Posts By: Sarah Dickinson

What I’m Reading Now (6/18/18)

June 18, 2018 It's Monday! What are you reading? 17

Last week, Goodsreads kindly informed me I was 2 books behind schedule for my 2018 reading goal. Well, I’m happy to say that, after this weekend, I’m now back on track! We spent the weekend in the Chesapeake Bay area and I was thrilled to get a lot of reading done (a house without a TV or Internet will help with that)…and do some fun things with my family (my son caught a skate off the dock!).

I also shared my June 2018 Books to Read (and Skip) last week. And, June had some winners!

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!).

I finished reading…

what I'm reading now


The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai (June 19, 2018)
LOVED and reviewed last week!
Affiliate Link: Pre-Order from Amazon

Nomadland by Jessica Bruder (September 19, 2017, Audiobook)
I thought the overarching themes of a new class of nomadic, working elderly were really interesting and I was also intrigued by the behind-the-scenes of how Amazon’s warehouses function, but I think this was probably more suited to a long-form article rather than a full length book. Overall, I’m lukewarm on it.

The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir (June 19, 2018)
A perfect, easy, but totally intriguing and well-done recovery book from The Great Believers! I flew through it. I’ll be adding it to my 2018 Summer Reading Guide.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

what I'm reading now


Only Child by Rhiannon Navin (February 6, 2018)
This novel about a school shooting told from the perspective of a seven year-old boy comes highly recommended by Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books and Michelle at That’s What She Read. I’m only 5% in, so I don’t really have an opinion yet…I’ll keep you posted!

Calypso by David Sedaris (May 29, 2018)
Y’all, I’m actually reading a hardcover book (it was one of my June Book of the Month picks)!! My first of the year if you can believe that. Because it’s a hardcover, it’s not my primary book…I’m reading an essay here and there. The first two essays were right on point.

Upcoming reading plans…

What We Were Promised


What We Were Promised by Lucy Tan (July 10, 2018)
Anne Bogel at Modern Mrs. Darcy recommended this family drama set in Shanghai in her 2018 Summer Reading Guide. We’ll see how it goes…

was reading…

One Year Ago: I was catching up on my Anna Quindlen backlist.

Two Years Ago: I was reading a quirky coming of age novel that ended up on my Best Books of 2016 So Far list.

How was your reading week?

Get Weekly Email Updates!

June 2018 Books to Read (and Skip)

June 14, 2018 Mini Book Reviews 14

June 2018 Books to Read


I’ve gotta say, my June books were excellent overall! Two of these books will definitely be on my Best Books of 2018 (So Far) list (coming soon). And, I managed to DNF the ones that weren’t working rather than force my way through them.

In addition to the June 2018 Books to Read in this post, I reviewed Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton last week. It’s certainly not for everyone, but is a “Read It” for a certain type of reader (i.e. the one who loves dark and demented).

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

Read These

Visible EmpireVisible Empire by Hannah Pittard
Historical Fiction (Released June 5, 2018)
288 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Plot Summary: Following the 1962 plane crash at Orly Airport that killed over 100 Atlanta art patrons (a massive chunk of the city’s social elite), Atlanta citizens connected to the crash must figure out who to recover amid the Civil Rights Movement.

My Thoughts: I know many people have mixed feelings about fiction based on real life events, but I’m a fan! In Visible Empire, the Orly plane crash is the big event that ties lots of disparate people and perspectives together (and the opening chapters recounting the crash are riveting). The overall book is more a portrait of Atlanta in the 1960’s from all these different perspectives (the Mayor’s wife, family of the crash victims, an African American teenager that has a chance encounter with a member of Atlanta’s elite, and an ambitious young woman) than about the plane crash itself. Pittard gives us a somewhat gossipy take on the crash’s impact on Atlanta’s elite and those who come in contact with them…and her social commentary is excellent. I felt like this would be the book that Dominick Dunne (former Vanity Fair columnist and author of “fictional” novels about real life crimes involving the wealthy) could have written about the crash…and it reminded me of a less epic A Man in Full (by Tom Wolfe). But, I did miss the Afterward that normally accompanies these types of books that lays out where the author stayed true to real life and where she took liberties for the sake of the story.

Don’t you understand, Lulu? The world – not just the governor, not just the president – the world is watching. Right now, I am being watched. You and I and our dear, dear city are being watched. Do you understand? They want to know if we’ll ever stand up again. They want to know if this is the beginning of a spiral into the ground, or if we’ve got fight and life in us yet.

We Are GatheredWe Are Gathered by Jamie Weisman
Fiction – Literary (Released June 5, 2018)
288 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Plot Summary: The story of an inter-faith wedding (between Jewish Elizabeth and Christian Hank), told from the perspectives of various wedding guests (mother of the bride, grandfather of the groom, childhood best friend of the bride, etc).

My Thoughts: The publisher says We Are Gathered is a debut novel, but I think it reads more like a series of closely interconnected short stories (similar to Elizabeth Strout’s Anything is Possible). Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different wedding guest, but much of the book is the each guest’s backstory with a smaller portion focused on the wedding itself. Before reading it, I thought We Were Gathered would be a light, fun read and a potential candidate for my 2018 Summer Reading Guide. It was immediately clear I’d judged wrong because many of the characters’ backstories are dark and sad and the overall tone is subdued. These people have demons and some are dealing with big challenges. There’s the childhood friend of the bride with a birthmark that covers half her face, the grandfather of the groom who can’t move or speak but whose mind is works just fine, yet no one knows it…and more. Despite it being different than expected, I liked We Were Gathered‘s unique perspectives and the astute life observations. But, the ending focused on two of the characters I was least interested in and was somewhat odd compared to the rest of the book. I’d recommend We Were Gathered if you like quieter books with life observations from interesting perspectives…and don’t mind depressing.

I was twenty-one years old; she was seventeen. We were children. I know that now, but that’s how old people were when they got married. Elizabeth is twenty-eight. She would have been considered an old maid. No one told us that marriage would be hard. There were no therapists or counselors. You got married, maybe for love, for lust, for comfort, because it was time and you didn’t want to die alone. You had children. You didn’t think about what you wanted.

Us Against YouUs Against You by Fredrick Backman
Fiction – Literary (Released June 5, 2018)
448 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Atria Books)

Plot Summary: Amid the wreckage of the previous winter, Beartown residents face their beloved ice hockey team being disbanded and a volatile rivalry with nearby Hed Hockey.

My Thoughts: Let me start by saying that Us Against You is the sequel to last year’s Beartown (one of my favorites of 2017) and I highly recommend you read Beartown before reading Us Against You. The minute I picked up Us Against You, I breathed a sigh of relief to be back among these people in this town. Like in Beartown, Backman masterfully plunks the reader right into the center of things and makes him/her feel deeply for these characters and the town. But this time around, Beartown has lost its innocence. The story is even darker, more sinister, and more focused on the adults and the politics of sports (a very real thing). The town is reeling amid the wreckage of what happened in Beartown (the book) and trying to find its way forward. Like in Beartown, the story is about far more than hockey…friendship, rivalry, marriage, parenting, power, sexuality, and violence. Backman captures general human nature and its basest elements beautifully. While I didn’t love Us Against You quite as much as Beartown, I was still completely engrossed in the emotion of sports, which Backman captures better than anything save Friday Night Lights (and if you’re missing FNL, these are the books for you!).

Side Note: I thought this series was supposed to be a trilogy and Us Against You did feel like a “bridge book” right up until the end. But, the ending made me question whether a third book is on the way. I couldn’t find anything online confirming the third book. Does anyone have any answers?

Have you ever seen a town fall? Ours did. We’ll end up saying that violence came to Beartown this summer, but that will be a lie, the violence was already here. Because sometimes hating each other is so easy that it seems incomprehensible that we ever do anything else.

Great BelieversThe Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
Fiction – Literary (Release Date: June 19, 2018)
432 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Viking)

Plot Summary: A group of gay friends and their female friend (Fiona) navigate the AIDS crisis and deal with the death of one of their own in 1980’s Chicago…and decades later, Fiona sets out to Paris to find her estranged daughter and encounters the past in the process.

My Thoughts: The Great Believers is one of those “issue” book that makes the issue an organic part of the characters’ lives…and these are the types of “issue” books that work for me. It’s ultimately a gorgeous story about friendship in the face of disaster and is the kind of book you can just sink into. It’s got a little bit of The Heart’s Invisible Furies (sexuality, the AIDS crisis, characters you can root for wholeheartedly) and a little bit of A Little Life (a group of male friends facing terrible circumstances, but without the overwhelming violence), but retains its own uniqueness. These characters worked their way into my heart, even as it was breaking for them. Makkai’s writing wasn’t the kind that had me highlighting right and left…it was more the kind that just pulled me right into the story. And, the dual timelines come together in a surprising and satisfying way. This book has heart…and it’s seriously literary, but will still keep you turning the pages because you just have to find out what’s going to happen to these characters.

And was friendship that different in the end from love? You took the possibility of sex out of it, and it was all about the moment anyway. Being here, right now, in someone’s life. Making room for someone in yours.

Skip These

Florida by Lauren GroffFlorida by Lauren Groff (Released June 5, 2018)
DNF at 17%

Short stories are always hit and miss for me, so I hesitantly picked up this collection (mostly because I liked Fates & Furies). I wasn’t a fan of the first story, did like the second, but the third totally lost me. From the bit I read, this collection seemed like a very dark, depressing take on life in Florida.



A Place for UsA Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza (June 12, 2018)
DNF at 29%.

I had high hopes for this novel because of its rave reviews and I liked it alright, but I just kept waiting for something to happen. I read the 3 star Goodreads reviews and the main complaint was the novel didn’t have much of a plot. So, I figured things weren’t going to pick up. For a novel like this to work for me, the writing has to sparkle and I thought this writing was just average.


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

Do you want a monthly personalized book recommendation from me and access to our private Facebook Group?
Support Sarah’s Book Shelves on Patreon for access to these special bonuses (more details here)!

Get Weekly Email Updates!

Readers Recommend: The Prince of Tides and The Long And Faraway Gone

June 12, 2018 Book Recommendations 20

Readers Recommend


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

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

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

Let’s welcome our first guest…

Get to Know Dotty

  • Home: I am a native of Atlanta, GA and have lived in the Atlanta area for most of my life.  I did spend some time in Florida and Las Vegas, but eventually made my way back to Atlanta.
  • Career: I am a retired teacher. I taught Pre-Kindergarten for many years. I continue to do some volunteer work with young children.
  • Hobbies: Other than reading, my hobbies are playing the guitar, walking my dog, Daisy, and yoga. I am taking guitar lessons with the hope that I could one day play like Joni Mitchell, Ha Ha. Is spending time with my grandchildren a hobby? (Sarah: Yes!)
  • Favorite TV Show: My current favorite TV shows are The Crown and Life in Pieces. I loved Mad Men and still miss it.

Dotty Recommends…

An Old Love

Prince of TidesThe Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
Fiction – Literary (Released 1986)
679 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon











My favorite author is Pat Conroy and The Prince of Tides is my favorite book. Conroy had me at the first two sentences of the novel. 

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

The characters are complicated and tortured. Conroy’s language is intricate and beautiful.  It’s sad, but there are times when I laughed out loud.  This novel is southern literature at its finest. Give it a try. It’s worth it!

My Take:
Well, Dotty, you know the way to my heart! Pat Conroy is my favorite author too. Our only difference is The Lords of Discipline (my review) is my favorite of Conroy’s novels. I re-read The Prince of Tides (my review) a couple years ago and still loved it, but did think some portions were a bit overwritten (however, not that first line, which is a beauty!). But, I totally agree with you that Conroy is Southern literature at its finest!

A New Love

Long and Faraway GoneThe Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney
Fiction – Mystery (Released February 10, 2015)
467 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon











I recently read The Long And Far Away Gone by Lou Berney.  This book was a $2.99 pick from Book Bub. It is not the type of book that I usually read, but I read the sample and I just had to buy it.  It is a mystery, but it is also very character driven. I can’t tell you too much because I don”t want to give anything away.  The author won a number of awards, including the prestigious Edgar award, for this book. I just could not put it down! I recently read that Lou Berney has a new book coming out in October!

My Take:
I’d never heard of this one, but I admittedly don’t often read mysteries. But, this one does sound intriguing! Especially since it was compared to Laura Lippman (Sunburn) and Dennis Lehane (Since We Fell), the authors of two of the rare thrillers I’ve actually really liked!

A “Didn’t Love”

Whered You Go Bernadette Where Did You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
Fiction – Brain Candy (Released August 14, 2012)
330 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon








Please forgive me, but I did not like Where Did You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple.  In fact, I had to force myself to finish it. I know it is supposed to be sarcastic and funny, but I found it to be more sad than funny. Except for the daughter, the characters were not likable. For me, it was a short book that was too long! 

My Take:
We differ on this one. I loved Bernadette (my review) and did think it was sarcastic and funny. Light, but also had serious depth…a balance I always appreciate. 

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

Get Weekly Email Updates!

What I’m Reading Now (6/11/18)

June 11, 2018 It's Monday! What are you reading? 24

Whew! Last week was hectic. We’re in the final two weeks of school and there are lots of events requiring parent involvement. I was out of the house 3 weeknights last week and that’s way more than normally works for me. I also played a ton of tennis last week (which I’m paying for now with a sore wrist and feet). So, I didn’t get as much reading time as I’d have liked. 

But, I am loving the book I’m reading at least and the tennis was fun!

My 2018 Summer Reading List and Most Anticipated Books of Summer 2018 are up on the blog, so check them out to fill your beach bag!

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!).

I finished reading…

Us Against You


Us Against You by Fredrick Backman (June 5, 2018)
I loved being back in Beartown, though I didn’t love this one quite as much as Beartown. But, that was a tall order. Mini review coming later this week and I’ll be adding this one to my 2018 Summer Reading List.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

Great Believers


The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai (June 19, 2018)
I’m just over halfway through this novel about a group of gay friends in 1980’s Chicago. It’s a hefty read heavily involving the AIDS crisis, but it’s so far shaping up to be an “issue” book where the central focus is the characters…and the issue is an organic part of their lives. The writing is gorgeous and I’m loving it so far.
Affiliate Link: Pre-Order from Amazon

Upcoming reading plans…

Book of Essie


The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir (June 19, 2018)
This novel about a evangelical Christian family on a reality TV show was one of my June Book of the Month picks and I think I’ll be in the mood for something light after The Great Believers.

was reading…

One Year Ago: Almost exactly a year before reading Us Against You, I’d finished reading Beartown!

Two Years Ago: I was in the throes of triathlon training and reading a gritty novel set in the NY restaurant scene.

How was your reading week?

Get Weekly Email Updates!

Letting Go of Feeling Guilty for Not Reading Classics

June 7, 2018 Discussions 27

Not Reading Classics


A couple months ago, GQ Magazine posted an article titled 21 Books You Don’t Have to Read…and many of them are classics. As I non-English major in college, I’ve read an embarrassingly small number of the “classics.” I read some of them in high school, but honestly, The Catcher in the Rye, To Kill A Mockingbird, and The Great Gatsby are the only ones I remember. Wait, I think I read Kate Chopin’s The Awakening and The Sun Also Rises too, but I couldn’t tell you a thing about them.

This is kind of embarrassing since people assume, because I’m a book blogger and avid reader, that I am (or should be) well versed in the classics. I’m absolutely not. I haven’t read Jane Austen (which kills my mother), Tolstoy, or Flannery O’Connor. And, I hadn’t read Margaret Atwood until a couple years ago. I’m still trying to make time to read something of hers other than The Handmaid’s Tale (my review).

We were assigned a huge term paper (the kind that involved tons of research and took most of the year to write) our junior year in high school and most of my classmates took this opportunity to delve deep into one of the classics. What did I do? I delved deep into true crime. I wrote my paper on Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. It was an odd choice and I’m sure my teacher toyed with not letting me do it. But, I don’t regret it for a second. I still love true crime to this day and have a continued fascination with Truman Capote.

Every year, I say I’ll make time for a classic or two. But, it never happens and I feel bad about it and I’m not sure why. I’m not in school anymore. I don’t HAVE to read these classics. I’m pretty sure people aren’t going to think I’m stupid because I haven’t read them…and, if they do, I don’t want to be friends with those intellectual snobs anyway! But, I still feel guilty.

So, thank you to GQ Magazine for releasing me from this guilt!

Some Classics GQ Says You Don’t Have to Read

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
I can do without masculine bluster…

Hemingway’s novels—with their masculine bluster and clipped sentences—sometimes feel almost parodic to me.

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
I mean, I thought Circe was “written in an impenetrable style”…so, I’m sure this one isn’t for me.

[…] written in an impenetrable style that combines Faulkner and the King James Bible, Blood Meridian is a big, forbidding book that earns the reader bragging rights but provides scant pleasure.

John Adams by David McCullough
Dry and boring do not work for me right now…I don’t care if I’m supposed to be learning something along the way.

[…] his books are written with great care and impressive attention to detail. They also happen to be the driest, boringest tomes you’ll ever sludge through.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
A missing story is a no-go…especially with fantasy.

It never seemed to me that Tolkien cared about his story as much as he cared about rendering, in minute detail, the world he built.

A Few Classics I DO Still Want to Read

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
In my first Readers Recommend post, one of my blog readers said it’s one of the few classics that will make you laugh out loud. Plus, it helps that I don’t remember this one being on a single school reading list when I was in school.

Persuasion by Jane Austen
Because a number of people have said this is their favorite Austen novel.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Because my mother keeps telling me I must…and I love the first line.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
I’ve heard it’s dark and the closest a classic will get to “thriller.”

Tell me, how do y’all feel about the classics? Do you feel guilty not having read some of the big ones? Or, am I the only one who hasn’t read them all?

Get Weekly Email Updates!

Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton: The Book I Could’ve Rated Either 2 or 4 Stars (Spoilers)

June 5, 2018 Mysteries/Thrillers 12

There’s a short section at the end of this post that contains spoilers. It’s clearly labeled and everything before that section is spoiler-free.

Social Creature by Tara Isabella BurtonFiction – Thriller
Released June 5, 2018
320 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Doubleday Books)

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


I could’ve rated Social Creature 2 stars OR 4 stars and felt good about either choice….it’s completely ridiculous and messed up, but also addictive and intriguing. This book made me say “holy sh*t” multiple times.

Plot Summary

When Louise, a nobody trying to make it in NYC, meets Lavinia, an outrageous party girl/socialite, they embark on an intense friendship during which Lavinia ends up dead (this is not a spoiler…it’s revealed almost immediately and in the publishers’ blurb!).

Why I Read It

I’m a sucker for NYC social world books…especially dark and disturbing ones. Plus, Tyler Goodson (Manager at Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA) and one of my top recommendation sources gave it 4 stars.

Major Themes

Friendship, obsession, social media, New York City, image, socialites

What I Liked

  • This is one demented story. Maybe the most messed up book I’ve read since The Roanoke Girls. If you like dark and twisted, Social Creature is for you! But, fair warning, this book is not for everyone. Some people will absolutely hate it.
  • The bottom line with Social Creature, and the reason I decided on 4 rather than 2 stars, is that it’s absolutely addictive. I couldn’t put it down, especially during the second half.
  • At first, I was bored by the seemingly endless stream of ridiculous parties and socialite antics, but I couldn’t have predicted in a million years where this story would go. It’s the rare book that I wanted to DNF many times in the beginning, but I’m thrilled I didn’t.
  • The writing has a frantic, breathless, almost childlike quality with lots of “and, and, ands”…which totally fits the story.
  • Lavinia and Louise (and some fringe characters) seem ridiculous and unrealistic. But, having lived in NYC for years, I can assure you that people like this really exist. There are “It” Girls who are essentially exaggerated caricatures and have personal “brands” they try to live up to. There are nobodies who completely reinvent themselves into somebodies…while disavowing their past. And, there are the kids of famous and successful people who live lives of debauchery funded by their parents. These characters would’ve made me want to throw the book across the room (and will probably make many other readers do just that) had I not lived in NYC and understood that the craziness is very real.
  • Finally, try to go in as blind as possible. Shockingly, the publisher’s blurb actually does a good job of not revealing too much.

What I Didn’t Like

  • The publishers compared Social Creature to Gillian Flynn and Donna Tartt, which I don’t think are quite accurate. I can see Gillian Flynn a bit, but definitely not Donna Tartt. Publisher comparisons are always a crapshoot!
  • The story takes a bit to heat up. At first, the endless stream of NYC socialite parties was over-the-top, but also annoying and monotonous. I wish some of this had been cut down.
  • It got kind of raunchy at times, which doesn’t bother me, but will absolutely bother people who are more sensitive to that stuff.

A Defining Quote

There’s a reason people are able to function, in this world, as social creatures, and a good part of that reason is that there are a lot of questions you’re better off not knowing the answer to, and if you’re smart you won’t even ask.

Good for People Who Like…

Dark and disturbing books, New York City, dislikable characters, open-ended endings

Other Books You May Like

Another dark, disturbing book with a cat and mouse game:
Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach (my review)

SPOILER-Y Thoughts / Questions

  • Did the second half of this book remind anyone of a more sinister, online version of Weekend at Bernie’s?!
  • I wondered why Louise didn’t just let Lavinia be found in the bathroom by someone else. If she managed to sneak out of there with Lavinia’s dead body, couldn’t she have more easily snuck out alone and let the police try to piece together what happened? Or, couldn’t she have said it was an accident? I realize there wouldn’t really have been a story had either of these things happened, but I wanted a better reason why Louise chose the strategy she did…especially since she picked one that probably would never have occurred to most sane humans.
  • The Ending! I’m still trying to understand exactly why Louise killed Rex. Some possibilities:
    1) She needed him out of the way since she’d just confessed to Lavinia’s murder and cover-up. Purely a “get rid of the evidence” play. But, it seemed more emotional than that…
    2) She was enraged and jealous that he still loved Lavinia…and was lying about loving her (Louise). 
    3) So she could step into Louise’s life for good with people on her team. I thought it was this one for sure, but then why did she abandon that life and walk off into the sunset as Elizabeth Glass? Was she planning to stay around until Cordelia posted her Facebook rant outing Louise?
  • What do you think about why Louise killed Rex?

Have you ever read a book that you wildly swung between loving and hating?!

Get Weekly Email Updates!

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

June 1, 2018 Book Recommendations 20

Book of the Month June 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).

It’s summer reading time! All of this month’s selections are easy reads that would be great for the beach. As a follow-up to last month’s selections, I really liked How To Walk Away despite it being everything I normally hate in my reading (go figure!)…and included it in my 2018 Summer Reading List! 

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 June 2018 Selections

The AnomalyThe Anomaly by Michael Rutger (Release Date: June 19, 2018)
352 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.15 on 84 ratings
Selected By: Siobhan Jones (Book of the Month Editorial Director)

If Indiana Jones lived in the X-Files era, he might bear at least a passing resemblance to Nolan Moore — a rogue archaeologist hosting a documentary series derisively dismissed by the “real” experts, but beloved of conspiracy theorists.

Nolan sets out to retrace the steps of an explorer from 1909 who claimed to have discovered a mysterious cavern high up in the ancient rock of the Grand Canyon. And, for once, he may have actually found what he seeks. Then the trip takes a nasty turn, and the cave begins turning against them in mysterious ways.

Nolan’s story becomes one of survival against seemingly impossible odds. The only way out is to answer a series of intriguing questions: What is this strange cave? How has it remained hidden for so long? And what secret does it conceal that made its last visitors attempt to seal it forever?

My Thoughts:
Michael Rutger is a Hollywood screenwriter and The Anomaly is being developed for the big screen. This is the first book in a new series where each book is centered around an American urban legend…this one is based on the myth of Kincaid’s Cave in the Grand Canyon (which has never been found). It sounds like an adventure thriller with a bit of supernatural (which isn’t really my cup of tea, but may be yours). One Goodreads reviewer called it “Indiana Jones on acid with added HORROR” and many said they couldn’t put it down (although they also said they didn’t want to read it while home alone!). 

Book of EssieThe Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir (Release Date: June 12, 2018)
336 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.96 on 117 ratings
Selected By: 
Guest Judge Troian Bellisario (Actress, Pretty Little Liars)

A debut novel of family, fame, and religion that tells the emotionally stirring, wildly captivating story of the seventeen-year-old daughter of an evangelical preacher, star of the family’s hit reality show, and the secret pregnancy that threatens to blow their entire world apart.

My Thoughts:
The Book of Essie is a fast-paced read set in the world of reality TV and religion (the show sounds like a cross between Keeping Up with the Kardashians and the Duggars’ 19 Kids and Counting). Annie Jones (host of From the Front Porch podcast and one of my best recommendation sources) recommended it on Episode 132 of Modern Mrs. Darcy’s What Should I Read Next? podcast…with the caveat that she really liked it, but that love would be a strong word. She said the premise is intriguing, it would make for great discussion, and the writing isn’t amazing, but the story is compelling and fast-paced. Goodreads reviewers did warn that the story might be deeply unsettling to some, that Christians were depicted in a negative light, and some plot points were implausible (if those elements tend to bother you). The Book of Essie seems similar to another reality TV show book I really liked, The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll. 

CalypsoCalypso by David Sedaris (Release Date: May 29, 2018)
272 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.34 on 203 ratings
Selected By: Liberty Hardy (co-host of Book Riot‘s All the Books podcast)

When he buys a beach house on the Carolina coast, Sedaris envisions long, relaxing vacations spent playing board games and lounging in the sun with those he loves most. And life at the Sea Section, as he names the vacation home, is exactly as idyllic as he imagined, except for one tiny, vexing realization: it’s impossible to take a vacation from yourself.

With CalypsoSedaris sets his formidable powers of observation toward middle age and mortality. Make no mistake: these stories are very, very funny-it’s a book that can make you laugh ’til you snort, the way only family can. Sedaris’s powers of observation have never been sharper, and his ability to shock readers into laughter unparalleled. But much of the comedy here is born out of that vertiginous moment when your own body betrays you and you realize that the story of your life is made up of more past than future.

My Thoughts:
I probably don’t need to say much about David Sedaris, but I hear Calypso is more of the same from him with a focus on middle age and a deeper exploration of his sister’s suicide. Modern Mrs. Darcy recommended it and mentioned its dark humor. Simone and Her Books said it would make you laugh a little and cry a little. And, Chris Jenson (co-host of From the Front Porch podcast with Annie Jones) recommended it as well. Some Goodreads reviewers said it might be his best book yet and that it’s sure to deeply touch your emotions (a full range of them). I’m always up for a humorous, yet moving essay collection (especially dark humor) and have enjoyed Sedaris in the past.

Kiss Quotient The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang (Released: June 5, 2018)
336 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.44 on 421 ratings
Selected By: 
Celestine Williams (BOTM Readers Committee member)

Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases–a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice–with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. […]

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he’s making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic…

My Thoughts:
I’m not generally a fan of romances, but this debut sounds like a “romance with more” (an unique angle that sets it apart from the crowded genre). The author realized she might be on the autism spectrum while she was writing the book and was diagnosed in 2016. It’s one of Ashley Spivey’s (founder of the #Spiveys Club Facebook Group with over 7,000 members) favorite reads of this year and she said it’s “full of hot sex, funny/quirky moments, autism education, and even what real consent is.” Goodreads reviewers said it was sweet, heart-warming, full of likable characters, and STEAMY. It’s also an #ownvoices story.

When Katie Met CassidyWhen Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri (Release Date: June 19, 2018)
272 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.67 on 81 ratings
Selected By: Samantha Irby (Author of We Are Never Meeting in Real Life and Blogger)

Katie Daniels is a perfection-seeking 28-year-old lawyer living the New York dream. […]

But the rug is swept from under Katie when she is suddenly dumped by her fiance, Paul Michael, leaving her devastated and completely lost. On a whim, she agrees to have a drink with Cassidy Price-a self-assured, sexually promiscuous woman she meets at work. The two form a newfound friendship, which soon brings into question everything Katie thought she knew about sex—and love.

My Thoughts:
This novel by the author of The Assistants sounds like a girl power (and LGBTQ) version of a rom-com. It explores the question of “how, as a culture, while we may have come a long way in terms of gender equality, a woman’s capacity for an entitlement to sexual pleasure still remain entirely taboo.” I read the first couple pages and was kind of annoyed by the writing…very chick lit, but without the snappy smarts I like in my chick lit writing. Some Goodreads reviewers mentioned a lack of character development and that it left them feeling emotionally flat, while others sang it’s praises. That being said, Nicole Bonia (co-host of The Readerly Report podcast and a recommendation source I’ve had good luck with in the past) gave it 4 stars. All in all, the reports on this one seem pretty mixed.

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

I’m picking two books this month: Calypso by David Sedaris and The Book of Essie by Meghan Maclean Weir (because I LOVE some good behind-the-scenes of reality TV dirt!).

Make your Book of the Month selections by Wednesday, June 6th.

What book will you choose this month?

This Month’s Special Deals

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

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

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

How to Join Book of the Month…

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

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

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

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

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

Support Sarah’s Book Shelves on Patreon!
(and get personalized book recommendations and access to our private Facebook Group)

Support Us!

May 2018 Monthly Round-Up

May 31, 2018 Monthly Round-Ups 7

May 2018 Monthly Round-Up


May was a solid, if not stand-out reading month. Lots of books I liked or liked a lot, but none that clearly stood out above the rest. And, no 5 star reads. So, while I do have a favorite book of the month, it was a bit of a toss-up for that title.

I spent the first few weeks of the month getting my 2018 Summer Reading List together and I’m so excited about all the books that made it on! And, just to explode your TBR a bit further, I shared My Most Anticipated Books of Summer 2018 last week. These books are coming out later this summer that I (mostly) haven’t read yet (compared to my Summer Reading List, where I’ve read every book on it).

I read 8 books this month…and I fit audiobooks back into my life! I finally finished the new Tiger Woods biography, which is over 15 hours long…about 3 times the length of my normal audiobooks. And, I listened to one more (The Mockingbird Next Door).




Best-Selling Book (via my affiliate links)

Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties by Camille Pagan – my #1 “Fun” pick from my 2018 Summer Reading List


  • The 2018 Summer Reading List is here! Get out your TBR lists…
  • Personalized Book Recommendations and the Superstars Facebook Group are now available to anyone who supports Sarah’s Book Shelves on Patreon!

May Quality and Recommendation Sources

Reading Quality 

May 2018

  • % Successful Books Attempted (includes DNF’s) = 78% (way above my 43% success rate from 2017)
  • % Successful Books Finished (does not include DNFs) = 88%

2018 Year-to-Date (through May)

  • % Successful Books Attempted (includes DNF’s) = 57% (above my 43% success rate from 2017)
  • % Successful Books Finished (does not include DNFs) = 85%

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.

June Releases I’m Excited About

Us Against You by Fredrick Backman (June 5)
Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton (June 5) – Already read & really liked!
Visible Empire by Hannah Pittard (June 5) – Already read & really liked!
We Are Gathered by Jamie Weisman (June 5)
A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza (June 12)
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai (June 19)

Most Popular Posts

Posts Actually Published in May
2018 Summer Reading List

April and May 2018 Books to Read (and Skip)
Book of the Month May 2018 Selections: What Book Should You Choose?

Overall Posts
The same as above…and that NEVER happens!

Favorite Posts by Fellow Bloggers

How was your reading month?

Get Weekly Email Updates!

The Best Backlist Books I’ve Read in 2018 So Far

May 29, 2018 Mini Book Reviews 23

Best Backlist Books I've Read in 2018 So Far


The best backlist books I’ve read in 2018 so far are all over the map from a genre perspective. But, good for me for genre diversity!

I never read as many backlist books as I’d like, but I do try to fit some in at the beginning and end of every year. And, putting them on hold at the library holds me accountable because I feel pressure to make the time when the books come in!

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!).

The Best Backlist Books I’ve Read in 2018 So Far

Glitter and GlueGlitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released February 4, 2014)
224 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased (Publisher: Ballantine Books)

Plot Summary: Corrigan’s stint as a nanny to an Australian family who had lost their mother helps her reflect on what it means to be a mother and her relationship with her own mother.

My Thoughts: I absolutely adored Corrigan’s latest memoir, Tell Me More, so I was excited to delve into her backlist. While Glitter and Glue didn’t blow me away quite as much as Tell Me More, I still relished sinking back into Corrigan’s signature brand of heartfelt, relatable, and sometimes irreverent observations about life and motherhood. Corrigan hadn’t given much thought to what it’s like to mother someone or quite appreciated her mother until she stepped into the role of surrogate caring for two children who had lost their own. I know I couldn’t begin to relate to what it’s like to be a mother until I was one myself…which gave me a whole new appreciation for my own mother…a situation I’m guessing is pretty common. If you like women’s life observations-type writing (think Anna Quindlen, Cheryl Strayed), Kelly Corrigan should be next on your list! Read by the author, this one is great on audio!

[…] I probably should have figured this out sooner, but what child can see the woman inside her Mom, what with all that mother-ness blocking out everything else?

Heating and CoolingHeating and Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs by Beth Ann Fennelly
Memoir (Released October 10, 2017)
112 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased (Publisher: W.W. Norton)

Plot Summary: In a series of tiny chapters (some only a single paragraph), Fennelly shares anecdotes from her life.

My Thoughts: This memoir is told in a totally unique format…actually a number of different formats (short essays, single paragraphs or sentences, a poem, etc) collected into one volume. It’s clever and witty and random, but delightfully random. It’s a 100% “real life” book. She touches on marriage, parenthood, her writing career, her Catholic upbringing (Catholics beware – she sort of skewers Catholicism), and everyday life. It’s the perfect choice for a time when you’re distracted or don’t have much reading time…and would make a perfect “bathroom book” (i.e. the book that sits on the back of the toilet to be picked up by whoever sits down).

There will come a day—let it be many years from now—when our kids realize no married couple ever needed to retreat at high noon behind their locked bedroom door to discuss taxes.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican DaughterI Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez
Fiction – Young Adult (Released October 17, 2017)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Library (Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers)

Plot Summary: In the wake of her sister’s tragic death, Julia Reyes (the daughter of Mexican immigrants) strains against the expectations of her traditional parents and tries to find out more about her sister’s life.

My Thoughts: This story of a cultural and generational clash, dealing with grief, and living in the shadow of a deceased sibling reminded me a bit of Everything I Never Told You (my review). Julia is a bit of a feminist with ambitions to leave her Chicago suburb to pursue her writing dreams, while her parents think she should stay home, learning to keep house like “good Mexicans daughters” (e.g. her sister). Julia narrates the book in a salty, questioning style, but her constant negativity started to grate on me after awhile. The story is bleak at times, but is ultimately hopeful (even though the ending is a bit too neat and tidy, though that’s probably appropriate for YA). Though not perfect, this coming-of-age story about the universal theme of young girls navigating their paths with parents who are vastly different than they are could be a transformative read for young girls.

In some ways, I think that part of what I’m trying to accomplish—whether Amá really understands it or not—is to live for her, Apá, and Olga. It’s not that I’m living life for them, exactly, but I have so many choices they’ve never had, and I feel like I can do so much with what I’ve been given. What a waste their journey would be if I just settled for a dull, mediocre life. Maybe one day they’ll realize that.

Red Notice Red Notice by Bill Browder
Nonfiction – Business (Released February 3, 2015)
380 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Library (Publisher: Simon & Schuster)

Plot Summary: The true story Browder’s experience as one of the first foreign investors in Russia after the fall of Communism and widespread privatization.

My Thoughts: You might think the premise of Red Notice sounds boring. Let me assure you…it’s not. It’s a financial thriller (if there is such a thing) that reads like fiction and kept me quickly turning the pages…while giving a fascinating picture of Russian culture in the Post-Communism era. During the course of his investing, Browder made a ton of money, partnered with billionaire Edmond Safra, angered some oligarchs via his anti-corruption battles, showed some serious guts, and ended up in a knockdown, drag-out battle with Putin and the Russian regime. Think a cross between Michael Lewis, Dominick Dunne, and the TV show Billions. Bonus: rumor has it he wrote this book in an effort to stay alive, to become well-known enough that the Russians couldn’t easily take him out.

This whole exercise was teaching me that Russian business culture is closer to that of a prison yard than anything else. In prison, all you have is your reputation. Your position is hard-earned and it is not relinquished easily. When someone is crossing the yard coming for you, you cannot stand idly by. You have to kill him before he kills you. If you don’t, and if you manage to survive the attack, you’ll be deemed weak and before you know it, you will have lost your respect and become someone’s bitch. This is the calculus that every oligarch and every Russian politician goes through every day.

Virgin SuicidesThe Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
Fiction – Debut (Released April 1, 1993)
249 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased (Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)

Plot Summary: In a Detroit suburb, the five enigmatic Lisbon sisters commit suicide over the course of a year and the neighborhood boys who were obsessed with them try to understand why.

My Thoughts: I recently read Annie Spence’s Dear Fahrenheit 451 and she raved so much about The Virgin Suicides that I immediately felt like a freak of nature for not having read it yet! I definitely didn’t end up as evangelical about it as Annie, but I did really like it. It’s a gorgeously written, nostalgic, wistful, coming-of-age story told from the collective voice of the neighborhood boys who were obsessed with the mysterious and unreachable Lisbon sisters. This is a book where you know what happens in the first sentence, so there isn’t a ton of “action” (other than lots of awkward, teenage stalking), yet Eugenides still managed to create incredible, simmering tension that had me almost as obsessed with the Lisbon sisters as the neighborhood boys were. PS – the first and last lines are among the best first and last lines I’ve ever read.

It didn’t matter in the end how old they had been, or that they were girls, but only that we had loved them, and that they hadn’t heard us calling, still do not hear us, up here in the tree-house, with our thinning hair and soft bellies, calling them out of those rooms where they went to be alone for all time, alone in suicide, which is deeper than death, and where we will never find the pieces to put them back together.

What great backlist books have you read this year?

Get Weekly Email Updates!

My Most Anticipated Books of Summer 2018

May 24, 2018 Book Lists 12

Most Anticipated Books of Summer 2018


In case you missed it last week, I posted my 2018 Summer Reading Guide, which is chock full of awesome books for summer that I’ve already vetted. Today’s Most Anticipated Books of Summer 2018 list focuses on upcoming releases that I’m excited about, but (for the most part) have not yet read. I hope I’ll be adding many of these to my Summer Reading Guide as the summer goes on.

My Most Anticipated Books of Summer 2018 list is mostly made up of books from trusted sources (to find your personal trusted recommendation sources, check out this post and free downloadable template) who, in as many cases as possible, have already read the book. I did not look at a single publisher’s catalog to create this list. I’m sharing the recommendation source for each book and will specify if that source has or has not read it yet.

I use my “Rock Your Reading” Tracker (available for purchase for $11.99), to keep an ongoing eye on my most trusted recommendation sources…and have improved my reading success by 26% from last year!

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


Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton (June 5, Doubleday)
I’ve read this one and it’s intriguing, addictive, and extremely messed up. It’s super dark and definitely not for everyone, but I’m still thinking about it over a month after reading it. It was also my #1 “Intense / Fast-Paced” pick on my 2018 Summer Reading Guide!

Louise has nothing. Lavinia has everything. After a chance encounter, the two spiral into an intimate, intense, and possibly toxic friendship. A Talented Mr. Ripley for the digital age, this seductive story takes a classic tale of obsession and makes it irresistibly new.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read by ME, Tyler Goodson (manager at Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA), and Annie Jones from From the Front Porch podcast.

Us Against You by Fredrick Backman (June 5, Atria Books)
The sequel to Beartown (my review), one of my favorite books of last year!!! This is probably my most anticipated book of the entire year. Beartown reminded me so much of Friday Night Lights and Us Against You sounds like it picks up about where Dillon was split into East and West.

After everything that the citizens of Beartown have gone through, they are struck yet another blow when they hear that their beloved local hockey team will soon be disbanded. What makes it worse is the obvious satisfaction that all the former Beartown players, who now play for a rival team in Hed, take in that fact. […]

Soon a new team starts to take shape around Amat, the fastest player you’ll ever see; Benji, the intense lone wolf; and Vidar, a born-to-be-bad troublemaker. But bringing this team together proves to be a challenge as old bonds are broken, new ones are formed, and the enmity with Hed grows more and more acute.

Recommendation Source(s): Trusted Author and already read by Modern Mrs. Darcy (2018 Summer Reading Guide) and Jan Belisle (blog reader whose taste I generally agree with).

Visible Empire by Hannah Pittard (June 5, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
I love novels based on real events and this one reminded me of a less epic A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe. I also loved Pittard’s 2014 novel, Reunion.

It’s a humid June day when the phones begin to ring in Atlanta: disaster has struck. Air France Flight 007, which had been chartered to ferry home more than one hundred of Atlanta’s cultural leaders following a luxurious arts-oriented tour of Europe, crashed shortly after takeoff in Paris. In one fell swoop, many of the city’s wealthiest residents perished.

Left behind were children, spouses, lovers, friends, and a city on the cusp of great change: the Civil Rights movement was at its peak, the hedonism of the 60s was at its doorstep. In Hannah Pittard’s dazzling and most ambitious novel yet, she gives us the journeys of those who must now rebuild this place and their lives.

Recommendation Source(s): Trusted author and already read by ME and Modern Mrs. Darcy (2018 Summer Reading Guide).

A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza (June 12, SJP for Hogarth)
I love complicated family stories and this one sounds like a good one. I read the sample and was immediately intrigued. The author is only 26 years old and this is her debut novel! It’s also the first acquisition by Sarah Jessica Parker’s imprint at Hogarth.

A Place for Us unfolds the lives of an Indian-American Muslim family, gathered together in their Californian hometown to celebrate the eldest daughter, Hadia’s, wedding–a match of love rather than tradition. It is here, on this momentous day, that Amar, the youngest of the siblings, reunites with his family for the first time in three years. Rafiq and Layla must now contend with the choices and betrayals that lead to their son’s estrangement–the reckoning of parents who strove to pass on their cultures and traditions to their children, and of children who in turn struggle to balance authenticity in themselves with loyalty to the home they came from.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read by Modern Mrs. Darcy (2018 Summer Reading Guide).

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai (June 19, Viking)
I’ve never read Rebecca Makkai before, but have heard she’s kind of extraordinary. One of my best recommendation sources rated this one 5 stars!

In 1985, Yale Tishman, the development director for an art gallery in Chicago, is about to pull off an amazing coup, bringing an extraordinary collection of 1920s paintings as a gift to the gallery. Yet as his career begins to flourish, the carnage of the AIDS epidemic grows around him. One by one, his friends are dying and after his friend Nico’s funeral, he finds his partner is infected, and that he might even have the virus himself. The only person he has left is Fiona, Nico’s little sister.

Thirty years later, Fiona is in Paris tracking down her estranged daughter who disappeared into a cult. While staying with an old friend, a famous photographer who documented the Chicago epidemic, she finds herself finally grappling with the devastating ways the AIDS crisis affected her life and her relationship with her daughter. Yale and Fiona’s stories unfold in incredibly moving and sometimes surprising ways, as both struggle to find goodness in the face of disaster.

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


Clock Dance by Anne Tyler (July 10, Knopf)
Believe it or not, I’ve never read Anne Tyler. But, women’s reinvention journey novels have been totally appealing to me lately and Tyler Goodson, one of my top recommendation sources, rated this one 5 stars.

A bittersweet novel of hope and regret, fulfillment and renewal, Clock Dance brings us the everyday life of a woman who decides it’s never too late to change direction, and choose your own path.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read by Tyler Goodson (manager at Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA), Modern Mrs. Darcy (2018 Summer Reading Guide), and Jaclyn Crupi

What We Were Promised by Lucy Tan (July 10, Little Brown)
I’m a sucker for family stories and the Shanghai setting of this one especially intrigues me.

Set in modern Shanghai, a debut by a Chinese-American writer about a prodigal son whose unexpected return forces his newly wealthy family to confront painful secrets and unfulfilled promises.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read by Modern Mrs. Darcy (2018 Summer Reading Guide)

Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott (July 17, Little Brown)
I’m super picky about my psychological thrillers, but Megan Abbott is one of my most trusted authors. She writes demented high school girls better than anyone I know. I loved The Fever and You Will Know Me and this time around she tackles the world of science.

A mesmerizing psychological thriller about how a secret can bind two friends together forever…or tear them apart.

Recommendation Source(s): Trusted Author

The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon (July 31, Riverhead Books)
Annie Jones got me interested in this one when she talked about it on Anne Bogel’s What Should I Read Next? podcast…she said the writing is gorgeous. Plus, R.O. Kwon was one of Bookpage’s 11 Women to Watch in 2018.

A powerful, darkly glittering novel about violence, love, faith, and loss, as a young Korean American woman at an elite American university is drawn into acts of domestic terrorism by a cult tied to North Korea.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read by Tyler Goodson (manager at Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA), and Annie Jones from From the Front Porch podcast


The Drama Teacher by Koren Zailckas (August 7, Crown)
Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books (one of my most trusted book bloggers) loved Zailckas’ debut novel, Mother, Mother and I’m always on the hunt for new-to-me psychological thriller authors.

Gracie Mueller seems like an average person. […] But she has a lot to hide—she’s not even a US citizen—and when Randy’s failing career as a real estate agent makes finances tight, he leaves town for a better job, their home goes into foreclosure, and Gracie turns back to the creatively illegal lifestyle of her past to keep things afloat for her kids.

An expert in fake identities, she becomes Tracey Bueller, who later becomes Mariana DeFelice. […] After a deadly stint upstate when a friend asks too many questions, she leaves town for New York City, finding her way into the best school in Manhattan for her kids, where she gets a job as the drama teacher. But as she struggles to keep her web of lies spun taut and her secrets hidden, more questions about her past are raised.

Recommendation Source(s): Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books (not read)

The Distance Home by Paula Saunders (August 7, Random House)
I’m a sucker for a good family saga and Tyler Goodson, one of my top recommendation sources, rated this one 5 stars.

A “riveting family saga” (Mary Karr) set in the American West, about sibling rivalry, dark secrets, and a young girl’s struggle with freedom and artistic desire.

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

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (August 14, Putnam)
I love a coming of age story that has a bit of mystery and the North Carolina marsh setting of this debut novel grabbed my attention (I’m secretly hoping she’ll remind me a bit of Pat Conroy). PS – Owens is a biologist and wildlife writer.

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Recommendation Source(s): None – I received an ARC of this from the publisher and the description caught my attention.

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

What Sumer 2018 books are you looking forward to?

Get Weekly Email Updates!