4 More Books Perfect for Summer: Calypso, The Banker’s Wife, The Book of Essie, The Favorite Sister

July 19, 2018 Mini Book Reviews 16

More Books Perfect for Summer Reading


I posted my 2018 Summer Reading Guide back in May and I told you I’d be adding more books to that list throughout the summer because I tend to find more books perfect for summer as the summer goes on! This is the last crop of books I’ll be adding…and they’re some good ones! After today, The Book of Essie will take over the top slot in the “Something Fun” category from Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties!

Coincidentally (or maybe not so coincidentally since I do love the behind-the-scenes of reality TV), two books on this list are set on reality TV shows and do a great job of portraying what goes on behind the scenes of those types of shows. And, two of these are Book of the Month picks!

4 More Books Perfect for Summer

CalypsoCalypso by David Sedaris
Nonfiction – Memoir/Essays (Released May 29, 2018)
288 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Book of the Month (Publisher: Little, Brown)

Plot Summary: Sedaris’ latest essay collection focusing on middle age.

My Thoughts: David Sedaris is generally known for his dark humor and his ability to make readers sob and laugh hysterically on the same page. Personally, I didn’t cry or laugh hysterically while reading Calypso, but I did chuckle and get sad and appreciate the crap out of his dark humor. I love how Sedaris says things that most people probably think, but are too scared to say out loud. He’s not worried about offending anyone and talks frankly about his own family. In this collection, Sedaris talks a lot about his sister’s downward spiral and eventual suicide and his father’s aging process and how seeing him age impacts his complicated relationship with him. But, it’s not all serious. He also talks about the outrageous and hilarious…like wanting to feed a tumor he had removed to a special turtle at his beach house. I read one essay a night before bed and was always tempted to keep going for one more essay. And, though I read this one in print, Sedaris is fabulous on audio!

My father has done this all his life. You’ll be talking to him and he’ll walk away – not angry but just sort of finished with you. I was probably six years old the first time I noticed this. You’d think I’d have found it hurtful, but instead I looked at his retreating back, thinking, We can get away with that? Yippee!

Banker's Wife The Banker’s Wife by Cristina Alger
Fiction – Thriller (Released July 3, 2018)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (G.P. Putnam)

Plot Summary: When a private plane carrying a Swiss banker and his wealthy client goes off the radar, his wife is left to piece together the shady dealings Swiss United Bank was involved in.

My Thoughts: I needed a fast, easy read after a heavier book and The Banker’s Wife hit the spot! Despite it’s unfortunately domestic sounding title (really…can publishers try for at least one thriller without “Wife” or “Girl” in the title?!!), it’s more of a conspiracy / financial thriller. It’s purely plot driven (so much so that I forgot to highlight passages to share in this post!) and will keep you turning the pages. There are characters who resemble real life people enough to make you wonder, which I always love to see in my reading (see if you can spot Donald Trump, the Fanjul Family, and the late crime/society journalist Dominick Dunne)! If you’re a sucker for a good conspiracy theory involving powerful people, The Banker’s Wife should be right up your alley!

Book of EssieThe Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir
Fiction – Brain Candy (Released June 12, 2018)
336 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Book of the Month (Publisher: Knopf)

Plot Summary: When the youngest daughter (Essie) of a evangelical reality TV family becomes pregnant and realizes her mother is working with their show’s producers to come up with the best way to spin it for the show, she decides to take matters into her own hands.

My Thoughts: The Book of Essie is the type of brain candy I love…a story about weighty topics that reads quickly and easily. The first line will grab you immediately and I was dying to find out how all this was going to turn out. Essie has had enough of the tight leash her family has her on and the glaring media spotlight, so she hatches a plan that involves a male classmate (Roarke) and a reporter with past ties to a religious cult (Liberty). Essie is sneakily subversive and I loved her…she’s someone you can root for. A lot of bad stuff went on with this family, but the story is ultimately hopeful. And though I did have to suspend disbelief at some of Roarke’s decisions, I just went with the story and it was a 100% satisfying vacation read. Bonus: you get an interesting behind-the-scenes look at reality TV and image management in the media spotlight.

First Line:

On the day I turn seventeen, there is a meeting to decide whether I should have the baby or if sneaking me to a clinic for an abortion is worth the PR risk. I am not invited, which is just as well, since my being there might imply that I have some choice in the matter and I know that I have none.

Favorite SisterThe Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll
Fiction – Brain Candy (Released May 15, 2018)
384 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased (Publisher: Simon & Schuster)

Plot Summary: A shocking death occurs during the filming of a Real Housewives-esque reality TV show.

My Thoughts: I DNF’d Knoll’s first novel, Luckiest Girl Alive, but decided to give The Favorite Sister a chance once I heard it was about reality TV. I’m glad I did because it was just the type of brain candy I love: smart, a bit different, and containing an ending that’s surprising, yet makes sense with the story looking back on it. I’ve always been intrigued by how the sausage gets made in reality TV and The Favorite Sister doesn’t disappoint in that department. In addition to the reality TV scoop, you also get a big dose of passive-aggressive sister dynamics, feminism, and motherhood (although she does occasionally get a bit heavy-handed with all the issues). If you read Reality Steve’s blog, liked Bachelor Nation by Amy Kaufman (my review), or love the TV show Unreal, The Favorite Sister is for you! Warning: if dislikable characters ruin books for you, steer clear of this one!

We don’t need to draw knives and weapons. The most effective way to destroy someone on the show is to disengage, to deprive her of the drama, of the meaningful connections, of the great and powerful storyline. In our world, your sharpest weapon is a polite smile.

What are your best reads of this summer so far?

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10 Short Story Collections and Novellas for First Time Short Fiction Readers

July 17, 2018 Book Lists 17

Short Story Collections and Novellas for first time short fiction readers


Prior to starting this blog, I never read short fiction…in any form. Actually, I preferred doorstop novels (I hadn’t yet wrapped my head around the concept of opportunity cost…the fact that each doorstop novel I read meant losing out on multiple other books). But now, I appreciate a something short every now and then. A short story collection or a very short novel / novella can feel like a break or palate cleanser amid heavier reading.

Over the past few years, I’ve found myself being much more open to short story collections and even rated two collections 5 stars (unheard of for me a few years ago). And, I always get excited about a super short novel! So, I’m excited to share short story collections and novellas for first time short fiction readers…the ones that originally attracted me to the genre!

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10 Short Story Collections and Novellas for First Time Short Fiction Readers

Conventional Short Story Collections

Beneath the Bonfire by Nickolas Butler (my review)
Set in rural Wisconsin, many of these stories focus on the bond of old friends. Beneath the Bonfire is the first short story collection I’ve ever liked, let alone loved. It’s reminiscent of Shotgun Lovesongs, Butler’s debut novel (and one of my favorite books of 2014).

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Why They Run the Way They Do by Susan Perabo (my review)
On the surface, these stories are about mundane daily life…a harmless middle school prank, a child’s toy, spending time with your mother after some bad news…but, they have a darkness simmering just underneath. This combination makes them incredibly relatable, yet still eye-opening and unique.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld (my review)
The stories in You Think It, I’ll Say It are mostly about otherwise normal relationships that have a hidden element of unconventionality or an awkward incident. They’re normal situations that end up taking unexpected turns…they’re relatable, yet surprising. If you’ve been hesitant to try short stories, You Think It, I’ll Say It is a perfect first collection!

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Interconnected / Linked Short Story Collections

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout (my review)
This subtle book grew on me the farther I read and I loved the theme of small-town life with threads of darkness running just beneath the surface. Though it’s technically short stories, it feels like a novel told from different characters’ perspectives and would be a perfect choice for readers that are new to short stories.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra (my review)
Like Anything is Possible, this one’s linked nature makes it feel more like a novel told from different perspectives and time periods. The way Marra used characters and events to link each story perfectly rode the line of being brilliantly intricate, yet not too confusing to follow.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Short Novels / Novellas

I did a little research on what exactly a novella is and came up with so many different answers that I ended up making my own rule of thumb: a novel that’s under 200 pages long is a novella in my book!

Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong (my review)
Though this story is about a sad and serious topic, it has a lightness to it and is amusing at times. The story is told through the main character’s journal entries that read like little vignettes, a format that worked for me in this case because I absolutely adored her endearing, witty, real, and relatable voice.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift (my review)
It’s a quiet, gorgeously written story about the evolution of a woman (Jane) from the Mothering Sunday tryst with her illicit lover to late in her life. The story is unique, yet not weird and I could say the same about Swift’s writing style.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout (my review)
I expected a story focusing on Lucy’s relationship with her mother, and it certainly covers this territory, but it felt much more about Lucy’s own life: her childhood, what it was like to grow up poor and never quite fit in, and her adult life.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf (my review)
Our Souls at Night is a sweet, calm, and uncomplicated novel about two older people (Louis and Addie) who stopped caring what everyone else thought and did what they needed to do to be happy.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips (my review)
Helen Phillips’ debut novel is a tiny ball of weirdness…reminiscent of a demented “Office Space”…that had me on the edge of my seat.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I know many people have a hard time with short fiction. How do you feel about it?

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What I’m Reading Now (7/16/18)

July 16, 2018 It's Monday! What are you reading? 19

Last week was filled with night-time activities, which aren’t my favorite because I love my downtime and sleep. My son had his first swim meet (which was fun, but looong), I had a night tennis match that ended at 10 pm, and we had a storm that knocked out power and A/C, so I didn’t get much sleep over the course of the week…which led to getting a summer cold. I’m hoping to rest up this week.

Last week, I shared my Q2 Go-To and No-Go Book Recommendation Sources (by tracking my recommendation sources using my Rock Your Reading Tracker, I’ve improved my “successful” reading by 43% over last year!) and my July 2018 Books to Read…and Skip.

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My not-so-new-anymore bookshelves got some accessories…including some cool bookends! Incidentally, we do not own an actual dog, despite having dogs on our bookshleves. I love dogs and would like one eventually, but I really don’t feel like taking care of one more living creature right now. The dog will have to wait until my kids are a little more self-sufficient…⠀ _⠀ ⠀ I’ve organized my bookshelves by color and only my very, very favorite books earned a spot (I read on a Kindle, so keeping my bookshelves selective is unexpectedly not that hard for me…I have to purchase hardcovers specifically to go on the shelves).⠀ _⠀ ⠀ On my rainbow shelf are:⠀ – 2 of my favorite books of 2014 (Station Eleven and Shotgun Lovesongs)⠀ – 1 of my favorite books of 2016 (The Mothers)⠀ – And the first Meg Wolitzer I ever read (and loved). She’s since become an auto-buy author for me!Sidenote: Since I took this picture, Meg Wolitzer’s The Female Persuasion has been added to my rainbow shelf.⠀ _⠀ ⠀ How do you organize your bookshelves? What are some of your favorite bookends?⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ #bookstagram #bookstagrammer #bookgram #amreading #bookworms #instabooks #instabook #booktalk #booklovers #booklover #bibliophile #biblio #bookaddict #bookaddiction #badassbookbabes #shelfie #bookends #bookshelves @riverheadbooks @megwolitzer @britrbennett @aaknopf @emilystjohnmandel⠀

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I finished reading…

what I'm reading now


Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras (July 31, 2018) 
This debut had all the pieces of a great book for me, but it was missing the intangibles. Check out my review for more details.

The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner (January 5, 2016) – Audiobook
I liked this memoir by a girl who grew up in a polygamist Morman family in Mexico and Texas…but, I think I read it too soon after reading Educated. They were similar for sure. I’d still recommend it, though, especially if you like fringe religion / dysfunctional childhood stories.

The Banker’s Wife by Cristina Alger (July 3, 2018)
Completely satisfying summer thriller that (shockingly) is not really domestic despite the unfortunate title! It’s set in the world of private Swiss banking. Review coming on Thursday.

I’m currently reading…

Distance Home


The Distance Home by Paula Saunders (August 7, 2018) 
Tyler Goodson, Manager at Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA (one of my go-to book recommendation sources) rated this dysfunctional family debut novel set in the American West 5 stars. I thought I’d knock out an August release while waiting for my next library hold to come in…

Upcoming reading plans…

I Am, I Am, I Am


I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell (February 6, 2018)
I’ve been hearing rave reviews of this memoir that I’ve had on hold at the library for months now. I kept suspending my hold (Did you know you can do this? Find out more here.) because I was drowning in new release ARCs. But, I have a bit of a break in my reading schedule and I think my hold should come in this week.

was reading…

One Year Ago: I was reading an awesome Swedish courtroom thriller!

Two Years Ago: I was reading a book featuring a totally demented psychologist.

How was your reading week?

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July 2018 Books to Read (and Skip)

July 12, 2018 Mini Book Reviews 15

July 2018 Books to Read


Well…July was a bit of a letdown after my excellent June reading. I only really enjoyed two books (but, I’ll be adding both to my 2018 Summer Reading List!) and suffered through two others that didn’t work out…then, there are the DNF’s. 

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Read These

Charlotte Walsh Likes to WinCharlotte Walsh Likes to Win by Jo Piazza
Fiction – Brain Candy (Release Date: July 24, 2018)
320 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Simon & Schuster)

Plot Summary: When Charlotte Walsh leaves her high powered job as COO of a Silicon Valley tech darling to run for Senate in her home state of Pennsylvania, she’s forced to confront the impact on her marriage, her sanity, and her past.

My Thoughts: I’ve been loving books about substantial topics that read easy this summer and I can now add Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win to that list! Though it reads easy enough for the beach, it’s full of astute commentary on women in politics, women in business, managing your image in public life, marriage, motherhood, and gender roles. It makes you feel how truly soul-sucking campaigning and politics can be. But, it also has snappy dialogue, a badass sister-in-law (Kara), and a Friday Night Lights name-check (the easiest way to my heart). Charlotte is a complex character and your sympathy level for her will probably flip-flop throughout the story. The ending will drive some people bonkers and made me say “WTF,” but the more I thought about it, the more it fits with the overall message of the book. An excellent choice for fans of The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close, for book clubs, and for your beach/pool bag!

“You’re thinking, ‘Why does it matter?’ Why does your husband matter?” Josh read her mind. “Your husband matters. Your marriage matters. As a woman, you bear the burden of having to appear to be charismatic, smart, well-groomed, nice, but not too nice. If you’re married, you need to look happily married. If you have kids, you should be the mother of the year.”

Give Me Your HandGive Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott
Fiction – Thriller (Release Date: July 17, 2018)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Little, Brown)

Plot Summary: When Diane and Kit become lab partners in high school, Diane shares an explosive secret. And, when the two women meet again as star lab scientists, the secret comes back to haunt them both. 

My Thoughts: Megan Abbott is one of my go-to authors for intense summer reads…generally about demented high school girls (The Fever and You Will Know Me are my favorites). She’s kept her streak alive with Give Me Your Hand…her most grown-up novel yet. This story is set in the world of science and Abbott’s writing makes the lab, the competition for limited positions on important studies, and the researchers’ dedication seem like the pressure cauldron of an Olympic Trials (similar to how Michael Ruhlman wrote about the Culinary Institute of America in The Making of a Chef). The players are intriguing: the enigmatic legend who seems almost non-human (Dr. Severin), the star researcher who is possibly unstable (Diane), the flirty and slightly reckless researcher (Alex), and the obedient worker bee (Kit). I guessed some of the twists, but not nearly all of them, and each twist revealed deeper layers to one of the characters. Ultimately, this is a story of two women locked in competition…and how a secret that gets told can tear apart both the secret-teller and the person she tells. Grab this one if you like dark and twisty with some substance…and I’ll be adding it to my 2018 Summer Reading Guide!

I wanted to know her secrets, but I didn’t want them to be this. And now I was in there, in that heart of hers, the coldest, darkest place I’d ever been.

Skip These

Baby TeethBaby Teeth by Zoje Stage
Fiction (Release Date: July 17, 2018)
320 Pages
Affiliate Link: Amazon
Source: Publisher (St. Martin’s Press)

Plot Summary: When four year old, non-verbal Hanna begins to escalate her terrible behavior towards her mother, the whole family must decide how to handle their only child.

My Thoughts: This book left me kind of speechless. It’s horrifying, but also weirdly intriguing. I kind of hated it, but also needed an explanation for what was going on (which was why I finished it). Hanna is hands-down the most diabolical child I’ve ever read about and I felt bad for her parents. But, they have their own faults. Hanna’s father is in denial about Hanna’s behavior and coddles her. Before Hanna’s behavior got really bad, her mother made her feel unwanted. Hanna is jealous of the affection her father gives her mother and sort of pits them against each other. If you need likable characters in your reading, you won’t find them here. The overall family dynamics and premise of the book could have been really fascinating, but Stage took the plot way over the top (won’t say more to avoid spoilers!). If she’d left out one particular element and cut back on another, I think I could’ve liked it. The ending did bring things down to earth, but I wish the culmination of the story had happened earlier (maybe 60-70% of the way through?) so we could explore the aftermath and how it impacted the family. I wanted more psychology and less shock value. If you’re on the fence about having kids, Baby Teeth might just push you into the “hard no” camp.

It was unacceptable; Mommy was failing her tests to prove her motherly love. And the more she failed, the more opportunities Hanna tried to provide for her to redeem herself. Though she wasn’t always sure of the rules to their war games. And when she scrunched up her brain, she couldn’t quite remember who had started it.

Fruit of the Drunken TreeFruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras
Fiction – Literary (Release Date: July 31, 2018)
304 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Doubleday Books)

Plot Summary: Amid the violence of Pablo Escobar-era Bogota, Colombia, a wealthy young girl (Chula) and her maid (Petrona) become friends while growing up side by side, but end up with very different stories.

My Thoughts: Fruit of the Drunken Tree is a debut novel inspired by the author’s life. That, the juxtaposition of Chula’s privileged perspective and Petrona’s perspective of poverty, and Pablo Escobar (I’ve always had a weird fascination!) were what attracted me to this book. And, all the pieces for a home run were there, but it was missing the intangibles for me. I loved seeing the drug wars through the eyes of a child and I identified with Chula’s combination fear / fascination with Pablo Escobar and the violence that accompanied him (on a far less personal level, I remember feeling similarly about the Russians as a child during the Cold War). And, the story had explosive plot elements that should have kept me frantically turning the pages. But, something about the way the story was told made all of it feel very distant and kept me from getting invested in these characters. Overall, I wavered over whether to recommend it, but decided against since I found myself frequently zoning out, checking Instagram, and sampling other books while reading it. 

I knew there was no gate surrounding the invasiones where Petrona lived, no iron locks on the doors, no iron bars on the windows. When I asked Petrona how she and her family stayed safe, she laughed. Then because I was embarrassed she shrugged her shoulders. She thought for a moment then said, “There’s nothing to lose.” Five syllables.

The DNF’s

What We Were PromisedWhat We Were Promised by Lucy Tan (Released July 10, 2018)
DNF at 18%

I was just kind of bored. Nothing was happening and I didn’t care about the characters.




The IncendiariesThe Incendiaries by R.O. Kwan (July 31, 2018)
DNF at 10%.

This debut novel about a girl who gets wrapped up in a cult and the boy who is obsessed with her has gotten tons of pre-release hype (and Annie Jones and Tyler Goodson both rated it 4 stars), but it just seemed weird to me. I kept spacing out and the writing was really distant.



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

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Q2 2018 Update: My Go-To and No-Go Book Recommendation Sources

July 10, 2018 Stats 10

Book Recommendation Sources


As many of you probably know, I adopted a new method for selecting books this year. I’m choosing books that have already been read and recommended by trusted recommendation sources rather than from publishers’ catalogs or various “Most Anticipated” book lists. The key to success is the “already read” part because it provides an opinion beyond “does the premise sound good on paper?” and that of independent of publishers’ marketing machines.

Each quarter, I’ll share how this is going…my Go-To and No-Go recommendation sources and whether the quality of my reading has improved or not.

My Q2 2018 Reading Quality

 % Successful Books ATTEMPTED (includes DNFs)  56%
 % Successful Books FINISHED (does not include DNFs)  83%

My Successful Books Attempted increased almost 30% over last year (43%). My goal is to keep this success rate above 50% all year long, so I’m pleased with this so far!

The second number gives me an extra incentive to DNF books that aren’t working for me.

My Go-To Book Recommendation Sources for Q2 2018

Read It Forward’s Best Books of the Month Lists  9
(You Think It, I’ll Say It: StoriesEducatedThe GunnersHow to Walk AwayThe Favorite SisterTin ManThe Great BelieversThe Book of EssieA False Report: A True Story of Rape in America)
 Library Reads  5
(EducatedYou Think It, I’ll Say It: StoriesThe Girl Who Smiled BeadsThe Favorite SisterTin Man)
Novel Visits  5
(EducatedThe GunnersTin ManUs Against YouThe Great Believers)
Tyler Goodson, Manager at Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA  4
(You Think It, I’ll Say It: StoriesSocial CreatureThe GunnersThe Great Believers)
Annie Jones from From the Front Porch podcast  4
(Alternative Remedies for LossEducatedThe Mockingbird Next DoorThe Book of Essie)
Running N Reading  4
EducatedThe GunnersThe Favorite SisterUs Against You)
Gilmore Guide to Books  4
EducatedThe Favorite SisterTin ManCharlotte Walsh Likes to Win)

My No-Go Book Recommendation Sources for Q2 2018

Read It Forward’s Best Books of the Month Lists  5
(The High SeasonThat Kind of MotherFloridaOnly Child, A Place for Us)
Annie Jones from From the Front Porch podcast  4
(Campaign WidowsThat Kind of Mother, A Place for UsFlorida)
Amazon Best Books of the Month  2
Library Reads  2
CirceBaby Teeth)
Trusted Authors (Paula McLain, Lauren Groff)  2
(Love and Ruin
Modern Mrs. Darcy  2
(A Place for Us
What We Were Promised)

Key Takeaways

  • Read it Forward, Annie Jones, and Tyler Goodson made my top Go-To Sources list two quarters in a row. I’m thinking I should start a Hall of Fame?
  • Some of my top Go-To Recommendation Sources are also my top No-Go Recommendation Sources. Wha?? I’m guessing this is based on sheer numbers…I go to these sources often and I’m not going to like every single book they recommend.
  • Trusted authors have let me down two quarters in a row. Last quarter, trusted authors were my top No-Go Recommendation Source with 3 unsuccessful books. This is unexpected and disappointing. Maybe my reading taste is changing?

What have been your best and worst recommendation sources lately?

How I Keep Track of My Reading Quality and Go-To/No-Go Recommendation Sources…and You Can Too!

Are you thinking it takes me hours to calculate my reading quality and keep track of my Go-To and No-Go recommendation sources every month? Well, it totally could, but it doesn’t. I use my “Rock Your Reading” Tracker, which automatically calculates my reading quality for me and helps me easily keep track of my recommendation sources.

If you’re interested in tracking your own reading quality and recommendation sources, you can purchase my tracker for $11.99! Go here for more details or purchase below!

Rock Your Reading Tracking Spreadsheet Summary Charts Track your book recommendation sources


Purchase here…

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What I’m Reading Now (7/9/18) – A Double Shot

July 9, 2018 It's Monday! What are you reading? 17

Welcome back to real life, y’all! At least for me. I was on vacation last week, which was awesome. For the first time, both our kids were old enough to do fun activities, not have to nap, and stay up a little later. We did lots of swimming (including some actual lap swimming for me), beaching, water sliding (the kids, not me), fishing (Team Female won on our boat!), fire-working, and eating. So, you’re getting a double shot of books this week and I’m thrilled to say I actually did get a decent amount of reading done on vacation! Plus, I finished a couple books I’d been reading in small snippets over a long period of time.

Congratulations to Becky Shemeley, winner of my 8 audiobook giveaway in conjunction with the June is Audiobook Month blog tour! Enjoy saving all those Audible credits for a bit!

I also shared my Best Books of 2018 So Far last week. And, I’m 99.9% sure at least a couple of these will stay atop the leaderboard for my overall Best Books of 2018 list come December.

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It’s about halfway through the year and I’ve got some favorite books for you (that means “get out your TBR lists, it’s time to prioritize”)! So far this year, I’ve read 6 books that I’m 99.9% sure will make it onto my overall Best Books of 2018 list come December. And, I’m thrilled with that…especially considering I had very few hands-down, unquestionable winners at this point last year. ⠀ _⠀ ⠀ Overall, this is a pretty wide-ranging list. We’ve got a couple engrossing, character-driven novels, a couple lighter books, a couple memoirs, a true crime, a sports fiction, and a short story collection.⠀ LINK IN PROFILE WITH FULL LIST⠀ _⠀ ⠀ What are your favorite books of 2018 so far?⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ #bookstagram #bookstagrammer #bookgram #amreading #bookworms #instabooks #instabook #booktalk #booklovers #booklover #bibliophile #biblio #bookaddict #bookaddiction #badassbookbabes @aaknopf @meghanmacleanweir @megwolitzer @riverheadbooks @tayari @algonquinbooks @camille_pagan #lakeunionpublishing @kellycorrigan @randomhouse @bookofthemonth #bookofthemonth #botm

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I finished reading…

what I'm reading now


Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris (December 6, 2016) 
I finally finished! I’d been reading this 700 page behemoth for months! But, it’s fascinating and easy to read in little snippets. Basically, Ferris took the highlights from his interviews with the top people in various fields (he’s all over the map with this…business, sports, entertainment, thinkers, etc) and organized them into Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise sections. I highlighted tons and adopted some new routines in my life. I kind of want to listen to his podcast now.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

A False Report: A True Story of Rape in America by T. Christian Miller & Ken Armstrong (February 6, 2018) – Audiobook
Excellent true crime mixed in with a bit of history of rape investigation and would make a great companion read to I’ll Be Gone in the Dark (my review).
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win by Jo Piazza (July 24, 2018) 
Mini review coming on Thursday.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott (July 17, 2018) 
Mini review coming on Thursday.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Calypso by David Sedaris (May 29, 2018) 
I just love Sedaris’ dark humor and I promptly bought Theft by Finding on audio after finishing this one. Mini review coming soon.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

Fruit of the Drunken Tree


Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras (July 31, 2018) 
I’m about halfway through this hyped debut set during the Colombian drug wars and it started out great, but slowed down a bit soon after. I’m going to give it a bit more time to pick up before I make a decision.

I tried, but wasn’t feeling…

The Incendiaries


The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwan (July 31, 2018)
DNF at 10%
This debut novel about a girl who gets wrapped up in a cult and the boy who is obsessed with her has gotten tons of pre-release hype (and Annie Jones and Tyler Goodson both rated it 4 stars), but it just seemed weird to me. I kept spacing out and the writing seemed really distant to me.

Upcoming reading plans…

Clock Dance


Clock Dance by Anne Tyler (July 10, 2018)
I’ve never read Anne Tyler before, but Annie Jones and Tyler Goodson loved this one…plus, it’s about a dysfunctional family. I’m #1 on the pre-release library hold list, so I’m trying to finish my current book by Tuesday!

was reading…

One Year Ago: I read 2 books told in vignettes…one that worked and one that didn’t.

Two Years Ago: I was on vacation!

How was your reading week?

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June 2018 Monthly Round-Up

July 3, 2018 Monthly Round-Ups 13

June 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!).

My June reading started off with a bang…I read three books in a row that made my Best Books of 2018 So Far list! Then, it fell off a cliff with a string of DNFs and one book that I sort of hate-read. But, I think I’ve found my groove again…

I read 7 books this month…a little less than normal. We traveled a lot and were getting adjusted to the summer routine with the kids out of school. I also read a couple longer books, which I used to steer clear of, but I’m glad I’ve gotten over that because I would’ve missed out on some amazing books! I have fallen behind with my Goodreads Challenge goal of 100 books for the year, but I’m not sure I care.




Best-Selling Book (via my affiliate links)

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez – I’m not sure how to explain this one…I really liked it, but I haven’t talked about it on the blog since last year!


  • I shared by Best Books of 2018 So Far list on Tuesday!
  • If you missed it, check out my 2018 Summer Reading List…and stay tuned because I’ll be adding a couple more books to it this month!
  • Personalized Book Recommendations and the Superstars Facebook Group are now available to anyone who supports Sarah’s Book Shelves on Patreon!

June Quality and Recommendation Sources

Reading Quality

June 2018

  • % Successful Books Attempted (includes DNF’s) = 56% (above my 43% success rate from 2017)
  • % Successful Books Finished (does not include DNFs) = 71%

2018 Year-to-Date (through June)

  • % Successful Books Attempted (includes DNF’s) = 56% (above my 43% success rate from 2017)
  • % Successful Books Finished (does not include DNFs) = 83%

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.

July Releases I’m Excited About

Clock Dance by Anne Tyler (July 10)
Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott (July 17)
The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon (July 31)

Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras (July 31)

Most Popular Posts

Posts Actually Published in June
Best Books of 2018 So Far
June 2018 Books to Read (and Skip)
Book of the Month June 2018 Selections: What Book Should You Choose?

Overall Posts
Book Club Recommendations
2018 Summer Reading List
Am I the Only One Who Didn’t Love Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine?

Favorite Posts by Fellow Bloggers

How was your reading month?

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

July 1, 2018 Book Recommendations 13

Book of the Month July 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).

Continuing with Book of the Month‘s focus on summer reading, all of this month’s selections are easy reads that would be great for the beach. Unfortunately, none really grabbed my personal interest. As a follow-up to last month’s selections, I loved The Book of Essie and included it on my Best Books of 2018 So Far list! I’m also adding it to my 2018 Summer Reading Guide. I’m about 2/3 of the way through Calypso and am really enjoying that too!

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!

Book of the Month July 2018 Selections

book of the month july 2018The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager (Release Date: July 3, 2018)
384 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.17 on 570 ratings
Selected By: Brianna Goodman (Book of the Month Editorial Team)

In the new novel from the bestselling author of Final GirlsThe Last Time I Lied follows a young woman as she returns to her childhood summer camp to uncover the truth about a tragedy that happened there fifteen years ago.

My Thoughts:
I wasn’t a fan of Sager’s debut novel, Final Girls, which was a horror movie-esque thriller. I had trouble buying the main character’s decision-making and I thought the ending jumped the shark. But, Annie Jones of From the Front Porch podcast (and one of my best recommendation sources) liked The Last Time I Lied and thought it was possibly even better than Final Girls. Tina from TBR, etc. had trouble getting into it, but couldn’t put it down once she got to the last quarter. Goodreads reviewers said it’s more grown up and less horror movie-ish than Final Girls, it has a large cast of characters, the storyline alternates between past and present, it has a bit of a slow start, and people can’t decide how they feel about the ending. Overall, the Goodreads reviews are excellent and this seems to be a standout psychological thriller.

book of the month july 2018The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams (Release Date: July 10, 2018)
384 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.95 on 417 ratings
Selected By: Liberty Hardy (co-host of Book Riot‘s All the Books podcast)

New York Times bestselling author Beatriz Williams brings us the blockbuster novel of the season—a spellbinding novel of romance, murder, class, power, and dark secrets set in the 1950s and ’60s among the rarified world of a resort island in the Long Island Sound . . .

My Thoughts:
Beatriz Williams writes beach-y historical fiction that usually contains some sort of mystery and usually involves wealthy families with secrets. I loved her older books (A Hundred Summers, The Secret Life of Violet Grant, Tiny Little Thing), but have given up on her more recent work starting with Along the Infinite Sea (my review). She began publishing a book a year and I thought the quality suffered. The Summer Wives is “typical Beatriz Williams fare” according to Susie from Novel Visits (one of my favorite book bloggers) and involves family secrets and wealthy vs. the locals dynamics in an exclusive vacation enclave. She said that, of Williams’ previous books, it’s most like A Hundred Summers (my review) and Tiny Little Thing (my review)…a good thing in my view! And, Renee at It’s Book Talk (another favorite book blogger) also really liked it…saying that Williams pulled off the two alternating time period narrative so well.

book of the month july 2018Ghosted by Rosie Walsh (Release Date: July 24, 2018)
352 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.17 on 878 ratings
Selected By: Skye Sherman (Book of the Month Brand Ambassador)

Seven perfect days. Then he disappeared. A love story with a secret at its heart.

When Sarah meets Eddie, they connect instantly and fall in love. To Sarah, it seems as though her life has finally begun. And it’s mutual: It’s as though Eddie has been waiting for her, too. Sarah has never been so certain of anything. So when Eddie leaves for a long-booked vacation and promises to call from the airport, she has no cause to doubt him. But he doesn’t call. […]

Minutes, days, weeks go by as Sarah becomes increasingly worried. But then she discovers she’s right. There is a reason for Eddie’s disappearance, and it’s the one thing they didn’t share with each other: the truth.

My Thoughts:
Ghosted is a debut page turner with some romance and a mystery thrown in…and it was blurbed by Liane Moriarty (Big Little Lies). Nicole Bonia, co-host of The Readerly Report podcast, rated it 5 stars and called it “a lovely and absorbing novel with a uniquely modern twist on the oft told tale of doomed lovers.” I read the first chapter and a little bit of the second chapter and wasn’t immediately grabbed, but I may go back to it after reading the Goodreads reviews. Goodreads reviewers said it’s about love and grief, is unputdownable, has likable characters, and is surprising in a very good way. But, they also said it has a bit of a slow start, unlikely coincidences, and an ending that is neatly tied up. Many Goodreads readers recommended going in blind.

book of the month july 2018Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik (Released: July 10, 2018)
448 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.45 on 536 ratings
Selected By: 
Brooke Lee (BOTM Readers Committee member)

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders… but her father isn’t a very good one. Free to lend and reluctant to collect, he has loaned out most of his wife’s dowry and left the family on the edge of poverty–until Miryem steps in. Hardening her heart against her fellow villagers’ pleas, she sets out to collect what is owed–and finds herself more than up to the task. When her grandfather loans her a pouch of silver pennies, she brings it back full of gold.

But having the reputation of being able to change silver to gold can be more trouble than it’s worth–especially when her fate becomes tangled with the cold creatures that haunt the wood, and whose king has learned of her reputation and wants to exploit it for reasons Miryem cannot understand.

My Thoughts:
Spinning Silver is fantasy (not one of my preferred genres), a loose retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, and said to be for fans of A Game of Thrones. Goodreads reviewers said it’s different from Uprooted (her previous novel), has lots of different perspectives, and a bit of magic, religion, and romance. It also apparently has no dialogue. Honestly, I had to stop reading the Goodreads reviews because of ALL THE CAPS, gazillions of exclamation points, talking solely in GIFs, and many reviews just blathering incredible excitement about this book, but not actually reviewing the book (because they likely haven’t read it yet). I think I’m too old for this one just based on the style of the Goodreads reviews.

book of the month july 2018The Girl from Blind River by Gale Massey (Release Date: July 10, 2018)
329 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.51 on 37 ratings
Selected By: Siobhan Jones (Book of the Month Editorial Director)

A gritty tale of how far we’ll go to protect the ones we love for fans of Daniel Woodrell’s Winter’s Bone and Emma Cline’s The Girls from Gale Massey, a talented new name in crime fiction.

Everyone says the Elders family are nothing but cheats, thieves, and convicts—a fact nineteen-year old Jamie Elders has been trying desperately to escape. She may have the natural talent of a poker savant, but her dreams of going pro and getting the hell out of the tiny town of Parsons, New York are going nowhere fast. Especially once she lands in a huge pile of debt to her uncle Loyal.

At Loyal’s beck and call until her debt is repaid, Jamie can’t easily walk away—not with her younger brother Toby left at his mercy. So when Loyal demands Jamie’s help cleaning up a mess late one night, she has no choice but to agree. But disposing of a dead man and covering up his connection to the town’s most powerful judge goes beyond family duty. When it comes out that the victim was a beloved athlete and Loyal pins the murder on Toby, only Jamie can save him. But with a dogged detective on her trail and her own future at stake, she’ll have to decide: embrace her inner criminal, or defy it—and face the consequences.

My Thoughts:
This is a debut coming of age story / small town crime drama and it sounds pretty gritty. Goodreads reviewers said it’s sad and depressing, but is also a page turner. Jamie is a spunky protagonist and the ending is surprising. Others mentioned that it’s possible to get bogged down in the poker jargon and that they would’ve enjoyed the book more had they been interested in poker.

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

I’m going to skip this month. I already have an ARC of Ghosted and haven’t had great luck with Riley Sager or Beatriz Williams lately. 

Make your Book of the Month selections by Friday, July 6th.

What book will you choose this month?

This Month’s Special Deals

NEW MEMBER DEAL: Anyone who purchases a new BOTM subscription will get a credit for a free book! Use code FIREWORKS.

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
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Best Books of 2018 So Far

June 26, 2018 Annual "Best Books" Lists 37

Best Books of 2018 So Far


Can you believe it’s already time for the Best Books of 2018 So Far?!

For the past two years, 60% of the books on my June Best Books of the Year So Far lists (2017, 2016) ended up on my overall favorite books of the year lists (2017, 2016). I’ve had a couple big-time winners in the first half of this year that I’m 99.9% positive they will make it on my final list. So, we’ll see if I beat that 60% this year!

This year, I’m not only sharing my own favorite books, but I’m also sharing the Sarah’s Book Shelves Facebook Group members’ favorites! You can join the Sarah’s Book Shelves Facebook Group (where I share my unfiltered thoughts, sneak peeks of blog posts and members’ trade book recommendations amongst each other) by supporting the blog at the $3/month level on Patreon (more details here).

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!).

My Best Books of 2018 So Far

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (my review)
My first 5 star novel of the year…

Educated by Tara Westover (my review)
Your next book if you loved Hillbilly Elegy and/or Under the Banner of Heaven

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara (my review)
The book I couldn’t read at night…

Tell Me More by Kelly Corrigan (my review)
My new favorite “women who get women” author…

The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir
An easy read with a ton of substance (yes, a book can be both of those things)…

The Female Persuasionby Meg Wolitzer (my review)
That big, character-driven novel you can sink into…

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai (my review)
Your next book if you loved A Little Life and/or The Heart’s Invisible Furies…or, if you liked the idea of A Little Life, but avoided it because of the overwhelming abuse.

Us Against You by Fredrick Backman (my review)
The author who captures the emotion of sports like no other (except maybe the screenwriters on Friday Night Lights)…

Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties by Camille Pagan (my review)
A lighter, more sarcastic version of Anna Quindlen…and, my #1 “Fun” pick for on my 2018 Summer Reading List.

You Think It, I’ll Say It: Stories by Curtis Sittenfeld (my review)
One of only two short story collections I’ve ever rated 5 stars…

The Sarah’s Book Shelves Facebook Group’s Best Books of 2018 So Far

It’s kind of amazing…there is only one book on this list that got more than 1 vote! The Facebook Group is a varied bunch! And, that means you can mine this wide range of reading tastes for all kinds of book recommendations if you join in.

Get access to the Sarah’s Book Shelves Facebook Group by supporting the blog for $3/month on Patreon (more details here)!

What are your favorite books so far this year?

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What I’m Reading Now (6/25/18)

June 25, 2018 It's Monday! What are you reading? 23

After a recent hot streak, my reading took a bit of a tumble last week. I almost didn’t finish a single book, but I ended up finishing Baby Teeth right under the wire. Last week was the first with my kids out of school for the summer and adjusting to the new routine was a bit crazy. 

I also shared my Best Audiobooks of 2018 So Far last week. And, as part of the June is Audiobook Month blog tour, I’m hosting a giveaway where you could win 8 audiobooks! Head on over here to enter. And, stay tuned for my Best Books of 2018 So Far (coming tomorrow)…

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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The kids are out of school and you know what that means…I’ve gotta find reading time whenever and wherever I can! And, it’s not always in a peaceful, quiet place. Well, let’s be honest…it’s rarely ever in a peaceful, quiet place. I’ve been reading a lot while my kids are at swim practice…and my only issue (at least this week) is keeping all my sweat from dripping on my Kindle!⠀ _⠀ ⠀ How do you fit reading in when the kids get out of school?⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ #bookstagram #bookstagrammer #bookgram #amreading #bookworms #instabooks #instabook #booktalk #booklovers #booklover #bibliophile #biblio #bookaddict #bookaddiction #badassbookbabes #summer2018 #summerreading #beachreads #readeverywhere

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I finished reading…

Baby Teeth


Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage (July 17, 2018) 
I’m speechless. I don’t know what to think. I kind of hated it, but it did raise some interesting questions. I need to think about this one more and may write a spoiler discussion post. But, I’m not sure I can recommend it to anyone at this point, but it will absolutely get people talking.

I’m currently reading…

Nothing…I’m caught between books! I finished Baby Teeth about an hour ago and will start my next book later in the evening (after this post is scheduled).

I tried, but wasn’t feeling…

What I'm Reading Now


Only Child by Rhiannon Navin (February 6, 2018)
DNF at 22%
This novel is told entirely from the perspective of a seven year-old boy, which I found tedious after awhile. I wish we’d gotten to hear other perspectives…like his parents’, etc.

What We Were Promised by Lucy Tan (July 10, 2018)
DNF at 18%.
I was just kind of bored. Nothing was happening and I didn’t care about the characters.

Upcoming reading plans…

The Glitch, Elisabeth Cohen


The Glitch by Elisabeth Cohen (May 22, 2018)
Tara at Running N Reading liked this light novel about a mother of two with a high-powered Silicon Valley job who thinks she has it all under control and my library hold just came in.

was reading…

One Year Ago: I was reading a rare thriller that I really liked.

Two Years Ago: I was heading on vacation and watching the Olympic swimming trials!

How was your reading week?

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