Posts By: Sarah Dickinson

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens: A 5-Star Coming of Age Story Set in Marsh Country

August 16, 2018 Southern Fiction 4

Where the Crawdads SingFiction – Literary
Released August 14, 2018
384 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Putnam)

Headline

I was worried Where the Crawdads Sing would be a beautiful, but boring book, but I couldn’t be more wrong. The writing is gorgeous, the story is propulsive, and it’s 5-star immersive.

Plot Summary

When local star quarterback Chase Matthews is found dead, suspicion falls on Kya Clark (the “Marsh Girl”), who is not at all who the town residents think she is.

Why I Read It

This book came to me unsolicited from the publisher and it’s North Carolina marsh setting intrigued me (i.e. made me think of Pat Conroy just a bit).

Major Themes

The marsh, nature, living outside the grid, love, prejudice

What I Liked

  • Where the Crawdads Sing is a bit of a genre mash-up. There’s a coming of age element, a mystery, and a bit of romance that I did not expect from this book, but that totally worked for me.
  • I was completely immersed in this story from start to finish. I read it quickly and looked for every opportunity in the day to pick it up.
  • There’s a bit of a Sweet Home Alabama (the movie) feel to certain parts of the story.
  • The story is told in dual timelines…one starting in the past and working forwards and one in present day. I love how this structure kept the story moving by keeping you wondering how the characters got from point A to point Z.
  • I had somewhat muted expectations going into Where the Crawdads Sing and it defied everything I thought it would be. I knew Owens was known for her nature writing, which I thought would be beautiful, but boring. She did write beautifully about nature, animals, and marsh life, but it wasn’t boring at all. It fit with the story, conveyed what the marsh meant to Kya, and how it shaped her into who she was. And, the story was much faster-paced than I expected.

    As always, the ocean seemed angrier than the marsh. Deeper, it had more to say.

  • Not surprisingly, the marsh setting comes alive and feels like it’s own character in the story.
  • I also expected Kya to be a weird and unrelatable character…eccentric and “woo-woo.” But, Owens does a great job of letting her have thoughts and feelings that most regular teenage girls have. She just had some different layers over top as a result of her background and living alone in the marsh. She’s dealing with feeling like an outsider, prejudice from the town residents, surviving on her own, love, and heart-break. She’s incredibly likable and I was rooting for her.
  • Some plot elements should have felt cliche (they’re out of a rom-com), but they didn’t. I was totally sucked in.
  • I waited a week after finishing this book to write my review and I’m still thinking about this story. More layers keep materializing.

What I Didn’t Like

  • There were a couple plot choices at the very end that I thought were overkill. The story didn’t need them and I almost felt like the publisher might have pushed the author to add them to make the plot even more intricate.

A Defining Quote

She feels the pulse of life, he thought, because there are no layers between her and her planet.

Good for People Who Like…

Southern fiction, books with a strong sense of place, unconventional love stories, great writing, a fast-moving plot

Other Books You May Like

Another book with a fast-moving plot about a girl with a close relationship with nature:
Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller (my review)

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August 2018 Books to Read (and Skip)

August 14, 2018 Mini Book Reviews 12

August 2018 Books to Read

 

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

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

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Read These

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The DNF

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

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

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

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What I’m Reading Now (8/13/18)

August 13, 2018 It's Monday! What are you reading? 9

Summer is winding down and school is starting up for my kids in a couple weeks. So, while we have some free time, I’ve been trying to knock out a bunch of un-fun errands. But, I actually got a lot done and hope to enjoy the last few weeks of summer!

After flailing around with various books last week, the book I’d been waiting for (Everything Here is Beautiful) finally came in from the library and I feel like I’m back on the reading horse!

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I finished reading…

Living Out Loud

 

Living Out Loud by Anna Quindlen (August 12, 1988)
Steadfastly top notch Anna Quindlen, a charter member of my “women who get women” club. Even though these columns (originally published in the New York Times) were published in the 1980’s, they are still incredibly relevant today.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

Everything Here Is Beautiful

 

Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee (January 16, 2018)
I’m about 25% through this debut novel about two sisters, one with a mental illness and am really liking it! It’s the first novel to truly grab my attention in the past 2 weeks and I’m so interested to see what happens with these two sisters.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I tried, but wasn’t feeling…

Ohio by Stephen Markley

 

Ohio by Stephen Markley (August 21, 2018)
DNF at 30%
I ended up picking this one back up last week after originally thinking I was done with it at 7%. There were long sections about the characters’ high school experience that sucked me in, but as soon as the story went somewhere else (these other places were generally pretty self-indulgent), I hated it again. After wrestling around with it for a few days, I finally decided that, if I’m going to invest my time into a 500 page novel, it shouldn’t be this hit and miss. One Goodreads reviewer said it perfectly: “This really needed to be tightened up. In places, it’s a total mess. In others, it’s brilliant.” I just thought the % mess vs. brilliant was too heavily weighted to the mess side. Ohio has gotten a lot of pre-publication buzz, but I think it’s one of those critical darlings that probably won’t resonate with many regular readers.

Upcoming reading plans…

The Wildlands

 

The Wildlands by Abby Geni (September 4, 2018)
I saw this literary thriller set during a Category 5 tornado in The Millions Great Second Half Book Preview and, though it hasn’t been vetted by any of my trusted recommendation sources, I was intrigued!

was reading…

One Year Ago: I read one of my very few 5 star thrillers!

Two Years Ago: I’d just finished a fun novel set in the political world.

How was your reading week?

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How to Inspire New Readers

August 9, 2018 Discussions 5

How to Inspire New Readers

 

When I first met my now sister-in-law, her reading life consisted of magazines and design books. Looking back on it, she said reading just wasn’t part of her routine and she didn’t feel like adding one more thing to her day. When I went to visit her last weekend, her nightstand was absolutely jammed with books! So, the question is…

How did she get from magazines to a nightstand stuffed with books?

Turns out it was a beach vacation. Magazines weren’t holding her interest during those long hours basking in the sun and, for convenience’s sake, she picked up a book her husband had read, Monkey Business by John Rolfe and Peter Troob. I’ve also read this one because MY husband had read it (and he probably passed it along to his brother, thus making it’s way to my sister-in-law). It’s a memoir by two ex-investment bankers exposing the ridiculousness that goes on at investment banks.

 

And, where could she possibly turn from the riveting world of investment banking?! The Crazy Rich Asians series, of course! Her favorite was China Rich Girlfriend…not so much the third installment (Rich People Problems). And, then she was hooked on books!

The Top 3 Books of Her New Reading Venture (So Far)

Tell Me Lies by Carola Lovering (June 12, 2018)
A novel about a toxic love affair told from both parties’ perspectives. I’ve seen this one around, but didn’t know much about it and now I kind of want to read it! It’s my sister-in-law’s #1 book of her reading journey so far!

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler (May 24, 2016)
This debut novel set in a New York City restaurant also features a toxic relationship…and some exquisite food writing. I loved it too and it was one of my favorites of 2016! Here’s my review.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin (January 26, 2016)
This fictional novel about Truman Capote and his group of socialite friends (the “swans”) is the epitome of “wealthy people behaving badly,” so I’m not surprised my sister-in-law loved it (see her reading taste below). And, I did too! It was another one of my favorites of 2016 (my review)!

What She’s Learned About Her Reading Taste

  • She loves the “rich people behaving badly” genre. Is that actually a genre?! Sure, it is!
  • She’s started venturing into darker fiction (i.e. Sweetbitter) and is enjoying those so far. Y’all know I’ve got more dark and messed up novels up my sleeve for her!

Where Is She Now?

She calls reading “addictive.” She keeps a book with her at all times (and hardcovers are her format of choice). She reads all over the place…in car pool line, in doctor’s offices, and she’s texted me from her garage where she’s reading in her car until she has to relieve her babysitter (Amen!). She now officially considers herself a reader…and has the nightstand to prove it!

How To Inspire New Readers

  • Start easy. Dear God, do not give a new reader a slow book that takes work to get through! Start with something that’s easy to get engrossed in.
  • Stay in the new reader’s wheelhouse for a bit…until she can figure out what characteristics of her preferred genres especially appeal to her. Then, you can start to apply those characteristics to other genres.
  • Encourage the new reader to make reading a part of her regular routine. Find a regular time in the day or week that reading can easily fit into. For me, that’s before bed, while waiting in any sort of line, at the pool, and a little most afternoons.

And, my sister-in-law adds…

  • Do your research before you decide on a book…increasing the likelihood you’ll enjoy the book!
  • Don’t feel obligated to finish every book you start. As John Irving says, “Grown-Ups shouldn’t finish books they’re not enjoying.” And, y’all know I whole-heartedly support the DNF!

How do you inspire new readers? Or, are you one yourself?

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My Favorite Nonfiction Audiobooks

August 7, 2018 Audiobooks 18

Favorite Nonfiction Audiobooks

 

Audiobooks are a relatively new addition to my reading life, but they’ve enabled me to read 25-30 more books each of the past two years…so, they’re a welcome addition! And, it seems many other readers are figuring out how to work audiobooks into their reading lives as well because audiobooks is the fastest growing segment of the publishing industry.

I initially didn’t think audiobooks worked for me because I tried listening to fiction while exercising and had trouble following the stories. Once I tried listening to nonfiction (generally lighter nonfiction) at other times of day (while driving, getting dressed and ready for bed, doing chores, etc), I was off to the races with audiobooks! So, I thought I’d share my favorite nonfiction audiobooks! And, if you’ve had trouble concentrating on audiobooks, I’d highly recommend trying some light nonfiction before giving up entirely!

And, I’ll continue to update this list as I find more great nonfiction audiobooks!

The List

Memoirs

Beautiful, Terrible ThingA Beautiful, Terrible Thing by Jen Waite
Memoir (Released July 11, 2017)
6 Hours and 41 Minutes
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Plot Summary: Waite’s story of her marriage to a psychopath / sociopath (Marco).
My Thoughts: There’s cheating and then there’s cheating as part of a pattern of psychotic or sociopathic behavior. Jen discovers her husband is cheating on her soon after having their first child. Then, she discovers a whole web of lies and starts to realize he’s not the man he seemed. I listened to this book on audio and was absolutely riveted…I ignored new podcasts to listen, something I don’t normally do. Jen chronicles her slow process of realization and recover, which definitely made me wonder if some people I know are also sociopaths. 

A Mother's ReckoningA Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold
Memoir (Released February 15, 2016)
11 Hours and 31 Minutes
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary: Columbine shooter Dylan Klebold’s mother (Sue) shares her struggle following the shooting and Dylan’s suicide in this poignant memoir.

My Thoughts: I was initially skeptical of this one (would she just try to excuse her son’s actions?) and, while she did search for a “why?”, there was much more to this extremely complex story. I was riveted.

Born a Crime by Trevor NoahBorn A Crime by Trevor Noah
Memoir (Released November 15, 2016)
8 Hours and 44 Minutes
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary: The Daily Show host Trevor Noah’s memoir about growing up as a mixed race child in apartheid South Africa.

My Thoughts: Born A Crime is technically a celebrity memoir, but it’s actually not that at all. It is a heartfelt, funny, sad, and warm story about growing up as an outcast in an incredibly oppressive place.

Daring to DriveDaring to Drive by Manal al-Sharif
Memoir (Released June 13, 2017)
10 Hours and 17 Minutes
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary: al-Sharif started the campaign for women to drive in Saudi Arabia and this book is the story of her life as well as a stark portrayal of the oppression women face in Saudi Arabia.

My Thoughts: This is one eye-opening, heart-breaking read and is perfect for anyone who loved The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg (my review).

Gift from the SeaGift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Memoir (Released 1955)
2 Hours and 26 Minutes
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary: Lindbergh reflects on motherhood and being a woman during her solo vacation in a beach house.

My Thoughts: My Mom gave me this slim book when I was pregnant with my first child seven years ago and it didn’t make much of an impact on me. But, Will Schwalbe made me want to try it again in his Books for Living. The second time, it spoke directly to my core…maybe because I had seven years of motherhood under my belt by then. A must read for every woman trying to balance being a mother with maintaining their own identity.

Glitter and GlueGlitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan
Memoir (Released February 4, 2014)
5 Hours and 38 Minutes
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary: Corrigan’s shares her realizations about motherhood and her own mother while serving as somewhat of a surrogate mother to two Australian children who had lost their own mother.

My Thoughts: While Glitter and Glue didn’t blow me away quite as much as the first memoir I read by her (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. If you like women’s life observations-type writing (think Anna Quindlen, Cheryl Strayed), Kelly Corrigan should be next on your list!

Lots of Candles Plenty of CakeLots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen
Memoir (Released April 24, 2012)
7 Hours and 7 Minutes

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary:
Anna Quindlen talks about her experience as a woman in her own life and applies it to women everywhere.
My Thoughts:
Listening to Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake was like seeing a therapist and falls into the same category as Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things. Quindlen has such a grounded, practical outlook on life that really puts things in perspective and this book would have made my overall Best Books of 2017 list had it been published that year!

My Year of Running DangerouslyMy Year of Running Dangerously by Tom Foreman
Memoir (Released October 6, 2015)
6 Hours and 27 Minutes

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary:
After CNN Correspondent Tom Foreman’s daughter challenges him to train for a marathon with her, he ends up running 3 marathons, 4 half marathons, and an ultra-marathon in one year.
My Thoughts:
Not only is this memoir about an impressive running feat, but it’s a sweet story of a father and daughter connecting over a shared hobby.

Tiny Beautiful ThingsTiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
Memoir (Released July 10, 2012)
9 Hours and 41 Minutes
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary:
A compilation of columns from Strayed’s time as the Dear Sugar advice columnist for The Rumpus.

My Thoughts: Strayed blends empathy, truth, bluntness, and humor to form a perfect blend of “yes, that’s exactly how it is” observations about life and useful, non-judgmental advice about how to live it. I’m generally not an advice column type of person, but this audiobook (read by the author) earned 5 stars from me!

Who Thought This Was a Good IdeaWho Thought This Was a Good Idea? by Alyssa Mastromonaco
Memoir (Released March 21, 2017)
5 Hours and 58 Minutes

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary:
The behind-the-scenes memoir by President Obama’s former Deputy Chief of Staff.
My Thoughts: 
Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? is technically a political memoir, but it really doesn’t include any politics. It’s more a juicy, behind-the-scenes look at working in the White House and on Obama’s campaign trail sprinkled with tips on making the most of your career…all told through the voice of someone you’d love to grab a glass of wine with!

Investigative Journalism

False ReportA False Report: A True Story of Rape in America by T. Christian Miller & Ken Armstrong
True Crime – (Released February 6, 2018)
10 Hours and 6 Minutes
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary:
The true story of a woman (Marie) who was charged with lying about a rape and the detectives who were responsible for her case.

My Thoughts: A False Report is excellent true crime mixed in with a bit of history of rape investigation and would make a great companion read to I’ll Be Gone in the Dark (my review).

Mockingbird Next DoorThe Mockingbird Next Door by Marja Mills
General Nonfiction (Released July 15, 2014)
8 Hours and 11 Minutes

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary:
Chicago Tribune journalist Marja Mills was improbably accepted by famously private Harper and Alice Lee when she visited Monroeville, AL for a story and ended up living next door to them.
My Thoughts:
This story is as much about Mills’ journey to friendship with the Lees as it as about Lee herself. As I was listening, I almost felt like I was in To Kill A Mockingbird. For a real treat, pair with Episode 172 of From the Front Porch podcast about Annie Jones’ visit to Monroeville and a breakdown of what’s happened with Harper Lee’s estate since she passed away.

Stranger in the WoodsThe Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel
General Nonfiction (Released March 7, 2017)
6 Hours and 19 Minutes
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Plot Summary: The true story about Christopher Knight, the man who lived alone in the Maine forest for 27 years before finally being arrested for stealing food and essentials from nearby vacation homes.

My Thoughts: This story is strange, but completely captivating. It’s like a mash-up between a wilderness story and a study of the introverted personality trait and came extremely close to making my overall Best Books of 2017 list.

What Made Maddy RunWhat Made Maddy Run by Kate Fagan
General Nonfiction – Sports (Released August 1, 2017)
7 Hours and 36 Minutes
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Plot Summary: The story of a seemingly perfect (if you looked at her Instagram account) teenager who commits suicide during her freshman year on the Penn State track team.

My Thoughts: This story is absolutely heart-breaking, but is a must-read for parents of young athletes…and, really, parents of all high-achieving young girls in the social media age.

What are your favorite nonfiction audiobooks?

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What I’m Reading Now (8/6/18)

August 6, 2018 It's Monday! What are you reading? 23

Last week, I mentioned I was having a bit of a hangover from Where the Crawdads Sing…and I’m now confident that I’m definitely having a hangover! I sampled a number of books last week and none really grabbed me. So, I reverted to an old favorite while I wait for some library holds to come in.

Also, I was a guest on a book podcast! I joined Laura Yamin on her podcast, What To Read Next (not to be confused with Anne Bogel’s What Should I Read Next?), and we talked about my all-time favorite books (talk about a hard question!), my auto-buy authors, what I think you should read now, a book I didn’t like, and some debut authors I’m keeping an eye on. This is the first time I’ve ever been on a podcast and listening to myself was no easy thing! I was cringing at all the “ums” in there…just thinking about what my high school teachers would think! I’ll have to tighten that up for next time…

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Book of the Month picks are due today if you haven’t gotten yours in already (check out my commentary on all the posts)!

August Book of the Month selections are here! We’ve got some chick-lity romance (not really my thing), books involving music (again not my thing), a Grit Lit that I’m about halfway through now, a police procedural, and a story about a complicated female friendship. And, shockingly, I’m not skipping this month! _ I’ve got commentary on all the selections (including my personal thoughts on the one I’m reading) AND my ULTIMATE GUIDE TO THE BOOK OF THE MONTH CLUB JUDGES to help you choose the right book for your reading taste. LINKS IN PROFILE #affiliate * * * * * * #bookofthemonth #bookofthemonthclub #botm #bookstagram #bookstagrammer #bookgram #amreading #bookworms #instabooks #instabook #booktalk #booklovers #booklover #bibliophile #biblio #bookaddict #bookaddiction #badassbookbabes @bookofthemonth @davidjoy_author @chiquinhapeebles

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I finished reading…

what I'm reading now

 

The Line That Held Us by David Joy (August 14, 2018)
I liked this one, but the ending fizzled a bit for me. Prior to the ending, it was going to be a solid 4 star Grit Lit. I’m debating on whether dock a half star for the ending, but it’s not super straightforward (which I will explain more in an upcoming mini review).
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

A Beautiful, Terrible Thing by Jen Waite (July 11, 2017) – Audiobook
Waite’s memoir about her marriage to a sociopath had me riveted…I ignored a bunch of podcasts to keep listening (and I normally pause my audiobook to listen to the podcasts as soon as they drop) and was definitely thinking about people I know in real life who could be sociopaths based on their behavior.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

Living Out Loud

 

Living Out Loud by Anna Quindlen (1994)
Y’all know I adore Anna Quindlen, so after sampling a couple books with no luck, I decided to revert to my old standby. Living Out Loud is a collection of her New York Times columns about life, particularly for women, and it’s just what I need right now! I’m almost halfway through…
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I tried, but wasn’t feeling…

what I'm reading now

 

These DNF’s are a little different than my usual. They’re both super long books (almost 500 pages each) and I have to REALLY love a book to make those 500 pages worth it. Both these books were okay and I probably would’ve continued reading if they were shorter…and I haven’t abandoned them for good. I’ve just put them down for now until other readers I trust vet them for me.

Ohio by Stephen Markley (August 21, 2018)
Possible DNF at 7%
Loved the first chapter, but hated the second chapter, which was told from a different character’s perspective. The character was obnoxious and the writing was pretentious.

The Air We Breathe by Frances de Pontes Peebles (August 7, 2018)
Possible DNF at 9%
I was kind of interested in the childhood friendship between a wealthy sugar heiress and her kitchen girl, but I wasn’t completely drawn in. I wonder if I’d feel differently once I got past the childhood stage…I’m hoping someone will tell me!

Upcoming reading plans…

Everything Here Is Beautiful

 

Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee (January 16, 2018)
This debut novel about two sisters, one with a mental illness, comes highly recommended by a number of readers I trust (Susie, Tara, Nicole Bonia, and Jan Belisle) and I’m finally at the top of the library hold list!  

was reading…

One Year Ago: I was starting a pretty good reading streak!

Two Years Ago: I’d just finished Megan Abbott’s fantastically dark gymnastics novel.

How was your reading week?

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July 2018 Monthly Round-Up

August 3, 2018 Monthly Round-Ups 19

July 2018 Monthly Round-Up

 

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

My July reading was great…but, oddly enough, not because of books actually published in July. I read a couple of August releases this month that were fantastic…and a couple books that have been on my TBR since earlier this year.

I read 9 books this month…a lot for me! I finished a couple books I’d been reading over a longer period of time and also finally had some good reading time. It feels great to be back in the groove!

Winners

Losers

DNF’s

Best-Selling Book (via my affiliate links)

The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir (my review) – thrilled to see lots of readers are putting this one in their beach bags!

Announcements

July Quality and Recommendation Sources

Reading Quality

July 2018

  • % Successful Books Attempted (includes DNF’s) = 67% (above my 43% success rate from 2017)
  • % Successful Books Finished (does not include DNFs) = 89%

2018 Year-to-Date (through July)

  • % Successful Books Attempted (includes DNF’s) = 58% (above my 43% success rate from 2017)
  • % Successful Books Finished (does not include DNFs) = 84%

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.

August Releases I’m Excited About

The Distance Home by Paula Saunders (August 7)
Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (August 14)
The Line That Held Us by David Joy (August 14)

Ohio by Stephen Markley (August 21)

Most Popular Posts

Posts Actually Published in July
The Ultimate Guide to Celebrity Book Clubs
Book of the Month July 2018 Selections: What Book Should You Choose?

What I’m Reading Now (7/16/18)

Overall Posts
Best Books of 2018 So Far
Am I the Only One Who Didn’t Love Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine?
Book Club Recommendations

Favorite Posts by Fellow Bloggers

How was your reading month?

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

August 1, 2018 Book Recommendations 17

Book of the Month August 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).

This month Book of the Month brings us chick-lit romance and music…plus, Grit Lit, a police procedural, and a complicated female friendship. 

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 August 2018 Selections

Dinner ListThe Dinner List by Rebecca Serle (Release Date: September 11, 2018)
288 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.91 on 170 ratings
Selected By: Natalie Reece (Creator of Birchbox Book Club)

At one point or another, we’ve all been asked to name five people, living or dead, with whom we’d like to have dinner. Why do we choose the people we do? And what if that dinner was to actually happen?

When Sabrina arrives at her thirtieth birthday dinner she finds at the table not just her best friend, but also three significant people from her past, and well, Audrey Hepburn. As the appetizers are served, wine poured, and dinner table conversation begins, it becomes clear that there’s a reason these six people have been gathered together.

My Thoughts:
Rebecca Serle is known for her YA romances (including the Famous in Love series). The Dinner List is chick-lit / romance, but is not YA as far as I can tell. It sounds a bit like a rom-com and has been compared to One Day by David Nichols. The premise sounds completely ridiculous to me, but may appeal to you! Amanda from the Gun in Act One book blog rated it 5 stars and said she was “expecting a fluffier read”, but got “totally caught up.” She “felt like a fly on the wall watching Sabrina between her BFF, her ex-boyfriend and the amazing Audrey Hepburn.” Goodreads reviewers said it’s heart-wrenching and heart-warming, will make you feel, and alternates chapters between the dinner table and Sabrina’s past. Other reviewers said it has a slow start before the story really takes off (but it apparently does) and couldn’t get past the unrealistic premise. This one might be best for the type of reader who can just suspend disbelief and go with the story. P.S. – three authors I love blurbed this book, but I’ve learned not to put too much stock in author blurbs: Stephanie Danler (Sweetbitter), Gabrielle Zevin (The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, Young Jane Young), and Jennifer Close (The Hopefuls).

Line That Held UsThe Line That Held Us by David Joy (Release Date: August 14, 2018)
272 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.29 on 55 ratings
Selected By: Siobhan Jones (Book of the Month Editorial Director)

[…] a remarkable novel about the cover-up of an accidental death, and the dark consequences that reverberate through the lives of four people who will never be the same again.

The Line That Held Us is a story of friendship and family, a tale balanced between destruction and redemption where the only hope is to hold on tight, clenching to those you love. What will you do for the people who mean the most, and what will you grasp to when all that you have is gone? The only certainty in a place so shredded is that no one will get away unscathed.

My Thoughts:
David Joy writes gritty, Southern fiction (aka Grit Lit) set in Appalachia and I really liked his debut novel, Where All Light Tends to Go (my review). I’ve already read the first half of The Line That Held Us and, so far, it has a very similar feel to Where All Light Tends to Go. Gritty, bleak, yet containing characters trying to do their best within their messed up world. The plot clips along and I’m turning the pages quickly. If things continue like this, it’ll be a 4 star read for me. Goodreads reviewers said it’s bleak, disturbing, violent, and not for the squeamish, but also profound. Joy makes the familiar feel fresh and avoids many Grit Lit cliches (drugs, senseless violence). They also warned of some graphic descriptions of a body decomposing (which I think I’ve already read and they weren’t that bad). If you liked Bull Mountain (my review), The Line That Held Us will probably be up your alley!

Goodbye ParisGoodbye, Paris by Anstey Harris (Release Date: August 7, 2018)
288 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.09 on 65 ratings
Selected By: Steph Opitz (Book Reviewer at Marie Claire)

Jojo Moyes meets Eleanor Oliphant in Goodbye, Paris, an utterly charming novel that proves that sometimes you have to break your heart to make it whole.

Grace […] built a quiet life for herself in her small English village, repairing instruments and nurturing her long- distance affair with David, the man who has helped her rebuild her life even as she puts her dreams of a family on hold until his children are old enough for him to leave his loveless marriage.

But when David saves the life of a woman in the Paris Metro, his resulting fame shines a light onto the real state of the relationship(s) in his life. Shattered, Grace hits rock bottom and abandons everything that has been important to her, including her dream of entering and winning the world’s most important violin-making competition. Her closest friends–a charming elderly violinist with a secret love affair of his own, and her store clerk, a gifted but angst-ridden teenage girl–step in to help, but will their friendship be enough to help her pick up the pieces?

My Thoughts:
Goodbye, Paris seems to be the “happy book” of the bunch (possibly along with The Dinner List). It’s also a romance…sort of. Goodreads reviewers said it’s about disappointment and heart-break, but ultimately hopeful. They mentioned the memorable side characters (which can sometimes make the book!) and the quirkiness of the story. And, though this is a romance, reviewers talked about the focus on friendship, especially in times of crisis. Finally, some mentioned that Grace’s decisions are hard to understand and empathize with.

Sweet Little LiesSweet Little Lies by Caz Frear (Released: August 14, 2018)
352 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.96 on 7,720 ratings
Selected By: 
Louisa Luna (Author of Two Girls Down)

Cat Kinsella was always a daddy’s girl. Until the summer of 1998 when she sees her father flirting with seventeen-year-old Maryanne Doyle.

When Maryanne later disappears and Cat’s father denies ever knowing her, Cat’s relationship with him is changed forever.

Eighteen years later, Cat is now a Detective Constable with the Met. Called to the scene of a murder in Islington, she discovers a woman’s body: Alice Lapaine has been found strangled, not far from the pub that Cat’s father runs.

When evidence links Alice to the still missing Maryanne, all Cat’s fears about her father resurface.

My Thoughts:
This debut novel is the winner of the UK’s Richard & Judy “Search for New Talent Competition” (previous finalists include Fiona Barton’s The Widow) and is the first in a series. Goodreads reviewers, more than anything else, cautioned that this is NOT a psychological thriller despite what the title and cover would lead you to believe. It’s actually a British police procedural with a psychological angle. They said there is late 1990’s nostalgia, a past/present dual narrative, that you don’t know who to believe, and that the ending was surprising, yet made sense in hindsight (super important for me). They also mentioned it’s overly long and some said it was slow. Sweet Little Lies is being marketed to fans of Tana French, Kate Atkinson, Flynn Berry, Megan Abbott (based on just the descriptions, this comparison seems like a stretch to me), Susie Steiner, and Lisa Gardner.

Air You BreatheThe Air You Breathe by Frances de Pontes Peebles (Release Date: August 21, 2018)
464 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.13 on 45 ratings
Selected By: Diane Guerrero (Actress, Orange is the New Black and Jane the Virgin)

The story of an intense female friendship fueled by affection, envy and pride–and each woman’s fear that she would be nothing without the other.

Skinny, nine-year-old orphaned Dores is working in the kitchen of a sugar plantation in 1930s Brazil when in walks a girl who changes everything. Graça, the spoiled daughter of a wealthy sugar baron, is clever, well fed, pretty, and thrillingly ill behaved. Born to wildly different worlds, Dores and Graça quickly bond over shared mischief, and then, on a deeper level, over music.

[…] Music will become their shared passion, the source of their partnership and their rivalry, and for each, the only way out of the life to which each was born. But only one of the two is destined to be a star. Their intimate, volatile bond will determine each of their fortunes–and haunt their memories.

My Thoughts:
de Pontes Peebles is an internationally successful author and The Air You Breathe is historical fiction about a complicated female friendship and a musical theme. It seems to have the “females locked in professional competition” vibe of Megan Abbott’s Give Me Your Hand and the “friendship between a wealthy woman and her maid” vibe of Fruit of the Drunken Tree. Goodreads reviewers compared it to Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Series and the movie Beaches (with Bette Midler). They said the setting came alive and the writing was gorgeous (I read the first few pages and I did really like the writing).

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

I’m choosing The Line That Held Us…I’m currently reading the e-galley and would love a hardcover to photograph for Instagram!

I’m also adding The Air You Breathe…after researching this one, I’m intrigued.

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

What book will you choose this month?

This Month’s Special Deals

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

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

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What I’m Reading Now (7/30/18)

July 30, 2018 It's Monday! What are you reading? 27

I had two back to back outstanding reads last week and now feel like I’m having a bit of a hangover. It’s the first time this has happened to me in awhile and, despite the DNF’s that came along with it, it’s a welcome feeling to have read something that’s caused a hangover!

Last week, I posted my Ultimate Guide to Celebrity Book Clubs with a free downloadable template to help you find the celebrity book club that best matches your reading taste! And, my #1 celebrity book club is one that may not be on your radar, but should be!

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

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I’m only 2 essays into I AM, I AM, I AM by Maggie O’Farrell and I’m already predicting a 5 star read for me. It’s the perfect book for this rainy day…one that’s powerful, unsettling, and makes you feel your own mortality.⠀ _⠀ ⠀ This is the first thing I’ve read by Maggie O’Farrell and I can’t wait to read more. This Must Be the Place is sitting on my Kindle (as it has been for months), but I’ll be making time for it much sooner now.⠀ _⠀ ⠀ How soon into a book are you tempted to predict your star rating?⠀ ⠀ Recommendation Sources: @keliteracy @annebogel and Read it Forward (Thank you!)⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ #bookstagram #bookstagrammer #bookgram #amreading #bookworms #instabooks #instabook #booktalk #booklovers #booklover #bibliophile #biblio #bookaddict #bookaddiction #badassbookbabes⠀ @aaknopf #iamiamiam #maggieofarrell

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I finished reading…

what I'm reading now

 

I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell (February 6, 2018)
It took me awhile to pick up this memoir / essay collection because the whole “near-death experiences” premise struck me as a little melodramatic, but I shouldn’t have worried because they were powerful and unsettling in a way that had me riveted. Some experiences are more serious than others, but a couple of them will knock your socks off (the first two and the last were particularly powerful) and all impart some wisdom about life. Her writing is extraordinary and she makes you keenly feel your own mortality. Unquestionably 5 stars!
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (August 14, 2018)
This North Carolina marsh country debut completely surprised me in the best way possible! I’d heard Owens was known for her nature writing, so I worried this would be one of those beautiful, but boring books. I shouldn’t have worried because I couldn’t put this book down! Put this one on your list for August!
Affiliate Link: Pre-Order from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

Line That Held Us

 

The Line That Held Us by David Joy (August 14, 2018)
I really enjoyed Joy’s debut novel, the gritty Where All Light Tends to Go (my review), so I’m excited to get into this novel about a hunting accident. I’ve just started it, so stay tuned for more thoughts.

I tried, but wasn’t feeling…

what I'm reading now

 

Anatomy of a Miracle by Jonathan Miles (March 13, 2018)
DNF at 21%
There were far too many tangents…like detailed family backstories of peripheral characters. I didn’t care about those and they took me out of the main story.

The Drama Teacher by Koren Zailckas (August 7, 2018)
DNF at 6%
I just didn’t care.

Upcoming reading plans…

Ohio by Stephen Markley

 

Ohio by Stephen Markley (August 21, 2018)
This debut novel about four friends who return home to their Rust Belt hometown is being billed as relevant to today’s economic and political issues facing America. We’ll see if the story brings the issues organically along (hopefully) or if the issues drive the train.  

was reading…

One Year Ago: I was reading one of the most hyped books of 2017.

Two Years Ago: My audiobook and TV shows were overshadowing my reading.

How was your reading week?

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The Ultimate Guide to Celebrity Book Clubs (including a free download!)

July 26, 2018 Book Recommendations 21

Celebrity Book Clubs

 

Celebrity Book Clubs are all the rage right now. Many readers are looking to them for book recommendations and you can’t miss them if you follow #bookstagram on Instagram.

Though you may love certain celebrities on TV or the big screen or through their music, does that mean your reading taste lines up with theirs? Should you be listening to their book recommendations?

That’s exactly what we’re going to figure out here.

I analyzed every Book Club selection from the major Celebrity Book Clubs since each one’s inception and created The Ultimate Guide to Celebrity Book Clubs. In this post, I’ve summarized the general reading taste of each Celebrity Book Club, so you can find the ones that best match your personal taste. AND…I’ve included a free spreadsheet to help you find your Go-To and No-Go Celebrity Book Clubs using actual data analysis (don’t worry, I’ve done the heavy lifting for you). I have to tell you that my Go-To Celebrity Book Clubs weren’t in the category I expected!

This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link).

The Ultimate Guide to Celebrity Book Clubs

Popular Fiction

Reese Witherspoon (Actress)
Reese’s Book Club x Hello Sunshine
(Instagram: @reesesbookclubxhellosunshine, Facebook: Hello Sunshine)

Every month, Reese chooses a story she loves and announces it as her pick. It’s all about #loveofstory.

Ashley Spivey (The Bachelor Season 15 Contestant and Co-Host of the He Said, She Said podcast)
#Spiveys Club
(Instagram: @ashleyspivey, Facebook: #SpiveysClub)

Serious Literary Fiction

Oprah (Media Mogul)
Oprah’s Book Club
(Instagram: @oprah)

Sarah Jessica Parker (Actress)
SJP Picks
(Instagram: @sarahjessicaparker)

High-quality works of fiction by both established writers and distinctive emerging voice with critical and commercial promise.

Emma Roberts (Actress)
Belletrist
(Instagram: @belletrist, Twitter: @belletristbooks)

Belletrist celebrates great books and the people who read them.

“Issue” Book Clubs

Emma Watson (Actress)
Our Shared Shelf
(Instagram: @oursharedshelf, Twitter: @oursharedshelf, Goodreads: Our Shared Shelf)

As part of my work with UN Women, I have started reading as many books and essays about equality as I can get my hands on.

Lena Dunham (Actress)
Lenny Letter
(Instagram: @lennyletter, Twitter: @lenadunham)

Eclectic

Andrew Luck (NFL Quarterback)
Andrew Luck Book Club
(Instagram: @ALBookClub, Twitter: @ALBookClub)

The mission of the Andrew Luck Book Club is to build a team of readers of all levels.

Florence Welch (Musician)
Between Two Books
(Instagram: @betweentwobooks, Twitter: @betweentwobooks)

A book club dedicated to Florence Welch’s love of reading, the club are given a read recommendation every few months by Florence or one of her friends, and anyone who wants to join in on the big read can do so. Afterwards, everyone gets together for a discussion about the book.

What are MY go-to Celebrity Book Clubs?

Ashley Spivey’s #Spiveys Club is my number one, Celebrity Book Club!

Reese Witherspoon’s is in second place!

It’s clear that I fall in the “popular fiction” bucket, which is interesting because I would’ve thought I’d be in the Serious Literary Fiction category. I guess I’m not as high-brow as I thought!

What are MY no-go Celebrity Book Clubs?

Lena Dunham and Emma Roberts are my top no-go Celebrity Book Clubs.

I’ve read some of each of these celebrity’s picks, but I haven’t liked the majority of the ones I’ve read.

How to Find Your Personal Go-To and No-Go Celebrity Book Clubs…

  • Download the spreadsheet via the sign-up form below. Click the link that appears at the bottom of the blog post to access the spreadsheet.
  • Follow the spreadsheet’s instructions to find your Best and Worst Celebrity Book Club matches.

Using this guide, who are your go-to Celebrity Book Clubs?