It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? (2/6/17)

February 6, 2017 It's Monday! What are you reading? 39

Hosted by The Book Date.

I had a great reading week last week with the first 2017 release that really blew me away! I’ve been waiting for this and the particular book that did it came out of left field.

I also had some library holds come in: The Unwinding by George Packer on audio (how am I going to finish an 18 hour audiobook in 2 weeks?!) and Human Acts by Han Kang (which I tried after finishing This Is How It Always Is, but the timing wasn’t right…I may get back to it).

This post contains affiliate links.

I finished reading…

This Is How It Always Is, Laurie Frankel


This Is How It Always Is
 by Laurie Frankel (January 24, 2017)

My favorite book of 2017 so far! This story of a family of five boys, the youngest of which knows he wants to be a girl at a very young age, had me feeling every possible emotion. Plus, it’s the best book club selection I’ve come across in a long time. Review to come.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

Behind Her Eyes, Sarah Pinborough


Behind Her Eyes
 by Sarah Pinborough (January 31, 2017)

It’s been awhile since I’ve read a psychological thriller, but I needed something different following This Is How It Always Is and I have to admit the marketing push that’s whipping everyone into a frenzy about the ending has me curious (I’m a total sucker). I’m about 40% in so far and I’m feeling a Spoiler Discussion post coming…
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I tried, but wasn’t feeling…

Desperation Road, Michael Farris Smith


Desperation Road
 by Michael Farris Smith (February 7, 2017)
I just wasn’t into it and didn’t much care where it was going. I can’t even remember anything about it now…even though I only stopped reading it less than a week ago. Bailed at 20%.

Upcoming reading plans…

A carryover from last week:

A Separation, Katie Mitamura


A Separation
 by Katie Kitamura (February 7, 2017)
This might be the Winter 2017 novel I’m most excited about. It’s about an unraveling marriage and Rebecca Schinsky mentioned on Book Riot’s Holiday Recommendations podcast that she was also excited about this one. I don’t have an advance copy, so will have to wait for February 7.

How was your reading week?

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

February 1, 2017 Book Recommendations 25

Book of the Month Club February 2017 selections

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


Do you want help choosing from the five Book of the Month Club selections each month?

Welcome to my new monthly feature “Book of the Month Club Selections: What Would I Choose?”! Every month, I’ll 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.

Book of the Month Club February 2017 Selections

Pachinko, Min Jin LeePachinko by Min Jin Lee (Release Date: February 7, 2017)
496 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.32
Selected By: Alexander Chee (author of  The Queen of the Night)

For readers of The Kite Runner and Cutting for Stone.

Pachinko follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them all. Deserted by her lover, Sunja is saved when a young tubercular minister offers to marry and bring her to Japan.

My Thoughts:
I’ve seen this book around (by around, I mean I’ve seen other bloggers I follow mention that they’re interested in reading it), but I haven’t seen that any of them have actually read it yet. It doesn’t sound like my cup of tea, mainly due to its length and heavy subject matter (just not what I have the mental space for at the moment).

Update: A little more information about Pachinko from Beth Fish Reads.

The Animators, Kayla Rae WhitakerThe Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker (Released: January 31, 2017)
384 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.18
Selected By: Cynthia Sweeney D’Aprix (author of The Nest)

At a private East Coast college, two young women meet in art class. […] A decade later, Sharon and Mel are an award-winning animation duo, and with the release of their first full-length feature, a fearless look at Mel’s childhood, they stand at the cusp of success. […] When unexpected tragedy strikes, long-buried resentments rise to the surface, threatening their partnership—and hastening a reckoning no one sees coming.

My Thoughts:
Susie at Novel Visits, a blogger who has similar taste to mine, said this debut novel was her favorite book of the year so far and wrote this glowing review. Consequently, I added it to my “must at least try before the end of the year” TBR list.

Update: Here’s one more review from a blogger I follow (52 Books or Bust)…it’s not as positive as Susie’s and will give you a different perspective. Also, Liberty Hardy mentioned on today’s All the Books podcast that this book has a chance to be one of her favorites of the year.

Behind Her Eyes, Sarah PinboroughBehind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough (Released: January 31, 2017)
320 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.06
Selected By: Cristina Arreola (Bustle Books Editor)

Louise is a single mom, a secretary, stuck in a modern-day rut. On a rare night out, she meets a man in a bar and sparks fly. […] As Louise is drawn into David and Adele’s orbit, she uncovers more puzzling questions than answers. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong, but Louise can’t guess how wrong―and how far a person might go to protect their marriage’s secrets.

My Thoughts:
This twisty psychological thriller has been compared to Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train (seriously, when will publishers get sick of these comparisons?!) and apparently has a controversial ending that people will be talking about. Beth Fish Reads, a blogger I follow, shared these thoughts on it. If you like psychological thrillers and/or want to be a part of the conversation about that ending, this one might be a good choice for you.

Perfect Little World, Kevin WilsonPerfect Little World by Kevin Wilson (Released: January 24, 2017)
352 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.81
Selected By: Maris Kreizman (Book of the Month Club Editorial Director)

When Isabelle Poole meets Dr. Preston Grind, she’s just about out of options. […] So when Dr. Grind offers her a space in The Infinite Family Project, she accepts. Housed in a spacious compound in Tennessee, she joins nine other couples, all with children the same age as her newborn son, to raise their children as one extended family. Grind’s theory is that the more parental love a child receives, the better off they are.

My Thoughts:
Perfect Little World has gotten starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist and the premise sounds intriguing. Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books, a blogger whose taste I trust implicitly, thinks I would like it. So, it’s joined The Animators on my “must at least try before the end of the year” TBR list.

The Possessions, Sara Flannery MurphyThe Possessions by Sara Flannery Murphy (Released: February 7, 2017)
368 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.82
Selected By: Liberty Hardy (co-host of Book Riot‘s All the Books podcast)

In this electrifying literary debut, a young woman who channels the dead for a living crosses a dangerous line when she falls in love with one of her clients, whose wife died under mysterious circumstances.

My Thoughts:
This is another psychological thriller with the obligatory comparisons to Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, BUT is also being compared to Station Eleven (review) and Margaret Atwood, which is definitely a combination I’ve never seen before. Another blogger I follow (Michelle at That’s What She Read) shared her brief thoughts about it on Monday. I’m sort of burned out on psychological thrillers and am generally skeptical of comparisons to Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, so I probably wouldn’t choose this one.

Update: Michelle at That’s What She Read has now posted her full review.

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

My choices this month would be The Animators and Perfect Little World!

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

For anyone unfamiliar with 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 $9.99, which is 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) for $9.99 per month. 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 1-month, 3-month, 6-month, or 12-month Book of the Month membership!
(Special February Deal: get a free BOTM tote when you sign up for a 3 month membership)

Book of the Month Club


*All book descriptions are from Goodreads.

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Nose Graze: The Best Web Host for Beginner or Non-Techie WordPress Bloggers

January 31, 2017 Bookish Posts 4

Nose Graze, best host for beginner non-techie bloggers

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a small commission at no cost to you. All opinions are my own.

Though I’ve been a blogger for almost 4 years, I’m decidedly NOT good at the technology side. I’m not particularly interested in it and don’t have the time to really learn all the ins and outs. I don’t know how to code. I (generally) don’t know how to figure out what’s wrong when something on my blog breaks. 

I started this blog because I love to read and talk about books…not fix technology issues or learn to code!

Last year, my blog frequently “broke” (to get technical about it) when I uploaded new versions of WordPress or my plug-ins. I’d spend hours on the phone with my host’s premium WordPress support desk (which I paid extra to have access to) and I’d often get nowhere with my problem. After this happened a few times in a row, I knew I couldn’t continue this way. 

Enter Nose Graze Hosting…

After doing some research, I discovered that Ashley at Nose Graze (yes, the same awesome girl who built the popular Ultimate Book Blogger plug-in) runs a hosting service specifically for people like me that use WordPress! Here’s Ashley’s description of who would be a good fit for her hosting service:

  • You’re a book blogger or author. My service primarily caters to book lovers.
  • You’ve outgrown a free platform and want something more, but you don’t want to have to deal with cPanel and FTP and installer scripts. You want something easy.
  • You hate being responsible for maintaining a website.
  • You don’t like techy stuff.
  • You want someone who will install plugins and themes for you.
  • You want a WordPress expert to turn to if you have any questions.

That last bullet in particular was music to my non-techie ears.

Nose Graze Hosting Pricing

I’ll admit, Nose Graze Hosting at $19.99 a month is more expensive than more basic hosts like Bluehost at $3.95/month (current sale price) or Siteground at $9.95/month (both are recommended hosts if you want lower prices and don’t mind more basic service). But, once I factored in the add-ons I used with my old host (Sitelock security and Premium WordPress tech support), Nose Graze actually ended up being slightly cheaper.

Why Nose Graze Hosting Is Worth the Extra Cost

I migrated to Nose Graze Hosting in April 2016…actually, Ashley did the whole thing for me for a flat fee (and she’ll do it for free if you’re migrating from WordPress.com or Blogger). Since then, I’ve had very few issues with my blog. Ashley updates all my plug-ins for me, so it’s done correctly every time.

On the very few occasions when one plug-in is acting up, Ashley responds to my support requests quickly (sometimes instantaneously) and is always able to fix the issue.

Most recently, I received a notice from my old host about Google’s SSL security initiative with instructions on how to pay them extra for an SSL certificate and installation. I emailed the Nose Graze support desk to ask how I should go about doing this and Ashley responded with this:

You already have one. 🙂 It’s been set up for a while now – you don’t need to do anything. Your site goes to https:// when you visit it and that’s how you know the SSL is there.

That’s what I call top-notch customer service!

She also answers my silly WordPress questions that aren’t technically in her hosting domain and always takes the time to explain the “why” behind the answer…educating me in the process.

For the first time since I started this blog, I feel like someone has my WordPress back…that I’m no longer floating around alone in a lifeboat trying to figure things out myself.

Visit Nose Graze Hosting for more information and to sign up!

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a small commission at no cost to you. All opinions are my own.

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It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? (1/30/17)

January 30, 2017 It's Monday! What are you reading? 38

Hosted by The Book Date.

Thanks so much to everyone who shared their thoughts on the state of this blog last week! The basic gist of many of your comments boils down to this:

  • I should create whatever content brings me the most satisfaction (my blog readers be damned…haha!).
  • I have some readers who don’t necessarily share my taste in books, which is interesting. I’m curious what keeps them reading if its’ not the books.
  • Lists and discussion posts are popular (lining up with my pageviews data).
  • Others are struggling with the book review dilemma (i.e. least favorite posts to write and least viewed posts) as well, but no one has really figured out the key to this castle.
  • People seem to be (cautiously?) intrigued by the book recommendations project, which I’ll share more about later.

I’m still mulling over my next steps. But, I’m going to try some different things over the next few months to see what sticks. You might see me occasionally branch out from writing just about books, cut back on (though not eliminate) traditional book reviews, and try some new features.

And, I’d love to hear your feedback whenever you see new content!

This post contains affiliate links.

I finished reading…

Most Dangerous Place on Earth, Lindsey Lee Johnson


The Most Dangerous Place on Earth
 by Lindsey Lee Johnson (January 10, 2017)
This wasn’t the twisty page turner about demented high school students that I expected…it was more about the characters (don’t worry, some of those characters are definitely demented) and the writing was stellar. I preferred it this way.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller (February 7, 2017)
Another novel that wasn’t quite what I was expecting. But, I ended up really liking it. I’ll post a review after thinking on it a bit more.

Affiliate Link: Pre-Order from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

Desperation Road, Michael Farris Smith


Desperation Road
 by Michael Farris Smith (February 7, 2017)
I’m only 15% into this Grit Lit novel from the author of 2013’s Rivers. It didn’t grab me immediately, but I also don’t feel like I need to put it down just yet.

Upcoming reading plans…

A Separation, Katie Mitamura


A Separation
 by Katie Kitamura (February 7, 2017)
This might be the Winter 2017 novel I’m most excited about. It’s about an unraveling marriage and Rebecca Schinsky mentioned on Book Riot’s Holiday Recommendations podcast that she was also excited about this one. I don’t have an advance copy, so will have to wait for February 7.

How was your reading week? 

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Read Both: Every Last One and Always Happy Hour

January 26, 2017 Mini Book Reviews 16

Every Last One, Anna QuindlenEvery Last One by Anna Quindlen
Fiction (Released August 13, 2010)
299 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Library (Publisher: Random House)

Plot Summary: The story of the Latham family – a normal, but not perfect family with teenage children – and the ripple effects of small decisions.

My Thoughts: Catherine at Gilmore Guide recently got me started on Anna Quindlen by recommending Miller’s Valley and then Every Last One…and I cannot thank her enough. Quindlen just gets it…she gets motherhood, marriage, adult female friendship, life with teenagers, and grief (and I’m sure I’ll discover more as I read more of her work)…and that shines through in the “yes, that’s exactly how it is” writing that permeates Every Last One.

A loose end—that’s what we women call it, when we are overwhelmed by the care of small children, the weight of small tasks, a life in which we fall into bed at the end of the day exhausted from being all things to all people.

This is the rare book that combines a booming plot with depth, emotion, and sparkling writing. A central plot point drives the story, but the action really isn’t what this book is about. Quindlen kicks things off with an honest portrayal of a family that isn’t too perfect and isn’t too dysfunctional…they are decidedly average and relatable (I know, a departure from the dysfunctional families I normally love to read about). Mary Beth, the mother, is someone I could see myself being friends with and their three children are characters I recognized clearly from my youth. But then, something unimaginable happens and the book becomes about how regular people deal with inconceivable events. An overarching theme of the constant politeness that society expects…the sometimes cavernous disparity between what society expects people to say vs. what people truthfully feel or want to say…pervades the second half of the story.

Every Last One was not the light read that I expected…it was much better than that and enabled me to finish my 2016 reading (I read this in late December) with a 5 star book.

Always Happy Hour, Mary MillerAlways Happy Hour by Mary Miller
Fiction – Short Stories (Released January 10, 2017)
256 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased (Publisher: Liveright)

Plot Summary: A collection of short stories from the perspective of women in bad situations making bad decisions.

My Thoughts: Always Happy Hour is going to be a tough sell because 1) short stories generally are and 2) my descriptions of the book aren’t the kind that generally make hoards of readers run to the bookstore…but, this collection is very, very good if you like dark stories (read between the lines: it isn’t for everyone). Elements of this collection reminded me of two beloved TV shows: Seinfeld because the stories aren’t really about anything, yet they’re about everything (sort of snapshots of life rather than plot-heavy)…and The Office because of the deadpan tone.

This is not my life, or it is not the life I’m supposed to be living, and so I can pretend that it is. I don’t consider the actuality of my situation, which is that every day I live this life it becomes more and more mine, the real one, and the one I’m supposed to be living falls further away; eventually it will be gone forever.

Most of the women in these stories have a defeatist quality about them; life has sort of left them behind. There is a sense of inertia hanging over everything and they can’t seem to take control of their lives. I wanted to shake them many times…but, we’ve all had defeatist moments in our own lives and those moments are the reader’s lifeline to relating to certain aspects of these characters’ lives, if not the overall wholes. There is a sameness to many of the stories and so they ran together in my head a bit, but reading a story a day or so helped, and my two favorites (Little Bear and First Class) came towards the end of the collection. Pick this collection up if you’re a fan of dark, dry humor and gorgeous writing.

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Eight Books Friday Night Lights’ Tami Taylor Would Love

January 24, 2017 Book Lists 25

Books Friday Night Lights Tami Taylor Would Love

 

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you are probably aware of my Friday Night Lights (the TV show, not the movie) obsession by now. My husband makes fun of me because I talk about the characters as if they are real people…and also because I’m still obsessed with them years after the show ended. I 100% own all of the above and this post is a prime example. And, don’t think I’m stopping with Tami; I feel Coach and Riggins (yes, unlikely, but I think I can make it happen) installments brewing down the line.

Eight Books Friday Night Lights’ Tami Taylor Would Love 

Because she focused on her career within the context of her marriage…
 
The Wife by Meg Wolitzer (review)
 
Because she was the Dillon High School students’ main source of adult, yet non-judgmental advice…
 
Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed (mini review)
 
So she could stay informed about the high school sex scene (and counsel Julie appropriately)…
 
Girls & Sex by Peggy Orenstein
 
Because she counseled Becky on a major life choice…
 
The Mothers by Brit Bennett (mini review)
 
Because she takes kids from terrible home situations under her wing and pushes them to want more…
 
Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (mini review)
 
Because she’s a champion for bad@ss ladies and, you know, Texas high school sports…
 
 
Because underneath all her Southern charm, Tami is a feminist at heart…
 
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

 

Fellow Friday Night Lights fans, what other books do you think Tami Taylor would love?

 

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It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? (1/23/17)

January 23, 2017 It's Monday! What are you reading? 40

Hosted by The Book Date.

After a scattered reading stretch, I started to find my stride this week…and I seem to be devouring short books at the moment.

On a more contemplative note, I spent some time last week thinking about Sarah’s Book Shelves and where I want to take it. I’ve been in the same routine (3 posts per week: Monday update, a list or discussion post, and a book review or mini reviews) for well over a year now and things are starting to feel a bit stale (at least to me). I’ve been thinking about this for quite awhile, but I’m finally feeling motivated to take some action.

Here’s what I know:

  • What I really love about being a book person is the matchmaking; recommending the right books to the right people.
  • My least favorite part of the running the blog (other than making graphics!) is writing book reviews…they also are my least viewed types of posts.
  • I’d like to make this blog (or something it ends up growing into) a career at some point. It’s the first thing I’ve ever done that I’m truly passionate about.

As a first step, I’m planning to test run a small project on the blog around Mother’s/Father’s Days. It’s more book recommending rather than reviewing, and if people seem interested in it, then I’ll try to role it out on a larger scale.

And, as readers and participants in this space, I’d love your feedback on what you want more of, less of, and what you’d like to see from this blog. Feel free to share in the comments or email me directly at sarahsbookshelves@gmail.com.

I finished reading…

Always Happy Hour, Mothering Sunday


Always Happy Hour
 by Mary Miller (January 10, 2017)
Last week I mentioned these stories were running together in my head a bit, despite the fact that I was enjoying them. In the second half, each story started to stand out more and my favorite two stories came near the end. Mini review to come.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift (April 19, 2016)
This tiny book about an affair between a maid and the heir to the neighboring estate in 1920’s England was completely unique, yet not weird and gorgeously written. It had a bit of a Downton Abbey feel. You can read it in a day…and you should!

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

Most Dangerous Place on Earth, Lindsey Lee Johnson


The Most Dangerous Place on Earth
 by Lindsey Lee Johnson (January 10, 2017)

I always get sucked into demented high school novels, yet often end up disappointed (recently by Girls on Fire and Dare Me). But, this one is bucking the trend so far (about halfway).
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I tried, but wasn’t feeling…

The Antiques, Kris D'Agostino


The Antiques
 by Kris D’Agostino (January 10, 2017)
Last week I said “the success of this book will depend entirely on the writing, though, so we’ll see how it pans out.” Well, the writing didn’t exactly pan out. I bailed at 13%.

Upcoming reading plans…

Swimming Lessons, Claire Fuller


Swimming Lessons
 by Claire Fuller (February 7, 2017)
I’ve been hotly anticipating this sophomore novel from the author of Our Endless Numbered Days (one of my favorite debuts of 2015). This time around, Fuller untangles the mystery of a marriage.

How was your reading week? And, please share any thoughts you have on blog in the comments. Thank you!

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Backlist Beauties: (Most of) the Best Backlist Books I Read Last Year

January 19, 2017 Book Lists 18

One of my 2016 goals was to read more backlist books since I had great success with the few I read in 2015 (50% were 4.5 or 5 star reads). As I approached 2016’s halfway mark, I realized this was the one goal where I was utterly failing to make inroads! So, to keep me honest, I decided to briefly highlight a few backlist books in an occasional “Backlist Beauties” feature.

Here’s the 2016 crop (with one missing, which was so good it’s getting it’s own mini review) and, hopefully, I’ll read enough excellent backlisters throughout 2017 to warrant more than one post!

(Most of) the Best Backlist Books I Read Last Year

Our Souls at Night, Kent HarufOur Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
Fiction (Released May 26, 2015)
179 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased (Publisher: Knopf) 

Our Souls at Night is a sweet, calm, and uncomplicated novel about two older people (Louis and Addie) who stopped caring what everyone else thought and did what they needed to do to be happy. It’s sort of like they read The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck, which I happened to be listening to while reading this book. This novel reminded me a bit of My Name is Lucy Barton, as much of the story and background on the characters is revealed through conversations between Louis and Addie.

I told you I don’t want to live like that anymore – for other people, what they think, what they believe. I don’t think it’s the way to live. It isn’t for me anyway.

Book of Unknown Americans, Cristina HenriquezThe Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez
Fiction (Released June 3, 2014)
286 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased (Publisher: Knopf) 

This powerful book about the life of immigrants living in the U.S. is initially quiet, but I couldn’t put it down towards the end. It forces the reader to see life in America through a different set of eyes. There’s lots to chew on here and it would make a fantastic book club selection.

When I walk down the street, I don’t want people to look at me and see a criminal or someone that they can spit on or beat up. I want them to see a guy who has just as much right to be here as they do, or a guy who works hard, or a guy who loves his family, or a guy who’s just trying to do the right things.

 

This is the story of a happy marriage, Ann PatchettThis is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett
Nonfiction – Essays (Released December 11, 2011)
308 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased (Publisher: Harper) 

Pat Conroy is one of the rare authors whose fiction and nonfiction I’ve truly enjoyed. Now that he’s gone, Ann Patchett might be taking his place (thanks to his recommendation in A Lowcountry Heart). She covers the gamut of topics in this essay collection: marriage (obviously), divorce, writing, book tours, opera (the only low point for me), friendship, how to be productive, and the story behind the opening of Parnassus Books. She lives an interesting, yet fairly normal life and I like her outlook on things.

What I like about the job of being a novelist, and at the same time what I find so exhausting about it, is that it’s the closest thing to being God you’re ever going to get. All of the decisions are yours. You decide when the sun comes up. You decide who gets to fall in love and who gets hit by a car. You have to make all the trees and all the leaves and then sew the leaves onto the trees. You make the entire world.

Tiny Beautiful Things, Cheryl StrayedTiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
Nonfiction (Released July 10, 2012)
308 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased (Publisher: Vintage/Random House Audio) 

In this compilation of columns from her time as the Dear Sugar advice columnist for The Rumpus, Strayed blends empathy, truth, bluntness, and humor to form a perfect blend of “yes, that’s exactly how it is” observations about life and useful, non-judgmental advice about how to live it. I’m not an advice column type of person or an audiobook lover, but the audio version of this book (narrated by the author) earned 5 stars from me.

Trust yourself. It’s Sugar’s golden rule. Trusting yourself means living out what you already know to be true.

You Are An Ironman, Jacques SteinbergYou Are An Ironman by Jacques Steinberg
Nonfiction – Sports (Released September 15, 2011)
304 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Gift (Publisher: Viking) 

The intertwined stories of six amateur triathletes’ attempts to complete Ironman Arizona 2009 (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run), a race that can last as long as 17 hours. A friend gave me this book after learning I was competing in a Sprint Triathlon and I figured I’d peek at a few pages, but probably not read the whole thing. Boy, was I wrong! I teared up within the first 50 pages and was thoroughly inspired by the stories of these regular people attempting an extraordinary feat. 

The road to an Ironman truly begins with someone deciding to place one hand in front of the other in a pool, or one foot before the other on a fast-walk that might progress into a jog or a run.

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Eight of the Most Underrated Gems of 2016

January 17, 2017 Top Ten Tuesday 26

Eight of the most underrated gems of 2016


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

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

Eight of the Most Underrated Gems of 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? (1/16/17)

January 16, 2017 It's Monday! What are you reading? 25

Hosted by The Book Date.

Last week was a bit scattered on the reading front. I finished The Futures and have already reviewed it, so won’t talk about it here. Then I spent a day or so reading samples to figure out how to kill time until Tuesday, when a couple books I was interested in were coming out. So, I’m now in the middle of two books and have a third audiobook (Adnan’s Story) going.

Side note: My mom is always asking me why I read such dark books. She’ll be especially irked by this week’s update…pretty much all dark. 

I’m currently reading…

Imagine Me Gone, Always Happy Hour


Imagine Me Gone
 by Adam Haslett (May 3, 2016)

This story about the impact of depression on a family was long-listed for the 2016 National Book Award. After an uneven first half, I’m devouring the second half (and am almost done).
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Always Happy Hour by Mary Miller (January 10, 2017)
These short stories are not happy as the title suggests, but raw and gorgeously written. There is a bit of sameness to them, though, so I’m reading one every night instead of tackling this collection all at once. You’ll probably see this one here next week too.

Upcoming reading plans…

The Antiques, Kris D'Agostino


The Antiques
 by Kris D’Agostino (January 10, 2017)

Rebecca Schinsky recommended this book on last week’s All the Books podcast and I really can’t understand how I missed it when I reviewed the publisher catalogs awhile back. It’s got dark humor and family drama and has been compared to Jonathan Tropper (This Is Where I Leave You) and Meg Wolitzer: squarely in my wheelhouse. The success of this book will depend entirely on the writing, though, so we’ll see how it pans out.

How was your reading week?

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