Category: Book Recommendations

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

July 1, 2018 Book Recommendations 13

Book of the Month July 2018

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

 

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

Continuing with Book of the Month‘s focus on summer reading, all of this month’s selections are easy reads that would be great for the beach. Unfortunately, none really grabbed my personal interest. As a follow-up to last month’s selections, I loved The Book of Essie and included it on my Best Books of 2018 So Far list! I’m also adding it to my 2018 Summer Reading Guide. I’m about 2/3 of the way through Calypso and am really enjoying that too!

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

Check out my fun new tool to help you pick the best Book of the Month selection for your taste: my Ultimate Guide to the Book of the Month Judges and free, downloadable template to help you find your go-to BOTM judge!

Book of the Month July 2018 Selections

book of the month july 2018The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager (Release Date: July 3, 2018)
384 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.17 on 570 ratings
Selected By: Brianna Goodman (Book of the Month Editorial Team)

In the new novel from the bestselling author of Final GirlsThe Last Time I Lied follows a young woman as she returns to her childhood summer camp to uncover the truth about a tragedy that happened there fifteen years ago.

My Thoughts:
I wasn’t a fan of Sager’s debut novel, Final Girls, which was a horror movie-esque thriller. I had trouble buying the main character’s decision-making and I thought the ending jumped the shark. But, Annie Jones of From the Front Porch podcast (and one of my best recommendation sources) liked The Last Time I Lied and thought it was possibly even better than Final Girls. Tina from TBR, etc. had trouble getting into it, but couldn’t put it down once she got to the last quarter. Goodreads reviewers said it’s more grown up and less horror movie-ish than Final Girls, it has a large cast of characters, the storyline alternates between past and present, it has a bit of a slow start, and people can’t decide how they feel about the ending. Overall, the Goodreads reviews are excellent and this seems to be a standout psychological thriller.

book of the month july 2018The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams (Release Date: July 10, 2018)
384 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.95 on 417 ratings
Selected By: Liberty Hardy (co-host of Book Riot‘s All the Books podcast)

New York Times bestselling author Beatriz Williams brings us the blockbuster novel of the season—a spellbinding novel of romance, murder, class, power, and dark secrets set in the 1950s and ’60s among the rarified world of a resort island in the Long Island Sound . . .

My Thoughts:
Beatriz Williams writes beach-y historical fiction that usually contains some sort of mystery and usually involves wealthy families with secrets. I loved her older books (A Hundred Summers, The Secret Life of Violet Grant, Tiny Little Thing), but have given up on her more recent work starting with Along the Infinite Sea (my review). She began publishing a book a year and I thought the quality suffered. The Summer Wives is “typical Beatriz Williams fare” according to Susie from Novel Visits (one of my favorite book bloggers) and involves family secrets and wealthy vs. the locals dynamics in an exclusive vacation enclave. She said that, of Williams’ previous books, it’s most like A Hundred Summers (my review) and Tiny Little Thing (my review)…a good thing in my view! And, Renee at It’s Book Talk (another favorite book blogger) also really liked it…saying that Williams pulled off the two alternating time period narrative so well.

book of the month july 2018Ghosted by Rosie Walsh (Release Date: July 24, 2018)
352 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.17 on 878 ratings
Selected By: Skye Sherman (Book of the Month Brand Ambassador)

Seven perfect days. Then he disappeared. A love story with a secret at its heart.

When Sarah meets Eddie, they connect instantly and fall in love. To Sarah, it seems as though her life has finally begun. And it’s mutual: It’s as though Eddie has been waiting for her, too. Sarah has never been so certain of anything. So when Eddie leaves for a long-booked vacation and promises to call from the airport, she has no cause to doubt him. But he doesn’t call. […]

Minutes, days, weeks go by as Sarah becomes increasingly worried. But then she discovers she’s right. There is a reason for Eddie’s disappearance, and it’s the one thing they didn’t share with each other: the truth.

My Thoughts:
Ghosted is a debut page turner with some romance and a mystery thrown in…and it was blurbed by Liane Moriarty (Big Little Lies). Nicole Bonia, co-host of The Readerly Report podcast, rated it 5 stars and called it “a lovely and absorbing novel with a uniquely modern twist on the oft told tale of doomed lovers.” I read the first chapter and a little bit of the second chapter and wasn’t immediately grabbed, but I may go back to it after reading the Goodreads reviews. Goodreads reviewers said it’s about love and grief, is unputdownable, has likable characters, and is surprising in a very good way. But, they also said it has a bit of a slow start, unlikely coincidences, and an ending that is neatly tied up. Many Goodreads readers recommended going in blind.

book of the month july 2018Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik (Released: July 10, 2018)
448 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.45 on 536 ratings
Selected By: 
Brooke Lee (BOTM Readers Committee member)

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders… but her father isn’t a very good one. Free to lend and reluctant to collect, he has loaned out most of his wife’s dowry and left the family on the edge of poverty–until Miryem steps in. Hardening her heart against her fellow villagers’ pleas, she sets out to collect what is owed–and finds herself more than up to the task. When her grandfather loans her a pouch of silver pennies, she brings it back full of gold.

But having the reputation of being able to change silver to gold can be more trouble than it’s worth–especially when her fate becomes tangled with the cold creatures that haunt the wood, and whose king has learned of her reputation and wants to exploit it for reasons Miryem cannot understand.

My Thoughts:
Spinning Silver is fantasy (not one of my preferred genres), a loose retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, and said to be for fans of A Game of Thrones. Goodreads reviewers said it’s different from Uprooted (her previous novel), has lots of different perspectives, and a bit of magic, religion, and romance. It also apparently has no dialogue. Honestly, I had to stop reading the Goodreads reviews because of ALL THE CAPS, gazillions of exclamation points, talking solely in GIFs, and many reviews just blathering incredible excitement about this book, but not actually reviewing the book (because they likely haven’t read it yet). I think I’m too old for this one just based on the style of the Goodreads reviews.

book of the month july 2018The Girl from Blind River by Gale Massey (Release Date: July 10, 2018)
329 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.51 on 37 ratings
Selected By: Siobhan Jones (Book of the Month Editorial Director)

A gritty tale of how far we’ll go to protect the ones we love for fans of Daniel Woodrell’s Winter’s Bone and Emma Cline’s The Girls from Gale Massey, a talented new name in crime fiction.

Everyone says the Elders family are nothing but cheats, thieves, and convicts—a fact nineteen-year old Jamie Elders has been trying desperately to escape. She may have the natural talent of a poker savant, but her dreams of going pro and getting the hell out of the tiny town of Parsons, New York are going nowhere fast. Especially once she lands in a huge pile of debt to her uncle Loyal.

At Loyal’s beck and call until her debt is repaid, Jamie can’t easily walk away—not with her younger brother Toby left at his mercy. So when Loyal demands Jamie’s help cleaning up a mess late one night, she has no choice but to agree. But disposing of a dead man and covering up his connection to the town’s most powerful judge goes beyond family duty. When it comes out that the victim was a beloved athlete and Loyal pins the murder on Toby, only Jamie can save him. But with a dogged detective on her trail and her own future at stake, she’ll have to decide: embrace her inner criminal, or defy it—and face the consequences.

My Thoughts:
This is a debut coming of age story / small town crime drama and it sounds pretty gritty. Goodreads reviewers said it’s sad and depressing, but is also a page turner. Jamie is a spunky protagonist and the ending is surprising. Others mentioned that it’s possible to get bogged down in the poker jargon and that they would’ve enjoyed the book more had they been interested in poker.

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

I’m going to skip this month. I already have an ARC of Ghosted and haven’t had great luck with Riley Sager or Beatriz Williams lately. 

Make your Book of the Month selections by Friday, July 6th.

What book will you choose this month?

This Month’s Special Deals

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

ANNUAL PAYMENT DEAL: BOTM is now a monthly subscription service. However, given that some members preferred paying upfront, they are now offering a 12-month option. Members who sign up for 12 months will pay $149.99/year. That’s $12.50/book, instead of the standard price of $14.99/month.

How to Join Book of the Month…

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

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

Sign up for a Book of the Month membership (NEW pricing below)!

New members will sign up for a membership that renews monthly:

A book of your choice for $14.99 / month
Add extra books to your shipment for $9.99 each
Skip any month you want
Free shipping, always

Support Sarah’s Book Shelves on Patreon!
(and get personalized book recommendations and access to our private Facebook Group)

Support Us!

Readers Recommend: The Prince of Tides and The Long And Faraway Gone

June 12, 2018 Book Recommendations 20

Readers Recommend

 

Welcome to the first ever installment of Readers Recommend, my new monthly feature where “regular readers” (i.e. readers who do not have their own book blogs) share their book recommendations! 

I recently surveyed my blog readers for the first time and one of the most surprising things I learned was that over 70% of you do not have your own book blogs. This means you are not book bloggers, but “regular readers”! That’s a large chunk of Sarah’s Book Shelves readers with fantastic book recommendations floating around in their heads and no place to share them. I’m thrilled to be able to mine all this brainpower for some great books! Prepare for your TBR to explode…

If you’d like to be featured in an upcoming “Readers Recommend” post, leave a note in the comments section or email me at sarahsbookshelves@gmail.com.

Let’s welcome our first guest…

Get to Know Dotty

  • Home: I am a native of Atlanta, GA and have lived in the Atlanta area for most of my life.  I did spend some time in Florida and Las Vegas, but eventually made my way back to Atlanta.
  • Career: I am a retired teacher. I taught Pre-Kindergarten for many years. I continue to do some volunteer work with young children.
  • Hobbies: Other than reading, my hobbies are playing the guitar, walking my dog, Daisy, and yoga. I am taking guitar lessons with the hope that I could one day play like Joni Mitchell, Ha Ha. Is spending time with my grandchildren a hobby? (Sarah: Yes!)
  • Favorite TV Show: My current favorite TV shows are The Crown and Life in Pieces. I loved Mad Men and still miss it.

Dotty Recommends…

An Old Love

Prince of TidesThe Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
Fiction – Literary (Released 1986)
679 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dotty:
My favorite author is Pat Conroy and The Prince of Tides is my favorite book. Conroy had me at the first two sentences of the novel. 

My wound is geography.  It is also my anchorage, my port of call.

The characters are complicated and tortured. Conroy’s language is intricate and beautiful.  It’s sad, but there are times when I laughed out loud.  This novel is southern literature at its finest. Give it a try. It’s worth it!

My Take:
Well, Dotty, you know the way to my heart! Pat Conroy is my favorite author too. Our only difference is The Lords of Discipline (my review) is my favorite of Conroy’s novels. I re-read The Prince of Tides (my review) a couple years ago and still loved it, but did think some portions were a bit overwritten (however, not that first line, which is a beauty!). But, I totally agree with you that Conroy is Southern literature at its finest!

A New Love

Long and Faraway GoneThe Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney
Fiction – Mystery (Released February 10, 2015)
467 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Dotty:
I recently read The Long And Far Away Gone by Lou Berney.  This book was a $2.99 pick from Book Bub. It is not the type of book that I usually read, but I read the sample and I just had to buy it.  It is a mystery, but it is also very character driven. I can’t tell you too much because I don”t want to give anything away.  The author won a number of awards, including the prestigious Edgar award, for this book. I just could not put it down! I recently read that Lou Berney has a new book coming out in October!

My Take:
I’d never heard of this one, but I admittedly don’t often read mysteries. But, this one does sound intriguing! Especially since it was compared to Laura Lippman (Sunburn) and Dennis Lehane (Since We Fell), the authors of two of the rare thrillers I’ve actually really liked!

A “Didn’t Love”

Whered You Go Bernadette Where Did You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
Fiction – Brain Candy (Released August 14, 2012)
330 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dotty:
Please forgive me, but I did not like Where Did You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple.  In fact, I had to force myself to finish it. I know it is supposed to be sarcastic and funny, but I found it to be more sad than funny. Except for the daughter, the characters were not likable. For me, it was a short book that was too long! 

My Take:
We differ on this one. I loved Bernadette (my review) and did think it was sarcastic and funny. Light, but also had serious depth…a balance I always appreciate. 

What do you think of Dotty’s recommendations (or her “Didn’t Love”)?

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

June 1, 2018 Book Recommendations 20

Book of the Month June 2018

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

 

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

It’s summer reading time! All of this month’s selections are easy reads that would be great for the beach. As a follow-up to last month’s selections, I really liked How To Walk Away despite it being everything I normally hate in my reading (go figure!)…and included it in my 2018 Summer Reading List! 

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

Check out my fun new tool to help you pick the best Book of the Month selection for your taste: my Ultimate Guide to the Book of the Month Judges and free, downloadable template to help you find your go-to BOTM judge!

Book of the Month June 2018 Selections

The AnomalyThe Anomaly by Michael Rutger (Release Date: June 19, 2018)
352 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.15 on 84 ratings
Selected By: Siobhan Jones (Book of the Month Editorial Director)

If Indiana Jones lived in the X-Files era, he might bear at least a passing resemblance to Nolan Moore — a rogue archaeologist hosting a documentary series derisively dismissed by the “real” experts, but beloved of conspiracy theorists.

Nolan sets out to retrace the steps of an explorer from 1909 who claimed to have discovered a mysterious cavern high up in the ancient rock of the Grand Canyon. And, for once, he may have actually found what he seeks. Then the trip takes a nasty turn, and the cave begins turning against them in mysterious ways.

Nolan’s story becomes one of survival against seemingly impossible odds. The only way out is to answer a series of intriguing questions: What is this strange cave? How has it remained hidden for so long? And what secret does it conceal that made its last visitors attempt to seal it forever?

My Thoughts:
Michael Rutger is a Hollywood screenwriter and The Anomaly is being developed for the big screen. This is the first book in a new series where each book is centered around an American urban legend…this one is based on the myth of Kincaid’s Cave in the Grand Canyon (which has never been found). It sounds like an adventure thriller with a bit of supernatural (which isn’t really my cup of tea, but may be yours). One Goodreads reviewer called it “Indiana Jones on acid with added HORROR” and many said they couldn’t put it down (although they also said they didn’t want to read it while home alone!). 

Book of EssieThe Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir (Release Date: June 12, 2018)
336 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.96 on 117 ratings
Selected By: 
Guest Judge Troian Bellisario (Actress, Pretty Little Liars)

A debut novel of family, fame, and religion that tells the emotionally stirring, wildly captivating story of the seventeen-year-old daughter of an evangelical preacher, star of the family’s hit reality show, and the secret pregnancy that threatens to blow their entire world apart.

My Thoughts:
The Book of Essie is a fast-paced read set in the world of reality TV and religion (the show sounds like a cross between Keeping Up with the Kardashians and the Duggars’ 19 Kids and Counting). Annie Jones (host of From the Front Porch podcast and one of my best recommendation sources) recommended it on Episode 132 of Modern Mrs. Darcy’s What Should I Read Next? podcast…with the caveat that she really liked it, but that love would be a strong word. She said the premise is intriguing, it would make for great discussion, and the writing isn’t amazing, but the story is compelling and fast-paced. Goodreads reviewers did warn that the story might be deeply unsettling to some, that Christians were depicted in a negative light, and some plot points were implausible (if those elements tend to bother you). The Book of Essie seems similar to another reality TV show book I really liked, The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll. 

CalypsoCalypso by David Sedaris (Release Date: May 29, 2018)
272 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.34 on 203 ratings
Selected By: Liberty Hardy (co-host of Book Riot‘s All the Books podcast)

When he buys a beach house on the Carolina coast, Sedaris envisions long, relaxing vacations spent playing board games and lounging in the sun with those he loves most. And life at the Sea Section, as he names the vacation home, is exactly as idyllic as he imagined, except for one tiny, vexing realization: it’s impossible to take a vacation from yourself.

With CalypsoSedaris sets his formidable powers of observation toward middle age and mortality. Make no mistake: these stories are very, very funny-it’s a book that can make you laugh ’til you snort, the way only family can. Sedaris’s powers of observation have never been sharper, and his ability to shock readers into laughter unparalleled. But much of the comedy here is born out of that vertiginous moment when your own body betrays you and you realize that the story of your life is made up of more past than future.

My Thoughts:
I probably don’t need to say much about David Sedaris, but I hear Calypso is more of the same from him with a focus on middle age and a deeper exploration of his sister’s suicide. Modern Mrs. Darcy recommended it and mentioned its dark humor. Simone and Her Books said it would make you laugh a little and cry a little. And, Chris Jenson (co-host of From the Front Porch podcast with Annie Jones) recommended it as well. Some Goodreads reviewers said it might be his best book yet and that it’s sure to deeply touch your emotions (a full range of them). I’m always up for a humorous, yet moving essay collection (especially dark humor) and have enjoyed Sedaris in the past.

Kiss Quotient The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang (Released: June 5, 2018)
336 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.44 on 421 ratings
Selected By: 
Celestine Williams (BOTM Readers Committee member)

Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases–a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice–with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. […]

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he’s making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic…

My Thoughts:
I’m not generally a fan of romances, but this debut sounds like a “romance with more” (an unique angle that sets it apart from the crowded genre). The author realized she might be on the autism spectrum while she was writing the book and was diagnosed in 2016. It’s one of Ashley Spivey’s (founder of the #Spiveys Club Facebook Group with over 7,000 members) favorite reads of this year and she said it’s “full of hot sex, funny/quirky moments, autism education, and even what real consent is.” Goodreads reviewers said it was sweet, heart-warming, full of likable characters, and STEAMY. It’s also an #ownvoices story.

When Katie Met CassidyWhen Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri (Release Date: June 19, 2018)
272 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.67 on 81 ratings
Selected By: Samantha Irby (Author of We Are Never Meeting in Real Life and Blogger)

Katie Daniels is a perfection-seeking 28-year-old lawyer living the New York dream. […]

But the rug is swept from under Katie when she is suddenly dumped by her fiance, Paul Michael, leaving her devastated and completely lost. On a whim, she agrees to have a drink with Cassidy Price-a self-assured, sexually promiscuous woman she meets at work. The two form a newfound friendship, which soon brings into question everything Katie thought she knew about sex—and love.

My Thoughts:
This novel by the author of The Assistants sounds like a girl power (and LGBTQ) version of a rom-com. It explores the question of “how, as a culture, while we may have come a long way in terms of gender equality, a woman’s capacity for an entitlement to sexual pleasure still remain entirely taboo.” I read the first couple pages and was kind of annoyed by the writing…very chick lit, but without the snappy smarts I like in my chick lit writing. Some Goodreads reviewers mentioned a lack of character development and that it left them feeling emotionally flat, while others sang it’s praises. That being said, Nicole Bonia (co-host of The Readerly Report podcast and a recommendation source I’ve had good luck with in the past) gave it 4 stars. All in all, the reports on this one seem pretty mixed.

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

I’m picking two books this month: Calypso by David Sedaris and The Book of Essie by Meghan Maclean Weir (because I LOVE some good behind-the-scenes of reality TV dirt!).

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

What book will you choose this month?

This Month’s Special Deals

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

NEW MEMBER DEAL: Anyone who purchases a new BOTM subscription will get their first month free! Use code USESPF.

ANNUAL PAYMENT DEAL: BOTM is now a monthly subscription service. However, given that some members preferred paying upfront, they are now offering a 12-month option. Members who sign up for 12 months will pay $149.99/year. That’s $12.50/book, instead of the standard price of $14.99/month.

How to Join Book of the Month…

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

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

Sign up for a Book of the Month membership (NEW pricing below)!

New members will sign up for a membership that renews monthly:

A book of your choice for $14.99 / month
Add extra books to your shipment for $9.99 each
Skip any month you want
Free shipping, always

Support Sarah’s Book Shelves on Patreon!
(and get personalized book recommendations and access to our private Facebook Group)

Support Us!

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

May 1, 2018 Book Recommendations 23

book of the month May 2018

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

 

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

I’m not over the moon about this month’s selections, but am hesitantly interested in two of them. As a follow-up to last month’s selections, I’m over halfway through The Girl Who Smiled Beads (one of my April choices) and it’s powerful as predicted. 

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

Check out my fun new tool to help you pick the best Book of the Month selection for your taste: my Ultimate Guide to the Book of the Month Judges and free, downloadable template to help you find your go-to BOTM judge!

Book of the Month April 2018 Selections

book of the month May 2018 SelectionsSmall Country by Gael Faye (Release Date: June 5, 2018)
224 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.37 on 2,101 ratings
Selected By: Liberty Hardy (co-host of Book Riot‘s All the Books podcast)

A prize-winning bestseller in its native France, a vivid and evocative coming-of-age tale, set against the backdrop of the Rwandan genocide and the civil war in Burundi, of a young boy’s childhood innocence shattered by the brutal tides of history.

In 1992, Gabriel, ten years old, lives in Burundi in a comfortable expatriate neighborhood with his French father, his Rwandan mother and his little sister, Ana. In this joyful idyll, Gabriel spends the better part of his time with his mischievous band of friends, in a tiny cul-de-sac they have turned into their kingdom. But their peaceful existence will suddenly shatter when this small African country is brutally battered by history.

My Thoughts:
Faye grew up in Burundi and fled with his family to France when the Rwandan genocide broke out. Small Country is his debut novel and it sounds like this novel could be somewhat autobiographical. It’s already caused a sensation in France, becoming a bestseller and winning multiple literary awards. Goodreads reviews (most of which were in French, so I’m pulling from the English ones) said it’s beautiful, moving, powerful, emotional, and heart-wrenching. One reviewer said it was the best debut novel she’d read in years. Some also said the writing got a little overly poetic at times. Sounds like this one is emotionally tough to read, but the payoff is big if you can handle it. Fun fact: Faye is also a rapper and songwriter. PS – I’m in the middle of The Girl Who Smiled Beads (an April Book of the Month selection) right now and it also deals with being a refugee from the Rwandan genocide, but from a nonfiction perspective.

book of the month may 2018How To Walk Away by Katherine Center (Release Date: May 15, 2018)
320 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.38 on 459 ratings
Selected By: Taylor Jenkins Reid (Author of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and more)

Margaret Jacobsen has a bright future ahead of her: a fiancé she adores, her dream job, and the promise of a picture-perfect life just around the corner. Then, suddenly, on what should have been one of the happiest days of her life, everything she worked for is taken away in one tumultuous moment.

In the hospital and forced to face the possibility that nothing will ever be the same again, Margaret must figure out how to move forward on her own terms while facing long-held family secrets, devastating heartbreak, and the idea that love might find her in the last place she would ever expect.

My Thoughts:
By the author of Happiness for BeginnersHow To Walk Away is that rare heart-warming novel (which, to be honest, is not usually my jam). Jan B. (a blog reader and Goodreads reviewer whose taste I generally agree with) says, “the focus of this heartwarming novel is how Margaret copes with the hand she’s been dealt” and she recommends it for readers who “enjoy humorous character-driven feel-good novels.” Renee at It’s Book Talk (one of my favorite book bloggers, though she’s currently on hiatus) said it was a page-turner and had an interesting cast of supporting characters; however, she thought the ending went off the rails. Other Goodreads reviewers called it a palate cleanser and emphasized that it’s not a depressing book at all despite the tragic premise…many called it inspirational. It’s also been blurbed by Emily Giffin and Jenny Lawson, but I’m always a little skeptical of author blurbs. I peeked at the first few pages and liked the writing style and was drawn into the story…I’m looking forward to continuing  with it soon!

book of the month may 2018The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy (Release Date: May 1, 2018)
336 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.92 on 262 ratings
Selected By: Guest Judge Jaime King (Actress)

An addictive psychological thriller about a group of women whose lives become unexpectedly connected when one of their newborns goes missing.

They call themselves the May Mothers—a collection of new moms who gave birth in the same month. […]

When the group’s members agree to meet for drinks at a hip local bar, they have in mind a casual evening of fun, a brief break from their daily routine. But on this sultry Fourth of July night during the hottest summer in Brooklyn’s history, something goes terrifyingly wrong: one of the babies is abducted from his crib. […]

Though none of the other members in the group are close to the reserved Winnie, three of them will go to increasingly risky lengths to help her find her son. And as the police bungle the investigation and the media begin to scrutinize the mothers in the days that follow, damaging secrets are exposed, marriages are tested, and friendships are formed and fractured.

My Thoughts:
The Perfect Mother is this month’s obligatory psychological thriller (it’s also a debut) and it’s going to be a movie starring Scandal‘s Kerry Washington. Goodreads reviewers called it addictive, unputdownable, and a “popcorn” read. They mentioned it has multiple perspectives (apparently LOTS of perspectives in this case), which gets a bit confusing at times. Some said the ending came as a complete surprise, while others said they saw it coming. It’s a May Library Reads pick (which I usually have good luck with) and was blurbed by B.A. Paris (author of Behind Closed Doors) and Kimberly McCreight (author of Reconstructing Amelia). Andrea at Born and Read in Chicago (a blogger I follow) said it was a fluffy domestic thriller and reminded her of The Couple Next Door. She also said it had an “interesting take on the hard work that is motherhood: with equal parts satire and seriousness.” Here’s her full review.

Mars RoomThe Mars Room by Rachel Kushner (Released: May 1, 2018)
352 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.61 on 178 ratings
Selected By: Siobhan Jones (Book of the Month Editorial Director)

It’s 2003 and Romy Hall is at the start of two consecutive life sentences at Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility, deep in California’s Central Valley. Outside is the world from which she has been severed: the San Francisco of her youth and her young son, Jackson. Inside is a new reality: thousands of women hustling for the bare essentials needed to survive; the bluffing and pageantry and casual acts of violence by guards and prisoners alike; and the deadpan absurdities of institutional living, which Kushner evokes with great humor and precision.

My Thoughts:
I’ve gotten completely conflicting opinions about The Mars Room from two of my most trusted recommendation sources (go figure!). Susie at Novel Visits thought it was “way overhyped” and said it “felt like a mishmash of stories with no real core” because “Kushner spent a lot of time on the background/crimes/life of other inmates, a tutor at the prison, and male inmates in another prisons.” On the other hand, Tyler Goodson called it “masterful and unforgettable” and said it was one of the best books of 2018 for sure. Goodreads reviews tend to mirror Susie and Tyler…either 4 or 5 stars or 2 stars without much in between. Some said it was disjointed, aloof, and lacked connection, while others said it was candid and raw. Not surprisingly, The Mars Room comes with considerable commentary on social justice and the prison system.

Still Lives Still Lives by Maria Hummel (Release Date: June 5, 2018)
288 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.28 on 36 ratings
Selected By: Book of the Month Readers Committee member Sarah Bedwell

A young editor at a Los Angeles art museum finds herself pulled into the disturbing and dangerous world of a famous artist who goes missing on the opening night of her exhibition. […]

Suspicion falls upon the up-and-coming gallerist Greg Shaw Ferguson, who happens to be Maggie’s ex. A rogue’s gallery of eccentric art world figures could also have motive for the act, and as Maggie gets drawn into her own investigation of Lord’s disappearance, she’ll come to suspect all of those closest to her.

Set against a culture that too often fetishizes violence against women, Still Lives is a page-turning exodus into the art world’s hall of mirrors, and one woman’s journey into the belly of an industry flooded with money and secrets.

My Thoughts:
Still Lives is a literary crime novel set in the Los Angeles art world. It’s recommended for readers of Donna Tartt, Emma Cline, and Tana French…authors you don’t see together too often on read-alike lists, which is intriguing. Goodreads reviewers said it’s a bit slow in the first half, but picks up to be a thrilling page turner. They said it’s smart and has a pleasantly surprising ending. However, they also said there are too many characters to keep track of. I’m intrigued by this one, but would like to hear from some trusted recommendation sources before picking it up.

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

If I didn’t already have an ARC of How To Walk Away, I’d choose that one since it’s been recommended by two trusted sources. However, I’m going to skip this month since I already have the ARC.

I’m also interested in Still Lives, but would like to hear from some trusted recommendation sources before jumping on it.

Make your Book of the Month selections by Sunday, May 6th.

What book will you choose this month?

This Month’s Special Deals

MOTHER’S DAY DEAL: Give a gift and get a free month for yourself! And, check out their Best Books for Mom list for some ideas. 

NEW MEMBER DEAL: Anyone who purchases a new BOTM subscription will get their first month free! Use code YESPLZ.

ANNUAL PAYMENT DEAL: BOTM is now a monthly subscription service. However, given that some members preferred paying upfront, they are now offering a 12-month option. Members who sign up for 12 months will pay $149.99/year. That’s $12.50/book, instead of the standard price of $14.99/month.

How to Join Book of the Month…

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

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

Sign up for a Book of the Month membership (NEW pricing below)!

New members will sign up for a membership that renews monthly:

A book of your choice for $14.99 / month
Add extra books to your shipment for $9.99 each
Skip any month you want
Free shipping, always

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Readers Recommend: Cost, Sparta, and An American Marriage

April 12, 2018 Book Recommendations 19

Readers Recommend Diana Mack

 

Welcome to the second installment of Readers Recommend, my new monthly feature where “regular readers” (i.e. readers who do not have their own book blogs) share their book recommendations!

I recently surveyed my blog readers for the first time and one of the most surprising things I learned was that over 70% of you do not have your own book blogs. This means you are not book bloggers, but “regular readers”! That’s a large chunk of Sarah’s Book Shelves readers with fantastic book recommendations floating around in their heads and no place to share them. I’m thrilled to be able to mine all this brainpower for some great books! Prepare for your TBR to explode…

If you’d like to be featured in an upcoming “Readers Recommend” post, leave a note in the comments section or email me at sarahsbookshelves@gmail.com.

Last month‘s guest (Brittany) was a huge hit! Let’s get rolling with our second guest…

Get to Know Diana

  • Home: I live in a medium sized town about 30 minutes west of Chicago. As I’m writing this, snow is falling but the forecast still says 70 degrees for Thursday and Friday!
  • Career: I’m an x-ray tech for a large corporation. I’ve been there 30+  years. For close to 30 years, I was in an orthopedic office; we were sold to the corporation about 4 years ago. The changes have brought me full circle in my career: I’m back to working weekends, nights and holidays. Such is life!
  • Hobbies: I’m happily married with 3 kids ages 18-22, who are all still at home doing the work/school thing.  I love reading, playing with my dogs and, if the 70 degrees happens, my husband and I will be on our bikes. I also make great chocolate chip cookies…I’m convinced chocolate chips make a happy home!
  • Favorite TV Show: I love Outlander and This is Us. I missed the whole second season of This is Us, but I guess that means I’ll get to binge-watch it!

Diana Recommends…

Old Loves

Sparta, Cost

 

Spartaby Roxana Robinson
Fiction (Released June 4, 2013)
386 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Cost by Roxana Robinson
Fiction (Released January 1, 2008)
416 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Diana:
Sparta is the story of an Iraq vet, Conrad, returning home. His efforts to reconnect and assimilate just made for a great story. Cost is the story of Julia Lambert and her efforts to connect with her family. Unfortunately, her son Jack is a heroin addict. My husband’s nephew is a heroin addict and I got chills reading this. Everything Jack did/thought/said was spot on for a drug addiction.

My Take:
This author and these books are totally new to me…I hadn’t heard of or read either of them! But, both sound really intriguing. I’ve been interested in PTSD in returning soldiers ever since reading David Frankel’s excellent nonfiction profiles of many of the men of US 2-16 Infantry Battalion after they returned from Baghdad, Thank You For Your Service. And, Cost is apparently about a totally normal family who is shattered by their son’s heroin addiction. I’ve heard multiple real-life stories about kids who had what many would consider idyllic childhoods falling into heroin addiction and would like to learn more about that (despite having young kids and this whole thing terrifying me). Plus, Jami Attenberg (author of Saint Mazie and All Grown Up) gave it 5 stars on Goodreads.

A New Love

An American Marriage by Tayari JonesAn American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Fiction – Literary (Released February 6, 2018)
320 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Diana:
An African American couple is split apart by a crime the husband didn’t commit. I think this was one of the first books I have read that made me see through an African American’s eyes. I didn’t like the main character, Celestial, but I also wouldn’t want to have to make her choices. And Roy? How does one reconcile to such changes in circumstance and to the dashing of dreams? Highly, highly recommended.

My Take:
Many of y’all know I LOVED this one too! I’d be shocked if it wasn’t one of my Best Books of 2018 come December (a LOT would have to happen between now and then for it to be knocked off the list) and it’s one of my Top 3 books of 2018 so far. Check out my full review for more details. By the way, if you’re looking for a book club selection, this is my #1 choice at the moment.

Diana Does NOT Recommend…

Lincoln in the Bardo, Fates and Furies, Life After Life

 

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
Fiction – Literary (Released February 14, 2017)
343 Pages

Diana: 
Who were all the characters? What was the point of this?

My Take:
Haha! I didn’t read this one, despite all the accolades it received from the literary community. As Diana said, “all the characters” is something I heard about it and it definitely scared me away. I’m at a stage of life (I have young kids…I’m often reading with them around me making noise and asking me questions) right now where I find it hard to concentrate deeply on complicated books, so this one did not sound up my alley. Diana, I love your candor!

Fates & Furies by Lauren Groff
Fiction – Literary (Released September 15, 2015)
400 Pages

Diana: 
Boring and silly characters. Won’t read anything by her again.

My Take:
Still loving Diana’s candor…no messing around with mincing words! I was super conflicted about this one. I found the first half slow and boring, but the second half blew my mind. I remember wishing I could rate the two halves of the book separately. Now that some time has passed, I do have a more positive overall view of it (especially her gorgeous writing) than I did when I read it and I am looking forward to her short story collection coming in June. Check out my full review for more details.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
Fiction – Literary (Released March 14, 2013)
513 Pages 

Diana: 
I have her other books on my shelves. This one was so long and boring I’m thinking I should just give them away.

My Take:
I haven’t read this one, but did read Atkinson’s Case Histories a long time ago. I remember literally nothing about it, but my spreadsheet tells me I didn’t like it.

What do you think of Diana’s recommendations (or her “Didn’t Love”)? Have you read any of them? Adding any to your TBR lists?

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

April 1, 2018 Book Recommendations 12

Book of the Month April 2018 Selections

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

 

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

First, I’m sorry for recommending Not That I Could Tell from last month’s selections…I read it and was fairly bored (I rated it 2.5 stars). Hopefully, I’ll do better this month! This month’s selections didn’t appeal to me at first glance, but after doing some research, I’m now interested in two of them!

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

Check out my fun new tool to help you pick the best Book of the Month selection for your taste: my Ultimate Guide to the Book of the Month Judges and free, downloadable template to help you find your go-to BOTM judge!

Book of the Month April 2018 Selections

Girl Who Smiled BeadsThe Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clementine Wamariya (Release Date: April 26, 2018)
288 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.46 on 117 ratings
Selected By: Etaf Rum (Book of the Month Brand Ambassador )

A riveting story of dislocation, survival, and the power of the imagination to save us

Clemantine Wamariya was six years old when her mother and father began to speak in whispers, when neighbors began to disappear, and when she heard the loud, ugly sounds her brother said were “thunder.” It was 1994, and in 100 days more than 800,000 people would be murdered in Rwanda and millions more displaced. Clemantine and her fifteen-year-old sister, Claire, ran and spent the next six years wandering through seven African countries searching for safety–hiding under beds, foraging for food, surviving and fleeing refugee camps, finding unexpected kindness, witnessing unimaginable cruelty. They did not know whether their parents were alive.

At age twelve, Clementine, along with Claire, was granted asylum in the United States–a chance to build a new life. […]

My Thoughts:
The Girl Who Smiled Beads is a memoir that came out of this article on Medium, which went viral and immediately sucked me in. Goodreads readers said it’s powerful, painful, and hard to read. It’s written in dual timelines, alternating chapters about Wamariya’s childhood in Rwanda with her present-day life in the U.S. A few Goodreads readers mentioned that the chapters sometimes read like snippets, feeling a bit unfinished. It was called a “must read” by Library Journal (one of my Go-To Recommendation Sources) and was included on their April picks list. And, Nicole Bonia of The Readerly Report podcast (another Go-To Recommendation Source) rated it 5 stars.

Our Kind of CrueltyOur Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall (Release Date: May 8, 2018)
288 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.05 on 288 ratings
Selected By: Siobhan Jones (Book of the Month Editorial Director)

Mike knows that most of us travel through the world as one half of a whole, desperately searching for that missing person to make us complete.
But he and Verity are different. They have found each other and nothing and no one will tear them apart.
It doesn’t matter that Verity is marrying another man.
You see, Verity and Mike play a game together, a secret game they call ‘the crave’, the aim being to demonstrate what they both know: that Verity needs Mike, and only Mike.
Verity’s upcoming marriage is the biggest game she and Mike have ever played. And it’s for the highest stakes.
Except this time in order for Mike and Verity to be together someone has to die …

My Thoughts:
This is another buzzy thriller that was compared to You by Caroline Kepnes by multiple Goodreads reviewers. Goodreads reviewers also said it was dark, gritty, full of crazy and dislikable characters, similar to other books, and predictable. They also mentioned it was partly told from a deranged stalker’s perspective. Gillian Flynn called it “simply one of the nastiest and most disturbing thrillers I’ve read in years.” A.J. Finn (author of The Woman in the Window) called it “a perfect nightmare of a novel.”

CirceCirce by Madeline Miller (Release Date: April 10, 2018)
400 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.44 on 450 ratings
Selected By: 
Liberty Hardy (co-host of Book Riot‘s All the Books podcast)

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child–not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power–the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

My Thoughts:
Circe is the follow-up to Miller’s The Song of Achilles, but apparently has less of a romantic storyline than Achilles. Goodreads reviewers said it’s fantasy that reads like an historical fiction novel and has adventure, betrayal, violence, and magic, but is ultimate the story of one woman’s life. Other words they used to describe it: spellbinding, captivating, and perfect. Most importantly, Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books (one of my Go-To Recommendation Sources) is reading it right now and said the story is fabulous, she keeps reading sentences over and over again, and that she’s head over heels in love. And, Ann Patchett (one of my all-time favorite authors) called it “an epic spanning thousands of years that’s also a keep-you-up-all-night page turner.”

Then She Was Gone Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell (Released: April 17, 2018)
368 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.37 on 6,146 ratings
Selected By: 
Laura Whitelaw (Book of the Month Readers Committee Member)

Ten years after her teenage daughter disappears, a woman crosses paths with a charming single father whose young child feels eerily familiar, in this evocative, suspenseful drama from New York Times bestselling author Lisa Jewell—perfect for fans of Paula Hawkins and Liane Moriarty.

My Thoughts:
The second thriller / mystery of this month’s picks. Goodreads reviewers said it was fast-paced, dark, disturbing, had a predictable storyline, had a number of unlikely coincidences, but also had a touching ending (a rarity for a thriller). They also mentioned it was told from multiple perspectives. It was included on the Library Journal (one of my Go-To Recommendation Sources) April picks list.

Oracle YearThe Oracle Year by Charles Soule (Release Date: April 3, 2018)
416 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.13 on 68 ratings
Selected By: Samantha Irby (Author of We Are Never Meeting in Real Life and Blogger)

From bestselling comic-book franchise writer Charles Soule comes a clever and witty first novel of a twenty-something New Yorker who wakes up one morning with the power to predict the future—perfect for fans of Joe Hill and Brad Meltzer, or books like This Book Is Full of Spiders and Welcome to Night Vale.

My Thoughts:
This one sounds somewhat Science Fiction-y and has also been described as a thriller. Goodreads reviewers said it’s a fun read with an eclectic cast of characters. That is has a fast-paced plot with an action-movie feel and really takes off in the second half, but does have some loose ends. I’ve seen multiple comparisons to Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter. It’s also an Amazon Best Book of April 2018.

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

I’m going to choose Circe and The Girl Who Smiled Beads!

Despite the fact that I’m not into Greek mythology at all, the high praise (especially from highly trusted recommendation sources) convinced me to give Circe a go! And, the Medium article that spawned The Girl Who Smiled Beads completely drew me in and made me want to read more, so I’m tacking that one on too.

Make your Book of the Month selections by Friday, April 6th.

What book will you choose this month?

This Month’s Special Deals

NEW MEMBER DEAL: Anyone who purchases a new BOTM subscription will get their first month free! Use code YESPLZ.

ANNUAL PAYMENT DEAL: BOTM is now a monthly subscription service. However, given that some members preferred paying upfront, they are now offering a 12-month option. Members who sign up for 12 months will pay $149.99/year. That’s $12.50/book, instead of the standard price of $14.99/month.

How to Join Book of the Month…

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

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

Sign up for a Book of the Month membership (NEW pricing below)!

New members will sign up for a membership that renews monthly:

A book of your choice for $14.99 / month
Add extra books to your shipment for $9.99 each
Skip any month you want
Free shipping, always

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Readers Recommend: I Capture the Castle and My Life With Bob

March 8, 2018 Book Recommendations 37

Readers Recommend

 

Welcome to the first ever installment of Readers Recommend, my new monthly feature where “regular readers” (i.e. readers who do not have their own book blogs) share their book recommendations! 

I recently surveyed my blog readers for the first time and one of the most surprising things I learned was that over 70% of you do not have your own book blogs. This means you are not book bloggers, but “regular readers”! That’s a large chunk of Sarah’s Book Shelves readers with fantastic book recommendations floating around in their heads and no place to share them. I’m thrilled to be able to mine all this brainpower for some great books! Prepare for your TBR to explode…

If you’d like to be featured in an upcoming “Readers Recommend” post, leave a note in the comments section or email me at sarahsbookshelves@gmail.com.

Let’s welcome our first guest…

Get to Know Brittany

  • Home: I live with my husband and two elderly dogs (Mavis the pitbull and Ginger the chihuahua) in a small college town in Texas.
  • Career: [I’m] working on my PhD in Industrial Engineering. My research uses mathematical modeling to capture the uncertainty inherent in real-world problems. (Sarah: sounds like we have another Malcolm Gladwell in the making!)
  • Hobbies: I’ve recently taken up boxing, and punching bags really hard is an incredibly satisfying workout. On the weekends, you’ll find my husband and me camping or hunting for the best tacos around town.
  • Favorite TV Show: I’m definitely a sitcom junkie, but my current favorite shows are Frasier and Life in Pieces.

Brittany Recommends…

An Old Love

I Capture the CastleI Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Fiction (Released 1948)
343 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brittany:
I have so many backlisted favorites, but I’d love to share one that people I know seem not to have heard of. You might not think that a book written in the 40’s could make you laugh out loud, and you’d be so, so wrong. The narrator, Cassandra, is charming and hilarious while also being kind and insightful. As she grows and ages, the writing becomes sadder and wiser, but I promise you will fall in love with the Mortmain family. Plus, if you enjoy scenic books, you’ll adore reading about the family’s crumbling English castle surrounded by a chilly moat in the countryside.

My Take:
You’re right, Brittany…I hadn’t even heard of this one! But, when I checked it out on Goodreads, I realized hoards of my friends had read it and loved it. How did I miss the boat?! I love some humor in my reading and really should read more classics than I do, so it’s going on the TBR.

A New Love

My Life with Bob by Pamela PaulMy Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues by Pamela Paul
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released May 2, 2017)
242 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Brittany:
Candidly, I don’t read too many new releases until they are technically no longer new releases, but one book that I have read and was pleasantly surprised by is My Life with Bob by Pamela Paul. The book is basically a memoir that focuses on the readerly bits of Paul’s life, or maybe it’s just a look at her life through a readerly lens; either way, it’s the sort of stuff that you and I would find interesting. Paul’s writing sometimes borders on pretentious, but mostly it’s just endearing and relatable to fellow readers.

My Take:
I actually tried this one and loved some parts…particularly where she focuses on her early reading life. But, the pretentiousness Brittany mentioned did get to me after awhile and I abandoned it at 42%.

A “Didn’t Love”

A Man Called Ove, Frederick BackmanA Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman
Fiction – Literary (Released August 27, 2012)
337 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brittany:
For fear of spoiling the book for those of you who haven’t read it, I’ll just say that I don’t care for books that rely on sad or heavy-handed character tropes to move the reader. The writing wasn’t strong or graceful enough to carry the plot (or characters), so I finished the book feeling like it was emotionally manipulative without having any real depth. 

My Take:
I was in the “no” camp on this mega-bestseller as well. I actually DNF’d it pretty early on. While the opening scene of Ove at the computer store had me laughing out loud, I quickly got tired of his curmudgeonly schtick. However, and this is a big however, I ADORED Backman’s latest novel, Beartown (my review). Definitely read that one!

What do you think of Brittany’s recommendations (or her “Didn’t Love”)?

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

March 1, 2018 Book Recommendations 18

Book of the Month March 2018

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


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

I hadn’t heard of any of these selections before…but, judging from the reaction to last month‘s overly well-known picks, this might be a good thing. After doing a bit of research, I’m now interested in a couple!

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

Check out my fun new tool to help you pick the best Book of the Month selection for your taste: my Ultimate Guide to the Book of the Month Judges and free, downloadable template to help you find your go-to BOTM judge!

SPECIAL NOTE:
For those of you who followed the uproar last month when Book of the Month removed the judges’ endorsements from the February selections…Book of the Month has brought the judges back…kind of. There won’t be a 5 judge panel like we’re used to, but we will see judges make appearances mixed in with “editorial team [members], brand ambassadors, members, and members of our Readers Committee.” Kind of annoying for those of us who have been following specific judges for awhile and know who our Go-To Judges are, but we’ll have to see how things go. Check out more details of how Book of the Month chooses the monthly selections and their rationale for making changes in how the selections are presented.

Book of the Month March 2018 Selections

Not That I Could TellNot That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser (Release Date: March 27, 2018)
320 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.09 on 261 ratings
Selected By: Elizabeth Mitchell (Readers Committee Member)

When a group of neighborhood women gathers, wine in hand, around a fire pit where their backyards meet one Saturday night, most of them are just ecstatic to have discovered that their baby monitors reach that far. It’s a rare kid-free night, and they’re giddy with it. They drink too much, and the conversation turns personal. By Monday morning, one of them is gone.

Everyone knows something about everyone else in the quirky small Ohio town of Yellow Springs, but no one can make sense of the disappearance. […] As the police investigation goes from a media circus to a cold case, the neighbors are forced to reexamine what’s going on behind their own closed doors—and to ask how well anyone really knows anyone else.

My Thoughts:
Doesn’t the description for this one sound like Big Little Lies?! And, Goodreads reviewers mentioned it would be a good choice for fans of Liane Moriarty. They also said it was an easy, quick read and that the story was told from several points of view. Amy at Read a Latte (a blogger I trust) says it “is not quite a thriller. It’s more an examination of the lives of these women, and the questions that circulate when a perceived perfect neighborhood starts to show cracks.” This one sounds up my alley, especially since I’m on the hunt for lighter reads. 

Astonishing Color of AfterThe Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan (Release Date: March 20, 2018)
480 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.5 on 136 ratings
Selected By: Liberty Hardy (co-host of Book Riot‘s All the Books podcast)

Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.

Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.

Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.

My Thoughts:
This is a debut YA (Young Adult) novel by a Midwest author born to Taiwanese immigrant parents. Goodreads reviewers said it’s heartbreaking, beautiful, has a bit of magical realism, gorgeous writing, and a half Asian/half white main character. They also mentioned Chinese/Taiwanese culture and depression are major themes. John Green called it “brilliantly crafted, harrowing and a very special book.” Gayle Forman called it “inventive and heart-wrenching.” The few critical reviews I found on Goodreads mentioned having trouble with a literary device where emotions are labeled with colors.

Rainbirds Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan (Release Date: March 6, 2018)
336 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.1 on 84 ratings
Selected By: 
Siobhan Jones (Book of the Month Editorial Director)

Clarissa Goenawan’s dark, spellbinding literary debut opens with a murder and shines a spotlight onto life in fictional small-town Japan.

Ren Ishida is nearly finished with graduate school when he receives news of his sister Keiko’s sudden death. She was viciously stabbed one rainy night on her way home, and there are no leads. Ren heads to Akakawa to conclude his sister’s affairs, still failing to understand why she chose to abandon the family and Tokyo for this desolate town years ago.

As he comes to know the figures in Akakawa, from the enigmatic politician to his fellow teachers and a rebellious, alluring student named Rio, Ren delves into his shared childhood with Keiko and what followed, trying to piece together what happened the night of her death.

My Thoughts:
Clarissa Goenawan is apparently a rising Singaporean literary star and Rainbirds is her debut. Set in 1990’s, Rainbirds is part whodunnit and part ghost story. Goodreads reviewers frequently compared it to Haruki Murakami’s style. They also said it has a minimalist writing style (which is very Japanese), a hint of magical realism, a brooding atmosphere, and that grief is a major theme. Many said it was quiet, yet hard to put down, and that the mystery is a minor plot element (i.e. the story is more about Ren finding himself and getting to know his sister posthumously). Some found the ending frustrating. Rainbirds was on Bustle’s Most Anticipated Book of 2018, Huffington Post’s 60 Books We Can’t Wait to Read in 2018, and received a starred review from Library Journal. If you like serious literary fiction, this one’s for you!

Other People's HousesOther People’s Houses by Abbi Waxman (Release Date: April 3, 2018)
352 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.97 on 111 ratings
Selected By: 
Skye Sherman (Brand Ambassador)

The author of The Garden of Small Beginnings returns with a hilarious and poignant new novel about four families, their neighborhood carpool, and the affair that changes everything.

My Thoughts: Other People’s Houses sounds like light fiction (i.e. Brain Candy) and the plot actually sounds somewhat similar to Not That I Could Tell (and Desperate Housewives!). It was blurbed by Emily Giffin, so you know that means it’s fairly light reading. Goodreads reviewers mentioned that it’s told from multiple points of view, has snarky, irreverent humor, and dysfunctional families. Many of the negative reviews mentioned extremely harsh language and raunchy sex talk that was over the top and unnecessary. This type of raunchy humor is apparently her trademark and it seems to be a love it or hate it kind of thing. Finally, some that loved her debut (The Garden of Small Beginnings) were underwhelmed by her follow-up. Sounds like you need to have a specific sense of humor to appreciate this one.

Last Equation of Isaac SeveryThe Last Equation of Isaac Severy by Nova Jacobs (Release Date: March 6, 2018)
352 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.06 on 53 ratings
Selected By: Sophia Bush (Actress)

The Family Fang meets The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry in this literary mystery about a struggling bookseller whose recently deceased grandfather, a famed mathematician, left behind a dangerous equation for her to track down—and protect—before others can get their hands on it. 

My Thoughts:
The Last Equation of Isaac Severy is a debut novel with a treasure hunt vibe whose premise sounds like Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. However, some Goodreads reviewers debunked the comparisons to The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry and Penumbra because the bookstore is apparently a minor plot point compared to the eccentric family and the math. They also said there is a lot going on in the beginning with the plot (to the point where some couldn’t make heads or tails of what was going on), but that things eventually clicked. 

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

I’m going to choose Not That I Could Tell!

The premise sounds intriguing, it sounds like it could be a good candidate for my 2018 Summer Reading Guide and, most importantly, a blogger I trust (Amy at Read a Latte) gave it 5 stars.

Make your Book of the Month Club selections by Tuesday, March 6th.

What book will you choose this month?

This Month’s Special Deals

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

NEW MEMBER DEAL: Anyone who purchases a new BOTM subscription will get their first month free! Use code YESPLZ.

ANNUAL PAYMENT DEAL: BOTM is now a monthly subscription service. However, given that some members preferred paying upfront, they are now offering a 12-month option. Members who sign up for 12 months will pay $149.99/year. That’s $12.50/book, instead of the standard price of $14.99/month.

How to Join Book of the Month…

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

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

Sign up for a Book of the Month membership (NEW pricing below)!

New members will sign up for a membership that renews monthly:

A book of your choice for $14.99 / month
Add extra books to your shipment for $9.99 each
Skip any month you want
Free shipping, always

Get Weekly Email Updates!

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

February 1, 2018 Book Recommendations 20

Book of the Month February 2018 selections

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


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

After skipping the past two months, I’m thrilled about the February selections! I’ve read (and loved) one and am partway through (and am really liking) a second. Book of the Month is also honoring Black History Month with one selection by an African American author (An American Marriage) and this month’s add-on (Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward).

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

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

SPECIAL NOTE: The February selections have now been publicly announced and the judges who picked each book have still not been revealed as usual. This is odd. I have tweeted BOTM and emailed their customer service to figure out what’s going on. But, I remember receiving an email that they were making some changes to how they were announcing new selections. I don’t remember judges being specifically mentioned, but I suspect the missing judges have to do with this change. If you’d like to see them include the judges in their monthly selection announcements, email member.services@bookofthemonth.com. I have to believe the more people they hear from, the more likely they’ll be to include the judges again!

Book of the Month February 2018 Selections

Great Alone by Kristin HannahThe Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (Release Date: February 6, 2018)
448 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.22 on 445 ratings
Selected By: Oh no…BOTM didn’t include the judges this month! See special note above.

Alaska, 1974. Cora Allbright and her husband Ernt, a recently-returned Vietnam veteran scarred by the war, uproot their thirteen-year-old daughter Leni to start a new life in Alaska. Utterly unprepared for the weather and the isolation, but welcomed by the close-knit community, they fight to build a home in this harsh, beautiful wilderness.

My Thoughts:
Many of you probably know Kristin Hannah from her previous novel, the blockbuster The Nightingale. Early reports are that her latest effort is excellent as well. I’m about 25% in and I love the focus on the Alaskan setting. Overall, I’m liking it, but it’s not blowing me out of the water…it’s definitely not fast-paced. Susie at Novel Visits was totally immersed throughout and loved the writing, the characterization, the storyline, and the amazing feeling for life in Alaska. However, she thought the ending “felt a bit forced.” Goodreads reviewers pretty much echoed Susie’s thoughts. Note that there are some triggers in this book that may be hard to read for some. 

UPDATE: I DNF’d The Great Alone yesterday at 37%. I just got bored and also got super frustrated with Cora’s decision-making. 

Still Me by JoJo MoyesStill Me by JoJo Moyes (Release Date: January 30, 2018)
400 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.16 on 267 ratings
Selected By: Oh no…BOTM didn’t include the judges this month! See special note above.

Louisa Clark arrives in New York ready to start a new life, confident that she can embrace this new adventure and keep her relationship with Ambulance Sam alive across several thousand miles. She steps into the world of the superrich, working for Leonard Gopnik and his much younger second wife, Agnes. Lou is determined to get the most out of the experience and throws herself into her new job and New York life.

As she begins to mix in New York high society, Lou meets Joshua Ryan, a man who brings with him a whisper of her past. Before long, Lou finds herself torn between Fifth Avenue where she works and the treasure-filled vintage clothing store where she actually feels at home. And when matters come to a head, she has to ask herself: Who is Louisa Clark? And how do you reconcile a heart that lives in two places?

My Thoughts:
Still Me is the third installment of the Me Before You series. I loved Me Before You, but I haven’t read either of the second two books. Goodreads reviewers were either hooked from the very first line and loved it because they loved Lou and will read as much as they can starring her…or thought it was just okay and felt the series probably didn’t need another book. 

Broken Girls by Simone St. JamesThe Broken Girls by Simone St. James (Release Date: March 20, 2018)
336 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.32 on 171 ratings
Selected By: Oh no…BOTM didn’t include the judges this month! See special note above.

Vermont, 1950. There’s a place for the girls whom no one wants–the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the too smart for their own good. It’s called Idlewild Hall. And in the small town where it’s located, there are rumors that the boarding school is haunted. Four roommates bond over their whispered fears, their budding friendship blossoming–until one of them mysteriously disappears. . . .

Vermont, 2014. As much as she’s tried, journalist Fiona Sheridan cannot stop revisiting the events surrounding her older sister’s death. Twenty years ago, her body was found lying in the overgrown fields near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. And though her sister’s boyfriend was tried and convicted of murder, Fiona can’t shake the suspicion that something was never right about the case.

When Fiona discovers that Idlewild Hall is being restored by an anonymous benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But a shocking discovery during the renovations will link the loss of her sister to secrets that were meant to stay hidden in the past–and a voice that won’t be silenced.

My Thoughts:
Another thriller with “Girls” in the title…whoopee (that was sarcastic…)! This one is being billed as part ghost story, part suspenseful thriller and seems to be a departure from St. James’s other books. For anyone that normally doesn’t go for the paranormal stuff (me!), Goodreads reviewers said that part is not overwhelming and I saw multiple reviews by people who said they don’t normally like paranormal, but did like this book. Goodreads reviewers also categorized it as “Gothic suspense” and said some parts are “dark and disturbing.” It’s gotten blurbs from Karen White (The House on Tradd Street Series, The Sound of Glass) and Fiona Barton (The Child, The Widow).

An American Marriage by Tayari JonesAn American Marriage by Tayari Jones (Release Date: February 6, 2018)
320 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.25 on 104 ratings
Selected By: Oh no…BOTM didn’t include the judges this month! See special note above.

Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined.

My Thoughts: I was thrilled to see An American Marriage among these selections because it’s my favorite novel of 2018 so far! It tackles a number of weighty themes, but in a completely organic way. It’s about marriage, friendship, race, class, grief, incarceration, etc, but not overwhelmingly about any one of them (kind of like The Mothers). The writing isn’t “gorgeous” in the traditional sense, rather it’s casual, intimate, and has personality…and I loved it. The story builds gradually and the last quarter is absolutely riveting. Others’ opinions: Nicole Bonia from The Readerly Report Podcast also loved it, while Renee at It’s Book Talk (who I normally agree with, but didn’t in this case) didn’t. Warning: go into this book as blind as you can. The publisher’s summary revealed way too much in my view (I edited it out of the in this post).

Philosopher's Flight by Tom MillerThe Philosopher’s Flight by Tom Miller (Release Date: February 13, 2018)
432 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.3 on 75 ratings
Selected By: Oh no…BOTM didn’t include the judges this month! See special note above.

A thrilling debut from ER doctor turned novelist Tom Miller, The Philosopher’s Flight is an epic historical fantasy set in a World-War-I-era America where magic and science have blended into a single extraordinary art.

Eighteen-year-old Robert Weekes is a practitioner of empirical philosophy—an arcane, female-dominated branch of science used to summon the wind, shape clouds of smoke, heal the injured, and even fly.

When a deadly accident puts his philosophical abilities to the test, Robert rises to the occasion and wins a scholarship to study at Radcliffe College, an all-women’s school. At Radcliffe, Robert hones his skills and strives to win the respect of his classmates, a host of formidable, unruly women.

My Thoughts:
Wow – this book sounds overwhelming. It’s a genre mash-up of Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Romance, and Historical Fiction…with some gender politics thrown in. It’s been compared to Lev Grossman (The Magicians) and said to have elements of Harry Potter. Goodreads readers say it’s fun, has well developed characters, great world-building, and great writing, but is lacking in suspense and contains lots of jargon that tripped some people up. This selection is not up my alley at all, but maybe it’s up yours!

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

I’m going to choose An American Marriage!

I’ve already read it (in e-book format), but I’d like a hard copy for my shelves!

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

What book will you choose this month?

This Month’s Special Deals

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

NEW MEMBER DEAL: Anyone who purchases a new BOTM subscription will get their first month free! Use code YESPLZ.

ANNUAL PAYMENT DEAL: BOTM is now a monthly subscription service. However, given that some members preferred paying upfront, they are now offering a 12-month option. Members who sign up for 12 months will pay $149.99/year. That’s $12.50/book, instead of the standard price of $14.99/month.

How to Join Book of the Month…

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

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

Sign up for a Book of the Month membership (NEW pricing below)!

New members will sign up for a membership that renews monthly:

A book of your choice for $14.99 / month
Add extra books to your shipment for $9.99 each
Skip any month you want
Free shipping, always

Get Weekly Email Updates!

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

January 1, 2018 Book Recommendations 26

Book of the Month January 2018 Selections

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


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

The January picks include a number of judges departing from their usual types of selections. We have a massively hyped psychological thriller, a police procedural, a feel-good love story, a historical fiction set during the Spanish Flu epidemic, and yet another The Handmaid’s Tale copycat. I can’t say I’m super psyched about these selections.

Fantastic news…the Book of the Month “Book of the Year” is The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne (my review)! I adored this book and was sorry to see the traditional media virtually ignore it in their Best Books of 2017 lists, so I couldn’t be more excited to see it top this list!

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

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

I’ve added in the most recent judge’s selections, so download the new version even if you grabbed it last month!

Book of the Month January 2018 Selections

The Woman in the WindowWoman in the Window by A.J. Finn by A.J. Finn (Release Date: January 2, 2018)
448 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.12 on 898 ratings
Selected By: Elizabeth Sile (Senior Editor – Books Coverage, Real Simple Magazine)

What did she see?

It’s been ten long months since Anna Fox last left her home. […]

Anna’s lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits day after day, watching her neighbours. When the Russells move in, Anna is instantly drawn to them. […]

But one evening, a frenzied scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something no one was supposed to see. Now she must do everything she can to uncover the truth about what really happened. But even if she does, will anyone believe her? And can she even trust herself?

My Thoughts:
The Woman in the Window is a massively hyped debut psychological thriller with a plot that sounds very similar to The Girl on the Train. The publisher is marketing it as great for readers of Gillian Flynn and Tana French and as appealing to readers of genre thrillers and literary fiction. The movie is already in development and it’s been blurbed by big name suspense writers Stephen King (who I don’t trust after Final Girls), Gillian Flynn, Louise Penny, Ruth Ware, and Joe Hill. Library Journal (which almost made my Top 5 Go-To Bookish News Sources) also said it “lived up to the hype” and was a “mature first novel that stands out in a crowded genre.” Goodreads readers said it was good suspense once it got going, but that it had a slow start and some plot holes. Susie at Novel Visits (a blogger I trust) said it was a bit gimmicky and just “so-so.”

The Judge:
Elizabeth Siles is a new “Judge Emeritas,” so does not have a Book of the Month track record. 

Two Girls Down by Louisa LunaTwo Girls Down by Louisa Luna (Release Date: January 9, 2018)
320 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.1 on 202 ratings
Selected By: Nina Sankovitch (Bestselling Author)

When two young sisters disappear from a strip mall parking lot in a small Pennsylvania town, their devastated mother hires an enigmatic bounty hunter, Alice Vega, to help find the girls. Immediately shut out by a local police department already stretched thin by budget cuts and the growing OxyContin and meth epidemic, Vega enlists the help of a disgraced former cop, Max Caplan. […]

With little to go on, Vega and Cap will go to extraordinary lengths to untangle a dangerous web of lies, false leads, and complex relationships to find the girls before time runs out, and they are gone forever.

My Thoughts:
Two Girls Down is a police procedural and it sounds like genre mystery to me. It’s been blurbed by Lee Child and Michael Koryta, two big name genre mystery authors. Goodreads readers said it was a suspenseful whodunnit, fast-paced, and unputdownable, but that the plot was convoluted and overly confusing. There were also a couple mentions of undefined trigger warnings. Update: Review from Novel Gossip.

The Judge:
Nina Sankovitch chooses mostly literary and historical fiction and has chosen a number of books I’d never heard of. This pick seems to be a departure for her.

Music Shop by Rachel JoyceThe Music Shop by Rachel Joyce (Release Date: January 2, 2018)
320 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.99 on 1,149 ratings
Selected By: Kim Hubbard (Books Editor for People Magazine)

It is 1988. On a dead-end street in a run-down suburb there is a music shop that stands small and brightly lit, jam-packed with records of every kind. Like a beacon, the shop attracts the lonely, the sleepless, and the adrift; Frank, the shop’s owner, has a way of connecting his customers with just the piece of music they need. Then, one day, into his shop comes a beautiful young woman, Ilse Brauchmann, who asks Frank to teach her about music. […] But Ilse is not what she seems, and Frank has old wounds that threaten to reopen, as well as a past it seems he will never leave behind. […] The journey that these two quirky, wonderful characters make in order to overcome their emotional baggage speaks to the healing power of music–and love–in this poignant, ultimately joyful work of fiction. 

My Thoughts:
Joyce is known for charming, contemporary fiction and the plot of this one sounds like The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry with music instead of books. Eva at Paperback Princess (a blogger I trust) really enjoyed it despite not expecting to and thought it was “kind of a perfect book to combat all the garbage in the world.” Goodreads readers said it was an unconventional love story, a feel-good book, nostalgic, and delightful, but a couple readers who loved her Harold Frye series said it was boring.

The Judge:
Kim Hubbard is my #1 Go-To Judge, so I trust her opinion. Kim’s picks have been eclectic in the past, but The Music Shop sounds more “feel-good” than her past fiction choices.

As Bright As Heaven by Susan MeissnerAs Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner (Release Date: February 6, 2018)
400 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.39 on 158 ratings
Selected By: Stacey Armand (“You Be the Judge” Contest Winner)

In 1918, Philadelphia was a city teeming with promise. Even as its young men went off to fight in the Great War, there were opportunities for a fresh start on its cobblestone streets. Into this bustling town, came Pauline Bright and her husband, filled with hope that they could now give their three daughters—Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa—a chance at a better life.

But just months after they arrive, the Spanish Flu reaches the shores of America. […] But even as they lose loved ones, they take in a baby orphaned by the disease who becomes their single source of hope. Amidst the tragedy and challenges, they learn what they cannot live without—and what they are willing to do about it.

My Thoughts:
As Bright as Heaven is historical fiction set during the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic. Its Goodreads reviews are outstanding…I had to dig deep to find anything negative at all. Goodreads readers said the story is well researched and told from multiple perspectives; it’s heartfelt and gorgeously written. People seemed to like the characters and said readers might need tissues. The one negative comment I found was that it was a bit predictable.

The Judge:
Stacey Armand has picked a thriller and a Young Adult (YA) in the past, so this choice is a departure for her. I haven’t read any of her past choices.

Red Clocks by Lena ZumasRed Clocks by Leni Zumas (Release Date: January 16, 2018)
368 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.17 on 99 ratings
Selected By: Cristina Arreola (Bustle Books Editor)

Five women. One question. What is a woman for?

In this ferociously imaginative novel, abortion is once again illegal in America, in-vitro fertilization is banned, and the Personhood Amendment grants rights of life, liberty, and property to every embryo. In a small Oregon fishing town, five very different women navigate these new barriers alongside age-old questions surrounding motherhood, identity, and freedom.

My Thoughts:
Along with Gather the Daughters, The Power, and Future Home of the Living God, Red Clocks is yet another The Handmaid’s Tale copycat (i.e. feminist dystopian). Susie at Novel Visits (a blogger I trust) DNF’d it around the halfway mark with the caveat that she wasn’t fully able to focus on it. As far as where it falls among The Handmaid’s Tale copycats, she said she was liking it better than Future Home of the Living God, but not as much as The Power or Gather the Daughters. Goodreads readers said it was important, tackled big issues, and had beautiful writing, but was slow, hard to get into, and lacked emotional pull. Some readers did say it was worth it in the end if you could make it through the slow beginning.

The Judge:
Cristina Arreola has selected thrillers in the past, so this is a departure for her. She’s not one of my Go-To Judges.

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

For the second month in a row, I’m going to skip.

Despite my #1 Go-To Judge (Kim Hubbard) making an appearance this month, the book she selected just does not sound like something that would appeal to me.

If I was a historical fiction fan, I’d choose As Bright As Heaven since the Goodreads reviews are so outstanding.

Make your Book of the Month Club selections by Saturday, January 6th.

What book will you choose this month?

This Month’s Special Deals

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

NEW MEMBER DEAL: Anyone who purchases a new BOTM subscription will get 1 month free! Use code MYBOTM.

NEW ANNUAL PAYMENT DEAL: BOTM is now a monthly subscription service. However, given that some members preferred paying upfront, they are now offering a 12-month option. Members who sign up for 12 months will pay $149.99/year. That’s $12.50/book, instead of the standard price of $14.99/month.

How to Join Book of the Month…

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

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

Sign up for a Book of the Month membership (NEW pricing below)!

New members will sign up for a membership that renews monthly:

A book of your choice for $14.99 / month
Add extra books to your shipment for $9.99 each
Skip any month you want
Free shipping, always

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