Category: Book Lists

My Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2019

August 22, 2019 Book Lists 5

Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2019

 

It’s big, buzzy book season! But, I’m choosing carefully.

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 Fall. I’m talking about 4 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.

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Book Club Recommendations That Are Great for Summer

June 6, 2019 Book Lists 6

Book Club Recommendations that are great for summer

 

I don’t know about you, but my reading goes in a slightly different direction in the summer. And, I imagine the types of books your book club is in the mood for do too. That’s why I put together this Book Club Recommendations That Are Great for Summer list!

In the summer, I like books you can fly through, books you don’t have to work too hard on, and books you can get easily immersed in. But, I also want my summer books to have some substance. The books you’ll find on this list are all highly readable and don’t require a ton of concentration, but still have lots of juicy meat for a book club discussion.

As with all my book lists, I’ll continue adding new books to this list moving forward, so save it to your favorites!

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2019 Summer Reading List

May 21, 2019 Book Lists 25

2019 Summer Reading List

 

Summer reading means something a bit different to everyone. Some of you like to put their brains completely on vacation with fun, easy reads. Some of you like an action-packed page turner. Some of you want something with a bit more substance. And some of you might like to head off the beaten path.

Personally, I like books you can fly through, books you don’t have to work too hard on, and books you can get easily immersed in. I avoid books that demand to be read in perfect peace and quiet (last time I checked, the beach and pool generally have screaming kids around!).

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My Most Anticipated Books of Summer 2019

May 16, 2019 Book Lists 9

Most Anticipated Books of Summer 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 16 books we’re excited about coming out this Summer. 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.

Read more »

My Most Anticipated Books of Spring 2019

March 28, 2019 Book Lists 10

Most Anticipated Books of Spring 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 16 books we’re excited about coming out this Spring. 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.

Spring 2019 Releases I Covered in the Podcast 

April:

May:

As always, my Most Anticipated Books of Spring 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 42% 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!).

April

The Editorby Steven Rowley (April 2, Harper)
I’ve already read this one and enjoyed it! It’s a fun, light read that’s a mix of the publishing world and a dysfunctional family novel with a bit of star power sprinkled on top (which some may call cheesy, but I think it worked…solely because Jacqueline Onassis was an editor in real life and situations like this no doubt happened).

After years of trying to make it as a writer in 1990s New York City, James Smale finally sells his novel to an editor at a major publishing house: none other than Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Jackie–or Mrs. Onassis, as she’s known in the office–has fallen in love with James’s candidly autobiographical novel, one that exposes his own dysfunctional family. But when the book’s forthcoming publication threatens to unravel already fragile relationships, both within his family and with his partner, James finds that he can’t bring himself to finish the manuscript.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read by ME (4 stars) and Annie Jones of From the Front Porch podcast (3.5 stars).

Normal People by Sally Rooney (April 16, Hogarth)
Discussed on the podcast [29:41]
This book is getting TONS of hype and I just finished it and loved it (4.5 stars)! It’s the story of a confusing relationship amid high school and college social dynamics. I was riveted (could’ve finished it in one sitting if I had a big chunk of time) and it reminded me a bit of White Fur (my review) and Tender (my review). But, this isn’t for everyone – there are no quotations for dialogue and it’s fairly sexually explicit. But, I was rooting hard for Connell and Marianne…both independently and as a couple. 

Connell and Marianne both grow up in the same town in rural Ireland. The similarities end there; they are from very different worlds. But they both get places to study at university in Dublin, and a connection that has grown between them despite the social tangle of school lasts long into the following years.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read and rated 4.5 stars by ME and 5 stars by  Tyler Goodson (manager at Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA), Laura Tremaine (host of 10 Things to Tell You podcast), and Resh from The Book Satchel. Annie Jones of From the Front Porch podcast and Pam Cady (Seattle bookseller) also loved it.

The Better Sisterby Alafair Burke (April 2, Harper)
I really enjoyed Burke’s last psychological thriller, The Wife. I appreciated that it was a good, straight-up thriller without any outlandish gimmicks.

When a prominent Manhattan lawyer is murdered, two estranged sisters—one the dead man’s widow, the other his ex—must set aside mistrust and old resentments . . . but can they escape their past?

Recommendation Source(s): Trusted author

Like Lionsby Brian Panowich (April 30, Putnam)
Anyone remember the Grit Lit thriller Bull Mountain that came out in 2015? Well, I rated it 5 stars (my review) and Like Lions is the sequel! If you’re not familiar with Panowich, his books are similar to Greg Isles who wrote the Natchez Burning series (my review).

Clayton Burroughs is sheriff of Bull Mountain and last surviving member of the brutal and blood-steeped Burroughs clan. It’s been a year since a rogue government agent systematically crippled the family’s criminal empire, leaving two of his brothers dead and Clayton broken and haunted by wounds that may never heal.

Now Bull Mountain is vulnerable, ripe for predators wanting to re-establish the flow of dope and money through the town. And the death of a boy belonging to a rival clan brings the wolves straight to Clayton’s door.

Recommendation Source(s): Trusted author and already read and rated 4 stars by Tara at Running N Reading.

May

Furious Hours by Casey Cep (May 7, Knopf)
Discussed on the podcast [32:00]

I love a good true crime book and add Harper Lee to the story? Yes, please! Plus, it’s been compared to Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and the S-Town podcast.

The stunning story of an Alabama serial killer and the true-crime book that Harper Lee worked on obsessively in the years after To Kill a Mockingbird.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read and rated 4 stars by Tyler Goodson (manager at Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA)

Things My Son Needs to Know About the World by Fredrik Backman (May 7, Atria Books)
I love a good essay collection and I absolutely adored Backman’s Beartown (my review) and Us Against You (my review), so I’m looking forward to his take on fatherhood.

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove shares an irresistible and moving collection of heartfelt, humorous essays about fatherhood, providing his newborn son with the perspective and tools he’ll need to make his way in the world.

Recommendation Source(s): Author

Out Eastby John Glynn (May 14, Grand Central Publishing)
Discussed on the podcast [44:30]
This book was described by a Goodreads reviewer as “Joan Didion meets the Real World.” And, based on the synopsis, I’m imagining the Bravo show Summer House if Stephen McGee had actually come out on the show. Out East‘s Goodreads average rating is ridiculously high at 4.71. 

A gripping, unforgettable portrait of life in a Montauk summer house–a debut memoir of first love, identity and self-discovery among a group of friends who became family.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read and rated 5 stars by Tyler Goodson (manager at Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA)

Strangers and Cousins by Leah Hager Cohen (May 14, Riverhead)
I love a good dysfunctional family novel and bonus points if it involves a wedding. Annie Jones said this one is “deliciously weird, a cross between Unsheltered and Seating Arrangements” (my review). 

A novel about what happens when an already sprawling family hosts an even larger and more chaotic wedding: an entertaining story about family, culture, memory, and community.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read and rated 4 stars by Annie Jones of From the Front Porch podcast

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

What Spring 2019 books are you looking forward to?

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Most Anticipated Books of Spring 2019
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More Unconventional Love Stories for Readers Who Don’t Like Romance

February 5, 2019 Book Lists 42

More Unconventional Love Stories

 

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

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

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

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

10 MORE Love Stories (2019 Additions)

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

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

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

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

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

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

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

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

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

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

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

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

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

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

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

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

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

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

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

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

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

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

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

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

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

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

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

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

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

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

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

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

Affiliate Link: Pre-Order from Amazon

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

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

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

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

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

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

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

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

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

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

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

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon 

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

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More Unconventional Love Stories

 

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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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