August 2018 Books to Read (and Skip)

August 14, 2018 Mini Book Reviews 23

August 2018 Books to Read


This August line-up is a little deceiving. It seems light (mainly because I’ll cover Where the Crawdads Sing all by itself on Thursday), but my August books were really solid overall. Also contributing to this light load is publishing’s annual August slowdown (in case you didn’t know, this is a thing)…not many new books are published during this month!

In addition to the August 2018 Books to Read in this post, I read and LOVED Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. Stay tuned for my full review coming on Thursday!

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Read These

Distance HomeThe Distance Home by Paula Saunders
Fiction – Literary (Release Date: August 7, 2018)
304 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Random House)

Plot Summary: In 1960’s rural South Dakota, siblings Rene and Leon both find outlets for their differentness and their sometimes stressful family life in a local ballet studio.

My Thoughts: This debut novel is part coming of age and part dysfunctional family story…though the dysfunction is much more subtle than the outrageousness you usually find in dysfunctional family novels. It’s not about one outrageous thing that happened within the family…more about a lifetime of small slights stacked on top of each other. Again unlike many dysfunctional family novels, this family has many positive and loving characteristics in addition to the darkness and mistreatment. It’s about children not fitting in at school, parents picking favorites when a child doesn’t match their expectations, children finding excellence in their chosen escape routes, and parents having completely disparate views on the appropriate paths for their children. And, the writing is fantastic…especially for a debut. If you like beautifully written, character-driven novels, Paula Saunders (who is George Saunders’ wife!) might be your best new find. I’ll absolutely be watching what she does next.

And as Rene sat in her bed that night, looking across the hall at Leon’s closed bedroom door, she couldn’t help but wonder where all the hurt and anger went after something like that. Did it just disappear, as a person grew older, dissolving in a mist of resignation and forgetfulness? Or did it crystalize, so that you carried it with you, building layer upon layer as the years went by, each incident adding to a more solid core of pain, until you came to face the world more rock than flesh?

The Line That Held Us by David Joy
Fiction – Grit Lit (Release Date: August 14, 2018)
272 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Putnam)

Plot Summary: When Darl Moody enlists a friend to help him cover-up a hunting accident, it ignites a violent feud in their Appalachian community.

My Thoughts: David Joy writes gritty, Southern fiction (aka Grit Lit) set in Appalachia and I really liked his debut novel, Where All Light Tends to Go (my review). The Line That Held Us has a very similar feel to Where All Light Tends to Go…gritty, bleak, yet containing characters trying to do their best within their messed up world. It’s rare to find characters you can root for in a Grit Lit novel, but I found them here. The plot clips along and I turned the pages quickly. The ending fizzled a bit for me on the action front, but I appreciated its overall message. I should warn you that there are some graphic descriptions of a body decomposing that lots of Goodreads reviewers mentioned; however, they were as bad as I expected. If you liked Bull Mountain (my review), The Line That Held Us will be right up your alley!

The unthinkable had suddenly become one more thing a man had to do to survive.


Ohio by Stephen MarkleyOhio by Stephen Markley (August 21, 2018)
DNF at 30%

Originally, I put Ohio down at the 7% mark, but I ended up picking it back up last week. There were long sections about the characters’ high school experience that sucked me in, but as soon as the story went somewhere else (these other places were generally pretty self-indulgent), I hated it again. After wrestling around with it for a few days, I finally decided that, if I’m going to invest my time into a 500 page novel, it shouldn’t be this hit and miss. One Goodreads reviewer said it perfectly: “This really needed to be tightened up. In places, it’s a total mess. In others, it’s brilliant.” I just thought the % mess vs. brilliant was too heavily weighted to the mess side. Ohio has gotten a lot of pre-publication buzz, but I think it’s one of those critical darlings that probably won’t resonate with many regular readers.

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

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23 Responses to “August 2018 Books to Read (and Skip)”

  1. Susan

    Half the books I read so far this month have been average which is disappointing. I read one good mystery/thriller so far with “The Vanishing Season”. I read the issue book “Charlotte Walsh Likes To Win” I really liked it this surprises me since I don’t usually enjoy “issue” fiction. Finally, I read “The Queen Of Hearts” which turned out good. The book was a fun romp sometimes in spite of how much I love a good mystery I need something lighter. My next books coming in from the library are going to be heavy so I will have to see if I even end up reading them.
    Thanks for your reviews and all your hard work on your blog.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Ugh – a bunch of average books is almost worse than a run of books I downright hate! Hop things turn around for you soon!

  2. Sherie

    I also read “Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win” and really enjoyed it. We have a hotly contested Senate race in our state and I wonder is that’s what peaked my interest to pick it up. I also discovered “The Space Between Us# by Dete Meserve, which was probably one of my favorite mysteries of the year. Highly recommend Karen Slaughters “Pieces of Her”from one of my favorites Karen Slaughter, which I hear is in development as a tv series.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Glad you liked Charlotte Walsh – I loved that one too! Read it in July! So timely.

  3. Susie | Novel Visits

    I love that quote you used from The Distance Home. I’d highlighted it, as well. I have a feeling that it’s going to be one of those very good, but under read books and that’s too bad. The Line That Held Us sounds really good (I liked Bull Mountain), but it also sounds like a book I need to be in the right frame of mind for. I don’t think I’m there right now!

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Exactly! I foresee it being on my Underrated Gems of the year list…and not many people giving it a shot. Shame..

  4. Angela Gibson

    My favorite book is Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse. It provides a strong female character who slays monsters and outfights men, is full of Navajo mythology, and a compelling world of dystopian reservation life. I didn’t realize how much I needed a strong, angry female main character until I read Trail of Lightning. I’ve been consciously trying to read more diverse authors and genres different than I normally read. This book exceeded my expectations.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      That’s great that branching out worked well for you! It’s always a toss-up!

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Going to have to disagree on that one…at least based on the 30% I read 🙂

  5. Kathy

    I love the name “Grit Lit” I’ve never come across that one before! However, The Distance Home is the one that’s really speaking to me. Definitely adding to my TBR

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Isn’t it a great name?! Sadly, I can’t claim it…I definitely didn’t make it up. But, I also can’t remember where I saw it! Hope you do read Distance Home…it deserves more attention than it’s getting!

  6. Tina

    I started Ohio too and couldn’t do it. There’s a lot of good there but it was too much of a slog to continue. Here’s to DNFing books that aren’t working!

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Agree! There was definitely lots of good there, but it was just hard to find underneath all the clutter…

  7. Allison

    I have Where the Crawdad’s Sing in-hand and am looking forward to your review!

    Paula Saunders looks like one to watch–I’ll have to add this one to my (exploding) TBR.

  8. Madeline

    My August has been pretty blah. So was July except for Us Against You and The Word is Murder.

    I’ve read 105 YTD with an average rating of 3.54. I was hoping for better than that. 🙁

  9. Katie @ Doing Dewey

    I must admit that I’m kind of glad to hear that Ohio wasn’t such a great read, since I was interested (as my family lives in Ohio) and decided not to pick it up. It felt to me like it might be annoyingly about the problems of someone coming from a pretty privileged place.

  1. September Reading Wrap-Up - The Gilmore Guide to Books

    […] Have you ever had a book that two trusted reading friends have loved but that you didn’t even like? That’s what happened to me with The Distance Home. It’s the story of a South Dakota family in the 1960s who live a rough and divided life. The parents split their affections between their two children and the impact is felt throughout their lives. Leon is the oldest and is a shy, sweet boy who stutters and loves to dance. His mother is fiercely protective of him, but his father views him with distaste, even as the boy does everything he can to earn his affection. Rene is headstrong, bright, and sparkly. Her father adores her, but she has no closeness with her mother. Interesting premise, but I did not like Saunders’s writing at all. I had very little sense of Leon’s emotions. I almost didn’t finish the book. To get a different perspective here are links to the two bloggers who loved the book: The Novel Visits, Sarah’s Book Shelves […]

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