The Mindful Readers



Hello, Mindful Readers Fans!  All of our chosen books from this moment forward will be posted on our Mindful Readers blog.  Please visit Facebook at Mindful Readers Book Club to see books 18 and upward!  You may also click on the links in the right-hand column to visit our blog and Facebook page. 
Of course, I will always post my reviews of our book club books and any other books I read here on Live Vitale, and you can find those under Kristi’s Book Reviews, also in the right-hand column.
Thanks for visiting with the Mindful Readers!

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Simple. Heartbreaking. Funny. Thought provoking — a gentle and painfully honest memoir written by acclaimed author and professor Roger Rosenblatt after the devastatingly sudden death of his daughter Amy Elizabeth. This small and ever-touching book is the voice of Roger as he frankly, and at times humorously, details the daily lives and raw emotions of himself and the close loved ones Amy left behind. I found myself absorbed in this book. I appreciated Roger Rosenblatt’s honesty. I cried for this family’s loss. MAKING TOAST is a must-read. And, in my opinion, especially for a reader mourning a loss of his or her own. I’ll never forget this book and the courageous family it embraces.

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Roses by Leila Meacham: Book Cover
What a delightful, almost century-long ride with the Toliver, DuMont, and Warwick generations, and the Mindful Readers all loved the journey. This is a hefty novel, giving its reader lessons in love, the desperate realities of loss, a few secrets and surprises, and the beauty of forgiveness. ROSES is well worth its reader’s dedication.

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Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin: Book Cover


When I began reading this book, actually my first Giffin novel, I had not a clue what it was about.  I refused to read reviews, allowing the book’s jacket to be my only insight.  A wise move since the anticipation simmering page by page and the unpredictability of what lay ahead in the pages of the first two-thirds of this book were terrific.

Therefore, I will do the same; I won’t reveal the “heart” of this book.  I will only say that Emily Giffin is a gifted writer, as you all knew and I now know, whose words flow seamlessly and beautifully on the pages.

I will say that Heart had me fooled at checkout.  With its purple, heart-ribboned cover, I was sure I would soon be reading a lighthearted, uplifting story of family, love, and endings with a smile.

Instead, I will say that the journey of reading this novel slowly filled me with sadness and frustration.  I was irked and annoyed by certain characters, while I was overjoyed with and adored others.

After finishing Heart of the Matter, I can easily give it 4 stars and honestly say I “really liked it.”  I liked the way the chapters moved.  I liked being able to lose myself in Giffin’s relatable writing elegance.  I really liked a handful of souls in this novel.

I just didn’t like the way I felt after reading it.

Maybe the quote that seared my “heart” the most just 28 pages into the book can explain why:

“It is a feeling that has never wavered.  Life isn’t always fun, and is almost never easy, I think, as I return to the kitchen in my trouble-shooting mode, ready for my second cup of coffee, but I am in love with my husband and he is in love with me.  It is the constant in my life, and will continue to be so, as our children grow, my career changes, friends come and go. I am sure of this.

“But I still find myself reaching out and knocking twice on our wooden cutting board.  Because you can never be too sure when it comes to the things that matter most.”

Likewise, the above quote attests and the Mindful Readers agree: Heart of the Matter boils fear in the bellies of its women readers.  A powerful novel.

Tessa Russo is the mother of two young children and the wife of a renowned pediatric surgeon. Despite her own mother’s warnings, Tessa has recently given up her career to focus on her family and the pursuit of domestic happiness. From the outside, she seems destined to live a charmed life.  

Valerie Anderson is an attorney and single mother to six-year-old Charlie–a boy who has never known his father. After too many disappointments, she has given up on romance–and even to some degree, friendships–believing that it is always safer not to expect too much.

Although both women live in the same Boston suburb, the two have relatively little in common aside from a fierce love for their children. But one night, a tragic accident causes their lives to converge in ways no one could have imagined.  

In alternating, pitch-perfect points of view, Emily Giffin creates a moving, luminous story of good people caught in untenable circumstances. Each being tested in ways they never thought possible. Each questioning everything they once believed. And each ultimately discovering what truly matters most. ~ Barnes and Noble Synopsis

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The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway: Book Cover

Hemingway’s first bestselling novel, it is the story of a group of ‘Lost Generation’ Americans and Brits in the 1920s on a sojourn from Paris to Pamploma, Spain. The novel poignantly details their life as expatriates on Paris’ Left Bank, and conveys the brutality of bullfighting in Spain. The novel established Hemingway as one of the great prose stylists of all time. ~ Barnes and Noble Annotation

The Sun Also Rises is one of Ernest Hemingway’s masterpieces and a classic example of his spare but powerful style. A poignant look at the disillusionment and angst of the post-World War I generation, the story introduces two of Hemingway’s most unforgettable characters: Jake Barnes and Lady Brett Ashley. Follow the flamboyant Brett and the hapless Jake as they journey from the wild nightlife of 1920s Paris to the brutal bullfighting rings of Spain with a motley group of expatriates. It is an age of moral bankruptcy, spiritual dissolution, unrealized love and vanishing illusions. First published in 1926, The Sun Also Rises helped to establish Hemingway as one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. ~ Publisher

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Little Earthquakes by Jennifer Weiner: Book Cover
Bye and bye, bye and bye,
My darling baby, don’t you cry.
The moon is still above the hill.
The soft clouds gather in the sky.
~ Lia’s lullaby from The Rainbabies
Little Earthquakes follows a year in the life of three engaging new moms — Becky, Kelly, and Ayinde — as their world becomes an unpredictable tremor of babies within marriages and all the emotions that follow and intertwine.  I laughed at this book’s quirky, funny, and sarcastic moments.  I nodded in affirmation at the true-to-life dose of reality as it narrated the downright difficult and dearly precious moments of new motherhood.  And I teared up and shivered most memorably as the touching story of Lia unfolded before my eyes — the fourth character in Little Earthquakes.
This book eludes to the reader the common knowledge that our very own upbringing and the relationships we hold with our parents most often will determine how we ultimately choose to raise children of our own.  Hence, it was interesting to analyze how Becky, Kelly, and Ayinde’s parenting choices were influenced by their childhood experiences.
As moms, we know there’s no word big enough to describe the joy of being a mom or a sentence grand enough to state the importance you feel in your role as a mother to your children.  And as moms, we also know along with the wonderfulness that is motherhood you’ll find yourself overwhelmed, exhausted, lonely at times.  The list is endless.  And with perhaps a childhood tragedy, we must bear an overwhelming pain.
As the Mindful Readers agree, Little Earthquakes embraces all of these emotions and showcases how an understanding and compassionate friend or two can make all the difference in the world, how having that motherhood support system can save your soul:  This is the most awesome experience enjoyed while reading this book.
I really loved this novel.  It reminded me of many young memories with my boys.  Oh, how I do miss those exhausting, neverending, caffeine-driven, screaming and crying, yet wondrously laughing, beautifully blessed days.
This book is a great read for all moms:  The seasoned mentors, brand spanking new mommies, and definitely curious moms-to-be.  They will each be touched by Little Earthquakes comfort, sincerity, and hopefulness.

First comes love. Then comes marriage. And then things start to get really interesting…

In Good in Bed, Cannie Shapiro conquered public heartbreak and shaky self-esteem. In In Her Shoes, Rose and Maggie Feller learned about family secrets and the ties that bind. Now, in Jennifer Weiner’s richest, wittiest, most true-to-life novel yet, this highly acclaimed storyteller brings readers a tale of romance, friendship, forgiveness, and extreme sleep deprivation, as three very different women navigate one of life’s most wonderful and perilous transitions: the journey of new motherhood.

Rebecca Rothstein-Rabinowitz is a plump, sexy chef who has a wonderful husband, supportive friends, a restaurant that’s received citywide acclaim, a beautiful baby girl…and the mother-in-law from hell.

Kelly Day’s life looks picture-perfect. But behind the doors of her largely empty apartment, she’s struggling to balance work and motherhood and marriage, while entering Oliver’s every move (and movement) on a spreadsheet, and dealing with an unemployed husband who seems content to channel-surf for eight hours a day.

And Ayinde Towne is already on shaky ground, trying to live her life to the letter of a how-to guide called Baby Success, when her basketball superstar husband breaks her trust at the most vulnerable moment in her life, putting their marriage in peril — and their new family even more in the public eye.

Then there’s Lia Frederick, a Philadelphia native who has just come home, leaving Los Angeles behind, along with her glamorous Hollywood career, her husband, and a tragic secret, to start her life all over again.

With her trademark warmth and humor, Weiner tells the story of what happens after happily ever after…and how an eight-pound bundle of joy can shake up every woman’s sense of herself in the world around her.

From prenatal yoga to postbirth sex, from sisters and husbands to mothers and mothers-in-law, Little Earthquakes is a frank, funny, fiercely perceptive Diaper Genie-eye view of the comedies and tragedies of love and marriage. ~ Publisher

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Model Home by Eric Puchner: Book Cover

Here come the Zillers, one downright, spiraling-out-of-control, crazy family where the only normal signs of life seem to be the family dog, known as Mr. Leonard, and an occasional fleeting peacock.  This Palos Verdes, California, party of five will have you cringing from their language, gasping at their way of life, and laughing at their witty moments.
Model Home details the desperate meltdown — financially, emotionally — of a 1980’s family like no other, at least not resembling one I’ve ever known.  Trust me, you’ll be wondering what on Earth the next ridiculous action will be from a few of the main personalities, all the while your heart just breaking for a few other character victims.
So as I listen to the classic Tom Petty’s “Learning To Fly” as I write this review, I must say the heart of this book is a testament to life choices and actions and how those decisions may ultimately determine your life experiences, your fate, and the destiny of others.

It is a story laced with perceptions, how one person views something and how another views it entirely differently, and perhaps, like the Ziller family, with tragic consequences.

To me, Model Home is a novel with a deep moral, a message intertwined with the importance of truthfulness, and the circumstances and outcomes realized when the truth is hidden…and when it is set free.

The Mindful Readers were fortunate to have Model Home and Music Through The Floor author Eric Puchner join our discussion via telephone, where he graciously answered our grilling questions and listened to our thoughts and perceptions of his novel.  With irony and a little chuckle from us all, it was interesting to see how I eagerly, yet unsuccessfully, tried to tie in a metaphor here and there in a book where none existed.  But, hey, there it is:  My impression, my perception, took me for a ride while differing greatly from another.  Mission accomplished, Eric Puchner.  Very “awe-much.”  You’re one cool dude.  And Model Home is one good book.

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I remember  watching Roots as a child, and I remember the emotions I felt while witnessing the beatings of African-American slaves.  I wondered how white Americans could act so savagely and inhumanely in the treatment of one another; and, significantly, I was curious as to what gave white Americans the idea that they had the right to own another human being.

Every one of these emotions surged back to me while reading the engrossing novel, Wench, a book about the lives of African-American mistress slaves while visiting the summer resort Tawawa House with their slave owners in Ohio, pre-Civil War, in the 1840’s and 1850’s.

Even with an ending that the Mindful Readers felt came too soon for this deep and involved story, this fiction novel is an absorbing look into a cruel history.  With Wench’s vivid characters and thought-provoking story line, put it on your to-read list; it is sure to ignite fierce emotions and “What would I do?” questions from within.

In her debut, Perkins-Valdez eloquently plunges into a dark period of American history, chronicling the lives of four slave women—Lizzie, Reenie, Sweet and Mawu—who are their masters’ mistresses. The women meet when their owners vacation at the same summer resort in Ohio. There, they see free blacks for the first time and hear rumors of abolition, sparking their own desires to be free. For everyone but Lizzie, that is, who believes she is really in love with her master, and he with her. An extended flashback in the middle of the novel delves into Lizzie’s life and vividly explores the complicated psychological dynamic between master and slave. Jumping back to the final summer in Ohio, the women all have a decision to make—will they run? Heart-wrenching, intriguing, original and suspenseful, this novel showcases Perkins-Valdez’s ability to bring the unfortunate past to life. ~ Publisher’s Weekly

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Recipes for a Perfect Marriage by Morag Prunty: Book Cover

Take grandmother Bernadine of Ireland in 1932, add in her admiring granddaughter Tressa of New York in 2004, and you have this lovely novel Recipes For A Perfect Marriage by Morag Prunty. 

This story brought deep discussion to the Mindful Readers, as book club members shared interesting opinions and perspectives on the relationships Bernadine and Tressa have with their respective devoting husbands James and Dan.  

With Bernadine and Tressa living generations apart, our ”why this?” and “why that?” thoughts shot about the room, causing our book discussion to truly open fellow Mindful Reader eyes on how a character’s generation may influence their marriage choices and outcomes.  This is what a book club is all about, and the Mindful Readers became a little wiser, a little more open-minded about reading, and perhaps life itself, and most wonderfully, more closer together as a group of women in love with books and husbands of their own.

With great quotes abound, this book reveals that combining ingredients such as compromise, sacrifice, endurance, acceptance, loyalty, trust, and commitment to a marriage — even a marriage where your mind proclaims a certainty of failure — you may, in the end, gain a lifetime of wisdom and, when least expected, a heart full of love. 


Tressa is admirably sure of almost everything—her career as a successful food writer, her great friends, and her vibrant New York lifestyle. When Dan—good-looking, capable, and trustworthy—shows up on her doorstep, she hopes that he’s The One. Soon they are married, but once all the excitement of the wedding is behind her, Tressa is struck with an awful idea: Maybe Dan isn’t the great love of her life, much as she wants him to be. Amidst her uncertainty, Tressa finds an unexpected beacon: the journals and recipes of her grandmother, who had the kind of marriage that Tressa always believed she should have—the perfect marriage. Or so Tressa thought. They’re generations and oceans apart, yet in this charming, beautifully imagined novel, two women learn that marriage, like brown bread, is both sturdy and fragile, and never to be taken for granted. ~ Publisher

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There were plenty of mixed opinions during our discussion of this New York Times Bestseller about a dog named Enzo longing to become human and his owner/race car driver Denny.  Get past predictability and the frustration of character actions and this book will leave a lovely and respectful lasting paw impression on your heart, full of life lessons emotionally and valiantly told by man’s best friend.

Here is a favorite quote of mine as stated by Enzo the inspirationist:  “To live every day as if it had been stolen from death, that is how I would like to live.  To feel the joy of life, as Eve felt the joy of life.  To separate oneself from the burden, the angst, the anguish that we all encounter every day.  To say I am alive, I am wonderful, I am.  I am.  That is something to aspire to.  When I am a person, that is how I will live my life.”

The following is a synopsis from Barnes and Noble: 

 A heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautifully crafted and captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life . . . as only a dog could tell it.

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If I could recommend one book for you to read in your lifetime, it would be this darling of a novel, The Help, by Kathryn Stockett.  All in the Mindful Readers Book Club absolutely adored this honest fiction story of aspiring journalist Skeeter and her quest to chronicle the lives of African-American maids Minny, Aibileen, and others in Mississippi in the 1960’s.  This book is full of courage, hope, humor, and a handful of characters you will immediately grow to love, who — in the face of prejudice, hate, and misfortune — bask in the beauty and glory of just doing the right thing.  You will love this journey, I’m certain, and in the end you too will be wishing for a continuation novel.  Kudos to The Help for bringing so much joy and satisfaction to its reader. 

Here is a synopsis from Barnes and Noble:

Be prepared to meet three unforgettable women:

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town…

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The Mindful Readers held tightly the suspenseful page-turner The Weight of Silence as we hoped for the best for silent seven-year-old Calli and her friend and kindred spirit voice Petra after their mysterious disappearance.

We loved the first-person writing style and were quick to pick up on the metaphors and ironies in this novel.  Quite enjoyably, the Mindful Readers were able to truly connect with, envision, and hold compassion for the young characters herein.

Reader frustration was felt over a character weakness, but such action exhibited by this character held true to the consequences of childhood experiences and adulthood victimization.  I longed to read more details about the special and sweet friendship between Calli and Petra, which ultimately is what makes this novel so beautiful.

If you’re looking for a quick read, one where you’ll be reading any chance you can spare to find the who-done-it answer, this is your book.  But no peeking.

“It happens quietly one August morning. As dawn’s shimmering light drenches the humid Iowa air, two families awaken to find their little girls have gone missing in the night. Seven-year-old Calli Clark is sweet, gentle, a dreamer who suffers from selective mutism brought on by tragedy that pulled her deep into silence as a toddler. Calli’s mother, Antonia, tried to be the best mother she could within the confines of marriage to a mostly absent, often angry husband. Now, though she denies that her husband could be involved in the possible abductions, she fears her decision to stay in her marriage has cost her more than her daughter’s voice.

“Petra Gregory is Calli’s best friend, her soul mate and her voice. But neither Petra nor Calli has been heard from since their disappearance was discovered. Desperate to find his child, Martin Gregory is forced to confront a side of himself he did not know existed beneath his intellectual, professorial demeanor. Now these families are tied by the question of what happened to their children. And the answer is trapped in the silence of unspoken family secrets.” ~ Publisher’s  Review

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Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton: Download Cover

All of the ladies adored this novel chronicling the unique lives of five women over a decade’s span, brought together by one park bench and a love of reading and writing, seeking individual friendship and ultimately the hopes and dreams of much more.   Set in the late ’60s and into the ’70s, it is inspiring, albeit tearjerking, to watch these women grow in confidence, fight for their beliefs, strive for success, overcome heartache, and fiercely protect their friendships.  You’ll love this book; so much so that you may even finish reading it in 24 hours like a few Mindful Readers I know.

Here is my favorite quote, stated by Brett:  “Henry Adams said, ‘One friend in a lifetime is much; two are many; three are hardly possible.’  What is it we’ve done so right in our lives that has made us five?”

Click here for Meg Waite Clayton’s website.

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Hurray for Guernsey!  All had high praise for this read, a book comprised entirely of letters written between writer Juliet Ashton and Channel Island survivors of the German Occupation.  Filled with irony, courage, and true love, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society takes you on an adventure where you meet people so interesting, humorous, and warm that you long to become a part of their lives and only wish this brilliant bestseller wasn’t a work of fiction, but instead a true story.  I think I’ll just pretend it is.  This is a wonderful book; don’t miss it.
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The Girls from Ames by Jeffrey Zaslow: Book Cover


Kelly, one of 11 women with life stories shared within this book, writes to her life-long Ames friends, “Someday, when we’re old women, we’ll be able to sit together and look back at these richly detailed lives.  Even the most common of us have had these journeys.  In one way or another, we have every woman’s story.”

And this book really is every woman’s story. The Girls from Ames is a detailed and envious look into the lives and friendships of 11 women, starting in early childhood and continuing into present-day adulthood.  The Mindful Readers really loved this book and so appreciated the bonds and friendships these women have formed together throughout their lives.

Some of the individual stories of the women of Ames were detailed more than others, and as a reader, you might be longing for an even distribution.  Perhaps some ladies were more forthcoming than others.  But ultimately, their lives, some ordinary, some extraordinary, are wonderful entertainment.  Jeffrey Zaslow is an enthralling writer, having cowritten The Last Lecture.  In my opinion, at times the dialect did seem tedious about everyday life, but maybe that’s because the human mind loves to hear about all the juicy stuff.

But on a more serious note, this book gives an honest diary of a handful of heartwrenching and unfair life stories that humble its reader.

In the end, The Girls from Ames is a good read for all who protect and appreciate their own dear relationships, whether brand new or life-long.  The Mindful Readers have placed this book deep within their hearts as we savor and enjoy our very own book club friendships.

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The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs: Book Cover


The Book Club’s consensus on The Friday Night Knitting Club, by Kate Jacobs, is this book would be more enjoyable as a movie.  Knitting Club is a hugely popular book, but requires much patience to read as Kate Jacobs’ introduction of characters is jumpy and interjectory.  This book positively glorified the friendships it followed and made me want to open up my own business in search of the bonds and humor the women of the Knitting Club shared.  The last third of this book is the most interesting and engaging, rewarding its readers with an ending filled with an appreciation for life. 

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The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls: Book Cover

The Book Club has reviewed The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls,  “a remarkable memoir or resilience and redemption and a revelatory look into a family at once deeply dysfunctional and uniquely vibrant,” “a memoir permeated by the intense love of a peculiar but loyal family.”  

I finished The Glass Castle today, Saturday, March 28.  As angry and dumbfoundedly amazed I was at Mr. and Mrs. Walls and their, in my opinion, dangerous and neglectful parenting practices, I enjoyed Jeannette’s heroic journey to search for a life she and her siblings pined for and deserved more than anything.

Myself and another book club reader never wanted this book to end.  We loved Jeannette’s simplistic writing style, and we wanted more of her story.  But due to the repulsive facts of this memoir, some readers couldn’t wait for the last page.  We all agreed this would make an intriguing movie one day.

Definitely put The Glass Castle on your list of books to read.  Be prepared to be shocked and saddened, and perhaps, in the end, thankful. 

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The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan: Book Cover

Tears were shed as the Book Club fell in love with their first book, The Middle Place, by Kelly Corrigan.  This touching memoir of Kelly and her father, George Corrigan, also known as Greenie, is an honest and sweetly touching look into this lovely and admirable father/daughter relationship.  If you have not read this book, make The Middle Place your next read.  You will, without a doubt, fall in love with it too.  Check out Kelly and Greenie in the two videos below.

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All previous comments have been archived under Comments Archive.  Please continue to give us your wonderful suggestions!  Thank you.


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