Tag Archives: fiction books

20 Books that Changed My Life

As readers, we all have an ever-growing list of favorite books.  Books we’ve lived in, books we’ve cherished, and books we’ve read again and again…and tucked in that long list of favorite novels and stories is a much shorter list of books that have shaped and molded us as human beings…books that have altered our thinking and opened our eyes to new ways of looking at life.  These are the books that will forever hold a place in your heart (and on your shelf!) and may even be the books you find yourself coming back to again and again, if not just to smell their familiar smell or run your fingers up and down the worn cover page.

I was recently asked what this list would be for me…and let me tell you, it was a challenging task.  I feel like every book I read stays with me and becomes a part of me…and to fine-tune that list to a handful of books that have had such a profound impact on me that they CHANGED MY LIFE…well, that’s a tall order!

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But I love a good challenge!  After many, many hours of thought and a few cups of coffee to help get me through, here is my list of 20 books that have changed my life.  A few of these are also on my list of favorite books, but not all of them.  Books like Eating Animals and Being Mortal, though well-written and thought-provoking, were not what I would call ENJOYABLE reads…but they had such an impact on me that I had to add them to this list.

If you love reading and enjoy being swept up in literature, this is a fun exercise to try!  Take a moment and think back on your times spent snuggled in bed curled up with a book and see if you can’t recount the books that helped shape and mold you into the wonderful person you are today.

 

Books that Taught Me About Love and Loss:

Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates
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A marriage that looks perfect from the outside is anything but on the inside. A story that completely broke my heart and taught me that things aren’t always as they seem, Revolutionary Road is a raw and realistic portrayal of the “ideal American family”.

It’s Called a Breakup Because It’s Broken, Greg Behrendt and Amiira Ruotola-Behrehdt
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Filled with inspiring stories and quotes, It’s Called a Breakup Because It’s Broken was the book that got me through my first big break-up. Yes, it was super cheesy, but it told me the things I was unwilling to hear from my friends and family and it helped me get back up on my feet during a time I felt I had hit rock bottom.

A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness
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No book, no person, no song has so perfectly described what it’s like to live with someone who is terminally ill. I read A Monster Calls a few years after my dad died and the wound was ripped right the F open. I related to this book on a deep and emotional level…and it so perfectly described feelings I never thought could be put into words.

Being Mortal, Atul Gawande
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A book about dying with grace and dignity, Being Mortal tries to humanize the ultimate fate we all fear. Written by Dr. Gawande, this book takes readers into places like nursing homes and care centers to better understand how the elderly can age without losing their sense of humanity.

Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie
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A simple story about a boy who doesn’t want to grow up, Peter Pan meant so much more to me after my first experience with death. The story of Peter Pan is quite different from what Disney would have you believe, and after experiencing loss, I felt myself relating so much more to this little boy who just wanted to stay young and joyful forever.

Books that Led to Professional Development:

Creativity, Inc., Ed Catmull
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I cannot praise this book enough. Creativity, Inc. is written by one of the founders of Pixar, Ed Catmull. In this management how-to, he discusses what it takes to be a good manager and a good employee. He lays the groundwork for what makes a productive business run and shows readers that it actually is possible to really love what you do. This is the book that inspired me to quit the job that had me in a near constant state of depression and to find something that challenged me intellectually and professionally.

The Artist in the Office, Summer Pierre
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An interactive book about how to have fun at a 9-5 job, The Artist in the Office helps readers find creative outlets throughout the day…encouraging imagination, inspiring creativity, and overall making happier and healthier employees…all while still making time for those dang TPS reports.

Books that Changed the Way I Think:

Eating Animals, Jonathan Safran Foer
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A brutally honest look at the cost of farming and eating meat, Eating Animals was a true eye-opener in the best possible way. Though Jonathan Safran Foer is a vegetarian, the point of his book is not to convert meat eaters, but to educate them. Foer pulls back the curtain on companies like Tyson to reveal what is really going on behind closed doors. This book made me sick to my stomach…and it forever changed how I eat and buy my food.

The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
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A truly inspirational story about listening to your heart and following your dreams, The Alchemist should be required reading for everyone. A story about a shepherd who yearns to travel the world, this book is equal parts fairy tale and spiritual enlightenment. Similar to The Little Prince in its message, The Alchemist – for me at least – was likened to a religious experience.

The Best of Cooking Light, Cooking Light Magazine
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The Best of Cooking Light was the first cookbook I ever owned. I don’t remember where I got it, it may have been a gift or something I picked up in a budget bin at my local bookstore, but when I was living on my own, this cookbook was my bible. I lived off these recipes and I still use it to this day. It’s filled with food stains and the pages are crinkled from spilled water, but I still love it and cherish the memories of learning to cook with this book by my side.

Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant, Jenni Ferrari-Adler
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Filled with hilarious and relatable essays about cooking for one and living alone, Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant was the friend I needed during a time when I felt so secluded.

The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery
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With such simple prose and a simple plot, The Little Prince digs deep into the psyche, unearthing thoughts about love, loss, friendship, responsibility, imagination, and so much more. I’ve read it several times, often in one sitting, and find myself smiling and crying time after time.

Books that Shaped My Childhood:

The Lorax, Dr. Seuss
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The Lorax was the first book I read about what it means to stand up for what you believe in. It was my dad’s favorite Dr. Seuss book and he would read it to me often when I was growing up. Filled with inspiring messages about believing in yourself, encouraging change, and giving a voice to those who don’t have one, The Lorax had a profound impact on my understanding of mindless progress.

The Polar Express, Chris Van Allsburg
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I still can’t read The Polar Express without crying. A magical story about the true spirit of Christmas, The Polar Express reawakens my love for Christmas every time I read it. The magic of hearing the bell is something I hold personally near and dear to my heart, as my dad had jingle bells all over the house all year long. Needless to say, I still hear the bells ring, year after year.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling
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In all honesty, every one of the Harry Potter books could be on this list…but Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was my introduction into the Harry Potter universe. After powering through the first three novels, I went to the midnight release (in costume) of this book and stayed up reading it all night long. I took it with me to the Taste of Chicago the following day and walked all over the city with this 600+ book in hand. It was this book that swept me up into the magic of Hogwarts and was my first introduction into the Harry Potter fandom culture.

My Father’s Daughter, Tina Sinatra
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My Father’s Daughter was not the first Sinatra book I’ve ever read, nor will it be the last…but I found it to be the most truthful. Written by his daughter, Tina Sinatra, My Father’s Daughter is an intimate, honest, and loving tribute to a man the world rarely got to see. Parts of it broke my heart…and parts of it made me love Sinatra all the more. Told with genuine love and respect for her father and her family, Tina Sinatra’s memoir offers a peek into the private life of one of the world’s most popular entertainers.

The Book of Lost Things, John Connolly
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This is one of the only books I finished, then immediately started again. I’ve read this book so many times that the spine is starting to fray. A story similar to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, but much, much darker, The Book of Lost Things is a story filled with evil monsters, big heroes, and journeys into worlds unknown. This book took me away and completely immersed me another world, something that rarely happens when I read fiction. The message of this book is quite simple, but the characters are so imaginative and interesting and I have a new experience with this book every time I read it.

Books that Shaped My Educational Development:

The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
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The ultimate coming-of-age story about a young boy exploring the New York underground, The Catcher in the Rye is the book that made me fall in love with literature. I remember reading it in high school and again in college…both times it opened my eyes to the amazing character development and plot that this story lays out for the reader. Confused and disillusioned, Holden Caulfield searches for truth and honesty among a world of “phoniness” and finds it near impossible to place himself in this unforgiving culture. A novel that speaks to anyone who has struggled through their adolescence, A Catcher in the Rye remains one of my favorite books of all time.

Solar Storms, Linda Hogan
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It was this book that inspired me to follow a Native American educational path during my time in college. I read Solar Storms in one of my English lit classes and fell in love with the Native culture and views on life and death. I felt an instant connection with this novel and it opened my eyes to an educational outlet I never knew was there for me.

The Uses of Enchantment, Bruno Bettelheim
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A brilliant take on fairy tale criticism, The Uses of Enchantment was the book that inspired a life-long obsession with fairy tales. As if it couldn’t get any nerdier, I actually read this book the first time FOR FUN, then again for required reading in my Fairy Tale class in college. This book breaks down the classic tales we all know and love and digs deep into the deeper meanings behind the red cape, the wolf in the woods, the prick of the pin and so much more.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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Literary Wonderlands Book Review

Whether your heart belongs in The Shire, Hogwarts, Winterfell, Wonderland, Neverland, or Narnia, it’s clear that books have a way of transporting us to worlds unknown.  Since the Greek and Roman myths and the fairy tales of The Brothers Grimm, authors and poets have created magical places that oftentimes exist only in our imaginations.

Filled with new vocabulary, or sometimes new languages entirely, these literary worlds are often as much of a character to a book as the hero himself.  They give us a setting, a feeling, a grounding in our story and provide the framework to help us assemble these towns, cities, buildings, and universes in our heads.

But before we could dream up our own Hogwarts or create our own version of Camelot, someone had to give us the pieces.  What inspired these authors to create these magical places?  What was the basis for the school in Never Let Me Go, the characters of Narnia, or the language of the Dothraki?

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In Literary Wonderlands: A Journey to 100 of the Greatest Fictional Worlds Ever Created, a team of editors and writers attempt to transport themselves into some of our favorite literary worlds and explore it as only the best travelers can.  Filled with beautiful illustrations and photos, each chapter in Literary Wonderlands is like a journey into another story and makes it oh so easy to be swept up in the magic of these otherworldly places.

Starting with ancient myths and legends like Gilgamesh, The Odyssey, and Beowulf, and moving all the way into the computer age with favorites like The Hunger Games, Cloud Atlas, and A Game of Thrones, Literary Wonderlands features essays on 100 magical books that all feature, for lack of a better term, a literary wonderland.  Writers attempt to figure out the inspiration for these worlds, try to find the basis for the language and the make-up, and even sometimes try to pinpoint them geographically based on written descriptions and maps.

Though it’s jam-packed with fun tidbits and information, this book could easily be categorized as a coffee table book, just for the shear amount of illustrations and photography included here.  If the words don’t do enough to transport you, the photos surely will…and don’t be surprised if you end up adding a few books to your “To Read” list on Goodreads after reading this!

A beautiful book that’s just as eye-catching as it is informative, Literary Wonderlands is sure to add a few more stops to the literary road trip you dream up in your head.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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30 Books That Were Made into Oscar-Winning Films

From book to blockbuster, these 30 memoirs and novels were turned into huge award-winning and nominated films.  Why this is by no means a comprehensive list, take a look and see if your favorite book ever got the Hollywood treatment!

30 Books That Were Made into Oscar-Winning Films

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12 Years a Slave, based on the memoir, Twelve Years a Slave

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Argo, based on the book, Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History

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Slumdog Millionaire, based on the novel, Q&A

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No Country for Old Men, based on the novel, No Country for Old Men

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Million Dollar Baby, based on the collection of short stories, Rope Burns: Stories from the Corner

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The English Patient, based on the novel, The English Patient

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Forrest Gump, based on the novel, Forrest Gump

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Schindler’s List, based on the novel, Schindler’s Ark (later released as Schindler’s List)

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The Silence of the Lambs, based on the novel, The Silence of the Lambs

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Dances With Wolves, based on the novel, Dances with Wolves

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Rain Man, based on the book, The Real Rain Man: Kim Peek

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Out of Africa, based on the memoir, Out of Africa

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Ordinary People, based on the novel, Ordinary People

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Kramer vs. Kramer, based on the novel, Kramer vs. Kramer

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One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, based on the novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

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The Sting, based on the novel, The Big Con: The Story of the Confidence Man

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Oliver! based on the novel, Oliver Twist

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The Sound of Music, based on the memoir, The Story of the Trapp Singers

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Gone with the Wind, based on the novel, Gone with the Wind

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The Godfather, based on the novel, The Godfather

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The Blind Side, based on the memoir, The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game

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Mary Poppins, based on the book, Mary Poppins

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Misery, based on the novel, Misery

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Room, based on the novel, ROOM

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The Revenant, based on the novel, The Revenant

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Still Alice, based on the book, Still Alice

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Rebecca, based on the book, Rebecca

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Brokeback Mountain, based on the short story, Brokeback Mountain

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Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, based on the novel, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

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The Help, based on the book, The Help

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Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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Big Little Lies Book Review

It’s a song we’ve all heard before…the rich and privileged are never what they appear to be.  Though they may look happy and beautiful on the outside, behind closed doors they’re just as troubled and tortured as the rest of us.  Clearly, money can’t buy happiness…but it certainly can buy a whole butt-load of drama.

In Big Little Lies, three privileged women, each very different from the other, are thrown together in a series of crazy events that leads to someone getting killed.  A guilty-pleasure chick lit book involving husbands, ex-husbands, mothers and daughters, school drama and suburban scandal, Big Little Lies is a fun treat that shocks and surprises you with little twists and turns that lead to one heck of an ending.

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Our three protagonists are Madeline, Celeste, and Jane.  Madeline is a force to be reckoned with.  She’s funny, biting, and passionate…a driving force in her social circle.  Her friend, Celeste, is suburban royalty.  Beautiful beyond compare, Celeste strives to be the queen of the school parent body.  Jane, a new-to-town single mom, is sad and conflicted and has secret doubts about her past life.  All three women have children in the local school, which is the glue that begins to join these women together.  However, when Madeline and Celeste decide to take sad little Jane under their wing and help get her accustomed to the ‘politics’ of their social circle, it becomes clear that Jane and her son bring along more baggage than they thought…and things quickly begin to spin out of control…

In their own ways, Madeline, Celeste, and Jane are all easy to love and easy to hate.  They all have their quarks, but it’s clear that their hearts are in the right place…and they’re all just trying to do what’s best for their families, in whatever way they can.  They each experience trouble at home and each deal with it in their own way.  Some fight back, some cower down, and some just ignore it completely.  But for as different as these three women are, they share one commonality:  they are all hiding something from each other.

Big Little Lies is a book that will have you guessing all the way until the end.  A classic who-dun-it murder mystery (with a touch of sparkly drama!), Big Little Lies is about the lies we tell our friends, the lies we tell our families, and – perhaps most hurtful of all – the lies we tell ourselves.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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The Circle Book Review

The digital age is both amazing and terrifying.  In today’s world, we can locate long-lost friends, instantly transfer money to different accounts, talk to people on the other side of the planet, buy and sell goods, and store precious media in the mysterious Cloud.  However, the digital age also sees countless occasions of identity theft, stalking, trolling, hacking, and viruses that can completely destroy everything on your hard drive.

The freedom we have to do whatever we want online, to see whatever we want and search for whatever we want, has people asking what privacy even is anymore.  What’s really ‘public domain’ in this age of digital media?  Is anything ever really deleted?  Is our privacy really protected?  How much information are we really giving away by shopping, banking, and playing online?  Are the measures we have in place safe enough to protect our most precious assets?  And, most importantly, what new developments are in store for a world that constantly begs for “the next best thing”?

In the fictional (but scarily true) novel, The Circle, it becomes clear that our digital profiles, no matter how secure we may think they are, offer an abundance of information to those running the Internet’s most powerful sites…and there’s little to nothing that can be done to stop it.

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When Mae Holland is hired to work for The Circle, the world’s most powerful Internet company, she cannot wait to jump in and get started.  Loosely and sort of obviously based on a Google-type company, The Circle is a powerhouse California start-up, featuring a sprawling campus, glass dining facilitates, cozy dorms, amazing after-work parties, and an abundance of clubs for practically every passion.

In a nutshell, The Circle aims to link users’ personal emails, social media, banking, purchasing history, and basically all online activity with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity that boasts about a “new age of civility and transparency”.  Want to buy new shoes?  Facebook message a friend?  Connect with a colleague’s professional network?  Pay a bill?  Schedule a party?  All that and more can be done within The Circle interface…and everyone who’s anyone has already joined.

Filled with young and impressionable minds, The Circle’s staff is made up of the best of the best from Silicon Valley…and Mae knows she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime to work there.  As she tours the campus, she becomes engrossed in the company’s activity and dedication to employee morale.  Famous musicians play on the lawn, an aquarium of rare fish offer a place of solitude, and employees seem almost happy and willing to go the extra mile for the good of the company.

Mae quickly learns the ropes of her job and impresses leadership with her skills and attention to detail.  As she starts to gain recognition at The Circle and her interface begins to grow, Mae learns how amazing this technology is…and how much it’s doing to improve the world at large…

Or is it?  Even as life outside of work grows distant…even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken…even as her role at The Circle becomes increasingly public…Mae still can’t believe her great fortune to be a part of this ground-breaking company.  But is this truly the opportunity of a lifetime…or is this the power of the digital age on young and influential minds?

What begins as a captivating story of one woman’s ambition to succeed soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense and terror, raising ethical and moral questions about privacy, democracy, and basic human rights.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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We Were Liars Book Review

We’ve all had that dream of owning our own private island…of spending our days swimming in the ocean and our nights curled up inside a large waterfront mansion filled with old books and older memories.  For several of us, this will remain nothing but a lucid fantasy, but for the Sinclair family, this is real life.

we-were-liars-coverBorn into a very wealthy family that owns a small island on the coast of Cape Cod, Cadence Sinclair is living the dream.  Every summer, Cadence and her extended family travel to their own island off the coast to vacation and relax.  The island harbors four amazing mansions, one for Cadence’s family, two others for Cadence’s aunts, and one for her grandfather.

For most of Cadence’s life, her summers on the island were magical, filled with rendezvous with her cousins and friends, adventures along the beach, but last summer…last summer was different.  Prejudice, greed, and family dynamics turned the family against each other and Cadence, along with her posy – The Liars – must figure out what happened…only one problem…Cadence, in a freak accident, seems to have lost all memory of the past summer.

As she works to pick up the pieces, Cadence begins to recollect the events that transpired the summer before.  Piece by piece, her past begins to unfold…and this wildly addicting novel quickly picks up pace.

Told from the perspective of Cadence, We Were Liars is a fast novel, filled with clever twists and beautiful imagery.  Seemingly meant to simulate Cadence’s confusion, the novel does jump around quite a bit, moving from past to present and telling stories out of order (but it all makes sense in the end, so don’t worry!).  And FYI– this is a novel with a surprise twist ending, so be weary of spoilers before jumping in!

For those who love a good YA novel that’s quick and easy to read, We Were Liars is perfect.  The characters are not really relatable, but are easy to love…much like the crew of Gossip Girl.  Once the book starts going, the plot moves quickly…so don’t be surprised if you’re up late finishing those last few chapters!

A perfect beach or vacation read, We Were Liars will keep you entertained with lovely scenery, romance and family drama, and an ending that will haunt you for long after you put the book down.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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13 Books to Read Before They Become Movies – 2017 Edition

It seems like books of all genres are getting the Hollywood treatment. Just last year we’ve seen several books come to live on the big screen, and 2017 will be no exception. The Circle, Captain Underpants, The Dark Tower series, and The Bell Jar are just SOME of the books that will be turned into screenplays in 2017…and honestly, I’m really looking forward to a few of these!

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But, like any true student of literature, I just must read the book first…so I’m powering through a few of these books before they are released as movies later this year (I’m on The Circle now – this one is gonna be intense).

So if you’re looking to kill some time between now and when Beauty and the Beast comes out – because let’s be serious, that’s happening – here are 13 books that are getting the movie treatment sometime in 2017!

13 Books to Read Before They Become Movies – 2017 Edition

The Zookeeper’s Wife
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This true story follows the keepers of the Warsaw Zoo, who help save hundreds of people from the Nazis during World War II by smuggling them into empty zoo cages.
Movie Release:  March 2017

Wonder
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Wonder tells the story of Auggie Pullman, a boy who is born with a facial deformity, and his struggle to fit into his new school.
Movie Release:  April 2017

The Lost City of Z
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This national best-seller tells the story of how a British explorer got lost searching for an ancient, fabled civilization in the Amazon in 1925.
Movie Release:  April 2017

The Circle
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A young woman named Mae Holland gets a job at a tech-savvy company (most likely modeled after Google), and learns things both amazing and scary about her new job and the company she works for.
Movie Release:  April 2017

Before I Fall
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After Sam dies on February 12th, she’s forced to relive that day over and over again, eventually unraveling the mystery of her death.
Movie Release:  March 2017

The Dark Tower
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Stephen King’s magnum opus is a series that follows a gunslinger through a magical society, looking for the mysterious Dark Tower.
Movie Release:  July 2017

The Mountain Between Us
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Two strangers must rely on each other to survive after a plane crashes in the wilderness and leaves them stranded.
Movie Release:  October 2017*
*Just a PSA that this movie is set to star Idris Elba and Kate Winslet…so, you know, despite the content, it will be just beautiful to watch!

Murder on the Orient Express
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This classic mystery follows a detective as he pursues a murder on a famous train.
Movie Release:  November 2017

The Nightingale
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Two sisters in France end up in different positions during World War II; one fights with the resistance, the other becomes a prisoner.
Movie Release:  TBD

Thank You For Your Service
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A non-fiction account following the lives of soldiers who have come back from overseas, most still suffering from PTSD.
Movie Release:  TBD

The Glass Castle
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A memoir of Jeannette Walls, chronicling her bizarre upbringing and her strained relationship with her parents.
Movie Release:  TBD

The Bell Jar
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The story of author Sylvia Plath’s battle with mental illness.
Movie Release:  TBD

Big Little Lies
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Things take a turn for a group of moms whose perfect lives begin to unravel.
Movie Release:  TBD*
*This is actually slotted to be a mini-series on HBO.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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