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Nothing says winter like a blanket, a book and a cup of tea (or wine, no one is judging). I personally read the most in the winter because it is a great way to escape the drab winter months. I am currently finishing up Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls, and I have truly loved every minute of it. So with that, I will start my list.

Half Broke Horses – Jeannette Walls:

Those old cows knew trouble was coming before we did.” So begins the story of Lily Casey Smith, in Jeannette Walls’s magnificent, true-life novel based on her no-nonsense, resourceful, hard-working, and spectacularly compelling grandmother. By age six, Lily was helping her father break horses. At fifteen, she left home to teach in a frontier town — riding five hundred miles on her pony, all alone, to get to her job. She learned to drive a car (“I loved cars even more than I loved horses. They didn’t need to be fed if they weren’t working, and they didn’t leave big piles of manure all over the place”) and fly a plane, and, with her husband, ran a vast ranch in Arizona. She raised two children, one of whom is Jeannette’s memorable mother, Rosemary Smith Walls, unforgettably portrayed in The Glass Castle.

Lily survived tornadoes, droughts, floods, the Great Depression, and the most heartbreaking personal tragedy. She bristled at prejudice of all kinds — against women, Native Americans, and anyone else who didn’t fit the mold. Half Broke Horses is Laura Ingalls Wilder for adults, as riveting and dramatic as Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa or Beryl Markham’s West with the Night. It will transfix readers everywhere.

Why I think you should read it: Lily Casey takes no guff, she’s my kind of woman. Walls makes the narrative tangable as it flows with great ease. A book you’ll soar through, it’s a read that truly makes you puff up your chest as a female and believe you can take on the world.

She’s Come Undone – Wally Lamb:

In this extraordinary coming-of-age odyssey, Wally Lamb invites us to hitch a wild ride on a journey of love, pain, and renewal with the most heartbreakingly comical heroine to come along in years.

Meet Dolores Price. She’s 13, wise-mouthed but wounded, having bid her childhood goodbye. Stranded in front of her bedroom TV, she spends the next few years nourishing herself with the Mallomars, potato chips, and Pepsi her anxious mother supplies. When she finally orbits into young womanhood at 257 pounds, Dolores is no stronger and life is no kinder. But this time she’s determined to rise to the occasion and give herself one more chance before she really goes under.

Why I think you should read it: this is actually one of my favourite books. I’ve always been inspired   bildungsroman by the genre, even studied the genre in University. The story depicts how we treat those who aren’t perfect, and how one person can throw their life away because they don’t fit the mold. You’ll laugh, cry and root for Dolores all while holding her hand as she grows up.

Dear John – Nicholas Sparks:

An angry rebel, John dropped out of school and enlisted in the Army, not knowing what else to do with his life–until he meets the girl of his dreams, Savannah. Their mutual attraction quickly grows into the kind of love that leaves Savannah waiting for John to finish his tour of duty, and John wanting to settle down with the woman who captured his heart. But 9/11 changes everything. John feels it is his duty to re-enlist. And sadly, the long separation finds Savannah falling in love with someone else. “Dear John,” the letter read…and with those two words, a heart was broken and two lives were changed forever. Returning home, John must come to grips with the fact that Savannah, now married, is still his true love–and face the hardest decision of his life.

Why I think you should read it: stop. Just stop. No, I am not recommending it because I loved Channing Tatum in the movie (although he is on my safe 5 list). I actually despised the movie. But this book brought me to tears. If you’re a hopeless romantic, even a closeted one like me, I urge you to give this book a chance. The tender love that occurs between the two characters pulls at heart strings you never knew you had. You won’t be able to put it down – so make sure you have another book close by to pick up when you’re done in a few hours.

The Other Boleyn Girl – Philippa Gregory:

Two sisters competing for the greatest prize: the love of a king

When Mary Boleyn comes to court as an innocent girl of fourteen, she catches the eye of Henry VIII. Dazzled by the king, Mary falls in love with both her golden prince and her growing role as unofficial queen. However, she soon realizes just how much she is a pawn in her family’s ambitious plots as the kings interest begins to wane and she is forced to step aside for her best friend and rival: her sister, Anne. Then Mary knows that she must defy her family and her king, and take her fate into her own hands.

A rich and compelling tale of love, sex, ambition, and intrigue, The Other Boleyn Girl introduces a woman of extraordinary determination and desire who lived at the heart of the most exciting and glamorous court in Europe and survived by following her own heart.

Why I think you should read it: nothing takes you away like war, romance and heated rivalry. If you’ve seen the movie, it doesn’t even do the first page of this book justice. Gregory makes history enthralling and tangles you into her words. I read it while on the beaches of the Dominican and I must say, the book was probably hotter than the sun. Definitely a must read if you want to escape for a while.

Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain – Portia de Rossi:

“I didn’t decide to become anorexic. It snuck up on me disguised as a healthy diet, a professional attitude. Being as thin as possible was a way to make the job of being an actress easier . . .”

Portia de Rossi weighed only 82 pounds when she collapsed on the set of the Hollywood film in which she was playing her first leading role. This should have been the culmination of all her years of hard work-first as a child model in Australia, then as a cast member of one of the hottest shows on American television. On the outside she was thin and blond, glamorous and successful. On the inside, she was literally dying.

In this searing, unflinchingly honest book, Portia de Rossi captures the complex emotional truth of what it is like when food, weight, and body image take priority over every other human impulse or action. She recounts the elaborate rituals around eating that came to dominate hours of every day, from keeping her daily calorie intake below 300 to eating precisely measured amounts of food out of specific bowls and only with certain utensils. When this wasn’t enough, she resorted to purging and compulsive physical exercise, driving her body and spirit to the breaking point.

Why I think you should read it: because it’s next up for me to read! I love raw and honest novels, especially when the writer allows themselves to be vulnerable. I have heard nothing but great things, and I can’t wait to dive in.

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And I can’t post a blog about books without including a few picks from my friends. I am so lucky to have girl friends who are such avid readers.

Robyn’s Pick: Secret Daughter – Shilpi S Gowda:

In a tiny hut in rural India, Kavita gives birth to Asha. Unable to afford the ‘luxury’ of raising a daughter, her husband forces Kavita to give the baby up — a decision that will haunt them both for the rest of their lives.

Halfway around the globe, Somer, an American doctor, decides to adopt a child after making the wrenching discovery that she will never have one of her own. When her husband Krishnan shows her a photo of baby Asha sent to him from a Mumbai orphanage, she falls instantly in love. As she waited for adoption to be finalized, she knew her life would change. But she was convinced that the love she already felt would overcome all obstacles.

Why she thinks you should read it – if you find Indian culture fascinating, you’ll truly enjoy this story. Gowda gives insight into the troubles of adoption and the family bond; something I love to read about.

Jessica’s Pick: Valley of the Dolls – Jacqueline Susann:

First published in 1966, Valley of the Dolls rocketed to the top of The New York Times best-seller list and went on to sell an unprecedented eight million copies. Unavailable in paperback for over fifteen years, Jacqueline Susann’s sensational story of three pill-popping, Gucci-clad show-biz women (whom she modeled after Judy Garland, Grace Kelly, and Marilyn Monroe) is back!

Why she thinks you should read it – it follows 3 women in 1945 in the Big Apple, on their way to self-destruction. It’s well-written, powerful, racy and frankly speaking, I couldn’t put it down.

Corrie’s Pick: House Rules – Jodi Picoult:

When your son can’t look you in the eye . . . does that mean he’s guilty?

Jacob Hunt is a teen with Asperger’s syndrome. He’s hopeless at reading social cues or expressing himself well to others, though he is brilliant in many ways. But he has a special focus on one subject-forensic analysis. A police scanner in his room clues him in to crime scenes, and he’s always showing up and telling the cops what to do. And he’s usually right.

But when Jacob’s small hometown is rocked by a terrible murder, law enforcement comes to him. Jacob’s behaviors are hallmark Asperger’s, but they look a lot like guilt to the local police. Suddenly the Hunt family, who only want to fit in, are directly in the spotlight. For Jacob’s mother, Emma, it’s a brutal reminder of the intolerance and misunderstanding that always threaten her family. For his brother, Theo, it’s another indication why nothing is normal because of Jacob.

And over this small family, the soul-searing question looms: Did Jacob commit murder?

Why she thinks you should read it – like all of Picoult’s novels, House Rules invites you into a world that is just too emotionally compelling to put down. I felt like the characters in this book were incredibly realistic, they weren’t perfect, they didn’t always do the right thing and they were saddled with emotions which are all key characteristics to grab a reader’s attention. Picoult’s writing well-suited the plot and didn’t reveal any critical twists before they happened. I kept guessing throughout the entire novel.

Kristi’s Pick: Lullabies For Little Criminals – Heather O’neill:

A gritty, heart-wrenching novel about bruised innocence on the city’s feral streets-the remarkable debut of a stunning literary talent.

Heather O’Neill dazzles with a first novel of extraordinary prescience and power, a subtly understated yet searingly effective story of a young life on the streets-and the strength, wits, and luck necessary for survival.

Why she thinks you should read it – it’s a very captivating story of a young girl’s constant battle with her tormented and sad lifestyle. This book really makes you realize how unreliable and sad life for some children can be, running from one dilemma to another and learning not to trust anyone. A great read, and informative at the same time. Wonderful storytelling by O’Neill’s Debut novel.

Post your own recommendations as a comment, and Happy Reading!

P.S. – I think we should replace the “Heather” of Heather’s Picks, and Oprah too. And follow my lovelies at @RobynBaldwin @jessicaevents @corrieannmoore and @kristikenn.

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