Posts By: Sarah Dickinson

Podcast Episode 8: Carla from Happiest When Reading (Tracking Your Reading)

February 20, 2019 Podcast 1

Happiest When Reading

 

In Episode 8 (the episode in which I have a really bad cold and don’t sound like myself!), Carla from @happiestwhenreading and I talk fitting in reading amongst our mom activities, reading goals, and tracking your reading!

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!).

Highlights

  • How we read so much as stay-at-home moms.
  • Carla’s finicky relationship with e-books…and, the only time Sarah reads hard copy books.
  • Why Sarah didn’t set a quantity-based reading goal for 2019.
  • The difference between achieving your reading goals and being happy with your reading.
  • Setting a reading quantity goal that feels right for you.
  • Tracking the publishers you have the most success with (and our top publishers).
  • Tracking your recommendation sources.
  • Carla’s 2 big 2019 reading goals.
  • Our mutual love of dark, gut-punching books.

Carla’s Book Recommendations

Two OLD Books She Loves

Two NEW Books She Loves

One Book She Didn’t Love

One Upcoming Release She’s Excited About

Other Books Mentioned

Other Links

About Carla

Happiest When ReadingBlogInstagram | Facebook | Twitter 

As a stay-at-home mama to two “tween” kids, I finally have more time to dedicate to reading. I have loved getting back into a passion of mine that I’ve had since I was a small girl. But sadly, what I quickly came to realize is that I really don’t have a lot of local reading friends. As a way to connect with others who love to read just as much as I do, I started my “Bookstagram” account (@happiestwhenreading). This community has given me a place to engage in bookish conversations, and I can truly say I have made so many online friendships that I’m truly grateful to have.

Next Week’s Episode

Nicole Bonia and Gayle Weisswasser from The Readerly Report Podcast (airing February 27)

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February 2019 Books to Read (and Skip)

February 14, 2019 Mini Book Reviews 15

February 2019 Books to Read

 

I was excited about my February reading since there were a number of books I was really looking forward to, but the brightest stars came from unexpected places (i.e. books that were late adds to my TBR list based on glowing recommendations from trusted sources).

I read one 5 star book and a second 4.5 star book…with only one unsuccessful book that I DNF’d quickly. 

I’ll take that for a reading month!

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

Favorite Book of February 2019

Last Romantics by Tara ConklinThe Last Romantics by Tara Conklin
Fiction – Literary (Release Date: February 5, 2019)
368 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (William Morrow)

Plot Summary: The story of the Skinner family – the four Skinner children, their father’s unexpectedly passing in his thirties, their mother’s years long depression (which the children call “the Pause”), and how their lives unfold into adulthood. 

My Thoughts: Finally….my first 5 star book of the year! I almost bypassed this one, but a few of my go-to recommendation sources rated it 5 stars (Mind Joggle, Happiest When Reading, Novel Visits) and it was compared to Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth (my review) and Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings (my review). I thought it was more Commonwealth than The Interestings with shades of My Sunshine Away (my review) in the beginning sections, but for once a big-time comparison proved accurate! The Last Romantics can be called a dysfunctional family novel, but the dysfunction is normal enough to be relatable…the type of dysfunction you see in real life all the time. It’s a novel of sibling dynamics and how parenting decisions/style impacts children in later life. Joe, the lone son among three sisters and the “golden boy” as a child, slides by on looks, charm, athletic ability, and, later in life, his wealthy friends…each sister has her own relationship with Joe and it’s these relationships that drive much of the drama later in the book. My one complaint is that the ending was a bit too tidy…it read a bit like an Epilogue and I felt it was unnecessary. But, that didn’t kill the book for me…I loved every other second of it and it’s one of those character-driven novels I couldn’t put down! PS – I loved the fact that a blog plays a role in story!

The Pause could not go on forever. We knew this. There were dangers. We were children alone, the four of us, without protection or instruction, and while Renee played the part of quasi mother, she buckled under the weight. Unsustainable, I wrote later. Unsupportable, hazardous, perilous, unsafe.

But, Also Read These

American Pop by Snowden WrightAmerican Popby Snowden Wright
Fiction – Historical (Release Date: February 5, 2019)
400 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (William Morrow)

Plot Summary: The story of an American dynasty…the fictional Forster family who started Panola Cola, the world’s largest soda company.

My Thoughts: Though American Pop is fiction, I’m guessing you automatically think of the Coca-Cola family when you hear the premise of this book (especially since the author lives in Atlanta, GA). Wright mentioned in a Publisher’s Weekly interview that he was inspired by Coca-Cola “with a little bit of Dr. Pepper.” One of my complaints about the book was that there was no Author’s Note laying out what was true and what was fiction, which is my favorite parts of books based on real people and events, but Google can help you out with this a bit.

The story kicks off with a glitzy party scene at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis and it’s immediately apparent that most Forster family members have skeletons in their closets…making American Pop most definitely a dysfunctional family novel. It was hit and miss for me, but overall more hit than miss. The writing is really fun and glittery, but sometimes veers into “what is he talking about?” territory. I loved that the book was juicy, pulling back the curtain on this prominent family, but he tried to pack a lot into it. There was lots of jumping around between time periods and characters, which made it hard to follow at times, and I wish he’d pared back the scope of the story a bit. But, I loved the spot-on social commentary on the South. It’s not a perfect book…it’s ambitious, but messy. But it’s overall an interesting twist on the dysfunctional family novel with flashes of brilliant writing and commentary.

The Forsters, like most Southern families, typically had one of two intentions when conversing among themselves: to make each other laugh or to make each other bleed.

Otherwise Engaged by Lindsey J. PalmerOtherwise Engagedby Lindsey J. Palmer
Fiction – Brain Candy (Release Date: February 26, 2019)
304 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Skyhorse)

Plot Summary: When Gabe publishes a novel that’s very closely based on his steamy, volatile relationship with his ex-girlfriend (Talia…or the fictional “Dahlia”), his relationship with his new fiancee (Molly) hits some speed bumps.

My Thoughts: Y’all know I’m not normally big on the rom-com style brain candy books…they can easily venture into cheesy for me. But, there have been two over the past few months I’ve actually liked (How to Walk Away and One Day in December) and I can now add Otherwise Engaged to the list! The beginning is a touch cheesy, but then the story turns a corner. The premise is totally intriguing…Palmer’s juxtaposition of excerpts of Gabe’s book with Molly’s thoughts and commentary as she’s reading it brings all this intrigue to light. And, boy does this book(understandably) get in her head! Gabe’s book shatters the core of who Molly thinks Gabe is and has her constantly analyzing details from his previous relationship and details from her own relationship that appear in the book. Of course, Talia (Gabe’s ex-girlfriend) also re-appears on the scene to stir things up. Palmer takes all this upheaval in Gabe and Molly’s relationship to levels I’d never considered, but that were certainly interesting to ponder (i.e. in general, how do the family and friends of any author feel when details from their actual lives appear in their family member’s / friend’s book?). Great pick if you’re looking for something light, easy, and happy!

So, did Talia steal that little speech from the book? Or did Gabe take it from Talia to insert in his book, attributing it to Dahlia? Or did Gabe put into words something that Talia had felt, and then Talia borrowed Dahlia’s words to describe it back to me? The possibilities spin out like anagrams in my mind, making me dizzy. The more I deliberate, the less of a grip I feel I have on what’s real and true.

Age of LightThe Age of Light by Whitney Scharer
Fiction – Historical (Release Date: February 5, 2019)
384 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Little, Brown)

Plot Summary: Set in 1930’s Paris and inspired by the real-life love affair between former Vogue model and photographer Lee Miller and the artist Man Ray.

My Thoughts: I don’t normally love historical fiction or love stories (and The Age of Light is both), but I loved Scharer’s take on it! Mainly because it’s not just a love story or historical fiction…it could also be called a “badass lady book.” It’s the story of a woman who is defined by the man in her life trying to break out on her own…to be known for her own work. And, I do have an excellent track record with these kinds of historical fiction love stories (ex: Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, Loving Frank). Scharer immediately immerses you in 1930’s Paris and I was engrossed in the story right from the beginning. Man Ray and Miller have a complicated relationship…he’s her teacher, boss, mentor, lover, and creative partner, but she also teaches him. I appreciated the fight in Lee…her drive to be known for her own work and her gumption at the end of the book. My one complaint is that I always love the Author’s Note in these kinds of books because it usually tells you where the story is historically accurate and where he/she took liberties for the sake of the story…this Author’s Note just contained the usual thank you’s to her team, family, etc. I should also warn you that this one is steamy…if that bothers you. 

The prow of myself, she thinks. Lee doesn’t know – or really care – if she has fully understood what Claude was getting at, but she wants to be how the words made her feel: alone but not lonely, needing no one, living her life with intention.

Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa GrayThe Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray
Fiction – Literary (Release Date: February 19, 2019)
304 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Berkley Books)

Plot Summary: When Althea and her husband (Proctor) are arrested, Althea’s sisters become caretakers for Althea’s two teenage daughters (Kim and Baby Vi).

My Thoughts: This was a tough book…not emotionally tough to read, but tough because my expectations were so high. I peeked at the first 10 pages or so well before actually reading it and was immediately pulled in by the writing. From that glimpse, I was expecting a 5 star book. And, I did end up liking it, but more lukewarmly than a 5 star book. It’s been compared to The Mothers (my review) and An American Marriage (my review)…but, to me, it felt more like The Mothers in style and the An American Marriage comparison is coming from the fact that Proctor and Althea are in prison. It’s a sad portrait of what prison and betrayal does to a family. It’s a quiet book, which I’m okay with since I did really love the writing, but I was waiting the whole time for it to blow me away…and, it never did. Althea is a tough character. I kept thinking she would be more sympathetic, but it never happened. She’s hard to read and I was confused by her; however, there are other likable characters in this story. I did really like the ending, which was more hopeful than the rest of the book, and I loved hearing in the Author’s Note that Gray pulled some elements of the story from her own life (ex: eating disorders and gay marriage). Overall, this one suffered from my inflated expectations, but I still more or less liked it.

How does time heal the want of time, such crucial time, with someone you miss? You learn to get by with a loss like that, but something is always off.

The DNF’s

Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCrackenBowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken (February 5, 2019)
DNF at 8%
I just couldn’t get past the language…it felt really old-timey and required more concentration than I felt like devoting.

 

 

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

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Podcast Episode 7: Ashley Spivey (Galentine’s Day Book Recommendations & Bachelor Talk)

February 13, 2019 Podcast 0

Ashley Spivey

 

In Episode 7, Ashley Spivey (founder of #SpiveysClub Facebook Group and former Bachelor contestant) shares Galentine’s Day book recommendations and talks a bit of The Bachelor behind-the-scenes!

We had a lot to cover this week (including 3 extra book recommendations from Ashley!), so the episode as a little longer than you’re used to. But, I don’t think you’ll be mad about it!

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!).

Highlights

  • Surviving The Bachelor without being allowed to read.
  • A bit of behind-the-scenes of The Bachelor & what it’s like to be a contestant on the show.
  • Why Ashley doesn’t like reading books in advance of publication.
  • Sarah’s favorite podcasts.
  • Why Ashley rarely DNF’s books.
  • Ashley’s dream job.
  • Authors on social media (and some that are particularly good follows).
  • Why Ashley doesn’t read books about The Bachelor anymore.

Ashley’s Book Recommendations

Four OLD Books She Loves

Two NEW Books She Loves

One Book She Didn’t Love

Two Upcoming Releases She’s Excited About

Other Books Mentioned

Other Links

About Ashley

Facebook GroupAshley SpiveyInstagram | Twitter 

Ashley is the founder of the #SpiveysClub Facebook Group and Book Club. She’s also co-host of the He Said, She Said Podcast sharing advice on life and love with Reality Steve. Prior to all that, she was a contestant on Season 15 of The Bachelor with Brad Womack.

Next Week’s Episode

Carla from Happiest When Reading (airing February 20)

Support the Podcast

  • Share
    If you like the podcast, I’d love for you to share it with your reader friends…in real life and on social media (there’s easy share buttons at the bottom of this post!).
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  • Rate and Review
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  • Feedback
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Do you celebrate Galentine’s Day? What are some of your favorite books featuring awesome ladies?

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What I’m Reading Now (2/11/19)

February 11, 2019 It's Monday! What are you reading? 12

Y’all, we had 70 degree weather for multiple days last week! It was so nice to exercise outside for a couple days and actually sweat! On the downside, the winter illnesses are still around. We got hit by the stomach bug last week as well…

Podcast

Episode 6 of the Sarah’s Book Shelves Live podcast came out last week! Tara of Running N Reading talked her job as a clinical chaplain, finding the right listening material for long runs, and a bit about The Bachelor…plus, book recommendations!

Episode 7, featuring Ashley Spivey, former Bachelor contestant and founder of #SpiveysClub Facebook Group is coming on Wednesday!

New on the Blog

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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My @bookofthemonth picks arrived! And I haven’t been this excited about a month’s picks in awhile! I’ve already read and loved THE AGE OF LIGHT (in e-galley form), so that one is going on my shelves. And, I can’t wait to start A MAN IS NO WOMAN. I peeked at the first paragraph and was immediately drawn in… #affiliate⠀ _⠀ ⠀ Have you read either of these yet? What did you think?⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ #bookofthemonth #bookofthemonthclub #botm #bookstagram #bookstagrammer #bookgram #amreading #bookworms #instabooks #instabook #booktalk #booklovers #booklover #bibliophile #biblio #bookaddict #bookaddiction #igreads #booksofinstagram #badassbookbabes @bookofthemonth @wscharer @etafrum

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I finished reading…

what I'm reading now

 

The Age of Lightby Whitney Scharer (February 5, 2019)
I was totally engrossed in this based on real life love story set in 1930’s Paris. Mini review coming on Thursday!
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

This Will Only Hurt a Littleby Busy Phillips (October 16, 2018) – AUDIOBOOK
Actress Busy Phillips is raw, honest, down-to-earth, hilarious, and unafraid to share some experiences from her childhood that many people would feel uncomfortable talking about. A fun listen!
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

what I'm reading now

 

The Last Romanticsby Tara Conklin (February 5, 2019)
I almost bypassed this book and I’m so glad I didn’t! It’s been compared to Commonwealth (one of my favorite books of 2016!) and Allison from Mind Joggle and Carla from Happiest When Reading both loved it! I’m about halfway through and it’s one of those character-driven novels I can’t put down…I feel my first 5 star book of 2019 coming as long as things don’t go off the rails in the second half!
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Our Prince of Scribesedited by Nicole A. Seitz (September 15, 2018)
I’m slowly working my way through this collection of essays by friends, family, and fellow authors remembering Pat Conroy, my all-time favorite author. I read one essay every night and I just love hearing as much as I can about him. Plus, it’s a nice, comforting way to end the day. I’m now about 70% through! Should be done by next week.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Upcoming reading plans…

I meant to start this last week, but snuck in The Last Romantics instead…

Lost Prince by Michael Mewshaw

 

The Lost Prince: A Search for Pat Conroyby Michael Mewshaw (February 26, 2019)
The true story of Mewshaw’s friendship with Pat Conroy…then their subsequent falling out and reconciliation. I talked about this book on my Winter 2019 Book Preview podcast and am a little nervous to read it just because I don’t want my image of him to be tainted!

was reading…

One Year Ago: I read a necessary nonfiction pairing: a daytime read and a nighttime read.

Two Years Ago: I was reading a 5 star book that many other people didn’t like.

How was your reading week?

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Podcast Episode 6: Tara from Running N Reading

February 6, 2019 Podcast 4

Running N Reading

In Episode 6, Tara from the blog Running N Reading and I talk about Tara’s job as a clinical chaplain, finding the right listening material for long runs, and a bit about The Bachelor…plus, book recommendations!

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!).

Highlights

  • How Tara’s job as a clinical chaplain influences what she reads.
  • Her listening content of choice for long runs.
  • Our issues with listening to fiction on audio while exercising.
  • Tara’s Go-To Nonfiction Audiobooks to listen to while running.
  • Tara’s simple method for deciding when to DNF a book.
  • And, a bit of The Bachelor talk.

Tara’s Book Recommendations

Two OLD Books She Loves

Two NEW Books She Loves

One Book She Didn’t Love

One Upcoming Release She’s Excited About

Other Books Mentioned

Other Links

About Tara

Running N ReadingBlogInstagram | Twitter 

When she’s not working as a hospital chaplain, Tara is usually outside running, often with an audiobook, or reading with two dogs curled around her lap. Her favorite reads are usually literary fiction but she also enjoys engaging thrillers and nonfiction, with a few historical fiction and YA titles thrown in for an occasional break. 

Next Week’s Episode

Ashley Spivey from #SpiveysClub Facebook Group (airing February 13)

Support the Podcast

  • Share
    If you like the podcast, I’d love for you to share it with your reader friends…in real life and on social media (there’s easy share buttons at the bottom of this post!).
  • Subscribe
    …wherever you listen to podcasts, so new episodes will appear in your feed as soon as they’re released.
  • Rate and Review
    Search for “Sarah’s Book Shelves” in Apple Podcasts…or wherever you listen to podcasts!

 

book podcast

 

  • Feedback
    I want this podcast to fit what you’re looking for, so I truly do want your feedback! Please tell me (email me at sarahsbookshelves@gmail.com or DM me on social media) what you like, don’t like, want more of, want less of, etc. I’d also love to hear topics you’d like me to cover and guests you’d like to hear from.

What are your favorite mysteries / thrillers?

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More Unconventional Love Stories for Readers Who Don’t Like Romance

February 5, 2019 Book Lists 42

More Unconventional Love Stories

 

So…Valentine’s Day is actually one of my least favorite holidays. I feel pressure to participate in the cheesiness even though cheesy feels so uncomfortable to me. Luckily, my husband isn’t really into Valentine’s Day either.

Since it’s almost the big red day, you’re probably seeing lots of lists of “the best romances, etc” around the bookish internet. Here’s what bugs me about traditional “romances.” The predictable (no matter how unrealistic) happy endings, the cheesy dialogue, the equally cheesily written love scenes. Shall I go on? I promise, you won’t find those elements in these unconventional love stories. Most readers probably wouldn’t even call these love stories. But, I do and they’re the kind I prefer.

Last year, I shared a list of 12 unconventional loves stories for people who don’t like traditional romances. As I thought about Valentine’s Day 2019, I realized I had a lot of new books to add to this list. So, I bring you 10 new love stories…a few of the more conventional variety, but most unconventional.

This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link).
Linking up with Top Ten Tuesday hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

10 MORE Love Stories (2019 Additions)

Forever is the Worst Long Time by Camille Pagan
You’ll start out thinking this is a run-of-the-mill love triangle, but it goes in a direction you probably wouldn’t guess.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center (my review)
This love story is more traditional and feels like a rom-com…but, for some reason all that didn’t turn me off!

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
Based on the real-life affair between the architect Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Borthwick Cheney, Wright’s married client. Beyond the tempestuous love affair, this is a story about Mamah finding her own identity outside of love.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

One Day in December by Josie Silver
Another more traditional love story featuring a love triangle, but its intriguing premise kept me interested.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Otherwise Engaged by Lindsey J. Palmer
Yet another more traditional love story with an intriguing premise. Mini review coming next week.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Tell Me Lies by Carola Lovering
A sociopathic love story…and I can’t say this one is happy. It’s more of a cautionary tale.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Age of Lightby Whitney Scharer
Similar to Loving Frank, a novel based on the real-life love affair between former Vogue model Lee Miller and artist Man Ray. It’s out coming out today and I’ll have a mini review for you next week!

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson
Are you wondering why I have a thriller on this list? There’s a bit of a love story mixed in here too…a really messed up one.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

This Must Be the Place by Maggie O’Farrell
A family drama / love story…involving a Hollywood actress that the world had presumed missing and an American divorcee on the run from his problems.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Where the Crawdads Singby Delia Owens (my review)
A coming of age story, a murder mystery, and a love story wrapped up into one…with some beautiful nature writing thrown in.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

12 Unconventional Love Stories for Readers Who Don’t Like Romance (Original List, 2018)

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood (my review)
Some would call this love story horrifying. I definitely did at times. But, it’s also different than anything I’ve ever read and Greenwood makes you question what you thought were your rock solid convictions.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (my review)
What happens to a love story when a husband of only a year and a half goes to prison? Oprah sure wants her book club members to find out!

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (my review)
Most people probably wouldn’t consider this sci-fi page turner a love story. But, ultimately, Jason is fighting tooth and nail to be with his wife and child…his idea of home.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift (my review)
An illicit affair between a British heir and his neighbor’s maid. It definitely doesn’t have a happy ending, but I finished the book completely satisfied.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf (my review)
Two older people (Louis and Addie) stop caring what everyone else thinks and do what they need to do to be happy. It’s sort of like they read The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck by Sarah Knight.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Sunburn by Laura Lippman
A love story where the two lovebirds are totally messing with each other and you have no idea who will come out on top.

Affiliate Link: Pre-Order from Amazon

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler (my review)
This is the kind of love story that many of us had in our youth (especially if you lived in NYC) and look back on with horror. We wish we would’ve been stronger, smarter, and valued ourselves more. It’s raw and most definitely not sweet.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Tender by Belinda McKeon (my review)
A story of friendship, unrequited love, desperation and obsession. This one will make you uncomfortable…I was cringing often.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel (my review)
Probably the most F’d up love story you’ll ever read (with a love story you can actually root for buried amid the horror)…starring a supremely dysfunctional family.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Rules of Magicby Alice Hoffman
Love permeates this story about family and magic. Can the Owens children find love? Should they? 

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugoby Taylor Jenkins Reid (my review)
The true love story of this book isn’t the one you think it will be.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

White Fur by Jardine Libaire (my review)
A classic “wrong side of the tracks” love story…told in a raw, gritty, edgy, and uncomfortable way.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon 

How do you feel about romances? Do you prefer the traditional or unconventional type?

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More Unconventional Love Stories

 

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What I’m Reading Now (2/4/19)

February 4, 2019 It's Monday! What are you reading? 15

Even though Pat Conroy is no longer with us and I don’t have any of his work left to read for the first time, I can read about Conroy and I seem to be doing a lot of that lately! And, it’s almost as good as reading Conroy’s own words.

I also was recently a guest on The Lisa Clark Valentine radio show talking about 2019 books and how to achieve your reading goals. Listen here if you’re interested!

Podcast

Episode 5 of the Sarah’s Book Shelves Live podcast came out last week! Renee of It’s Book Talk shared her mystery/ thriller book recommendations!

Episode 6, featuring Tara from Running N Reading is coming on Wednesday!

New on the Blog

  • Book of the Month February picks are due on Wednesday…I’ve got commentary on all the picks and am choosing 2 for myself this month!
  • 2019 Rock Your Reading Tracker – I used my “Rock Your Reading Tracker” this year to track all my reading stats in real time and figure out who my best recommendation sources are…and, my reading QUALITY improved 42% from last year! The new and improved 2019 tracker is now available for $14.99…get more details here!

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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February Book of the Month selections are here! And, for the first time in awhile, I love these picks! I’ve read the beginning of one and am loving it so far (and it comes highly recommended from 2 trusted recommendation sources @georgiahunter @novelvisits)! And, a second one wasn’t on my radar at all, but the Goodreads reviews are so outstanding that I’m now super interested! Check out my blog post for my picks… _ I’ve got commentary on all the selections (including my personal thoughts on the one I’ve read) 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 _ What will you choose as your BOTM February selection? * * * * * * #bookofthemonth #bookofthemonthclub #botm #bookstagram #bookstagrammer #bookgram #amreading #bookworms #instabooks #instabook #booktalk #booklovers #booklover #bibliophile #biblio #bookaddict #bookaddiction #igreads #booksofinstagram #badassbookbabes @bookofthemonth

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I finished reading…

Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls

 

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girlsby Anissa Gray (February 19, 2019)
I liked it…but, I think it suffered from my incredibly high expectations. Mini review to come.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

Age of Light, Our Prince of Scribes

 

The Age of Lightby Whitney Scharer (February 5, 2019)
I’m about halfway through this debut historical fiction about the real-life relationship between model Lee Miller and artist Man Ray and I’m loving it so far! It’s transporting me to 1930’s Paris and I’m engrossed in their love affair.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Our Prince of Scribesedited by Nicole A. Seitz (September 15, 2018)
I’m slowly working my way through this collection of essays by friends, family, and fellow authors remembering Pat Conroy, my all-time favorite author. I read one essay every night and I just love hearing as much as I can about him. Plus, it’s a nice, comforting way to end the day. I’m now about 70% through! Should be done by next week.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Upcoming reading plans…

Lost Prince by Michael Mewshaw

 

The Lost Prince: A Search for Pat Conroyby Michael Mewshaw (February 26, 2019)
The true story of Mewshaw’s friendship with Pat Conroy…then their subsequent falling out and reconciliation. I talked about this book on my Winter 2019 Book Preview podcast and am a little nervous to read it just because I don’t want my image of him to be tainted!

was reading…

One Year Ago: I read a slow burn thriller that I loved!

Two Years Ago: I read a hugely popular family story that was one of my favorite books of 2017.

How was your reading week?

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Book of the Month February 2019 Selections: What Book Should You Choose?

February 1, 2019 Book Recommendations 18

Book of the Month February 2019

This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links, but I’m also a paying customer.

 

Welcome to my monthly feature “Book of the Month Selections: What Book Should You Choose?”! Every month, I provide commentary on the books that are chosen as that month’s Book of the Month selections that will hopefully help you choose your pick, and tell you which book(s) I’m going to choose. AND, I provide you with the most up to date version of my Ultimate Guide to the Book of the Month Judges with free, downloadable template (below).

It’s been awhile since I’ve loved the Book of the Month selections overall…but, I love this month’s picks! There are lots (3) of debuts this month…two of which I’m really interested in! Plus, the obligatory monthly psychological thriller and a sci-fi / fantasy pick. 

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 February 2019 Selections

Winter SisterThe Winter Sister by Megan Collins
Release Date: February 5, 2019

320 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.03 on 267 ratings
Selected By: Brianna Goodman (Book of the Month Editorial Team)

In this spellbinding and suspenseful debut, a young woman haunted by the past returns home to care for her ailing mother and begins to dig deeper into her sister’s unsolved murder.

My Thoughts:
The Winter Sister is this month’s psychological thriller and it’s a debut. It’s about family dynamics, particularly mother / daughter relationships and relationships between sisters. Goodreads reviewers praised the writing (especially for a debut) and the character development, but the overwhelming complaint was that the plot was tired / predictable (almost every review I read said that frequent thriller readers will have seen the plot before). They also said it’s atmospheric and focuses on the effects of guilt. Wendy Walker (author of All is Not Forgotten and Emma in the Night, one of my favorite thrillers) said it has a “gripping, suspenseful plot with a compelling character study of a grieving family.”

Early RiserEarly Riser by Jasper Fforde
Release Date: February 12, 2019

416 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.13 on 1,542 ratings
Selected By: Liberty Hardy (co-host of Book Riot‘s All the Books podcast)

Every Winter, the human population hibernates.

During those bitterly cold four months, the nation is a snow-draped landscape of desolate loneliness, devoid of human activity.

Well, not quite .

Your name is Charlie Worthing and it’s your first season with the Winter Consuls, the committed but mildly unhinged group of misfits who are responsible for ensuring the hibernatory safe passage of the sleeping masses.

You are investigating an outbreak of viral dreams which you dismiss as nonsense; nothing more than a quirky artefact borne of the sleeping mind.

When the dreams start to kill people, it’s unsettling.

When you get the dreams too, it’s weird.

When they start to come true, you begin to doubt your sanity.

My Thoughts:
Fforde is the British bestselling author of The Eyre Affair and the Thursday Next and Nursery Crimes series. Early Riser is a stand-alone sci-fi / fantasy novel and, like with the last sci-fi pick from BOTM, I can’t make heads or tails of the premise of this book other than that it’s something about life going into hibernation every winter. Goodreads reviewers called it quirky and inventive and praised its witty writing and funny footnotes (they warn readers not to skip them!). They also said the plot is original and that it’s a bit slow in the beginning (first third to half of the book) in the name of world-building, but picks up the pace later. And, Fforde fans say it’s not his best book but they enjoyed it nonetheless.

Age of LightThe Age of Light by Whitney Scharer
Release Date: February 5, 2019
384 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.09 on 138 ratings
Selected By: Taylor Jenkins Reid (Author of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and more)

A captivating debut about Vogue model turned renowned photographer Lee Miller, and her passionate affair with the artist Man Ray in 1930s Paris.

My Thoughts:
This debut historical fiction novel falls into the category of fiction based on real-life epic love affairs (a category I love!), which reminds me of similar books Loving Frank and Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald (my review). And, even better when the woman is trying to find her own purpose in the midst of these affairs, as is the case with all these books. A murderers’ row of stand-out authors blurbed this book: Madeline Miller, Paula McClain, Celeste Ng, and Georgia Hunter. I’m reading it right now (and loving it so far!), but I’m only six chapters in, so I’m calling on some trusted recommendation sources to share their thoughts. Georgia Hunter recommended it on Episode 1 of the Sarah’s Book Shelves Live podcast (click the timestamp to hear her comments: [38:10])…she talked about it’s strong sense of time and place (I agree based on the first six chapters!), called it “gripping” and “sensual”, and said it made her want to immediately Google everything about Lee Miller and Man Ray. Susie from Novel Visits (one of my top recommendation sources) said it’s her favorite book of the year so far and that she was left hoping for a sequel to learn more about Lee Miller. The more critical Goodreads reviews mostly cite the steamy love scenes and call the book out for being a romance masquerading as historical fiction.

A Woman is No ManA Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum
Release Date: March 5, 2019
336 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.5 on 78 ratings
Selected By: Siobhan Jones (Book of the Month Editorial Director)

In Brooklyn, eighteen-year-old Deya is starting to meet with suitors. Though she doesn’t want to get married, her grandparents give her no choice. History is repeating itself: Deya’s mother, Isra, also had no choice when she left Palestine as a teenager to marry Adam. Though Deya was raised to believe her parents died in a car accident, a secret note from a mysterious, yet familiar-looking woman makes Deya question everything she was told about her past. As the narrative alternates between the lives of Deya and Isra, she begins to understand the dark, complex secrets behind her fragile community.

My Thoughts:
First, the author. Even though this is a debut novel, Rum’s name may sound familiar because she’s a Book of the Month Ambassador and extremely popular Bookstagrammer (@booksandbeans). She’s also the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, but was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. The story is about three generations of Palestinian women and the challenges Muslim women face. It’s a family drama that covers a range of issues…religion, abuse, marriage, mental illness, addiction, etc. And, the Goodreads reviews are outstanding! Many reviewers mention this being the best book they’ve read in awhile. They also call it a feminist book despite focusing on a decidedly un-feminist culture and they mention the cultural and generational clashes facing traditional Muslims who are raised in America (a theme I personally love in my reading). Bonus: I hear the three main characters are all book lovers! Honestly, I hadn’t paid much attention to this book prior to yesterday…but, I’m now super interested.

On the Come UpOn the Come Up by Angie Thomas
Release Date: February 5, 2019
447 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.39 on 518 ratings
Selected By: Helen Hoang (Author of The Kiss Quotient)

Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighborhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But now that her mom has unexpectedly lost her job, food banks and shutoff notices are as much a part of Bri’s life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it.

My Thoughts:
You’ve probably at least heard of The Hate U GiveOn the Come Up is Thomas’s sophomore novel and it has BIG shoes to fill. It’s being called her “homage to hip-hop.” Just in case you don’t know, Thomas is a YA (Young Adult) author, but The Hate U Give had massive crossover appeal, so I expect the same from On the Come Up. Many of the Goodreads reviews were by people who were just excited about the book, but hadn’t actually read it. But, I did find some actual reviews, which were mostly positive. They talked about the gorgeous writing, Bri’s song lyrics and hilarious, yet challenging personality, and the rawness. A few also mentioned they felt less of an emotional connection with Bri than they did with Starr from THUG. Reviewers say it’s a different book from THUG, but takes on some of the same themes (ex: poverty, police brutality) and is written with the same heart and soul. I loved THUG, but am going to wait for some more reviews from trusted sources on this one before I decide to commit.

What Book of the Month February 2019 selection(s) will I choose?

I’m choosing two books this month!

1) The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer – I already have an e-galley, but am liking it so much already that I want a hard copy for my shelves.

2) A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum – This one wasn’t on my radar until yesterday, but the Goodreads reviews are so outstanding that I’m adding it to my list!

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

What book will you choose this month?

This Month’s Special Deals

NEW MEMBER DEAL: New members can get their first book for just $5. Use code LOVEISLOVE.

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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Podcast Episode 5: Renee from It’s Book Talk (Mysteries / Thrillers)

January 30, 2019 Podcast 2

Mysteries / thrillers

 

In Episode 5 (but, the first episode I recorded!), Renee from the blog It’s Book Talk, etc. and I talk mysteries / thrillers, including the thriller that made Renee cry, what Renee thinks is the most controversial thriller out there, and Sarah’s issues with mysteries / thrillers.

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!).

Highlights

  • What makes Renee like certain mysteries / thrillers.
  • The thriller that made Renee cry.
  • What Renee thinks is the most controversial mystery out there.
  • How we feel about all the thrillers with Girl/Wife/Sister/Woman in the title.

Renee’s Mystery / Thriller Recommendations

Two OLD Books She Loves

Two NEW Books She Loves

One Book She Didn’t Love

One Upcoming Release She’s Excited About

Other Books Mentioned

Other Links

About Renee

It's Book Talk BlogInstagram | Twitter 

I’ve been reading and loving books for as long as I can remember. I was the kid who had to be made to go out and play because I wanted to stay in and read. I’ve always loved mysteries and thrillers, starting way back when with Nancy Drew and Treasure Island and continuing today with favorite authors like Sharon Bolton, Jane Casey, and Dennis Lehane. Several years ago, I began writing reviews for an online national book review website, but soon found I wanted my own space to share my thoughts on the books I’ve read, loved, and maybe not loved. I decided to start my own blog and after much trial and error, It’s Book Talk was born. The best part of blogging by far is the friends I’ve made in the book community. It’s been so fun to interact with book lovers from around the world. In my own family, I have a husband and two college age sons I continue to try to convert into being readers.

Next Week’s Episode

Tara from Running N Reading (airing February 6)

Support the Podcast

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  • Feedback
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What are your favorite mysteries / thrillers?

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Two Final 2018 Winners: The Ensemble and My Sister, the Serial Killer

January 29, 2019 Mini Book Reviews 10

The Ensemble and My Sister the Serial Killer

 

You’re probably wondering why I’m posting something titled “Two Final 2018 Winners” in late January 2019! I read both these books at the very end of 2018…after I’d stopped posting book reviews for the year. But, I loved these two so much (one made my Best Books of 2018 list) that I still wanted to tell you about them! They aren’t quite an Alcohol & Advil pairing, but My Sister, the Serial Killer would make a fun follow-up to The Ensemble.

The Ensemble by Aja GabelThe Ensemble by Aja Gabel
Fiction – Literary (Released May 15, 2018)
339 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Riverhead Books)

Plot Summary: The story of the Van Ness string quartet…four elite musicians, their rise to prominence in the classical music world, and their relationships with each other.

My Thoughts: I was initially super excited to read this book right when it came out based on Annie Jones at From the Front Porch podcast‘s recommendation…then, some other readers I trusted came back with mixed reviews, so I put it off. I’m thrilled I finally made the time because I adored it! It’s one of those character-driven novels where there’s not much action, but completely pulls me in anyway. Gabel opens the book with a chapter that immediately lays out the dynamics between the members of the Quartet…and they are subtly complicated. These people clearly love each other, but you also get the feeling one could kill another in the night. And, that’s what makes this book so engrossing. It’s all about the simmering dynamics of this group and it explores the implications of having an essentially business relationship that supersedes all other relationships in their lives…even the ones that probably should come first (spouse, kids, etc). How do they manage this tension over the course of their lives? And, Gabel’s writing is just gorgeous, especially for a debut novel. If you loved The Interestings (my review), The Ensemble should be next on your list. PS – you do not have to love classical music to love this novel…I no nothing about classical music and don’t particularly care about it either.

When you were on your own, in whatever career, whatever you did affected only your own job. But with the quartet, they had to share a goal, distribute the dream between them, and trust that each of them had an appropriate sense of commitment. The commitment had a way of bleeding into their lives off stage, as well. There were so many ways to betray each other.

My Sister the Serial Killer My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Fiction (Released November 20, 2018)
226 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Doubleday)

Plot Summary: Korede, the “good” sister, does everything right and always cleans up after Ayoola, the beautiful sister, who sails through life without a care in the world…yet kills her boyfriends and manages to be their mother’s favorite.

My Thoughts: The premise of this book is ridiculous in a campy way and specific parts are preposterous, but it works! It’s a story of sibling dynamics…obviously taken to the extreme…but, the underlying point is one many people can relate to. And, it’s weirdly funny…even though people keep dying. Honestly, I picked up this book because of the fantastic title and because it’s so short…but, I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised. Despite the murderous title, this one is a fun, light read and would make a perfect palate cleanser!

“It’s because she is beautiful, you know. That’s all it is. They don’t really care about the rest of it. She gets a pass at life.”

Have you read either of these books? What did you think?

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