Podcast Episode 3: Susie from Novel Visits (Fiction Audiobook Recommendations)

January 16, 2019 Podcast 0

fiction audiobook recommendations

 

In Episode 3, I’m back to my regular format with Susie from the blog Novel Visits (one of my top recommendation sources!). Susie recently fell in love with audiobooks and, unlike me, listens to fiction on audio. Join us for her fiction audiobook recommendations!

This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link), through which I make a small commission when you make a purchase (at no cost to you!).

Highlights

  • Why listening to audiobooks is not cheating.
  • The sign you’re listening to a great audiobook.
  • The one book that really turned Susie on to audiobooks.
  • Susie’s favorite audiobook narrators (Julia Whelan, Cassandra Campbell, Therese Plummer).
  • Sarah’s all-time favorite audiobook (it’s a miracle…I am actually able to pick just one!).
  • Susie’s favorite apps to listen to audiobooks.
  • Sarah’s take on the problem with thrillers these days.

Susie’s Fiction Audiobook Recommendations

Two OLD Audiobooks She Loves

Two NEW Audiobooks She Loves

One Audiobook She Didn’t Love

One Upcoming Release She’s Excited About

Other Books Mentioned

Other Links

About Susie

Susie Boutry of Novel VisitsBlog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

I’ve loved reading for as long as I can remember. Some of my fondest childhood memories involve long afternoons at the library and then reading late into the night. More than ten years ago, I began journaling about the books I read and turned that passion into writing about books. My first forays were as a guest reviewer on a friend’s blog, but I soon realized I wanted to be reviewing and talking about books on a blog of my own. From there, Novel Visits was born. That was in 2016 and, though the learning curve was steep, I love being a part of the book community. Novel Visits focuses on new novel reviews (print and audio), previews of upcoming releases, and musings on all things bookish.

Next Week’s Episode

Tina from TBR, etc. (airing January 23)

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January 2019 Books to Read (and Skip)

January 15, 2019 Mini Book Reviews 12

January 2019 Books to Read

I’ve had a pretty good start to 2019 reading! But, it’s not what you’d normally expect from me. The books that worked for me were almost all brain candy and mysteries / thrillers! And, the two books that didn’t were both literary fiction…my usual go-to genre. I have no idea what’s going on with my reading, but I’m rolling with it.

Also, stay tuned for a Spoiler Discussion of An Anonymous Girl on Thursday!

Hosted by Modern Mrs. Darcy.
This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link).

Read These

An Anonymous GirlAn Anonymous Girl by Sarah Pekkanen and Greer Hendricks
Fiction – Mystery / Thriller (Release Date: January 8, 2019)
375 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (St. Martin’s Press)

Plot Summary: Jessica Farris signs up for a supposedly anonymous study only to find that Dr. Shields (the psychiatrist conducting the study) seems to be able to get into her head in a much deeper way than she imagined.

My Thoughts: I have an incredibly finicky relationship with psychological thrillers. But, I think I’m starting to figure out one element that can make me like them: having part of the story told from the perspective of a psychologist or psychiatrist. I like to dig into people’s minds and have always had a weird fascination with the brains of serial killers. So, psychological thrillers that are heavier on the psychological and lighter on the thriller tend to work for me. An Anonymous Girl fits this bill. It’s less reliant on action and outlandish plot twists…the suspenseful question is not what will happen, but who can you trust? The beginning of the story sucked me in in a creepy, unsettling way. There was a “WTF is going on” vibe (What exactly is this study about? What does Dr. Shields want with Jess?) and Dr. Shields, the psychiatrist in this story, gives off a Herman Koch vibe (especially like Dear Mr. M and Summer House with Swimming Pool). This book is a giant mindf*ck!

It’s all so proper and precise and insane.

Talk to Me by John KenneyTalk to Meby John Kenney
Fiction – Brain Candy (Release Date: January 15, 2019)
320 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (G.P. Putnam)

Plot Summary: When star news anchor Ted Grayson gets caught on video berating a female make-up artist, the media (including his own journalist daughter) attacks and Ted is forced to re-evaluate his entire life.

My Thoughts: Talk to Me is definitely Brain Candy, but it’s Brain Candy with substance (my very favorite type of Brain Candy). It’s a snarky story that’s ultimately about regret…taking place in today’s media world. Kenney’s commentary on today’s brand of journalism is spot-on and pokes fun at pretty much all parties involved. He skewers political correctness and those who don’t buy into political correctness, traditional news anchors and click-bait “news” websites…no one escapes unscathed. But, buried under all the snark is some actual heart. Ted’s struggle with his family (both wife and adult daughter) is sad, yet so common in today’s highly driven world. By the end, I felt bad for pretty much every character in the book (well, all except one side character). I also got a kick out of the quirky personalities in Ted’s newsroom…especially Murray, a Dwight Schrute-type who writes for Ted’s broadcast. My one complaint is that it dragged a bit through the third quarter. If you’re interested in stories about falls from grace, today’s media climate, and life regret, Talk to Me is for you.

How do you explain to people that after a while the money ($11 million a year) doesn’t matter, that houses don’t matter, the fame doesn’t matter? How do you explain to a nation that prizes those very things above almost all else? How do you say to your eight million viewers each evening, viewers who think you have a dream life, a dream wife, a perfect daughter, that you are a vapid, empty shell of a person with almost no real relationships and little to no integrity, that you’ve given up long ago on being a journalist?

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson WalkerThe Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker
Fiction – Literary (Release Date: January 15, 2019)
320 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Random House)

Plot Summary: A “sleeping sickness” (i.e. people fall asleep for long periods of time and have vivid dreams) befalls one floor of a college dorm in a small town in the California mountains (Santa Lora), but then begins to spread to the town, putting everyone on high alert.

My Thoughts: Many people raved about Walker’s debut novel, The Age of Miracles, but I missed that one. I’ll definitely be going back to it, though, because I almost 5 star loved The Dreamers! It’s like a more literary version of Megan Abbott’s The Fever (which I loved). The Dreamers is not a thriller by any means, but it still had me on the edge of my seat with incredible tension and suspense. Walker did a fantastic job conveying the fear that an epidemic of a never-before-seen disease can cause…and it reminded me of the early days of the AIDS epidemic when the general public didn’t know how it was transmitted, etc. This is a novel about fear, hysteria, isolation, and human behavior in the face of those things. And, I love her writing style…it’s simple, yet incredibly compelling, and sets a just slightly mystical mood (which is about all the mystical I can tolerate). The Dreamers has been compared to Station Eleven (my review) and I’d say the epidemic portion of the book is somewhat similar, but overall The Dreamers shines on its own. My only small complaint (and what made me rate it 4.5 rather than 5 stars) was a somewhat anti-climactic ending. This one has a shot at making my Best Books of 2019 list! 

This town, these neighbors walking their dogs on the streets – this does not look like a place where a plague is right now unfolding. You can draw a lot of comfort from the normalcy of others – if this thing were really spreading, would the neighbors be raking their lawns? Would the mailman be delivering catalogues?

The Suspect by Fiona BartonThe Suspectby Fiona Barton
Fiction – Mystery / Thriller (Release Date: January 22, 2019)
416 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Berkley Books)

Plot Summary: When two British girls go missing while backpacking in Thailand, journalist Kate Waters tries to piece together what happened to them. 

My Thoughts: Fiona Barton is a popular mystery writer (The Child and The Widow), but this is the first time I’ve read her books. Y’all know mysteries aren’t my usual reading fare and this one didn’t blow my mind, but I solidly enjoyed it (which is more than I can usually say about mysteries!). It’s more police procedural than thriller and it doesn’t try to play “gotcha” with anything outlandish…which I appreciate in a mystery or thriller. It’s just a solid story untangling what went wrong when two girls go missing while backpacking in Thailand. It explores the dynamics of foreigners traveling in Thailand and the Thai government’s philosophy of handling incidents involving foreigners (i.e. try to avoid needing the Thai police if you’re a foreigner traveling there). It reads quickly and I was interested in how it was all going to come together. This is the third book in the Kate Waters series, but I didn’t feel lost at all jumping in without having read the first two books. A compelling mystery and a perfect palate cleanser.

Everyone wants to know the truth. Except those who don’t. Those who stand to lose by it. I know that now.

The DNF’s

Sugar Run by Mesha MarenSugar Run by Mesha Maren (January 8, 2019)
DNF at 18%
I was really excited about this one…the premise seemed right up my alley. But, I ended up feeling really disconnected from the characters and felt like too large a percentage of the writing described scenery and surroundings rather than focused on the characters.

 

 

Talent by Juliet LapidosTalent by Juliet Lapidos (January 22, 2019)
DNF at 8%
I know, a quick DNF. There was just a bit too much navel-gazing and entirely too much pontificating about Pop Tarts (yes, really). And, I heard from someone who actually finished it that the Pop Tart pontificating continues throughout the whole novel. 

 

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January 2019 Books to Read

 

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What I’m Reading Now (1/14/19)

January 14, 2019 It's Monday! What are you reading? 10

I’m pretty much done with January books (although I will slide in one short memoir when it releases tomorrow) and it was a surprising reading month. The books that worked for me were not my usual fare. You’ll hear more in tomorrow’s January 2019 Books to Read (and Skip) post.

I’m excited to dig into February releases since there are a lot of books coming out in February that I’m excited about!

Podcast

Episode 2 of the Sarah’s Book Shelves Live podcast came out last week! Catherine of Gilmore Guide to Books and I share 18 books we’re excited about in our Winter 2019 Book Preview (more details here).

Episode 3, Fiction Audiobook Recommendations with Susie of Novel Visits, is coming on Wednesday!

New on the Blog

  • My Most Anticipated Books of Winter 2019 – includes lots of books I didn’t talk about on the podcast (and a few I did).
  • My 2018 Reading and Blogging Stats – including why I’m not setting a 2019 quantity goal and what goal I’m setting instead.
  • 2019 Rock Your Reading Tracker – I used my “Rock Your Reading Tracker” this year to track all my reading stats in real time and figure out who my best recommendation sources are…and, my reading QUALITY improved 42% from last year! The new and improved 2019 tracker is now available for $14.99…get more details here!

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This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link), through which I make a small commission when you make a purchase (at no cost to you!).

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Better late than never with my #bestnine2018! Is it really bizarre that only one of these posts is of actual books?! At least it’s my top post 😉 _ See those 2 podcasts posts in there?! Those make me happy because…in case you haven’t heard…I have a new podcast called Sarah’s Book Shelves Live! Episode 1 featuring bestselling author of #weweretheluckyones @georgiahunter is available now wherever you listen to podcasts! * * * * * #bookstagram #bookstagrammer #bookgram #amreading #bookworms #instabooks #instabook #booktalk #booklovers #booklover #bibliophile #biblio #bookaddict #bookaddiction #igreads #booksofinstagram #badassbookbabes #podcasts #bookpodcast #bookpodcasts #sarahsbookshelveslivepodcast

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I finished reading…

The Suspect by Fiona Barton

 

The Suspectby Fiona Barton (January 22, 2019)
A solid straight-up mystery partially set in Thailand. Mini review coming tomorrow.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

Talk to Me by John Kenney

 

Talk to Meby John Kenney (January 15, 2019)
I’m almost finished with this Brain Candy about a newscaster who falls from grace and it’s a fun meditation on today’s media climate. Smartly written and snarky. Mini review coming tomorrow.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I tried, but wasn’t feeling…

Sugar Run by Mesha Maren

 

Sugar Runby Mesha Maren (January 8, 2019)
DNF at 18%
I was really excited about this one…the premise seemed right up my alley. But, I ended up feeling really disconnected from the characters and felt like too large a percentage of the writing described scenery and surroundings rather than focused on the characters.

Upcoming reading plans…

Joy Enough

 

Joy Enoughby Sarah McColl (January 15, 2019)
Annie Jones from From the Front Porch podcast loved this memoir from a grown daughter caring for her mother who has cancer. And, I talked about it on my Winter 2019 Book Preview podcast episode.

was reading…

One Year Ago: I took a week off.

Two Years Ago: I was reading a string of dark books.

How was your reading week?

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My Most Anticipated Books of Winter 2019

January 10, 2019 Book Lists 11

Most Anticipated Books of Winter 2019

 

I always get so excited thinking about the first crop of books coming out in a new year…and planning (well, loosely planning) what I’m going to read! 

This year, I’m doing these quarterly posts a little differently since I now have a podcast! If you missed yesterday’s episode of the Sarah’s Book Shelves Live podcast (listen here), Catherine from Gilmore Guide to Books and I covered 18 books we’re excited about coming out this winter. I’m talking about 5 of them again in today’s blog post (noted by each book)…but, check out the podcast to hear about the rest! Just click on the time stamp link next to each book and it will take you right to the place in the podcast where we talk about that book.

Winter 2019 Releases I Covered in the Podcast 

January:

February:

March:

As always, my Most Anticipated Books of Winter 2019 list is mostly made up of books from trusted sources (to find your personal trusted recommendation sources, check out this post and free downloadable template) who, in as many cases as possible, have already read the book. I did not look at a single publisher’s catalog to create this list. I’m sharing the recommendation source for each book and will specify if that source has or has not read it yet.

I use my “Rock Your Reading” Tracker (available for purchase for $14.99), to keep an ongoing eye on my most trusted recommendation sources…and improved my reading success X% from last year!

This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link), through which I make a small commission when you make a purchase (at no cost to you!).

January

An Anonymous Girlby Sarah Pekkanen and Greer Hendricks (January 8, St. Martin’s Press)
I really liked this psychological thriller from the authors of The Wife Between Us (which I DNF’d)! It’s more psychological than thriller, which I loved…and the main question is “who can you trust?” rather than “what’s going to happen next?”. Stay tuned for my Spoiler Discussion (coming on January 17).

When Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr. Shields, she thinks all she’ll have to do is answer a few questions, collect her money, and leave. But as the questions grow more and more intense and invasive and the sessions become outings where Jess is told what to wear and how to act, she begins to feel as though Dr. Shields may know what she’s thinking…and what she’s hiding. As Jess’s paranoia grows, it becomes clear that she can no longer trust what in her life is real, and what is one of Dr. Shields’ manipulative experiments. Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read by ME, Jan Belisle (blog reader), Kaytee Cobb (co-host of the Currently Reading podcast), and December 2018 Book of the Month pick.

Inheritance by Dani Shapiro (January 15, Knopf)
I’ve been hearing about Dani Shapiro’s memoirs for awhile and finally decided to give her a try when Nicole Bonia said I’d “like her since I love Kelly Corrigan” on my recent guest appearance on The Readerly Report podcast (listen here!). That’s all you need to say to get me to immediately add a book to my TBR list! This one might be an audio listen for me.

The acclaimed and beloved author of Hourglass now gives us a new memoir about identity, paternity, and family secrets—a real-time exploration of the staggering discovery she recently made about her father, and her struggle to piece together the hidden story of her own life.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read by Anne Bogel at Modern Mrs. Darcy (Best Nonfiction of 2018 choice) and author (but not this book) recommended by Nicole Bonia (co-host of The Readerly Report podcast).

The Dreamersby Karen Thompson Walker (January 15, Random House)
Judging by early reviews, this might be one of the biggest books of the year! And, I loved it…I almost gave it 5 stars (it got 4.5 instead). It’s like a more literary The Fever (by Megan Abbott) and had me on the edge of my seat without feeling like a thriller.

A mesmerizing novel about a college town transformed by a strange illness that locks victims in a perpetual sleep and triggers life-altering dreams—by the bestselling author of The Age of Miracles, for fans of Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven and Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read and loved by ME, Annie Jones of From the Front Porch podcast, Susie at Novel VisitsKelly Massry, Jan Belisle (blog reader), Anne Bogel at Modern Mrs. Darcy (Best Fiction of 2018 choice), and Andrea at Born and Read in Chicago.

The Suspectby Fiona Barton (January 22, Berkley Books)
This is my first time reading Fiona Barton, author of popular British mysteries The Child and The Widow. I grabbed this galley on a whim, but I completely enjoyed this mystery! I loved that it was partially set in Thailand (a place I’ve always wanted to visit) and that it involved backpackers (something I did after college in Australia). And, I also loved that it was a solid mystery without trying to play gotcha.

When two eighteen-year-old girls go missing in Thailand, their families are thrust into the international spotlight: desperate, bereft, and frantic with worry. What were the girls up to before they disappeared?

Journalist Kate Waters always does everything she can to be first to the story, first with the exclusive, first to discover the truth–and this time is no exception. But she can’t help but think of her own son, whom she hasn’t seen in two years, since he left home to go traveling.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read by ME.

February

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas (February 5, Balzer & Bray)
Even though I don’t normally love YA, I loved Thomas’s debut novel, The Hate U Give. Plus, Jaclyn Crupi (a trusted recommendation source) said it’s even better than The Hate U Give.

Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighborhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But now that her mom has unexpectedly lost her job, food banks and shutoff notices are as much a part of Bri’s life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it.

Recommendation Source(s): Trusted author for me (not read) and already read by Jaclyn Crupi.

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray (February 19, Berkley Books)
Discussed on the podcast [26:47]
This debut novel has been compared to The Mothers and An American Marriage, both of which I absolutely loved. I sampled the first few pages of this novel and I wanted to drop everything and keep reading. The writing does remind me of Tayari Jones’s in An American Marriage.

The Butler family has had their share of trials—as sisters Althea, Viola, and Lillian can attest—but nothing prepared them for the literal trial that will upend their lives.

Althea, the eldest sister and substitute matriarch, is a force to be reckoned with and her younger sisters have alternately appreciated and chafed at her strong will. They are as stunned as the rest of the small community when she and her husband Proctor are arrested, and in a heartbeat the family goes from one of the most respected in town to utter disgrace. The worst part is, not even her sisters are sure exactly what happened.

Recommendation Source(s): Rebecca Schinsky on All the Books 2019 Preview podcast (not read).

Otherwise Engagedby Lindsey J. Palmer (February 26, Skyhorse)
Discussed on the podcast [13:56]
This one is smartly written brain candy! It’s sort of rom-com-esque, but it’s not cheesy at all. Palmer unpacks this premise far deeper than I expected.

Life is sweet for New Yorkers Molly and Gabe: They’re young, in love, and newly engaged.

But when Gabe sells his first novel—a thinly-veiled retelling of his wild love affair with ex-girlfriend Talia—and it becomes a national sensation, Molly can’t help but feel like the third wheel. To make matters worse, Talia reappears in Gabe’s life, eager to capitalize on the book’s success and to rekindle what she had with Gabe… at least, that’s how it seems to Molly. But even more concerning? Gabe doesn’t seem concerned at all. Instead, he’s delighting in his newfound fame and success.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read by ME and Ashley Spivey of Spivey’s Club Facebook Group.

The Lost Prince: A Search for Pat Conroy by Michael Mewshaw (February 26, Counterpoint)
Discussed on the podcast [30:09]
Y’all think I’m going to skip a book like this about Pat Conroy, my very favorite author?! No way…

Michael Mewshaw’s The Lost Prince is an intimate memoir of his friendship with Pat Conroy, one that involves their families and those days in Rome when they were both young—when Conroy went from being a popular regional writer to an international bestseller. Shortly before his forty-ninth birthday, Conroy telephoned Mewshaw to ask a terrible favor. With great reluctance, Mewshaw did as he was asked—and never saw Pat Conroy again. Although they never managed to reconcile their differences completely, Conroy later urged Mewshaw to write about “me and you and what happened . . . I know it would cause much pain to both of us. But, here is what that story has that none of your others have.” The Lost Prince is Mewshaw’s fulfillment of a promise.

Recommendation Source(s): Unsolicited from the publisher…not read.

March

So, Here’s the Thing: Notes on Growing Up, Getting Older, and Trusting Your Gut by Alyssa Mastromonaco (March 5, Twelve)
Discussed on the podcast [34:36]
I loved Mastromonaco’s memoir about her time as Obama’s Deputy Chief of Staff…it was fun, funny, relatable, and felt like you were hearing stories about your girlfriend’s very cool job over a glass of wine. I listened to it on audio (read by the author) and will likely listen to this one on audio as well.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? comes a fun, frank book of reflections, essays, and interviews on topics important to young women, ranging from politics and career to motherhood, sisterhood, and making and sustaining relationships of all kinds in the age of social media.

Recommendation Source(s): Trusted author (not read).

Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson (March 5, William Morrow)
I recently read and thoroughly enjoyed Swanson’s backlist thriller, The Kind Worth Killing, on the recommendation of Ashley Spivey of Spivey’s Club Facebook Group.

Catching a killer is dangerous—especially if he lives next door.
From the hugely talented author of The Kind Worth Killing comes an exquisitely chilling tale of a young suburban wife with a history of psychological instability whose fears about her new neighbor could lead them both to murder . . .

Recommendation Source(s): Trusted author.

Look How Happy I’m Making You: Stories by Polly Rosenwaike (March 19, Doubleday)
Candid stories about motherhood? I’m not sure I can think of anything that’s more up my alley at the moment. Plus, Tyler Goodson (one of my top recommendation sources) rated it 5 stars!

A candid, ultimately buoyant debut story collection about the realities of the “baby years,” whether you’re having one or not.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read by Tyler Goodson (manager at Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA).

White Elephant by Julie Langsdorf (March 26) (March 19, Ecco Books)
Discussed on the podcast [39:27]
I love a good neighborhood drama…hopefully with spot-on social commentary. Plus, this debut was blurbed by Meg Wolitzer and Cristina Alger (author of The Banker’s Wife).

The White Elephant looms large over the quaint suburban town of Willard Park: a gaudy, newly constructed behemoth of a home, it soars over the neighborhood, dwarfing the houses that surround it. When owner Nick Cox cuts down Allison and Ted Millers’ precious red maple—in an effort to make his unsightly property more appealing to buyers—their once serene town becomes a battleground.

While tensions between Ted and Nick escalate, other dysfunctions abound: Allison finds herself compulsively drawn to the man who is threatening to upend her quietly organized life. A lawyer with a pot habit and a serious midlife crisis skirts his responsibilities. And in a quest for popularity, a teenage girl gets caught up in a not-so-harmless prank. Newcomers and longtime residents alike begin to clash in conflicting pursuits of the American Dream, with trees mysteriously uprooted, fires set, fingers pointed, and lines drawn.

Recommendation Source(s): Publisher’s Weekly March Preview (not read).

*All book summaries (in block quotes) are from Goodreads (edited for length).

What Winter 2019 books are you looking forward to?

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Podcast Episode 2: Winter 2019 Book Preview (with Catherine of Gilmore Guide to Books)

January 9, 2019 Podcast 2

winter 2019 book preview

 

Welcome to a special episode of the Sarah’s Book Shelves Live podcast…Winter 2019 Book Preview with Catherine of Gilmore Guide to Books!

Catherine and I share our most anticipated books coming out in January, February, and March of 2019.

Also, stay tuned for my Most Anticipated Books of Winter 2019 blog post, which is coming out tomorrow. I’ll share some of the books I talked about in this podcast, but also many that I didn’t!

This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link), through which I make a small commission when you make a purchase (at no cost to you!).

Highlights

  • The similarities and differences between Catherine’s and my reading taste.
  • How Catherine and I choose which books to read.
  • Why we need Brain Candy in our reading.
  • How well do you want to know the author behind the work?

Winter 2019 Book Preview

January

Sarah’s Picks:

Catherine’s Picks:

February

Sarah’s Picks:

Catherine’s Picks:

March

Sarah’s Picks:

Catherine’s Picks:

Other Books Mentioned

Other Links

About Catherine Gilmore

catherine gilmoreBlog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Catherine started The Gilmore Guide to Books over 6 years ago after wrapping up a career as a corporate librarian. She loves books and reading (surprise!) and currently lives in Seattle.

Next Week’s Episode

Fiction Audiobook Recommendations with Susie from Novel Visits (airing January 16)

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What Winter 2019 books are you most excited to read?

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My 2018 Reading and Blogging Stats

January 8, 2019 Stats 13

2018 Reading Stats

I’m a little late with these stats…because I’ve been working hard on getting the podcast ready for launch (it launched last week, check out Episode 1 with Georgia Hunter if you haven’t already!). But, better late than never. And, putting this post together was a breeze compared to last year because my Rock Your Reading Tracker had been automatically compiling these stats for me throughout the year (it’s available for purchase for $14.99 here).

  • Though I didn’t reach my 2018 reading goal, I’m incredibly happy with my reading year!
  • I loved way more of the books I read than I did last year (as the numbers show below) and, when it came time to put together my Best Books of 2018 list, I had a number of contenders for the top spot (I settled on Waiting for Eden).
  • As many of you know, I totally changed the way I picked books this year…moving from publisher’s catalogs and traditional media’s “most anticipated books of the year” lists to tracking my best and worst recommendation sources and trying to read books those people had already vetted…and it worked!
  • My successful books attempted increased by almost 50% over last year!

Let’s dig into the numbers…

Reading Stats

2018 Quantity Goal

For the first time ever, I fell 4 books shy of my reading goal of 100 books…and I didn’t care at all. When December rolled around, I gravitated towards some backlist books I’d been really excited to read that, while not overly long, were not the borderline novella type of books you normally try to pack in to reach your reading goal. I also started a 26 hour audiobook (Helter Skelter) in mid-December. And, I loved my December reading…I wouldn’t change any of it just to reach my reading goal.

2018 Quality Goal (% Successful Books)

I personally view a “successful” book as a 3.5 rating or higher. 64% (83 of 130 books attempted, which includes DNFs) of my 2018 books were “successful.” Last year, this number was 43% and my goal for 2018 was to break 50%…so, yay!

This year, I also tracked my % of Successful Books I Finished which removes the DNF’s from the equation…and ended up with 86% successful books finished! 

My 2019 Goal

Y’all, I’m not setting a quantity goal for 2019. Yep, that means no little counter thing to monitor on Goodreads. I want to focus solely on a quality goal, which will be 65% Successful Books Attempted and 85% Successful Books Read. Why am I exiting the Goodreads goal race? Because I was totally satisfied with my 2018 reading year despite not achieving my Goodreads quantity goal! I’ll still track how many books I read…I just won’t be pushing for a specific target.

Genres

The only real change in my genre breakdown from last year is that I read slightly more general fiction and slightly less nonfiction than last year. That makes sense because I listen to a lot of my nonfiction on audio and my audiobook listening fell in 2018, mostly due to my podcast listening (more details on that below). Historical Fiction, Mysteries / Thrillers, YA, and Short Stories all stayed consistent compared to last year.

Audiobooks

I listened to 21 audiobooks this year, 22% of my overall reading. This is down from 26% last year…I think because I started listening to even more podcasts this year. 

Backlist

I read 25 backlist books (26% of my reading) this year…down from 32 last year. I usually listen to a lot of my backlist books on audio, so it doesn’t surprise me that my backlist books are down since my audiobook listening was down.

Debuts

I read 31 debuts…32% of my overall reading. I love debuts, so I’m not surprised at this number.

DNF’s

Y’all know I’m not afraid to DNF a book I’m not enjoying (life is too short and John Irving says it’s OK!). I DNF’d 34 books in 2018…28% of the books I attempted to read. I didn’t track this number last year, so I don’t have anything to compare it too, but I’ll be interested to see how 2019 stacks up.

Publishers / Imprints

  • Knopf,  after falling to the #3 spot last year, is back on top as my most successful publisher! Now…if they would only approve me for galleys on Netgalley and Edelweiss!
  • Simon & Schuster held it’s same spot from last year.
  • Random House was my runaway favorite imprint last year, but dropped to third place this year.
  • Last year, I had 9 publishers in the top 3 spots (via ties). This year, the top spots were much more centralized. BUT, this year, I read way more successful books from smaller publishers and I read from a lot more publishers than last year (i.e. I read at least one successful book from 38 different publishers this year).

Longest Book Read

Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris (707 pages)…which I read in little snippets over the course of months! 

Shortest Book Read

Heating & Cooling by Beth Ann Fennelly (111 pages)…a gem of a memoir!

Diversity Stats

I don’t set particular diversity goals, but I am interested in seeing where my reading naturally falls…

78% of my 2018 reading was by female authors (up from 73% last year) and 80% of my Best Books of 2018 were by female authors.

11% of my 2018 reading was by POC authors, compared to 15% last year.

Blog Traffic Stats

For the second year in a row, I focused on continuing to build my Pinterest presence (it’s my #1 social media traffic source, but my traffic from it fell 22% this year), growing my email subscriber list (which more than doubled in 2018), and spending more time on Instagram (more than doubled my followers in 2018). And, I’ll continue to focus on these three social media sources in 2019.

This was the first full year I’ve focused much on Instagram. It’s hard for me (despite loving the #bookstagram community) because I read almost exclusively on my Kindle, so I don’t have lots of pretty hardcovers to photograph. But, I’m working on it. Last year, I said Instagram “doesn’t directly drive a lot of traffic to my blog” and I’m happy to say that changed this year…with my blog traffic from Instagram increasing 825% from last year. 

But, organic search traffic is still king!

Overall Traffic Source Comparison (Sessions):

Top 5 Sources 2018
% Traffic
2017
% Traffic
Google Organic Search 48% 43%
Pinterest 14% 21%
Direct 13% 12%
MadMimi Email 11% 5%
Facebook Mobile 3% 2%
Instagram 1% N/A

Social Media Network Traffic Source Comparison (Sessions): 

Top Networks 2018
% Traffic
2017
% Traffic
2016
% Traffic
Pinterest 74% 79% 69%
Facebook 15% 10% 17%
Twitter 6%  7%  8%
Instagram  5% N/A N/A

Social Media Growth Over 2017: 

Network % Increase in Followers % Increase in Traffic
Twitter  11%  576%
Facebook  21%  38%
Pinterest  156%  (22%)
Email Subscribers  130%  150%
Instagram  125%  825%

Blog Stats

Key Takeaways

  • Most of my top blog posts were not written in 2018.
  • For the third year in a row, “Sticky content” (i.e. recommendation lists like Book Club Recommendations and Page Turner Books) performed well via Google Search and Pinterest. These pages reside in my main menu and are constantly updated with new books.
  • My Book of the Month commentary posts were in the top 10 every single month, which I’m glad to see because they’re a lot of work in a short time period!
  • 3 of my best performing book reviews are of really popular books that I didn’t love. Where the Crawdads Sing and We Were the Lucky Ones, both books I did love, got boosts from special events (Reese Witherspoon picking Crawdads for her book club and the paperback release of We Were the Lucky Ones).

Pageviews / Unique Visitors

My traffic’s growth was much slower this year than last year (last year, pageviews grew 70% from 2016 and unique visitors grew 57%).

  • Pageviews increased 17% over 2017. 
  • Unique Visitors increased 7% over 2017. 
  • My best months (by pageviews) were July, May, and January (in that order). This is interesting because it’s completely different than last year. Last year, I had a post go viral on Pinterest in February and then October and November unsurprisingly performed well. The Fall (when many big books are published) wasn’t as great for me this year…while the summer improved considerably.

Best Performing Posts/Pages of 2018

Y’all, only one of these posts was actually written in 2018. Not good.

Best Performing Book Reviews of 2018 (all mostly Google search)

What interesting things did you learn from your reading and blogging stats? Who were your most successful recommendation sources?

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What I’m Reading Now (1/7/19)

January 7, 2019 It's Monday! What are you reading? 15

Well, holiday break is finally over and the kids are finally back in school. I’m not sure why, but the break felt endless this year and the kids were super restless by the end of it. I’m glad to be back in our regular routine for sure.

As for my recent reading, I’m 3 for 3 on 2019 releases so far! I’ll take this success rate any day! More on my 2019 reading goals coming in tomorrow’s 2018 Reading and Blogging Stats post!

Podcast

The first full length episode of the Sarah’s Book Shelves Live podcast came out last week! Bestselling author Georgia Hunter (We Were the Lucky Ones) talks (mostly) historical fiction book recommendations, her novels’ impact on her life and family, and behind-the-scenes of book tour (more details here).

Episode 2, Winter 2019 Book Preview with Catherine of Gilmore Guide to Books (special episode departing from our regular format), is coming on Wednesday!

New on the Blog

  • 2019 Rock Your Reading Tracker – I used my “Rock Your Reading Tracker” this year to track all my reading stats in real time and figure out who my best recommendation sources are…and, my reading QUALITY improved 42% from last year! The new and improved 2019 tracker is now available for $14.99…get more details here!

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This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link), through which I make a small commission when you make a purchase (at no cost to you!).

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The verdict is in! I read 96 books in 2018, which was 4 shy of my goal of 100. Do I care that I missed my goal? Not at all, which I’ll get back to in a second. The numbers I’m more focused on are the 64% and 86%. Of all the books I ATTEMPTED to read, 64% of them were “successful” (3.5 stars or better for me). Of all the books I FINISHED, 86% were successful! I’ll take that any day…because who has time to read books you don’t like?! Bottom line, I feel like 2018 was a great reading year for me, despite not hitting my quantity goal. Compared to 2017, when I blew past my quantity reading goal, yet felt really blah about my reading year. _ So, all this has led me to NOT set a reading quantity goal for 2019…and stick to quality goals. Because I’d rather feel satisfied with my reading than be able to say I read a certain number of books! Don’t worry, I’ll still track how many books I read in 2019…I just won’t set a target because I don’t want said target to influence my reading decisions…especially in December. _ PS – I track all this in my Rock Your Reading Tracker (screenshot in image). It tracks tons of reading stats and automatically compiles then into pretty summary charts in real time. This enables you to keep tabs on your reading as you go and make adjustments along the way. Because why wait until you tally your stats at the end of the year to learn some things that could drastically improve your reading life?! My tracker is available for purchase for $14.99. LINK IN PROFILE _ Did you achieve your 2018 reading goals? And, what goals are you setting for 2019? * * * * * #bookstagram #bookstagrammer #bookgram #amreading #bookworms #instabooks #instabook #booktalk #booklovers #booklover #bibliophile #biblio #bookaddict #bookaddiction #igreads #booksofinstagram #badassbookbabes #readingtracker #readinggoal #readinggoals2019

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I finished reading…

what I'm reading now

 

The Dreamersby Karen Thompson Walker (January 15, 2019)
Loved this one (like everyone else seems to!)…except I thought the ending was a touch anti-climactic. 4.5 stars. Mini review to come.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Otherwise Engagedby Lindsey J. Palmer (February 26, 2019)
Smartly written Brain Candy that has more layers to it than you’d expect! Mini review to come (in February, though, as the publication date for this book has been pushed back. 

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

The Suspect by Fiona Barton

 

The Suspectby Fiona Barton (January 22, 2019)
We’re only a week into January and I’m already on my second mystery / thriller of 2019…what has come over me?! I’ve never read Barton before, but I’m about halfway through The Suspect and am enjoying it! Two British girls go backpacking in Thailand for their gap year and go missing…the story goes from there. So far, it’s more mystery than thriller…
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I tried, but wasn’t feeling…

Talent by Juliet Lapidos

 

Talentby Juliet Lapidos (January 22, 2019)
I made it a whopping 8% into this debut novel…a bit too much navel-gazing and entirely too much pontificating about Pop Tarts (yes, really). Also, Susie at Novel Visits had already finished it and didn’t love it, so I was confident quitting early if it didn’t grab me. 

Upcoming reading plans…

Sugar Run by Mesha Maren

 

Sugar Runby Mesha Maren (January 8, 2019)
This gritty, Southern fiction about a woman who goes to prison at age 17 for manslaughter…and tries to make a go of it in a small, West Virginia town with her female partner after her release was blurbed by Lauren Groff. I talk more about this book on the Winter 2019 Book Preview podcast, coming out on Wednesday!

was reading…

One Year Ago: I was just starting my 2018 releases and they weren’t off to a great start.

Two Years Ago: I read the last Chris Bohjalian thriller I liked.

How was your reading week?

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December 2018 Monthly Round-Up

January 3, 2019 Monthly Round-Ups 13

December 2018 Monthly Round-Up
This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link), through which I make a small commission when you make a purchase (at no cost to you!).

I hope you’re relaxing after the holiday chaos…I’m trying to! I didn’t do a Monthly Round-Up last month since I was participating in Nonfiction November (instead, I posted my Nonfiction November Mini Reviews), but I’m back! However, this may be the last monthly round-up for awhile. My workload has drastically increased with the podcast (more details below), so I’m going to be making some changes. I’m thinking these monthly posts might be the first thing to go…they take a long time to write and don’t get that much traffic. Speak up in the comments if you have strong feelings about this!

I read 7 books this month…which is low for me, but there was lots of holiday chaos and I spent a lot of my reading time getting the podcast ready to launch. I also decided to listen to Helter Skelter, the book about the Manson murders, which is 26 hours long, so that sucked up many of my audiobook hours (and I still have 15 hours to go!).

I always spend most of December reading backlist books (which I don’t get to very much during the year) and this year’s crop was excellent! 

Winners

DNF’s

Best-Selling Book (via my affiliate links)

Announcements

  • Sarah’s Book Shelves has a podcast! I’ll be talking with a bookish guest every week and books he/she recommends. Episode 1 (with Georgia Hunter, bestselling author of We Were the Lucky Ones) is now live wherever you listen to podcasts!
  • The New and Improved 2019 Rock Your Reading Tracker is now available for $14.99! I’ve made lots of improvements from last year’s tracker…check out more details here.
  • Personalized Book Recommendations and the Superstars Facebook Group are available to anyone who supports Sarah’s Book Shelves on Patreon!

December Quality and Recommendation Sources

Reading Quality

December 2018

  • % Successful Books Attempted (includes DNF’s) = 86%
  • % Successful Books Finished (does not include DNFs) = 100%

2018 Full Year

  • % Successful Books Attempted (includes DNF’s) = 64% (way above my 43% success rate from 2017!)
  • % Successful Books Finished (does not include DNFs) = 86%

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.

Most Popular Posts

Posts Actually Published in December
Eight 2018 Books That Deserved the Hype…and Five That Didn’t
Book of the Month December 2018: What Book Should You Choose?
Best Books of 2018

Overall Posts
Book Club Recommendations
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Behind Her Eyes and THAT Ending: Spoiler Discussion (#WTFthatending)

Best Books of 2018 Lists by Fellow Bloggers / Podcasters

Most Anticipated Books of 2019 Lists

How was your reading month?

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Podcast Episode 1: Georgia Hunter (Mostly Historical Fiction Recommendations)

January 2, 2019 Podcast 2

Georgia Hunter

 

Welcome to the very first episode of the Sarah’s Book Shelves Live podcast!

In this episode, bestselling author of We Were the Lucky Ones, Georgia Hunter, joins me to share her (mostly) historical fiction book recommendations, talk about the impact her novel had on her life and her family, and go behind-the-scenes of her recent book tour!

Highlights

  • Georgia’s discovery at age 15 that she was ¼ Jewish and that her grandparents’ were Holocaust survivors…and then, recently discovering that she’s actually ⅓ Jewish.
  • Georgia’s grandparents’ decision to put the past behind them and not talk about their experience in the war.
  • Georgia’s family’s reaction to having huge gaps in their personal histories filled through her research. 
  • Georgia is beginning work on a sophomore novel!
  • What it’s like to blurb another author’s book (and her approach to writing blurbs).
  • An All the Light We Cannot See read-alike.
  • Georgia’s book she didn’t love is one I recommended!
  • Two of Georgia’s historical fiction recommendations are books she blurbed!

Georgia Hunter’s (Mostly) Historical Fiction Recommendations

Two OLD Books She Loves

Two NEW Books She Loves

One Book She Didn’t Love

One Upcoming Release She’s Excited About

Other Books Mentioned

Other Links

About Georgia Hunter

Georgia Hunter, We Were the Lucky OnesAuthor Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved to write. I penned my first “novel” when I was four years old, and titled it Charlie Walks the Beast after my father’s recently published sci-fi novel, Softly Walks the Beast. When I was eleven, I pitched an article—an Opinion piece on how I’d spend my last day if the world were about to come to an end—to the local newspaper. Since that debut in the Attleboro Sun Chronicle, my personal essays and photos have been featured in places like the New York Times “Why We Travel,” in travelgirl magazine, and on Equitrekking.com. I’ve also taken on the role of freelance copywriter in the world of adventure travel, crafting marketing materials for outfitters such as Austin Adventures and The Explorer’s Passage.

In 2000, a family reunion opened my eyes to the astounding war stories of my grandfather and his family. Eight years later, armed with a digital voice recorder and a moleskin notebook, I set off to unearth and record my family’s story. I spent nearly a decade traversing the globe, interviewing family and digging up records from every possible source I could think of, eventually piecing together the bones of what would become my novel, We Were the Lucky Ones.

Next Week’s Episode

Special Episode
Winter 2019 New Release Preview with Catherine of Gilmore Guide to Books (airing January 9)

Support the Podcast

  • Share
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    Search for “Sarah’s Book Shelves” in Apple Podcasts…or wherever you listen to podcasts!

 

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  • Feedback
    I want this podcast to fit what you’re looking for, so I truly do want your feedback! Please tell me (email me at sarahsbookshelves@gmail.com or DM me on social media) what you like, don’t like, want more of, want less of, etc. I’d also love to hear topics you’d like me to cover and guests you’d like to hear from.

Have you read any of the books Georgia recommended (or didn’t recommend!)? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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What I’m Reading Now (12/31/18)

December 31, 2018 It's Monday! What are you reading? 14

Welcome to the last Monday update post of 2018! And, it’s been an awesome reading year for me even though I didn’t meet my Goodreads goal of 100 books (I came close). More on that in next week’s End-of-Year Reading Stats post. But, know that I’ll be changing up my goals for 2019 based on what I learned this year.

As for my recent reading, I’ve started on 2019 releases and I’m 2 for 2 so far! I’ll take this success rate any day!

Podcast

Only 2 days until the first full length episode of the Sarah’s Book Shelves Live podcast! Episode 1 featuring bestselling author Georgia Hunter (We Were the Lucky Ones) will launch on Wednesday, January 2, but you can listen to a trailer NOW anywhere you listen to podcasts! More details here!

New on the Blog

Hosted by The Book Date.
This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link), through which I make a small commission when you make a purchase (at no cost to you!).

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Have you listened to the trailer for my new book podcast yet?! Turn on your volume to hear a short clip… _ Regular episodes (with bestselling author @georgiahunter as my first guest!) will start airing on Wednesday, January 2, but you can hear the full 5 minute trailer NOW wherever you listen to podcasts (link in profile)! _ If you like the trailer, I’d love it if you could subscribe, rate, and review the show wherever you listen to podcasts! As a newbie, this will help the show a ton! And, sharing it with your reader friends and on social media won’t hurt either 😉 * * * * * #bookstagram #bookstagrammer #bookgram #amreading #bookworms #instabooks #instabook #booktalk #booklovers #booklover #bibliophile #biblio #bookaddict #bookaddiction #igreads #booksofinstagram #badassbookbabes #podcasts #bookpodcast #bookpodcasts #sarahsbookshelveslivepodcast @novelvisits

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I finished reading…

An Anonymous Girl

 

An Anonymous Girlby Sarah Pekkanen and Greer Hendricks (January 8, 2019)
Hooray! A rare thriller I actually liked! Especially a nice surprise since I DNF’d The Wife Between Us (Pekkanen and Greer’s debut novel). This one is a mind-f*ck rather than relying on outrageous plot twist. Spoiler discussion to come.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

The Dreamers

 

The Dreamersby Karen Thompson Walker (January 15, 2019)
Y’all, I’m loving this book! It’s like a more literary The Fever (by Megan Abbott) and has me on the edge of my seat without feeling like a thriller. I’m about 75% through.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Upcoming reading plans…

Otherwise Engaged

 

Otherwise Engagedby Lindsey J. Palmer (January 15, 2019)
I’m always on the hunt for smartly written Brain Candy and Ashley Spivey (of #SpiveysClub Facebook Group) loved this novel about an engaged couple in NYC. Gabe publishes a thinly veiled novel about his steamy relationship with his ex-girlfriend…and she of course re-enters the picture. 

was reading…

One Year Ago: It was New Year’s Day.

Two Years Ago: I’d read some great backlist books.

How was your reading week?

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