March 2018 Books to Read (and Skip)

March 15, 2018 Mini Book Reviews 30

March 2018 Books to Read


My March reading has so far been pretty similar to February! I’ve liked most of what I’ve read, but there isn’t a runaway standout. I did get let down by two trusted authors, which always makes me a special kind of sad, but overall a solid month!

In addition to my March 2018 Books to Read, stay tuned for my full review of Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen (coming a week from today).

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This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link).

Read These

Bachelor NationBachelor Nation by Amy Kaufman
Nonfiction (Released March 6, 2018)
320 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Publisher: Dutton Books)

Plot Summary: Kaufman, a L.A. Times reporter who covered The Bachelor franchise until ABC shut down her access because they weren’t pleased with what she was writing about the show, exposes the inner workings of The Bachelor franchise.

My Thoughts: I’m an unapologetic fan of The Bachelor and am fascinated by all the behind-the-scenes drama. So, I’m almost the perfect reader for this book (my downfall is that I already know a lot of this stuff from reading Reality Steve). Kaufman investigates The Bachelor‘s cultural place in America, how producers get contestants to give them good TV, how and why contestants think they fall in love over such a short period of time, what happens to the couples after the show ends…and, a history of dating shows (which should have been edited out). This best part of the book are the excepts from contestant Sharleen Joynt‘s journal she kept during filming…she clinically picks apart the psychology of the show while she’s in the middle of it. She’s brilliant and her take is articulate and well thought-out. Kaufman doesn’t really dish on contestant-specific gossip (who’s hooking up with whom, etc), but raises the overall curtain to reveal Oz. Beware if you want to preserve the fairytale because you’ll for sure be watching the show differently after reading it.

Everything is just so designed for romance, I can see how if you were single, didn’t necessarily know what you were looking for, couldn’t tell a deep connection from a superficial one, and were somewhat naive, hopelessly naive and not very cautious, you could fall in love. The focus is so on it all the time. You’re constantly prompted to talk about him, what you two share, how it makes you feel, how seeing him with the other girls makes you feel. There is no escape. – from Sharleen Joynt‘s journal

Laura and EmmaLaura & Emma by Kate Greathead
Fiction – Literary (Released March 13, 2018)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Publisher: Simon & Schuster)

Plot Summary: Laura, the somewhat quirky daughter of a blue-blood Upper East Side family, becomes pregnant after a one-night stand and wrestles with how to raise her daughter.

My Thoughts: The key to loving Laura & Emma is loving Laura’s voice and the writing style (which I did)…because there isn’t a ton of action to propel the story. It’s been compared to the TV show Gilmore Girls and I’d say that’s true with the story’s premise (single mother from a wealthy family trying to raise her daughter differently than how she grew up, but not totally disconnecting), but not at all in character or style. Laura is offbeat, but likable and funny in an awkward way (she reminded me of a less damaged version of Eleanor Oliphant). She’s uncomfortable with her family’s wealth, but her guilt doesn’t stop her from taking advantage of the benefits that come with it. The story is told in vignettes both momentous and mundane, which might turn some people off, but these hung together quite well to form a cohesive story (e.g. similar to Goodbye, Vitamin). However, the ending is perplexing to say the least. I’m still not sure what happened and it will probably annoy readers who don’t like things left open-ended. P.S. – there’s an entertaining, kooky grandmother…always a plus in my reading!

As she sat across the table from this Republican lobbyist lunatic, she thought of what her mother had said of marriage: Anything, anything, anything would be better than this. That’s how others viewed her current situation as a single mother, she realized. How else to explain their rationale in matching her with such maniacs? They saw her and Emma as incomplete, stray people, a free-floating fragment; the goal was to make them whole and anyone, anyone, anyone would be better than no one.

Tangerine by Christine ManganTangerine by Christine Mangan
Fiction – Literary (Released March 20, 2018)
320 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Publisher: Ecco Books)

Plot Summary: Alice Shipley can’t figure out whether to be relieved or unsettled when her college roommate (Lucy Mason), who she hasn’t spoken to in over a year after a deeply disturbing incident, shows up on her doorstep in Tangier, Morocco, where she’s living with her new husband (John).

My Thoughts: Told in dual perspectives, Mangan’s debut novel is the story of a fraught, obsessive friendship and all the wreckage it leaves behind. Tangerine is a very specific type of book that I generally adore (and I did in this case!), but that probably isn’t for everyone. It’s kind of a page turner, but not in the traditional sense. It’s taut with emotional and psychological tension, but doesn’t have much action until the second half. Mangan generates all this tension through her writing style, which reminded me of Tender (my review), Sunburn (my review), and Based on a True Story (Spoiler Discussion). For virtually the entire book, I questioned who to trust, which kept me turning the pages, and the Moroccan setting makes the story even more enigmatic. P.S. – Don’t be fooled by this cover. It reminds me of Paula McClain’s Circling the Sun, which is straight-up historical fiction, but Tangerine does not read like historical fiction at all despite the 1950’s time period. 

Tangier and Lucy were the same, I thought. Both unsolvable riddles that refused to leave me in peace. And I had tired of it – of the not knowing, of always feeling as though I were on the outside of things, just on the periphery.

Skip These

Flight Attendant by Chris BohjalianThe Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian
Fiction – Mystery / Thriller (Released March 13, 2018)
368 Pages
Affiliate Link: Amazon
Source: Publisher (Publisher: Doubleday)

Plot Summary: When Cassie, an alcoholic flight attendant, finds her hook-up (Alex Sokolov) from the night before dead in a Dubai hotel, she questions whether she killed him during a blackout and, if not, wonders who did.

My Thoughts: Chris Bohjalian has been a reliable standby for me in the thriller department for the past few years (The Guest RoomThe Sleepwalker), but I think he stumbled with The Flight Attendant. I was initially interested in finding out what happened to Alex and what would happen to Cassie. How would she handle being questioned about Alex’s murder (given she makes terrible decisions most of the time)? Would she be charged with murdering him? But, as Alex’s story is gradually revealed, I became incredibly confused. Why he might have been killed is convoluted, yet it felt like white noise to me. That side of the story isn’t developed well at all…to the point that I didn’t really care. However, Bohjalian did a great job bringing the life of a flight attendant alive, which I enjoyed. Bohjalian has written a book a year for the past few years, which is a lot. I feel like he might’ve churned this one out too quickly…at the expense of quality.

She hoped her small joke would make him smile, but the truth of it made her cringe. It wasn’t merely the acknowledgment of her drinking; it was the reality that she was poisonous; she always risked diminishing the people she loved or might someday love. Too often she forced them to make the same bad choices she did or forced them from her life. Best case, she forced them to care for her.

Girls Burn BrighterGirls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao (March 6, 2018)
DNF at 13%

This novel about female friendship set in India got a decent amount of publisher hype. I had trouble getting into the characters initially and my mind kept wandering. I felt like I was viewing the story from an airplane window at 50,000 feet instead of feeling immersed in it. Since then, I’ve heard it’s an incredibly brutal story, which I just don’t have in me right now.

What’s the best book you’ve read so far this month?

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Did You Know You Can…? 8 Tricks to Make Your Reading Life Easier

March 13, 2018 Reading Tools 32

Tricks to Make Your Reading Life Easier

For a person that runs my own blog, I’m incredibly un-tech savvy, but I do love easy tricks to make your reading life easier! The key is they must be super simple for me to actually adopt them. You may know all of these tricks already, but I just picked up many of them over the past year or two…and they’ve all vastly improved my reading life.

This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link).

8 Tricks to Make Your Reading Life Easier

Amazon (Kindle and Audible) Tricks

  • Email your Kindle highlights and notes to yourself.
    On the home menu that runs along the top of your Kindle, choose the 3 vertical dots icon on the far right > Notes > Export Notes (on the bottom of the list of notes that pops up) > Send. Check your inbox for an email with a nicely formatted PDF AND a spreadsheet attached! I save all my PDFs in a folder for easy access to all my highlights and notes!
  • Bookmark passages on Audible (“highlighting for audiobooks”).
    Just tap “Clip” to mark your spot and tap the triple dots in the upper righthand corner to find all your bookmarks (under “Clips & Bookmarks”).
Tricks to Make Your Reading Life Easier


  • Download audiobooks from your local library.
    Many local libraries use the Overdrive system to enable you to check out e-books and audiobooks. I download and listen to audiobooks directly through the Overdrive app on my phone. Libby is also an easy way to download audiobooks from your library.
  • Add audio narration to an Amazon e-book purchase for a small extra charge.
    This comes in really handy if you’re reading one of those doorstop books and want to get through it faster. Adding some listening time to your existing reading time will make things go much faster.

    Tricks to make Your Reading Life Easier
    Bonus: you can add Audible narration to e-books you’ve checked out from the library via Overdrive. This means you can effectively get a really cheap audiobook! Sometimes, I’ll check out an e-book from the library just to get the cheap audiobook…having no intention of actually reading the e-book.

Library Tricks

  • Suspend library holds.
    I’m sure man of you have experienced the frustration of a bunch of your library holds coming in at the same time. I sure have. Well, you can keep this from happening by suspending holds, which holds your place in the queue while delaying when you have to check the book out. You can suspend each hold by 7, 14, 21, 28, and up to 180 days. I call this “actively managing my holds.”
    Tricks to make Your Reading Life Easier
  • Put books on hold at the library before they’re published.
    Sometimes, but not always, libraries will purchase a book well before publication date. This often happens with exceptionally popular new releases. And, this is where book bloggers who are reading and talking about books before they’re published can really help you. As soon as you hear about an upcoming book you’re interested in, check your library to see if you can put it on hold. You can’t actually check it out until publications date, but you can get in the line early. For example, I already have a hold on Fredrick Backman’s sequel to Beartown (Us Against You), which doesn’t come out until June.

Goodreads Tricks

  • Compare books with your Goodreads friends.
    You can see a side by side comparison of all the books you and a specific Goodreads friend has shelved and/or rated. Goodreads even gives you the percentage of similar taste for books you both rated. This can be incredibly helpful information as you look for your Go-To Recommendation Sources! Click on your profile picture in the top right corner of your Goodreads homepage > Friends > Compare Books for the friend you want to compare with.
Tricks to make Your Reading Life Easier Tricks to make Your Reading Life Easier


  • Save your favorite quotes on Goodreads.
    In response to my recent post sharing 14 of my favorite book quotes, many of you asked how I keep track of my favorite quotes. Well, this is one of my ways! In the main menu bar of your Goodreads homepage, choose Community > Quotes > Add a Quote (in very small type on the right side of the page). You can type in your quote, choose the author and book from dropdown menus, and even categorize your quotes with tags.

What other reading hacks do you have up your sleeve? I know y’all probably have some that I missed because I’m not that tech savvy!

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What I’m Reading Now (3/12/18)

March 12, 2018 It's Monday! What are you reading? 25

We had a basketball-filled weekend! My husband and I both went to UVA, so it was a pretty good weekend to be a fan (we won the ACC Championships and will go into the NCAA tournament as a #1 seed). Our basketball success in recent years has been pretty awesome for us fans since we’re TERRIBLE at football and, prior to Coach Tony Bennett arriving in Charlottesville, were only mediocre at basketball. So, it’s fun to finally have something to get excited about.

Last week, I debuted a new feature on the blog called Readers Recommend, where a regular blog reader (by “regular,” I mean someone who reads the blog, but does not have a blog of his or her own) shares an “Old Love, a New Love, and a Don’t Love.” Our first guest’s “Old Love” got some serious chatter going in the comments section! I’ll be doing this feature monthly, so email me at if you’d like to participate (I do have a waitlist right now, but add your name now if you’re interested in participating in the future!).

Tools of Titans Tip
I’m slowly working my way through Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss, a collection of highlights from interviews he’s done with various stars of their fields. It’s chock full of awesome tidbits, so I thought I’d share the most helpful tip I pick up each week. I’m currently reading the “Healthy” section (next up…”Wealthy” and “Wise”).

The “Hard-Style” Plank
I’ve been doing these when I don’t really have time for core during a workout. And I’ve been sore…from 10 second planks!

Hold a plank for 10 seconds under max contraction (like you’re about to be kicked and breathe ‘behind the shield’ of your tensed midsection), not for several minutes. For a challenge, consider putting your feet on the wall, a few inches from the floor.

For rep sets, do 3 to 5 sets of 3 to 5 reps in dynamic (moving) exercises or hold 10 seconds for static exercises. Take 3 to 5 minutes of rest in between sets for both.

– From Pavel Tsatsouline, Chairman of StrongFirst Inc, a worldwide school of strength

I alternate one 10 second static hold with one moving set of 5 reps (for my moving set, I put my calves on a foam roller and walk forward for 5 “arm steps” on my forearms). I do a total of 4 sets (so 2 for each exercise). Takes like 2 minutes, so I have no excuse to skip core work!

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I finished reading…

Tangerine by Christine Mangan

 by Christine Mangan (March 20, 2018)
Don’t be thrown by the cover of this one…it doesn’t read at all like historical fiction. It’s heavy on the emotional tension, lighter on the action. I really liked it, but it’s the kind of book that won’t be for everyone. Mini review to come.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen

Alternate Side
 by Anna Quindlen (March 20, 2018)
Anna Quindlen is one of my auto-buy authors (i.e. an author who’s work I love so much that I’ll read whatever he/she publishes). I’m about 70% through her new, NYC novel and…I don’t know. I’m not sure what it’s about. I see glimpses of her trademark writing, but it’s just kind of “meh,” especially compared to her other work.

Upcoming reading plans…

Not That I Could Tell

Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser (March 20, 2018)
This “thriller” was my March Book of the Month selection! Y’all know I’m skittish with thrillers, but Amy at Read a Latte said this one was “not quite a thriller. It’s more an examination of the lives of these women, and the questions that circulate when a perceived perfect neighborhood starts to show cracks.” Which sounds right up my alley.

was reading…

One Year Ago: I just finished reading one of the more messed up books I’ve read in awhile.

Two Years Ago: It was the weekend Pat Conroy died…breaking my heart.

How was your reading week?

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Readers Recommend: I Capture the Castle and My Life With Bob

March 8, 2018 Book Recommendations 37

Readers Recommend


Welcome to the first ever installment of Readers Recommend, my new monthly feature where “regular readers” (i.e. readers who do not have their own book blogs) share their book recommendations! 

I recently surveyed my blog readers for the first time and one of the most surprising things I learned was that over 70% of you do not have your own book blogs. This means you are not book bloggers, but “regular readers”! That’s a large chunk of Sarah’s Book Shelves readers with fantastic book recommendations floating around in their heads and no place to share them. I’m thrilled to be able to mine all this brainpower for some great books! Prepare for your TBR to explode…

If you’d like to be featured in an upcoming “Readers Recommend” post, leave a note in the comments section or email me at

Let’s welcome our first guest…

Get to Know Brittany

  • Home: I live with my husband and two elderly dogs (Mavis the pitbull and Ginger the chihuahua) in a small college town in Texas.
  • Career: [I’m] working on my PhD in Industrial Engineering. My research uses mathematical modeling to capture the uncertainty inherent in real-world problems. (Sarah: sounds like we have another Malcolm Gladwell in the making!)
  • Hobbies: I’ve recently taken up boxing, and punching bags really hard is an incredibly satisfying workout. On the weekends, you’ll find my husband and me camping or hunting for the best tacos around town.
  • Favorite TV Show: I’m definitely a sitcom junkie, but my current favorite shows are Frasier and Life in Pieces.

Brittany Recommends…

An Old Love

I Capture the CastleI Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Fiction (Released 1948)
343 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon











I have so many backlisted favorites, but I’d love to share one that people I know seem not to have heard of. You might not think that a book written in the 40’s could make you laugh out loud, and you’d be so, so wrong. The narrator, Cassandra, is charming and hilarious while also being kind and insightful. As she grows and ages, the writing becomes sadder and wiser, but I promise you will fall in love with the Mortmain family. Plus, if you enjoy scenic books, you’ll adore reading about the family’s crumbling English castle surrounded by a chilly moat in the countryside.

My Take:
You’re right, Brittany…I hadn’t even heard of this one! But, when I checked it out on Goodreads, I realized hoards of my friends had read it and loved it. How did I miss the boat?! I love some humor in my reading and really should read more classics than I do, so it’s going on the TBR.

A New Love

My Life with Bob by Pamela PaulMy Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues by Pamela Paul
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released May 2, 2017)
242 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon










Candidly, I don’t read too many new releases until they are technically no longer new releases, but one book that I have read and was pleasantly surprised by is My Life with Bob by Pamela Paul. The book is basically a memoir that focuses on the readerly bits of Paul’s life, or maybe it’s just a look at her life through a readerly lens; either way, it’s the sort of stuff that you and I would find interesting. Paul’s writing sometimes borders on pretentious, but mostly it’s just endearing and relatable to fellow readers.

My Take:
I actually tried this one and loved some parts…particularly where she focuses on her early reading life. But, the pretentiousness Brittany mentioned did get to me after awhile and I abandoned it at 42%.

A “Didn’t Love”

A Man Called Ove, Frederick BackmanA Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman
Fiction – Literary (Released August 27, 2012)
337 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon











For fear of spoiling the book for those of you who haven’t read it, I’ll just say that I don’t care for books that rely on sad or heavy-handed character tropes to move the reader. The writing wasn’t strong or graceful enough to carry the plot (or characters), so I finished the book feeling like it was emotionally manipulative without having any real depth. 

My Take:
I was in the “no” camp on this mega-bestseller as well. I actually DNF’d it pretty early on. While the opening scene of Ove at the computer store had me laughing out loud, I quickly got tired of his curmudgeonly schtick. However, and this is a big however, I ADORED Backman’s latest novel, Beartown (my review). Definitely read that one!

What do you think of Brittany’s recommendations (or her “Didn’t Love”)?

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14 Favorite Book Quotes

March 6, 2018 Bookish Posts 18

Favorite Book Quotes

Putting this post together gave me the opportunity to go down the favorite book quotes rabbit hole and it was a hole I didn’t realize how much I wanted to go down! I loved revisiting some of my favorite parts of my favorite books and I need to do it more often.

These aren’t my favorite book quotes of all time, but rather my favorite quotes of the ones I could get my hands on easily at the moment! Some probably would fall into my all-time favorites bucket, but I can’t know that for sure.

Finally, I realized as I was putting this together, that I could’ve written the entire thing in Cheryl Strayed quotes.

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Linking up with Top Ten Tuesday hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

14 Favorite Book Quotes

Beartown by Fredrick Backman (my review)
On ice hockey, but this could really pertain to any sport…

It’s only a game. It resolves tiny, insignificant things. Such as who gets validation. Who gets listened to. It allocates power and draws boundaries and turns some people into stars and others into spectators. That’s all.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Books for Living by Will Schwalbe (my review)
On reading and recharging…

Reading is a respite from the relentlessness of technology, but it’s not only that. It’s how I reset and recharge. It’s how I escape, but it’s also how I engage. And reading should spur further engagement.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen (my review)
On parenting…

Being a parent is not transactional. We do not get what we give. It is the ultimate pay-it-forward: We are good parents, not so they will be loving enough to stay with us, but so they will be strong enough to leave us.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny (my review)

You know, it would be far simpler and more effective if you could march your houseguest over to a bench in Central Park and say, You just sit right there while I go home and read the newspaper in peace. I’ll be back to pick you up in two hours. And if your houseguest was of the older, feebler variety, and you feared they might be mugged or beaten in the park, you could take them to a movie, possibly a matinee. Actually, there should be a houseguests’ club, like the kids’ club in a resort, where your houseguest could watch movies and play games and have a snack while you recharged your batteries.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Tell Me More by Kelly Corrigan (my review)
I’m probably one of these people…

Accepting things as they are is difficult. A lot of people go to war with reality.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Mothers by Brit Bennett (my review)
On betrayal…

The how of any betrayal was the hardest part to justify, how the lies could be assembled and stacked and maintained until the truth was completely hidden behind them.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy (my review)
The memorable first line of The Prince of Tides probably encapsulates virtually all of Conroy’s work…

My wound is my geography. It is also my anchorage, my port of call.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (my review)
On intimacy…

People think that intimacy is about sex. But intimacy is about truth. When you realize you can tell someone your truth, when you can show yourself to them, when you stand in front of them bare and their response is ‘you’re safe with me’ – that’s intimacy.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed (my review)
You didn’t think you were getting out of here without a Cheryl Strayed quote, did you? Or two?

Trust yourself. It’s Sugar’s golden rule. Trusting yourself means living out what you already know to be true.

Or two?

Do you know what boundaries are? The best, sanest people on the planet do […]

Or three? This one on motherhood…

But as the mother of two children, I can tell you what most moms will: that mothering is absurdly hard and profoundly sweet. Like the best thing you ever did. Like if you think you want to have a baby, you probably should. I say this in spite of the fact that children are giant endless suck machines. They don’t give a whit if you need to sleep or eat or pee or get your work done or go out to a party naked and oiled up in a homemade Alice B. Toklas mask. They take everything. They will bring you to the furthest edge of your personality and abso-f*cking-lutely to your knees. They will also give you everything back. Not just all they take, but many of the things you lost before they came along as well.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
On reading…

Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
On living…

At those critical junctures, the question is not simply whether to live or die but what kind of life is worth living.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

White Fur by Jardine Libaire (my review)
On the wealthy, snobby grandmother…

Binkie, the one and only. He can hear her rings clacking on the plastic phone, and he chuckles, envisioning with amusement the bejeweled and suntanned manicured grip his grandmother thinks she has on his balls. And she does.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon 

Do you find yourself collecting literary quotes? What are some of your favorites?

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What I’m Reading Now (3/5/18)

March 5, 2018 It's Monday! What are you reading? 19

Well, we survived the random windstorm this past weekend! We only lost power for one night and managed to only lose small branches around our house…could’ve been way worse. Our neighbors lost a huge Pine, roots and all, but luckily it fell away from their house.

And, it looks like I read a ton of books last week, but it’s kind of deceiving. I was almost done with one book and a second audiobook at the start of the week, then read a third. Also, I’m slowly working my way through Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris. It’s over 700 pages, but is written in short vignettes and I read about one a night. So, this one will take me awhile. So far, I’m learning a ton about Health (the first section) and have already picked up one exercise that’s really made my back feel better.

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March Book of the Month selections are here! I hadn’t heard of any of these picks before, but after doing some research, I’m definitely interested in a couple! Judging by the collective reactions to last month’s picks (people thought they were uninteresting and too well-known), they might be happier this time around since these seem to be lesser known titles.⠀ _⠀ ⠀ For those of you who lamented the judges’ disappearance in last month’s picks, I have semi-good news for you! The judges are back…kind of. There won’t be a 5 judge panel like we’re used to, but we will see judges make appearances mixed in with “editorial team [members], brand ambassadors, members, and members of our Readers Committee.” Kind of annoying for those of us who have been following specific judges for awhile and know who our Go-To Judges are, but we’ll have to see how things go…⠀ _⠀ ⠀ I’ve got commentary on all the selections AND my ULTIMATE GUIDE TO THE BOOK OF THE MONTH CLUB JUDGES to help you choose the right book for your reading taste. LINKS IN PROFILE #affiliate⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ #bookstagram #bookofthemonth #bookofthemonthclub #botm #bookgram #amreading #bookworms #instabooks #bookblogger #booklovers #booklover #bibliophile #biblio #bookaddict #bookaddiction @bookofthemonth

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I finished reading…

I'm Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, Laura and Emma, Endurance
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
 by Erika L. Sanchez (October 17, 2017)
I ended up liking this one even though I could really feel the YA-ness in the ending. I do think it would be an important and helpful book for young girls to read. Mini Review to come.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Laura & Emma by Kate Greathead (March 13, 2018)
I really liked this debut mother/daughter novel set in 80’s – 90’s NYC. Laura, the mother is somewhat of an offbeat character and I liked the voice. It’s been compared to Gilmore Girls, which I can see in the premise, but not in the characters or style. Mini Review to come.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Enduranceby Scott Kelly (October 17, 2017) – Audiobook
It took me the entire month of February to listen to this 12 hour audiobook! It’s Astronaut Scott Kelly’s (Former Congresswoman Gabby Gifford‘s brother-in-law) story of his year on the International Space Station. Hearing about what it’s like to live on the Space Station was mostly really interesting, though the book could have been shorter. Would make a great “Dad” book and is going on my Books for Guys list.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

Tangerine by Christine Mangan

by Christine Mangan (March 20, 2018)
This debut novel about a female friendship set in 1950’s Morocco comes recommended by one of my Go-To Recommendation Sources (Annie Jones from From the Front Porch podcast and was a Library Reads March pick). I’ve literally just read the first few pages so far.

Upcoming reading plans…

Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen

Alternate Side
 by Anna Quindlen (March 20, 2018)
I absolutely adore Anna Quindlen (Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake and Every Last One), but I’ve heard her new novel may not be among her best. I’m still going to give it a shot. After all, average Quindlen is still a lot better than many other authors’ best work. 

was reading…

One Year Ago: I was reading my first 5 star book of 2017!

Two Years Ago: I was in the middle of a string of books I wish I hadn’t read.

How was your reading week?

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Book of the Month March 2018 Selections: What Book Should You Choose?

March 1, 2018 Book Recommendations 17

Book of the Month March 2018

This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links, but I’m also a paying customer.

Welcome to my monthly feature “Book of the Month Selections: What Book Should You Choose?”! Every month, I provide commentary on the books that are chosen as that month’s Book of the Month selections that will hopefully help you choose your pick, and tell you which book(s) I’m going to choose. AND, I provide you with the most up to date version of my Ultimate Guide to the Book of the Month Judges with free, downloadable template (below).

I hadn’t heard of any of these selections before…but, judging from the reaction to last month‘s overly well-known picks, this might be a good thing. After doing a bit of research, I’m now interested in a couple!

Choose the best Book of the Month selection for you every time!

Check out my fun new tool to help you pick the best Book of the Month selection for your taste: my Ultimate Guide to the Book of the Month Judges and free, downloadable template to help you find your go-to BOTM judge!

For those of you who followed the uproar last month when Book of the Month removed the judges’ endorsements from the February selections…Book of the Month has brought the judges back…kind of. There won’t be a 5 judge panel like we’re used to, but we will see judges make appearances mixed in with “editorial team [members], brand ambassadors, members, and members of our Readers Committee.” Kind of annoying for those of us who have been following specific judges for awhile and know who our Go-To Judges are, but we’ll have to see how things go. Check out more details of how Book of the Month chooses the monthly selections and their rationale for making changes in how the selections are presented.

Book of the Month March 2018 Selections

Not That I Could TellNot That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser (Release Date: March 27, 2018)
320 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.09 on 261 ratings
Selected By: Elizabeth Mitchell (Readers Committee Member)

When a group of neighborhood women gathers, wine in hand, around a fire pit where their backyards meet one Saturday night, most of them are just ecstatic to have discovered that their baby monitors reach that far. It’s a rare kid-free night, and they’re giddy with it. They drink too much, and the conversation turns personal. By Monday morning, one of them is gone.

Everyone knows something about everyone else in the quirky small Ohio town of Yellow Springs, but no one can make sense of the disappearance. […] As the police investigation goes from a media circus to a cold case, the neighbors are forced to reexamine what’s going on behind their own closed doors—and to ask how well anyone really knows anyone else.

My Thoughts:
Doesn’t the description for this one sound like Big Little Lies?! And, Goodreads reviewers mentioned it would be a good choice for fans of Liane Moriarty. They also said it was an easy, quick read and that the story was told from several points of view. Amy at Read a Latte (a blogger I trust) says it “is not quite a thriller. It’s more an examination of the lives of these women, and the questions that circulate when a perceived perfect neighborhood starts to show cracks.” This one sounds up my alley, especially since I’m on the hunt for lighter reads. 

Astonishing Color of AfterThe Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan (Release Date: March 20, 2018)
480 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.5 on 136 ratings
Selected By: Liberty Hardy (co-host of Book Riot‘s All the Books podcast)

Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.

Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.

Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.

My Thoughts:
This is a debut YA (Young Adult) novel by a Midwest author born to Taiwanese immigrant parents. Goodreads reviewers said it’s heartbreaking, beautiful, has a bit of magical realism, gorgeous writing, and a half Asian/half white main character. They also mentioned Chinese/Taiwanese culture and depression are major themes. John Green called it “brilliantly crafted, harrowing and a very special book.” Gayle Forman called it “inventive and heart-wrenching.” The few critical reviews I found on Goodreads mentioned having trouble with a literary device where emotions are labeled with colors.

Rainbirds Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan (Release Date: March 6, 2018)
336 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.1 on 84 ratings
Selected By: 
Siobhan Jones (Book of the Month Editorial Director)

Clarissa Goenawan’s dark, spellbinding literary debut opens with a murder and shines a spotlight onto life in fictional small-town Japan.

Ren Ishida is nearly finished with graduate school when he receives news of his sister Keiko’s sudden death. She was viciously stabbed one rainy night on her way home, and there are no leads. Ren heads to Akakawa to conclude his sister’s affairs, still failing to understand why she chose to abandon the family and Tokyo for this desolate town years ago.

As he comes to know the figures in Akakawa, from the enigmatic politician to his fellow teachers and a rebellious, alluring student named Rio, Ren delves into his shared childhood with Keiko and what followed, trying to piece together what happened the night of her death.

My Thoughts:
Clarissa Goenawan is apparently a rising Singaporean literary star and Rainbirds is her debut. Set in 1990’s, Rainbirds is part whodunnit and part ghost story. Goodreads reviewers frequently compared it to Haruki Murakami’s style. They also said it has a minimalist writing style (which is very Japanese), a hint of magical realism, a brooding atmosphere, and that grief is a major theme. Many said it was quiet, yet hard to put down, and that the mystery is a minor plot element (i.e. the story is more about Ren finding himself and getting to know his sister posthumously). Some found the ending frustrating. Rainbirds was on Bustle’s Most Anticipated Book of 2018, Huffington Post’s 60 Books We Can’t Wait to Read in 2018, and received a starred review from Library Journal. If you like serious literary fiction, this one’s for you!

Other People's HousesOther People’s Houses by Abbi Waxman (Release Date: April 3, 2018)
352 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.97 on 111 ratings
Selected By: 
Skye Sherman (Brand Ambassador)

The author of The Garden of Small Beginnings returns with a hilarious and poignant new novel about four families, their neighborhood carpool, and the affair that changes everything.

My Thoughts: Other People’s Houses sounds like light fiction (i.e. Brain Candy) and the plot actually sounds somewhat similar to Not That I Could Tell (and Desperate Housewives!). It was blurbed by Emily Giffin, so you know that means it’s fairly light reading. Goodreads reviewers mentioned that it’s told from multiple points of view, has snarky, irreverent humor, and dysfunctional families. Many of the negative reviews mentioned extremely harsh language and raunchy sex talk that was over the top and unnecessary. This type of raunchy humor is apparently her trademark and it seems to be a love it or hate it kind of thing. Finally, some that loved her debut (The Garden of Small Beginnings) were underwhelmed by her follow-up. Sounds like you need to have a specific sense of humor to appreciate this one.

Last Equation of Isaac SeveryThe Last Equation of Isaac Severy by Nova Jacobs (Release Date: March 6, 2018)
352 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.06 on 53 ratings
Selected By: Sophia Bush (Actress)

The Family Fang meets The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry in this literary mystery about a struggling bookseller whose recently deceased grandfather, a famed mathematician, left behind a dangerous equation for her to track down—and protect—before others can get their hands on it. 

My Thoughts:
The Last Equation of Isaac Severy is a debut novel with a treasure hunt vibe whose premise sounds like Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. However, some Goodreads reviewers debunked the comparisons to The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry and Penumbra because the bookstore is apparently a minor plot point compared to the eccentric family and the math. They also said there is a lot going on in the beginning with the plot (to the point where some couldn’t make heads or tails of what was going on), but that things eventually clicked. 

What Book of the Month Club March 2018 selection(s) will I choose?

I’m going to choose Not That I Could Tell!

The premise sounds intriguing, it sounds like it could be a good candidate for my 2018 Summer Reading Guide and, most importantly, a blogger I trust (Amy at Read a Latte) gave it 5 stars.

Make your Book of the Month Club selections by Tuesday, March 6th.

What book will you choose this month?

This Month’s Special Deals

In addition to the five February selections, Book of the Month Club is offering one extra this month (which Book of the Month Club members can add to their boxes for only $9.99 each):

NEW MEMBER DEAL: Anyone who purchases a new BOTM subscription will get their first month free! Use code YESPLZ.

ANNUAL PAYMENT DEAL: BOTM is now a monthly subscription service. However, given that some members preferred paying upfront, they are now offering a 12-month option. Members who sign up for 12 months will pay $149.99/year. That’s $12.50/book, instead of the standard price of $14.99/month.

How to Join Book of the Month…

Book of the Month is a subscription service for people who like to try new books from a curated selection and like to read in hardcover format. Through Book of the Month, you can get a hardcover book for generally significantly less than you’d pay in a bookstore or through Amazon. And, you get to try something new that has been vetted by one of Book of the Month’s well-read judges!

Sign up for any of the subscription plans below and you get to choose one of five books selected by Book of the Month’s panel of judges (including a surprise guest judge). Book of the Month will then mail your chosen book to your house with a cute note. You also have the option to purchase additional books for $9.99 each and to skip a month if you want.

Sign up for a Book of the Month membership (NEW pricing below)!

New members will sign up for a membership that renews monthly:

A book of your choice for $14.99 / month
Add extra books to your shipment for $9.99 each
Skip any month you want
Free shipping, always

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February 2018 Monthly Round-Up

February 27, 2018 Monthly Round-Ups 28

February 2018 monthly round-up

Can you believe I got my Monthly Round-Up done by the end of the month?! I sure can’t…there’s a first for everything!

I didn’t read quite as many books this month (7 compared to 9 last month) and it was harder to pick a clear-cut winner (but I forced myself to!). I also didn’t finish a single audiobook this month (my current audiobook is 12 hours long and I’ve been listening to lots of podcasts lately).

On the personal front, I’ve been playing lots of tennis. It’s been fun and frustrating all at the same time (I’m super rusty and get really nervous during matches!). I’ve substituted some of my running with tennis and reducing the repeated pounding of regular running has been a good thing for my back and hip issues. And, turns out tennis can be quite a cardio workout!





  • Leave a note in the comments section or email me at to participate in my new “Readers Recommend” feature!
    I’m starting a new feature where regular blog readers (i.e. those of you who do not have your own book blogs) share some of their best book recommendations (again, thanks to the Reader Survey for this idea!) and I’d love your participation! All you have to do is answer a few book related questions via email. Email me or leave a note in the comments if you’re interested in participating!

February Quality and Recommendation Sources

Reading Quality (Jan-Feb 2018 Cumulative)

  • % Successful Books Attempted (includes DNF’s) = 52% (still above my 43% success rate from 2017)
  • % Successful Books Finished (does not include DNFs) = 87%

Successful Recommendation Sources

If you’re interested in tracking these types of stats, my “Rock Your Reading” Tracker does all the heavy lifting for you! Enter your book details and it automatically compiles everything into Summary Charts in real time! Go here for more details.

March Releases I’m Excited About

Bachelor Nation by Amy Kaufman (March 6)
Laura & Emma by Kate Greathead (March 13)
Tangerine by Christine Mangan (March 20)
Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen (March 20)

Most Popular Posts

Posts Actually Published in February
February 2018 Books to Read (and Skip)

12 Unconventional Love Stories for Readers Who Don’t Like Romance
Book of the Month February 2018 Selections: What Book Should You Choose?

Overall Posts
Book Club Recommendations
Behind Her Eyes and THAT Ending: Spoiler Discussion (#WTFthatending)
Am I the Only One Who Didn’t Love Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine?

Favorite Posts by Fellow Bloggers

I’m sorry for the light list this month…I honestly forgot to keep track of my favorite posts until the end of the month. I promise you’ll get a better list next month!

How was your reading month?

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What I’m Reading Now (2/26/18)

February 26, 2018 It's Monday! What are you reading? 21

I’m deep into reading my March releases and I have to say that they’re so far not living up to February’s books. But, that’s OK because I’m starting to dive into possible candidates for my 2018 Summer Reading Guide, which is one of my favorite features to put together every single year! In other news…

If you’re a Sarah’s Book Shelves reader who does not have your own blog, I’d love for you to participate in my new “Readers Recommend” feature!
In “Readers Recommend,” regular blog readers (i.e. those of you who do not have your own book blogs) will share some of their best book recommendations (again, thanks to the Reader Survey for this idea!). All you have to do is answer a few book related questions via email. Email me at or leave a note in the comments if you’d like to participate!

Hosted by The Book Date.
This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link).

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Follow me at sarahsbookshelves

If you’re a new follower, I love Pat Conroy…he’s my favorite author of all-time. If you’ve been around for awhile, I’m going to stain you about Pat Conroy yet again. I have a weakness for Southern literature, especially the dark kind, and Conroy was the master at it. The lowcountry is as much of a character as any of the actual people in his books and he brings its alluring beauty and its dark underbelly alive. ⠀ _⠀ ⠀ Here’s my dilemma. Now that Conroy is gone, I’ve been trying to find an author who writes in a similar style and I’ve come up empty. Do you have any recommendations for me?⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ #bookstagram #amreading #bookworm #instabooks #bookblogger #booklover #booklovers #booksofinstagram #bookgram #bookblogger #bookaddict #bookaddiction #patconroy #southernliterature #southernfiction ⠀

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I finished reading…

Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian

The Flight Attendant
 by Chris Bohjalian (March 13, 2018)
Bohjalian’s thrillers have been reliable standbys for me over the last few years, but things slipped a bit with this one. It was fine, but I didn’t like it as much as The Guest Room or The Sleepwalker. And, I definitely had some specific issues that I’ll share in an upcoming mini review. 

I’m currently reading…

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
 by Erika L. Sanchez (October 17, 2017)
I’m about halfway through this YA novel that was longlisted for the 2017 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature and, so far, I love the voice of Julia, but it did drag a bit through the second quarter. We’ll see how it wrap up.

I tried, but wasn’t feeling…

Girls Burn Brighter by Shobna Rao

Girls Burn Brighter
 by Shobha Rao (March 6, 2018)

Last week, I was 13% through this novel about female friendship in India and I was having trouble getting into the characters and my mind kept wandering. I haven’t picked it up since then and am now moving on. I’ve since heard it’s an incredibly brutal story and I don’t think I have that in me right now.

Upcoming reading plans…

Laura and Emma

Laura & Emma
 by Kate Greathead (March 13, 2018)
This debut novel is a mother/daughter story set in upper crust Manhattan and is apparently quirky and told in vignettes. Tyler Goodson, the manager of Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA and one of my newest Go-To Recommendation Sources gave it 5 stars.

was reading…

One Year Ago: I rated a couple books 5 stars that others didn’t love as much.

Two Years Ago: I was reading one of my favorite books of 2016!

How was your reading week?

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2018 Reader Survey Q&A

February 23, 2018 Community 14

2018 Sarah's Book Shelves Reader Survey Q&A

Welcome to Part 2 of the Sarah’s Book Shelves Reader Survey results! Yesterday, I shared all the results except your questions and comments in Part 1.

Many of you had great questions and comments for me in your survey responses. Since this survey is anonymous, I can’t respond to you directly, so I’m addressing any questions/comments that warranted a response here.

2018 Reader Survey Q&A

Q: At what point should you DNF a book if it isn’t interesting or going well to start with? I read to page 66-68 is that too short or too long?

A: There’s no hard and fast rule. I believe you should DNF a book when you realize you’re not interested in it. Personally, I give a book 25% if I’m undecided and will sometimes check Goodreads reviews or contact friends who have read already it to see if I should continue. I’ve DNF’d a book after reading only one page, at the 80% mark, and everywhere in between!

Q: I would love to see an audiobook list for people who listen while doing other activities. I am training for a half-marathon and am looking for audiobooks that are easy enough to follow when I tend to occasionally zone out. People who listen while doing chores and other activities would appreciate the list, too, I think. Thanks!

A: I totally understand your frustration…I feel the same way about audiobooks! And, I actually first tried them when training for a half-marathon as well! Kindred spirits. I found that nonfiction works better for me than fiction and lighter nonfiction works best. Here are some types of audiobooks that have worked well for me and my favorite audiobooks of 2017. I also enjoy listening to podcasts (and actually prefer them to audiobooks when working out).

Also, I’m getting more and more requests for audiobook content, so I’ll be sharing them in my weekly What I’m Reading Now posts as well as posting more frequent audiobook recommendation lists.

Q: Would like to see daily posts.

A: And, I’d love to give you daily posts! But, I have two young children and don’t have extra childcare to run this blog. I fit it in in my spare time. Unfortunately, this currently doesn’t allow for daily posts, but things could possibly change in the future!

Q: Children’s recommendation of the month.

A: Children’s books would be a whole new area to keep up with and it’s not where my true love of reading lies, so I won’t be adding children’s book coverage at this time. However, the blog Booking Mama hosts a weekly link-up where bloggers can share posts related to children’s literature that I recommend checking out for children’s book recommendations.

Q: I do not like chic lit, fluffy fiction, is there anyway to differentiate?

A: I tend to use the term “Brain Candy” when I’m talking about lighter fiction that many people refer to as “chick lit.” Steer clear of books I describe using that term! I’ll also start using the differentiators “Literary Fiction” and “Fiction – Brain Candy” in my genre labels; however, categorizing a book as lighter fiction is somewhat of a judgement call…it’s different for everyone!

Q: Enrolling in email has not worked for me. Also – talking about what constitutes “literary fiction” would be nice. I’ve seen you classify some things as more “literary” that I would classify as more “light” fiction…

A: I’m sorry you’ve had trouble signing up for the email list! Please email me at and I’m happy to manually sign you up.

To continue from the last question, classifying “literary” vs. “light” fiction is somewhat of a judgment call, so everyone won’t always agree on this point. Talking more about what I consider “literary” is a great idea for further discussion. I’d love it if you could email me (at some examples of books that I classified as “literary” that you considered “light” fiction and I can discuss them in a blog post.

Q: (1) I have a book club in real life, but might be fun to try an online/facebook book club with your readers. Give notice about a book and then pick a day when people will discuss/post on Facebook about it. Not sure it will work but might be worth a try and a way for your readers, who are all avid books readers I assume, to get to know each other.

(2) feature a readers recommend each week or month — guest post and/or just a recommendation from one of your readers for a book that you haven’t reviewed yet.

(3) weekly or monthly book recommendation based on reader request and parameters (similar to what NYT is doing now).

A: (1) I’ve heard from many of you that finding people to talk books with is one of your biggest reading problems. The good news is I will be starting a Facebook group for Sarah’s Book Shelves readers (as part of my forthcoming Patreon page) and will absolutely consider some sort of discussion around a particular book.

(2) I love this idea! Thanks for sharing and look out for something like this in the future.

(3) Another great idea! Let me noodle on it…

Q: I like when you promote other blogs. I’ll keep reading yours, don’t worry. I would like to find some more to read.

A: I love promoting other blogs and there are some awesome ones out there! In my monthly round-ups, I include some of my favorite posts of the month by fellow bloggers. I also share other bloggers’ content on social media, mostly on Twitter (follow me @SarahsShelves) and Pinterest (follow me here). I also have a new feature coming up that will spotlight favorite blogs: a quarterly review of my Go-To Book Recommendation Sources (many of which are my favorite bloggers).

In the meantime, here are some of my favorite book blogs:

Q: All the book blogs I’ve scanned and the few I follow seem to be directed at other bloggers. You all get ARCs, have your conversation and it’s over. By the time “just average readers” have read the book (those of us who have to wait for publication dates), the conversation has passed. Which is why I generally skip the Discussion posts. If it’s a book I’m interested in, there are probably spoilers.

A: I appreciate this feedback, especially since I discovered through this survey that less than 30% of my readers have their own blogs (so know that you’re in good company)! I’ll take this to heart moving forward.

I do try to post my book reviews on or after a book’s publication date, but you will see books pop up in my weekly What I’m Reading Now posts before their publication dates because I’m sharing what I’m reading in real time. This can be a good way to find books for your TBR list.

My regular book reviews and Read it, Skip it posts never, ever contain spoilers (I feel strongly about reviews that give too much of the plot away!), so you can feel comfortable reading those before you’ve read the book. If a post contains spoilers, it always has “Spoiler” in the post title.

Q: How would I know that a book is well written? With excellent language?

A: Such a great question and, unfortunately, a really hard one to answer! I think “well written” means something different for everyone. For me, it’s writing that speaks to me…and that’s usually simple, spare, hard-hitting prose. I’m not a fan of overly formal, flowery writing, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t “good” writing. It just means it doesn’t appeal to me! I’ll often say a book has “my kind of writing” and I wrote a whole post trying to figure out what that means.

Q: Could you add direct links to the different series you do? For example, I love your pairings of the alcohol and hangover (since that is such a true reading phenomenon) but it would be nice to be able to click on a link and access all the pairings.

A: Yes – great idea! I’ll get these up soon. And, I’m thrilled you love the Alcohol & Advil pairings!

Did any of your burning questions get answered here? Always feel free to email me with your questions, suggestions, and comments at

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