Posts By: Sarah Dickinson

Eight Campus Novels That Will Make You Want to Go Back to School…or Not!

August 22, 2017 Top Ten Tuesday 33

Eight Campus Novels That Will Make You Want to Go Back to School
Regular readers know how big a sucker I am for campus novels, so I was so surprised when I realized I’d never done a round-up of my favorites! And, when I say campus, I mean college, boarding school, or elite private high school. For some reason the “campus” feels more “campus-y” and the potential for drama much greater with these types of schools.

You’ll notice that many of these books fall into the dark and twisty category…which will probably make some of you glad you’re watching all the drama from the sidelines instead of living it!

Eight Campus Novels That Will Make You Want to Go Back to School…or Not!

Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates (my review)
I feel like I talk about this book all the time…but, with good reason! A secret society, friends backstabbing friends, dares gone way too far…at Oxford University. Bonus: Yates’s sophomore novel, Grist Mill Road, is coming out on January 8 and I couldn’t be more excited! 

If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio (my review)
Seven Shakespeare students who are best friends, life imitating art, a tragedy…at the fictional Dellecher Classical Conservatory (a small, uber-intense performing arts college in the Midwest).

Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito (my review)
Rich and neglected high schoolers that love to party, a school shooting, an obsessive love story, an abusive father…at a fictional, elite Swedish prep school.

Shadow of the Lions by Christopher Swann (my review)
A boy who disappeared years ago, his best friend who returns to find out what happened…at Blackbourne, a fictional, all boys boarding school in Virginia (but, it’s based on the very real Woodberry Forest School in Orange, VA, also the author’s alma mater).

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (my review)
Coming of age story, lovable characters, baseball, sports psychology (but, don’t worry, this book is not really about baseball)…at Westish College (a small, fictional college on the shores of Lake Michigan). 

The Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy (my review)
Possibly my very favorite campus novel and the grandaddy of them all! A gorgeous and sinister Charleston setting, abuse and hazing, friendship…at the very real Citadel (The Military College of South Carolina). 

The Secret History by Donna Tartt (my review)
Best friends, a murder, betrayal…at the fictional Hampden College (a small, elite Vermont college closely resembling Tartt’s alma mater, Bennington College). 

The Takedown by Corrie Wang (my review)
High school girl drama, technology and social media on steroids, public shaming…at a fictional, elite Brooklyn high school.

Are you a fellow sucker for campus novels? What are some of your favorites?

Get Weekly Email Updates!

What I’m Reading Now (8/21/17)

August 21, 2017 It's Monday! What are you reading? 28

Whew! Last week was moving week…and things were obviously chaotic! I spent almost all day every day unpacking boxes (I now understand that it can take a full 1.5 days to unpack a kitchen) and did not do a ton of reading. However, podcasts made all that unpacking much more enjoyable!

Thankfully, we were able to take a break from all the moving nonsense with a quick family trip to the Chesapeake Bay area last weekend. Let me tell you, it was much needed!

#Buildsarahsbookshelves Library Update

I’m putting together a very selective library for my new (but small) built-in bookshelves and am sharing each book I acquire on Instagram (follow me at sarahsbookshelves)! And, I’m trying to acquire all these new books at rock bottom prices.

I didn’t acquire any new books for my new shelves last week, but I’ll do you one better…I actually got to see my shelves live and (almost) finished for the first time! 

My new babies…anxiously awaiting their books! @gates.interiors #buildsarahsbookshelves #bookstagram #bookshelves #bookshelvesofinstagram

A post shared by Sarah’s Book Shelves (@sarahsbookshelves) on

Hosted by The Book Date.

This post contains affiliate links.

I finished reading…

Hate U Give, Getaway Car


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (February 28, 2017)

High readable, super compelling, and heart-breaking. An “issue” book that happens to also be, at its heart, a flat-out great story about a family. I can see why people are buzzing about this one. Also, an excellent choice for book clubs.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Getaway Car by Ann Patchett (August 25, 2011)
This slim little book (or, essay is probably a better term as it’s only 45 pages long) is Patchett’s thoughts and advice on writing. I’m not an aspiring writer, but Patchett’s advice and outlook on life and work is down to earth and applicable beyond writing. Without the benefit of being a writer myself, I suspect this is a must read for anyone that is!

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas


The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas (August 29, 2017)
This debut novel about a woman’s view of work and marriage was a last minute Netgalley request…before I realized it was over 500 pages long! I’m about 25% through and enjoying it…Joan’s struggle between achieving her professional goals and being a wife and mother is real.

Affiliate Link: Pre-Order from Amazon

South Pole Station by Ashley Shelby


South Pole Station by Ashley Shelby (July 4, 2017)
I read about 10% of this one…it was fine, but wasn’t blowing me away. And, since it was a library hold, I wasn’t feeling any pressure to continue with something that didn’t blow me away.

Upcoming reading plans…

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid


Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (March 7, 2017)
I’ve been shying away from this critical darling because I’m not a fan of magical realism, but finally put it on hold at the library after reading the first few pages at a bookstore (the writing is great!) and seeing Susie at Novel Visits mention it’s a good choice for readers who think they don’t like magical realism.

was reading…

One Year Ago: I was on vacation and didn’t post a Monday update!

Two Years Ago: I had just finished my first Sprint Triathlon!

How was your reading week?

Get Weekly Email Updates!

Read One, Skip Two: Shadow of the Lions, See What I Have Done, and Young Jane Young

August 17, 2017 Mini Book Reviews 11

I moved this week, so life has been crazy! Hence the round-up of August mini-reviews you’re getting today. Two of these books are already out and one is coming on August 22.

Shadow of the Lions by Christopher SwannShadow of the Lions by Christopher Swann
Fiction (
Released August 1, 2017)
368 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Algonquin)

Plot Summary: After his life spirals out of control following the success of his first novel, Matthias returns to teach at his old boys’ boarding school, where his best friend (Fritz) vanished from campus during their senior year.

My Thoughts: Y’all know I’m a sucker for boarding school novels. But, I’ve had read some stinkers over the past few years. Shadow of the Lions is NOT one of the stinkers! It’s been described as a “literary thriller,” which I’m not sure I agree with. I’d say it’s more of a literary “mystery” than a “thriller” because it doesn’t have all the heart-pounding franticness that a thriller brings to mind.

The story begins with a wistful feeling as Matthias returns to campus and reminisces about his time there as a student and Fritz’s disappearance. And, it gradually picks up speed as Matthias decides he wants to find out what happened to Fritz once and for all. This is also a story about male friendship…the kind of bond that can only be developed in extremely close quarters with shared experiences (i.e. living together in dorms, in the military, etc). Shadow of the Lions is one of those books that you don’t have to think too hard about (I need these sometimes!), but that has enough depth to keep you interested…and is the final book I’m adding to this year’s Summer Reading Guide!

See What I Have Done by Sarah SchmidtSee What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
Historical Fiction – Debut (
Released August 1, 2017)
336 Pages
Bottom Line: Skip it.

Affiliate Link: Amazon
Source: Publisher (Atlantic Monthly)

Plot Summary: A fictional telling of the famous, unsolved Lizzie Borden murders of 1892.

My Thoughts: I love books about crime. I love fiction based on real people and/or events. I love books about dysfunctional families. See What I Have Done is all of these things, but I didn’t love it. Most of the story centers around the Borden family dynamics (each family member has their own motives to have possibly killed Abby and Andrew Borden) and the days immediately following the murders. Oddly for a story involving crime and a dysfunctional family, it moved slowly and I got bored around the 40-50% mark. I kept expecting things to move along to Lizzie’s arrest and the subsequent trial (the part of the story I find most intriguing), but that didn’t happen until three quarters of the way through. And, when we finally did hear about it, it was covered only briefly and on a surface level (we never even got to hear about the evidence that led to Lizzie’s arrest). When I finished, I felt like I didn’t know much more about the murders than I did before I read the book.

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle ZevinYoung Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin
Fiction (
Release Date: August 22, 2017)
320 Pages
Bottom Line: Skip it.

Affiliate Link: Amazon
Source: Publisher (Algonquin)

Plot Summary: When intern Aviva Grossman’s affair with her much older, married Congressman boss becomes public, she must figure out how to get her life back in order.

My Thoughts: Zevin’s last book, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry (my review), was my favorite book of 2014, so I had high expectations going into Young Jane Young. And, I did love the first half. Young Jane Young is an “issue” book without feeling too much like an “issue” book. The storyline closely mirrors the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal, which I was fascinated with when it happened. But, Young Jane Young explores the reverberating impact of a public scandal like this on the female cheatee…and how different it is from the impact on the male cheater. It illuminates the gross double standard that exists in today’s society and how that can truly wreck lives. Zevin had me glued through this point.

But, a gimmicky second half sent things sailing downhill. First, the writing style and tone of the story completely changed during the section told from Ruby’s (Aviva’s daughter) perspective (which was written in a one-sided email exchange with her pen pal). I didn’t like that we never heard from the pen pal either. But, what really sent me over the edge was the final section told from Aviva’s perspective that was written as a Choose Your Own Adventure story (yes, you read that correctly). What?!! There was a point to it, but it still didn’t work for me…mainly because I thought I was reading an adult novel, not a kids’ comic book. To be fair, this was clearly mentioned in the book’s blurb, but I must have skimmed right over that part. I imagine Young Jane Young will be a somewhat controversial read, so it would make a great book club selection even though it didn’t work for me.

Get Weekly Email Updates!

My Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2017

August 15, 2017 Book Lists 16

Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2017
It’s finally here…big, buzzy book season! For those that don’t closely follow the publishing industry, Fall is traditionally when the buzziest books by the biggest name authors hit the shelves. We’ve got new books coming from Celeste Ng, Nelson DeMille, Alice Hoffman, Dan Brown, Jennifer Egan, and Andy Weir.

But, a number of books from lesser known or debut authors caught me eye as well! And, a couple of those are international books hitting U.S. soil for the first time this Fall.

Last year, four of the books I picked for my Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2016 list ended up being hits for me. Let’s see if I can beat that this year!

This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

September

Sourdough by Robin Sloan (September 5, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)
I loved Sloan’s quirky novel about bookstores, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, and now he’s writing about food! Admittedly, I can’t begin to figure out what about food this book is actually about. More power to anyone who can decipher this blurb…

Lois Clary is a software engineer at General Dexterity, a San Francisco robotics company with world-changing ambitions. She codes all day and collapses at night, her human contact limited to the two brothers who run the neighborhood hole-in-the-wall from which she orders dinner every evening. Then, disaster! Visa issues. The brothers close up shop, and fast. But they have one last delivery for Lois: their culture, the sourdough starter used to bake their bread. She must keep it alive, they tell her—feed it daily, play it music, and learn to bake with it.

When Lois comes before the jury that decides who sells what at Bay Area markets, she encounters a close-knit club with no appetite for new members. But then, an alternative emerges: a secret market that aims to fuse food and technology. But who are these people, exactly?

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (September 12, Penguin Press)
I’ve already read this one and it’s great! Which is good news because it had big shoes to fill (Ng’s debut, Everything I Never Told You, was a huge hit and was Amazon’s Best Book of 2014…and I loved it). 

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned […]. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.
Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

The Twelve-Mile Straight by Eleanor Henderson (September 12, Ecco)
It’s about time for a heart-wrenching, Southern saga for me…hoping this is it! It’s been described as “To Kill a Mockingbird meets Beloved” and has gotten some eyebrow-raising blurbs (Cristina Henriquez, author of The Book of Unknown Americans called it “art of the highest order”).

Cotton County, Georgia, 1930: in a house full of secrets, two babies-one light-skinned, the other dark-are born to Elma Jesup, a white sharecropper’s daughter. Accused of her rape, field hand Genus Jackson is lynched and dragged behind a truck down the Twelve-Mile Straight, the road to the nearby town. In the aftermath, the farm’s inhabitants are forced to contend with their complicity in a series of events that left a man dead and a family irrevocably fractured.

The Cuban Affair by Nelson DeMille (September 19, Simon & Schuster)
Years ago, Nelson DeMille was one of my favorite authors…and his The Gold Coast was one of my favorite books. He’s still a solid go-to thriller writer for me and I’m looking forward to this departure from his John Corey novels.

Daniel Graham MacCormick—Mac for short—seems to have a pretty good life. At age thirty-five he’s living in Key West, owner of a forty-two-foot charter fishing boat, The Maine. One day, Mac is sitting in the famous Green Parrot Bar in Key West, contemplating his life, and waiting for Carlos, a hotshot Miami lawyer heavily involved with anti-Castro groups. Carlos wants to hire Mac and The Maine for a ten-day fishing tournament to Cuba at the standard rate, but Mac suspects there is more to this […].

The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall (September 19, Ballantine Books)
I’ve read an excerpt of this novel that has been compared Fates and Furies and The Mothers and really liked the writing! Hopefully, it can keep up it’s good start. 

A timely novel about an accusation against a beloved schoolteacher and the repercussions on his loved ones, exploring issues of loyalty, truth, and the meaning of happiness through the lens of an all-American family on the brink of collapse.

October

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan (October 3, Scribner)
I’ve never read Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad, but it won a bunch of awards (including the 2011 Pulitzer) and people seem to love it. So, I’m looking forward to giving her venture into historical fiction a try.

Manhattan Beach opens in Brooklyn during the Great Depression. Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to the house of a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. Anna observes the uniformed servants, the lavishing of toys on the children, and some secret pact between her father and Dexter Styles. Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. […] At a night club, she chances to meet Styles, the man she visited with her father before he vanished, and she begins to understand the complexity of her father’s life.

Fear by Dirk Kurbjuweit (October 3, Harper)
The Dinner is one of my all-time favorite novels and I’ve been looking for a similar book for quite awhile. Fear has not only been compared to The Dinner, but Herman Koch himself blurbed it! 

An acclaimed German writer makes his American debut with this gripping and sophisticated thriller reminiscent of The Dinner and the early novels of Ian McEwan, about the murder of a neighbor who had been harassing a middle-class family—and the relative imprisoned for the crime.

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak (October 17, Berkley Books)
This debut novel was one of the more hyped books at this year’s Book Expo event and I love “family gets back together” books (This Is Where I Leave You, anyone?!).

A warm, wry, sharply observed debut novel about what happens when a family is forced to spend a week together in quarantine over the holidays…

The Floating World by C. Morgan Babst (October 17, Algonquin)
I’m intrigued by the Hurricane Katrina setting and it got a starred review in Kirkus

A dazzling debut about family, home, and grief, The Floating World takes readers into the heart of Hurricane Katrina with the story of the Boisdorés, whose roots stretch back nearly to the foundation of New Orleans.

November

The Senator’s Children by Nicholas Montemarano (November 7, Tin House)
Annie B. Jones of the From the Front Porch podcast has been talking up this book for awhile now! And, since Annie is my new go-to book recommendation guru (I read Rabbit CakeStandard Deviation, and American Fire on her recommendation), that’s all I need to know! 

Sisters Betsy and Avery have never met, but they have both spent their lives under the scrutiny of prying cameras and tabloid journalists. Their father, David Christie, was a charismatic senator and promising presidential candidate until infidelity destroyed his campaign and his family’s life. In the aftermath, Betsy grieves her broken family, while Avery struggles with growing up estranged from her infamous father yet still exposed by the national spotlight.

Artemis by Andy Weir (November 14, Crown)
The author of the smash hit The Martian is back with his sophomore novel! 

Jazz Bashara is a criminal. […] Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you’ve got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent. Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down.

December

Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughn (December 5, Atria Books)
I don’t normally read new releases in December, but this one sounds so totally up my alley that I’m going to have to break with tradition! And, Claire Fuller (author of Our Endless Numbered Days and Swimming Lessons) called it “brilliant, shocking, and gripping.” 

An astonishingly incisive and suspenseful novel about a scandal amongst Britain’s privileged elite and the women caught up in its wake.

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

What Fall 2017 books are you looking forward to?

Get Weekly Email Updates!

What I’m Reading Now (8/14/17)

August 14, 2017 It's Monday! What are you reading? 26

I did a lot of reading last week, but it’s probably the last time this summer that you’ll see that out of me! We’re moving into our new house next week and life is about to get disorganized and hectic. I’ve got some posts pre-scheduled for this week, but the last couple weeks of August might be on the quieter side.

#Buildsarahsbookshelves Library Update

I’m putting together a very selective library for my new (but small) built-in bookshelves and am sharing each book I acquire on Instagram (follow me at sarahsbookshelves)! And, I’m trying to acquire all these new books at rock bottom prices.

Absolutely free via a gift certificate to Larchmont’s Anderson’s Book Shop (bringing my to date spending on this project to $2.00…pretty dang good for 2 hard cover novels!), my second acquisition is:

Book 2 in the #buildsarahsbookshelves (where I’m slowly accumulating a very selective collection of beloved books to live on my first set of built-in bookshelves!) series is here! _ IF WE WERE VILLAINS by M.L. Rio is one of my favorite books so far this year! It’s a dark, twisty campus thriller that takes me back to older favorites THE SECRET HISTORY and BLACK CHALK. @sureasmel @flatiron_books Link to my full review in profile. _ And, this addition to my library was basically free via a gift certificate to @andersonsbooks in Larchmont from my good friend (thanks, @marblong). And its local Larchmont roots inspired the location for this picture…Manor Park, the most gorgeous spot in Larchmont! _ Stay tuned to see what else makes the shelves! #bookstagram #amreading #indiebookstore #bookloversday

A post shared by Sarah’s Book Shelves (@sarahsbookshelves) on

Hosted by The Book Date.

This post contains affiliate links.

I finished reading…

The Heirs, Young Jane Young


The Heirs
 by Susan Rieger (May 23, 2017)
It’s a nice, easy read with good, if not overly elaborate writing. But, very different from The Divorce Papers (her debut novel).
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin (August 22, 2017)
I. Have. Thoughts. You’ll hear them on Thursday. Just know that they firmly hit opposite ends of the spectrum.

I’m currently reading…

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (February 28, 2017)
My library hold for this one finally came in after months and months of waiting. But, it’s been well worth it! I flew through the first 100 pages when I couldn’t fall asleep the other night. High readable, super compelling, and heart-breaking. I can see why people are buzzing about this one. 

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I tried, but wasn’t feeling…

Stay with Me, My Absolute Darling

Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo (August 22, 2017)

I had high hopes for this debut…and so does the publishing industry. Sadly, the writing style wasn’t for me. DNF at 5%. Yup, 5%.

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent (August 29, 2017)
Another debut that has gotten some serious buzz. And it’s really tough to read at times (just horrible things happen to the 14 year old female main character), but that wasn’t why it didn’t work for me. I didn’t click with the writing style (yet again)…it’s too stream-of-conciousness for me and there is too much description of surroundings. I got interested when Turtle meets Jacob and Brett, but that interest waned again quickly. DNF at 37%.

Upcoming reading plans…

South Pole Station by Ashley Shelby


South Pole Station by Ashley Shelby (July 4, 2017)
Of course a couple of my library holds came in all at one time! I was excited about this book right when it came out, but haven’t heard much about it since. I’m going to give it a try if my hold hasn’t expired by the time I finish The Hate U Give. It’ll probably be one of those “if it doesn’t grab me literally immediately, I’m moving on” types of “tries.”

was reading…

One Year Ago: I was reading a quintessential NYC author.

Two Years Ago: I was reading one of 2015’s biggest books…that I was conflicted about.

How was your reading week?

Get Weekly Email Updates!

Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker: The Best Psychological Thriller I’ve Read Since Gone Girl

August 10, 2017 Mysteries/Thrillers 20

Emma in the night by Wendy WalkerFiction – Mystery / Thriller
Released August 8, 2017
320 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (St. Martin’s Press)

Headline

Emma in the Night‘s ending has the rare perfect balance between being surprising, yet still fitting with the story and it’s the first 5 star thriller I’ve read since Gone Girl.

Plot Summary

Three years after teenage sisters Emma and Cass disappeared from their home, Cass returns home without Emma and forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winters returns to help Cass find Emma.

Why I Read It

This was a lucky read. I’d read Walker’s debut thriller (All is Not Forgotten), but wasn’t a huge fan. St. Martin’s Press sent me an e-galley of Emma in the Night (thank you!) and I almost wasn’t motivated to pick it up. Then, Michelle at That’s What She Read said she read it in a day while floating in a pool…so, I decided to give it a try.

Major Themes

Childhood Trauma, Abuse, Family Secrets, Sisters, Narcissist Personality Disorder

What I Liked

  • I could not put this book down! And, I liked it so much better than All is Not Forgotten! If I had the kind of life where I could devote a whole day to reading, I could’ve read this book in one day. It’s the first 5 star thriller I’ve read since Gone Girl. If you’re looking for an immersive, edge-of-your-seat page turner for your last vacation of the summer, Emma in the Night is your book!
  • It’s a bit of a cross between a psychological thriller and a dysfunctional family novel. Both paths are extremely well-developed.
  • I was fascinated by the focus on Narcissistic Personality Disorder and the psychology of how this affects a family. I love how Walker went deep with the psychology angle throughout the whole book and explored how this disorder can be passed down through generations.
  • This novel is full of ambiguity. I spent most of my time reading wondering who was telling the truth, who was the real manipulator, and how and why everything played out like it did. I literally changed my mind on these questions dozens of times throughout the story.
  • Finally…a thriller with an ending that is surprising, yet absolutely makes sense with the story!! This is the number one characteristic I look for in thrillers and the number one thing that often goes wrong (hence why I’ve been turned off by thrillers lately). Kudos, Wendy Walker, for getting this exactly right!

What I Didn’t Like

Not one thing.

A Defining Quote

And so they were fierce competitors in their secret club, for each other’s love, for the love of everyone around them. And all I could do was watch from a distance, one short enough that I could see the escalation. Two nation-states in a constant battle for power and control. It was unsustainable. And so it continued, this war between my mother and my sister, until the night we were gone.

Good for People Who Like…

Psychological thrillers, dysfunctional family novels, secrets / betrayal, unputdownable books

Other Books You May Like

The only other psychological thriller that left me the highest level of satisfied:
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (my review)

Get Weekly Email Updates!

What I’m Reading Now (8/7/17)

August 7, 2017 It's Monday! What are you reading? 27

Last week was an awesome reading week…things are definitely back on track in that department! 

I also shared my first #buildsarahsbookshelves library acquisition! I’m putting together a very selective library for my new (but small) built-in bookshelves and am sharing each book I acquire on Instagram (follow me at sarahsbookshelves)! And, I’m trying to acquire all these new books at rock bottom prices.

For the bargain price of $2.00 courtesy of the Larchmont Public Library‘s sale cart, my first acquisition is…

For the first time in a decade, I’m going to have my very own built-in bookshelves! The only problem is I don’t have much to fill them with since I read almost exclusively on my Kindle. Yes, I am a book blogger with no books 📚! ______________ So, I need to assemble a library. I don’t have a ton of space on my built-ins, so this library will be very selective. And, my goal is to purchase all the books at bargain prices. I’ll be tracking all my purchases right here under the hashtag #buildsarahsbookshelves! ______________ My first purchase is THE MOTHERS by @britrbennett. It was one of my top 3 books of 2016 and the writing is just gorgeous. And, thanks to the Larchmont Public Library’s sale cart, I picked up this beauty for just $2.00! ______________ Stay tuned to see what else makes the shelves! #bookstagram #amreading #library #librarybooks @riverheadbooks

A post shared by Sarah’s Book Shelves (@sarahsbookshelves) on

And, I have to share an awesome and totally unexpected side benefit of this project…after seeing my Instagram post, a friend commented that they wanted to contribute a book to my library! What a fun surprise!

Hosted by The Book Date.

This post contains affiliate links.

I finished reading…

Shadow of the Lions, Emma in the Night


Shadow of the Lions
 by Christopher Swann (August 1, 2017)
A solid, 4 star campus mystery! Mini review coming.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker (August 8, 2017)
Best psychological thriller I’ve read since Gone Girl! But, do not mistake this as a comparison to Gone Girl…they’re different books. What I mean is that this is the first time since Gone Girl that I’ve read a psychological thriller that is equally satisfying. If you’re going on one last vacation in August, grab this book for your beach bag! You won’t regret it.

Affiliate Link: Pre-Order from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

The Heirs by Susan Rieger


The Heirs
 by Susan Rieger (May 23, 2017)
I’m almost finished with this story about a wealthy family in Manhattan (shocking that I’m reading this kind of book, right?! Ha!) by the author of The Divorce Papers…and this one couldn’t be more different from The Divorce Papers! It’s a nice, easy read with good, if not overly elaborate writing. 

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Upcoming reading plans…

Unless one of my library holds comes in, I’m going to continue with August releases!

Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo


Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo (August 22, 2017)
This debut about a Nigerian married couple who reconsider polygamy after the wife has trouble getting pregnant. It’s been compared to Fates and Furies and Margaret Atwood (author of The Handmaid’s Tale) has apparently been supporting it on Twitter, but a blogger I trust was recently underwhelmed by it. I’m going in with tempered expectations. 

was reading…

One Year Ago: I read an awesome page turner that was a late addition to last year’s Summer Reading Guide!

Two Years Ago: I was reading one of the big books of BEA 2015…and it was a total stinker.

How was your reading week?

Get Weekly Email Updates!

July 2017 Monthly Round-Up

August 3, 2017 Monthly Round-Ups 10

July 2017 Monthly Round-Up

This post contains affiliate links and I will make a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

July Reading / Life

  • July has continued my summer of slumpiness. I seriously think I DNF’d the same number of books I actually read this month.
  • I also didn’t read as much (9 books) as in the previous few months…mostly because we’re moving in a couple weeks and I’ve been a bit frazzled preparing for that. Our move is actually happening in August, so you might see a quieter blog next month.
  • July seemed to be a month of crime books…some winners (QuicksandAmerican Fire) and some not (See What I Have Done). While we’re on the topic of fire, Celeste Ng’s hotly anticipated Little Fires Everywhere (out 9/12) is smokin’ GOOD!
  • I expected to love Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine…but, it appears I’m one of the only ones who didn’t love it.
  • Shadow of the Lions was a solid 4 star boarding school mystery…it’s out on 8/1, so keep your eyes peeled!
  • And to round out my nonfiction, I read and listened to a couple solid choices: Double Bind: Women on AmbitionWho Thought This Was a Good Idea? (audiobook), and I Didn’t Come Here to Make Friends (audiobook). Yes, this last one is, in fact, Bachelor winner Courtney Robertson’s behind-the-scenes tell-all. I should probably be embarrassed about including it here…but it was a fun, juicy listen for this Bachelor fan!
  • Check out my commentary on the August Book of the Month Club selections…though I’m not jumping for joy over this month’s choices. On the bright side, I’m working on a new addition to my monthly Book of the Month Club feature…another tool to help you pick the Book of the Month Club selection that you’re most likely to enjoy!
  • Finally, I’m putting together a small, but highly selective library for my new, built-in bookshelves and will be tracking my progress over on Instagram. Follow me at @sarahsbookshelves to see what books make the cut!

My Favorite Book(s) of the Month

Best Book of the Month

Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito (March 7, 2017)
Fiction, 512 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

PS – last year’s Best Book of July was Mudbound by Hillary Jordan (my review)!

Best Selling Book(s) of the Month (via my affiliate links)

It’s a tie between…
Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito (my review)
Final Girls by Riley Sager (how is this possible?! I didn’t even like it and didn’t review it!)
Beartown by Fredrik Bachman (my review)

August Releases I’m Excited About

Shadow of the Lions by Christopher Swann (August 1)
Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin (August 22)
Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo (August 22)
The Burning Girl by Claire Messud (August 29)

Most Popular Posts

Posts Actually Published in July
Best Books of 2017 So Far
Book of the Month Club July 2017 Selections: What Would I Choose?
17 Awesome Podcasts I’ve Been Listening to Lately (Bookish and Non)

Overall Posts
Best Books of 2017 So Far
Book Club Recommendations

Page Turner Books

Favorite Posts by Fellow Bloggers

How was your reading month?

Get Weekly Email Updates!

Book of the Month Club August 2017 Selections: What Would I Choose?

August 1, 2017 Book Recommendations 17

Book of the Month Club August 2017 Selections

This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.


Do you want to know more about the five Book of the Month Club May 2017 selections before making your choice(s)?

Welcome to my monthly feature “Book of the Month Club Selections: What Would I Choose?”! Every month, I provide commentary on the books that are chosen as that month’s Book of the Month Club selections and tell you which book(s) I would choose.

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

I have to admit that I hadn’t even heard of a single one of the August 2017 selections! This might be the first time that’s ever happened. 

And one announcement: I’m working on an additional tool to help you make the best Book of the Month Club selection for you! Look for that in the coming weeks…

Book of the Month Club August 2017 Selections

Little and Lion by Brandy ColbertLittle & Lion by Brandy Colbert (Release Date: August 8, 2017)
336 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.45
Selected By: Katie Cotugno (Bestselling Author)

When Suzette comes home to Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England, she isn’t sure if she’ll ever want to go back. L.A. is where her friends and family are (along with her crush, Emil). 

But as she settles into her old life, Suzette finds herself falling for someone new…the same girl her brother is in love with. When Lionel’s disorder spirals out of control, Suzette is forced to confront her past mistakes and find a way to help her brother before he hurts himself–or worse.

My Thoughts:
Little & Lion is a diverse (author and characters) Young Adult novel that’s been getting a fair amount of hype (which I totally missed because I don’t follow the YA world closely). Nicola Yoon (author of smash hit Everything, Everything) said “Brandy’s ability to find larger meaning in small moments is nothing short of dazzling.” In a starred review, Kirkus said “readers will empathize with Suzette as she explores both her sexuality and the tricky line between honesty and betrayal.” I don’t particularly gravitate towards the YA genre, so this one is not for me, but it might be for you!

Fierce Kingdom by Gin PhillipsFierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips (Release Date: July 25, 2017)
288 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.83
Selected By: Sarah Weinman (writer, editor and “Crime Lady”)

An electrifying novel about the primal and unyielding bond between a mother and her son, and the lengths she’ll go to protect him.

My Thoughts:
Fierce Kingdom is set entirely in a suburban zoo over the course of three hours. It’s supposedly very fast-paced and is a “read in one sitting” type book. In fact, Liberty Hardy called it “the most stressful book she’s ever read” on the July 25th episode of All the Books podcast. It’s being compared to The Couple Next Door and Reconstructing Amelia. Fiona Barton (author of The Widow and July Book of the Month Club selection The Child) said “it tore at every maternal fiber in my body. I couldn’t put it down.” It got a review in the New York Times (which is hard to come by!) and Kirkus gave it a starred review. Though I’ve bombed on thrillers lately, the zoo setting and condensed timeline have me intrigued about this one! 

Heart's Invisible Furies by John BoyneThe Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne (Released: August 22, 2017)
592 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.47
Selected By: Liberty Hardy (co-host of Book Riot‘s All the Books podcast)

[…] a sweeping, heartfelt saga about the course of one man’s life, beginning and ending in post-war Ireland.

Cyril Avery is not a real Avery — or at least, that’s what his adoptive parents tell him. And he never will be. But if he isn’t a real Avery, then who is he?

My Thoughts:
The author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (hit YA novel that was made into an award-winning movie) is back with his 10th novel for adults…and it’s supposedly a tear-jerker. In its starred review, Kirkus said the novel “examines one man’s life over the course of 70 years to reveal the personal and societal toll of Ireland’s repression of homosexuality.” Boyne dedicated the book to John Irving, who called it “a heartbreaker” and “an amazing novel.” Despite the heavy topic and emotion of this novel, it’s also supposedly funny…and I absolutely adore tear-jerkers that also make me laugh.

Eat Only When You're Hungry by Lindsay HunterEat Only When You’re Hungry by Lindsay Hunter (Released: August 8, 2017)
304 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.29
Selected By: Nina Sankovitch (Bestselling Author)

A father searches for his addict son while grappling with his own choices as a parent (and as a user of sorts).

My Thoughts:
This novel is supposed to be dark and sounds like it could be pretty depressing (not surprising, given it’s about addiction). But, it’s getting some pretty eye-opening praise: Roxane Gay said “the frailties of the human body and the human heart are laid bare in Lindsay Hunter’s utterly superb novel.” Kirkus calls it “a savage tale of parenthood” (but, not in a starred review). I am a little skeptical of this one because, according to her Twitter feed, she is obsessed with Stephen Florida, which I couldn’t even get through the sample of.

The Blinds by Adam SternberghThe Blinds by Adam Sternbergh (Release Date: August 1, 2017)
400 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.00
Selected By: Tyler Coates (Culture Editor at GQ)

Imagine a place populated by criminals-people plucked from their lives, with their memories altered, who’ve been granted new identities and a second chance. Welcome to The Blinds, a dusty town in rural Texas populated by misfits who don’t know if they’ve perpetrated a crime, or just witnessed one. What’s clear to them is that if they leave, they will end up dead. 

My Thoughts:
The Blinds is a “speculative Western thriller” (I’m not even sure what that means?!) that’s supposedly really different and darkly funny. And, it’s supposedly a “grab you immediately and not let you go until it’s over” type of book. Sternbergh’s debut novel (Shovel Ready) was nominated for an Edgar Award and this follow-up is being turned into a TV show. Publisher’s Weekly said “it’s a clever premise, but the many contrivances that support the plot don’t hold up as the novel moves briskly toward its conclusion, whose twists are telegraphed a little too clearly to preserve the element of surprise.” Kirkus had a more positive view of it, saying it moves “like a championship stock car toward a climax that, however shattering, implies there’s more to come” in its starred review. Check out Sternbergh on Twitter…he has a huge following!

What Book of the Month Club August 2017 selection(s) would I choose?

This is a tough one for me because I’m not over the moon about any of the choices. There’s a chance I would skip this month.

But, if I’m going to make a choice, it would be The Heart’s Invisible Furies…it’s kind of hard to ignore a John Irving endorsement!

And, if you’re looking for a page turner, I’d go with Fierce Kingdom.

Make your Book of the Month Club selections by Sunday, August 6th.

How to Join Book of the Month Club…

Book of the Month Club 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 Club, 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 Club’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 Club’s panel of judges (including a surprise guest judge). Book of the Month Club 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 Club membership (BRAND 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

Special August Deal:
Try your first month for just $9.99! 


*All book descriptions are from Goodreads.

Get Weekly Email Updates!

What I’m Reading Now (7/31/17)

July 31, 2017 It's Monday! What are you reading? 26

After a nasty spat with DNFs, I feel like I’m back on track with my reading! It took jumping on a September release really early, but I’m glad I did!

In other exciting news, I’m going to finally have some nice built-in bookshelves for the first time in a decade! And, oddly, I don’t really have any books to fill them with since I read almost exclusively on my Kindle. So…I need to assemble a library and I. Can’t. Wait!

I don’t have a ton of shelf space, so I’m planning to be very selective about what makes the cut. I’m attempting to acquire the books for bargain prices (i.e. library sales, gently used hardcovers, etc), so it will take me awhile to get everything together. And, I’m going to share the process with all of you! Each time I acquire a new book for my library, I’m going to share it on Instagram! I might even ask for some recommendations and advice along the way. Follow me on Instagram at @sarahsbookshelves to keep track of the library building (#buildsarahsbookshelves)!

Hosted by The Book Date.

This post contains affiliate links.

I finished reading…

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng


Little Fires Everywhere
 by Celeste Ng (September 12, 2017)
This is probably the book I’ve been most anticipating all year…and, to my relief, it’s really good! It’s got a bit more action than Everything I Never Told You (my review) and I think will have an even broader appeal. Review to come closer to publication, but I recommend pre-ordering it or putting in an early hold at your library if you can!
Affiliate Link: Pre-Order from Amazon 

I’m currently reading…

Shadow of the Lions by Christopher Swann


Shadow of the Lions by Christopher Swann (August 1, 2017)
I’m a little over halfway through this mystery/boarding school novel (for my fellow Virginians, it’s set at a fictional version of Woodberry Forest School, the author’s alma mater) and the story has been gradually picking up speed. I’m totally into it! And fellow St. C grads, our alma mater gets name-checked a time or two!
Affiliate Link: Pre-Order from Amazon

Upcoming reading plans…

Unless one of my library holds comes in, I’m going to continue with August releases!

Emma in the night by Wendy Walker

Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker (August 8, 2017)
Walker’s last novel, All is Not Forgotten, kind of drove me crazy, but I also couldn’t stop reading and got a great Spoiler Discussion post out of it. So, I’m willing to give her latest thriller a chance. This time around, she writes about “two missing sisters, a twisted family, and what happens when one girl comes back…”. 

was reading…

One Year Ago: I was reading a recent Oprah’s Book Club selection that I thought was alright, but not mind-blowing.

Two Years Ago: I read an awesome Grit Lit thriller that was one of my favorite books of 2015!

How was your reading week?

Get Weekly Email Updates!