Category: Discussions

Why I DNF Over 30 Books A Year

June 4, 2019 Discussions 40

Why I DNF Over 30 Books a Year

 

My regular readers / podcast listeners (my podcast is Sarah’s Book Shelves Live) know that I’m an unapologetic DNF’er of books. And, that I wouldn’t have it any other way. But, I recently realized that not all my readers / listeners understand why I DNF over 30 books a year (so far this year, I’ve DNF’d 18 books, 32% of the books I’ve attempted).

Given this feedback, I thought it would be helpful if I laid out exactly why I DNF so many books. Keep in mind, the reasons below work for me and may not work for you…and that’s OK! But, if you were to ask me the single best tip for jumpstarting your reading life…I’d tell you to DNF more books.

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Why I Start a New TBR List Every Single Year

March 7, 2019 Discussions 26

Why I Start a New TBR list every single year

 

I used to have a spreadsheet of books I wanted to read (i.e. a TBR list) that numbered well into the hundreds. Every time I heard about a book I was interested in reading, I added it to the spreadsheet. Books only came off the spreadsheet when I actually read them (i.e. way more books went on the spreadsheet than ever came off).

When it came time to choose a new book to read, I consulted my spreadsheet. But, I realized I didn’t remember what half the books on there were about or why I’d ever added them in the first place. Plus, I wasn’t using any kind of categorization system, so I literally picked through hundreds of options every time I chose a new book. It was exhausting.

A couple years ago, I tried out a new system…and, realized I’d gradually stopped consulting my massive spreadsheet entirely. And, the best part about my new system? I start a new TBR list every single year!

Why I Start a New TBR List Every Single Year

  • Every year, I start a new TBR list that’s housed in an email draft in my drafts folder (just because it’s the most convenient place for me to access the list from my laptop and my phone).
  • The TBR list has a few different categories that are useful for helping me choose what to read next. More on this below.
  • At the beginning of the year, I consult last year’s TBR list and move any books I didn’t get to, but still really want to read over to the following year’s list. I don’t take this part lightly. In 2019, I moved over less than 10 books from my 2018 TBR list.
  • Since I started doing this, I’ve found that some books I removed from my TBR list have come back around to me. And, that’s the sign of a book that’s worth making time for…when it comes back around to you.

How I Organize My TBR List

Here’s how I organize my TBR list. This format won’t work for everyone (i.e. it probably won’t work for you if you’re not a blogger yourself), but it works for me. And, some variation can work for most people.

By Publication Date 

I divide this portion of the list by month. I keep track of when books are coming out, who recommended them to me, and if I have them in ARC form. Here’s an example…

February

  • Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken – 2/5 pub date (Tyler Goodson loved, Southern Living Best New Books Winter 2019, Liberty on ATB, Bustle 2019 Fiction, EW Anticipated) – ARC/DNF
  • American Pop by Snowden Wright – 2/5 pub date (Southern Living Best New Books Winter 2019) – Coke family novel – ARC/DONE
  • The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer – 2/5 pub date (Georgia Hunter on my podcast, EW Anticipated, Novel Visits, Amazon Best Books of Feb) – ARC/DONE

This works for me because I generally read by publication date for the blog. But, you could organize this section in whatever way supports how you like to read…seasonally, by mood, by genre, etc!

Nonfiction November / Audiobooks

Anytime I hear about a nonfiction book I’m interested in, I add it to this section of my TBR list. My audiobook listening is 100% nonfiction, so I fit a lot of nonfiction in there. I also save some nonfiction to read in hard copy form during Nonfiction November (details here).

So, when I’m looking for an audiobook, this is the only part of my TBR I need to consult, which narrows the choices to a manageable number. Same for Nonfiction November!

Possible Summer Books 

Every May, I put out my annual Summer Reading Guide, so I’m always on the lookout for books that would be a good fit for it.

Anytime I hear about a book I think could be a good fit for summer that isn’t already on my radar (i.e. it isn’t in my “By Publication Date” section), I add it to this list.

Backlist

As you probably know, I read far more new releases than backlist books, but I keep saying I want to read more backlist.

I do focus on backlist reading every December when I’m no longer reading new releases and this is the portion of my list I consult during that time.

Right now, Tell the Wolves I’m Home (recommended by Ashley Spivey when she came on my podcast) and The Age of Miracles (since I loved Karen Thompson Walker’s new book, The Dreamers) top this list.

“Must Try Before the End of the Year” List

This section is my personal favorite! It’s where I put books that I missed when they came out, but I’m hearing so many raves about that I definitely want to at least try before the end of the year.

This is the part of the list I turn to around mid/late November when I’ve stopped reading new releases and ARCs. I also put a lot of books from this list on hold at the library and work them in throughout the year as the holds come in.

How do you organize your TBR list? Would you ever consider starting a new one every year?

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An Anonymous Girl by Sarah Pekkanen and Greer Hendricks: Spoiler Discussion

January 17, 2019 Discussions 18

This post is full of spoilers, so STOP READING AFTER THE FIRST SECTION if you don’t want to know the ending (or other details).

An Anonymous GirlFiction – Thriller
Released January 8, 2019
384 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (St. Martin’s Press)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Y’all know I have an incredibly finicky relationship with psychological thrillers. But, I think I’m starting to figure out one element that can make me like them: having part of the story told from the perspective of a psychologist or psychiatrist. I like to dig into people’s minds and have always had a weird fascination with the brains of serial killers. So, psychological thrillers that are heavier on the psychological and lighter on the thriller tend to work for me. An Anonymous Girl fits this bill.

It’s less reliant on action and outlandish plot twists…the suspenseful question is not what will happen, but who you can trust. The beginning of the story sucked me in in a creepy, unsettling way. There was a “WTF is going on” vibe (What exactly is this study about? What does Dr. Shields want with Jess?) and Dr. Shields, the psychiatrist in this story, gives off a Herman Koch vibe (especially like Dear Mr. M and Summer House with Swimming Pool). This book is a giant mindf*ck!

STOP HERE IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW SPOILERS!

Who’s the puppeteer in this drama?

I went back and forth constantly on this question. Obviously, Dr. Shields is set up in the beginning to be the character you should definitely not trust.

But, as the story progressed, there were moments I thought Thomas was behind it all. Why was he hiding his affair with April…to the point of inventing a fake affair with Lauren from the boutique? The moment when he revealed he’d purposely texted Dr. Shields to make her think he was having an affair made me think he was controlling far more than I’d thought…that he knew how in love Dr. Shields was with him and used that to get her to take certain actions.

Then, at the very end, I thought maybe Jess was pulling a lot more strings than I’d thought (more on that below when I talk about the ending).

With whom did your sympathies lie throughout the story?

My sympathies shifted between characters throughout the story. In the beginning, my sympathies were with Jess. She was a hard-working girl trying to make it in the big city while carrying around this huge burden from childhood (that she’d locked Becky in her parents’ bedroom the day she fell out of the window) and also trying to help her family out financially. But then, the way she treated Noah irritated me. She wasn’t as pure good as I’d thought.

I was never super sympathetic towards Thomas until the very end. He seemed to be manipulative and arrogant. But, he did go out on a limb to help Jess get out from under Dr. Shields’ thumb. And, he lied to protect Jess from Dr. Shields by telling her that he and Jess never slept together. In the end, I feel like he was just a guy caught up in this crazy web that he couldn’t get out of and was trying to mitigate the damage. I more felt sorry for him than anything else.

By the very end of the story, my sympathy for Dr. Shields actually grew. I’d always thought she was a cold, calculating sociopath…but, the situation was more complicated than that. Yes, she was calculating. But, she was driven by her love for Thomas, which sociopaths aren’t capable of. And in the end, she was willing to sacrifice herself for him. I think she was just an unhinged woman who became incredibly dangerous because she knew how to read and manipulate people through her profession. If she hadn’t been a trained psychiatrist (and so good at it), she’d probably just be a run-of-the-mill woman driven crazy by a man.

And, coming back around to Jess…she seemed much colder and more calculating at the end of the story (see below for more).

Did you ever think Jess was starting to lose her mind and inventing things that didn’t really happen?

Around the 42% mark, I suspected Jess was starting to lose touch with reality. I wondered if she was overly paranoid and was imagining everything that happened in her life was orchestrated by Dr. Shields.

While a lot was (chicken soup on the doorstep?!), I do think Jess was becoming somewhat paranoid. But, I kind of can’t blame her.

How did you interpret the ending?

The end of the Epilogue totally threw me for a loop. Jess blackmails Thomas for money…granted it’s to help her family and Jess was put through the wringer by Dr. Shields. Dr. Shields got Jess fired, ruined a promising relationship, and did promise to help Jess’s father financially. But, the whole encounter left me cold.

And how about these last lines after Jessica confronts Thomas with her blackmail proposal?

Perhaps you are confident in your decision. Or maybe an insistent question will haunt you: Was it all worth it, Jessica?

Is this implying that Jessica orchestrated this entire thing start to finish and actually used Dr. Shields and Thomas? That was my first thought, but it seems highly unlikely given how the story unfolded. She got into Dr. Shields’ study by accident, but is there a possibility Jess somehow found out about the study and arranged to do the make-up of one of the participants? I feel like there’s no way that could’ve happened. Too many pieces wouldn’t make sense if that was the case.

So, what does that last line mean? Did Jess just start orchestrating at a certain point in the story (when she realized she could get something out of it for herself and her family)? Or, did she really just think she deserved what Dr. Shields had promised her family and that she’d suffered so much that she deserved to be compensated? I’m guessing it’s probably the middle choice.

But, is there something I’m missing? What else could that last line mean? Tell me your thoughts in the comments!

Let’s discuss! What did you think of An Anonymous Girl? And, how did you interpret the last line of the Epilogue?

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Why I Stopped Liking Historical Fiction…and 6 Types of UNCONVENTIONAL Historical Fiction I DO Like

September 20, 2018 Discussions 19

Unconventional Historical Fiction

 

I used to LOVE historical fiction. In fact, just a few years ago, it was one of my favorite genres. But, things have changed over the past couple years. For the past three years, historical fiction as a percentage of my overall reading has decreased every single year (2015: 12%, 2016: 10%, 2017: 5%). And, so far this year, I’ve read only 4 historical fiction novels. I think I’ve gotten bored with historical fiction…and started to view the genre as perfect for my mother’s generation, but not edgy enough for me.

But, it’s not all bad news. I have really loved a few historical fiction novels lately…and they were all atypical of the genre. I’ve figured out that I can enjoy historical fiction these days as long as it’s unconventional historical fiction.

What does unconventional historical fiction mean for me? I’m going to try to unpack that here.

Explore Modern/Still Relevant Themes

Though these books are set in the past, the themes they explore are still top of mind and being discussed today. The examples of this type of historical fiction that I’ve loved explore women’s roles and identities, racism, and sexuality.

Successful Examples: 

Feature Strong Female Characters

I could also call this my badass lady category! And, these ladies’ courage and accomplishments are all the more astounding given they occurred during a time when women weren’t necessarily encouraged to attempt feats of greatness.

Successful Examples: 

Set During A Specific Event I’m Interested In

There are certain events I’m kind of a sucker for. The JFK assassination is one…especially if it involves conspiracy theories. Various disasters are another.

Successful Examples: 

Contain Simmering Tension

You can feel the tension, but it’s a quiet, simmering tension. You know something bad is going to happen, you’re just not sure what it will be or how it will go down.

Successful Examples: 

Based on Real People

There’s something about fiction being based on real people that makes it all the more compelling. While reading these types of books, I’m questioning what details are real every single second. And, I always look forward to the “Afterward” where the author generally outlines what’s true and where he/she took liberties for the sake of the story.

Successful Examples:

Have a Soap Opera Quality

Pure, unadulterated juiciness. 

Successful Examples:

How do you feel about historical fiction? What types of historical fiction work for you? Which types don’t?

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How to Inspire New Readers

August 9, 2018 Discussions 9

How to Inspire New Readers

 

When I first met my now sister-in-law, her reading life consisted of magazines and design books. Looking back on it, she said reading just wasn’t part of her routine and she didn’t feel like adding one more thing to her day. When I went to visit her last weekend, her nightstand was absolutely jammed with books! So, the question is…

How did she get from magazines to a nightstand stuffed with books?

Turns out it was a beach vacation. Magazines weren’t holding her interest during those long hours basking in the sun and, for convenience’s sake, she picked up a book her husband had read, Monkey Business by John Rolfe and Peter Troob. I’ve also read this one because MY husband had read it (and he probably passed it along to his brother, thus making it’s way to my sister-in-law). It’s a memoir by two ex-investment bankers exposing the ridiculousness that goes on at investment banks.

 

And, where could she possibly turn from the riveting world of investment banking?! The Crazy Rich Asians series, of course! Her favorite was China Rich Girlfriend…not so much the third installment (Rich People Problems). And, then she was hooked on books!

The Top 3 Books of Her New Reading Venture (So Far)

Tell Me Lies by Carola Lovering (June 12, 2018)
A novel about a toxic love affair told from both parties’ perspectives. I’ve seen this one around, but didn’t know much about it and now I kind of want to read it! It’s my sister-in-law’s #1 book of her reading journey so far!

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler (May 24, 2016)
This debut novel set in a New York City restaurant also features a toxic relationship…and some exquisite food writing. I loved it too and it was one of my favorites of 2016! Here’s my review.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin (January 26, 2016)
This fictional novel about Truman Capote and his group of socialite friends (the “swans”) is the epitome of “wealthy people behaving badly,” so I’m not surprised my sister-in-law loved it (see her reading taste below). And, I did too! It was another one of my favorites of 2016 (my review)!

What She’s Learned About Her Reading Taste

  • She loves the “rich people behaving badly” genre. Is that actually a genre?! Sure, it is!
  • She’s started venturing into darker fiction (i.e. Sweetbitter) and is enjoying those so far. Y’all know I’ve got more dark and messed up novels up my sleeve for her!

Where Is She Now?

She calls reading “addictive.” She keeps a book with her at all times (and hardcovers are her format of choice). She reads all over the place…in car pool line, in doctor’s offices, and she’s texted me from her garage where she’s reading in her car until she has to relieve her babysitter (Amen!). She now officially considers herself a reader…and has the nightstand to prove it!

How To Inspire New Readers

  • Start easy. Dear God, do not give a new reader a slow book that takes work to get through! Start with something that’s easy to get engrossed in.
  • Stay in the new reader’s wheelhouse for a bit…until she can figure out what characteristics of her preferred genres especially appeal to her. Then, you can start to apply those characteristics to other genres.
  • Encourage the new reader to make reading a part of her regular routine. Find a regular time in the day or week that reading can easily fit into. For me, that’s before bed, while waiting in any sort of line, at the pool, and a little most afternoons.

And, my sister-in-law adds…

  • Do your research before you decide on a book…increasing the likelihood you’ll enjoy the book!
  • Don’t feel obligated to finish every book you start. As John Irving says, “Grown-Ups shouldn’t finish books they’re not enjoying.” And, y’all know I whole-heartedly support the DNF!

How do you inspire new readers? Or, are you one yourself?

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Letting Go of Feeling Guilty for Not Reading Classics

June 7, 2018 Discussions 27

Not Reading Classics

 

A couple months ago, GQ Magazine posted an article titled 21 Books You Don’t Have to Read…and many of them are classics. As I non-English major in college, I’ve read an embarrassingly small number of the “classics.” I read some of them in high school, but honestly, The Catcher in the Rye, To Kill A Mockingbird, and The Great Gatsby are the only ones I remember. Wait, I think I read Kate Chopin’s The Awakening and The Sun Also Rises too, but I couldn’t tell you a thing about them.

This is kind of embarrassing since people assume, because I’m a book blogger and avid reader, that I am (or should be) well versed in the classics. I’m absolutely not. I haven’t read Jane Austen (which kills my mother), Tolstoy, or Flannery O’Connor. And, I hadn’t read Margaret Atwood until a couple years ago. I’m still trying to make time to read something of hers other than The Handmaid’s Tale (my review).

We were assigned a huge term paper (the kind that involved tons of research and took most of the year to write) our junior year in high school and most of my classmates took this opportunity to delve deep into one of the classics. What did I do? I delved deep into true crime. I wrote my paper on Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. It was an odd choice and I’m sure my teacher toyed with not letting me do it. But, I don’t regret it for a second. I still love true crime to this day and have a continued fascination with Truman Capote.

Every year, I say I’ll make time for a classic or two. But, it never happens and I feel bad about it and I’m not sure why. I’m not in school anymore. I don’t HAVE to read these classics. I’m pretty sure people aren’t going to think I’m stupid because I haven’t read them…and, if they do, I don’t want to be friends with those intellectual snobs anyway! But, I still feel guilty.

So, thank you to GQ Magazine for releasing me from this guilt!

Some Classics GQ Says You Don’t Have to Read

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
I can do without masculine bluster…

Hemingway’s novels—with their masculine bluster and clipped sentences—sometimes feel almost parodic to me.

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
I mean, I thought Circe was “written in an impenetrable style”…so, I’m sure this one isn’t for me.

[…] written in an impenetrable style that combines Faulkner and the King James Bible, Blood Meridian is a big, forbidding book that earns the reader bragging rights but provides scant pleasure.

John Adams by David McCullough
Dry and boring do not work for me right now…I don’t care if I’m supposed to be learning something along the way.

[…] his books are written with great care and impressive attention to detail. They also happen to be the driest, boringest tomes you’ll ever sludge through.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
A missing story is a no-go…especially with fantasy.

It never seemed to me that Tolkien cared about his story as much as he cared about rendering, in minute detail, the world he built.

A Few Classics I DO Still Want to Read

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
In my first Readers Recommend post, one of my blog readers said it’s one of the few classics that will make you laugh out loud. Plus, it helps that I don’t remember this one being on a single school reading list when I was in school.

Persuasion by Jane Austen
Because a number of people have said this is their favorite Austen novel.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Because my mother keeps telling me I must…and I love the first line.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
I’ve heard it’s dark and the closest a classic will get to “thriller.”

Tell me, how do y’all feel about the classics? Do you feel guilty not having read some of the big ones? Or, am I the only one who hasn’t read them all?

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Why I Generally Don’t Like Thrillers…and 6 Types of Thrillers That DO Work For Me

May 8, 2018 Discussions 25

Why I Don't Like Thrillers

 

Y’all have heard me complain about my prickly relationship with thrillers for years now. And, based on all that complaining, you’d think I’d just avoid the genre entirely. But, I don’t. Because, when I do find a thriller that works for me, it’s one of my favorite reading experiences! And, then I keep trying and failing to replicate that experience.

Ever since Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train were such mega-hits, publishers have been churning out psychological thrillers at a feverish pace, chasing that lightening in a bottle success. My personal opinion is that this has put a ton of mediocre to terrible thrillers out there. There are the ones that rely on some outlandish gimmick to surprise the reader, the ones that are completely predictable, and ones that involve the supernatural or paranormal…all of which drive me crazy.

So, I’ve been trying to choose my thrillers wisely and really consider what makes a thriller work for me. From what I can tell, I prefer thrillers…

With A Surprising, Yet Not Outlandish Ending or Twist

This is the #1 thing a thriller must have for it to work for me. After I finish, I want to be able to look back on the story and say, “I did not see that ending/twist coming, but it totally makes sense in hindsight.” And, it’s unfortunately really hard to ride that perfect line between surprise and inevitability.

Successful Examples: Emma in the Night (my review), The Wife (the Alafair Burke version), Gone Girl

That Delve Deep Into a Topic

Certain thrillers are defined by a topic they delve deep into and I like how the topics differentiate these thrillers from everything else out there…and help you learn something in the process.

Successful Examples: Emma in the Night – narcissism (my review), The Guest Room – sex trafficking (my review), The Sleepwalker – parasomnia (my review), You Will Know Me – elite women’s gymnastics (my review)

That Feel Like or Are Something Else

Some books are technically considered another genre entirely, but read like a page turner. Again, this helps these thrillers stand out from the very crowded pack.

Successful Examples: Dark Matter – Sci-Fi (my review), Bull Mountain – Grit Lit (my review)

With a Bit of Romance

Normally, I can’t stand cheesy romance in my fiction. But, the romance I find in thrillers is usually of the darker, more twisted (rather than cheesy) variety…and I can totally handle that.

Successful Examples: Quicksand (my review), The Roanoke Girls (my review), Dead Letters (my review)

That are International

I’ve had good luck over the past few years with translated thrillers. Most were run-away bestsellers in their home countries and then made their way to the U.S. market. There’s something about an international thriller (European in these cases) that has a completely different feel than U.S. thrillers. There’s more subtle emotional tension rather than a reliance on suspense driven by action.

Successful Examples: Based on a True Story (spoiler discussion), Fear (my review), After the Crash (my review)

That Feel Literary

I’m not sure how to define this except to say that I know it when I see it. Often, thrillers rely on plot-based action, but I love it when a thriller also has strong character development and great writing. 

Successful Examples: Since We Fell (my review), Social Creature

How do you feel about thrillers? Are you a fan or not? What types of thrillers work for you and what thriller elements bother you?

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When Questionable Editorial Decisions Torpedo Books

September 21, 2017 Discussions 18

Have you ever read a book and come upon a particular part that made you wonder, to borrow from Alyssa Mastromonaco’s memoir title, “who thought that was a good idea?!” 

Especially frustrating is that I absolutely adored specific parts of these books, meaning questionable editorial choices tarnished what would otherwise have been winners for me.

I realize things like this are strictly a matter of taste. Something that makes my head explode might totally delight another reader. But, why pull a stunt when you’ve already got something great? And, that’s what happened with the three books I’m going to talk about today.

Sourdough

Sourdough by Robin SloanSourdough is a quirky book melding the technology and food (baking, to be exact) worlds. I was immediately interested in the story and Lois, the main character. She receives a sourdough “starter” as a gift and dives headfirst into the art of bread baking as an escape from her soul-crushing computer coding job.

Sloan had me feeling actual emotions towards the starter itself…almost as if it was a human character. I was rooting for it like it was a sports team and I was thrilled about this! 

BUT…literally a few pages later, he made the starter sing. I first thought this was an exaggerated way to describe a realistic sucking or bubbling sound a starter could make. But, then he started comparing it to actual music. And, had it make faces. And, pit it against another starter as if it were an American Gladiator competition. Wha?! Too much. Who thought this was a good idea?

*For me, the starter’s over-the-top antics didn’t fully torpedo this book. I still enjoyed it and would recommend it to others, I just could have done without the eye roll-inducing moments.

The Resurrection of Joan Ashby

Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise WolasI loved the first half or so of this story about a woman whose life dream was to be a writer. At a young age, she decided she would forego marriage and children to focus on her goal. Yet, she got married and had children anyway. It’s a beautifully written, introspective story about Joan’s inner struggle between her very real love for her family, her continued desire to achieve literary success, and her resentment of the choices she’s been forced to make. 

BUT…this book is 544 pages. That’s long for an introspective story. And, at least 100 and probably more (I didn’t actually count, but this is my estimated guess) of those pages are excerpts from Joan the character’s writing. I admit that I generally hate what I’ll call “stories within stories.” They pull me out of the central storyline and kill a book’s momentum for me.

This case felt particularly egregious because of the sheer quantity, the overall length of the book, and Joan’s writing’s lack of relevance in helping the reader gain more insight into her life. Who thought this was a good idea?!

*For a more comprehensive review, Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books captured my thoughts on The Resurrection of Joan Ashby perfectly.

The Twelve Mile Straight

Twelve Mile Straight by Eleanor HendersonAfter reading the first chapter of this doorstop of a historical fiction novel, I thought I was going to love it. It had a great first line, was hard-hitting, and hooked me immediately. 

But, the story just went on and on and on. I felt like I was reading this book for weeks (it was actually 10 days). Henderson told the extended backstories of seemingly almost every character in the book, which could have been cut back. I just wanted the story to be tighter, because it certainly had good bones (to use a real estate term).

And, by the time I got to the end, I didn’t care about the answers to most of the major questions…I just wanted to be done. Who thought this was a good idea?

*To be fair, I didn’t have much time to read during the first half of The Twelve-Mile Straight and I wonder if I would’ve felt differently had I been able to invest more time and mental energy to it up front.

Young Jane Young

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle ZevinI’ve already reviewed Young Jane Young here, but it’s a perfect example of today’s topic, so I’m going to talk about it again. I loved the first half of this one and particularly the focus on the reverberating impact of a public cheating scandal on the female cheatee…and how different it is from the impact on the male cheater. 

BUT…part of the second half was written as a Choose Your Own Adventure story. Not only that, it was a FAKE Choose Your Own Adventure story! Choices were indicated at certain points in the story, but there was never an alternate path to actually go down. This whole thing felt like a kids’ comic book to me and didn’t fit at all with the style or tone of the first half of the book. Who thought this was a good idea?!

Has a book ever left you wondering “who thought this was a good idea?” Tell me about your experience!

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Was 2017 the Summer of Overhyped Books?

September 19, 2017 Discussions 22

Was 2017 Summer of Overhyped Books

 

I don’t think I’ve ever had a bigger season of reading disappointment than this past summer. And, I’ve been hearing similar things from other book bloggers and on reading-related podcasts.

 

Many of the books that didn’t work for me this summer had been hyped up by publishers and the book media…making the crash hurt that much worse. At the end of every year, I write a post called 5 Books That Deserved the Hype…and 5 That Didn’t. Y’all, 5 books isn’t enough to account for all the overhyped books this summer, much less an entire year! Let’s review the offenders…

Books Blurbed by Beloved Authors

I’m a sucker for books blurbed by authors I love. But, I also fall into the trap of thinking that means the blurbed book will be similar to said beloved author’s books. While this does occasionally pan out for me, it generally didn’t during the 2017 summer of overhyped books. I quickly DNF’d both of these examples…
 
Examples:

Hyped, But Disappointing Debuts

I’ve historically had good luck with debuts. But, this summer brought us a crop that were hyped by publishers as well as traditional book media (and some podcasters), but that I don’t think have connected on a large scale with regular readers (i.e. people not enmeshed in the book world)…and, they didn’t connect with me.

Examples:

Book of the Month Club Selections

I have to preface this by saying that I have read countless Book of the Month Club selections that I’ve adored and I anxiously await the announcement of their picks every month. But, I’ve read a couple of Book of the Month Club stinkers this summer. Let me repeat again…this is an anomaly overall!

 

Examples:
  • The Windfall by Diksha Basu (July selection). I know some people that liked this one, but I wasn’t one of them and I’ve heard of a number of others who thought it was completely inane.
  • Final Girls by Riley Sager (July selection). Also, Stephen King called it the “first great thriller of 2017.” This book is not universally disliked by any means, but I thought the ending completely jumped the shark. And after publication, there was the minor scandal surrounding Riley Sager being a male using a pen name that many assumed referred to a female author.

Here’s what I’d like to know about the traditional media’s new release preview lists: how are they put together?

Has someone at the publication actually vetted the books that are included on the list? Do the journalists compiling these lists do their own research to determine which books they’re actually interested in? OR, do the journalists merely talk to people in the book industry, who tell them which books to include?

 

It’s kind of like including the methodology in a summary of survey results or findings of a study. This information really impacts the way the results are interpreted! And, it would certainly help me determine which new release lists to pay the most attention to.

 

I do have to commend Publisher’s Weekly for linking to its reviews of all the books on its Fall Preview list, meaning someone at Publisher’s Weekly has actually vetted these books. The Millions occasionally links to an internal review and publicizes the name of the staffer that recommended each book included in its Great 2017 Book Preview. But, Buzzfeed, Elle Magazine, and Bookish need to get a little more transparent.

 

If any of you know insider details about how the traditional media’s new release preview lists are put together, I’d love to hear them in the comments!

 

As for me, I obviously personally research every book I include in my “Most Anticipated Books of X Season” posts and indicate specifically when I’ve already read a book I included. That being said, I know from my own experience that it’s hard to pick winners in advance. I haven’t always been successful (I average about 50% or so per season). I’d like to get more successful and will be even more explicit about how I’ve compiled my list after the summer of overhyped books.

 

How do you feel about the books of Summer 2017? How do you feel about hyped books in general? And, how do you feel about hyped new release lists?

 

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How to Keep Reading When Life Gets Crazy

June 15, 2017 Discussions 26

How to Keep Reading When Life Gets Crazy


Life can get totally crazy sometimes…especially every May/June for parents of school age children (if you want more details, read this). All those permission forms to fill out, special events to attend at school, theme days to remember, and changes in schedule. It all makes my head spin.

Something like reading can be one of the first things to fall by the wayside during all the chaos. It’s a hobby for most people. It’s expendable.

I don’t know about you, but reading has a calming influence on me. So, it’s during these chaotic times that reading becomes even more of a sanity essential. Taking a few minutes here and there to squeeze in some reading does wonders for my patience, parenting, and ability to let things go.

So, how to keep reading when life gets crazy? Let’s get to it…

Carry A Book Everywhere

Ladies, I know you carry those gigantic purses all over the place! There is room in there for a book, e-reader, or tablet.

And, if you’re in the 1% of women that don’t go the gigantic purse route, I’m sure you keep your phone on you most of the time…keep an e-book on it! Which will enable you to…

Take Advantage of Small Snippets of Time

I think some people feel like they need large blocks of quiet time to do any reading. If I thought that way, I would literally never read. I’d love to have a couple quiet hours to really dig into a book, but that doesn’t really fit into my life right now. And, I bet the same goes for many of you.

But, a couple 5 or 10 minute increments can add up to an hour before you know it…

Here some places where you can squeeze in an extra bit of reading:

  • When you wake up before your alarm
  • During or after your workout (bet you’ll hold those stretches longer if you’re reading!)
  • When you arrive somewhere a few minutes early (i.e. picking up your children from school, meeting friends for dinner, etc)
  • During your commute…if you ride a bus or train.
  • During your lunch hour at work
  • While waiting in any line or waiting room
  • During your children’s after-school activities (i.e. soccer practice, swimming lessons…just look up when it’s your child’s turn!)
  • Before bed (I can’t fall asleep without reading)

Embrace Audiobooks

This one was admittedly tough for me, but when I finally figured it out I was able to add 1-2 books to my monthly reading! If you can find your audiobook niche (mine is lighter nonfiction), it will make mundane tasks a lot more enjoyable.

Tasks that can be improved with audiobooks:

  • Driving
  • Household chores (cleaning, laundry, organizing, yard work, paying bills, etc)
  • Grocery shopping…and putting away said groceries
  • Getting dressed in the morning / undressed at night
  • Cooking
  • Exercising (if that’s your jam…audiobooks tend not to work for me while exercising)
  • While doing mundane tasks at work that don’t require lots of concentration

Choose Some Things NOT to Do

This section is inspired by the eye-opening book The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck by Sarah Knight (whose subtitle is “How to Stop Spending Time You Don’t Have with People You Don’t Like Doing Things You Don’t Want to Do”), which teaches you how to de-clutter your life (rather than your house, a la Marie Kondo) and Episode 79 of the Sorta Awesome podcast, entitled The Awesome Freedom of the Don’t Do List.

We can’t do everything in life…or at least can’t do it all well. Especially over the last few years, it’s become clear that I have to choose a couple meaningful things to focus on doing well…and get comfortable with saying no to lots of stuff that doesn’t fall those buckets.

Things I don’t do:

  • Attend many weeknight activities…like Book Club (I know, this makes no sense!), wine nights, etc. I will occasionally grab dinner with a few close friends, but it’s literally like once a month.
  • Join volunteer organizing committees at my children’s schools. I’ve found that being on an organizing committee or in charge of really anything ends up taking far more time than you thought you’d committed to. Instead, I choose to contribute by being a pair of hands (chaperoning soccer, working a booth at Carnival, etc) and by providing items for various events (i.e. bottled water for Reading Celebration, etc).
  • Worry about keeping my house perfectly neat all the time.
  • Put on make-up or do my hair during the week (I literally don’t even blow-dry my hair unless I’m going out to dinner on a weekend).
  • Run a lot of errands. I try to do everything I can online so I don’t waste time running around town.
  • Shop. I genuinely don’t like shopping, so that makes it pretty easy not to waste time doing it.

Where can you squeeze some extra reading into your day?

And, what can you add to your DON’T do list so you can spend more time doing the things you love?

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