March 2018 Monthly Round-Up

March 30, 2018 Monthly Round-Ups 19

March 2018 Monthly Round-Up

 

March…I’m done with you! I’m so done with surprise snow storms and kids being home from school. I was writing a book review the other week while my kids were literally hanging their heads over both my shoulders asking me repeatedly when I was going to be done.

But, March did bring some great reading…quantity and quality! I almost made it through without a single DNF, but tacked on two at the very last minute.

I read 9 books this month, two of which were audio. My audiobook listening fell off in February, so I’m glad to get my normal 2 audiobooks per month in this time around! Bonus, I had a very clear favorite book of the month (my second 5 star book of the year)!

Winners

Losers

DNF’s

Best-Selling Book (via my affiliate links)

Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker (my review) – my top-selling book of 2017 still going strong!

Announcements

  • Check out My Most Anticipated Books of Spring 2018!
  • Personalized Book Recommendations and the Superstars Facebook Group are coming soon!
    Later in April, you’ll be able to get personalized book recommendations (I did a free trial for this last Spring) and access to our Superstars Facebook Group by supporting the blog on Patreon. More info to come…

March Quality and Recommendation Sources

Reading Quality 

March 2018

  • % Successful Books Attempted (includes DNF’s) = 64% (still above my 43% success rate from 2017)
  • % Successful Books Finished (does not include DNFs) = 78%

2018 Year-to-Date (through March)

  • % Successful Books Attempted (includes DNF’s) = 54% (still above my 43% success rate from 2017)
  • % Successful Books Finished (does not include DNFs) = 81%

Successful Recommendation Sources

If you’re interested in tracking these types of stats, my “Rock Your Reading” Tracker does all the heavy lifting for you! Enter your book details and it automatically compiles everything into Summary Charts in real time! Go here for more details.

April Releases I’m Excited About

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer (April 3)
Look Alive Out There: Essays by Sloane Crosley (April 3)
You Think It, I’ll Say It: Stories by Curtis Sittenfeld (April 24)

Most Popular Posts

Posts Actually Published in March
March 2018 Books to Read (and Skip)
My Most Anticipated Books of Spring 2018

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

Overall Posts
Book Club Recommendations
Behind Her Eyes and THAT Ending: Spoiler Discussion (#WTFthatending)
Page Turner Books

Favorite Posts by Fellow Bloggers

I’m making up for last month‘s light list with a super hefty one today!

How was your reading month?

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12 Books Set Outside of the U.S…But Not in Europe

March 27, 2018 Book Lists 22

Books Set Outside US

 

I love a book where the setting is just as much of a character as the actual characters and, more often than not, this happens with books set in exotic locales. There’s something mysterious, sometimes enchanting, and sometimes dangerous about a place that couldn’t be more different from your home. 

When I was putting this list together, the majority of books I’d read set in foreign (to the U.S.) countries took place in Europe (with France crushing other EU countries). So, I thought I’d share those books set outside of the U.S…but also outside of Europe. 

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

12 Books Set Outside of the U.S…But Not in Europe

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (my review)
Set in Japan, 1Q84 follows the parallel journeys of Aomame, a female assassin, and Tengo, an aspiring writer, as they enter an alternate reality (the year 1Q84) to solve the mystery of a religious cult and the myth of the “Little People”. Sounds totally ridiculous, but I was engrossed for the full 900+ pages.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

An Untamed State by Roxane Gay (my review)
An absolutely brutal book about a kidnapping set partially in Haiti.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain (my review)
Historical fiction based on the true story of Beryl Markham, a British woman raised on a horse farm in 1920’s Kenya, who went on to break the glass ceiling for women in horse training and aviation.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy (my review)
A plot-based page turner where cruise ship vacationers’ children go missing in an unnamed South American country that is extremely similar to Costa Rica.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts (my review)
A sweeping epic about an escaped convict who finds friendship, love, and an unbelievable amount of adventure in Bombay (as it was called at the time, now Mumbai), India. PS – the story is supposed to be somewhat autobiographical.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (my review)
I will never un-see the anaconda scene (anyone who has read the book will know exactly what I’m talking about) in this novel about a tribe of people in the Amazon where women can give birth well into their seventies.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Tangerine by Christine Mangan
A story of a fraught, obsessive friendship and all the wreckage it leaves behind in 1950’s Tangier, Morocco.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson (my review)
A beautifully written story full of generational and cultural clashes about two young Brooklyn girls who are sent to live with their grandmother in Barbados.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra (my review)
A collection of linked short stories spotlighting life in the USSR/Russian Federation/Russia from 1937 to present day (including life under Stalin, Brezhnev, Gorbachev, and Putin).

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon 

The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso (my review)
This novel is like Grumpy Old Men crossed with Desperate Housewives set in South Africa and involving race. And, ultimately, it’s about friendship and regret.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Whiskey Tango Foxtrotby David Shafer (my review)
A Burma (aka Myanmar) based non-profit worker (Leila), a directionless heir to a board game empire (Leo), and an one hit wonder self-help guru (Mark) are improbably brought together to prevent an international cabal from taking control of all the world’s information. Huh?! That’s what I thought, but I really enjoyed this debut!

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Youngbloodby Matt Gallagher (my review)
A story about the personal side of war and its complexities that takes place during the Iraq insurgency.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

What are some of your favorite books set outside of the U.S?

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What I’m Reading Now (3/26/18)

March 26, 2018 It's Monday! What are you reading? 24

Well, we had yet another snow storm when the kids missed a day of school and had a 2 hour delay the following day. Between snow days, holidays, illnesses, and random teacher workdays, I feel like there has not been a single week when both of my kids have gone to school every day since December. Needless to say, it’s put quite a dent in my productivity.

On the reading front, I’m ploughing through books for my 2018 Summer Reading Guide (coming in May). As you’ll see below, I’m being especially quick to DNF books right now as I try to find the best fits for the guide. I’m not sure I can even call it DNFing at this point, maybe sampling is a better word?

Tools of Titans Tip
I’m slowly working my way through Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss, a collection of highlights from interviews he’s done with various stars of their fields. It’s chock full of awesome tidbits, so I thought I’d share the most helpful tip I pick up each week. I’m currently in the ”Wealthy” section.

On Waiting:
I constantly tell myself I’ll do something “when I have more free time, when the kids get older”, etc. Though I’m not trying to start Paypal, I think it would do me some good to take Peter Thiel’s advice to heart.

If you go back 20 or 25 years, I wish I would have known that there was no need to wait. I went to college. I went to law school. I worked in law and banking, though not for terribly long. But not until I started Paypal did I fully realize that you don’t have to wait to start something. So if you’re planning to do something with your life, if you have a 10-year plan of how to get there, you should ask: Why can’t you do this in 6 months?

– From Peter Thiel, Serial Company Founder (including Paypal)

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Even though it doesn’t feel like Spring at all, I’m breaking out the Spring books! Some big-time authors have new books coming out this Spring, so get excited! And, I’ve already read THE FEMALE PERSUASION by @megwolitzer and it’s fantastic…only my second 5 star book of the year! (LINK IN PROFILE) _⠀ ⠀ In case you haven’t heard, I adopted a new system for picking books this year. I abandoned publisher’s catalogs and focused on reading recommendations from trusted sources. Just like my Most Anticipated Books of Winter 2018, as many books as possible on this list have already been read by trusted sources.⠀ _⠀ ⠀ Featured Recommendation Sources: @rebeccaschinsky @readerlymag @nicolebonia @tylergoodson @anniebjones05 @shipstead ⠀ _⠀ ⠀ What Spring 2018 books are you most excited about?⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ #bookstagram #amreading #bookworm #instabooks #bookblogger #booklover #booklovers #booksofinstagram #bookgram #bookblogger #bookaddict #bookaddiction #instareads @megwolitzer @sloane_crosley @paula_mclain @joannacantor @rumaanalam @ajagabel @riverheadbooks @liverightpublishing @mcdbooks @randomhouse @bloomsburypublishing @eccobooks ⠀

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I finished reading…

What I'm Reading Now

 

The Female Persuasionby Meg Wolitzer (April 3, 2018)
My second 5 star novel of the year! I was absolutely engrossed in these characters’ lives. You’ll like it if you liked The Interestings (and maybe also if you didn’t, per Annie Jones of From the Front Porch podcast). Mini review coming.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Look Alive Out There: Essays by Sloane Crosley (April 3, 2018)
The perfect palate cleanser after The Female Persuasion. Smartly written essays about a woman’s life in her 20’s and 30’s and the quintessential New York City stories. Mini review coming.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

What I'm Reading Now

 

Brass by Xhenet Aliu (January 28, 2018)
I’m about 20% through this debut novel about a working-class mother and daughter that was recommended by Susie at Novel Visits and Tara at Running N Reading (it was also a Read it Forward Favorite of January 2018). The writing is great, I’m enmeshed in the characters’ stories, and am looking forward to seeing where it goes.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I tried, but wasn’t feeling…

I’m on the hunt for candidates for my 2018 Summer Reading Guide (coming in May), so I’m being very quick to put books aside. I may come back to some of these if I hear good things from someone else. Or, some may be books I want to read eventually, but I suspected they wouldn’t be great fits for my Summer Reading Guide.

How to Be Safeby Tom McAllister (April 3, 2018)
DNF at 18%.

Go Ask Fannie by Elisabeth Hyde (April 10, 2018)
DNF at 14%.

Sophia of Silicon Valley by Anna Yen (April 10, 2018)
DNF at 6%.

Upcoming reading plans…

What I'm Reading Now

 

You Think It, I’ll Say It: Stories by Curtis Sittenfeld (April 24, 2018)
I’m not usually a big fan of short stories, but this collection by the author of Eligible, American Wife, and Prep comes highly recommended by three of my Go-To Recommendation Sources (The Readerly Podcast, Tyler Goodson, and Kelly Massry, curator of Kelly’s Collections). Plus, I’ve already peeked at the beginning of the first story and really wanted to drop what I was reading and keep going…

was reading…

One Year Ago: I was reading one of my 5 star reads of 2017…about going to Mars (and it’s not The Martian).

Two Years Ago: I’d just finished an underrated gem about a bunch of middle age men’s odd annual tradition.

How was your reading week?

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Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen: When a Favorite Author Stumbles

March 22, 2018 Fiction 20

Alternate Side by Anna QuindlenFiction – Literary
Released March 20, 2018
304 Pages
Bottom Line: Skip it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Random House

Headline

I adore Anna Quindlen (both her fiction and nonfiction) and saw instances of her brilliant, trademark writing in Alternate Side, but the plot was a bit boring and I know she can do better.

Plot Summary

When a violent incident happens on Nora and Charlie Nolan’s wealthy Upper West Side block, Nora begins to see cracks in her marriage, friendships, and throughout the neighborhood.

Why I Read It

Anna Quindlen is one of my go-to authors. I’ve adored most of what I’ve read by her (Every Last OneOne True ThingMiller’s Valley and Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake) and think she just “gets” women. 

Major Themes

Marriage, New York City life, class, friendship

What I Liked

  • Alternate Side is a true New York City book. The setting stood out far more to me than any of the characters…and Quindlen brilliantly captures its quirks (and there are many).

The dirty little secret of the city was that while it was being constantly created, glittering glass and steel towers rising everywhere where once there had been parking lots, gas stations, and four-story tenements, it was simultaneously falling apart. The streets were filled with excavations and repair crews, the older buildings sheathed in scaffolding cages.

  • It’s an easy, relatively uncomplicated read (which I sometimes need and suspect you do too!).
  • The title is brilliant and will truly resonate with anyone who has lived in NYC. NYC has something called “alternate side parking” (a law that dictates which side of the street cars can park on specific days to improve traffic flow and make room for street sweepers, etc), which causes residents who park on the street to go temporarily insane every time they have to move their cars. It brings out everyone’s true colors and is sort of a microcosm of New York City B.S.
  • While the writing didn’t bowl me over like it did in Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake and Every Last One, it is quintessential Quindlen and there were numerous passages that reminded me why I love her writing…especially when she talks about women’s experiences.
     

The slightly aberrational spouse was a status symbol, too. The husband who cooked. The wife who played golf. The husband who took his children to school. The wife who ran her own business. Of course, it was chancier with the women than with the men. You couldn’t push it too far. The marathoner wife who made partner – perhaps. The wife who could benchpress her own weight and made the cover of Fortune – too emasculating. The men, on the other hand, got unlimited mileage out of performing so-called women’s tasks as long as they also had substantial disposable income and significant business cards.

What I Didn’t Like

  • Alternate Side is about a lot of things, but is also kind of about nothing. Is it about an Upper West Side neighborhood, but a somewhat boring one? Is it about a New York marriage, but a somewhat boring one? Is it about an incident in the neighborhood, which wasn’t as earth-shattering as promised? I couldn’t figure it out. An American Marriage and The Mothers were both about a lot of things, but they all gelled together into a coherent story that worked. Unfortunately, I’m not sure Alternate Side had much of a plot and what plot was there felt muddled. 
  • Some people prefer Quindlen’s nonfiction to her fiction, but I know from Every Last One and One True Thing that she can write novels where the plot and the writing shine. That didn’t happen here.
  • I think this book would have worked better as a nonfiction essay collection about life in New York City for, as Quindlen says, “New Yorkers of a certain sort”, where the “life in New York part” is intentionally the star.

A Defining Quote

There was a shadow government on the block, a shadow government that knew where all the bodies were buried, a system of mutual dependence, one group needing services, the other employment. Nora was never certain where the balance of power fell.

Good for People Who Like…

Quiet stories, social commentary, New York City books.

Try These Books Instead…

Anna Quindlen at her best:
Every Last One (Fiction, my review)

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake (Memoir, my review)

Two books that tackle a lot of issues, but aren’t overwhelmingly about any one of them:
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (my review)

The Mothers by Brit Bennett (my review)

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My Most Anticipated Books of Spring 2018

March 20, 2018 Book Lists 33

Most Anticipated Books of Spring 2018

 

If you’re a regular blog reader, you know I changed my method of choosing books this year. 

Previously, I’d comb the publishers’ catalogs and Preview lists from various bookish media sources for books that appealed to me. But, all I had to go on was the description of the book and marketing material provided by the publisher. I realized this system wasn’t serving me well and was leading me to waste time with a lot of books that didn’t pan out.

In 2018, I started choosing books that had already been read and recommended by trusted recommendation sources (I use my “Rock Your Reading” Tracker, available for purchase for $11.99, to keep an ongoing eye on my best and worst recommendation sources). The key to success is the “already read” part because it provides an opinion beyond “does the premise sound good on paper?”

My Most Anticipated Books of Spring 2018 list is mostly made up of books from trusted sources (to find your personal trusted recommendation sources, check out this post and free downloadable template) who, in as many cases as possible, have already read the book. I did not look at a single publisher’s catalog to create this list. I’m sharing the recommendation source for each book and will specify if that source has or has not read it yet.

This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link).

April

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer (April 3, Riverhead Books)
Meg Wolitzer is one of my auto-buy authors. I loved The Interestings and her lesser known novel, The Wife. And, I’ve read and loved The Female Persuasion – you might hear it’s all about female power and ambition and there is some of that, but it was mostly about the story of Greer, Cory, and Zee for me. In a letter to the reader at the front of the book, Riverhead’s Editor-in-Chief (Sarah McGrath) says “if The Female Persuasion isn’t this era’s Great American Novel, then I don’t think there is one to be had.” High praise. 

Greer Kadetsky is a shy college freshman when she meets the woman she hopes will change her life. Faith Frank, dazzlingly persuasive and elegant at sixty-three, has been a central pillar of the women’s movement for decades, a figure who inspires others to influence the world. Upon hearing Faith speak for the first time, Greer–madly in love with her boyfriend, Cory, but still full of longing for an ambition that she can’t quite place–feels her inner world light up. Then, astonishingly, Faith invites Greer to make something out of that sense of purpose, leading Greer down the most exciting path of her life as it winds toward and away from her meant-to-be love story with Cory and the future she’d always imagined.

Recommendation Source(s): Trusted author, already read by ME and by Rebecca Schinsky from All the Books podcast

How to Be Safe by Tom McCallister (April 3, Liveright)
The premise of this one sounds interesting and it’s edited by Katie Adams at Liveright, who I’ve had success with in the past.

Former Teacher Had Motive. Recently suspended for a so-called outburst, high school English teacher Anna Crawford is stewing over the injustice at home when she is shocked to see herself named on television as a suspect in a shooting at the school where she works. Though she is quickly exonerated, and the actual teenage murderer identified, her life is nevertheless held up for relentless scrutiny and judgment as this quiet town descends into media mania.

Recommendation Source(s): Trusted Editor (Katie Adams at Liveright) and The Millions Great 2018 Book Preview

Look Alive Out There: Essays by Sloane Crosley (April 3, MCD)
I liked Crosley’s essay collection, I Was Told There’d Be Cake. Plus, having lived in NYC during my 20’s and 30’s, I always appreciate commentary on the experience of living in NYC.

Fans of I Was Told There’d Be Cake and How Did You Get This Number know Sloane Crosley’s life as a series of relatable but madcap misadventures. In Look Alive Out There, whether it’s scaling active volcanoes, crashing shivas, playing herself on Gossip Girl, befriending swingers, or staring down the barrel of the fertility gun, Crosley continues to rise to the occasion with unmatchable nerve and electric one-liners.

Recommendation Source(s): Trusted author and Book Riot’s 101 Books Coming Out in 2018 list

You Think It, I’ll Say It: Stories by Curtis Sittenfeld (April 24, Random House)
I haven’t read Sittenfeld since American Wife, but these short stories come highly recommended by not one, but two of my Go-To Recommendation Sources! And, I peeked at the first story and was immediately drawn in. It took all I had not to start reading it right then and there.

The theme that unites these stories in this dazzling first collection by Curtis Sittenfeld is how even the cleverest people tend to misread others, and how much we all deceive ourselves. Sharp and tender, funny and wise, this collection shows Sittenfeld’s knack for creating real, believable characters that spring off the page, while also skewering contemporary mores with brilliant dry wit.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read by two of my Go-To Recommendation SourcesThe Readerly Report Podcast and Tyler Goodson, manager at Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA.

May

Love and Ruin by Paula McLain (May 1, Ballantine Books)
I loved McLain’s The Paris Wife and Circling the Sun (my review). And, I’ve always been fascinated with the whole Ernest Hemingway / F. Scott Fitzgerald literary crowd. 

The bestselling author of The Paris Wife returns to the subject of Ernest Hemingway in a novel about his passionate, stormy marriage to Martha Gellhorn—a fiercely independent, ambitious young woman who would become one of the greatest war correspondents of the twentieth century.

Recommendation Source(s): Trusted author.

Alternative Remedies for Loss by Joanna Cantor (May 8, Bloomsbury USA)
Annie Jones might be my #1 Go-To Recommendation Source these days and she gave this book 4 stars. I’m also a sucker for coming-of-age stories.

A slyly funny coming-of-age novel about a young woman fumbling her way into the mysteries of loss and the travails of adulthood as she tries to make sense of a vanished mother’s legacy.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read by Annie Jones on From the Front Porch podcast (one of my Go-To Recommendation Sources) and supported by Maggie Shipstead (author of Seating Arrangements). 

That Kind of Mother by Rumaan Alam (May 8, Ecco)
I missed Alam’s 2016 novel, Rich and Pretty, but I’ve heard his latest is far better. Two of my Go-To Recommendation Sources gave it 4 1/2 and 5 stars respectively.

Like many first-time mothers, Rebecca Stone finds herself both deeply in love with her newborn son and deeply overwhelmed. Struggling to juggle the demands of motherhood with her own aspirations and feeling utterly alone in the process, she reaches out to the only person at the hospital who offers her any real help—Priscilla Johnson—and begs her to come home with them as her son’s nanny.

Priscilla’s presence quickly does as much to shake up Rebecca’s perception of the world as it does to stabilize her life. Rebecca is white, and Priscilla is black, and through their relationship, Rebecca finds herself confronting, for the first time, the blind spots of her own privilege. She feels profoundly connected to the woman who essentially taught her what it means to be a mother. When Priscilla dies unexpectedly in childbirth, Rebecca steps forward to adopt the baby. But she is unprepared for what it means to be a white mother with a black son. As she soon learns, navigating motherhood for her is a matter of learning how to raise two children whom she loves with equal ferocity, but whom the world is determined to treat differently.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read and loved by two of my Go-To Recommendation Sources: Annie Jones on From the Front Porch podcast and Tyler Goodson, manager at Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA.

The Ensemble by Aja Gabel (May 15, Riverhead Books)
I’m not into classical music at all, but Annie Jones says this is a book set in the world of classical music that is about far more than classical music. She rated it 5 stars and compared it to The Interestings.

The addictive debut novel about four young friends navigating the cutthroat world of music and their complex relationships with each other, as ambition, passion, and love intertwine over the course of their lives.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read and loved by Annie Jones on From the Front Porch podcast (one of my Go-To Recommendation Sources).

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

What Spring 2018 books are you looking forward to?

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What I’m Reading Now (3/19/18)

March 19, 2018 It's Monday! What are you reading? 23

Last week I talked about how it was great to finally have something to get excited about during March Madness (my husband and I both went to UVA). I’m just going to go bury my head in the sand now…

On a better note, I did finish 3 books last week! After I finish my current read, I’m going to be starting the final push to find candidates for my 2018 Summer Reading Guide (coming in May)!

Tools of Titans Tip
I’m slowly working my way through Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss, a collection of highlights from interviews he’s done with various stars of their fields. It’s chock full of awesome tidbits, so I thought I’d share the most helpful tip I pick up each week. I just started the ”Wealthy” section.

On Prioritizing Your Time:
This concept first sunk in with me after reading Sarah Knight’s The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck and is one of the things I try to keep in mind as I figure out how to prioritize my precious non-child rearing time.

“Because most of us say yes to too much stuff, and then, we let these little, mediocre things fill our lives…The problem is, when that occasional, “Oh my God, hell yeah! thing comes along, you don’t have enough time to give it the attention you should, because you’ve said yes to too much other little, half-ass stuff, right? Once I started applying this, my life just opened up.”

– From Derek Sivers, Founder of CDBaby and HostBaby

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Did y’all watch the recent season of #thebachelor?! Quite an ending, right? If you want to know more about how stuff like that goes down behind the scenes, Bachelor Nation is a must read! And, it’s just one book I’m recommending in my MARCH 2018 BOOKS TO READ (AND SKIP) post (LINK IN PROFILE WITH FULL LIST). #partner @duttonbooks @simonandschuster @eccobooks @doubledaybooks ⠀ _⠀ ⠀ Books Discussed in this post (some great, some less great):⠀ – Bachelor Nation by Amy Kaufman⠀ – Laura & Emma by Kate Greathead⠀ – Tangerine by Christine Mangan⠀ – The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian⠀ – Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao _⠀ ⠀ How has your March reading been? What is your favorite March book so far? Least favorite?⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ #bookstagram #amreading #bookworm #instabooks #bookblogger #booklover #booklovers #booksofinstagram #bookgram #bookblogger #bookaddict #bookaddiction #instareads #bachelornation #thebachelor @amykinla @christinerosemangan ⠀

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I finished reading…

Alternate Side, Not That I Could Tell, Glitter and Glue


Alternate Side
 by Anna Quindlen (March 20, 2018)
Not Quindlen’s best work. Full review coming on Thursday.

Not That I Could Tellby Jessica Strawser (March 20, 2018)
This “thriller” was my March Book of the Month selection! And, man, do I wish I’d skipped it. I kept waiting for something to happen, but it never really did. And, the resolution to the main suspenseful element wasn’t surprising at all. This book needed great writing and social commentary to carry it and it had neither. I skimmed the last 40% or so.

Glitter and Glueby Kelly Corrigan (February 4, 2014)
I loved Corrigan’s Tell Me More earlier this year and was excited to delve into her backlist. While I didn’t love Glitter and Glue quite as much as Tell Me More, I did really like it…it has the same trademark style as Tell Me MoreGlitter and Glue focuses on Corrigan’s time as a nanny for an Australian family who had just lost their mother, which transformed her outlook on her own mother and mothering in general. Read by Corrigan herself, this was great on audio!

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

Female Persuasion

 

The Female Persuasionby Meg Wolitzer (April 3, 2018)
I’m over halfway through and thoroughly enjoying Meg Wolitzer’s (one of my favorite authors) new novel! I’d heard it was kind of a feminist manifesto and it has that element, but it’s more the story of a girl, her friend, and her boyfriend trying to make it in the world. It’s such a treat to read Wolitzer’s writing again and I can’t wait to see how Greer (the main character) turns out.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Upcoming reading plans…

How to Be Safe

 

How to Be Safeby Tom McAllister (April 3, 2018)
I’m taking a bit of a risk on this novel about a female high school teacher who is named as a suspect in a school shooting while suspended from her teaching job. It hasn’t come recommended by a trusted recommendation source, but the premise looked interest. 

was reading…

One Year Ago: I’d just read two underrated gems.

Two Years Ago: I was reading a super eye-opening book about what young girls are facing these days.

How was your reading week?

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March 2018 Books to Read (and Skip)

March 15, 2018 Mini Book Reviews 39

March 2018 Books to Read

 

My March reading has so far been pretty similar to February! I’ve liked most of what I’ve read, but there isn’t a runaway standout. I did get let down by two trusted authors, which always makes me a special kind of sad, but overall a solid month!

In addition to my March 2018 Books to Read, stay tuned for my full review of Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen (coming a week from today).

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This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link).

Read These

Bachelor NationBachelor Nation by Amy Kaufman
Nonfiction (Released March 6, 2018)
320 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Publisher: Dutton Books)

Plot Summary: Kaufman, a L.A. Times reporter who covered The Bachelor franchise until ABC shut down her access because they weren’t pleased with what she was writing about the show, exposes the inner workings of The Bachelor franchise.

My Thoughts: I’m an unapologetic fan of The Bachelor and am fascinated by all the behind-the-scenes drama. So, I’m almost the perfect reader for this book (my downfall is that I already know a lot of this stuff from reading Reality Steve). Kaufman investigates The Bachelor‘s cultural place in America, how producers get contestants to give them good TV, how and why contestants think they fall in love over such a short period of time, what happens to the couples after the show ends…and, a history of dating shows (which should have been edited out). This best part of the book are the excepts from contestant Sharleen Joynt‘s journal she kept during filming…she clinically picks apart the psychology of the show while she’s in the middle of it. She’s brilliant and her take is articulate and well thought-out. Kaufman doesn’t really dish on contestant-specific gossip (who’s hooking up with whom, etc), but raises the overall curtain to reveal Oz. Beware if you want to preserve the fairytale because you’ll for sure be watching the show differently after reading it.

Everything is just so designed for romance, I can see how if you were single, didn’t necessarily know what you were looking for, couldn’t tell a deep connection from a superficial one, and were somewhat naive, hopelessly naive and not very cautious, you could fall in love. The focus is so on it all the time. You’re constantly prompted to talk about him, what you two share, how it makes you feel, how seeing him with the other girls makes you feel. There is no escape. – from Sharleen Joynt‘s journal

Laura and EmmaLaura & Emma by Kate Greathead
Fiction – Literary (Released March 13, 2018)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Publisher: Simon & Schuster)

Plot Summary: Laura, the somewhat quirky daughter of a blue-blood Upper East Side family, becomes pregnant after a one-night stand and wrestles with how to raise her daughter.

My Thoughts: The key to loving Laura & Emma is loving Laura’s voice and the writing style (which I did)…because there isn’t a ton of action to propel the story. It’s been compared to the TV show Gilmore Girls and I’d say that’s true with the story’s premise (single mother from a wealthy family trying to raise her daughter differently than how she grew up, but not totally disconnecting), but not at all in character or style. Laura is offbeat, but likable and funny in an awkward way (she reminded me of a less damaged version of Eleanor Oliphant). She’s uncomfortable with her family’s wealth, but her guilt doesn’t stop her from taking advantage of the benefits that come with it. The story is told in vignettes both momentous and mundane, which might turn some people off, but these hung together quite well to form a cohesive story (e.g. similar to Goodbye, Vitamin). However, the ending is perplexing to say the least. I’m still not sure what happened and it will probably annoy readers who don’t like things left open-ended. P.S. – there’s an entertaining, kooky grandmother…always a plus in my reading!

As she sat across the table from this Republican lobbyist lunatic, she thought of what her mother had said of marriage: Anything, anything, anything would be better than this. That’s how others viewed her current situation as a single mother, she realized. How else to explain their rationale in matching her with such maniacs? They saw her and Emma as incomplete, stray people, a free-floating fragment; the goal was to make them whole and anyone, anyone, anyone would be better than no one.

Tangerine by Christine ManganTangerine by Christine Mangan
Fiction – Literary (Released March 20, 2018)
320 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Publisher: Ecco Books)

Plot Summary: Alice Shipley can’t figure out whether to be relieved or unsettled when her college roommate (Lucy Mason), who she hasn’t spoken to in over a year after a deeply disturbing incident, shows up on her doorstep in Tangier, Morocco, where she’s living with her new husband (John).

My Thoughts: Told in dual perspectives, Mangan’s debut novel is the story of a fraught, obsessive friendship and all the wreckage it leaves behind. Tangerine is a very specific type of book that I generally adore (and I did in this case!), but that probably isn’t for everyone. It’s kind of a page turner, but not in the traditional sense. It’s taut with emotional and psychological tension, but doesn’t have much action until the second half. Mangan generates all this tension through her writing style, which reminded me of Tender (my review), Sunburn (my review), and Based on a True Story (Spoiler Discussion). For virtually the entire book, I questioned who to trust, which kept me turning the pages, and the Moroccan setting makes the story even more enigmatic. P.S. – Don’t be fooled by this cover. It reminds me of Paula McClain’s Circling the Sun, which is straight-up historical fiction, but Tangerine does not read like historical fiction at all despite the 1950’s time period. 

Tangier and Lucy were the same, I thought. Both unsolvable riddles that refused to leave me in peace. And I had tired of it – of the not knowing, of always feeling as though I were on the outside of things, just on the periphery.

Skip These

Flight Attendant by Chris BohjalianThe Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian
Fiction – Mystery / Thriller (Released March 13, 2018)
368 Pages
Affiliate Link: Amazon
Source: Publisher (Publisher: Doubleday)

Plot Summary: When Cassie, an alcoholic flight attendant, finds her hook-up (Alex Sokolov) from the night before dead in a Dubai hotel, she questions whether she killed him during a blackout and, if not, wonders who did.

My Thoughts: Chris Bohjalian has been a reliable standby for me in the thriller department for the past few years (The Guest RoomThe Sleepwalker), but I think he stumbled with The Flight Attendant. I was initially interested in finding out what happened to Alex and what would happen to Cassie. How would she handle being questioned about Alex’s murder (given she makes terrible decisions most of the time)? Would she be charged with murdering him? But, as Alex’s story is gradually revealed, I became incredibly confused. Why he might have been killed is convoluted, yet it felt like white noise to me. That side of the story isn’t developed well at all…to the point that I didn’t really care. However, Bohjalian did a great job bringing the life of a flight attendant alive, which I enjoyed. Bohjalian has written a book a year for the past few years, which is a lot. I feel like he might’ve churned this one out too quickly…at the expense of quality.

She hoped her small joke would make him smile, but the truth of it made her cringe. It wasn’t merely the acknowledgment of her drinking; it was the reality that she was poisonous; she always risked diminishing the people she loved or might someday love. Too often she forced them to make the same bad choices she did or forced them from her life. Best case, she forced them to care for her.

Girls Burn BrighterGirls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao (March 6, 2018)
DNF at 13%

This novel about female friendship set in India got a decent amount of publisher hype. I had trouble getting into the characters initially and my mind kept wandering. I felt like I was viewing the story from an airplane window at 50,000 feet instead of feeling immersed in it. Since then, I’ve heard it’s an incredibly brutal story, which I just don’t have in me right now.

What’s the best book you’ve read so far this month?

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Did You Know You Can…? 8 Tricks to Make Your Reading Life Easier

March 13, 2018 Reading Tools 34

Tricks to Make Your Reading Life Easier


For a person that runs my own blog, I’m incredibly un-tech savvy, but I do love easy tricks to make your reading life easier! The key is they must be super simple for me to actually adopt them. You may know all of these tricks already, but I just picked up many of them over the past year or two…and they’ve all vastly improved my reading life.

This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link).

8 Tricks to Make Your Reading Life Easier

Amazon (Kindle and Audible) Tricks

  • Email your Kindle highlights and notes to yourself.
    On the home menu that runs along the top of your Kindle, choose the 3 vertical dots icon on the far right > Notes > Export Notes (on the bottom of the list of notes that pops up) > Send. Check your inbox for an email with a nicely formatted PDF AND a spreadsheet attached! I save all my PDFs in a folder for easy access to all my highlights and notes!
  • Bookmark passages on Audible (“highlighting for audiobooks”).
    Just tap “Clip” to mark your spot and tap the triple dots in the upper righthand corner to find all your bookmarks (under “Clips & Bookmarks”).
Tricks to Make Your Reading Life Easier

 

  • Download audiobooks from your local library.
    Many local libraries use the Overdrive system to enable you to check out e-books and audiobooks. I download and listen to audiobooks directly through the Overdrive app on my phone. Libby is also an easy way to download audiobooks from your library.
  • Add audio narration to an Amazon e-book purchase for a small extra charge.
    This comes in really handy if you’re reading one of those doorstop books and want to get through it faster. Adding some listening time to your existing reading time will make things go much faster.

    Tricks to make Your Reading Life Easier
    Bonus: you can add Audible narration to e-books you’ve checked out from the library via Overdrive. This means you can effectively get a really cheap audiobook! Sometimes, I’ll check out an e-book from the library just to get the cheap audiobook…having no intention of actually reading the e-book.

Library Tricks

  • Suspend library holds.
    I’m sure man of you have experienced the frustration of a bunch of your library holds coming in at the same time. I sure have. Well, you can keep this from happening by suspending holds, which holds your place in the queue while delaying when you have to check the book out. You can suspend each hold by 7, 14, 21, 28, and up to 180 days. I call this “actively managing my holds.”
    Tricks to make Your Reading Life Easier
  • Put books on hold at the library before they’re published.
    Sometimes, but not always, libraries will purchase a book well before publication date. This often happens with exceptionally popular new releases. And, this is where book bloggers who are reading and talking about books before they’re published can really help you. As soon as you hear about an upcoming book you’re interested in, check your library to see if you can put it on hold. You can’t actually check it out until publications date, but you can get in the line early. For example, I already have a hold on Fredrick Backman’s sequel to Beartown (Us Against You), which doesn’t come out until June.

Goodreads Tricks

  • Compare books with your Goodreads friends.
    You can see a side by side comparison of all the books you and a specific Goodreads friend has shelved and/or rated. Goodreads even gives you the percentage of similar taste for books you both rated. This can be incredibly helpful information as you look for your Go-To Recommendation Sources! Click on your profile picture in the top right corner of your Goodreads homepage > Friends > Compare Books for the friend you want to compare with.
Tricks to make Your Reading Life Easier Tricks to make Your Reading Life Easier

 

  • Save your favorite quotes on Goodreads.
    In response to my recent post sharing 14 of my favorite book quotes, many of you asked how I keep track of my favorite quotes. Well, this is one of my ways! In the main menu bar of your Goodreads homepage, choose Community > Quotes > Add a Quote (in very small type on the right side of the page). You can type in your quote, choose the author and book from dropdown menus, and even categorize your quotes with tags.

What other reading hacks do you have up your sleeve? I know y’all probably have some that I missed because I’m not that tech savvy!

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What I’m Reading Now (3/12/18)

March 12, 2018 It's Monday! What are you reading? 25

We had a basketball-filled weekend! My husband and I both went to UVA, so it was a pretty good weekend to be a fan (we won the ACC Championships and will go into the NCAA tournament as a #1 seed). Our basketball success in recent years has been pretty awesome for us fans since we’re TERRIBLE at football and, prior to Coach Tony Bennett arriving in Charlottesville, were only mediocre at basketball. So, it’s fun to finally have something to get excited about.

Last week, I debuted a new feature on the blog called Readers Recommend, where a regular blog reader (by “regular,” I mean someone who reads the blog, but does not have a blog of his or her own) shares an “Old Love, a New Love, and a Don’t Love.” Our first guest’s “Old Love” got some serious chatter going in the comments section! I’ll be doing this feature monthly, so email me at sarahsbookshelves@gmail.com if you’d like to participate (I do have a waitlist right now, but add your name now if you’re interested in participating in the future!).

Tools of Titans Tip
I’m slowly working my way through Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss, a collection of highlights from interviews he’s done with various stars of their fields. It’s chock full of awesome tidbits, so I thought I’d share the most helpful tip I pick up each week. I’m currently reading the “Healthy” section (next up…”Wealthy” and “Wise”).

The “Hard-Style” Plank
I’ve been doing these when I don’t really have time for core during a workout. And I’ve been sore…from 10 second planks!

Hold a plank for 10 seconds under max contraction (like you’re about to be kicked and breathe ‘behind the shield’ of your tensed midsection), not for several minutes. For a challenge, consider putting your feet on the wall, a few inches from the floor.

For rep sets, do 3 to 5 sets of 3 to 5 reps in dynamic (moving) exercises or hold 10 seconds for static exercises. Take 3 to 5 minutes of rest in between sets for both.

– From Pavel Tsatsouline, Chairman of StrongFirst Inc, a worldwide school of strength

I alternate one 10 second static hold with one moving set of 5 reps (for my moving set, I put my calves on a foam roller and walk forward for 5 “arm steps” on my forearms). I do a total of 4 sets (so 2 for each exercise). Takes like 2 minutes, so I have no excuse to skip core work!

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I finished reading…

Tangerine by Christine Mangan


Tangerine
 by Christine Mangan (March 20, 2018)
Don’t be thrown by the cover of this one…it doesn’t read at all like historical fiction. It’s heavy on the emotional tension, lighter on the action. I really liked it, but it’s the kind of book that won’t be for everyone. Mini review to come.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen


Alternate Side
 by Anna Quindlen (March 20, 2018)
Anna Quindlen is one of my auto-buy authors (i.e. an author who’s work I love so much that I’ll read whatever he/she publishes). I’m about 70% through her new, NYC novel and…I don’t know. I’m not sure what it’s about. I see glimpses of her trademark writing, but it’s just kind of “meh,” especially compared to her other work.

Upcoming reading plans…

Not That I Could Tell

Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser (March 20, 2018)
This “thriller” was my March Book of the Month selection! Y’all know I’m skittish with thrillers, but Amy at Read a Latte said this one was “not quite a thriller. It’s more an examination of the lives of these women, and the questions that circulate when a perceived perfect neighborhood starts to show cracks.” Which sounds right up my alley.

was reading…

One Year Ago: I just finished reading one of the more messed up books I’ve read in awhile.

Two Years Ago: It was the weekend Pat Conroy died…breaking my heart.

How was your reading week?

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

March 8, 2018 Book Recommendations 37

Readers Recommend

 

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

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

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

Let’s welcome our first guest…

Get to Know Brittany

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

Brittany Recommends…

An Old Love

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

A New Love

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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

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

A “Didn’t Love”

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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