Posts By: Sarah Dickinson

Best Books of 2017

December 12, 2017 Annual "Best Books" Lists 17

Best Books of 2017


For the last few years, I’ve had trouble choosing one favorite for my Best Book of 2017, so I’ve treated my list like an Olympic event with my top 3 books as my “medalists.” But, this year I had one overwhelming favorite. No other book even came close. 

While I’m thrilled to have a secure best book of 2017, this year was difficult overall. There just weren’t as many books that blew me away as in previous years. And, the books that worked really well for me were lighter than my usual fare. But, there’s nothing wrong with some crackling brain candy and I read a couple outstanding ones this year.

I was also on a completely different wavelength than the serious literary critics (via their Best Books of 2017 lists…more on this in a later post) and I didn’t love many of the books that publishers pushed the most (see my post on 2017 Books that Deserved the Hype…and Those That Didn’t).

Finally, I’ve brought back the high school yearbook-style “Superlatives” from previous years (201620152014) and stay tuned for my first ever Best Audiobooks I Listened to in 2017 list (coming on December 28)!

Best Books of 2017

My #1 Book of 2017

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne (review)
Most Likely to Make my All-Time Favorites List

Closest Reading Experience I’ve Had to A Little Life (minus the relentless physical abuse) 
Caused My Most Recent Book Hangover
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Rest of My Favorites

Beartown by Fredrick Backman (review)
Best Author Comeback (I DNF’d A Man Called Ove)

Best Sports Book That’s About Far More Than Sports
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach (review)
Most Recommended and Purchased (via my Affiliate Links) Book of 2017
Most Demented Twins
Best Balance Between Literary and Brain Candy
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker (review)
Best Thriller of 2017 (and Best Thriller I’ve Read Since Gone Girl)

Best Balance Between Surprising, Yet Not Outlandish Ending
Most Dysfunctional Family
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio (review)
Best Campus Novel

Best Debut
Most Sinister
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito (review)
Most Messed Up High School Students

Best Book in Translation
Most Underrated Gem
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugoby Taylor Jenkins Reid (review)
Biggest Surprise

Best of the Brain Candy
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel (review)
Most Endearing Family

Biggest Range of Emotions
Best “Issue” Book
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Trophy Son by Douglas Brunt (review)
Best Sports Book

Hit Closest to Home
Best Non-Traditional Coming of Age Story
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

White Fur by Jardine Libaire (review)
Best Writing

Best Social Commentary about the Wealthy
Hottest
Best Non-Traditional Love Story
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon 

What were your favorite books of 2017?

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What I’m Reading Now (12/11/17)

December 11, 2017 It's Monday! What are you reading? 15

I experienced my first Southern snow in a long time this past weekend and it was only a few inches, but dang, it did some damage! It was super wet and heavy and we lost some good sized tree limbs. Our neighbor had a tree pretty much split in half.

I’ve also been working on some fun, new things for 2018…mostly tools and strategies to help you (and me!) pick better books! After my run with hyped books this year, my reading life is screaming at me to figure out a better way. I’m working on some actual tools to help you do this and figuring out how I’ll generally work this theme into Sarah’s Book Shelves next year.

If you’re looking for gifts for the book lovers in your life, I posted my Best Holiday Gifts for Book Lovers 2017 guide on Black Friday! I’ve got you covered with book recommendations, the gift for book lovers that keeps on giving, and bookish gifts that aren’t books. Best of all, you can get all this stuff without leaving your couch!

Hosted by The Book Date.

This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link).

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The Ardent Biblio’s Literary Lifestyle Day 8: Favorite⠀ _⠀ ⠀ Did you expect to see any author other than Pat Conroy in a post of mine titled “favorite”?!⠀ _⠀ ⠀ THE LORDS OF DISCIPLINE: a great book (one of my all-time favorites) by a great author (also one of my all-time favorites) given to me by a great friend. I’m constantly pushing Pat Conroy on my blog readers and Lords is my very favorite of his books (so, go read it if you haven’t already!). Thanks, @annestokesbowman, for stocking my shelves!⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ #theardentbiblioreads @theardentbiblio #bookstagram #bookgram #bookworms #instabooks #bookblogger #booklovers #booklover #bibliophile #biblio #bookaddict #bookaddiction #buildsarahsbookshelves #patconroy #lordsofdiscipline

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I finished reading…

Rules of Magic, Daring Greatly

The Rules of Magic
by Alice Hoffman (October 10, 2017)
I am not a reader who normally likes anything related to magic, paranormal, or fantasy, but The Rules of Magic was an exception. The magic is not hokey at all and makes what is ultimately a story about love and family more fun and unique. It’s also got some mystery, tragedy, a family feud, and a bit of history about the Salem witch trials and New York City. It’s an unconventional kind of historical fiction, which is the only kind of historical fiction that appeals to me these days. 
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown (September 11, 2012)
I’ve heard so many raves about this life improvement book (I hate the term self-help) about confronting your vulnerabilities. People say it’s life-changing. That’s a lot to live up to and I think there was just too much hype going into this one. Her ideas made sense, but I definitely didn’t feel any life-changing “aha” moments. Also, I listened to it on audio and the narrator drove me nuts.

I’m currently reading…

Grist Mill Road by Christopher J Yates


Grist Mill Road
 by Christopher J. Yates (January 9, 2018)
My first 2018 release! And, I was thrilled that this would be my first because I adored his debut novel, Black Chalk, and have recommended it to everyone under the sun. I’m about 25% through and it’s dark and awesome so far. The opening will open your eyes for sure. 

Affiliate Link: Pre-Order from Amazon

I tried, but wasn’t feeling…

The Nix by Nathan Hill


The Nix
 by Nathan Hill (August 30, 2016)
After reading the prologue, I thought I’d love this book. And, I did really like Hill’s writing style (other than his excessively long tangents). But, the story really meandered and the thing is just so dang long. A 700+ page book has to really wow me if I’m going to devote the time to it and, while I liked it alright, it wasn’t enough to keep me going until the end. DNF at 40%.

Upcoming reading plans…

For the rest of the year, I’ll be alternating between backlist books and 2018 new releases…unless library holds throw a wrench in my plans, which I’m sure they will despite my efforts to proactively manage them (via suspensions). So, possibly…

Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides


The Virgin Suicides
 by Jeffrey Eudenides (April, 1993)
Believe it or not, I’ve never read this modern classic (though I have read Middlesex and The Marriage Plot). Annie Spence couldn’t stop raving about it in her memoir about books, Dear Fahrenheit 451, so I figured I should see what all the fuss is about. Plus, it’s short.

was reading…

One Year Ago: I was reading Ann Patchett’s essay collection, which is now a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick!

Two Years Ago: I was reading the Beatriz Williams that turned me off of her books. 

How was your reading week?

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Six 2017 Books That Deserved the Hype…and Eight That Didn’t

December 8, 2017 Book Lists 32

It’s hard to define what makes a book “hyped.” Does this mean a book was nominated for or won awards? Was being breathlessly chattered about in the book blogging world? Was getting big marketing dollars or a huge advance from its publisher? Was on many “most anticipated books of X” lists? Had glowing early reviews? Based on an author’s previous work? Everyone in your real life was reading and loving it? My 2017 Books that Deserved the Hype list landed mostly in the awards and marketing dollars from publishers categories.

Sadly, I said a big, fat “UGH” when I finished compiling my 2017 Books that Deserved the Hype list. There were so many more books that didn’t deserve the hype than those that did. My trust in the traditional media and publishers for book recommendations is waning fast. I’ll be delving into this a bit more (numerically!) in 2018, but suffice it to say that the books that caught my eye this year were generally not the ones that the serious literary critics and publishers thought everyone should / would love.

Linking up with A Month of Favorites hosted by Traveling with TEstella’s Revenge, and GirlXOXO.

This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link).

Six 2017 Books That Deserved the Hype

2017 Books that Deserved Hype


Anything Is Possible
 by Elizabeth Strout (mini review)
New York Times 100 Notable Book of the YearEsquire Magazine and Harper’s Bazaar Best Book of 2017

Beartown by Fredrick Backman (review)
Amazon Best Book of 2017, tons of regular reader buzz

Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong (review)
O MagazineEsquire Magazine and Refinery 29 Best Book of 2017

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (review)
Goodreads Choice Award Winner for FictionBook of the Month Book of the Year Nominee, 5 Week New York Times Bestseller (combined print and e-book), tons of regular reader buzz, and AmazonEsquire MagazineHarper’s BazaarPop Sugar, and Refinery29 Best Book of 2017

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
O Magazine and Pop Sugar Best Book of 2017, Goodreads Choice Award Winner for Debut and Young Adult, #1 New York Times Bestseller, National Book Award Longlist for Young People’s Literature

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugoby Taylor Jenkins Reid (review)
Pop Sugar Best Book of 2017, Book of the Month Book of the Year Nominee, tons of regular reader buzz

You’ll be hearing more about most of these books later, so no commentary just yet!

…and Eight That Didn’t

2017 Books That Didn't Deserve Hype


Behind Her Eyes
 by Sarah Pinborough (spoiler discussion)

Accolades: Massive pre-publication hype (i.e. #WTFthatending hashtag campaign), Book of the Month Book of the Year NomineePop Sugar Best Book of 2017
My Take: Completely outlandish ending and a ridiculous key to the story (see spoiler discussion for more details).

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (review)
Accolades: Tons of regular reader buzz, Book of the Month selection

My Take: Kind of cheesy in rom-com way and a major piece of the ending felt like a cop-out.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Accolades: Kirkus Best Literary Fiction of 2017, New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2017, and AmazonO Magazine, New York TimesEsquire Magazine, Time MagazineHarper’s Bazaar Best Book of 2017
My Take: I certainly appreciated parts of this book (i.e. the writing), but the story petered out by the end and overall I was left with a “meh” feeling.

Final Girls by Riley Sager
Accolades: Stephen King called it the “first great thriller of 2017”, Book of the Month Book of the Year Nominee, and Pop Sugar Best Book of 2017
My Take: The ending was outlandish and completely jumped the shark, which is the death-knell of thrillers for me.

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward (review)
Accolades: National Book Award Winner for Fiction, Kirkus Best Literary Fiction of 2017, New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2017, Book of the Month Book of the Year Nominee, and Publisher’s WeeklyWashington Post, New York Times, Time MagazinePop SugarRefinery29 Best Book of 2017
My Take: I could objectively see the elements that have the critics falling all over themselves. But, something didn’t quite connect with me, I kept zoning out while reading, and I was never dying to pick it up. Also, the ghost element absolutely did not work for me.

The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas (review)
Accolades: Kirkus Best Debut of 2017, tons of pre-publication buzz
My Take: The inclusion of “stories within the story” (in this case, Joan’s own writing) added at least a hundred unnecessary pages to an already overly long book and pulled me out of the central story.

What We Loseby Zinzi Clemmons (review)
Accolades: Kirkus Best Debut of 2017 and Esquire MagazineElle MagazineHarper’s BazaarRefinery29 Best Book of 2017
My Take: Written in vignettes that felt jumpy, preventing me from focusing on the story.

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin (review)
Accolades: Tons of pre-publication and regular reader buzz
My Take: The last part of the book is a Choose Your Own Adventure story…except it’s a fake one. Enough said.

And, those are just the books I actually finished. I abandoned (i.e. DNF’d)… 

All of these books were nominated for or received literary awards and/or appeared on numerous “Best Books of 2017” lists from publications like KirkusNew York Times, Time MagazinePop Sugar, and Refinery29.

What books do you think deserved their hype this year? Which ones do you think didn’t?

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Best Debuts of 2017

December 5, 2017 Annual "Best Books" Lists 18

Best Debuts of 2017


Last year, an astounding seven out of eight of my Best Debuts of 2016 also made my overall Best Books of 2016 list. That’s the most debuts that have made my overall Best Books of the Year list since I started blogging by far.

I can pretty much assure you we won’t approach that number this year, but you will be seeing a couple of these books on my overall list in a couple weeks!

Best Debuts of 2017

Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach (my review)
Dead Letters was my first overwhelming winner of the year. I’ve been recommending it like crazy ever since and it’s one of the most frequently purchased books from my affiliate links.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence (my review)
This year’s winning book about books! Spence is relatable, funny, and often snarky…and you will likely have heard of most of the books she talks about.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong (my review)
This tiny gem of a novel is one of the few this year that the book critics from the traditional media and I agree on! Ruth’s endearing, witty, real, and relatable voice is the star of this one.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio (my review)
The The Secret History read-alike I’ve been searching for forever!

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett (my review)
A sweet, delightful, and whimsical story with a main character reminiscent of Scout Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird).

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny (my review)
A debut novel with straight talk about marriage. Plus, Heiny introduces the brilliant idea of a drop-off club for houseguests (similar to the kids clubs at resorts).

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
A rare YA (Young Adult) book that I loved! And, the rare “issue” book that is first and foremost a compelling and well-told story.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter (author interview)
Fiction based on the harrowing true story of Hunter’s family that defies statistics, explanation, and imagination. Also one of the only World War II books I’ve read recently that hasn’t felt like a slog!

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

What are your favorite debuts of 2017?

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What I’m Reading Now (12/4/17)

December 4, 2017 It's Monday! What are you reading? 25

It’s officially Christmas season at our house! This is our first Christmas in our new house, so we’re figuring out our decorating strategy. My husband is something of a Clark Griswald about the outside of our house…we currently have lights on our bushes, Christmas balls on the trees, and a laser light show on the house (that last one could be a bit much, but we’re going with it). And, we’re contemplating a 7 foot tall Snowman for the front yard. Our neighbors are probably so pissed.

If you’re looking for gifts for the book lovers in your life, I posted my Best Holiday Gifts for Book Lovers 2017 guide on Black Friday! I’ve got you covered with book recommendations, the gift for book lovers that keeps on giving, and bookish gifts that aren’t books. Best of all, you can get all this stuff without leaving your couch!

Finally, December Book of the Month Club selections are due on Wednesday. As always, I have commentary on all the books (one of which I’ve already read) and my Ultimate Guide to the Book of the Month Club Judges to help you choose the right book for your reading taste!

Hosted by The Book Date.

This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link).

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Nonfiction November Instagram Challenge Day 25: Family⠀ _⠀ ⠀ Family is one of many topics Anna Quindlen writes about in her memoir. She also covers marriage, work, female friendships, motherhood, etc. I first fell in love with Quindlen through her fiction (Every Last One is outstanding), but quickly realized she keenly observes life, particularly for women, in her nonfiction. She is grounded, realistic, and just gets it. Listening to this audiobook felt a bit like seeing a fantastic therapist. Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake is a featured book on my 2017 Best Holiday Gifts for Book Lovers list (LINK IN PROFILE) and would make a perfect gift for the fellow women in your life. _⠀ ⠀ What books are you thinking about giving to the fellow women in your life this holiday season? ⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ #bookstagram #bookgram #booktography #amreading #bookworms #instabooks #bookblogger #booklovers #booklover #bibliophile #biblio #bookaddict #bookaddiction #goodreads #nonficnov @kimthedork @doingdewey @catchmybookbreath @randomhouse

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I finished reading…

Everybody's Son by Thrity Umbigar


Everybody’s Son
by Thrifty Umrigar (June 6, 2017)
I’ve heard so many great things about this author. But, Everybody’s Son was completely forgettable to me. It was fine, meh, all those kind of words. I don’t really have much to say about it. But, I still would like to try something else by this author.

I’m currently reading…

Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman


The Rules of Magic
by Alice Hoffman (October 10, 2017)
I’d been so nervous about picking this historical fiction up because magic is most definitely not my thing. But, I’m so glad Catherine at Gilmore Guide prodded me because I’m loving it! The magic isn’t hokey and just makes this story of family and love more unique.

Upcoming reading plans…

For the rest of the year, I’ll be alternating between backlist books and 2018 new releases…unless library holds throw a wrench in my plans, which I’m sure they will despite my efforts to proactively manage them (via suspensions).

The Nix by Nathan Hill


The Nix
 by Nathan Hill (August 30, 2016)
I wasn’t even tempted to read this novel when it came out last year. It screamed long, dense, and heavy to me. But, since then, I saw Amy at Read a Latte‘s rave review where she had the same fears I did (which turned out to be unfounded) and compared it to Donna Tartt. I peeked at the first few pages and think I’m going to love it.

was reading…

One Year Ago: I’d just finished reading my friend, Georgia Hunter’s incredible novel, We Were the Lucky Ones

Two Years Ago: I’d just read one of my favorite books of 2015!

How was your reading week?

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Book of the Month Club December 2017 Selections: What Book Should You Choose?

December 1, 2017 Book Recommendations 14

Book of the Month Club December 2017 Selections

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 Club 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 Club 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 Club Judges with free, downloadable template (below).

December is traditionally a desert for new book releases. So, it’s not surprising this month’s selections don’t contain a single December release. Instead, we have a mid-2017 release, two November releases, and three January 2018 releases. This month’s picks are also thriller heavy…so, page-turner lovers, this is your month! Sadly, none of my go-to judges made an appearance this month.

Choose the best Book of the Month Club selection for you every time!

If you missed it, check out my fun new tool to help you pick the best Book of the Month Club selection for your taste: my Ultimate Guide to the Book of the Month Club Judges and free, downloadable template (below) to help you find your go-to BOTM judge!

I’ve updated the template since last month to make it even better and added in the most recent judge’s selections, so download the new version even if you grabbed it last month!

Book of the Month Club December 2017 Selections

Chalk Man by C.J. TudorThe Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor (Release Date: January 9, 2018)
288 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.24 on 380 ratings
Selected By: Kristen Iversen (Author)

In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. The chalk men are their secret code; little chalk stick figures they leave for one another as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing is ever the same.

Expertly alternating between flashbacks and the present day, The Chalk Man is the very best kind of suspense novel, one where every character is wonderfully fleshed out and compelling, where every mystery has a satisfying payoff, and where the twists will shock even the savviest reader.

My Thoughts:
The Chalk Man is a British debut and was inspired by Tudor’s daughter’s sidewalk chalk (creepy!!). The publisher is calling The Chalk Man the “must-read thriller of 2018,” and said the twists “manage to be simultaneously totally shocking, as well as completely grounded in the clues laid along the way.” This criteria for plot twists is a must-have for me to love a psychological thriller and Goodreads readers are (mostly) backing up the publisher’s claims. They also said Tudor’s writing and character development are top notch, which are sometimes lacking in thrillers. There’s apparently some 80’s nostalgia and I’ve seen comparisons to a couple different Stephen King works (The Stand, It, and The Body, which became the movie Stand By Me). Chelsea at The Suspense is Thrilling Me loved it just a tad. I’ve gotta say, as skeptical as I normally am of psychological thrillers, this one piques my interest.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail HoneymanEleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (Release Date: May 9, 2017)
327 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.33 on 41,808 ratings
Selected By: Guest Judge Gabrielle Union (Actress and Author of her memoir, We’re Going to Need More Wine)

Meet Eleanor Oliphant. She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully time-tabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.

Then everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. […] it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.

My Thoughts:
Lots of people love this book, including some bloggers I trust (Susie at Novel Visits and Tara at Running N Reading), but I just didn’t. It’s a feel-good, heart-warming story that’s neatly tied up at the end and this kind of book generally doesn’t appeal to me. I found it too cliche in a rom-com type of way. I loved that Eleanor is a quirky, endearing character who goes on hilarious, salty rants about things that annoy her in everyday life. And, I was very curious about the dark backstory with her Mom, but was disappointed the book didn’t delve into this further. Check out my full review. Though I didn’t love it, you might if you like feel-good stories with endearing characters and neat, tidy endings.

City of Brass by S.A. ChakrabortyThe City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty (Release Date: November 14, 2017)
528 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.31 on 553 ratings
Selected By: Liberty Hardy (co-host of Book Riot‘s All the Books podcast)

Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles.

But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real.

My Thoughts:
The City of Brass is the first novel in a debut series that “combines the tropes of epic fantasy with a rich Middle Eastern setting, an exploration of the classical Islamic world, and elements of Arab, Persian, and South Asian history and folklore in a fast-paced novel that will cast its spell on both genre and general readers, as well as fans of YA fantasy.” Whew! That’s a lot to swallow…and none of it is in my wheelhouse. It apparently has fantasy, romance, paranormal – all elements that have me running for the hills. But, Goodreads readers seem to love it and so did Kirkus.

English Wife by Lauren WilligThe English Wife by Lauren Willig (Release Date: January 9, 2018)
384 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.11 on 130 ratings
Selected By: Dana Schwartz (Author and Correspondent at Entertainment Weekly)

From the New York Times bestselling author, Lauren Willig, comes this scandalous New York Gilded Age novel full of family secrets, affairs, and even murder.

My Thoughts:
The English Wife is historical fiction, but the dark, twisted, “wealthy people behaving badly” kind. I haven’t been loving much historical fiction lately, but this kind could be an exception. Goodreads reviewers say it’s gothic, has a bit of romance, starts a bit slowly but soon turns unputdownable, has an intricate plot, and leaves some questions open at the end (a good or bad thing depending on what type of reader you are, but Goodreads reviewers viewed it as mostly bad). Pam Jenoff (author of The Orphan’s Tale) called it a “scintillating tale of betrayal, secrets and a marriage gone wrong.”

Wife Between Us by Greer HendricksThe Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen (Release Date: January 9, 2018)
352 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.27 on 1,248 ratings
Selected By: Nina Sankovitch (Bestselling Author)

When you read this book, you will make many assumptions.
You will assume you are reading about a jealous wife and her obsession with her replacement.
You will assume you are reading about a woman about to enter a new marriage with the man she loves.
You will assume the first wife was a disaster and that the husband was well rid of her.
You will assume you know the motives, the history, the anatomy of the relationships.
Assume nothing.

My Thoughts:
How about that blurb?! The Wife Between Us is yet another psychological thriller about marriage, which have become ubiquitous since the success of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. I’m always a little skeptical of them because the copycats rarely live up to the original. Goodreads reviewers said this one is certainly addictive and unputdownable, but that the ending could be over the top for some and that the twisty plot had been done before. Kirkus called it “easy to read” and “a good airport book,” while Publisher’s Weekly gave it a starred review. Nina Sankovitch is not a go-to judge for me, so I’m going to wait for more reports from readers I trust on this one.

What Book of the Month Club December 2017 selection(s) will I choose?

Honestly, I’m going to skip this month.

But, if I wasn’t, I’d choose The Chalk Man because of the 80’s nostalgia and reports of Tudor’s stellar character development. I might end up picking this up later if I hear good reports from readers I trust.

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

What book will you choose this month?

This Month’s Special Deals

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

NEW MEMBER DEAL: Anyone who purchases a 1-month BOTM subscription will get 1 month free! That’s two months for the price of one––two brand new hardcover books for only $14.99!

HOLIDAY OFFER: 

How to Join Book of the Month Club…

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

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

Sign up for a Book of the Month Club membership (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
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November 2017 Monthly Round-Up

November 30, 2017 Monthly Round-Ups 20

November 2017 Monthly Round-Ups

This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link).

November Reading / Life

Choose the best Book of the Month Club selection for you every time!

What’s Coming in December

  • Free Range Reading – Every year, I reserve December to read whatever the heck I want! I’m hoping to knock out some backlist books that have been on my TBR forever, possibly re-read an old favorite, and start some 2018 releases.
  • No Book Reviews – but, I’ll still be talking about the books I’m reading in my Monday What I’m Reading Now posts and on Twitter and Instagram.
  • Year End Wrap-Up Posts – such as Best Books of 2017 lists, year-end reading and blog stats, and general reflection on 2017.
  • A Look Ahead to 2018 – an overview of some exciting new things happening around here next year!

My Favorite Book(s) of the Month

Best Book of the Month

Forty Autumnsby Nina Willner (October 4, 2016)
Nonfiction, 416 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

PS – last year’s Best Book of November was Before the Wind by Jim Lynch (my review)!

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

My favorite book of last month (yay!!):
The Heart’s Invisible Furiesby John Boyne (my review)

Most Popular Posts

Posts Actually Published in November
The Best Holiday Gifts for Book Lovers 2017
Book of the Month Club November 2017 Selections: What Book Should You Choose?

Nonfiction November 2017: Fiction / Nonfiction Book Pairings

Overall Posts
Book Club Recommendations
Best Books of 2017 So Far
Behind Her Eyes and THAT Ending: Spoiler Discussion (#WTFthatending)

Top November Instagram Post (follow me @sarahsbookshelves)

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️It’s a 5 star Alcohol & Advil pairing…possibly the first 100% 5 star one I’ve ever done! The Heart’s Invisible Furies will slay every emotion you have…you’ll laugh and cry and everything in between. And, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo will fix you right up afterwards…it reads easy, but the story has lots of depth. You’ll probably start out hating Evelyn, but don’t be sure you’ll end up there. Also – you have no idea how truly perfect a pairing this is until you’ve read both books. LINK TO MY REVIEWS IN BIO.⠀ _⠀ ⠀ How do you recover from a book that absolutely slays you?⠀ _⠀ ⠀ Alcohol & Advil is my feature where I pair a book likely to cause a “reading hangover” (i.e. the alcohol) with a recovery book (i.e. the Advil)! For me, the “alcohol” is usually a book that I either absolutely loved or one that punched me in the gut in an emotionally depleting way…and, in this case, it’s the former.⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ @johnboyne @hogarthbooks @tjenkinsreid @atriabooks @bookofthemonth #bookstagram #amreading #bookworm #instabooks #bookblogger #booklover #booklovers #booksofinstagram #bookgram #bookblogger #bookaddict #bookaddiction #fiction #bookofthemonth #bookofthemonthclub #BOTM #heartsinvisiblefuries #sevenhusbandsofevelynhugo

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Nonfiction November 2017 Mini Reviews and New Additions to my TBR

November 28, 2017 Blogger Events 15

Nonfiction November 2017


Another Nonfiction November (hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey, Lory at Emerald City Book Review, Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness, Julz at Julz Reads, and me) is in the books! And, it was a good one. I read/listened to eight books and only two were stinkers (and, I was shocked about one of them).

I usually use Nonfiction November to create my Nonfiction TBR for the coming year and I found some great books to get that started!

This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link).

2017 Nonfiction November Mini Reviews

After the Eclipse by Sarah PerryAfter the Eclipse by Sarah Perry
Nonfiction – True Crime/Memoir (Released September 26, 2017)
371 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Library (Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Plot Summary: Perry’s mother was murdered when she was 12 years old…and Perry was in the house when it happened. Years later, she tries to find out who her mother was and who killed her.

My Thoughts: After the Eclipse is part true crime with a little The Glass Castle thrown in. Sarah grew up poor with an absentee father and had a close bond with her mother. The publisher’s blurb says the book is about Sarah getting to learn more about her mother following her death, but I thought it was more about finding peace in the aftermath of the murder and closure (i.e. finding out who killed her). It’s an incredibly powerful story with multiple eye-widening moments, but the story dragged a bit through the middle (between the murder and its immediate aftermath and finally finding the killer).

Black Dahlia Red Rose Black Dahlia, Red Rose by Piu Marie Eatwell
Nonfiction – True Crime / Investigative Journalism (Released October 10, 2017)
368 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Library (Publisher: Liveright)

Plot Summary: Eatwell investigates the famous and still unsolved 1947 Black Dahlia murder (young, aspiring starlet Elizabeth Short was found virtually bisected on a residential sidewalk in Los Angeles) and poses a theory about who the murderer was based on evidence that was suppressed at the time.

My Thoughts: The Black Dahlia murder occurred during a time when Los Angeles was rampant with corruption (including in the LAPD) and gangsters. And, this vivid setting and culture is very much a part of the murder and the book, making Black Dahlia, Red Rose feel like more than just a true crime “genre” book. The case itself is fascinating, as is the corruption that went on at the time and the re-examination of the evidence now…but, I did get bogged down in details a bit through the middle when the focus turned to corruption in the LAPD. If you liked In Cold Blood or American Fire, I think you’ll like this one!

Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie SpenceDear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released September 26, 2017)
256 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Library (Publisher: Flatiron Books)

Plot Summary: Spence, a public librarian, shares her “love letters and break-up notes” to her favorite books, as well as musings and rants about various aspects of her reading life…plus, a whole section of book recommendation lists.

My Thoughts: I recently tried reading My Life with Bob (the New York Times Book Review editor’s memoir of her reading life) and DNF’d it during the first half because it talked too much about esoteric books and got intellectually snobby one too many times. Dear Fahrenheit 451 is the anti-My Life with Bob! You’ve probably heard of most of the books she discusses and even read a few…and there’s no intellectual snobbery here. Spence is relatable, funny, and often snarky. The chapters are short and it’s a great book to pick up when you need something light and easy. Also – it will explode your TBR list…consider yourself warned.

Forty AutumnsForty Autumns by Nina Millner by Nina Willner
Nonfiction – History/Memoir (Released October 4, 2016)
416 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Library (Publisher: William Morrow)

Plot Summary: Willner, an ex-U.S. intelligence officer covering East Germany, tells the true story of her family being separated by the Berlin Wall and their experience living in Communist East Germany.

My Thoughts: Forty Autumns was my favorite book of Nonfiction November! It’s a look at communism and East Germany through the lens of one family’s experience. I learned a ton about life behind the Iron Curtain (a topic I’ve been fascinated with ever since seeing the East German women’s swim team dominate the 1988 Seoul Olympics) and the gut-wrenching fear and oppression the East Germans faced. I recently paired it with Georgia Hunter’s novel, We Were the Lucky Ones, in a Fiction / Nonfiction Pairing post. They’re similar stories about families fractured by war and an oppressive regime, just different countries and different wars. Like Hunter’s novel, Forty Autumns is highly readable despite it’s serious topic and touches the emotional heart-strings while giving you a history lesson.

How Reading Changed My Life by Anna QuindlenHow Reading Changed My Life by Anna Quindlen
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released January 1, 1998)
96 Pages
Bottom Line: Skip it.

Affiliate Link: Amazon
Source: Library (Publisher: Ballantine Books)

Plot Summary: Quindlen’s thoughts on her reading life and books she’s loved.

My Thoughts: This memoir was kind of all over the place and didn’t feel much like the Anna Quindlen I know and love. Some parts (personal memories of growing up a bookworm) were warm and relatable (typical Quindlen), while others read like an academic term paper. The silver lining is that it’s chock full of amazing, famous quotes about books and reading. I never thought I’d be recommending you skip an Anna Quindlen, but I am.

Strangers in their Own Land by Arlie Russell HochschildStrangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild
Nonfiction – Politics (Released August 16, 2016)
351 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Library (Publisher: New Press)

Plot Summary: Liberal sociologist Hochschild went deep into Louisiana Bayou country to get to know some of the people who politically identify with the Tea Party.

My Thoughts: I’m really glad I read Strangers in Their Own Land, but it was different than I expected. It does delve into the reasons these particular people support the Tea Party (and hate the idea of government intervention and support, though they theoretically could benefit from it), but a large chunk of the book is about the environmental pollution of this area of Louisiana. The environmental piece was interesting reading, but I thought was a bit overdone given it was somewhat of a tangent. A logical “next book” if you liked Hillbilly Elegy.

Happiness Project by Gretchen RubinThe Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
Nonfiction – Life Improvement (Released December 29, 2009)
301 Pages (Audio: 10 hours, 15 minutes)
Bottom Line: Read it / Listen to it
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased (Publisher: Harper)

Plot Summary: Rubin dedicated a year of her life to focusing on the things that matter…thus her “Happiness Project.”

My Thoughts: The Happiness Project is a relatable exploration of figuring out what makes you happy and how to focus on those things in your daily life (her motto is basically sleep, workout, declutter…in my words). It’s filled with actionable, manageable, common sense tips that are easy to integrate into your life, but that we often forget to focus on (i.e. get more sleep). Plus, she throws in memorable quotes to keep you on track (i.e. “sleep is the new sex”, “take pleasure in an atmosphere of growth”). Sometimes she comes across as a “happiness bully” (her words) and I think she could drive me nuts to have as a friend, but overall it’s a great tool to help you hit reset on on your life.

UnbelievableUnbelievable by Katy Tur by Katy Tur
Nonfiction – Politics (Released September 12, 2017)
301 Pages (Audio: 7 hours, 46 minutes)
Bottom Line: Skip it

Affiliate Link: Amazon
Source: Library (Publisher: Dey Street Books)

Plot Summary: NBC News Correspondent Tur’s behind the scenes look at what it was like to cover Donald Trump’s political campaign.

My Thoughts: I’m always interested in the behind-the-scenes dirt from political campaigns…from either party…and you’d think the dirt from the Trump campaign would be exceptionally entertaining (maybe not the right word, but close enough). But, funnily enough, I don’t feel like I learned anything new from this book. Maybe because so much has already been reported by the media along the way or tweeted about by Trump himself, but I felt like Unbelievable was a re-hash of things I already knew…except maybe getting a better appreciation for the perpetual exhaustion of those involved in political campaigns.

New Nonfiction to My TBR

And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts (November 1, 1987)
Recommended by Melissa Firman…this one caught my eye because she paired it with The Heart’s Invisible Furies (my review) in her fiction / nonfiction book pairings.

Shilts tells the heroic stories of individuals in science and politics, public health and the gay community, who struggled to alert the nation to the enormity of the danger it faced.

Ghettoside by Jill Leovy (January 25, 2015)
Recommended by Kazan at Always Doing (via my comments section).

Ghettoside is a fast-paced narrative of a devastating crime, an intimate portrait of detectives and a community bonded in tragedy, and a surprising new lens into the great subject of murder in America–why it happens and how the plague of killings might yet be stopped.

Grocery by Michael Ruhlman (May 16, 2017)
Recommended by Joann at Lakeside Musing.

Cookbook author and food writer Ruhlman explores the evolution of the American grocery store and how it has affected what we eat. The author uses two of his Midwestern hometown grocery chains, Heinen’s and Fazio’s, and his memories of his father’s love of food and grocery shopping as the foundation for this engaging narrative.

The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan (March 5, 2013)
Recommended by Tara at Running N Reading.

The incredible story of the young women of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, who unwittingly played a crucial role in one of the most significant moments in U.S. history (the Manhattan Project).

On Writing by Stephen King (June 27, 2017)
Recommended by my friend and author of the fantastic book We Were the Lucky Ones, Georgia Hunter (along with a number of other people in the comments section of my Books about Reading and Writing post).

On Writing begins with King’s childhood and his uncannily early focus on writing to tell a story. King next turns to the basic tools of his trade and culminates with a profoundly moving account of how King’s overwhelming need to write spurred him toward recovery.

What was your favorite read and top TBR add of Nonfiction November?

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What I’m Reading Now (11/27/17)

November 27, 2017 It's Monday! What are you reading? 22

Nonfiction November (get all the details here!) is still going on, but I’ve gotten burned out a bit on nonfiction. I snuck in a novel last week, then a nonfiction I’d been waiting for forever came in from the library, so I knocked that out. With that done, I think I’m officially retiring from this year’s Nonfiction November. I’ll be sharing mini reviews for all the nonfiction I read this month plus the new books I added to my TBR list tomorrow!

I posted my Best Holiday Gifts for Book Lovers 2017 guide on Black Friday! I’ve got you covered with book recommendations, a special Cyber Monday deal for Book of the Month Club (the gift for book lovers that keeps on giving!), and bookish gifts. Best of all, you can get all this stuff without leaving your couch!

A Way to Help Victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma & Maria AND Knock Out Some Holiday Shopping

Online retailer zulily (they have adorable children’s clothes at great prices, among other things!) is teaming up with Penguin Random House to help victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria through their “first-ever interactive book fair, running now through December 10.”

“Six sales events will feature a curated selection of children’s books, and each book purchased will trigger a donation from Penguin Random House to First Book (a nonprofit social enterprise that provides new books and other essentials to children in need).

Shop the Book Fair for holiday children’s classics like How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Christmas Story, The Velveteen Rabbit, Goodnight Baby Jesus, Madelline’s Christmas, and current favorites (at least in my house) Peppa Pig, Paw Patrol, and Thomas the Train…and much more! Or, visit zulily’s social media channels (FacebookTwitterInstagram and Pinterest) and comment on or like their posts to trigger additional Penguin Random House donations to First Book.

Sponsored by zulily.com

Hosted by The Book Date.

This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link).

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I finished reading…

Unraveling Oliver, Strangers in their Own Land


Unraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent (August 22, 2017)

After reading that eye-opening first line, I thought I’d be getting a dark thriller. It’s dark, but it’s not a thriller. It’s a story told from different perspectives, a character study that peels back many layers, and all the pieces came together like a symphony. You’ll be seeing this one pop up on a future recommendation list!
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild (August 16, 2016)
Different than I expected. Didn’t realize so much of it was about environmental pollution in Louisiana. Mini review to come.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

Everybody's Son by Thrity Umbigar


Everybody’s Son
by Thrifty Umrigar (June 6, 2017)
This pick from my Must Try Before the End of 2017 TBR list was available for immediate download at the library…plus, I was totally drawn in by the Prologue, in which a young boy is abandoned in a sweltering apartment with no air conditioning for a couple days. I’ve only just started it, but I have a good feeling about this one.

Upcoming reading plans…

If no library holds come in, I’ll be reading something from my Must Try Before the End of 2017 TBR list. Likely The Rules of Magic.

was reading…

One Year Ago: I’d just finished my inaugural Anna Quindlen, who has now become a favorite author!

Two Years Ago: I took the week off!

How was your reading week?

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The Best Holiday Gifts for Book Lovers 2017 (including book recommendations)

November 24, 2017 Gift Guides 18

Best Holiday Gifts for Book Lovers 2017

 

Welcome to my 2017 Best Holiday Gifts for Book Lovers guide!

A specially selected book…or a Kindle with a few books pre-loaded (see Amazon’s Guide to Giving / Receiving Books on a Kindle for instructions on gifting Kindle e-books) can be an incredibly thoughtful, personal holiday gift!

Every year, I compile a list of the books I came across that year that I think make perfect holiday gifts. And, this year I’m also recommending a fabulous book subscription service and some bookish goodies that aren’t actual books!

If you can’t find anything on this year’s list that’s the right match for your friend or loved one, check out my previous lists (20162015201420132012).

This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link).

Book of the Month Club: The Gift That Keeps on Giving for Book Lovers

You know those book lovers that have read everything under the sun and you’re kind of scared to pick out a specific book for them? Or, the kind that enjoy finding out about new and interesting books? Or, the kind that love beautiful hardcover books? Or, the kind that read so much that a gift of just one book won’t last them past New Year’s? 

A subscription to the Book of the Month Club is the perfect holiday gift for these types of readers!

How it Works

On the first of every month, members get to choose one of five books selected by Book of the Month Club’s panel of judges (including a surprise guest judge). You also have the option to purchase additional books for $9.99 each and to skip a month if you want. Book of the Month Club will mail your chosen book (along with any extras you ordered) to your house for free. 

HOLIDAY GIFT PRICING

 3 Months for $44.99, 6 months for $79.99, 12 months for $149.99
Buy a Book of the Month gift subscription and get a free book for yourself.

Special Black Friday Deal (valid through Sunday, 11/26): 
Use code GIFTBOTM to get $10 off a 6 or 12-month gift subscription.

Special Cyber Monday Deal (valid on Monday, November 27 only):
New members can use code 2FORYOU to get 2 months for just $7.50 each and a free tote.

And, you can top off the perfect book lover gift by including a tool that will help your book lover choose the best Book of the Month Club selection for his or her personal taste every month…my easy-to-use template that helps find readers’ go-to Book of the Month Club judges (i.e. the judges whose taste most perfectly matches your book lover’s). When you know which judges to trust the most, choosing your perfect book is a breeze!

I am a Book of the Month Club Affiliate and will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my affiliate links, but I’m also a paying customer.

Go-To Literary Fiction Recommendations

These books have broad appeal and are all-around great selections for most anyone who loves literary fiction.

BeartownBeartown by Fredrik Backman by Fredrick Backman
Fiction – Sports (
Released April 25, 2017)
432 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: While small, down and out Beartown goes crazy over its youth ice hockey team’s run in the Swedish national tournament, something explosive happens to throw the town’s and team’s hopes into jeopardy.

My Thoughts: Beartown has been compared to Friday Night Lights, which is accurate in that this is a story of a town who’s hopes are declining every day and whose youth sports team is really the only thing its residents have to be proud of. It’s also a story of the privilege bestowed on star athletes, even at the youth level. Beartown is an absolutely explosive story and is one of my favorite books of 2017!  Full Review

Lillian Boxfish Takes A Walk Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney
Fiction (Released January 17, 2017)
287 Pages
Affiliate Link: 

Plot Summary: While taking a walk around her beloved New York City on New Year’s Eve of 1984, eighty-five year old Lillian Boxfish, the highest paid female advertising executive in the 1930’s, reflects on her life.

My Thoughts: Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk is the unique kind of historical fiction (which appeals to me far more than the run-of-the-mill kind) and is a delightful, quintessentially New York City book. Lillian herself was the Peggy Olson (Mad Men) of 1930’s advertising. She’s both old school (i.e. in her manners, her hatred of TV) and progressive (an unapologetic career woman in a time when it was more acceptable to get married and have babies). She’s smart, playful, and whimsical…and Rooney mirrors this in her writing style.  Excellent choice for mothers, mother-in-laws, and grandmothers.

Little Fires Everywhere Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Fiction (Released September 12, 2017)
384 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Summary: When nomadic artist Mia Warren and her daughter (Pearl) rent an apartment from Elena Richardson in Shaker Heights, Elena’s entire family becomes enmeshed in the Warrens’ lives, resulting in uncovered secrets, unanticipated consequences, and a raging debate about what it means to be a mother.

My Thoughts: Little Fires Everywhere is an engrossing story about a family and a community that you can sink right into…and may have even broader appeal than Everything I Never Told YouLittle Fires Everywhere is my go-to recommendation for book loving friends whose reading taste you’re not quite sure of…it’s a book that most everyone will love. Full Review 

Shadow of the LionsShadow of the Lions by Christopher Swann
Fiction (Released August 1, 2017)
368 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

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

My Thoughts: Y’all know I’m a sucker for boarding school novels and Shadow of the Lions is a good one! It’s been described as a “literary thriller,” but I’d say it’s more of a literary “mystery” than a “thriller.” It’s a story about male friendship…the kind of bond that can only be developed in extremely close quarters with shared experiences (i.e. living together in dorms, in the military, etc). Bonus for fellow Virginians: the author is a Woodberry Forest grad and the story is set at a fictional version of the school. Full Review

The Heirs by Susan RiegerThe Heirs by Susan Rieger
Fiction (Released May 23, 2017)
254 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When Rupert Falkes passes away from cancer, the rest of his wealthy Manhattan family (his wife and five sons) struggles with their identity amid accusations that he fathered two children out of wedlock.

My Thoughts: Don’t make the same mistake I did by assuming The Heirs is another version of The Nest! It’s not “wealthy people behaving badly”…it is the story of one wealthy Manhattan family, their relationships with each other, and their own internal struggles. The writing about NYC society reminded me of Jay McInerney (a little pretentious with lots of needlessly big words), but the story reminded me of early Beatriz Williams (i.e. A Hundred Summers). If you read Rieger’s debut (The Divorce Papers), this one is very different. Excellent choice for mothers and mother-in-laws.

We Were the Lucky Ones We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter
Historical Fiction (Released February 14, 2017)
416 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: World War II “annihilated over 90% of Poland’s Jews and […] all but about 300 of the 30,000 Jews from Radom,” Georgia Hunter’s ancestors’ home. Yet, her entire family survived. We Were the Lucky Ones is based on the story of how they did it.

My Thoughts: The Kurc family’s experience during World War II, beginning in Poland and stretching to Siberia, Italy, and Brazil is nothing short of a harrowing odyssey, the outcome of which defies statistics, explanation, and imagination. It feels like a “quick read” in a page-turning sense, even though it’s not a short or light book. Excellent choice for anyone who enjoyed The Nightingale or All the Light We Cannot See. And, pairing it with Nina Willner’s memoir, Forty Autumns, in a Fiction / Nonfiction Pairing would make a perfect double-whammy gift! Author Interview

Edgy Literary Fiction

These books are a bit darker, tackle more fraught issues, or have more aggressive language, etc. than my go-to literary fiction recommendations. Read the publishers’ summaries carefully before choosing one of them for your prim and proper grandmother!

Dead LettersDead Letters, Caite Dolan-Leach by Caite Dolan-Leach
Fiction – Debut (Released February 21, 2017)
353 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When Ava Antipova gets word that her wild twin sister (Zelda) is dead, she leaves her Paris graduate program to return to her family’s vineyard in upstate New York…only to find circumstances surrounding her sister’s death that are a bit off and a message from Zelda.

My Thoughts: This debut novel has absolutely everything and is one my most recommended book of the year. It has a perfectly paced plot, a dysfunctional family, a mystery, great writing, snarky humor, and depth. And, it’s one of those rare books that I can comfortably categorize as “literary” AND “brain candy.” Full Review

If We Were VillainsIf We Were Villains by M.L. Rio by M.L. Rio
Fiction – Debut (Released April 11, 2017)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: After spending ten years in prison, Oliver Marks is ready to tell the story of the tragedy that happened to his seven best friends and fellow Shakespeare theatre students during their fourth year at Dellecher, an intense Conservatory for the arts.

My Thoughts: If We Were Villains is the dark campus novel I’ve been craving ever since loving Christopher J. Yates’s Black Chalk three years ago…and is one of my favorite books of 2017! It’s a sinister, Gothic campus novel jam-packed with emotional tension. After the 20% mark, I could not put this book down! Special Note: references to and excerpts from Shakespeare’s plays are incorporated throughout this book. But, you do not have to read them closely or understand them to love it! Excellent choice for fans of Donna Tartt’s The Secret HistoryFull Review

QuicksandQuicksand by Malin Persson Giolito by Malin Persson Giolito
Fiction (Released March 7, 2017)
513 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: In a nutshell, Quicksand is the movie Cruel Intentions (elite prep school, lots of money, partying, drugs, neglected high schoolers, and an intense love affair), if Sebastian (PS – Quicksand‘s main character is also named Sebastian…it’s almost too perfect!) had shot up his school and Annette had gone to trial for helping him.

My Thoughts: I “5 star adored” this Swedish “courtroom thriller” and am amazed it hasn’t gotten more buzz in the U.S. since its March release! This story is about far more than just a school shooting…it’s about friendship, family, a wealthy community, the complicated entanglement of young love, the law, and a slight bit of politics. I couldn’t put it down. If you like dark, twisty high school books, this is one of the best I’ve ever read! Full Review

Heart's Invisible Furies The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne
Historical Fiction (Released August 22, 2017)
582 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: After Cyril Avery was born out of wedlock to an Irish country teenager and given up for adoption to a wealthy, Dublin couple, he wrestles with his sexuality and how he fits into an Ireland that’s run by an overreaching Catholic Church over the course of his life.

My Thoughts: The Heart’s Invisible Furies is the first big, immersive novel that’s really hit me since A Little Life and is hands-down one of my favorite books of 2017! It spans Cyril’s entire life in 7 year segments and it’s heartfelt and emotional, yet unexpectedly funny and reads like juicy gossip at times. Don’t be afraid of the length…this one is not a slog at all. Excellent choice for fans of A Prayer for Owen Meany and A Little Life (minus all the heart-wrenching violence). Full Review

Introspective Books

These books are quiet, calm, and comforting…and might lead you to ponder your life.

Lots of Candles Plenty of CakeLots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released April 24, 2012)
182 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: A combination memoir/essay collection covering marriage, girlfriends, motherhood, faith, loss, work, and much more!

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 just has such a grounded, practical outlook on life that really puts things in perspective for me. Highly recommend for anyone craving a “life wisdom” type read! Excellent choice for Moms and grown sisters…scratch that, It’s perfect for pretty much any woman you know.

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett
Nonfiction – Essays (Released December 11, 2011)
308 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon 

Plot Summary: Ann Patchett’s (author of one of my 2016 favorites: Commonwealth) essay collection covering all kinds of topics from her life. Buy from Amazon

My Thoughts: Pat Conroy is one of the rare authors whose fiction and nonfiction I’ve truly enjoyed. Now that he’s gone, Ann Patchett might be taking his place (thanks to his recommendation in A Lowcountry Heart). She covers the gamut of topics in this essay collection: marriage (obviously), divorce, writing, book tours, opera (the only low point for me), friendship, how to be productive, and the story behind the opening of Parnassus Books. She lives an interesting, yet fairly normal life and I love her grounded outlook on things. Another excellent choice for Moms and grown sisters…and also writers!

Page Turners

These books are pretty much the opposite of the last bunch.

Emma in the Night Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker
Fiction – Mystery / Thriller (Released August 8, 2017)
320 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

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

My Thoughts: Emma in the Night‘s ending has the rare perfect balance between being surprising, yet still fitting with the story and it’s the first 5 star thriller I’ve read since Gone Girl. I could not put this book down! And, I liked it so much better than All is Not Forgotten! If I had the kind of life where I could devote a whole day to reading, I could’ve read it in one day. Full Review

Fear by Dirk KurbjuweitFear by Dirk Kurbjuweit
Fiction – Translation (
Released October 3, 2017)
272 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: After a stalking campaign by Randolph Tiefenthaler’s downstairs neighbor, Randolph’s father lands in prison for shooting the neighbor.

My Thoughts: Fear is what I like to call a “why book.” It starts with the main event and the suspense lies in discovering the how and why. It was marketed as a “gripping thriller,” but I’d say it’s more of a slow burn. The overall feel is very European (logical since this is a German translation). Think Herman Koch (more Dear Mr. M than The Dinner) and Based on a True Story, with the tension simmering and crackling beneath the surface rather than exploding in a more traditional, action-packed way. Full Review

Something Fun

These books are your brain candy. They read easy, but their stories still have great depth.

Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugoby Taylor Jenkins Reid
Historical Fiction (Released June 13, 2017)
391 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Legendary film actress Evelyn Hugo recruits young journalist, Monique, to write her life story, including the stories of her seven marriages.

My Thoughts: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is the best in the brain candy class I’ve read in a long time! Evelyn is an Elizabeth Taylor-type character who did whatever it took to further her career…and she finally wants the whole truth to come out. There’s an Old Hollywood vibe, yet also an undercurrent of feminism. And, you might be surprised by where this story goes. Full Review

Trophy SonTrophy Son by Douglas Brunt by Douglas Brunt
Fiction – Sports (
Release Date May 30, 2017)
288 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Thanks to his father’s rigorous and stifling coaching, tennis prodigy Anton Stratis has never known much outside of his sport…until he decides to take control of his life.

My Thoughts: Though this novel is set inside the grueling world of elite tennis and the professional tennis circuit, it’s really a unique spin on the coming of age story, an indictment of the world of overbearing sports parents, and a story about a fraught relationship between father and son. With the elite sports setting of You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott (my review) and the father/son dynamic of The Great Santini by Pat Conroy (my review), Trophy Son is a book you can fly through. Excellent choice for sports fans.

For the Hobbyist

Books for people that are into specific things…in this case, books and reading (duh!), the Cold War, running, personality types, and behind-the-scenes glimpses of politics.

Books for Living by Will SchwalbeBooks for Living by Will Schwalbe
Nonfiction – Essays (Released December 27, 2016)
288 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: The author of The End of Your Life Book Club‘s collection of essays featuring individual books and how they impacted his life.

My Thoughts: Each chapter of this introspective collection focuses on one book and how it impacted and contributed to Schwalbe’s life. He covers classics (Stuart Little), nonfiction (The Importance Of Living), serious books (A Little Life), and lighter fare (The Girl on the Train). I certainly hadn’t read all the books he discusses, but I related to many of his points about life. Full Review

Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie SpenceDear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released September 26, 2017)
256 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Spence, a public librarian, shares her “love letters and break-up notes” to her favorite books, as well as musings and rants about various aspects of her reading life…plus, a whole section of book recommendation lists.

My Thoughts: Dear Fahrenheit 451 is the anti-My Life with Bob (which was a similar book, but got too esoteric and intellectually snobby for my taste)! You’ve probably heard of most of the books she discusses and even read a few…and there’s no intellectual snobbery here. Spence is relatable, funny, and often snarky. The chapters are short and it’s a great book to pick up when you need something light and easy. Also – it will explode your TBR list…consider yourself warned. Excellent choice for big-time bookworms.

Forty Autumns by Nina WillnerForty Autumns by Nina Willner
Nonfiction – History/Memoir (Released October 4, 2016)
416 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Willner, an ex-U.S. intelligence officer covering East Germany, tells the true story of her family being separated by the Berlin Wall and their experience living in Communist East Germany.

My Thoughts: Forty Autumns is a fascinating look at communism and East Germany through the lens of one family’s experience. I learned a ton about life behind the Iron Curtain and the gut-wrenching fear and oppression the East Germans faced. It’s highly readable despite it’s serious topic and touches the emotional heart-strings while giving you a history lesson. Excellent choice for mothers, mother-in-laws, and grandmothers…and, pairing it with Georgia Hunter’s novel, We Were the Lucky Ones, in a Fiction / Nonfiction Pairing would make a perfect double-whammy gift!

My Year of Running Dangerously My Year of Running Dangerously by Tom Foreman
Nonfiction – Memoir/Sports (Released October 6, 2015)
288 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot 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 the story of an impressive running feat (prior to Foreman’s year of races, he hadn’t run since he was much younger), but it’s a sweet story of a father and daughter connecting over a shared hobby. It would make a great gift for a father or daughter that’s getting into running…and it’s great on audio!

Reading People by Anne BogelReading Peopleby Anne Bogel
Nonfiction (Released September 19, 2017)
226 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: A primer on the major personality type frameworks including Meyers-Briggs, Enneagram, StrengthsFinder, and the 5 Love Languages.

My Thoughts: If you’re interested in personality types and how to apply your personality types to your own life, Reading People is an approachable place to start. It doesn’t go deep into any of these types, but it’s a good overview that can help you decide where you might like to go deep. Excellent choice for anyone interested in personality types or psychology.

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? by Alyssa Mastromonaco
Nonfiction – Memoir/Politics (Released March 21, 2017)
257 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: A behind-the-scenes memoir by President Obama’s former Deputy Chief of Staff.

My Thoughts: This 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! Excellent choice for women newly embarking on their careers or behind-the-scenes of politics junkies.

Investigative Journalism

Uncovering the secrets behind major news stories…I find these books make great Dad gifts!

Ranger Games by Ben BlumRanger Games by Ben Blum
Nonfiction (Released September 12, 2017)
432 Pages
Affiliate Link:

Plot Summary: Alex Blum was a gregarious, athletic, popular teenager (think Pat Tillman) until he joined the U.S. Army Rangers and, within four months, robbed a bank. Written by Alex’s cousin, Ranger Games is the story of how this happened.

My Thoughts: While Alex’s story is pretty outrageous, Ranger Games goes deeper into the Army’s training methods, specifically for the Rangers. And, how the Ranger methods and philosophy could help turn a happy-go-lucky kid into a bank robber. It’s a little overly long, but would make a perfect Dad, Husband, or Father-in-Law gift.

American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing LandAmerican Fire by Monica Hesse by Monica Hesse
Nonfiction (Released July 11, 2017)
259 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: The true story of the hunt for a serial arsonist (to the eventual tune of 67 fires in five months) who burned down abandoned buildings in Accomack County, a small, declining town on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

My Thoughts: The story behind the hunt for this arsonist (actually, arsonists), who they were, and why they couldn’t stop burning down abandoned buildings is ultimately about a unique community and a love affair gone very wrong. It’s a well-told and engrossing story with a broad appeal beyond the true crime genre and is a perfect “gateway book” for those interested in dipping their toes into the true crime genre for the first time. Excellent choice for Virginians. Full Review

Killers of the Flower MoonKillers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
Nonfiction (Released April 18, 2017)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: The true story of the systematic murder of many members of the Osage Indian Nation for their oil rights and the subsequent investigation into the killings.

My Thoughts: Killers of the Flower Moon is about the history of the Osage Indian Nation, oil drilling in America in the 1920’s, 1920’s law enforcement and the FBI’s first homicide case. Then, overlay all that with a murder mystery involving a stunning level of corruption that captivated the public interest at the time and you get a flawless blend of history and mystery. Excellent choice for fans of narrative nonfiction and Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City.

Something Outside of the Box

For the reader that’s looking for something a little different.

Goodbye Vitamin Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong
Fiction – Debut (
Released July 11, 2017)
208 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Ruth returns to her parents’ home in the L.A. area to help care for her father, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s.

My Thoughts: Goodbye, Vitamin is the type of book that could get overlooked because it’s all about the intangibles, but don’t make the mistake of overlooking this one! Though this story is about a sad and serious topic, it has a lightness to it and is amusing at times. The story is told through Ruth’s journal entries that read like little vignettes, a format that worked for me in this case because I absolutely adored Ruth’s endearing, witty, real, and relatable voice. Excellent choice for young professionals. Full Review

Grit by Angela Duckworth Grit by Angela Duckworth
Nonfiction – Life Improvement (
Released May 13, 2016)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Duckworth uses examples from the military, sports, education, and business to illustrate how perseverance (rather than talent) is the best predictor of success. 

My Thoughts: The primary message seems like common sense, but Duckworth supports it with entertaining real life examples and multiple studies. It reinforced to me that you have far more control over your destiny than you think. Excellent choice for parents and anyone with a big-time goal in mind.

Mothering Sunday by Graham SwiftMothering Sunday by Graham Swift
Historical Fiction (Released April 26, 2016)
177 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: While the staff of British estates has time off for Mothering Sunday of 1924 (a Protestant and Catholic religious holiday that was somewhat of a precursor to our current secular Mother’s Day), Jane (a maid) and Paul (an heir to the neighboring estate) meet to continue their illicit affair.

My Thoughts: Mothering Sunday is a technically a romance, but is so unconventional that I hesitate to call it a romance at all. It’s a quiet, gorgeously written story about the evolution of a woman (Jane) from her Mothering Sunday tryst with her illicit lover to late in her life. The story is unique, yet not weird and I could say the same about Swift’s writing style. Mothering Sunday reminded me a bit of Brian Morton’s Florence Gordon (my review) and would be an excellent choice for fans of Downton Abbey. Full Review

The Stranger in the WoodsThe Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel by Michael Finkel
Nonfiction (Released March 7, 2017)
224 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: The true story of 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 is one strange, but completely captivating story. It’s like a mash-up between a wilderness story and a study of the introverted personality trait, coupled with a look at today’s extraversion-oriented society. Christopher Knight is one of those people who makes you want to figure out what makes him tick. This is a quick read (or listen, in my case!) that’s perfect for fans of Jon Krakauer (particularly Into the Wild) and Quiet by Susan Cain. Excellent choice for Dads, Father-in-Laws, brothers, and husbands.

The WanderersThe Wanderers by Meg Howrey by Meg Howrey
Fiction (Released March 14, 2017)
384 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Prime Space (a private space exploration company) puts Helen, Sergei, and Yoshi (the meticulously selected crew for Prime’s first manned mission to Mars) through an incredibly life-like, seventeen months-long simulation (called Eidolon) of the mission.

My Thoughts: The Wanderers will appeal to fans of Andy Weir’s The Martian (my review), but manages to be its own thing entirely in a more psychological, less page-turnery way…and is the most unique book I’ve read all year. It’s first and foremost a story about getting the astronauts psychologically ready for a Mission to Mars, which takes years. Full Review

Bookish Gifts

Kindle Oasis E-Reader (the latest Kindle upgrade)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Amazon has come out with its latest and greatest Kindle upgrade. Y’all know how devoted I am to my Kindle…I’d be reading far less without it. Its convenience can’t be beat. The Oasis has a couple fancy, new features: it’s waterproof  (yes, bathtub, pool float, and wine drinking readers rejoice!), you can listen to Audible audiobooks via Bluetooth directly from your Kindle, it’s battery lasts 9 weeks when paired with the leather cover it comes with, and it has a thinner and lighter sloped design that’s supposed to mimic a book’s spine.

Lit Chat (a literary discussion game)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Created by literary media company, Book Riot (I’m a big fan of their blog posts and podcasts!), Lit Chat is a game intended to get people talking about books and reading. It comes with 50 cards containing all kinds of bookish questions (such as “what book would you want with you if you were stuck on a desert island?”) designed to spark debate about books. A few rounds of Lit Chat would be a great addition to any book club gathering!

“F Off, I’m Reading” Socks 
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

A friend gave me these amazing socks earlier this year and I burst out laughing! They pretty much perfectly reflect my state of mind about 80% of the day. Excellent stocking stuff for any bookworm not afraid of a little F bomb! But, if you’re averse to the language, the same company also makes cute “Stop Talking” and “I Heard You and I Don’t Care” versions.

Happy Holidays!

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