Category: Book Lists

My Most Anticipated Books of Winter 2019

January 10, 2019 Book Lists 14

Most Anticipated Books of Winter 2019

 

I always get so excited thinking about the first crop of books coming out in a new year…and planning (well, loosely planning) what I’m going to read! 

This year, I’m doing these quarterly posts a little differently since I now have a podcast! If you missed yesterday’s episode of the Sarah’s Book Shelves Live podcast (listen here), Catherine from Gilmore Guide to Books and I covered 18 books we’re excited about coming out this winter. I’m talking about 5 of them again in today’s blog post (noted by each book)…but, check out the podcast to hear about the rest! Just click on the time stamp link next to each book and it will take you right to the place in the podcast where we talk about that book.

Winter 2019 Releases I Covered in the Podcast 

January:

February:

March:

As always, my Most Anticipated Books of Winter 2019 list is mostly made up of books from trusted sources (to find your personal trusted recommendation sources, check out this post and free downloadable template) who, in as many cases as possible, have already read the book. I did not look at a single publisher’s catalog to create this list. I’m sharing the recommendation source for each book and will specify if that source has or has not read it yet.

I use my “Rock Your Reading” Tracker (available for purchase for $14.99), to keep an ongoing eye on my most trusted recommendation sources…and improved my reading success X% from last year!

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

January

An Anonymous Girlby Sarah Pekkanen and Greer Hendricks (January 8, St. Martin’s Press)
I really liked this psychological thriller from the authors of The Wife Between Us (which I DNF’d)! It’s more psychological than thriller, which I loved…and the main question is “who can you trust?” rather than “what’s going to happen next?”. Stay tuned for my Spoiler Discussion (coming on January 17).

When Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr. Shields, she thinks all she’ll have to do is answer a few questions, collect her money, and leave. But as the questions grow more and more intense and invasive and the sessions become outings where Jess is told what to wear and how to act, she begins to feel as though Dr. Shields may know what she’s thinking…and what she’s hiding. As Jess’s paranoia grows, it becomes clear that she can no longer trust what in her life is real, and what is one of Dr. Shields’ manipulative experiments. Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read by ME, Jan Belisle (blog reader), Kaytee Cobb (co-host of the Currently Reading podcast), and December 2018 Book of the Month pick.

Inheritance by Dani Shapiro (January 15, Knopf)
I’ve been hearing about Dani Shapiro’s memoirs for awhile and finally decided to give her a try when Nicole Bonia said I’d “like her since I love Kelly Corrigan” on my recent guest appearance on The Readerly Report podcast (listen here!). That’s all you need to say to get me to immediately add a book to my TBR list! This one might be an audio listen for me.

The acclaimed and beloved author of Hourglass now gives us a new memoir about identity, paternity, and family secrets—a real-time exploration of the staggering discovery she recently made about her father, and her struggle to piece together the hidden story of her own life.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read by Anne Bogel at Modern Mrs. Darcy (Best Nonfiction of 2018 choice) and author (but not this book) recommended by Nicole Bonia (co-host of The Readerly Report podcast).

The Dreamersby Karen Thompson Walker (January 15, Random House)
Judging by early reviews, this might be one of the biggest books of the year! And, I loved it…I almost gave it 5 stars (it got 4.5 instead). It’s like a more literary The Fever (by Megan Abbott) and had me on the edge of my seat without feeling like a thriller.

A mesmerizing novel about a college town transformed by a strange illness that locks victims in a perpetual sleep and triggers life-altering dreams—by the bestselling author of The Age of Miracles, for fans of Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven and Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read and loved by ME, Annie Jones of From the Front Porch podcast, Susie at Novel VisitsKelly Massry, Jan Belisle (blog reader), Anne Bogel at Modern Mrs. Darcy (Best Fiction of 2018 choice), and Andrea at Born and Read in Chicago.

The Suspectby Fiona Barton (January 22, Berkley Books)
This is my first time reading Fiona Barton, author of popular British mysteries The Child and The Widow. I grabbed this galley on a whim, but I completely enjoyed this mystery! I loved that it was partially set in Thailand (a place I’ve always wanted to visit) and that it involved backpackers (something I did after college in Australia). And, I also loved that it was a solid mystery without trying to play gotcha.

When two eighteen-year-old girls go missing in Thailand, their families are thrust into the international spotlight: desperate, bereft, and frantic with worry. What were the girls up to before they disappeared?

Journalist Kate Waters always does everything she can to be first to the story, first with the exclusive, first to discover the truth–and this time is no exception. But she can’t help but think of her own son, whom she hasn’t seen in two years, since he left home to go traveling.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read by ME.

February

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas (February 5, Balzer & Bray)
Even though I don’t normally love YA, I loved Thomas’s debut novel, The Hate U Give. Plus, Jaclyn Crupi (a trusted recommendation source) said it’s even better than The Hate U Give.

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.

Recommendation Source(s): Trusted author for me (not read) and already read by Jaclyn Crupi.

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray (February 19, Berkley Books)
Discussed on the podcast [26:47]
This debut novel has been compared to The Mothers and An American Marriage, both of which I absolutely loved. I sampled the first few pages of this novel and I wanted to drop everything and keep reading. The writing does remind me of Tayari Jones’s in An American Marriage.

The Butler family has had their share of trials—as sisters Althea, Viola, and Lillian can attest—but nothing prepared them for the literal trial that will upend their lives.

Althea, the eldest sister and substitute matriarch, is a force to be reckoned with and her younger sisters have alternately appreciated and chafed at her strong will. They are as stunned as the rest of the small community when she and her husband Proctor are arrested, and in a heartbeat the family goes from one of the most respected in town to utter disgrace. The worst part is, not even her sisters are sure exactly what happened.

Recommendation Source(s): Rebecca Schinsky on All the Books 2019 Preview podcast (not read).

Otherwise Engagedby Lindsey J. Palmer (February 26, Skyhorse)
Discussed on the podcast [13:56]
This one is smartly written brain candy! It’s sort of rom-com-esque, but it’s not cheesy at all. Palmer unpacks this premise far deeper than I expected.

Life is sweet for New Yorkers Molly and Gabe: They’re young, in love, and newly engaged.

But when Gabe sells his first novel—a thinly-veiled retelling of his wild love affair with ex-girlfriend Talia—and it becomes a national sensation, Molly can’t help but feel like the third wheel. To make matters worse, Talia reappears in Gabe’s life, eager to capitalize on the book’s success and to rekindle what she had with Gabe… at least, that’s how it seems to Molly. But even more concerning? Gabe doesn’t seem concerned at all. Instead, he’s delighting in his newfound fame and success.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read by ME and Ashley Spivey of Spivey’s Club Facebook Group.

The Lost Prince: A Search for Pat Conroy by Michael Mewshaw (February 26, Counterpoint)
Discussed on the podcast [30:09]
Y’all think I’m going to skip a book like this about Pat Conroy, my very favorite author?! No way…

Michael Mewshaw’s The Lost Prince is an intimate memoir of his friendship with Pat Conroy, one that involves their families and those days in Rome when they were both young—when Conroy went from being a popular regional writer to an international bestseller. Shortly before his forty-ninth birthday, Conroy telephoned Mewshaw to ask a terrible favor. With great reluctance, Mewshaw did as he was asked—and never saw Pat Conroy again. Although they never managed to reconcile their differences completely, Conroy later urged Mewshaw to write about “me and you and what happened . . . I know it would cause much pain to both of us. But, here is what that story has that none of your others have.” The Lost Prince is Mewshaw’s fulfillment of a promise.

Recommendation Source(s): Unsolicited from the publisher…not read.

March

So, Here’s the Thing: Notes on Growing Up, Getting Older, and Trusting Your Gut by Alyssa Mastromonaco (March 5, Twelve)
Discussed on the podcast [34:36]
I loved Mastromonaco’s memoir about her time as Obama’s Deputy Chief of Staff…it was fun, funny, relatable, and felt like you were hearing stories about your girlfriend’s very cool job over a glass of wine. I listened to it on audio (read by the author) and will likely listen to this one on audio as well.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? comes a fun, frank book of reflections, essays, and interviews on topics important to young women, ranging from politics and career to motherhood, sisterhood, and making and sustaining relationships of all kinds in the age of social media.

Recommendation Source(s): Trusted author (not read).

Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson (March 5, William Morrow)
I recently read and thoroughly enjoyed Swanson’s backlist thriller, The Kind Worth Killing, on the recommendation of Ashley Spivey of Spivey’s Club Facebook Group.

Catching a killer is dangerous—especially if he lives next door.
From the hugely talented author of The Kind Worth Killing comes an exquisitely chilling tale of a young suburban wife with a history of psychological instability whose fears about her new neighbor could lead them both to murder . . .

Recommendation Source(s): Trusted author.

Look How Happy I’m Making You: Stories by Polly Rosenwaike (March 19, Doubleday)
Candid stories about motherhood? I’m not sure I can think of anything that’s more up my alley at the moment. Plus, Tyler Goodson (one of my top recommendation sources) rated it 5 stars!

A candid, ultimately buoyant debut story collection about the realities of the “baby years,” whether you’re having one or not.

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

White Elephant by Julie Langsdorf (March 26) (March 19, Ecco Books)
Discussed on the podcast [39:27]
I love a good neighborhood drama…hopefully with spot-on social commentary. Plus, this debut was blurbed by Meg Wolitzer and Cristina Alger (author of The Banker’s Wife).

The White Elephant looms large over the quaint suburban town of Willard Park: a gaudy, newly constructed behemoth of a home, it soars over the neighborhood, dwarfing the houses that surround it. When owner Nick Cox cuts down Allison and Ted Millers’ precious red maple—in an effort to make his unsightly property more appealing to buyers—their once serene town becomes a battleground.

While tensions between Ted and Nick escalate, other dysfunctions abound: Allison finds herself compulsively drawn to the man who is threatening to upend her quietly organized life. A lawyer with a pot habit and a serious midlife crisis skirts his responsibilities. And in a quest for popularity, a teenage girl gets caught up in a not-so-harmless prank. Newcomers and longtime residents alike begin to clash in conflicting pursuits of the American Dream, with trees mysteriously uprooted, fires set, fingers pointed, and lines drawn.

Recommendation Source(s): Publisher’s Weekly March Preview (not read).

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

What Winter 2019 books are you looking forward to?

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Eight 2018 Books That Deserved the Hype…and Five That Didn’t

December 4, 2018 Book Lists 40

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 2018 Books that Deserved the Hype list is a mixed bag of all these ways to garner hype.

I’m so happy about the spread of this year’s post…I actually had trouble coming up with a decent list of books that didn’t deserve the hype! This is a welcome turnaround from last year, when I had six books that deserved the hype and eight that didn’t. Could it be that tracking my recommendation sources (using my Rock Your Reading Tracker) and trying to pick books that have been read by at least one of them did the trick?!

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!).

Eight 2018 Books That Deserved the Hype

2018 Books That Deserved the Hype

 

A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne (my review)
Follow-up to one of the most beloved books of last year (The Heart’s Invisible Furies), Book of the Month pick, good book blogger buzz

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (my review)
Oprah Book Club pick, New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2018Library Reads, O MagazineTime Magazine, Bustle, and Southern Living Best Book of 2018Book of the Month pick, tons of book blogger and regular reader buzz

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou (my review)
Amazon Best Book of 2018, New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2018, tons of book blogger and regular reader buzz

I’ll Be Gone in the Darkby Michelle McNamara (my review)
Tons of book blogger and regular reader buzz…and, obviously the publicity from arresting a suspect months after the book was published!

The Book of Essie by Meghan McLean Weir (my review)
Book of the Month selection, tons of book blogger and regular reader buzz

The Female Persuasionby Meg Wolitzer (my review)
Beloved author, massive publisher marketing dollars, Kirkus Best Literary Fiction of 2018New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2018, tons of book blogger buzz

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai (my review)
Kirkus Best Literary Fiction of 2018New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2018, New York Times 10 Best Books of 2018, tons of book blogger buzz

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (my review)
Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick, Southern Living Best Book of 2018, tons of book blogger and regular reader buzz

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

…and Five That Didn’t

2018 Books That Deserved the Hype

 

A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza
Accolades: Massive pre-publication hype (first release from actress Sarah Jessica Parker’s Hogarth imprint), Washington Post Best Book of 2018, tons of book blogger buzz
My Take: I DNF’d at 29% because nothing was happening…and it was far too long a book for nothing to happen and the writing to be mediocre.

Circe by Madeline Miller (my review)
Accolades: Good book blogger buzz; Book of the Month selection; Library Reads, Bustle, and Time Magazine Best Book of 2018

My Take: A total slog…too many characters, too many tangential stories, and I felt like I was reading a high school mythology guide.

Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras (my review)
Accolades: Publisher hype, Bustle Best Book of 2018, good book blogger hype
My Take: I felt really distant from the story and kept zoning out while reading it.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
Accolades: Beloved author (The Nightingale), Book of the Month selection, massive pre-publication hype, Amazon and Library Reads Best Book of 2018, tons of book blogger and regular reader hype
My Take: I DNF’d at 37% because I was bored and I couldn’t take anymore of the main character’s spinelessness.

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Accolades: Massive pre-publication hype, NYT bestseller, Book of the Month selection, massive book blogger and regular reader buzz
My Take: I DND’d at 32% because it seemed like just another run-of-the-mill thriller.

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

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My Favorite Nonfiction That Reads Like Fiction

November 20, 2018 Book Lists 17

Nonfiction November 2018

 

Today’s Nonfiction November (hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey, Rennie at What’s Nonfiction?, Julie at Julz Reads, Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness, and me) topic is Reads Like Fiction (head over to What’s Nonfiction? for the link-up!):

Nonfiction books often get praised for how they stack up to fiction. Does it matter to you whether nonfiction reads like a novel? If it does, what gives it that fiction-like feeling? Does it depend on the topic, the writing, the use of certain literary elements and techniques? What are your favorite nonfiction recommendations that read like fiction? And if your nonfiction picks could never be mistaken for novels, what do you love about the differences?

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!).

Nonfiction That Reads Like Fiction

When people ask me for nonfiction recommendations, they often request something that “reads like fiction.” Personally, I don’t need my nonfiction to read like fiction to love it…but, I do love a good nonfiction that reads like fiction! I do feel like many of the iconic nonfiction books could be described as reading like fiction. 

 
For me, a nonfiction book reads like fiction if there is a strong story arc. If there are central characters whose fates you care about and the story has a beginning, middle and an end. Also, not being able to put it down helps!

Nonfiction That Reads Like Fiction

All Over But the Shoutin’ by Rick Bragg
Bragg’s memoir about his childhood growing up destitute, with an alcoholic and mostly absentee father, in rural Alabama. It’s one of my all-time favorite nonfiction books and Bragg is the author I’ve found that comes closest to Pat Conroy (if you’re a regular blog reader, you know how big a compliment this is coming from me!) so far.

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson (my review)
The true story of the creation of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and the serial killer masquerading as a doctor who cast a shadow over the proceedings. An excellent true crime / history mash-up and the book that many people would say is the epitome of nonfiction that reads like fiction (I think I agree).

Educated by Tara Westover (my review)
Westover’s memoir about growing up in a survivalist Mormon family who didn’t believe in public education and her journey to break the mold by getting her PhD at Cambridge University. Educated was recently named the #1 Book of 2018 by Amazon and Library Reads.

Forty Autumns by Nina Willner (my review)
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. This one was my favorite book of last year’s Nonfiction November and would make a great pairing with Georgia Hunter’s We Were the Lucky Ones.

From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein
This quarter life crisis memoir set in the world of politics might be my favorite audiobook of the year! It’s like listening to your fun friend who happens to have a job (stenographer) in the White House with access to the President give you all the very best anecdotes (plus, a good dose of her love life) over a glass of wine!

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson (my review)
Told through the eyes of Martha Dodd, the US Ambassador to Berlin’s daughter, Larson paints a picture of how the German people remained oblivious as Hitler very gradually accumulated the power to enable him to pull off the Holocaust under their noses.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
The true story of the Savannah murder of Billy Hansen and the subsequent trial of antiques dealer and social gadfly Jim Williams. This one blends a suspenseful murder mystery with a portrait of an eccentric Southern town…and, I’m long overdue for a re-read.

My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff (my review)
The story of Rakoff’s experience as a young woman in the 90’s living in NYC and working at the literary agency representing reclusive legend, J.D. Salinger. But, this one reads like a coming of age novel with celebrity guest appearances! 

On Wings of Eagles by Ken Follett
The story of eventual Presidential candidate Ross Perot’s rogue rescue of his Electronic Data Systems employees after they were imprisoned in Tehren during the 1978 Iranian Revolution. One of those truth is stranger than fiction stories…that also reads like fiction.

Red Notice by Bill Browder
The true story of Browder’s experience as one of the first foreign investors in Russia after the fall of Communism and widespread privatization. This is one of the few nonfiction books that reads like a thriller.

The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya (my review)
Clemantine was six years old when she and her older sister (Claire) were separated from their family during the Rwandan genocide and spent the next six years as refugees before being granted asylum in the U.S., and in Clemantine’s case, going on to get a degree from Yale. I kind of wish this one was actually fiction…

The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy (my review)
Current New Yorker staff writer Levy’s memoir of self-examination takes a brutally raw and honest look at her life including love, massive loss, and bad decisions.

What are your favorite nonfiction books that read like fiction?

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Nonfiction November 2018: Be the Expert…Investigative Journalism

November 13, 2018 Book Lists 14

Nonfiction November 2018

 

Today’s Nonfiction November (hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey, Rennie at What’s Nonfiction?, Julie at Julz Reads, Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness, and me) topic is Be / Become / Ask the Expert:

Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

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!).

Investigative Journalism

Investigative Journalism

I actually came to my Be the Expert topic by request! I mentioned in my My Year of Nonfiction post that I hadn’t read enough investigative journalism this year and that I was looking forward to reading more during Nonfiction November. Multiple people mentioned in that post’s comments that they were interested in seeing what investigative journalism books I end up reading this month (so far, I’ve read and really liked The Fifth Risk, Big Game, and Bad Blood…all of which I’ll review at the end of the month!). Today, I thought I’d also share some of my past investigative journalism favorites!

But first, I want to share a couple new, investigative journalism podcasts I’ve been loving lately…all from Wondery, who seems to be cornering the market on investigative journalism podcasts these days:

  • Dr. Death
    The story of Dr. Christopher Duntsch, a neurosurgeon who catastrophically hurt a number of patients he operated on…and the flawed medical system that failed his patients.
  • Gladiator
    A deep dive into deceased New England Patriots football star and convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez.
  • American Scandal
    Behind the scenes of America’s biggest scandals. Season 1 focused on BALCO and performance enhancing drugs and Season 2 is about New York Governor Elliot Spitzer and his corrupt NY State government.

True Crime

A False Report by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong
True crime (the story of a woman who was charged with lying about being raped and the detectives that worked to uncover the truth) mixed in with a bit of history of rape investigation and would make a great companion read to I’ll Be Gone in the Dark (my review).

American Fire by Monica Hesse (my review)
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.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara (my review)
McNamara, previously a true crime writer and blogger at TrueCrimeDiary.com, investigated the unsolved crimes of a 1970’s-80’s serial rapist and murderer that she dubbed the Golden State Killer (also known as the EAR for East Area Rapist). Before her book could be published, she passed away…and soon after it was published, the Golden State Killer was caught via DNA evidence.

Missoula by Jon Krakauer (my review/discussion)
Krakauer explores rape and the justice system on college campuses through a look at several acquaintance rape cases at the University of Montana in Missoula.

The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel (my review)
The true story about Christopher Knight, the man who lived alone in the Maine forest for 27 years before finally being arrested for stealing food and essentials from nearby vacation homes. Also, one of my all-time favorite audiobooks!

Medicine

Concussion by Jeanne Marie Laskas (my review)
The story of Dr. Bennet Omalu, a native of Nigeria, who immigrated to the U.S. and used his neuropathological research into brain injuries to football players (i.e. CTE) to take on the National Football League (NFL). It’s so much more than a “football book”; it’s a medical mystery, a David & Goliath story, an immigrant’s story, and a story of a big-business cover-up…and, it was one of my favorite books of 2015!

Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink (my review)
An investigative report into what happened during and immediately after Hurricane Katrina at New Orleans’ Memorial Medical Center…including allegations that doctors intentionally sped up death for some of the hospital’s sickest patients that they thought wouldn’t survive an evacuation. Plus, it reads like a thriller.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (my review)
The true story of the woman whose tissue became one of science’s most important discoveries, the “immortal” HeLa cells that enabled countless medical breakthroughs (including the Polio Vaccine). And, the first book I ever read for a book club!

Business

DisneyWar by James B. Stewart
“The dramatic inside story of the downfall of Michael Eisner—Disney Chairman and CEO—and the scandals that drove America’s best-known entertainment company to civil war.” – Amazon

The Great Beanie Baby Bubble by Zac Bissonette
An in depth look at Ty Warner and the story of the mid-1990’s speculative bubble surrounding his Beanie Babies…and its subsequent crash.

The Middle East

The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright
A historical account of how Al Qaeda (and, really, Islamic terrorism in general) grew into what it is now, what motivates the terrorists, and the U.S.’s response to the terrorist threat (and how we could have prevented 9/11).

The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg (my review)
Investigative journalist Jenny Nordberg exposes the “unofficial” custom of girls pretending to be boys (called bacha posh) in present day Afghanistan.

Religion

Going Clear by Lawrence Wright (my review)
The story behind L. Ron Hubbard’s (LRH) founding of Scientology, its links to the entertainment industry, and the current state of the “religion”…and, a big dose of cray-cray. This book sparked the best book club discussion I’ve ever been a part of…including lots of googling to see which celebrities are Scientologists!

Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer
An expose-type account of life in extreme Mormon communities that still practice polygamy. Also – one of my all-time favorite nonfiction books!

What are some of your favorite investigative journalism books?

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12 Memorable Villains of Fiction

October 23, 2018 Book Lists 21

Villains of Fiction

 

I love to read dark fiction, so not surprisingly, I encounter lots of villains in my reading. Putting together my 12 most memorable villains of fiction was disturbingly fun! 

Many on this list are adept manipulators, some are well known among readers, and some are not. And, the main character in the book I just finished (A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne) could possibly top this list. But, I felt weird about including him since the book isn’t coming out until November.

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.

12 Memorable Villains of Fiction

Dr. Alan Forrester
All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker (Spoiler Discussion)
Why are psychiatrists so often creepy villains in fiction? This one was arrogant and diabolical, too.

Amy Dunne
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Possibly the most manipulative character I’ve ever read. But, her husband almost deserved her. Almost.

Annie Wilkes
Misery by Stephen King
A terrifying version of fangirl-ing. More power to you if you can get that vision of Annie hammering Paul’s ankles out of your head.

Bull Meacham
The Great Santini by Pat Conroy (my review)
Maybe the worst Dad in literature. But, he also had a sense of humor that made reading him slightly less traumatic.

Double Eagles
Natchez Burning by Greg Isles (my review)
A group rather than a person, but this is a dangerous splinter group of the KKK that reigned in the 1960’s and was even more ruthless than the regular KKK. The fictional Double Eagles is based on the real life “Silver Dollar Group.”

Jake the Bartender
Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler (my review)
The first of two sociopathic boyfriends on this list.

Joseph Castleman
The Wife by Meg Wolitzer (my review)
A bit of a different type of villain than the others on this list. He’s not downright evil, just completely self-centered, oblivious, and expects to be coddled. His poor wife…  

Miranda Priestley
The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
The boss from hell. Except also thoroughly entertaining for readers…

Nate Piven 
The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman (my review)

Again, not as evil as some of the other villains on this list. But, a pretty unabashed and callous manipulator of women. I remember thinking when I read this, “this perfectly portrays dating in NYC!” 

Oliver Ryan
Unraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent
Here’s the first line of Unraveling Oliver, told from Oliver’s perspective:

I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her.

Olivia Foxworth (aka the Grandmother)
Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews
Locked her grandchildren in her attic for years. I should probably include Corrine Dollanganger (the mother) on this list as well, seeing as she agreed to her mother’s diabolical plan.

Stephen DeMarco
Tell Me Lies by Carola Lovering
The second sociopathic boyfriend on this list. But, definitely worse than the first one (Jake the Bartender from Sweetbitter).

What villains of fiction do you love to hate?

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12 Books By Favorite Authors I Haven’t Read Yet

September 25, 2018 Book Lists 45

Books By Favorite Authors I Haven't Read

 

One of the silver linings of discovering a new-to-you author a bit late is that the author likely has a pretty good, if not extensive, backlist waiting for you!  Most recently, this has happened with Anna Quindlen, Ann Patchett, and Kelly Corrigan…and I still have plenty more to go!

And, even with favorite authors I’ve been familiar with for awhile, I haven’t yet gotten to all the books of theirs that I want to read! Here are 12 Books by Favorite Authors I Still Haven’t Read…

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.

12 Books By Favorite Authors I Haven’t Read Yet

Jami Attenberg
The Middlesteins
I loved Attenberg’s Saint Mazie (my review) and All Grown Up (my review). Her dry humor is right up my alley and I can’t wait to read her take on a dysfunctional family. Plus, this book is under 300 pages…making it way more likely I might actually pick it up soon!

For more than thirty years, Edie and Richard Middlestein shared a solid family life together in the suburbs of Chicago. But now things are splintering apart, for one reason, it seems: Edie’s enormous girth. She’s obsessed with food–thinking about it, eating it–and if she doesn’t stop, she won’t have much longer to live.

When Richard abandons his wife, it is up to the next generation to take control. […] Through it all, they wonder: do Edie’s devastating choices rest on her shoulders alone, or are others at fault, too?

Margaret Atwood
Alias Grace
Like many people, The Handmaid’s Tale (my review) blew me away…and it was one of the only classics I’ve read in later life. I downloaded Alias Grace when it was free via a Kindle deal over a year ago and really need to crack it open! The page count (over 450 pages) is probably what’s been causing me to put it off for so long.

It’s 1843, and Grace Marks has been convicted for her involvement in the vicious murders of her employer and his housekeeper and mistress. Some believe Grace is innocent; others think her evil or insane. Now serving a life sentence, Grace claims to have no memory of the murders.

An up-and-coming expert in the burgeoning field of mental illness is engaged by a group of reformers and spiritualists who seek a pardon for Grace. He listens to her story while bringing her closer and closer to the day she cannot remember. What will he find in attempting to unlock her memories?

Kent Haruf
Plainsong
Our Souls at Night (my review) is a tiny, quiet book, but it really spoke to me. I’m interested in seeing what Haruf does with a family story…plus, I’ve heard new things.

In the small town of Holt, Colorado, a high school teacher is confronted with raising his two boys alone after their mother retreats first to the bedroom, then altogether. A teenage girl—her father long since disappeared, her mother unwilling to have her in the house—is pregnant, alone herself, with nowhere to go. And out in the country, two brothers, elderly bachelors, work the family homestead, the only world they’ve ever known.

Emily St. John Mandel
The Lola Quartet
I (along with a gazillion other readers) loved Station Eleven (my review). It was the first dystopian novel I’ve ever actually enjoyed. Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy recently read The Lola Quartet from her backlist and devoted a special What Should I Read Next? podcast episode to it. Plus, it’s a literary thriller, which I generally love.

Gavin Sasaki is a promising young journalist in New York City, until he’s fired in disgrace following a series of unforgivable lapses in his work. It’s early 2009, and the world has gone dark very quickly; the economic collapse has turned an era that magazine headlines once heralded as the second gilded age into something that more closely resembles the Great Depression. The last thing Gavin wants to do is return to his hometown of Sebastian, Florida, but he’s drifting toward bankruptcy and is in no position to refuse when he’s offered a job by his sister, Eilo, a real estate broker who deals in foreclosed homes.

Eilo recently paid a visit to a home that had a ten-year-old child in it, a child who looks very much like Gavin and who has the same last name as Gavin’s high school girlfriend Anna, whom Gavin last saw a decade ago. Gavin—a former jazz musician, a reluctant broker of foreclosed properties, obsessed with film noir and private detectives—begins his own private investigation in an effort to track down Anna and their apparent daughter who have been on the run all these years from a drug dealer from whom Anna stole $121,000.

Haruki Murakami
Norwegian Wood
I loved Murakami’s 1Q84 (and it’s hard to keep me interested for almost 1,000 pages!) and his memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. I’m dying to see what he does with a campus novel (one of my favorite sub-genres)!

Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before. Toru begins to adapt to campus life and the loneliness and isolation he faces there, but Naoko finds the pressures and responsibilities of life unbearable. As she retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself reaching out to others and drawn to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman.

Maggie O’Farrell
This Must Be the Place
I loved O’Farrell’s memoir/essay collection, I Am, I Am, I Am. And, before I even knew about her memoir, I had This Must Be the Place on my TBR list. I snagged it in a Kindle Daily Deal and can’t wait to test out her fiction (hopefully sometime this year).

Meet Daniel Sullivan, a man with a complicated life. A New Yorker living in the wilds of Ireland, he has children he never sees in California, a father he loathes in Brooklyn, and a wife, Claudette, who is a reclusive ex–film star given to pulling a gun on anyone who ventures up their driveway. Claudette was once the most glamorous and infamous woman in cinema before she staged her own disappearance and retreated to blissful seclusion in an Irish farmhouse.

But the life Daniel and Claudette have so carefully constructed is about to be disrupted by an unexpected discovery about a woman Daniel lost touch with twenty years ago. This revelation will send him off-course, far away from wife, children and home. Will his love for Claudette be enough to bring him back?

Ann Patchett
Truth and Beauty
Ann Patchett is one of my very favorite authors. My favorites of hers so far are: Commonwealth (my review), State of Wonder (my review), and This is the Story of a Happy Marriage (my review). I read about her memoir of a friendship, Truth and Beauty, in This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, and am thinking it may be a good audio choice for me.

Ann Patchett and the late Lucy Grealy met in college in 1981, and, after enrolling in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, began a friendship that would be as defining to both of their lives as their work. In Grealy’s critically acclaimed memoir Autobiography of a Face, she wrote about losing part of her jaw to childhood cancer, years of chemotherapy and radiation, and endless reconstructive surgeries. In Truth and Beauty, the story isn’t Lucy’s life or Ann’s life but the parts of their lives they shared. This is a portrait of unwavering commitment that spans twenty years, from the long winters of the Midwest to surgical wards to book parties in New York. Through love, fame, drugs, and despair, this is what it means to be part of two lives that are intertwined–and what happens when one is left behind.

Jo Piazza
Fitness Junkie

I only read Jo Piazza (Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win) this year, but Catherine from Gilmore Guide to Books and Susie from Novel Visits told me to read Fitness Junkie well before that!

When Janey Sweet, CEO of a couture wedding dress company, is photographed in the front row of a fashion show eating a bruffin–the delicious lovechild of a brioche and a muffin–her best friend and business partner, Beau, gives her an ultimatum: Lose thirty pounds or lose your job. […] As Janey eschews delicious carbs, pays thousands of dollars to charlatans, and is harassed by her very own fitness bracelet, she can’t help but wonder: Did she really need to lose weight in the first place?

Anna Quindlen
Still Life With Bread Crumbs
Y’all know how much I love Anna Quindlen (see my “Women Who Get Women” Authors Club post). Still Life With Bread Crumbs is one of her only novels I have yet to read.

Still Life with Bread Crumbs begins with an imagined gunshot and ends with a new tin roof. Between the two is a wry and knowing portrait of Rebecca Winter, a photographer whose work made her an unlikely heroine for many women. Her career is now descendent, her bank balance shaky, and she has fled the city for the middle of nowhere. There she discovers, in a tree stand with a roofer named Jim Bates, that what she sees through a camera lens is not all there is to life.

Curtis Sittenfeld
Eligible
I loved An American Wife years ago, but was initially turned off of Eligible because it was a Pride and Prejudice retelling. But, my interest in it was rekindled when I read and loved her short story collection, You Think It, I’ll Say It (my review) this year!

This version of the Bennet family and Mr. Darcy is one that you have and haven’t met before: Liz is a magazine writer in her late thirties who, like her yoga instructor older sister, Jane, lives in New York City. When their father has a health scare, they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling and the family is in disarray. […]

Enter Chip Bingley, a handsome new-in-town doctor who recently appeared on the juggernaut reality TV dating show Eligible. At a Fourth of July barbecue, Chip takes an immediate interest in Jane, but Chip’s friend, neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy, reveals himself to Liz to be much less charming. . . . And yet, first impressions can be deceiving.

Elizabeth Strout
Olive Kitteridge
I loved both My Name is Lucy Barton (my review) and Anything is Possible and, if you can believe it, still haven’t read her Pulitzer Prize winner, Olive Kitteridge.

At times stern, at other times patient, at times perceptive, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town of Crosby, Maine, and in the world at large, but she doesn’t always recognize the changes in those around her: a lounge musician haunted by a past romance; a former student who has lost the will to live; Olive’s own adult child, who feels tyrannized by her irrational sensitivities; and her husband, Henry, who finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse.

As the townspeople grapple with their problems, mild and dire, Olive is brought to a deeper understanding of herself and her life – sometimes painfully, but always with ruthless honesty.

Meg Wolitzer
The Ten-Year Nap
Meg Wolitzer is another one of my very favorite authors and I’ve rated every single book I’ve read by her 5 stars: The Interestings (my review), The Wife (my review), and The Female Persuasion (my review). When I was a guest on The Readerly Report Podcast recently, co-host Gayle Weiswasser recommended The Ten-Year Nap to me since I have toddler age children at home.

For a group of four New York friends, the past decade has been largely defined by marriage and motherhood. Educated and reared to believe that they would conquer the world, they then left jobs as corporate lawyers, investment bankers, and film scouts to stay home with their babies. What was meant to be a temporary leave of absence has lasted a decade. Now, at age forty, with the halcyon days of young motherhood behind them and without professions to define them, Amy, Jill, Roberta, and Karen face a life that is not what they were brought up to expect but seems to be the one they have chosen.

Have you read any of these backlist-ers? Which ones do you recommend I read first? And, what books by your favorite authors have you not read yet?

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The “Women Who Get Women” Authors Club

September 11, 2018 Book Lists 16

 

Women Who Get Women

 

There’s something about the stage of life I’m in right now that really has me gravitating towards “women who get women.” I didn’t know I needed this kind of writing in my life until I stumbled across Anna Quindlen (well, stumbled isn’t quite accurate…my aunt actually kept telling me I needed to read her). I listened to Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake on audio and kept screaming “yes, that’s exactly how it is” over and over in my head. After I finished the audiobook, I felt like I’d seen a therapist.

I’m now experiencing marriage, motherhood, and a struggle to maintain my own identity through all of that (a struggle that I never anticipated nor even really knew was all that common until I ended up in it). Seeing many things I’d been thinking and feeling put so eloquently on the page brought a tremendous sense of relief…and camaraderie that others struggle with the same things. This is one of my favorite joys of reading.

All that being said, I don’t think these particular authors would have resonated with me before my thirties because I didn’t have the necessary experience under my belt to appreciate their wisdom. So, save these fantastic women authors for well after college…

The “Women Who Get Women” Authors Club

Kelly Corrigan
Tell Me More (my review), Glitter and Glue (my review)
My introduction to Kelly Corrigan was through Tell Me More and she immediately reminded me of a funnier, more irreverent, and more emotional Anna Quindlen. She touches many important life issues: marriage, motherhood, illness, religion, friendship, grief, and loss. And, she said things that inspired me to be better and things that made me feel like I’m absolutely not alone in the moments where I’m not better.

We all kind of hate each other in this minute, me most of all because I taught them the word bitch and I yell so they yell and Edward misses another brawl so they’ll like him more today and he’s better anyway and whatever lust for combat my daughters have comes straight from me and I thought I was going to be a good mom like Michelle Constable or Tammy Stedman and I’m not and according to a parenting blog I saw, yelling is as bad as corporal punishment and particularly destructive to self-esteem so oh my God, what am I doing?

Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Gift from the Sea
My mom first gave me this book while I was pregnant with my first child. I didn’t quite connect with it then, but I re-read it after having my second child and that changed completely. Lindbergh beautifully vocalized the many conflicted feelings I’d been having about motherhood, maintaining my identity, etc. It’s every bit as relevant now as it was in the 1950’s.

What a circus act we women perform every day of our lives. Look at us. We run a tightrope daily, balancing a pile of books on the head. Baby carriage, parasol, kitchen chair, still under control. Steady now! This is not the life of simplicity but the life of multiplicity that the wise men warn us of.

Maggie O’Farrell
I Am, I Am, I Am
Through her essays about near-death experiences, O’Farrell imparts wisdom about life, especially for women. She touches motherhood, illness, fitting in, etc. She makes you keenly feel your own mortality. 

The people who teach us something retain a particularly vivid place in our memories. I’d been a parent for about ten minutes when I met the man, but he taught me, with a small gesture, one of the most important things about the job: kindness, intuition, touch, and that sometimes you don’t even need words.

Camille Pagan
Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties
Through Maggie’s story of realizing she had lost her identity after having children and her struggle to regain it again, Camille Pagan talks real talk about aging, marriage, divorce, finding your identity, and piecing your life back together after an upheaval. Pagan reminds me of a lighter, more sarcastic version (her salty humor is on point!) of Anna Quindlen and I recommend this one particularly to the mothers out there.

I had not taken particularly good care of myself over the years, and it wasn’t like I could get a free pass by wearing a pin that said, I look like this because I have been caring for everyone else.

Anna Quindlen
Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake (my review), Every Last One (my review), Living Out Loud
Listening to Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake was like seeing a therapist. Quindlen just has such a grounded, practical outlook on life (particularly female friendship, aging, motherhood, marriage, and solitude) that really puts things in perspective for me. She’s probably the President of this club in my book.

There comes that moment when we finally know what matters and, perhaps more important, what doesn’t, when we see that all the life lessons came not from what we had but from who we loved, and from the failures perhaps more than the successes.

Cheryl Strayed
Tiny Beautiful Things, Brave Enough
Strayed is warm, relatable, and non-judgmental in her counsel and most people will find something in her writing that pertains to their own life past or present. Her advice generally boils down to the overarching theme of “be your true self.”

Trust yourself. It’s Sugar’s golden rule. Trusting yourself means living out what you already know to be true.

Meg Wolitzer
The Wife (my review)
The Wife explores the power dynamics of marriage. It’s about living life as a “babysitter for a successful man’s ego,” being married to a “gigantic baby,” and explores the role of “the wife” in society and the expectations and pressures that come along with that. It tackles the conundrum many women face of choosing to harness their talents or devote themselves to their families…or some balance between the two.

Everyone knows how women soldier on, how women dream up blueprints, recipes, ideas for a better world, and then sometimes lose them on the way to the crib in the middle of the night, on the way to the Stop & Shop, or the bath. They lose them on the way to greasing the path on which their husband and children will ride serenely through life.

What type of authors do you most identify with right now? What other “women who get women” authors do I need to read?

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16 Character-Driven Novels I Couldn’t Put Down

September 6, 2018 Book Lists 28

Character-Driven Novels

 

These are not the novels that are driven forward by action…the yearn to know what will happen next. Rather, these are novels that I can’t put down because I just can’t stop reading about these characters. But, the end result is the same as an action-oriented page turner. I flew through the pages…no matter how many there were (and some of these are LONG books).

As I was putting this list together, I realized how many of my very favorite books were on it…leading me to realize that character-driven novels I can’t put down might be my favorite type of book out there. Part of the allure is that character-driven novels can easily feel slow and boring. It’s rare to find a character-driven novel that grabs you so hard you can’t put it down.

A couple other random observations about the books on this list:

  • 9 were on my Best Books of the Year lists (and another two will probably make this year’s list).
  • 4 gave me big enough reading hangovers to qualify them for the Alcohol sides of my Alcohol & Advil posts.
  • 10 have a spot on my real life bookshelves…which are (surprisingly) not very crowded and only my very favorites make it onto the shelves!

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

16 Character-Driven Novels I Couldn’t Put Down

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (my review)
Spanning 30 years, the story of four male friends (Willem, J.B., Malcolm, and Jude) trying to make their way in New York City while dealing with the implications of Jude’s tragic childhood. 
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
During a Little League baseball game, Owen Meany kills his best friend’s mom when his foul ball hits her in the head…and this is the story of their journey from there.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett (my review)
An ill fated christening party is the catalyst that ruins the Keating and Cousins marriages…and creates a blended family trying to navigate their new world.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg (my review)
The story of June Reid, who loses her entire family (her daughter and her fiancee, her boyfriend, and her ex-husband) in a horrible tragedy on the night before her daughter’s wedding.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf (my review)
A sweet, calm, and uncomplicated novel about two older people (Louis and Addie) who stopped caring what everyone else thought and did what they needed to do to be happy.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler (my review)
Four childhood best friends from the small town of Little Wing, Wisconsin reconnect at a wedding and try to find their places in the adult world.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Female Persuasionby Meg Wolitzer (my review)
Greer is a shy college student still in love with her high school boyfriend when she meets Faith Frank, an icon of the women’s movement, who changes the trajectory of Greer’s life.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai (my review)
A group of gay friends and their female friend (Fiona) navigate the AIDS crisis and deal with the death of one of their own in 1980’s Chicago…and decades later, Fiona sets out to Paris to find her estranged daughter and encounters the past in the process.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne (my review)
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 identity and how he fits into the country of Ireland over the course of his life.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer (my review)
Jules Jacobson becomes best friends with five teenagers at a summer camp for the arts in the 1970’s, remaining friends despite completely different experiences in adulthood.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Mothers by Brit Bennett (my review)
While seventeen year-old Nadia Turner is mourning the shocking loss of her mother, she starts a relationship with Luke Sheppard, her pastor’s son, resulting in an unwanted pregnancy.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugoby Taylor Jenkins Reid (my review)
Legendary film actress Evelyn Hugo recruits young journalist, Monique, to write her life story, including the stories of her seven marriages.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides (my review)
In a Detroit suburb, the five enigmatic Lisbon sisters commit suicide over the course of a year and the neighborhood boys who were obsessed with them try to understand why.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Wife by Meg Wolitzer (my review)
On a flight to Helsinki to watch him receive a prestigious literary prize, Joan decides to leave her famous novelist husband, Joe, after a decades long marriage. 

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel (my review)
When Claude, the youngest son of a family of five boys, starts to realize he wants to be a girl, the family must learn how to best support Claude and adjust to the situation.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler (my review)
The story of Zelda and author F. Scott Fitzgerald’s relationship as told from Zelda’s fictional perspective.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

What character-driven novels have you not been able to put down?

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10 Contemporary Books I’d Love to See on School Curriculums

August 28, 2018 Book Lists 19

Books I'd Love to See on School Curriculums

 

I hate to admit it, but I remember very few books I was required to read in high school and college. On the bright side though, I’ve read so many books over the past few years that I’d love to see on school curriculums! Books that address important issues, but are also just straight-up awesome books that readers can effortlessly become engrossed in.

I would’ve killed for books that fit schools’ definitions of curriculum-worthy literature, but that I also loved reading when I was in school!

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 Contemporary Books I’d Love to See on School Curriculums

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (my review)
Because it deals with a mind-blowing number of important “issues” (i.e. marriage, race, class, incarceration, love, friendship, family, grief, fidelity, recovery) in a totally organic way…wrapped in a straight-up, engrossing story.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe (my review)
Because it shines on mental illness through a teenage character that high school age children will be able to relate to.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (my review)
Because it portrays the experience of a partially immigrant family living in a predominantly white community…and the tensions that introduces to the family dynamics. Plus, school age children dealing with the death of a sibling, sibling dynamics, parents projecting their own ambitions onto their children, and women trying to balance family and career dreams.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Grit by Angela Duckworth
To show that people have far more control over their own destinies than they think…and reinforce the most important ingredient for success.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne (my review)
To show the range of emotions a single novel can evoke. Plus, a background on the Catholic Church and homosexuality in Ireland and the experience of homosexuals in general.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Mothers by Brit Bennett (my review)
Because, like An American Marriage, it tackles a number of important topics (grief, losing a parent, faith, friendship, race, trauma, and teen pregnancy), but this time through the eyes characters that school age children can relate to.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Wife by Meg Wolitzer (my review)
Because it explores the power dynamics in a marriage and women balancing career and family (probably better suited to college age students).

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
Because Strayed is warm, relatable, and non-judgmental in her counsel and most people will find something in this book that pertains to their own life. This is the book I always wish had been around when I was in high school.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter (my review)
Because it’s one of the rare books about World War II that is hopeful…and it’s based on a remarkable true story.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

What Made Maddy Run by Kate Fagan
Because it’s a cautionary tale about immense pressure at a young age, depression, high achievement, social media, and teen suicide. 

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

What contemporary books would you like to see on school curriculums?

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My Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2018

August 23, 2018 Book Lists 23

Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2018

 

It’s big, buzzy book season! For those that don’t closely follow the publishing industry, Fall is traditionally when the buzziest books by the biggest name authors hit the shelves. We’ve got new books coming from Michael Lewis, Tana French, John Boyne, Barbara Kingsolver, and Kate Atkinson.

Today, I’m sharing the books I’m most excited about…from some of these big name authors and some under-the-radar ones.

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

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

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

September

Foe by Iain Reid (September 4, Gallery/Scout Press)
This book was not on my radar at all (I never read Reid’s debut, I’m Thinking of Ending Things) before Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books told me that her book whisperer loved it! I’m about 25% through it and am completely intrigued. It’s got the same “what the heck is going on” vibe as The Beautiful Bureaucrat.

In Iain Reid’s second haunting, philosophical puzzle of a novel, set in the near-future, Junior and Henrietta live a comfortable, solitary life on their farm, far from the city lights, but in close quarters with each other. One day, a stranger from the city arrives with alarming news: Junior has been randomly selected to travel far away from the farm…very far away. The most unusual part? Arrangements have already been made so that when he leaves, Henrietta won’t have a chance to miss him, because she won’t be left alone—not even for a moment. Henrietta will have company. Familiar company.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read by Pam Cady (Seattle bookseller and trusted recommendation source of Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books).

UPDATE: I’VE NOW READ IT AND IT WAS SUPER CREEPY IN THE BEST WAY POSSIBLE! I JUST HAD TO KNOW WHAT WAS GOING ON.

The Golden State by Lydia Kiesling (September 4, MCD)
Tyler Goodson (one of my top recommendation sources) rated this debut novel 5 stars. That’s kind of all I need to know.

In Lydia Kiesling’s razor-sharp debut novel, The Golden State, we accompany Daphne, a young mother on the edge of a breakdown, as she flees her sensible but strained life in San Francisco for the high desert of Altavista with her toddler, Honey. Bucking under the weight of being a single parent―her Turkish husband is unable to return to the United States because of a “processing error”―Daphne takes refuge in a mobile home left to her by her grandparents in hopes that the quiet will bring clarity.

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

UPDATE: I TRIED THIS ONE AND COULDN’T GET INTO THE WRITING STYLE…IT WAS WORDY AND OVERLY DESCRIPTIVE.

The Wildlands by Abby Geni (September 4, Counterpoint)
This one is a bit of a risk for me…just because it hadn’t been vetted by a trusted recommendation source. But, I’ve already read it and really liked it! It’s a totally unique book without an obvious read-alike, but has bits of Before the Fall, Where the Crawdads Sing, The Animals, and This Dark Road to Mercy.

When a Category 5 tornado ravaged Mercy, Oklahoma, no family in the small town lost more than the McClouds. Their home and farm were instantly demolished, and orphaned siblings Darlene, Jane, and Cora made media headlines. This relentless national attention and the tornado’s aftermath caused great tension with their brother, Tucker, who soon abandoned his sisters and disappeared.

On the three-year anniversary of the tornado, a cosmetics factory outside of Mercy is bombed, and the lab animals trapped within are released. Tucker reappears, injured from the blast, and seeks the help of nine-year-old Cora. Caught up in the thrall of her charismatic brother, whom she has desperately missed, Cora agrees to accompany Tucker on a cross-country mission to make war on human civilization.

Recommendation Source(s): The Millions Great Second-Half Book Preview (not read) and already read by ME.

UPDATE: I REALLY LIKED THIS ONE! IT’S A UNIQUE, FAST-PACED STORY ABOUT CHILDREN THAT HAVE LOST LITERALLY EVERYTHING TRYING TO FIND THEIR WAY AGAIN. 

The Real Lolita by Sarah Weinman (September 11, Ecco Books)
I’m intrigued by this one. It’s a true crime / investigative journalism / literary history mash-up. 

Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita is one of the most beloved and notorious novels of all time. And yet very few of its readers know that the subject of the novel was inspired by a real-life case: the 1948 abduction of eleven-year-old Sally Horner.

Weaving together suspenseful crime narrative, cultural and social history, and literary investigation, The Real Lolita tells Sally Horner’s full story for the very first time.

Recommendation Source(s): The Millions Great Second-Half Book Preview (not read).

UPDATE: I TRIED THIS ONE AND FOUND THE EXECUTION LACKING. THE SECTIONS ABOUT THE CLASSIC NOVEL, LOLITA, READ LIKE A TERM PAPER AND THE SECTIONS ABOUT SALLY HORNER’S ABDUCTION WENT OFF ON TOO MANY TANGENTS.

October

The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis (October 2, W.W. Norton)
Michael Lewis is one of my auto-buy authors. I think he’s a master at making dry topics entertaining and breaking down complicated concepts so the layperson can understand them. However, I’m a little skittish because I haven’t loved his two most recent books (Flash Boys and The Undoing Project).

What are the consequences if the people given control over our government have no idea how it works?

“The election happened,” remembers Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, then deputy secretary of the Department of Energy. “And then there was radio silence.” Across all departments, similar stories were playing out: Trump appointees were few and far between; those that did show up were shockingly uninformed about the functions of their new workplace. Some even threw away the briefing books that had been prepared for them.

Michael Lewis’s brilliant narrative takes us into the engine rooms of a government under attack by its own leaders.

Recommendation Source(s): Trusted author (not read).

Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller (October 9, Tin House)
I loved Fuller’s debut novel, Our Endless Numbered Days (my review), and really liked her sophomore novel, Swimming Lessons (my review). Plus, her writing is generally gorgeous. 

From the attic of Lyntons, a dilapidated English country mansion, Frances Jellico sees them—Cara first: dark and beautiful, then Peter: striking and serious. The couple is spending the summer of 1969 in the rooms below hers while Frances is researching the architecture in the surrounding gardens. But she’s distracted. Beneath a floorboard in her bathroom, she finds a peephole that gives her access to her neighbors’ private lives.

But as the hot summer rolls lazily on, it becomes clear that not everything is right between Cara and Peter. The stories that Cara tells don’t quite add up, and as Frances becomes increasingly entangled in the lives of the glamorous, hedonistic couple, the boundaries between truth and lies, right and wrong, begin to blur. Amid the decadence, a small crime brings on a bigger one: a crime so terrible that it will brand their lives forever.

Recommendation Source(s): Trusted author and already read by Rebecca Foster.

A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl by Jean Thompson (October 9, Simon & Schuster)
This one came to be unsolicited from the publisher…and the multi-generational story of three women struggling with things many women struggle with sounded appealing. Plus, the two author blurbs caught my attention!

A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl is a poignant novel about three generations of the Wise family—Evelyn, Laura, and Grace—as they hunt for contentment amid chaos of their own making.

[…] we see these women and their trials, small and large: social slights and heartbreaks; marital disappointments and infidelities; familial dysfunction; mortality. Spanning from World War II to the present, Thompson reveals a matrilineal love story that is so perfectly grounded in our time—a story of three women regressing, stalling, and yes, evolving, over decades. One of the burning questions she asks is: by serving her family, is a woman destined to repeat the mistakes of previous generations, or can she transcend the expectations of a place, and a time? Can she truly be free?

Recommendation Source(s): Blurbed by Tayari Jones (author of An American Marriage) and Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney (author of The Nest).

The Witch Elm by Tana French (October 9, Viking)
I haven’t read Tana French since The Secret Place (part of The Dublin Murder Squad series), which I thought was fine, but not great. But, I’m willing to give her another shot since two of my best recommendation sources rated The Witch Elm five stars…and, the fact that it’s a stand-alone novel doesn’t hurt!

Toby is a happy-go-lucky charmer who’s dodged a scrape at work and is celebrating with friends when the night takes a turn that will change his life – he surprises two burglars who beat him and leave him for dead. Struggling to recover from his injuries, beginning to understand that he might never be the same man again, he takes refuge at his family’s ancestral home to care for his dying uncle Hugo. Then a skull is found in the trunk of an elm tree in the garden – and as detectives close in, Toby is forced to face the possibility that his past may not be what he has always believed.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read (and rated 4 stars) by Tyler Goodson (manager at Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA) and Annie Jones from From the Front Porch podcast, The Millions Great Second-Half Book Preview (not read).

A Well-Behaved Woman by Therese Anne Fowler (October 16, St. Martin’s Press)
I adored Fowler’s historical fiction novel, Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald (my review), so I wasn’t about to pass this one up!

The riveting novel of iron-willed Alva Vanderbilt and her illustrious family in as they rule Gilded-Age New York, from the New York Times bestselling author of Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald.

Recommendation Source(s): Trusted author and already read by Kelly Massry and Annie Jones from From the Front Porch podcast.

November

A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne (November 13, Hogarth)
Never in a million years did I expect a new John Boyne novel so soon after his masterpiece, The Heart’s Invisible Furies (my favorite book of 2017)! But, I’ll take it! Let’s see what he does with a thriller…

Maurice Swift is handsome, charming, and hungry for success. The one thing he doesn’t have is talent – but he’s not about to let a detail like that stand in his way. After all, a would-be writer can find stories anywhere. They don’t need to be his own.

Working as a waiter in a West Berlin hotel in 1988, Maurice engineers the perfect opportunity: a chance encounter with celebrated novelist Erich Ackermann. He quickly ingratiates himself with the powerful – but desperately lonely – older man, teasing out of Erich a terrible, long-held secret about his activities during the war. Perfect material for Maurice’s first novel.

Once Maurice has had a taste of literary fame, he knows he can stop at nothing in pursuit of that high. Moving from the Amalfi Coast, where he matches wits with Gore Vidal, to Manhattan and London, Maurice hones his talent for deceit and manipulation, preying on the talented and vulnerable in his cold-blooded climb to the top. But the higher he climbs, the further he has to fall…

Recommendation Source(s): Trusted author.

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

What Fall 2018 books are you looking forward to?

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