Category: Top Ten Tuesday

10 Hyped Books I Wish I Hadn’t Finished (i.e. DNF’d)

September 5, 2017 Top Ten Tuesday 37

Top 10 Hyped Books I Wish I Hadn't Finished


Talking about the books you didn’t like is somewhat of a controversial topic among book bloggers. You’ll never hear a peep about the books some bloggers didn’t like and other bloggers tell you all about the books that didn’t connect. 

I’ve always chosen to talk openly about the books that didn’t click with me because my goal to is to make this blog as useful for readers as possible. Knowing which books (especially hyped ones) may not be the right choices for them is valuable information for readers. So, here are 10 Hyped Books I Wish I Hadn’t Finished…and I’m getting a little snarky.

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10 Hyped Books I Wish I Hadn’t Finished

Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams (my review)
 the cheesiness of the romance

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (my review)
Why: the crushing quantity of grating mommy drama (but, interestingly, I loved the HBO series!)

City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg (my review)
the long, drawn out (to the tune of 300 pages) non-ending

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
 I lost all interest after the Italian food porn of the “Eat” section

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson (my review)
Why: the anxiety I was getting just reading the scattered story-telling style of her adult life (though her childhood stories contained some gems!)

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt (my review)
 because she never really delved deep into the part that truly interested me (Lizzie Borden’s arrest and trial) 

The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling (my review)
because I never really got the point of it all

The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas
because the second half was predominantly “stories within stories,” which drive me crazy

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti (my review)
because the violence all ran together and I skimmed a lot towards the end

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin (my review)
because Choose Your Own Adventure…and an overall gimmicky second half

What hyped books do you wish you’d DNF’d?

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Eight Campus Novels That Will Make You Want to Go Back to School…or Not!

August 22, 2017 Top Ten Tuesday 40

Eight Campus Novels That Will Make You Want to Go Back to School
Regular readers know how big a sucker I am for campus novels, so I was so surprised when I realized I’d never done a round-up of my favorites! And, when I say campus, I mean college, boarding school, or elite private high school. For some reason the “campus” feels more “campus-y” and the potential for drama much greater with these types of schools.

You’ll notice that many of these books fall into the dark and twisty category…which will probably make some of you glad you’re watching all the drama from the sidelines instead of living it!

Eight Campus Novels That Will Make You Want to Go Back to School…or Not!

Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates (my review)
I feel like I talk about this book all the time…but, with good reason! A secret society, friends backstabbing friends, dares gone way too far…at Oxford University. Bonus: Yates’s sophomore novel, Grist Mill Road, is coming out on January 8 and I couldn’t be more excited! 

If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio (my review)
Seven Shakespeare students who are best friends, life imitating art, a tragedy…at the fictional Dellecher Classical Conservatory (a small, uber-intense performing arts college in the Midwest).

Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito (my review)
Rich and neglected high schoolers that love to party, a school shooting, an obsessive love story, an abusive father…at a fictional, elite Swedish prep school.

Shadow of the Lions by Christopher Swann (my review)
A boy who disappeared years ago, his best friend who returns to find out what happened…at Blackbourne, a fictional, all boys boarding school in Virginia (but, it’s based on the very real Woodberry Forest School in Orange, VA, also the author’s alma mater).

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (my review)
Coming of age story, lovable characters, baseball, sports psychology (but, don’t worry, this book is not really about baseball)…at Westish College (a small, fictional college on the shores of Lake Michigan). 

The Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy (my review)
Possibly my very favorite campus novel and the grandaddy of them all! A gorgeous and sinister Charleston setting, abuse and hazing, friendship…at the very real Citadel (The Military College of South Carolina). 

The Secret History by Donna Tartt (my review)
Best friends, a murder, betrayal…at the fictional Hampden College (a small, elite Vermont college closely resembling Tartt’s alma mater, Bennington College). 

The Takedown by Corrie Wang (my review)
High school girl drama, technology and social media on steroids, public shaming…at a fictional, elite Brooklyn high school.

Are you a fellow sucker for campus novels? What are some of your favorites?

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I’m A Sucker: Ten Things That Will Instantly Make Me Want to Read A Book

April 18, 2017 Top Ten Tuesday 36

Ten Things That Will Instantly Make Me Want to Read a Book
Today’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by the Broke and the Bookish) topic is Ten Things That Will Instantly Make Me Want to Read A Book.

There are definitely certain book characteristics that I’m a total sucker for. Sometimes with glorious results and sometimes not so much. Regardless of the results, when it comes to these ten things, I’m that girl that continues “doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.” (Albert Einstein)

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Ten Things That Will Instantly Make Me Want to Read A Book

It’s a campus novel…
Years ago, I had great success with these (The Secret HistoryBlack Chalk)…then I went through a major dry spell (The Half Brother). Thankfully, my latest attempt was a winner (If We Were Villains).

It’s described as “irreverent”…
I love me some snarky, irreverent humor (in real life and in my reading). ReunionDead Letters, and Home Is Burning are somewhat recent winners in this category!

It’s a novel involving sports…
I love reading underdog sports stories and athlete’s memoirs, but the holy grail is a substantial novel that seamlessly includes sports in its plot (think The Unraveling of Mercy Louis, You Will Know Me, The Art of Fielding).

And one notch better, the main character is a badass female athlete…
Sadly, these novels are fewer and farther between than I’d like, but You Will Know Me, My Sunshine Away, and The Unraveling of Mercy Louis currently take the cake.

It involves a dysfunctional family…
I know you’re all shocked to find this one here! There are too many scandalous dysfunctional family novels to list here, but the last one I loved was Dead Letters.

It involves wealthy people behaving badly…
This category is hit and miss for me…and the key to hitting is having a character that’s somewhat outside the wealthy bubble that can provide biting social commentary on the antics of the wealthy (Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby, Truman Capote in The Swans of Fifth Avenue, and Mabel Dagmar in Bittersweet).

It features demented high school students…
Another hit (The Fever, You Will Know Me, Reconstructing Amelia) and miss (Girls on Fire) category that thankfully has hit more than missed this year with The Most Dangerous Place on Earth, The Takedown, and The Fall of Lisa Bellow). 

It’s compared to Pat Conroy…
This is pretty rare, but if I saw one I’d grab it immediately!

It’s described as having great writing and being a page turner…
Another rare find. But, Shelter hit the spot for me on this front last year.

It explores the themes of marriage and/or motherhood…
These are “stage of life” timely themes for me. 

What will sucker you into instantly wanting to read a particular book?

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Eight of the Most Underrated Gems of 2016

January 17, 2017 Top Ten Tuesday 26

Eight of the most underrated gems of 2016

I’m linking up at with the lovely ladies at The Broke and The Bookish for Top Ten Tuesday! 

Yep, I’m throwing in one last 2016 round-up list. This might be one of my favorites because I think all these books deserve a ton of love and attention! And, it enables me to give some love to books that just missed making my Best Books of 2016 list.

Eight of the Most Underrated Gems of 2016

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
I think I understand why this book hasn’t taken off with the broad reading public…it’s supremely uncomfortable and icky at times, but turns into something sweet and beautiful by the end.

Before the Wind by Jim Lynch
I’m still thanking my lucky stars that Catherine at Gilmore Guide recommended this local-to-her author and I’m hoping his dysfunctional sailing family novel gets the broad acclaim it deserves.

Siracusa by Delia Ephron
I was surprised this dark vacation page turner didn’t take off more this summer.

The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee
This novel got a fair amount of love from the book blogging world when it came out a year ago, but it came this close to making my Best Books of 2016 list…and I didn’t see it on a single other Best of the Year list.

The Mother by Yvvette Edwards
Not to be confused with The Mothers by Brit Bennett, this novel packs a serious punch despite its small package…it’s emotional, suspenseful, and makes important observations about life and crime in a tough neighborhood.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin
So many people loved this book as a light and fun read, but I think it was more than that. Benjamin captured Capote’s voice so perfectly I occasionally forgot I wasn’t actually reading him and she went deep beneath the surface to the darker side of his swans’ (particularly Babe Paley) glittering lifestyles.

The Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder
A Finalist for the 2016 National Book Award and long-listed for the 2017 Tournament of Books, this novel isn’t lacking in critical acclaim. But, I’d love to see some popular appeal follow!

Why They Run the Way They Do by Susan Perabo
Short stories are a tough sell…and it’s rare that a collection ends up getting a lot of attention outside of the book world. But, this collection is accessible and would appeal to readers who are skittish about the genre.

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Ten 2016 Books I Missed

January 10, 2017 Top Ten Tuesday 57

Top 10 2016 Books I Missed

I love putting together this post every year because it forces me to reexamine my TBR list. I decide whether I’m still interested in reading all the backlist books on my list and remove the ones I’m no longer interested in or can’t remember much about. These are some of the books that made the cut…

Ten 2016 Books I Missed

Adnan’s Story by Rabia Chaudry
I was fascinated by the Serial podcast and Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books raved about this follow-up book. I bought the audio during Audible’s holiday sale…I figured I might as well continue this story in audio form.

All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage
Susie at Novel Visits included this mystery on her Best Books of 2016 list and called it “a dark story about two families in a very small town,” which sounds right up my alley.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
This sci-fi novel is 100% out of my wheelhouse, but Carrie Lippert (a TV host and travel blogger, who is also a big reader with taste similar to mine) said it was a sci-fi novel that would appeal to people that aren’t normally fans of that genre.

Forty Autumns by Nina Willner
I’ve always been fascinated by life behind the Iron Curtain and Eva at Paperback Princess put this true story of a family separated by the Berlin Wall on my radar with her review during Nonfiction November.

Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett
Catherine at Gilmore Guide recommended this novel about the effects of depression on a family and then I saw it on numerous Best Books of 2016 lists.

Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift
Joann at Lakeside Musing has been raving about this slim novel for months now.

Private Citizens by Tony Tulathimutte
Monika at Lovely Bookshelf‘s review of this novel about college grads living in San Francisco put it on my radar and I’ve since seen it on multiple Best Books of 2016 lists.

Strangers in their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild
I’ve been hearing this nonfiction is a logical companion to Hillbilly Elegy, one of my favorite books of 2016.

The Pigeon Tunnel by John Le Carre
A memoir by someone who sounds like he could quite possibly be the most interesting man in the world.

The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner
This memoir of a girl who grew up in a polygamist cult has been on my TBR list for a year now.

What 2016 books did you miss?

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Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read in 2016

December 6, 2016 Top Ten Tuesday 24

New-To-Me Authors I read in 2016
Today, I’m linking up with Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) and A Month of Favorites (hosted by Traveling with T, Estella’s Revenge, and GirlXOXO). My list does NOT include debut authors… since I will honor them in an upcoming Best Debuts of 2016 list.

Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read in 2016

Ramona Ausubel (Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty)
Her commentary on the habits of the wealthy made this summer read shine.

Jennifer Close (The Hopefuls)
She won me over with her hilarious skewering of douche-y DC politicos.

Delia Ephron (Siracusa)
Though I’ve loved her movies, I had never read any of her books…until Siracusa became my favorite book of summer 2016.

Kent Haruf (Our Souls at Night)
I’m sad that the first book of his that I read was also his last (he’s since passed away), but thankful that he left behind a solid backlist.

Janice Y.K. Lee (The Expatriates)
Lee hit my hot button of running thin threads of darkness through an otherwise light story.

Jim Lynch (Before the Wind)
Lynch brilliantly plopped a classic dysfunctional family novel into the world of sailing…which provides endless fodder for social commentary. Thankfully, he’s got a backlist waiting for me!

Anthony Marra (The Tsar of Love and Techno)
Marra’s writing and delightfully subversive tone made this short story collection sing.

Susan Perabo (Why They Run the Way They Do)
This underrated gem of a short story collection has that whole “darkness simmering just beneath the surface of mundane life” thing going on. And, Perabo has a novel (The Fall of Lisa Bellow) coming out in March 2017!

Anna Quindlen (Miller’s Valley)
Why did I wait so long?! Catherine, thank you for pushing me! Ms. Quindlen, thank you for having such an extensive backlist waiting for me!

Rufi Thorpe (Dear Fang, With Love)
What an endearing heroine in Vera! And, I’ve got my eye on Thorpe’s previous novel, The Girls from Corona del Mar.

What new-to-you authors have you read this year?

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Ten SHORT Books That Will Spark Lively Book Club Discussion

November 1, 2016 Top Ten Tuesday 32

Top Ten Tuesday


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish that asks bloggers to create Top Ten lists on a variety of bookish topics. This week’s topic is Top Ten Books To Read If Your Book Club Likes _______________.

I tend to think all book club selections should be on the short side to accommodate a variety of reading schedules for book club members. But, the books on this list are especially short…around 300 pages or less. Yet, they’re incredibly meaty and will spark lively book club discussions despite their brevity.

Short Books that will spark lively book club discussion

Brain on Fire
 by Susannah Cahalan (290 pages)
This medical mystery memoir from the New York Post writer was the last book I chose for my former book club.

Did You Ever Have A Family by Bill Clegg (293 pages)
One of my favorite books of 2015, this book will get you talking about family (obviously), small-town life, prejudice, parent/child relationships, grief, heartache, and regret.

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (272 pages)
This memoir of growing up poor in Appalachia / social analysis is especially timely for this election season.

The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips (192 pages)
This entire book feels like a giant riddle and, even once the central questions have been answered, it will leave you thinking “what does it all MEAN?!”

The Dinner by Herman Koch (306 pages)
This is a love it or hate it type novel (always great for heating up the discussion!) which will also have you arguing over the many questionable decisions the main characters make.

The Mother by Yvvette Edwards (256 pages)
This novel centered around the trial of a sixteen year old boy’s murderer explores a mother’s grief, poverty, race, and the choices faced by people born into a rough life on the streets.

The Mothers by Brit Bennett (288 pages)
One of the hottest debuts of 2016, this novel is about many things (grief, recovering from trauma, teen pregnancy, race, and friendship) without being overwhelmingly about any one of them.

The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood (208 pages)
This award-winning Australian novel addressing the treatment of women is weird, has an ending that is entirely open to interpretation, and will likely generate strong opinions one way or another.

The Wife by Meg Wolitzer (211 pages)
This novel about a writer who puts her career aside to support her husband’s writing career and take care of her family…it explores the role of “the wife” in society and the expectations and pressures that many women face as they navigate harnessing their talents and/or devoting themselves to their families.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (208 pages)
Though this emotional gut-wrencher is technically a book about death, it’s more about humanity and how to live…this for you if you’re looking for an incredibly intense discussion.

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Ten Terrible Family Members of Fiction

October 4, 2016 Top Ten Tuesday 29

Top Ten Tuesday
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) topic is All About The Villains. As I was running through my list of notorious literary villains, I realized A) that it’s rare to find a book without a single villain and B) many of said villains were terrible to their own families. A few of my favorite villains also didn’t make it onto this list because casting them as villains would spoil the entire book.

Ten Terrible Family Members of Fiction

The Burroughs Family from Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich
Murderous, vengeful, law-breaking.

The Cousins’s from Commonwealth by Ann Patchett (Parents)
Philanderer, completely uninterested in their children.

The Grandmother from Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews
Starvation, whippings, hostage holding.

Pappy McAllen from Mudbound by Hillary Jordan (Father-in-Law)
Sexist, racist, unspeakably evil.

James Hillcoat from Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller (Father)
Absconds with his daughter to the wilderness, essentially holding her hostage.

The Lohman children from The Dinner by Herman Koch
Spoiled, entitled, heartless, self-absorbed.

Bull Meecham from The Great Santini by Pat Conroy (Father and Husband)
The first person I think of when I think of terrible literary fathers. Physically, mentally, and verbally abusive.

The men from The Shore by Sara Taylor (Fathers, Husbands)
Violent and abusive in every way.

Henry from The Truth And Other Lies by Sascha Arango (Husband)
A user of people.

Charlie McNeely from Where All Light Tends to Go by David Joy (Father)
Violent drug dealer who wants nothing better for his son.

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Ten Authors Who Should Host A Podcast

September 20, 2016 Top Ten Tuesday 17

Top Ten Tuesday
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish that asks bloggers to create Top Ten lists on a variety of bookish topics. This week’s topic is All About Audio Freebie. I snagged the Authors Who Should Host A Podcast spin on this topic from a Book Riot podcast (thank you!). When creating this list, I thought about authors who are interesting on Twitter and/or have a gift for spot-on social commentary. And, authors of nonfiction lend themselves quite well to the podcast format!

Two giants missing from this list are Cheryl Strayed (author of Tiny Beautiful Things and Wild) and Susan Cain (author of Quiet). In putting this list together, I discovered both of them already have their own podcasts! Strayed hosts Dear Sugar Radio with Steve Almond and Susan Cain hosts Quiet Podcast based on her bestselling book of the same name. 

authors who should host a podcast

Rick Bragg (My Southern Journey)
Podcast Topic:
hilarious and insightful commentary on Southern culture.

Roxanne Gay (Bad Feminist, An Untamed State)
Podcast Topic: 
Ranty commentary on pop culture, race, feminism, reading and writing, and the competitive Scrabble circuit.

Herman Koch (The Dinner, Dear Mr. M, etc)
Podcast Topic: 
Social commentary that gets to the “nasty little heart of things” (thanks to Catherine of Gilmore Guide to Books for that perfect summation).

Jon Krakauer (Missoula, Under the Banner of Heaven, etc)
Podcast Topic: 
Investigative pieces covering just about anything.

Michael Lewis (The Big Short, etc)
Podcast Topic: 
Ditto Krakauer…and commentary on finance that’s actually interesting.

Mary Roach (Stiff, Grunt, etc)
Podcast Topic: 
Her signature oddball take on weird science-y stuff.

David Sedaris (Me Talk Pretty One Day, etc)
Podcast Topic: 
A weekly recap of his daily life…told in his signature hilarious style.

Adelle Waldman (The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.)
Podcast Topic: 
Commentary on yuppie dating.

Jennifer Weiner (In Her Shoes, etc)
Podcast Topic: 
Bachelor franchise analysis.

Andy Weir (The Martian)
Podcast Topic: 
Scientific concepts for non-scientists.

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Ten Books From My Pre-Blogging TBR That I Still Haven’t Read

August 23, 2016 Top Ten Tuesday 32

Top Ten Tuesday
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish that asks bloggers to create Top Ten lists on a variety of bookish topics. This week’s topic is Ten Books That Have Been On Your Shelf (Or TBR) From Before You Started Blogging That You STILL Haven’t Read Yet.

It’s been three and a half years since I started Sarah’s Book Shelves…and many more years since I started tracking my reading and TBR list in a massive spreadsheet. For years, I never removed books from my TBR list until I’d read them, but that changed this year. A few months ago, I slashed tons of books from my TBR list that I was no longer interested in reading. So, the books that made today’s post deserve special attention for surviving the recent TBR slash!

Ten Books From My Pre-Blogging TBR That I Haven't Read Yet

Barbarians at the Gate
 by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar
I consider myself decently well-read in the business books category, but I still haven’t read what might be considered the granddaddy of them all about the takeover of RJR Nabisco.

Empire Falls by Richard Russo
I think I added this one to my TBR solely because it won the Pulitzer…without knowing anything else about it. I’ve since learned Russo specializes in stories about small-town, blue-collar people, which appeals to me. And, the recent publication of his latest novel (Everybody’s Fool) got me interested in reading its prequel, Nobody’s Fool.

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
I love fiction based on real people, so I was attracted to this “fictional” story of the real-life married Mamah Borthwick Cheney’s affair with architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who was hired to design Cheney and her husband’s home.

My Reading Life by Pat Conroy
This is the only Pat Conroy book I haven’t read and his passing earlier this year moved it to the top of my TBR for Nonfiction November.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
I’m pretty sure I added this book to my TBR without knowing a thing about it or its author. Since then, I read and loved her latest novel, My Name is Lucy Barton, and have heard countless great things about Olive Kitteridge.

Skeletons on the Zahara by Dean King
This book made it onto my TBR because the author is a 2nd or 3rd cousin of mine. My brother has since told me it’s an enthralling and completely disturbing book.

The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt
I was super excited when another book by John Berendt finally came out over a decade after Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil…somehow I just never got around to actually reading it.

The Imaginary Girlfriend by John Irving
Irving is one of my all-time favorite authors and I’ve read many of his novels. I need to make time for his memoir focusing on the connections between wrestling (he was a competitive wrestler from age 14) and writing.

Zodiac by Robert Graysmith
A documentary on the West Coast serial killer who referred to himself as the Zodiac in his taunts to police got me fascinated with this story.

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