September 2016 Monthly Round-Up

September 30, 2016 Monthly Round-Ups 11

September 2016 Monthly Round-Up

September Reading / Life

  • I gotta tell ya, I’m thrilled September is over! While September weather is my favorite, all this back-to-school rigamarole is definitely not. I know I sound like a broken record, but it did impact my reading.
  • September was the month of nonfiction for me! And I’m shocked since I was so excited for all the Fall fiction coming out in September. I read two 5 star memoirs in a row (When Breath Becomes Air, Hillbilly Elegy) and thoroughly enjoyed Originals on audio. The only nonfiction that didn’t work for me was The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts.
  • Sadly, I didn’t have a single fiction success this month (The Trouble With Goats and Sheep, A Gentleman in Moscow, and Cruel Beautiful World). 
  • I joined Litsy and like it far more than I thought I would. Plus, I think it’s going to be a great place for me to review audiobooks, which I don’t currently review on my blog or on GoodreadsFollow me at sarahsbookshelves!

Best Book(s) of the Month

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (June 28, 2016)
Nonfiction – Memoir, 272 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (January 19, 2016)
Nonfiction – Memoir, 208 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

October Releases I’m Excited About

The Mothers, Hungry Heart, Boat Rocker


The Mothers
 by Brit Bennett (October 11)

Hungry Heart by Jennifer Weiner (October 11)
The Boat Rocker by Ha Jin (October 25)

Top Backlist Books on my “To Be Read” List

Nobody’s Fool by Richard Russo
The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Most Popular September Posts

Koch’s Distinct Style Makes Dear Mr. M A Winner, Despite Plot Inconsistencies
Ten Authors Who Should Host A Podcast
The Best of the Brain Candy: Books That Are Light AND Smart

Favorite Posts by Fellow Bloggers

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Library Checkout: August – September 2016

September 29, 2016 Library Checkout 14

Library Checkout


After not using the library too much in August, multiple holds coming in at the same in September changed all my reading plans for the month!

Library Books Read

Barbarian Days by William Finnegan (Audio cheat*, DNF) 
Hillbilly Elegy
by J.D. Vance
Love, Loss, and What We Ate
by Padma Lakshmi (Audio cheat*)
Originals by Adam M. Grant (Audio cheat*)
The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts by Laura Tillman
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Checked Out, To Be Read

None

Returned Unread

Bright, Precious Days by Jay McInerney (because the format wasn’t compatible with Kindle)
Commonwealth
 by Ann Patchett (because I ended up buying the e-book before my hold came in)

Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer

On Hold

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
 
*Audio cheat is when I check out an e-book from the library to get the discounted audiobook price from Audible (an amazing tip I learned from Kathy at Kathy Reads Fiction). So, I’m not actually reading the e-book from the library, but listening to the audio version.
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A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles: On Appreciating, Yet Not Loving a Book

September 27, 2016 Historical Fiction 27

A Gentleman in MoscowFiction
Released September 6, 2016
448 Pages
Bottom Line: Skip it…unless you have big chunks of quiet time.
Affiliate Link: Amazon
Source: Purchased (published by Viking)

Headline

Though I appreciated A Gentleman in Moscow on an intellectual level, the formal writing style kept me from being able to connect with it emotionally.

Plot Summary

In 1920’s Moscow, Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced by the Bolsheviks to “house arrest” in the illustrious Metropol Hotel, where he essentially holds court and observes his country’s evolution.

Why I Read It

I loved Towles’ previous novel, Rules of Civility, and some of my trusted blogger friends gave his latest 5 stars.

Major Themes

Communism, Russia, making the most out of the life you have

What I Liked

  • The Count is an utterly delightful character. Though he’s been a gentleman of leisure his entire life, he adjusts cleverly to living in a tiny attic room (albeit in a grand hotel) and losing all freedom outside of the hotel walls. It’s almost like he’s an adult Eloise in the way he becomes more and more a fixture of the hotel.
  • The Metropol Hotel becomes a microcosm of everything that’s going on in Russia…and the Count is able to get a sense of the sweeping political changes through small changes inside the hotel. For example, an elaborate ticket system appears in the hotel’s restaurant, where each order has to be recorded in numerous places with numerous people, illuminating the crushing bureaucracy of Communism.
  • The Count’s observations on life and history made me smile and chuckle throughout.

In Russia, whatever the endeavor, if the setting is glorious and the tenor grandiose, it will have its adherents. In fact, over the years, as the locations for duels became more picturesque and the pistols more finely manufactured, the best-bred men proved willing to defend their honor over lesser and lesser offenses. So while dueling may have begun as a response to high crimes—to treachery, treason, and adultery—by 1900 it had tiptoed down the stairs of reason, until they were being fought over the tilt of a hat, the duration of a glance, or the placement of a comma.

  • This story is a masterpiece of cleverly woven details. You’ll see a split second reference to something you read about in more detail 100 pages earlier. And, the ending is like a carefully orchestrated symphony…intricate and surprising, yet every detail making sense.
  • I loved the subversive tone that poked fun of the Bolsheviks and, later, Stalin’s communism.

What I Didn’t Like

  • Despite everything I just said, I wasn’t as enamored with A Gentleman in Moscow as I expected to be…and as others are (Gilmore Guide to Books, The Book Wheel). While I appreciate its beauty, it failed to connect with me on some emotional level. I had trouble concentrating and kept zoning in and out (admittedly, this could be because of the back-to-school chaos that was going on while I was reading it). I just couldn’t ever fully immerse myself in this story, which kept me from being able to love it.
  • This is the type of book that you should curl up with in peace and that doesn’t fit well into my life right now. Particularly not in the first few weeks of September with young children!
  • The writing is exquisite, but very formal. This makes sense as the Count is a formal character, but I prefer a more casual style. This, in a nutshell, is the overwhelming reason I had trouble with this book.
  • The story often veered off on tangents that pulled me out of the story and the Count does an inordinate amount of pontificating (about wine, prime numbers, American movies, etc), which is sometimes fascinating (see the above quote about duels), but often boring.
  • Finally, I felt like I was reading it forever…which is not usually a good sign.

A Defining Quote

Nina had not contented herself with the views from the upper decks. She had gone below. Behind. Around. About. In the time that Nina had been in the hotel, the walls had not grown inward, they had grown outward, expanding in scope and intricacy. In her first weeks, the building had grown to encompass the life of two city blocks. In her first months, it had grown to encompass half of Moscow. If she lived in the hotel long enough, it would encompass all of Russia.

Good for People Who Like…

Historical fiction, social commentary, delightful characters, Russia, Communism, gorgeous writing

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It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? (9/26/16)

September 26, 2016 It's Monday! What are you reading? 36

Hosted by The Book Date.

Things have been crazy at my house since school started (see this absolutely perfect article), but my son finally started full days last week, so we’re finally settling into the permanent routine. I’m taking a break from racing this Fall after feeling tired and burned out after my last triathlon, Instead, I picked up tennis for the first time in years. I played in high school, but haven’t really since and it feels good to get back out there…even if the pro laughed at my racquet the first day and is re-building all my strokes since the game is played totally differently now!

On the reading front, I’m getting back into buzzy Fall fiction (albeit not with very good results so far) and have joined Litsy (an app that’s like Instagram crossed with Goodreads)! I was hesitant to keep up with another social media app and worried I wouldn’t be able to use Litsy to its fullest potential since I read electronically (resulting in a lack of pretty book pictures). But, I’m enjoying it more than I expected and think I can find some creative ways to post images related to what I’m reading…even if they aren’t actual book covers. Follow me on Litsy at sarahsbookshelves!

I finished reading…

Hillbilly Elegy, J. D. Vance


Hillbilly Elegy
 by J.D. Vance (June 28, 2016)
This is a first. I read two 5 star nonfiction books in a row! And, this is the second one. Mini review coming.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

Cruel Beautiful World, Caroline Leavitt


Cruel Beautiful World
 by Caroline Leavitt (October 4, 2016)
At the halfway point, this story about two sisters in the late 1960’s is decent, but not great. I think it probably won’t end up being especially memorable, but we shall see…

I tried, but wasn’t feeling…

Wangs vs. the world, Jade Chang


The Wangs vs. the World
 by Jade Chang (October 4, 2016)
I have a feeling I could be in the minority here, but I was just annoyed with all these characters, annoyed with their conversation, and didn’t much care what happened to them. I made it to 24%.

Upcoming reading plans…

Commonwealth, Ann Patchett


Commonwealth
 by Ann Patchett (September 13, 2016)
I’m finally going to start the latest novel by the author of State of Wonder (which I loved). Family drama, secrets, and good feedback from people I trust…yippee!

How was your reading week?

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#30Authors: Jung Yun on Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

September 22, 2016 Blogger Events 12

30Authors, #30authors
I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to participate in #30Authors again this year! Jung Yun’s debut novel, Shelter, is one of my favorite books of 2016 so far (if you haven’t read it yet, get to it now!), so I’m a bit starstruck to have her words here on my blog!

#30Authors is an event started by The Book Wheel that connects readers, bloggers, and authors. In it, 30 authors review their favorite recent reads on 30 blogs in 30 days. It takes place annually during the month of September and has been met with incredible support from and success in the literary community. It has also been turned into an anthology, which is currently available on Amazon and all author proceeds go to charity. Previous #30Authors contributors include Celeste Ng, Cynthia Bond, Brian Panowich, and M.O. Walsh.

To see this year’s full line-up,visit www.thebookwheelblog.com/30authors or follow along on Twitter @30Authors.

Jung Yun on Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Homegoing, Yaa GyasiYaa Gyasi’s debut novel, HOMEGOING, spans two continents and nearly three hundred years in an ambitious exploration of how the past can powerfully influence the present. The novel begins in 19th-century Africa with two young women, half-sisters born to the same mother but raised separately. Effia, nicknamed “the beauty,” leaves her Fante village on the Gold Coast to marry an English officer and lead a life of relative privilege in the Cape Coast Castle. Esi, meanwhile, flees her Asante village during an attack and ends up imprisoned with hundreds of other slaves in the castle’s squalid dungeons, several stories below her half-sister’s living quarters. Neither woman is aware of the other’s proximity, a flesh and blood sibling being just one of many losses to come.

Each chapter of HOMEGOING is devoted to one of Effia or Esi’s descendants as slavery and its aftereffects split the family lines further and further apart. Effia and most of her descendants remain on the Gold Coast, later to be renamed Ghana. The early generations are privileged by money, English blood, and/or high Fante rank, but their fortunes begin to decline precipitously after James, Effia’s grandson, chooses love and “a small life” over continued complicity in the slave trade that has made his family rich. Esi leaves the dungeons of the Cape Coast Castle through its infamous “door of no return” and boards a ship bound for America, where her descendants endure unimaginable suffering as slaves and then later as “free” men and women in a society where true freedom still proves elusive, even as the chapters bring us closer and closer to contemporary times.

HOMEGOING pulls no punches to spare the reader. Gyasi’s depictions of brutality are unflinching; the emotions her writing incites are both earned and deeply felt. The early chapters—arguably the novel’s strongest—are a study in extremes, contrasting the depths of love that some characters feel toward each other with the abject pain of enslavement and its associated injustices. At times, it is difficult to fathom how such emotional extremes can coexist in the same world, and yet Gyasi’s self-assured hand makes it possible. Her ability to frame a narrative within a larger historical context, combined with her obvious gifts as a storyteller, have rightfully earned her comparisons to Toni Morrison and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The result is a literary work of art that is breathtakingly vibrant, necessary, and new.

About Jung Yun

Jung YunJung Yun is the author of SHELTER, published by Picador in March of 2016. Her work has appeared in Tin House (the “Emerging Voices” issue); The Best of Tin House: Stories, edited by Dorothy Allison; The Massachusetts Review; and The Atlantic Monthly. She is the recipient of two Artist Fellowships in fiction from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and an honorable mention for the Pushcart Prize. Currently, she is an Assistant Professor of English at the George Washington University.

Learn more about Jung on her Author WebsiteTwitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.

You can purchase Jung’s debut novel, Shelter, from Amazon (affiliate link) and Barnes & Noble.

About Yaa Gyasi

Yaa GyasiFrom Goodreads

Yaa Gyasi was born in Ghana and raised in Huntsville, Alabama. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop where she held a Dean’s Graduate Research Fellowship. Her short stories have appeared in African American Review and Callaloo. Her debut novel is Homegoing (Knopf, June 2016).

Learn more about Yaa on her Author WebsiteFacebook, and Goodreads.

You can purchase Yaa’s debut novel, Homegoing, from Amazon (affiliate link) and Barnes & Noble.

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Ten Authors Who Should Host A Podcast

September 20, 2016 Top Ten Tuesday 17

Top Ten Tuesday
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish that asks bloggers to create Top Ten lists on a variety of bookish topics. This week’s topic is All About Audio Freebie. I snagged the Authors Who Should Host A Podcast spin on this topic from a Book Riot podcast (thank you!). When creating this list, I thought about authors who are interesting on Twitter and/or have a gift for spot-on social commentary. And, authors of nonfiction lend themselves quite well to the podcast format!

Two giants missing from this list are Cheryl Strayed (author of Tiny Beautiful Things and Wild) and Susan Cain (author of Quiet). In putting this list together, I discovered both of them already have their own podcasts! Strayed hosts Dear Sugar Radio with Steve Almond and Susan Cain hosts Quiet Podcast based on her bestselling book of the same name. 

authors who should host a podcast


Rick Bragg (My Southern Journey)
Podcast Topic:
hilarious and insightful commentary on Southern culture.

Roxanne Gay (Bad Feminist, An Untamed State)
Podcast Topic: 
Ranty commentary on pop culture, race, feminism, reading and writing, and the competitive Scrabble circuit.

Herman Koch (The Dinner, Dear Mr. M, etc)
Podcast Topic: 
Social commentary that gets to the “nasty little heart of things” (thanks to Catherine of Gilmore Guide to Books for that perfect summation).

Jon Krakauer (Missoula, Under the Banner of Heaven, etc)
Podcast Topic: 
Investigative pieces covering just about anything.

Michael Lewis (The Big Short, etc)
Podcast Topic: 
Ditto Krakauer…and commentary on finance that’s actually interesting.

Mary Roach (Stiff, Grunt, etc)
Podcast Topic: 
Her signature oddball take on weird science-y stuff.

David Sedaris (Me Talk Pretty One Day, etc)
Podcast Topic: 
A weekly recap of his daily life…told in his signature hilarious style.

Adelle Waldman (The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.)
Podcast Topic: 
Commentary on yuppie dating.

Jennifer Weiner (In Her Shoes, etc)
Podcast Topic: 
Bachelor franchise analysis.

Andy Weir (The Martian)
Podcast Topic: 
Scientific concepts for non-scientists.

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It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? (9/19/16)

September 19, 2016 It's Monday! What are you reading? 30

Hosted by The Book Date.

I had grand plans to read big September releases last week and I somehow found myself reading nonfiction from earlier this year instead. I blame mood reading and some library holds coming in!

I finished reading…

A Gentleman in Moscow, When Breath Becomes Air


A Gentleman in Moscow
 by Amor Towles (September 6, 2016)

I’m not as enamored with this one as others are…review coming soon.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (January 12, 2016)
I was looking for something to hit me emotionally when this library hold came in. It’s about death, but more about humanity. And, I’m glad I was alone when I got to the final chapter because I was sobbing! I won’t review it since I’m so late to this train, but it’s definitely one of my favorite nonfictions of the year so far.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

Hillbilly Elegy, J. D. Vance


Hillbilly Elegy
 by J.D. Vance (June 28, 2016)
I’m about halfway through this memoir and am absolutely loving the combination of crazy family stories and social analysis of the “white working class” in Appalachia.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Upcoming reading plans…

Wangs vs. the world, Jade Chang


The Wangs vs. the World
 by Jade Chang (October 4, 2016)
This debut novel about a Chinese immigrant family that takes a road trip across the United States after losing their fortune has been getting a lot of buzz.

How was your reading week?

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It’s Complicated: Loner and The Trouble With Goats and Sheep

September 15, 2016 Mini Book Reviews 16

I had mixed feelings about both of these books…and had trouble deciding whether or not to recommend them. 

Loner, Teddy WayneLoner by Teddy Wayne
Fiction (Released September 13, 2016)
224 Pages
Bottom Line: Skip it…I think.
Affiliate Link: Amazon
Source: Publisher (Simon & Schuster) via NetGalley

Plot Summary: High school geek David Federman hopes to change his social fortunes at Harvard University, becoming obsessed with gorgeous dorm-mate Veronica Morgan Wells on the first day of school.

My Thoughts: I’m a sucker for campus novels, so I was willing to give Teddy Wayne’s latest a shot despite not being enamored with his previous novel, The Love Song of Jonny Valentine. It took me awhile to get into Loner, but the farther I read, the more I was dying to find out how the entanglement between David, Veronica, and David’s girlfriend (Sara, Veronica’s roommate) would resolve itself. David reminded me of Can’t Buy Me Love‘s Ronald Miller, a geek who acquired some measure of social status through questionable associations with a popular girl before flying too close to the sun…and his downward trajectory reminded me a bit of the desperate spiral in Belinda McKeon’s Tender (but, please don’t take this as a comparison to Tender as an overall book!).

When all was said and done, I’m not sure I bought David’s personality evolution or the ending of the book. His motivation for his actions at the end was completely unclear. Did he want another level of attention? Was it out of anger or vengeance or a thirst for power? I also wondered if Loner was intended to address a social issue. If it was, it merely dipped a toe in that pool rather than doing a cannonball into the deep end. Finally, the writing was a bit uneven…brilliantly capturing what it might be like to be an outsider at Harvard at times and resorting to over-the-top pretension at others. As you can see, I’m a bit conflicted about Loner overall.

Trouble with Goats and Sheep, Joanna CannonThe Trouble With Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon
Fiction (Released July 12, 2016)
352 Pages
Bottom Line: Skip it…I think.
Affiliate Link: Amazon
Source: Purchased (Publisher: Scribner)

Plot Summary: During the sweltering summer of 1976 in England, the disappearance of their adult neighbor (Margaret Creasy) ignites two ten year old girls’ (Grace and Tilly) curiosity about community, God, and neighborhood secrets.

My Thoughts: The Trouble With Goats and Sheep was an up and down book for me, sporting high highs and low lows. It has two characteristics I generally love in my reading: releasing background information about characters in drips and drabs (like Did You Ever Have A Family) and melding a coming of age story with a crime or mystery (like My Sunshine Away and Only Love Can Break Your Heart). I was immediately captivated by ten year-old Grace’s voice, which manages to be childlike without being childish. She sounds clever and unique, yet still maintains her innocence.

I had never met anyone who had nearly died, and in the beginning the subject was attacked with violent curiosity. Then it became more than fascination. I needed to know everything, so that all the details might be stitched together for protection. As if hearing the truth would somehow save us from it.

And Cannon’s writing, in general, blew me away…at first. She showed a propensity for writing about emotions like they are physical things and, on the flip side, giving inanimate objects emotion. Worrying was “packed away” and “made silent.” A room looked “tired and unhappy.” This writing trick piqued my interest early on, but it appeared so often that it felt gimmicky by the end. Every time I spotted another example, I’d roll my eyes and think “here we go again.” The story also took far too long to advance through the middle…I felt like we weren’t much farther at 75% than we were at 25%. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed Cannon’s style during the first 25% and some of the surprises towards the end.

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The Best of the Brain Candy: Books That Are Light AND Smart

September 13, 2016 Book Lists 27

Books that are light and smart


In the past, I’ve been the type of reader that gravitates mostly to literary fiction, but enjoys something lighter every now and then. But, things changed this year when lighter fiction has, on the whole, worked better for me than more serious literary fiction. And, as I discussed a few weeks ago, I’ve struggled to adjust to this new normal. I’ve been sub-consciously short-changing some of my favorite lighter books in the ratings department, so I wanted to give them their very own showcase.

I want my light fiction to be more than straight-up fluff…I appreciate smart writing, biting social commentary, wit, and an engrossing plot. And, the books on this list have all those qualities. They’re also books I’ve recommended over and over to other people. As with all my recommendation lists, I’ll continue adding books as I find them.

The List

A Hundred Summers, Beatriz Williams, fiction, beach reads, Rhode Island 1938 hurricaneA Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams
Fiction (Released May, 2013)
357 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary: In the summer of 1938, Lily plans to relax at her family’s vacation home in Seaview, Rhode Island (a blue blood beach enclave), but her childhood best friend and former fiancé’s appearance throws a wrench in her plans.

My Thoughts: A Hundred Summers is a light, fun book that would make a great beach read. However, it does have some depth to it, which is why I enjoyed it so much. Continue Reading…

Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-WhittemoreBittersweet, Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, fiction
Fiction (Released May, 2014)
385 Pages

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary: 
When the beautiful and wealthy Genevra (Ev) Winslow invites her very average roommate, Mabel Dagmar, to spend the summer at her family’s summer retreat, Mabel enters a world of secrets, lies, threats, and betrayal.
My Thoughts: 
Bittersweet was my favorite book of the summer of 2014! It joined We Were Liars in the category of summer books about “extremely wealthy families behaving badly in private vacation compounds” (yes, that seems to be a budding category these days…and an exciting one!). Continue Reading…

Siracusa, Delia EphronSiracusa by Delia Ephron
Fiction (Released July 12, 2016)
304 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Plot Summary: Relationships are put to the test when two couples (and one couple’s somewhat odd daughter) vacation together in Italy.

My Thoughts: Siracusa might be my favorite vacation-type read so far this year! It’s light and fast-moving, but also smartly written. The story is told from each of the four adults’ perspectives and the writing style shifts with each voice. Going into the trip, both marriages had their own issues, with each spouse frequently mocking his/her partner. As the trip takes on a somewhat surreal quality, everyone starts acting out…refusing to hide their pent-up resentments any longer. Continue Reading…

Seating Arrangements, Maggie Shipstead, fiction, weddingsSeating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead
Fiction (Released June 12, 2012)
302 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Plot Summary: Family and friends gather on a small island in New England for the wedding of Daphne Van Meter, who is seven months pregnant, and Greyson Duff.

My Thoughts: The Van Meters (Winn and Biddy are the parents – I mean, get a load of those names!) and Duffs are snobby, New England families that don’t talk about anything unpleasant and fear “inappropriateness” and “social embarrassment” above all else. Obviously, a wedding where the bride is knocked up has the potential for many moments that would send these people into a tailspin. Continue Reading…

Summerlong, Dean BakopoulosSummerlong by Dean Bakopoulos
Fiction (Released June 16, 2015)
320 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary: During one particularly hot summer in Grinnell, Iowa, Don and Claire Lowry find that their marriage isn’t as strong as they thought; their discontent and the heat driving them to act uncharacteristically.

My Thoughts: Summerlong was a surprise hit for me…it’s darker and edgier than the cover would lead you to believe. You can really feel this book…the simmering suburban discontent, everyone having an itch that’s just waiting to be scratched, the restlessness that comes with sweltering summer days. It’s like a sea of smoldering embers threatening to ignite at the slightest catalyst. Continue Reading…

The Expatriates, Janice Y.K. LeeThe Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee
Fiction (Released January 12, 2016)
336 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary:
A story about life as an American expat in Hong Kong told through the eyes of three women: Margaret (a married mother of three recovering from a tragedy), Mercy (a twenty-something Korean American Columbia grad trying to get her life on track), and Hilary (a housewife struggling with fertility).

My Thoughts: The Expatriates hit a couple of my “what makes a book work for me” buttons: a good balance between plot and style, dark undertones, and social commentary. I was expecting a light novel about wealthy, successful expats living it up in Hong Kong and I was delighted to find the story also had surprising depth. Yes, many of the characters’ lives sparkle on the surface, but darkness lurks just underneath as it becomes apparent that reality is quite different from appearances. Continue Reading…

The Fever, Megan Abbott, FictionThe Fever by Megan Abbott
Fiction (Released June, 2014)
320 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary: 
When Deenie’s best friend, Lise, is struck by an unexplained fainting spell/seizure in the middle of class, Deenie’s family and entire high school community are thrown into the middle of the fear and hysteria associated with a strange and quickly spreading epidemic.

My Thoughts: The Fever was the only novel that I chose to read off the New York Times Summer Reading List and was also an Amazon Best Book of the Month for June. Stacey from The Novel Life best described it as “unputdownable” and I can’t come up with a better one word description. This was a book that kept me up late at night…I plowed through 3/4 of the book without taking a single note! Continue Reading…

The Royal We, Heather Cocks and Jessica MorganThe Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
Fiction (Released April 7, 2015)
465 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary:
Inspired by the real life courtship of Prince William and Kate Middleton, American Rebecca “Bex” Porter embarks on a relationship with Prince Nicholas after meeting at Oxford.
My Thoughts:
The Royal We is fun, cheeky, and romantic (but not overly cheesy)! It pokes fun at the idiosyncrasies of the British monarchy (I love any book that refers to the fictional Prince Charles as a “douchelord”…who knew he had so much in common with Scott Disick?!), but it’s equally heartfelt about the emotions that go along with existing in a gilded royal cage. Continue Reading…

Swans of Fifth Avenue, Melanie BenjaminThe Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin
Historical Fiction (Released: January 26, 2016)
368 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary:
A novel (wink, wink) based on the friendship between author Truman Capote and his New York City socialite “swans” (i.e. Babe Paley, Slim Keith, Marella Agnelli, Gloria Guinness, etc) and his eventual betrayal of them via the short story, “La Cote Basque, 1965”.
My Thoughts:
The Swans of Fifth Avenue is one of those deliciously scandalous guilty pleasures…wealthy people behaving badly at its best…with the added bonuses of the right amount of depth and writing that strikes the perfect tone. While this book is technically fiction, the major events and timelines are real with dialogue, emotions, and details imagined by the author. Continue Reading…

Where'd you go, Bernadette?Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
Fiction (Released August 14, 2012)
320 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Plot Summary: Bernadette Fox disappears following a series of embarrassing incidents at home and issues with anxiety, sending her eighth grade daughter (Bee) on a quest to find her.

My Thoughts: This book is surprising, quirky, heartwarming, and suspenseful. At first, I thought it was going to be a flighty read about neurotic mothers in the carpool line. But, about a quarter into the book, you learn more about Bernadette…she’s a complex character and I was hooked on her after reading the ArtForum article profiling her former architecture career. Continue Reading…

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It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? (9/12/16)

September 12, 2016 It's Monday! What are you reading? 33

Hosted by The Book Date.

School started this week for my son. He’s in Kindergarten and so far is taking to school quite well! I love being able to walk him to and from school (and listening to an audiobook on the way to pick him up)! The downside is that there are an ungodly number of back to school meetings, coffees, conferences, etc. Is all this really necessary?! So, I’ve been completely distracted and have had trouble focusing on any reading. I have one more week of chaos (with my daughter starting preschool and my son still only doing half days) before things settle down.

I finished reading…

Long Shadow of Small Ghosts


The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts
 by Laura Tillman (April 5, 2016)
This true story of a horrific 2003 murder in Brownsville, TX is part true crime, part reporter’s memoir, part rumination on the death penalty and poverty, and part story of a community. But, all these elements combined for a muddled whole that just didn’t hang together for me.

I’m currently reading…

A Gentleman in Moscow


A Gentleman in Moscow
 by Amor Towles (September 6, 2016)
Several bloggers I trust have raved about the latest novel by the author of Rules of Civility (which I loved). I’m almost halfway through and, while I can see what’s causing all the raving, it’s not hitting me emotionally. This is a book meant to be curled up with in peace and my life is back-to-school chaos right now, so I’m having trouble finding enough focus to appreciate the many beautiful passages. 

Upcoming reading plans…

I’m going to try one of these…

Generation Chef, Hillbilly Elegy


Generation Chef
by Karen Stabiner (September 13, 2016)
This true story of a young chef starting his first restaurant might be more the speed I need during the back-to-school chaos.

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (June 28, 2016)
This memoir about the author’s experience growing up in a poverty in Appalachia has been described as “part memoir, part historical and social analysis” (Goodreads). And, of course, my library hold came in right when all the September releases are coming out!

How was your reading week?

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