Motherhood Comes Naturally

Motherhood Comes Naturally by Jill SmoklerTitle: Motherhood Comes Naturally (and Other Vicious Lies)

Author: Jill Smokler. She is the author of a previous book of parenting essays, Confessions of a Scary Mommy and blogs at

Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir

Readers: Mothers Sulyn, Megan V., Katie and Reinventing Mommy.

Summary: Newly pregnant and scared out of her mind, Jill Smokler lay on her gynecologist’s examination table and was told the biggest lie she’d ever heard in her life: “Motherhood is the most natural thing in the world.”

Instead of quelling her nerves like that well intentioned nurse hoped to, Jill was instead set up for future of questioning exactly what DNA strand she was missing that made the whole motherhood experience feel less than natural to her. Wonderful? Yes. Miraculous? Of course. Worthwhile? Without a doubt. But natural? Not so much.

Our Take: A funny and candid look at real parenthood that would make a great gift for new parents. Our readers enjoy Smokler’s frankness, but warn that she may offend more sensitive readers.

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Fall Nonfiction Book Bundle Giveaway!

All through the months I save advance copies of books until I build up a perfect book bundle just waiting to be mailed into a happy reader’s hot little hands.

The newest bundle is an amazing collection of nonfiction, memoir and biography.featuring some really big names.

  • Dancing with the Enemy: My Family’s Holocaust Secret by Paul Glaser. Raised Roman Catholic, the author learned that his family had Jewish roots. While researching his family he found out the story of his Aunt Rosie, betrayed to the Nazis, who survived Auschwitz by teaching dance lessons to the SS.
  • Glitter and Glue: A Memoir by Kelly Corrigan. The author of previous memoirs Lift and The Middle Place, here Corrigan tells of her tricky relationship with her mother which gained even more depth after she became a nanny in Australia.
  • Men We Reaped: A Memoir by Jesmyn Ward. Ward won the National Book Award for her Hurricane Katrina novel Salvage the Bones. Here she shares the story of her family in rural Mississippi, their community, their struggle and most of all, the tragic loss of five young black men in her life, including her brother. A vital book on race and place in the US.
  • Little Failure: A Memoir by Gary Shteyngart. Renowned for witty and strong fiction such as Absurdistan, Shteyngart was born “Igor” in Leningrad near the end of the Soviet Union. He shares his immigrant experience and how he earned his mother’s nickname, “Failurchka,”–little failure, by refusing to be a lawyer or accountant.
  • Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink. Haunting from the very first page, Fink’s meticulously researched book follows the plight of a group of doctors, nurses, patients and family members trapped in Memorial Hospital during Katrina.
  • The Death of Santini by Pat Conroy. Conroy is a master of both fiction (The Prince of Tides) and memoir (My Losing Season) but here he focuses on the strongest figure in his life and his career: his father Don Conroy, who he used as a model for Bull Meachem in his novel The Great Santini.
  • Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China by Jung Chang. At the age of 16, Cixi was chosen to be a concubine of the emperor. When he died, her five-year-old son took the throne and she took over the country behind the scenes. An amazing story of the most important woman in Chinese history.

One lucky reader gets ALL of these books, can you believe it? Some are already out, but some won’t be available until 2014. You lucky winner, you. Enter through the widget below. Contest ends Wednesday at midnight.

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Delia’s Shadow

Delia's Shadow by Jaime Lee MoyerTitle: Delia’s Shadow

Author: Jaime Lee Moyer. This is her first novel and the first in a series.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy

Readers: Stay-at-home mom Kristi, policy wonk BakingSuit, metrics analyst Mary and editor Kristina.

Summary: It is the dawn of a new century in San Francisco and Delia Martin is a wealthy young woman whose life appears ideal. But a dark secret colors her life, for Delia’s most loyal companions are ghosts, as she has been gifted (or some would say cursed) with an ability to peer across to the other side.

Since the great quake rocked her city in 1906, Delia has been haunted by an avalanche of the dead clamoring for her help. Delia flees to the other side of the continent, hoping to gain some peace. After several years in New York, Delia believes she is free…until one determined specter appears and she realizes that she must return to the City by the Bay in order to put this tortured soul to rest.

Our Take: A mix of paranormal, historical and serial killer thrill-age, 3 of 4 readers give it a thumbs up. They do note it was a bit “trite” and “convenient,” though, so if you get kind of picky about these things, you may find yourself leaning more towards our dissenting reader’s opinion.

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Mrs. Poe

Mrs. Poe by Lynn CullenTitle: Mrs. Poe

Author: Lynn Cullen. She is the author of several novels for young readers, and historical novels about famous figures, including The Creation of Eve.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Thriller

Readers: Blogger Stacey, stay at home mom Nan and bookkeeper Tykira.

Summary: It is 1845, and Frances Osgood is desperately trying to make a living as a writer in New York; not an easy task for a woman—especially one with two children and a philandering portrait painter as her husband. As Frances tries to sell her work, she finds that editors are only interested in writing similar to that of the new renegade literary sensation Edgar Allan Poe, whose poem, “The Raven” has struck a public nerve.

She meets the handsome and mysterious Poe at a literary party, and the two have an immediate connection. Poe wants Frances to meet with his wife since she claims to be an admirer of her poems, and Frances is curious to see the woman whom Edgar married.

As Frances spends more and more time with the intriguing couple, her intense attraction for Edgar brings her into dangerous territory. And Mrs. Poe, who acts like an innocent child, is actually more manipulative and threatening than she appears. As Frances and Edgar’s passionate affair escalates, Frances must decide whether she can walk away before it’s too late…

Our Take: If you’re a lover of historical fiction, our readers agree that this one is for you. They found the book absorbing and transporting, with fascinating characters.

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Help for the Haunted

Help for the Haunted by John SearlesTitle: Help for the Haunted

Author: John Searles. He’s the author of two previous suspense novels, including Strange But True.

Genre: Horror, Mystery

Readers: Production coordinator Joanna, event planner Kathy, freelance writer Piper,  small-business owner Samantha and librarian Mary Liz.

Summary: It begins with a call in the middle of snowy February evening. Lying in her bed, young Sylvie Mason overhears her parents on the phone across the hall. This is not the first late-night call they have received, since her mother and father have an uncommon occupation, helping “haunted souls” find peace. And yet, something in Sylvie senses that this call is different than the rest, especially when they are lured to the old church on the outskirts of town. Once there, her parents disappear, one after the other, behind the church’s red door, leaving Sylvie alone in the car. Not long after, she drifts off to sleep only to wake to the sound of gunfire.

Nearly a year later, we meet Sylvie again struggling with the loss of her parents, and living in the care of her older sister, who may be to blame for what happened the previous winter.

As the story moves back and forth in time, through the years leading up to the crime and the months following, the ever inquisitive and tender-hearted Sylvie pursues the mystery, moving closer to the knowledge of what occurred that night, as she comes to terms with her family’s past and uncovers secrets that have haunted them for years.

Our Take: A ghost story light on the ghost and heavy on the character development. A teenage protagonist we loved. A family story about a very strange family that anyone can relate to.

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