucks was just making it’s way to Vermont. They used to have a Maple Latte (with real maple syrup!) and they were amazing. We would drive there together and both order this…and it was quite the exciting outing and treat for us in those days.

Katy is wonderful and always has a new stack of books she is just waiting to dive into. I hope you enjoy hearing about what she is reading. ❤


Introduction:

Hello, I am Katy. I live in Connecticut with my wife and our two rescue tiger cats, Leo and Dragon. We are newly married but we want to start a family very soon. I work in early childhood education as a teacher and I have been an avid and voracious reader since the crib, where I would sleep with my books. I was an English and Education major at SMC and since I went the education route for a career, reading is one of my favorite hobbies. I always have stacks of books on my nightstand from the library and my nightstand has a second level that contains all the books I own that I want to read at some point and just haven’t gotten to. I live across the street from a library, so I frequent there once a week or so and get new stacks for my nightstand. I am much more of a hard copy book reader, and since I live so close to the library, I can get the bestsellers, and “hot” books that are out. I do have a Kindle and I like reading on that as well, but I prefer hard copy books. I use my Kindle more for travel or on the go reading.

What’s on my Nightstand:

On my nightstand are usually two stacks of books; the TBR pile, and the books that I am currently reading. I sometimes like to alternate between fiction and non-fiction (yes, I am that person), or other book genres, depending on my mood when I settle in for the night to read. I read a wide variety of genres, from non-fiction and realistic fiction to YA and fantasy novels so anything can end up in my stacks. I also have my kindle and a bullet journal on my nightstand.

My TBR pile is:

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han: I like to read YA when I am in the mood for something light and fluffy. I have heard that this book was cute and also that the Netflix movie was fun as well, so I wanted to give this one a try.

An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena: I love thrillers, and I loved A Couple Next Door by this author so when I went to the library I picked up two more books by this author to read when I was in the mood for some suspense. Other thrillers I recently read and recommend that are similar are, The Other Woman, There Is Something In the Water and The Last Mrs. Parrish.

Rust and Stardust by T. Greenwood: This story is another thriller that was on the new book shelf at the library so I grabbed it not knowing much about it on the recommendation of the librarian.

Room by Emma Donoghue: This is probably the heaviest book in my stack as far as subject matter. I have always wanted to read this book because I have heard that it is fantastic, but I would have to be in the mood to read this kind of story, especially because it is from the narrative viewpoint of a five-year-old and working with that age group it might be a sad one for me to get through.

Books I am currently reading:

A Stranger In the House by Shari Lapena: I started reading this last night and I have been flying through it. It was a little slow to start but I was hooked pretty quickly and now I have to know what is going on in this story. It reminds me of What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty because the main character has amnesia, and I am a fan of books with what is called the “unreliable” narrator. I think they are fun.

I’ll Be There for You: The One About Friends by Kelsey Miller: Friends has always been one of my favorite shows to watch reruns. This nonfiction book is about the behind the scene information about the show and its characters has been a very interesting read so far. I am enjoying it.

On my Kindle:

China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan: I LOVED Crazy Rich Asians, so I was anxious to read the second book once I heard there were three books in the series. So far I haven’t liked it as much as the first book, but I haven’t given it much of a shot yet.

What else is on my nightstand:

I have a bullet journal of books that I have read so far in 2019 ( I love to make lists) and I also will write books that I want to read in this journal as well. I like to have something to grab if I want to make a list, books to read or otherwise. I cannot keep a water bottle on my nightstand or cup or water, because LEO (my 14-pound tiger) is always on my nightstand wanting attention and he will knock over water onto all of my books. I learned that the hard way. I do keep a container of Sleepy lotion by Lush because I love the way it smells and the scent is perfect for relaxing. Buddha hangs out on my nightstand as well, but he sometimes ends up on the floor because of Leo or Dragon deciding they want to rearrange things. I also have my Burts Bees Chapstick (favorite brand), and my book light for night reading.

This was so much fun to write and share, I love reading Gen’s posts and I am so honored she asked me to write something for her blog. 🙂


Thank you so much for sharing today, Katy!! xo

Vacation Reading | Book Recommendations

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Are you heading away to escape from the cold anytime soon? Or maybe you are like me and are just looking for something engaging to cozy up with on a February weekend afternoon…either way, you are in the right place.

One of the most frequent questions I get is “what should I bring to read on vacation?!” For me, reading on vacation should be enjoyable but there is a fine balance between an easy read and a cheesy one. I love “pleasure” reading but it needs to strike the right balance. All of these books were super engaging and easy to get lost in, but also made me think…


All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin

This book was timely and I flew through it. I really enjoy that Giffin is starting to take on more “serious” topics in her writing while also still keeping them somewhat light-hearted and predictable.

“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.”


Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win by Jo Piazza

Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win was one of my top books of 2018. It was the perfect balance of women’s issues, double standards for women in the workforce and political world, marriage, parenthood and more…all in a super engaging read that was hard to put down. The characters were imperfect which I think made this book even more relatable and powerful.  We are discussing this one soon in our book club and I can’t wait!

“From Jo Piazza, the bestselling author of The Knock Off, How to Be Married, and Fitness Junkie, comes an exciting, insightful novel about what happens when a woman wants it all—political power, a happy marriage, and happiness—but isn’t sure just how much she’s willing to sacrifice to get it.

Charlotte Walsh is running for Senate in the most important race in the country during a midterm election that will decide the balance of power in Congress. Still reeling from a presidential election that shocked and divided the country and inspired by the chance to make a difference, she’s left behind her high-powered job in Silicon Valley and returned, with her husband Max and their three young daughters, to her downtrodden Pennsylvania hometown to run in the Rust Belt state.

Once the campaign gets underway, Charlotte is blindsided by just how dirty her opponent is willing to fight, how harshly she is judged by the press and her peers, and how exhausting it becomes to navigate a marriage with an increasingly ambivalent and often resentful husband. When the opposition uncovers a secret that could threaten not just her campaign but everything Charlotte holds dear, she has to decide just how badly she wants to win and at what cost.

A searing, suspenseful story of political ambition, marriage, class, sexual politics, and infidelity, Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win is an insightful portrait of what it takes for a woman to run for national office in America today. In a dramatic political moment like no other with more women running for office than ever before, Jo Piazza’s novel is timely, engrossing, and perfect for readers on both sides of the aisle.”


The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain

Diane Chamberlain can do no wrong in my mind but this is one of my very favorites of hers. She is able to engage her reader with all different kinds of topics and characters with such ease and I was drawn into this one so quickly.  I love to read Chamberlain’s books on vacation because they truly are the perfect balance of in-depth characters, real issues mixed with a little mystery and intrigue.

“It is 1944. Pregnant, alone, and riddled with guilt, twenty-three-year-old Tess DeMello abruptly gives up her budding career as a nurse and ends her engagement to the love of her life, unable to live a lie. Instead, she turns to the baby’s father for help and agrees to marry him, moving to the small, rural town of Hickory, North Carolina. Tess’s new husband, Henry Kraft, is a secretive man who often stays out all night, hides money from his new wife, and shows her no affection. Tess quickly realizes she’s trapped in a strange and loveless marriage with no way out.

The people of Hickory love and respect Henry but see Tess as an outsider, treating her with suspicion and disdain. When one of the town’s golden girls dies in a terrible accident, everyone holds Tess responsible. But Henry keeps his secrets even closer now, though it seems that everyone knows something about him that Tess does not.

When a sudden polio epidemic strikes Hickory, the townspeople band together to build a polio hospital. Tess knows she is needed and defies Henry’s wishes to begin working at there. Through this work, she begins to find purpose and meaning. Yet at home, Henry’s actions grow more alarming by the day. As Tess works to save the lives of her patients, can she untangle the truth behind her husband’s mysterious behavior and find the love―and the life―she was meant to have?”


Winter In Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand 

Hilderbrand is what many would call “the perfect beach book author”. I have read so many of her books while on vacation and I would agree! Welcome to Paradise is the first book in her new Paradise trilogy and it takes place on St. John USVI. I loved meeting a new cast of characters and I am excited to see where she takes us with these books…which is also her first series based in a tropical location.

“Irene Steele shares her idyllic life in a beautiful Iowa City Victorian house with a husband who loves her to sky-writing, sentimental extremes. But as she rings in the new year one cold and snowy night, everything she thought she knew falls to pieces with a shocking phone call: her beloved husband, away on business, has been killed in a plane crash. Before Irene can even process the news, she must first confront the perplexing details of her husband’s death on the distant Caribbean island of St. John.

After Irene and her sons arrive at this faraway paradise, they make yet another shocking discovery: her husband had been living a secret life. As Irene untangles a web of intrigue and deceit, and as she and her sons find themselves drawn into the vibrant island culture, they have to face the truth about their family, and about their own futures. 

Rich with the lush beauty of the tropics and the drama, romance, and intrigue only Elin Hilderbrand can deliver, Winter in Paradise is a truly transporting novel, and the exciting start to a new series.”


Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain 

Necessary Lies is another favorite of mine by Chamberlain.

“Bestselling author Diane Chamberlain delivers a breakout book about a small southern town fifty years ago, and the darkest—and most hopeful—places in the human heart

After losing her parents, fifteen-year-old Ivy Hart is left to care for her grandmother, older sister and nephew as tenants on a small tobacco farm. As she struggles with her grandmother’s aging, her sister’s mental illness and her own epilepsy, she realizes they might need more than she can give.
When Jane Forrester takes a position as Grace County’s newest social worker, she doesn’t realize just how much her help is needed. She quickly becomes emotionally invested in her clients’ lives, causing tension with her boss and her new husband. But as Jane is drawn in by the Hart women, she begins to discover the secrets of the small farm—secrets much darker than she would have guessed. Soon, she must decide whether to take drastic action to help them, or risk losing the battle against everything she believes is wrong. 
Set in rural Grace County, North Carolina in a time of state-mandated sterilizations and racial tension, Necessary Lies tells the story of these two young women, seemingly worlds apart, but both haunted by tragedy. Jane and Ivy are thrown together and must ask themselves: how can you know what you believe is right, when everyone is telling you it’s wrong?”


Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge 

Castle of Water is one of those underrated books that I am surprised more people aren’t talking about. Huckelbridge’s writing was extraordinarily beautiful and it is so much more than just a “castaway” story.

“Two very different people, one very small island.

For Sophie Ducel, her honeymoon in French Polynesia was intended as a celebration of life. The proud owner of a thriving Parisian architecture firm, co-founded with her brilliant new husband, Sophie had much to look forward to―including a visit to the island home of her favorite singer, Jacques Brel.

For Barry Bleecker, the same trip was meant to mark a new beginning. Turning away from his dreary existence in Manhattan finance, Barry had set his sights on fine art, seeking creative inspiration on the other side of the world―just like his idol, Paul Gauguin.

But when their small plane is downed in the middle of the South Pacific, the sole survivors of the wreck are left with one common goal: to survive. Stranded hundreds of miles from civilization, on an island the size of a large city block, the two castaways must reconcile their differences and learn to draw on one another’s strengths if they are to have any hope of making it home.

Told in mesmerizing prose, with charm and rhythm entirely its own, Dane Huckelbridge’s Castle of Water is more than just a reimagining of the classic castaway story. It is a stirring reflection on love’s restorative potential, as well as a poignant reminder that home―be it a flat in Paris, a New York apartment, or a desolate atoll a world away―is where the heart is.”


The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand

I read every book that Hilderbrand writes but wasn’t blown away by her releases from the last few years. The Perfect Couple changed this streak for me and I enjoy this one so much! It was the perfect mix of mystery/thriller/contemporary fiction and it kept me guessing until the very end.

“It’s Nantucket wedding season, also known as summer-the sight of a bride racing down Main Street is as common as the sun setting at Madaket Beach. The Otis-Winbury wedding promises to be an event to remember: the groom’s wealthy parents have spared no expense to host a lavish ceremony at their oceanfront estate.

But it’s going to be memorable for all the wrong reasons after tragedy strikes: a body is discovered in Nantucket Harbor just hours before the ceremony-and everyone in the wedding party is suddenly a suspect. As Chief of Police Ed Kapenash interviews the bride, the groom, the groom’s famous mystery-novelist mother, and even a member of his own family, he discovers that every wedding is a minefield-and no couple is perfect. Featuring beloved characters from The Castaways, Beautiful Day, and A Summer Affair, The Perfect Couple proves once again that Elin Hilderbrand is the queen of the summer beach read.”


You Were Always Mine by Nicole Baart

You Were Always Mine was my first Nicole Baart and it won’t be my last. I was hooked from the beginning and it was completely engrossing. I love that it focused on the issue of adoption but it was so much more than that. I loved the mystery about Jessica’s husband and it kept me guessing until the very end.

The characters were incredibly detailed and I felt like I could totally connect with what they were going through on this journey of what makes a family and who the people around you really are…

“Jessica Chamberlain, newly separated and living with her two sons in a small Iowa town, can’t believe that a tragedy in another state could have anything to do with her. But when her phone rings one quiet morning, her world is shattered. As she tries to pick up the pieces and make sense of what went wrong, Jess begins to realize that a tragic death is just the beginning. Soon she is caught in a web of lies and half-truths—and she’s horrified to learn that everything leads back to her seven-year-old adopted son, Gabriel.

Years ago, Gabe’s birth mother requested a closed adoption and Jessica was more than happy to comply. But when her house is broken into and she discovers a clue that suggests her estranged husband was in close contact with Gabe’s biological mother, she vows to uncover the truth at any cost. A harrowing story of tenacious love and heartbreaking betrayal, You Were Always Mine is about the wars we wage to keep the ones we love close, perfect for fans of Liane Moriarty and Jodi Picoult.”


The Lake House by Kate Morton

I adore Morton’s writing but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend a lot of her books for vacation reading because the writing is so rich and detailed. The Lake House is a hefty one too but it was super captivating and I raced through this one. This was a complex mystery that left me hanging on her every word.

“Living on her family’s idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, inquisitive, and precociously talented sixteen-year-old who loves to write stories.

One midsummer’s eve, after a beautiful party drawing hundreds of guests to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest child, eleven-month-old Theo, has vanished without a trace. He is never found, and the family is torn apart, the house abandoned.

Decades later, Alice is living in London, having enjoyed a long successful career as a novelist. Miles away, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective in the London police force, is staying at her grandfather’s house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old Edevane estate—now crumbling and covered with vines. Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and Alice together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone…yet more present than ever.

A lush, atmospheric tale of intertwined destinies from a masterful storyteller, The Lake House is an enthralling, thoroughly satisfying read.”


 The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo 

I got lost in this book and connected so deeply with the characters. It was a surprise hit for me as I wouldn’t classify myself as a big fan of “romance” novels but this was so much more.

“Lucy is faced with a life-altering choice. But before she can make her decision, she must start her story–their story–at the very beginning.

Lucy and Gabe meet as seniors at Columbia University on a day that changes both of their lives forever. Together, they decide they want their lives to mean something, to matter. When they meet again a year later, it seems fated–perhaps they’ll find life’s meaning in each other. But then Gabe becomes a photojournalist assigned to the Middle East and Lucy pursues a career in New York. What follows is a thirteen-year journey of dreams, desires, jealousies, betrayals, and, ultimately, of love. Was it fate that brought them together? Is it choice that has kept them away? Their journey takes Lucy and Gabe continents apart, but never out of each other’s hearts.

This devastatingly romantic debut novel about the enduring power of first love, with a shocking, unforgettable ending, is Love Story for a new generation.”


The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

This book took me by surprise with not only with its depth but also how much I was reeled into this story of perseverance and success, survival and love.

“In this entrancing novel “that speaks to the Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor in us all” (Kirkus Reviews), a legendary film actress reflects on her relentless rise to the top and the risks she took, the loves she lost, and the long-held secrets the public could never imagine.

Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ‘80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.”


On The Island by Tracey Garvis Graves

I read this book years ago but it still sticks with me now. Graves words flow so easily and I always feel so connected to her characters because of her amazing ability to draw you in from the first few pages of her books.

“Sixteen-year-old T.J. Callahan has no desire to go anywhere. With his cancer in remission, all he wants is to get back to his normal life. But his parents insist that he spend the summer catching up on the school he missed while he was sick.

Anna Emerson is a thirty-year-old English teacher who has been worn down by the cold Chicago winters and a relationship that’s going nowhere. To break up the monotony of everyday life, she jumps at the chance to spend the summer on a tropical island tutoring T.J.

Anna and T.J. board a private plane headed to the Callahans’ summer home, but as they fly over the Maldives’ twelve hundred islands, the unthinkable happens: their plane crashes in shark-infested waters. They make it to shore, but soon discover they’re stranded on an uninhabited island.

At first, their only thought is survival. But as the days turn to weeks, and then months, and as birthdays pass, the castaways must brave violent tropical storms, the many dangers lurking in the sea, and the worst threat of all—the possibility that T.J.’s cancer could return. With only each other for love and support, these two lost souls must come to terms with their situation and find companionship in one another in the moments they need it most.


Do you have any vacation reading recommendations? I would love to add them to my list! ❤

 

What’s On Your Nightstand Series | Book Recommendations & More | Kristy

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I am so excited to introduce you to one of my favorite people today. You may recognize Kristy because I feature her a lot on here as she is not only my friend but my co-worker.

I first met Kristy almost 9 years old when our oldest children happened to be in the same baby playgroup. We bonded over having the same wedding photographer and our friendship blossomed from there. We love that we met through photography because that is what we do together now.

We spend a lot of time together and we have the same taste in books which makes for great lunchtime conversations. We often read the same books at the same time but I read them on my Kindle and she is a hard copy book lover. I hope you enjoy “meeting” Kristy, today!

The Nightstand Series Intro:

Hi, I’m Kristy! I live in Vermont with my husband and two daughters and I work as a family photographer. I was an avid reader as a child but like many, lost the habit when I had children. As my kids have gotten a little older, I have rediscovered my love of reading.

Anytime I did have for reading in the last several years was dedicated to non-fiction and for the most part, business related. Although I still love a good non-fiction read, I have most recently enjoyed reading for pleasure and have found so many new favorite fiction authors. This past fall I discovered Diane Chamberlain and quickly devoured all her best sellers. Kristin Hannah was up next and now I have moved onto T. Greenwood.

I am a hardcore hard copy book fan and I have never read a book in a digital format and I don’t have plans to change. I love our local library, sharing books with friends and visiting our local bookshops.

What’s on my nightstand for books:

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I just finished this enjoyable read it was definitely one I looked forward to reading every night. It was much different than I expected, engaging and while it kept me on my toes it was easy to follow. I polished this one off in under three days which is a definite sign that it was a hit for me.

Two Rivers by T. Greenwood

I am currently reading Two Rivers and this is my second book by T. Greenwood. I finished Rust & Stardust last month and was captivated by her storytelling. I also enjoy that she is a Vermont native and many of her books connect to local areas. I am excited to see how this one unfolds.

Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn

This book is an easy to read guide to mindfulness and meditation. I have been slowly exploring both of these practices and found this to be a very helpful resource. It is definitely a book that I have read a little at a time and while I haven’t finished it yet, I have enjoyed the moments I have picked it up and read a couple of chapters.

Pretending To Dance by Diane Chamberlain

Pretending To Dance is next up on my fiction list and this copy was loaned to me by my future neighbor. I have heard great things about this one and I already know I love all things Diane Chamberlain.

The Art of Money by Bari Tessler

This is my current non-fiction read and I have been enjoying reading one chapter at a time. I love how Tessler is able to incorporate mindfulness and awareness into how past experiences with money can affect you today.  Her approach is practical and relatable without being overwhelming.

What else is on my nightstand:

I love Bee Love Herbals Lavender Herbal Body Oil. I first connected with this local business at a Burlington craft show this past fall. I struggle with extremely dry winter skin and this is the first thing that I have found that is keeping my skin happy all winter I also love knowing that I am supporting a local handmade business. My kids have also started using it and ask for it after every shower.

I am a sucker for salt lamps and have several in our home. I love the soft light that it produces and supposedly it helps with allergies and keeping your air clean.

I love my Tabbatha Henry luminary. I had seen these at many local businesses and treated myself to two last year. Unfortunately, only one is left standing because my husband likes to toss his socks long distance into our neighboring laundry basket and doesn’t have perfect aim. 😉

I love Gen The Book Worm and my renewed love of fiction. Thank you for including me in your series! ❤


Thank you so much for sharing, Kristy!

What’s On Your Nightstand Series | Book Recommendations & More | Emily

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Good morning! I am excited to introduce to you to my friend Emily, today! Emily and I talk regularly about books and I always love her wonderful insight. She should have a book blog because her reviews are always super in depth and she always is able to look at things from different perspectives. She is truly one of the most empathetic and understanding people I know which makes so much sense when you learn about the work she does. I hope you enjoy hearing what is on her nightstand, today.

The Nightstand Series Intro:
Hi, I’m Emily! I moved from Vermont to San Diego about seven months ago to join my husband who is stationed at Miramar…and, to be honest, I really haven’t missed the snow all that much (yet)! This past May I graduated with a Master’s in School Counseling and due to the move I haven’t had the opportunity to land a dreamy job (another yet!); but oh how I miss the deep conversations and connections that were fostered throughout my Master’s program. This is where reading comes in! Over the past year, I have completely indulged in reading and expanding my reading interests. It really has been delightful and I value the thought expansions, conversations, and challenges (or simply entertainment) that are gifted with each read. Much thanks to you, Gen! You have greatly impacted my reading journey!
What’s on my nightstand for books:

 

I am currently reading this book (I am about three-quarters of the way in) and I must admit that it is falling short for me thus far. I find the setup of the story to be confusing and challenging to keep up; it is set up as if I sneakily peeked at the end of the book and then began to read backward. The first chapter is being told at the current time of 5:00pm, the second goes back to 4:00pm, then 3:00pm, and so on. However, I am holding out hope that the story will wrap itself up in the end and that I will find appreciation within its pages. Here is what I can appreciate so far: 1) The topic of abortion is prominent to our culture, 2) The idea that although individuals (or groups) may have two completely opposing views, there are ways to find commonality and kindness. Sometimes I think in the middle of all arguments there exists a common goal with different perspectives that hinder our ability to see the picture as a whole. 3) Respect for this author. Picoult constantly dives into work where difficult topics are dissected and somehow she challenges my brain to find compassion in areas in which I never thought possible.

 

Okay, here’s where I need to take a detour. I’m a avid book gifter / lender / leave-a-book-with-a-friend-in-hopes-they-read-it-and gain-from-it-kind of person. So, I have a lot of favorite books that are seemingly “missing” from my nightstand that I would love to share with you!

 

This is a book that belongs on everyone’s shelf! The depth of vulnerability, acceptance, courage, and forgiveness (both of self and of others) was humbling. Doyle does not “preach” about how life “should” be lived or what the meaning is behind everything, rather she offers empathy for the struggles in which we all face in this world. She does not “push” religion onto you, rather offers insight on how she has invited religion into her own experiences throughout her life. She does not try to explain away the “whys” of her behaviors, rather she opens up to share honesty, vulnerability, and space for others to relate without judgment. This is a fluid, beautiful, raw, and original book that all souls can relate to. I adore this book so much that I can’t even remember who has my copy right now and have bought many copies to gift to loved ones!

 

This novel sent vulnerable shivers through my spine, tears to my eyes, warmth to my heart, and completely blew my mind. We so often hear the world’s events through the perspective of adults and this refreshing perspective on trauma through a young child’s existence was powerful. Navin aided in my understanding (or growth of understanding) of how young minds view and adapt the world and the experiences in which they endure. I admire the youth, their minds, imagination, and resiliency. This novel beautifully illustrates them all.

 

A perspective-changing, must-read while we are in this time of our lives where the topic/issues of race, minority status, privileged status, equality, etc. are so very prominent. As a whole, we need to be better at “leaning into” areas of discomfort and seeking out understanding of others. It is not about who is right or wrong; it is about really listening, practicing empathy, and shredding the layers of defensiveness that we may carry with us on our journey of interactions with others and view of life. Dare to not just step outside of your comfort zone, but to expand its boundaries.

 

This was a recommendation from Gen! My heart has never been so moved by a book! I was thrown back into what the beginning of finding your true love/person/ whole being felt like. Those teenage years where everything romantic is so new, fresh, exciting, scary, and tingly; what it is like to reconnect with your person after missing them for so long.
Lauren captured what true love can look like, through the good and the not-so-good. Forgiveness, growth, time and vulnerability are such prominent aspects of living. She perfectly illustrates that life and love are all about taking chances and trusting yourself; that true happiness and fulfillment doesn’t exist by settling. I am in love with this book and for all the emotional waves that came with it.

 

In addition to these, I am a mystery/thriller junkie and absolutely love anything by Harlen Coben, The Lies We Told by Camilla Way, An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks, and the Amos Decker series by David Baldacci… just to name a few 🙂

 

What else is on my nightstand:
Pictures of loved ones and happy moments; I absolutely love going to bed looking at the smiling faces, happy memories, and just feeling close to my people…especially after moving across the country!

 

BODY BUTTER! I cannot and will not go to sleep without massaging this body butter into the heels of my feet and into my hands. “Ugh” to dry skin problems.

 

I also am always drinking water and am absolutely a sucker for corny/funny coasters. We must find ways to relieve ourselves from all the “seriousness” of life! (I also have an unhealthy collection of coffee mugs like this which drives my husband bonkers)!
Xo

Thank you SO much for sharing, Emily! I hope this gives you all some great reading inspiration, I know it did for me. ❤

What’s On Your Nightstand Series | Book Recommendations & More | Molly

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Happy Friday everyone! I am so excited to introduce you to my friend Molly, today. She is my first friend to share in my new book sharing series. Molly is the best! She is so smart and I love talking about books with her because she always has great opinions and also likes a wide array of genres. She has the cutest family ever and she seriously is one of the funniest people I know…I also love that she can never have too many books because I am the same way! Alright, Molly is taking over below…enjoy! ❤


The Nightstand Series Intro:

Hi, I’m Molly.  I live in Vermont with my husband, two kids ages 4 and 7, and an awesome elderly labradoodle. I work in higher education administration and have always been an avid book fan and reader. I have stacks and stacks I need to read but am always on the hunt for new titles. I recently discovered the Libby library app (thanks to Gen!) and just got my first Kindle, so my reading game has totally changed for the better!

What’s on my nightstand for books:

On my Kindle: On my Kindle, I have downloaded a few books that are up next: The Other Woman, How to Walk Away and a few kids’ novels to read aloud to my daughter. It has been so nice to have access to books at all times since I don’t always have a paper book with me. I am also in love with the Libby app and it has made the most significant change to how often I read since I often will catch chunks of time here and there.

 I like to read on my phone when putting the kids to bed, waiting for appointments, etc. Highly recommend! Not pictured, but also up next, on the Libby app: I am waiting patiently “in line” for The Good Girl, The Breakdown and Then She Was Gone. I’ve been on a bit of a suspense bender!

Hard Copy Books: I always have stacks that I intend to read.  On my nightstand (which is currently a dresser so can accommodate too much stuff!):

Tell Me More by Kelly Corrigan:  I had read her memoir and loved her style of writing and family relationships.  Definitely, a must read … soon!

One Day in December, The Winters and And Now We Have Everything – all three were recommendations from Gen and other book blogs as well.

What else is on my nightstand: 

Stacks of books to read, my Kindle and a BKR water bottle. I also have an orange & rose hand cream by John Masters, Skin Trip coconut lotion for my dry hands (Vermont winters!), and a few of my very favorite Lunaroma products.  I love their lemon lavender spray and often use it after making the bed or just before sleep. Also pictured in the children’s novel, The Unicorn In the Barn, which we’re reading with my daughter. Highly recommend and great cover!

Not pictured:  my alarm clock!  I discovered it went missing when my kids stole it for their America Ninja Warrior reenactment game  🙂


Thank you SO much for sharing Molly!!

My Most Memorable Books from 2018 | Book Recommendations by Genre

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If you are looking for some amazing books to start off your year with, these were some of my very favorites from 2018. I rated all these 5 stars on Goodreads which means that not only did I love them but they stuck with me long after I was done reading. ❤

Memoirs:

And Now We Have Everything by Meaghan O’Connell

Small Animals by Kim Brooks (I listened on Audible)

Becoming by Michelle Obama (I listened on Audible)

All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung ( I listened on Audible)


Fiction:

Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win by Jo Piazza

The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain

You Were Always Mine by Nicole Baart

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne


Self-Help/Personal Development:

You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero