Blog Book Marks

May 2021 Book Marks

Four generations of Moms. My mother holding me as a baby with her mother and grandmother.

Mothers. They’re the reason we’re here. And whether they gave birth to us, adopted us, put us up for adoption in hopes for our better life, whether we have a complicated relationship, or we’ve even chosen a surrogate “Mom,” Mother’s Day marks a way to honor that relationship. Whether our mothers are still with us, have left far too early, whether we lost them unexpectedly, or we were fortunate enough to sit with them when they passed on, the bond between mother and child is as distinctive as a fingerprint, as individual as a snowflake.

There is no way to repay all a mother does and gives and dreams and quietly makes right or tidies up in her wake. In fact, now that I think about it….every day should be Mother’s Day. And of course, a book always makes the perfect gift for her!

Visiting my Mom today at 88, both vaccinated and happy to feel her touch.


The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave

Looking for a read you can’t put down?  Well then, this is your next book.  Best-selling author, Dave, crafts a love story, thriller, and definite future streaming series in this taut and engrossing novel.  In one day, Hannah Hall watches everything she knew to be true in her marriage vanish when her husband disappears, leaving a cryptic note and a duffel bag of cash.  “Protect her,” is all Owen’s note says, and Hannah knows it refers to her 16-year old prickly stepdaughter, who has lost her mother in a car accident years earlier.  With well-written characters, a whip-saw plot and the slow reveal of a hidden past, Dave’s story takes us from Silicon Valley deep into the heart of Texas Hill Country, while crafting a love story at the book’s heart.


Sunshine Girl by Julianna Margulies

We all met her as Nurse Hathaway on ER and rooted for her as “The Good Wife’s” Alicia Florrick, but actress Julianna Margulies can now add writer and storyteller to her impressive list of credits.  Every celebrity has a story, but not everybody is able to weave their life into a compelling book that both goes deep and delights.  Growing up as the baby of three daughters, Julianna’s mother nicknamed her “Sunshine Girl” because of her ever-present smile and sunny disposition.  When her parents divorced early in life, she and her sisters were shuttled between houses and continents, learning to adapt to each new school, her mother’s latest boyfriend and their father’s increasing physical and emotional inaccessibility.  Margulies’s story begins with girlhood and moves through the turbulence of coming of age in the 70’s.  She writes about her journey from waitress to stardom and to finding her true home with her husband and their son.  This compelling memoir (yes, written by her) is a reminder that all of us come from imperfect families, but knowing you are loved can overcome so many of the dings and dents life throws our way.  



The Anatomy of Desire by L.R. Dorn

Two women set off in a canoe on a remote California lake and one of them expects the day to end in a marriage proposal.  Instead, one woman is dead and the other, Cleo, a social media fitness influencer, has fled into the arms of her boyfriend at a near-by weekend home.  Written in short-form prose and social media posts, the story comes together from a 360-degree view of everyone involved; from Cleo and her boyfriend to the attorneys, sheriff and parents of both girls.  The book is a commentary on ambition, class, desire and the hunger for personal achievement behind the glamourous curtain of the social media world.  If you liked the format of “Daisy Jones & The Six,” you’ll enjoy this book.


The Mothers by Genevieve Gannon

Set in Australia, this story is every fertility clinic and their patients’ biggest nightmare.  Now in their 40’s, Grace and Dan Arden have spent each year of their marriage losing hope about having a baby as they attempt to get pregnant through IVF.  Priya Laghari and her husband Nick Archer are younger, but have also been facing infertility challenges (as well as serious relationship issues) which will complicate their future.  Both women’s embryo implantation appointments are in the same clinic and on the same day.  You see where this is going, right?  When a child is born, resembling neither parent, the devastation begins to unwind.  When the truth spills out, both couples, and the courts, must make a heart-breaking decision.



The Siren by Katherine St. John

Take an idyllic Caribbean island movie set with a hot hunky Hollywood star, his celebrity ex-wife, a fledgling producer and a mysterious assistant who has arrived with her own agenda.  Behind all of the glitz lies some very deep and dark secrets that are soon to be unearthed as a hurricane brews off-shore, trapping everyone on the island.  It’s not the storm that proves to be the real danger.  The truth that is revealed will upend everything.



American Republics – A Continental History of the United States, 1783-1850 by Alan Taylor

Pulitzer Prize winning author Alan Taylor has a way of narrating and breaking down history in an accessible and enjoyable way.  He turns his lens on one of the most formative points in a nascent America, from Hamilton’s financial program and Jackson’s war on a national bank to the efforts of Frederick Douglas and Sojourner Truth in shaping the burgeoning country.  At the time, the survival of our union depended on pushing West, into the territories inhabited and claimed by Native Americans, the Spanish and British and Mexico.  Taylor, a professor of history at UVA, captures the landscape of a country far from united, more an uncertain and loose union of states with leaders at odds as the country headed toward Civil War. 


Freedom by Sebastian Junger

The American spirit has always been defined by individuality, self-reliance and the broader human need for community.  These two ideals, as we have vividly witnessed in our recent political landscape, can be in wild opposition.  In a time-honored ritual, Junger sets out on a journey to walk the railroad tracks with three friends as what he calls “high-speed vagrants.”  His recounting of this trip, dodging the law, sleeping outside, cooking over fires and following the active rail lines from Washington, D.C. to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, is his personal effort to define what freedom means.  As a consummate writer, Junger has created a short, tight story that gets to the heart of the tensions of what it means to be human today.


The Nine, The True Story of a Band of Women Who Survived the Worst of Nazi Germany by Gwen Strauss

Written by the great niece of one of the real-life protagonists, Helene Podliasky, this incredible story details the grit and friendship of a band of nine female resistance fighters as they escaped the SS and made their way through war-torn Germany.  All women under the age of 30 when they joined the resistance, they made it across the front lines and into Paris against all odds.  In addition to smuggling arms, harboring parachuting agents and hiding Jewish children, the nine were captured, tortured and enslaved in labor camps.  Miraculously, they all escaped during the final days of the war. It’s an incredible story about the power of friendship and the faith in humanity in one of the darkest times in history.

*These are books I genuinely love and am thrilled to recommend to my friends. These are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I get a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. Alternately, if you prefer to rent books at your local library or buy from your local bookstore, I very much support that!


Lee Woodruff     Speaker-Author-Executive Media Trainer