3 Gripping New Crime Books…Both Fiction and Nonfiction

July 27, 2017 Book Lists 22

I used to love books about crime…especially true crime. But until the last few months, it had been awhile since I’d read any memorable ones. I read Killers of the Flower Moon back in April and was excited to see that I had a number of books about crime coming up later in the year…enough to do a crime books round-up. And then, one by one, each crime book fell flat…until the past month, when I had two unexpected winners that weren’t even on my radar back in April when I first decided to do this post.

3 Gripping New Crime Books…Both Fiction and Nonfiction

American Fire by Monica HesseAmerican Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse
Nonfiction (Released July 11, 2017)
259 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased (Liveright

In the small, rural community of Accomack County on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, a serial arsonist (to the eventual tune of 67 fires in five months) was on the loose. The story behind the hunt for this arsonist (actually, arsonists), who they were, and why they couldn’t stop burning down abandoned buildings is ultimately about a unique community and a love affair gone very wrong. American Fire is a portrait of a declining town similar to Hillbilly Elegy (but without the social analysis element). It’s a well-told and engrossing story with a broad appeal beyond the true crime genre and is a perfect “gateway book” for those interested in dipping their toes into the true crime genre for the first time. It’s going on my 2017 Summer Reading Guide

I spent the next two years trying to understand why he did it. The answer, inasmuch as there is an answer for these things, involved hope, poverty, pride, Walmart, erectile dysfunction, Steak-umms (the chopped meat sold in the frozen foods aisle), intrigue, and America. America: the way it’s disappointing sometimes, the way it’s never what it used to be. But it also involved love. The kind of love that is vaguely crazy and then completely crazy and then collapses in on itself in a way that leaves the participants bewildered and telling very different stories about what actually happened.

Killers of the Flower Moon by David GrannKillers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
Nonfiction (Released April 18, 2017)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Doubleday

This true story of the systematic murder of many members of the Osage Indian Nation for their oil rights and the subsequent investigation into the killings is a flawless blend of history and mystery. It’s about the history of the Osage Indian Nation, oil drilling in America in the 1920’s, 1920’s law enforcement and the FBI’s first homicide case. Then, overlay all that with a murder mystery involving a stunning level of corruption that captivated the public interest at the time, but that I sure didn’t hear about in any history class. Though the early details occasionally get a little dry, the story picks up steam once the FBI starts to investigate and, just when you think it’s over, things become even more unbelievable. Killers of the Flower Moon would be a great choice for fans of narrative nonfiction and Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City.

The world’s richest people per capita were becoming the world’s most murdered.

Quicksand by Malin Persson GiolitoQuicksand by Malin Persson Giolito
Fiction (Released March 7, 2017)
513 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Library (Other Press

I “5 star adored” this Swedish “courtroom thriller” and am amazed it hasn’t gotten more buzz in the U.S. since its March release! In a nutshell, Quicksand is the movie Cruel Intentions (elite prep school, lots of money, partying, drugs, neglected high schoolers, and an intense love affair), if Sebastian (PS – Quicksand‘s main character is also named Sebastian…it’s almost too perfect!) had shot up his school and Annette had gone to trial for helping him. The story shifts back and forth between Maja’s (Sebastian’s girlfriend and the “Annette” character in Quicksand) trial and time in jail and the lead-up to the shooting, including Maja and Sebastian’s love affair and Sebastian’s tumultuous relationship with his billionaire father. This story is about far more than just a school shooting…it’s about friendship, family, a wealthy community, the complicated entanglement of young love, the law, and a slight bit of politics. I couldn’t put it down. If you like dark, twisty high school books, this is one of the best I’ve ever read! It’s also going on my 2017 Summer Reading Guide!

The prosecutor said I did what I did because I loved Sebastian. That my love for him was the greatest thing in my life. That nothing else was more important. But it’s not true. Because the greatest of all is fear, the terror of dying. Love means nothing when you believe you’re going to die.

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What I’m Reading Now (7/24/17)

July 24, 2017 It's Monday! What are you reading? 33

Apparently, last week was the week of DNFs…ugh. And, I wish I’d DNF’d the one book I did finish. So, in an effort to jolt myself out of this reading slump, I picked up a September release that I’ve been anticipating all year long. I loved the author’s 2015 debut and had already heard great things about her sophomore effort from a source who has steered me right multiple times this year (Annie B. Jones of From the Front Porch podcast)!

In other news, I finally have some clarity about my back injury. It’s not actually a back injury at all! I have inflammation in both my SI joints and some tendonitis in my right abductor. All this is putting pressure on my lower back. I’m visiting yet another doctor about possibly getting a cortisone shot next week. I’m still not allowed to run or swim…but have been riding my bike and doing strength work instead.

Hosted by The Book Date.

This post contains affiliate links.

I finished reading…

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt


See What I Have Done
 by Sarah Schmidt (August 1, 2017)
I didn’t DNF this one, but I kind of wish I had. I quickly got bored with the story. Mini review to come.

I’m currently reading…

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng


Little Fires Everywhere
 by Celeste Ng (September 12, 2017)

Yep, I’m already reading a September release! I figured Ng’s sophomore effort following her runaway hit debut, Everything I Never Told You (my review), was a safe bet for jolting me out of my reading slump. I’m about 40% into this story about a family and the community of Shaker Heights and am engrossed! At first, I didn’t know what direction it would take other than “family novel” (I admittedly didn’t read the blurb very carefully), but it’s taken an interesting turn!
Affiliate Link: Pre-Order from Amazon 

I tried, but wasn’t feeling…

The Lauras by Sara Taylor, Careers for Women by Joanna Scott


The Lauras
 by Sara Taylor (August 1, 2017)
I made it through 28% of this novel before getting bored with the story. It’s a shame because the writing is good and I really liked her debut, The Shore (my review).

Careers for Women by Joanna Scott (July 25, 2017)
This Mad Men-esque novel had gotten excellent reviews and I initially loved the writing, but I couldn’t see the point of the story by 32%. There were two storylines that felt far away from each other with no signs of intersecting anytime soon.

Upcoming reading plans…

Unless one of my library holds comes in, I’m going to continue with August releases!

Shadow of the Lions by Christopher Swann


Shadow of the Lions by Christopher Swann (August 1, 2017)
This campus coming of age story was recommended (and blurbed) by Ed Tarkington (author of Only Love Can Break Your Heart, one of my favorite books of last year). Y’all know I’m a sucker for these types of books, so I hope this works out. Fellow Virginians – I peeked at the first few pages and thought the school in the book sounded familiar (my guess was Woodberry Forest School in Orange, VA). Turns out the author is a WFS grad, so I’m guessing the school in the book is a thinly veiled WFS! Should be interesting…

was reading…

One Year Ago: I was reading one of my favorite summer books of last year!

Two Years Ago: I was reading one of the big stinkers of 2015.

How was your reading week?

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Am I the Only One Who Didn’t Love Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine?

July 20, 2017 Fiction 24

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail HoneymanFiction – Debut
Released May 9, 2017
336 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it…if you like heart-warming stories with tidy endings. Otherwise, Skip it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased (published by Pamela Dorman Books)

Headline

I liked Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine alright, but I’m not on the bandwagon with the level of hype it’s getting.

Plot Summary

Quirky and broken Eleanor Oliphant is living a solitary life when she strikes up a friendship with Raymond, the IT guy at her office, which opens her eyes to a different way of living.

Why I Read It

This book has been getting tons of buzz and two book bloggers whose taste I generally agree with recently loved it (Susie at Novel Visits and Tara at Running N Reading).

Major Themes

Childhood Trauma, Abuse, Family Secrets, Friendship, Redemption

What I Liked

  • I loved Eleanor…and I suspect she is why this book is getting such high praise from some. She’s quirky, solitary, and doesn’t fit in well with the world, but she makes no bones about who she is and is completely endearing. And, with her tragic childhood, I was rooting for her to figure out how to actually participate in the world rather than just skim the surface of life.
  • I was super curious about Eleanor’s past. How did she get her scars? How did she end up in foster care? What happened with her mother? What was the big incident that blew up her life? These questions kept me reading, but I wish the book had delved deeper into them.
  • Eleanor went on some spectacular rants about things that irked her about everyday life. They were salty and funny and I completely agreed with most of them. Here’s one:

    On wedding gifts/registries:
    Of all the compulsory financial contributions, that is the one that irks me most. Two people wander around John Lewis picking out lovely items for themselves, and then they make other people pay for them. It’s bare-faced effrontery. They choose things like plates, bowls and cutlery—I mean, what are they doing at the moment: shoveling food from packets into their mouths with their bare hands? I simply fail to see how the act of legally formalizing a human relationship necessitates friends, family and coworkers upgrading the contents of their kitchen for them.

What I Didn’t Like

  • While I can see appeal of this book for some people (it’s a heart-warming, feel-good story), it didn’t live up to the hype for me. I liked it fine, but I expected to like it much more based on the reviews and the hype. That being said, I am still recommending it for a certain type of reader (those that like heart-warming stories that are neatly tied up) because I know there are lots of this type of reader out there…it’s just not me.
  • I was so curious about Eleanor’s childhood and her relationship with her mother. Those issues were one of the main hooks that kept me reading. But, I felt like the story focused more on Eleanor’s friendship with Raymond and learning how to interact with the world again. I wish Honeyman had gone darker and delved deeper into Eleanor’s childhood and the nitty, gritty of what went down. I kept thinking it would happen, but it never really did.
  • While the story is certainly heart-warming, it felt a little cliche to me…in a bit of a rom-com way.
  • The ending was too neat and tidy. And, there was one particular element that is often used in novels that absolutely drives me crazy every time I see it. It feels like a cop out. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I won’t say anymore.

A Defining Quote

My life, I realized, had gone wrong. Very, very wrong. I wasn’t supposed to live like this. No one was supposed to live like this. The problem was that I simply didn’t know how to make it right. Mummy’s way was wrong, I knew that. But no one had ever shown me the right way to live a life, and although I’d tried my best over the years, I simply didn’t know how to make things better. I could not solve the puzzle of me.

Good for People Who Like…

Dysfunctional childhoods, heart-warming stories, neat and tidy endings, quirky characters

Other Books You May Like

Another heart-warming story about people facing an unconventional situation:
This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel (my review)

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What I’m Reading Now (7/17/17)

July 17, 2017 It's Monday! What are you reading? 24

I was at a wedding this weekend in Colorado, which was absolutely gorgeous. I had some solo travel time, so I got a fair amount of reading done. And bonus…I spotted Bachelor Ben Higgins in the Denver airport!

I’ve been on a hot streak with books about crime lately…both fiction and nonfiction. So, I’ll be doing a crime books round-up soon!

I also finished Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? by Alyssa Mastromonaco on audio and I highly recommend it if you’re interested in what goes on behind the scenes at the White House (and on the campaign trail). Though Mastromonaco was an Obama staffer, the book is not political at all from an issues standpoint. I haven’t gotten too far into another audiobook because I’ve been listening to lots of podcasts lately…and the comments section of my recent podcast round-up just generated even more for me to try!

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I finished reading…

Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito, American fire by Monica Hesse


Quicksand
 by Malin Persson Giolito
 (March 7, 2017)
5 star good! Squarely in my dark, twisty, demented high schoolers wheelhouse. I was completely engrossed and the 500 pages flew by. Mini review to come and I’ll be adding this to my 2017 Summer Reading Guide.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse (July 11, 2017)
If you haven’t read much true crime and think you might want to try some, American Fire is the perfect gateway book! It’s a well-told story about a crime, a unique community, and a doomed relationship. I loved it! Mini review to come.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

The Lauras by Sara Taylor


The Lauras
 by Sara Taylor (August 1, 2017)
This story of a mother/daughter road trip where they explore the mother’s past is Taylor’s sophomore novel (her debut, The Shore (my review), was long-listed for the Baileys Women’s Fiction Prize and, after finally getting my head around the structure, I loved it!). I’m about 20% into The Lauras and not really into it at this point. I’ll probably give it a little longer before deciding whether to move on.

I tried, but wasn’t feeling…

Ill Will by Dan Chaon


Ill Will
 by Dan Chaon (March 7, 2017)
I’d had this novel about two unsolved crimes (one past and one present) on hold at the library for awhile now. Unfortunately, after initially intriguing me, I got bored and realized I didn’t care what happened to the characters. DNF at 13%.

Upcoming reading plans…

Unless one of my library holds comes in, I’m going to continue with August releases!

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt


See What I Have Done
 by Sarah Schmidt (August 1, 2017)
Continuing with my crime book theme, this debut novel is a fictional recounting of the famous Lizzie Borden murders of 1892. Sounds promising!

was reading…

One Year Ago: I read a delightful foodie/friendship memoir and was mentioned on The Book Riot Podcast!

Two Years Ago: I read one of my favorite debuts of 2015.

How was your reading week?

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Read One, Skip One: Goodbye, Vitamin and What We Lose

July 13, 2017 Mini Book Reviews 12

Today’s installment of Read One, Skip One is all about short debut novels told in a vignette style…which can be somewhat of a risky structure for a novel. On the one hand, it’s nice to be able to read in little snippets and, on the other, it can sometimes be hard to get engrossed in a vignette-style story. Today, we have one very successful vignette-style book…and one not so much (for me at least).

Goodbye Vitamin by Rachel KhongGoodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong
Fiction – Debut (
Released July 11, 2017)
208 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Henry Holt)

Plot Summary: Ruth returns to her parents’ home in the L.A. area to help care for her father, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s.

My Thoughts: Goodbye, Vitamin is the type of book that could get overlooked because it’s all about the intangibles, but don’t make the mistake of overlooking this one! Though this story is about a sad and serious topic, it has a lightness to it and is amusing at times. The story is told through Ruth’s journal entries that read like little vignettes, a format that worked for me in this case because I absolutely adored Ruth’s endearing, witty, real, and relatable voice. It was the overwhelming reason I enjoyed Goodbye, Vitamin so much.

What do I do all day? I don’t even know. I dig hair out of the bathroom drain with a chopstick. I listen to what sounds like a dog whimpering, and which turns out to be a squirrel talking to another squirrel. I watch a woman in scrubs walk by our living-room window, neatly eating a taco.

I read messages on Alzheimer’s caregiver forums – threads about Medicare, about the best brand of adult diaper, about what to do if your loved one accuses you of stealing his money. Consensus: Be calm, apologize.

On a different board, I read the messages about how to find your life’s passion. Consensus: try everything.

In addition to caring for her father (which she has a dry sense of humor about), she struggles with regular quarter-life crisis issues including a recent break-up and figuring out what she wants to do with her life. Ruth also learns more about her parents’ marriage and has a hard time processing her understanding of them as people beyond their roles as parents. Plus, there’s a spot-on segment about The Bachelor (Juan Pablo, specifically), which I greatly appreciated! Don’t miss this tiny, little gem!

What We Lose by Zinzi ClemmonsWhat We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons
Fiction – Debut (
Released July 11, 2017)
192 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Viking)

Plot Summary: Thandi, raised by her South African mother and American father in Philadelphia, struggles with the loss of her mother, her identity, and the ramifications of South African apartheid on her extended family who remains there.

My Thoughts: This debut coming of age novel has been getting lots of pre-publication buzz, but it didn’t come together for me. It reads like a memoir and I actually double-checked that it was, in fact, a novel after I started reading. Clemmons shared brilliant and brilliantly worded commentary on terminal illness, grief, race, the violence in post-apartheid South Africa, and the cultural differences between her and her South African cousins.

American blacks were my precarious homeland – because of my light skin and foreign roots, I was never fully accepted by any race. Plus my family had money, and all the black kids in my town came from the poorer areas. I was friends with the kids who lived on my block and were in my honors classes – white kids. I was a strange in-betweener.

Unfortunately, that brilliance was inconsistent. The novel is structured into vignettes that jump around in time and don’t always hang together. It felt jumpy and prevented me from becoming engrossed in the story for any sustained period of time. Though What We Lose didn’t work for me, I did see enough snippets of brilliance to make me want to keep my eye out for what Clemmons does next.

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17 Awesome Podcasts I’ve Been Listening to Lately (Bookish and Non)

July 11, 2017 Podcasts 30

17 Awesome Podcasts I've Been Listening To Lately


Podcasts are my one of my favorite forms of entertainment these days…mostly because they make boring tasks way more interesting and they work for me during times when audiobooks don’t. So, I thought it was about time to share the awesome podcasts I’ve been listening to lately (some of which are brand, spankin’ new!)!

I should absolutely be embarrassed about some of these (I know my mom will be), but I like a healthy mix of high and lowbrow entertainment.

I focused on newer-to-me podcasts for this post, so I haven’t included a few huge podcasts that I’ve been listening to for a long time (The Book Riot Podcast, All the Books, and What Should I Read Next?). 

Podcasts about Books and Reading

Annotated
Just launched (as in 2 weeks ago) by the folks at Book Riot, Jeff O’Neal and Rebecca Schinsky (co-hosts of The Book Riot Podcast) host what they’ve described as “This American Life for books.” Only one episode has dropped so far (“Is It 1984 Yet?”), but it was a fascinating one!

Drunk Booksellers
In this monthly podcast, hosts Kim and Emma interview different booksellers about books and bookstores…and feature a special cocktail. The talk is often boozy and profane, which is fine with me! There hasn’t been a new episode since May, but I’m hoping that will change soon.

From the Front Porch
Annie Jones and Chris Jensen of The Bookshelf in Thomasville, Georgia talk “books, small business, and life in the South.” I’ve recently gotten some fantastic book recommendations from this podcast, especially from Annie. She steered me in the right direction on Rabbit Cake and Standard Deviation…and now I’m anxiously awaiting American Fire (out today) thanks to her (and Book of the Month Club). I’m a big fan of their monthly reading recaps and “Love it or Loathe it” feature (where they break down whether they loved or hated a particular book…most recently A Separation).

Just the Right Book with Roxanne Coady
Hosted by the owner of R.J. Julia Booksellers (an independent bookstore in Madison, CT), Just the Right Book features author interviews, reading discussions, and book recommendations. I’m partial to her author interviews and have recently loved episodes featuring Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, John Grisham, and Yewande Omotoso (author of The Woman Next Door).

Reading Glasses
I literally just started listening to this podcast hosted by Brea Grant and Mallory O’Meara where they “help you get more out of your literary experiences.” I enjoyed a recent episode on caring about book awards and am planning to dig into their backlist with Readers in a Non-Reader World and Navigating New Releases.

Podcasts with Great Blogging Tips

Brilliant Business Moms
Hosted by Beth Anne Schwamberger, owner of Brilliant Business Moms, which provides practical business advice and community support for “Mamapreneurs.” The podcast highlights practical business advice from mom entrepreneur guests. While not every episode is pertinent to bloggers, many of them are! I’ve learned a ton about social media, email marketing, branding, and how to think creatively from Beth Anne and her guests.

The Chopped Podcast
Hosted by Marly McMillen of NamelyMarly.com, this podcast is actually for food bloggers, but much of the information is applicable to blogging in general. She generally interviews a guest and recent episodes on SEO (#124) and Google Analytics (#129) are chock full of awesome information that bloggers should know, but probably don’t.

The Strategy Hour Podcast
Abagail and Emylee help female online entrepreneurs “break down their Oprah-sized dreams to create a functioning command center to tame the chaos of their business.” Their podcast, blog, and online courses are chock full of tips that are applicable to book bloggers…email marketing, social media, how to run a successful launch, how to stay mentally positive, and much more. Their “badass boss babe” attitude will make you feel like you can do literally anything!

Non-Trashy Entertainment Podcasts

30 for 30 Podcasts
Y’all have probably heard of ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary series…well, it just became a brand spanking new podcast! 30 for 30 tackles sports stories “that touch on larger themes beyond sports.” The first episode featuring the U.S. decathlon duo (and Reebok marketing juggernauts) Dan and Dave grabbed my Olympics-loving heart.  

Revisionist History
Malcolm Gladwell (author of Outliers and The Tipping Point) “reinterprets something from the past: an event, a person, an idea. Something overlooked. Something misunderstood.” Season 2 premiered recently with episodes on L.A. golf courses (I swear, this is fascinating) and a look at a terrorist who switched sides. Some of my favorite episodes from Season 1 are The Big Man Can’t Shoot (about granny-style free throw shooting in the NBA) and Carlos Doesn’t Remember (about how hard it is to overcome hardship in the American school system).

Sorta Awesome
Co-hosted by Megan Tietz, Rebekah Hoffer, Laura Tremaine, and Kelly Gordon, Sorta Awesome is “geared toward women who want to stay current on all things awesome, including culture, media, trending conversations and general girlfriend chat.” They talk about anything and everything and I’m not always interested in every episode. But, a couple episodes have really stuck with me (The Awesome Freedom of the Don’t Do List and S-Town by Serial: Thoughts and Theories) and they often talk books, including a monthly preview of the Book of the Month Club selections.

Trashy Entertainment Podcasts (i.e. The Bachelor franchise and other reality TV)

Channel 33’s Bachelor/ette Party
Juliet Litman and a guest host break down The Bachelor franchise shows without spoilers. I’m generally on Juliet’s page about which contestants are terrible and which are pretty awesome…and she has a massive and awkwardly open crush on Ben Higgins.

Channel 33’s Jam Session
The Ringer‘s Juliet Litman (also co-host of Bachelor/ette Party, mentioned above) and Mallory Rubin talk celebrity gossip and pop culture. Juliet, in particular’s, take on things is right up my alley. She and I are often on the same page about the celebrities who are douchebags and general douchebag behavior.

Mouthing Off with Olivia Caridi
Olivia Caridi, resident Bachelor villain from Ben Higgins‘ season, talks to various reality TV stars. She’s a smart and witty interviewer (she was a broadcast journalist before going on The Bachelor) and isn’t afraid to call B.S. on some of her guests. She interviews lots of past Bachelor contestants, but also branches out from Bachelor Nation (into Southern Charm, which makes me happy!).

Reality Steve Podcast
Y’all have probably heard me talk about Reality Steve before…he’s the blogger that spoils all the Bachelor franchise shows every season. And, provides a look behind the curtain of reality TV and The Bachelor/ette in particular. He’s gotten me to watch the show an entirely different way. On the podcast, he interviews past contestants who are no longer under contract with ABC (so they spill tons of dirt) and is now branching out into other people from the reality TV world.

The Ben and Ashley I Almost Famous Podcast
Co-hosts ex-Bachelor Ben Higgins and ex-Bachelor and Bachelor in Paradise contestant/resident crier Ashley Iaconetti chat about all things Bachelor and interview past contestants. They have a silly dynamic and I promise Ashley is actually smart and articulate (despite her showing on the Bachelor shows). Though there are definitely some things that annoy me about this podcast (particularly Ben’s tendency to talk down to and over Ashley and the cheesy “call-ins” they do), but the juicy gossip does outweigh the bad.

Do you listen to podcasts? What awesome ones have you been listening to lately?

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What I’m Reading Now (7/10/17)

July 10, 2017 It's Monday! What are you reading? 29

I was on vacation and not posting on the blog last week, so here comes a double dose of books! Vacation was full of swimming (the kids…not me since swimming still hurts my back), boating, kayaking, fishing, and hanging out with family. I read some, but not a ton.

Highlights of the week were my son catching a good size Spanish Mackerel, which my brother turned into delicious fish tacos for dinner) and my daughter learning how to dive. Oh, and both my children participated in their first official running race. My son did great and I ended up carrying my daughter for the entire (fun?) run. 

Hosted by The Book Date.

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I finished reading…

Final Girls, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Double Bind


Final Girls by Riley Sager
 (July 11, 2017)
Yet another thriller that totally disappointed me. This time, it was because the ending completely jumped the shark (a frequent occurrence in thrillers that always turns me off) and I had trouble buying the main character’s decision-making.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (May 9, 2017)
This debut novel is getting so much buzz and I liked it alright, but it definitely didn’t blow me away. I’m still processing exactly how I feel about it…though I do know I loved Eleanor. Things were a bit too neat and tidy for my taste, but that will definitely make it appealing to others. Review to come (most likely).

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Double Bind: Women on Ambition edited by Robin Romm (April 11, 2017)
I’d been reading an essay here and there from this collection, so it’s taken me quite awhile to finish it! Like many essay collections, it was hit and miss for me. But, it’s definitely chock full of sage nuggets of insight into the various ways women view ambition.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito


Quicksand
 by Malin Persson Giolito
 (March 7, 2017)
I saw this Swedish “courtroom thriller” about a school shooting on Read it Forward’s Favorite Reads of March 2017, but I literally haven’t heard a peep about it since…except when I went to put it on hold at my local library, the hold list was a mile long! So, people out there are reading it…just not the corner of the bookish internet that I normally frequent. Anyway – I’m just over halfway through and it’s awesome…has a deliciously dark Cruel Intentions vibe.

I tried, but wasn’t feeling…

The Windfall by Diksha Basu


The Windfall
 by Diksha Basu
 (June 27, 2017)
DNF at 34%. I liked the very beginning of this novel, but quickly got bored. Nothing much was happening and I was hoping for more biting social commentary about the wealthy.

Upcoming reading plans…

What She Ate, American Fire


What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories
 by Laura Shapiro
 (July 25, 2017)
I haven’t read a food book in awhile and this essay collection focusing on the meaning of food for famous women including Eleanor Roosevelt, Eva Braun (Hitler’s mistress), and Helen Gurley Brown (editor of Cosmopolitan magazine) caught my eye!

American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse (July 11, 2017)
This nonfiction about a series of arson fires in a small town on the Eastern Shore of Virginia supposedly reads like a page turner and is great for fans of the S-Town podcast (check!), In Cold Blood (check!), and Hillbilly Elegy (check again!). Plus, that small Eastern Shore town is about 40 miles north of where my father-in-law grew up, where my husband and I got married, and where we still vacation every summer.

was reading…

One Year Ago: I shared Catherine at Gilmore Guide and I’s ridiculous texts about the U.S. Olympic Swimming trials…and read a backlist winner.

Two Years Ago: I shared my July 4th vacation reading…one of which was one of my Best Books of 2015!

How was your reading week?

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Book of the Month Club July 2017 Selections: What Would I Choose?

July 1, 2017 Book Recommendations 8

Book of the Month Club July 2017 selections

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Do you want to know more about the five Book of the Month Club May 2017 selections before making your choice(s)?

Welcome to my monthly feature “Book of the Month Club Selections: What Would I Choose?”! Every month, I provide commentary on the books that are chosen as that month’s Book of the Month Club selections and tell you which book(s) I would choose.

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

Unlike last month, I’m excited about a number of the July selections! I’ve already read two and really liked one of those! Plus, two other picks are on my TBR list.

Book of the Month Club July 2017 Selections

Final Girls by Riley SagerFinal Girls by Riley Sager (Release Date: July 11, 2017)
352 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.09
Selected By: Liberty Hardy (co-host of Book Riot‘s All the Books podcast)

Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls.

My Thoughts:
Stephen King called this “the first great thriller of 2017,” but he also compared it to Gone Girl, which is somewhat irritating (because this comparison is egregiously overused). I just finished it and thought it was kind of “meh” (2 stars). Renee at It’s Book Talk (a blogger whose taste I often agree with) had trouble believing in the story and I agree. It was one of those endings that jumped the shark and I had some issues with Quincy’s decision-making along the way. On the flip side, the generally tough Kirkus gave it a starred review and called Sager “a fresh voice in psychological suspense.” I should also probably note that I tend to have trouble with thrillers in general. 

American Fire by Monica HesseAmerican Fire by Monica Hesse (Release Date: July 11, 2017)
288 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.09
Selected By: Elizabeth Kiefer (Books & Senior Features Editor, Refinery 29)

Though it’s hard to believe today, one hundred years ago Accomack was the richest rural county in the nation. Slowly it’s been drained of its industry—agriculture—as well as its wealth and population. In an already remote region, limited employment options offer little in the way of opportunity. A mesmerizing and crucial panorama with nationwide implications, American Fire asks what happens when a community gets left behind. Hesse brings to life the Eastern Shore and its inhabitants, battling a punishing economy and increasingly terrified by a string of fires they could not explain. The result evokes the soul of rural America—a land half gutted before the fires even began.

My Thoughts:
I’ve had this nonfiction on my TBR list ever since Annie Jones from From the Front Porch podcast recommended it and called it a combination of In Cold Blood and Hillbilly Elegy, both of which are completely up my alley. Plus, Annie has steered me right twice recently with Rabbit Cake and Standard Deviation. I’m also hearing American Fire has a page-turner feel, which is somewhat rare for nonfiction. Kirkus gave it a starred review and called it a “true crime saga that works in every respect.” I’ll definitely be reading American Fire this month!

The Child by Fiona BartonThe Child by Fiona Barton (Released: June 27, 2017)
384 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.05
Selected By: Cristina Arreola (Bustle Books Editor)

As an old house is demolished in a gentrifying section of London, a workman discovers a tiny skeleton, buried for years. For journalist Kate Waters, it s a story that deserves attention. She cobbles together a piece for her newspaper, but at a loss for answers, she can only pose a question: Who is the Building Site Baby?

My Thoughts:
The Child is a psychological thriller by the author of The Widow (a New York Times bestseller). As you may know, this is not my go-to genre. But, if it is yours, The Child has been getting some good reviews. Author Lee Child said it is “tense, tantalizing, and ultimately very satisfying…definitely one of the year’s must-reads.” Publisher’s Weekly gave it a starred review and cautioned readers that they would be rewarded for patience with the early slow pace with “a stunning, emotionally satisfying conclusion.” And, it’s received the obligatory comparisons to Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train that get applied to virtually every psychological thriller published over the last few years. My tip to you: take these comparisons with a grain of salt. 

The Windfall by Diksha BasuThe Windfall by Diksha Basu (Released: June 27, 2017)
304 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.76
Selected By: Rachel Syme (Writer, Editor, soon to be Random House-published author)

A heartfelt comedy of manners for readers of Seating Arrangements and Crazy Rich Asians, Diksha Basu’s debut novel unfolds the story of a family discovering what it means to be nouveau riche in modern India. 

My Thoughts:
The Windfall is a unique spin on the fun “wealthy people behaving badly” category. Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books (who I trust implicitly about these types of books) gave it 4 stars and called it the “Indian version of the Clampetts as they head to Beverly Hills with their oil money.” She also said it “strikes the perfect balance between humor and tenderness, blending compassion with comedy.” I’ve read the first 20 pages and am intrigued so far! This one should be your pick if you’re looking for a fun beach read!

Goodbye Vitamin by Rachel KhongGoodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong (Release Date: July 11, 2017)
208 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.15
Selected By: Isaac Fitzgerald (Books Editor at Buzzfeed Books)

A young woman (Ruth) returns home to care for her failing father in this fine, funny, and inescapably touching debut, from an affecting and wonderfully original new literary voice.

My Thoughts:
I’ve read this book and really liked it (4 stars)…it’s sweet, heart-warming, honest, and funny! Though it’s about a sad and serious topic, it has a lightness to it. The story is told through Ruth’s journal entries that read like little vignettes. And, I absolutely adored Ruth’s endearing, witty, and relatable voice. This is a book that could possibly get overlooked (but shouldn’t!) because it’s appeal is in the intangibles. It was also one of Buzzfeed‘s 22 Exciting New Books You Need to Read This Summer.

What Book of the Month Club July 2017 selection(s) would I choose?

I’m going to take the easy way out this month because I truly am really excited about multiple selections…and they’re so different from each other!

My choice(s) this month would be:

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

Join Book of the Month Club…

Book of the Month Club 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 Club, 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 Club’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 Club’s panel of judges (including a surprise guest judge). Book of the Month Club 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 Club membership (pricing below)!

1-month: $10
2-month: $10 per month, then $15 per month
3-month: $10 per month, then $15 per month

Special July Deal:
Finally, we’re giving away our sturdy canvas tote to anyone who signs up for two months (or more) and uses code: TOTALLY at checkout. 


*All book descriptions are from Goodreads.

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June 2017 Monthly Round-Up

June 29, 2017 Monthly Round-Ups 15

June 2017 Monthly Round-Up

This post contains affiliate links and I will make a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

June Reading / Life

  • After an amazing month of reading in May (with 3 favorite books of the month), June was definitely slumpy for me in quality and quantity. I read 10 books, but a few of them were only around 200 pages long, so I feel like I sort of cheated.
  • I also had 4 DNF’s…which always makes a slump seem slumpier.
  • Both my favorite books of the month involved astute commentary about marriage…one fiction (Standard Deviation) and one non (Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake). And, a third book about marriage (Small Hours) didn’t measure up.
  • Anna Quindlen brought me twice the love this month with One True Thing.
  • I read two thrillers this month (shocking for me!)…one winner (Since We Fell) and one loser (Final Girls).
  • A couple slim July releases (What We Lose and Goodbye, Vitamin) definitely helped my June book count! Too bad only one was a winner.
  • And, The Skies Belong to Us (somewhat interesting at times, but I kept zoning out) and My Year of Running Dangerously (sweet and engaging story about a father and daughter training for a marathon together) rounded out my audiobooks.
  • My free trial of my personalized book recommendation service ended on Father’s Day and fulfilled 75 recommendation requests! I couldn’t have been happier with how many people participated and am getting the feedback survey results in now. Once I analyze the survey results and think through next steps, I’ll share everything I learned in a blog post. Many thanks to everyone who participated!
  • Look for my commentary on the July Book of the Month Club selections on Saturday. Sneak peek: I’ve already read two of the selections and, unlike last month, am really excited about this month’s picks!

Best Books of the Month

My Favorite Book(s) of the Month

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen (April 24, 2012)
Nonfiction – Memoir, 182 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny (May 23, 2017)
Fiction, 336 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon 

PS – last year’s Best Book of June was Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe (my review)!

Best Selling Book(s) of the Month (via my affiliate links)

Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach (my review), which continues to take this category month after month.

July Releases I’m Excited About

Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong (July 11)
American Fire by Monica Hesse (July 11)
Tornado Weather by Deborah E. Kennedy (July 11)
Careers for Women by Joanna Scott (July 25)

Most Popular Posts

Posts Actually Published in June
Best Books of 2017 So Far
3 More Books That Are Perfect for Summer Reading: Beartown, Since We Fell, Standard Deviation
Book of the Month Club June 2017 Selections: What Would I Choose?

Overall Posts
2017 Summer Reading Guide
Book Club Recommendations

Behind Her Eyes and THAT Ending: Spoiler Discussion

Favorite Posts by Fellow Bloggers

And, next month I need to be better about keeping track of posts I love…big fail for me this month!

How was your reading month?

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Best Books of 2017 So Far

June 27, 2017 Annual "Best Books" Lists 23

Can you believe it’s already time for the Best Books of 2017 So Far?!

Last year, 60% of the books on my June Best Books of 2016 So Far list ended up on my overall favorite books of 2016 list. Which, based on the massive reading slump I had during the first few months of last year, is kind of shocking.

I don’t feel like the beginning of this year has been as slumpy as last year, so we’ll have to see how many of this year’s halftime crop make it to the finish line…

Hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.

This post contains affiliate links.

 Best Books of 2017 So Far


All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg (my review)
The book that definitely isn’t for everyone, but was for me…

Based on a True Story by Delphine de Vigan (Spoiler Discussion)
The book that totally messed with my head…

Beartown by Fredrik Backman (my review)
Started to fill the empty hole Friday Night Lights left in me…

Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach (my review)
The book I’ve been recommending to absolutely everyone and the top seller via my affiliate links…

If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio (my review)
The dark, campus novel I’d been searching for ever since loving Black Chalk

The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel (my review)
Best nonfiction of the year so far…and best audiobook.

The Wanderers by Meg Howrey (my review)
The psychology of going to Mars…and the most unique book I’ve read all year…

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel (my review)
Had me feeling a full range of emotions…

Trophy Son by Douglas Brunt (my review)
A new addition to my Best of the Brain Candy list and the first of my two winning sports novels this year…

White Fur by Jardine Libaire (my review)
The most gorgeous writing of the year so far…and a love story I actually enjoyed!

What are your favorite books so far this year?

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