Q3 2018 Update: My Go-To and No-Go Book Recommendation Sources

October 9, 2018 Stats 8

Q3 2018 Recommendation Sources Update


As many of you probably know, I adopted a new method for selecting books this year. I’m choosing books that have already been read and recommended by trusted recommendation sources rather than from publishers’ catalogs or various “Most Anticipated” book lists. The key to success is the “already read” part because it provides an opinion beyond “does the premise sound good on paper?” and independent of publishers’ marketing machines.

Each quarter, I’M sharing how this is going…my Go-To and No-Go recommendation sources and whether the quality of my reading has improved or not.

My Q3 2018 Reading Quality

 % Successful Books ATTEMPTED (includes DNFs)  63%
 % Successful Books FINISHED (does not include DNFs)  86%

My Successful Books Attempted has increased almost 47% over last year (43%). My goal is to keep this success rate above 50% all year long, so I’m pleased with this so far!

The second number gives me an extra incentive to DNF books that aren’t working for me.

My Go-To Book Recommendation Sources for Q3 2018

Read It Forward’s Best Books of the Month Lists  4
(CalypsoThe Banker’s WifeI Am, I Am, I AmEverything Here is Beautiful)
Annie Jones from From the Front Porch podcast  3
(Give Me Your HandLoving FrankA Cloud in the Shape of a Girl)
Novel Visits  2
(I Am, I Am, I AmEverything Here is Beautiful)
The Millions Great Second-Half Book Preview 2
(Give Me Your HandThe Wildlands)
Unsolicited from Publisher  2
(Where the Crawdads SingA Cloud in the Shape of a Girl)
Modern Mrs. Darcy  2
(CalypsoI Am, I Am, I Am)

My No-Go Book Recommendation Sources for Q3 2018

Read It Forward’s Best Books of the Month Lists  5
(Fruit of the Drunken Tree, The Incendiaries, Ohio, Anatomy of a Miracle, The Real Lolita)
The Millions Great Second-Half Book Preview  3
(Ohio, The Real Lolita, Ordinary People)
Amazon Best Books of the Month  2
(Bitter OrangeFruit of the Drunken Tree)
Library Reads  2
(Fruit of the Drunken Tree, November Road)
NY Post Summer List  2
(Fruit of the Drunken TreeOhio)
Bookpage  2
(Fruit of the Drunken Tree, The Incendiaries)
Annie Jones from From the Front Porch podcast
(The Incendiaries, Bitter Orange)
Tyler Goodson  2
(The Incendiaries, The Golden State)

Key Takeaways

  • My reading quality has improved immensely (by 47%) over last year with one quarter to go in the year! I’m thrilled, since this was my main purpose in tracking my recommendation sources.
  • My recommendation sources were really spread out this quarter. I had 26 different recommendations sources with one successful recommendation each. It appears I trusted lots of different people over the past few months and it panned out!
  • I’m liking my mix of recommendation sources: a couple traditional media sources, a podcast host / bookstore owner, a couple bloggers, and the always dicey “”unsolicited from publisher.”

What have been your best and worst recommendation sources lately?

How I Keep Track of My Reading Quality and Go-To/No-Go Recommendation Sources…and You Can Too!

Are you thinking it takes me hours to calculate my reading quality and keep track of my Go-To and No-Go recommendation sources every month? Well, it totally could, but it doesn’t. I use my “Rock Your Reading” Tracker, which automatically calculates my reading quality for me and helps me easily keep track of my recommendation sources.

If you’re interested in tracking your own reading quality and recommendation sources, you can purchase my tracker for $11.99! Go here for more details or purchase below!

Rock Your Reading Tracking Spreadsheet Summary Charts Track your book recommendation sources


Purchase here…

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What I’m Reading Now (10/8/18) – A Double Shot

October 8, 2018 It's Monday! What are you reading? 21

Sorry I missed y’all last week! The 1st of the month fell on a Monday, which means my Book of the Month post had to go up. I was considering doing two posts, but then realized I hadn’t finished a single book that week so had nothing to report! So, you’re getting a double shot today. And, I did finish some books…two on the first day of October, actually! So far this month, my reading has recovered from September’s dismal showing and I’ve liked everything I’ve tried in October.

I also wanted to let you know about a new book podcast I’ve been loving lately! It’s called Currently Reading…featuring two best bookish friends (Kaytee and Meredith) talk about what they’ve been reading every week. And, they read a TON. They each normally have 3 books to share every single week. There’s a good amount of backlist and audiobook recommendations, too. Check out their websiteInstagram and subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts!

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

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This email from a 9th grade blog reader made my week! First, I had no idea I had blog readers as young as 9th grade. Second, she’s reading some hefty books and is showing such initiative in starting her own blog.⠀ _⠀ ⠀ I’m not sure I can tell you exactly what I was doing in 9th grade, but I do know it wasn’t anything as ambitious as starting my own blog. Putting yourself out there on the Internet for anyone to judge is a scary thing and I don’t think I would’ve had the confidence to take that emotional risk in 9th grade. Kudos to her for going for it!⠀ _⠀ ⠀ You’re going to be seeing more of my 9th grade friend…she’s going to be my November “Readers Recommend” guest and you can be sure I’ll be sharing her blog all over the place once it’s up and running!⠀ _⠀ ⠀ What were you doing in 9th grade? Starting your own blog?! 😉⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ #bookstagram #bookstagrammer #bookgram #amreading #bookworms #instabooks #instabook #booktalk #booklovers #booklover #bibliophile #biblio #bookaddict #bookaddiction #badassbookbabes

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I finished reading…

what I'm reading now


Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs (September 4, 2018) – AUDIOBOOK
In this memoir from Steve Jobs’ oldest daughter that he alternately claimed and refused to claim for many years, Jobs comes off as a weird, overly particular, arrogant prick. He’s incredibly hot and cold with his daughter…almost toying with her. However, Lisa isn’t super likable either…giving the book an overall cold feeling. This inside look is fascinating (and sad), but I do think it could’ve been a hundred pages shorter. And, I would’ve liked more focus on the end of Jobs’ life…when Apple truly took off with the iPad, etc. and he was battling cancer, but maybe that’s to be found in a different book.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Witch Elm by Tana French (October 9, 2018)
Once I got my expectations in line (it’s part family drama / part mystery and the mystery is slow to develop), I really enjoyed this one! It’s long (maybe too long), but absolutely engrossing. Mini review to come.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

A Well-Behaved Woman


A Well-Behaved Woman by Therese Anne Fowler (October 16, 2018)
I’m about 75% through this novel about Alva Vanderbilt and I’m liking it well enough, but I’m not loving it nearly as much as I loved Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald. Zelda was just a much more dynamic character.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Upcoming reading plans…

Virgil Wander


Virgil Wander by Leif Enger (October 2, 2018)
I’ve never read Enger before, but Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books read the first chapter of this one and told me I had to request it! It’s the story of a small town in the Midwest trying to revive itself…Beartown (my review) minus the ice hockey?!

was reading…

One Year Ago: I was reading a bunch of not very memorable books.

Two Years Ago: I was reading one of my favorite dysfunctional family novels ever!

How was your reading week?

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Readers Recommend: To Kill A Mockingbird and The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper

October 4, 2018 Book Recommendations 17

Readers Recommend


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

One of the most surprising things I learned in this year’s reader survey 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 guest…

Get to Know Mary

  • Home: My husband and I live in eastern Colorado and have beautiful views of the Rocky Mountains. The climate is dry but generally mild, and we wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.
  • Career: After 30 years of teaching (a job that I loved), I am now retired (and I love that even more). (Sarah: this is the second retired teacher in a row we’ve had on Readers Recommend!)
  • Hobbies: We enjoy hiking in the mountains and taking long road trips. We have visited all but three of the states and have traveled a little in Canada. I like to do Bible journaling and verse mapping, and, of course, visiting my local library and reading.
  • Favorite TV Show: We don’t watch much television since we don’t have cable, so we borrow DVD’s from the library. We do enjoy old movies and some of the British and Australian mystery and crime dramas. We particularly like Poirot and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.

Mary Recommends…

An Old Love

To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper LeeTo Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Fiction – Literary (Released 1964)
324 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon











This is a timeless favorite that I can highly recommend to all, even if you read it years ago. It is the classic story of a woman’s remembrance of her childhood and her admiration for her father. An award winning best-seller, set in a time that everyone wants to forget … but no one should.

My Take (my review):
Well, Mary, I read this one as a child and actually have re-read it within the past few years! It’s one of the few classics I’ve re-read and I loved it the second time around. It’s so quotable and chock full of life lessons that I’m sure I didn’t fully appreciate the first time I read it. During my second reading, I was much less focused on the trial (really the only thing I remembered from my first reading) and realized it was more of a background element to the portrayal of life in the small-town South during that time.

A New(er) Love

Curious Charms of Arthur PepperThe Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick
Fiction (Released May 6, 2016)
331 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon










I really liked this sweet story of a old man dealing with the death of his wife and the curious circumstances that lead to discovery and adventure. I cared about Arthur and wanted him to succeed in moving out of the rut of his daily routine and solving his puzzle. The descriptive writing was especially enjoyable, creating scenes of far-away places that the reader can just get lost in. While not a mystery in the sense of “crime drama”, the book is nonetheless a mystery story, and, as such, it was very appealing to me.

My Take:
I haven’t read this one, but have heard it described as “charming” and “endearing.” Maybe I should read it because I get requests for “happy” books all the time and need some more in my back pocket to recommend!

A “Didn’t Love”

I'm Thinking of Ending ThingsI’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid
Fiction – Thriller (Released June 14, 2016)
241 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon











First of all, it took me a while to catch on that the book was going to be mostly through the thoughts of just one character. It was odd that it was so slanted. Secondly, the forward progress of the story was agonizingly slow. And, thirdly, the ending was so confusing and frustrating that I wasn’t really sure what had happened, or why. Then I realized I didn’t care. It’s books like this one that have convinced me that I should simply stop if I am not enjoying the book I’m reading. Struggling on to the end is almost never rewarding, and with so many great reads out there I don’t see any reason to endure writing that is unclear or cryptic.  

My Take:
I haven’t read this one (Iain Reid’s debut novel), but it did recently pop onto my radar because I loved his sophomore novel, Foe (my review). Foe made me want to go back and read Reid’s debut. I tend to like books where you have no idea what’s going on, but there’s clearly something off, so I think I could possibly differ from Mary on this one. However, I’m 100% with Mary on DNF’ing a book that isn’t working for you! You’re right…sticking with it rarely ever pays off in the end. I’m DNF’d over 30 books so far this year!

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

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Announcing Nonfiction November 2018! (#NonFicNov)

October 2, 2018 Blogger Events 31

Nonfiction November 2018


I’m thrilled to be co-hosting 2018’s Nonfiction November with Katie at Doing Dewey, Rennie at What’s Nonfiction?, Julie at Julz Reads, and Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness! Nonfiction November is a month dedicated to celebrating nonfiction…we’ll talk about our favorites, trade recommendations, discuss our nonfiction reading habits, and hopefully discover some new book blogs! There will be a link-up for your posts every Monday…see below for the schedule of events and where to find the link-ups.

Personally, I tend to push nonfiction to the back burner in favor of the shiny, new fiction releases, so I always appreciate this month of re-focus on a genre I love, but tend to ignore sometimes. 

Hope to see you in November!

Nonfiction November Schedule of Events

Week 1 (Oct. 29 to Nov. 2)

Your Year in Nonfiction So Far (Hosted by Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness)
Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

Week 2 (Nov. 5 to Nov. 9)

Nonfiction / Fiction Book Pairing (Hosted by Sarah at Sarah’s Book Shelves)
This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.

Week 3 (Nov. 12 to Nov. 16)

Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert (Hosted by Julie at Julz Reads)
Three ways to join in this week! You can either share three or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

Week 4 (Nov. 19 to Nov. 23)

Reads Like Fiction (Hosted by Rennie at What’s Nonfiction?)
Nonfiction books often get praised for how they stack up to fiction. Does it matter to you whether nonfiction reads like a novel? If it does, what gives it that fiction-like feeling? Does it depend on the topic, the writing, the use of certain literary elements and techniques? What are your favorite nonfiction recommendations that read like fiction? And if your nonfiction picks could never be mistaken for novels, what do you love about the differences?

Week 5 (Nov. 26 to Nov. 30)

New to my TBR (Hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey)
It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book!

Instagram Challenge

This year we’ll also be bringing back an Instagram photo challenge for Nonfiction November, co-hosted by Kim (@kimthedork) and Leann (@Shelf_Aware_). Check out the prompts below! If you’re interested in participating in Nonfiction November but don’t have a blog, feel free to join us on Instagram and Litsy using the hashtag #NonficNov.

Find all the hosts that are on Instagram: @sarahsbookshelves, @kimthedork, @shelf_aware_, and @doingdewey!

Nonfiction November 2018 Instagram Prompts

Possibilities for my Nonfiction November Reading List

I know I won’t get to all of these, but I like starting with lots of options to accommodate mood reading and DNF’s!

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (January 1, 1994)
A writing guide by a legendary writer who I’ve yet to read

American Radical by Tamer Elnoury (October 23, 2017)
The memoir from an undercover Muslim American FBI agent

Bad Blood by John Carreyou (May 21, 2018)
The true story of the rise and fall of Theranos, a Silicon Valley biotech startup

The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis (October 2, 2018)
Lewis goes behind the scenes of the U.S. government following the 2016 election

Driven by Julie Heldman (August 22, 2018)
The memoir of a 1960’s tennis star and the emotional abuse she took from her mother

Dopesick by Beth Macy (August 7, 2018)
An investigation into America’s struggle with the opioid crisis

Big Game by Mark Leibovich (September 4, 2018)
Political writer Leibovich switches gears to go deep inside the NFL…with extensive access to Tom Brady

How to Be Married by Jo Piazza (August 18, 2017)
Novelist Piazza (Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win) tries her hand at nonfiction with her exploration of marriage

What are you thinking about reading for Nonfiction November?
Does anyone have any thoughts on the books on my list?
Which books should I kick to the top?

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

September 30, 2018 Book Recommendations 21

Book of the Month October 2018 Selections

This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links, but I’m also a paying customer.


Welcome to my monthly feature “Book of the Month Selections: What Book Should You Choose?”! Every month, I provide commentary on the books that are chosen as that month’s Book of the Month selections that will hopefully help you choose your pick, and tell you which book(s) I’m going to choose. AND, I provide you with the most up to date version of my Ultimate Guide to the Book of the Month Judges with free, downloadable template (below).

Honestly, I’m not a fan of this month’s selections at all. There are so many great books coming out in October, some that I’ve already read. But, Book of the Month has given us two women’s fiction authors that are so well known you definitely don’t need Book of the Month to help you find them (Elin Hilderbrand and Kate Morton), the obligatory psychological thriller that seems to be included every single month, a YouTube sensation’s book, and a thick, history tome. 

Choose the best Book of the Month selection for you every time!

Check out my fun new tool to help you pick the best Book of the Month selection for your taste: my Ultimate Guide to the Book of the Month Judges and free, downloadable template to help you find your go-to BOTM judge!

Book of the Month October 2018 Selections

Lies We ToldThe Lies We Told by Camilla Way
Release Date: October 9, 2018

336 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.27 on 623 ratings
Selected By: Liberty Hardy (co-host of Book Riot‘s All the Books podcast)

When Clara’s boyfriend, Luke, disappears, everyone believes that he’s left her, but Clara thinks she knows the truth. Recent evidence suggests that Luke had a stalker, and Clara worries that he’s been kidnapped. Then Luke’s older sister, Emma, who vanished twenty years ago, suddenly reappears.

Emma wants to help Clara with her search for Luke, but she refuses to talk about what happened–even though it nearly destroyed her family when she vanished. And the deeper Clara digs into Luke’s mysterious disappearance, the more convinced she is that the two incidents are connected.

My Thoughts:
The Lies We Told is this month’s obligatory psychological thriller…this time British and from the author of Watching Edie. It involves a possibly psychopathic child (sounds a bit like Baby Teeth to me) and a friendship gone wrong. Goodreads reviewers said there’s a dual timeline and that it will test your detective skills, but some mentioned a lack of emotional connection and a frantic feeling plot. Most of the Goodreads reviews described it the exact same way every other psychological thriller is described (e.g. page-turner, twisty, shocking ending, secrets, lies, etc). I got blurbs from Fiona Barton, B.A. Paris, Heather Gudenkauf, and J.T. Ellison.

Winter in ParadiseWinter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand
Release Date: October 9, 2018

272 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.27 on 67 ratings
Selected By: Etaf Rum (Book of the Month Brand Ambassador)

Welcome to Paradise, the first book in the Paradise series, has everything that readers have come to know and love about an Elin Hilderbrand novel, plus a healthy dose of intrigue. Irene Steele’s idyllic life-house, husband, family-is shattered when she is woken up by a late-night phone call. Her beloved husband has been found dead, but before Irene can process this tragic news, she must confront the perplexing details of her husband’s death. He was found on St. John island, a tropical paradise far removed from their suburban life. Leaving the cold winter behind, Irene flies down to the beautiful Caribbean beaches of St. John only to make another shocking discovery: her husband had a secret second family. As Irene investigates the mysterious circumstances of her husband’s death, she is plunged into a web of intrigue and deceit belied by the pristine white sand beaches of St. John’s.

My Thoughts:
Elin Hilderbrand probably doesn’t need much explanation (she writes chick-lit / romance and is known for her series set in Nantucket). Winter in Paradise is the first in her new series set in St. John. Goodreads reviewers mentioned its  mystery elements, family drama, and secrets and said it focuses on 5 characters, but from the 3rd person perspective. The reviews also indicated this is more standard Elin Hilderbrand fare. There is somewhat of a cliffhanger ending, but I think that’s to be expected from an early book in a series. Jessica Howard (of the Sorta Book Nerds Facebook Group) says it’s “super fun, but also poignant.”

Absolutely Remarkable ThingAn Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
Release Date: September 25, 2018
343 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.33 on 572 ratings
Selected By: Jennifer Dernievelle (BOTM Readers Committee)

The Carls just appeared. Coming home from work at three a.m., twenty-three-year-old April May stumbles across a giant sculpture. Delighted by its appearance and craftsmanship–like a ten-foot-tall Transformer wearing a suit of samurai armor–April and her friend Andy make a video with it, which Andy uploads to YouTube. The next day April wakes up to a viral video and a new life. News quickly spreads that there are Carls in dozens of cities around the world–everywhere from Beijing to Buenos Aires–and April, as their first documentarian, finds herself at the center of an intense international media spotlight.

Now April has to deal with the pressure on her relationships, her identity, and her safety that this new position brings, all while being on the front lines of the quest to find out not just what the Carls are, but what they want from us.

My Thoughts:
Hank Green has quite an Internet following as co-creator of Crash Course, Vlogbrothers (with John Green), and SciShow and is YA author John Green’s brother. His debut novel is sort of sci-fi and set in NY. Tina at TBR, etc. is reading it right now and said she was immediately drawn in, that she identifies with April May (the protagonist), that is doesn’t feel super sci-fi so far, but that there is something weird going on. Goodreads reviewers said it explores fame, the media, and sexuality. They described it as quirky, pop culture-filled, fast-paced, a little overly moralistic, and as having some political undertones. They said April May is snarky and is a love her or hate her type. The description “YA” was thrown around a fair amount even though it’s technically not YA…but, it apparently has a YA-ish and millennial feel.

Clockmaker's DaughterThe Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton
Release Date: October 9, 2018
496 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.92 on 845 ratings
Selected By: Steph Opitz (Book Reviewer at Marie Claire)

In the summer of 1862, a group of young artists led by the passionate and talented Edward Radcliffe descends upon Birchwood Manor on the banks of the Upper Thames. Their plan: to spend a secluded summer month in a haze of inspiration and creativity. But by the time their stay is over, one woman has been shot dead while another has disappeared; a priceless heirloom is missing; and Edward Radcliffe’s life is in ruins.

Over one hundred and fifty years later, Elodie Winslow, a young archivist in London, uncovers a leather satchel containing two seemingly unrelated items: a sepia photograph of an arresting-looking woman in Victorian clothing, and an artist’s sketchbook containing the drawing of a twin-gabled house on the bend of a river.

My Thoughts:
The Clockmaker’s Daughter is a multi-generational family mystery spanning the 1860’s to present day. Kelly Massry (one of my trusted book recommendation sources) read it and rated it 3 stars. She said it’s part ghost story and a bit creepy. She was frustrated with the slow pace and chaotic structure, but loved the but great writing. Goodreads reviewers mention the intriguing premise and brilliant ending, but that it’s cluttered with side stories, and is entirely too long. Almost every review I read (even the 4 and 5 star ones) mention that it’s confusing to follow (jumping around in time periods and lots of points of view) and is a book that takes lots of concentration. It’s an October Library Reads pick.

In the Hurricane's EyeIn the Hurricane’s Eye by Nathaniel Philbrick
Release Date: October 16, 2018
416 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.82 on 17 ratings
Selected By: Siobhan Jones (Book of the Month Editorial Director)

In the Hurricane’s Eye opens in the fall of 1780. For five years, American and British forces had clashed along the edge of a vast continent and were now at a stalemate. The Royal Navy, with its fleet of powerful warships (just one of which mounted more cannons than possessed by the entire rebel army), could attack the rebels’ seaside cities at will. The Rebels could just fall back inland and wait. Neither side could inflict the killing blow. As Washington knew better than anyone, only the French navy could break Britain’s stranglehold on the eastern seaboard and thus ensure an American victory.

In the Battle of the Chesapeake (1781 – called the most important naval engagement in the history of the world), a French admiral foiled British attempts to rescue the army led by General Cornwallis. By making the subsequent victory at Yorktown a virtual inevitability, this naval battle–masterminded by Washington but waged without a single American ship–was largely responsible for the independence of the United States. A riveting and wide-ranging narrative, full of dramatic, unexpected turns, In the Hurricane’s Eye reveals that the fate of the American Revolution depended, in the end, on Washington and the sea.

My Thoughts:
Nathaniel Philbrick is apparently a very popular historical author…all his “major titles” have been NYT bestsellers (including Valiant Ambition and Bunker Hill). In the Hurricane’s Eye is about the “less discussed in history books” Battle of Yorktown, which was the last major land battle of the Revolutionary War. Admittedly, this is not my kind of book at all…I glazed over just reading the synopsis! There are only 3 reviews on Goodreads, one of which just thanks Viking (the publisher) for sending an ARC. Another is written by a historian (probably not the perspective of most Book of the Month readers), but the third says it “fill[s] in some heavy knowledge gaps and help[s] give a solid handle on all that encompassed the amazing path to the final battle of the American Revolution” and calls it “exciting.” 

What Book of the Month Club October 2018 selection(s) will I choose?

I’m skipping this month.

Make your Book of the Month selections by Saturday, October 6th.

What book will you choose this month?

This Month’s Special Deals

NEW MEMBER DEAL: Anyone who purchases a new BOTM subscription will get a credit for a free book! Use code SUGARHIGH.

ANNUAL PAYMENT DEAL: BOTM is now a monthly subscription service. However, given that some members preferred paying upfront, they are now offering a 12-month option. Members who sign up for 12 months will pay $149.99/year. That’s $12.50/book, instead of the standard price of $14.99/month.

How to Join Book of the Month…

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

New members will sign up for a membership that renews monthly:

A book of your choice for $14.99 / month
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Skip any month you want
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September 2018 Monthly Round-Up

September 28, 2018 Monthly Round-Ups 26

September 2018 Monthly Round-Up


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

I knew in the moment that my September reading was pretty rough, but I didn’t realize quite how rough until I saw it on paper all in one place. I think I wiled away far too much time with books I didn’t end up finishing. And, my favorite book of the month was a backlist title!

I read 5 books this month…which is SO low for me! I was listening to more podcasts than audiobooks and DNF’ing 4 books in one month may be a new record for me. Can we just pretend September never happened?!




Best-Selling Book (via my affiliate links)

Forever is the Worst Long Time by Camille Pagan (my quick thoughts) – a backlist title!


  • Personalized Book Recommendations and the Superstars Facebook Group are available to anyone who supports Sarah’s Book Shelves on Patreon!

September Quality and Recommendation Sources

Reading Quality

September 2018 (Yikes!)

  • % Successful Books Attempted (includes DNF’s) = 33% (above my 43% success rate from 2017)
  • % Successful Books Finished (does not include DNFs) = 60%

2018 Year-to-Date (through September)

  • % Successful Books Attempted (includes DNF’s) = 58% (above my 43% success rate from 2017)
  • % Successful Books Finished (does not include DNFs) = 84%

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.

October Releases I’m Excited About

The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis (October 2)
The Witch Elm by Tana French (October 9)
A Well-Behaved Woman by Therese Anne Fowler (October 16)
A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl by Jean Thompson (October 23)

Most Popular Posts

Posts Actually Published in September
16 Character-Driven Novels I Couldn’t Put Down
September 2018 Books to Read (and Skip)
Book of the Month September 2018: What Book Should You Choose?

Overall Posts
Am I the Only One Who Didn’t Love Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine?
Behind Her Eyes and THAT Ending: Spoiler Discussion (#WTFthatending)
Book Club Recommendations

Favorite Posts by Fellow Bloggers

How was your reading month?

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12 Books By Favorite Authors I Haven’t Read Yet

September 25, 2018 Book Lists 45

Books By Favorite Authors I Haven't Read


One of the silver linings of discovering a new-to-you author a bit late is that the author likely has a pretty good, if not extensive, backlist waiting for you!  Most recently, this has happened with Anna Quindlen, Ann Patchett, and Kelly Corrigan…and I still have plenty more to go!

And, even with favorite authors I’ve been familiar with for awhile, I haven’t yet gotten to all the books of theirs that I want to read! Here are 12 Books by Favorite Authors I Still Haven’t Read…

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 By Favorite Authors I Haven’t Read Yet

Jami Attenberg
The Middlesteins
I loved Attenberg’s Saint Mazie (my review) and All Grown Up (my review). Her dry humor is right up my alley and I can’t wait to read her take on a dysfunctional family. Plus, this book is under 300 pages…making it way more likely I might actually pick it up soon!

For more than thirty years, Edie and Richard Middlestein shared a solid family life together in the suburbs of Chicago. But now things are splintering apart, for one reason, it seems: Edie’s enormous girth. She’s obsessed with food–thinking about it, eating it–and if she doesn’t stop, she won’t have much longer to live.

When Richard abandons his wife, it is up to the next generation to take control. […] Through it all, they wonder: do Edie’s devastating choices rest on her shoulders alone, or are others at fault, too?

Margaret Atwood
Alias Grace
Like many people, The Handmaid’s Tale (my review) blew me away…and it was one of the only classics I’ve read in later life. I downloaded Alias Grace when it was free via a Kindle deal over a year ago and really need to crack it open! The page count (over 450 pages) is probably what’s been causing me to put it off for so long.

It’s 1843, and Grace Marks has been convicted for her involvement in the vicious murders of her employer and his housekeeper and mistress. Some believe Grace is innocent; others think her evil or insane. Now serving a life sentence, Grace claims to have no memory of the murders.

An up-and-coming expert in the burgeoning field of mental illness is engaged by a group of reformers and spiritualists who seek a pardon for Grace. He listens to her story while bringing her closer and closer to the day she cannot remember. What will he find in attempting to unlock her memories?

Kent Haruf
Our Souls at Night (my review) is a tiny, quiet book, but it really spoke to me. I’m interested in seeing what Haruf does with a family story…plus, I’ve heard new things.

In the small town of Holt, Colorado, a high school teacher is confronted with raising his two boys alone after their mother retreats first to the bedroom, then altogether. A teenage girl—her father long since disappeared, her mother unwilling to have her in the house—is pregnant, alone herself, with nowhere to go. And out in the country, two brothers, elderly bachelors, work the family homestead, the only world they’ve ever known.

Emily St. John Mandel
The Lola Quartet
I (along with a gazillion other readers) loved Station Eleven (my review). It was the first dystopian novel I’ve ever actually enjoyed. Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy recently read The Lola Quartet from her backlist and devoted a special What Should I Read Next? podcast episode to it. Plus, it’s a literary thriller, which I generally love.

Gavin Sasaki is a promising young journalist in New York City, until he’s fired in disgrace following a series of unforgivable lapses in his work. It’s early 2009, and the world has gone dark very quickly; the economic collapse has turned an era that magazine headlines once heralded as the second gilded age into something that more closely resembles the Great Depression. The last thing Gavin wants to do is return to his hometown of Sebastian, Florida, but he’s drifting toward bankruptcy and is in no position to refuse when he’s offered a job by his sister, Eilo, a real estate broker who deals in foreclosed homes.

Eilo recently paid a visit to a home that had a ten-year-old child in it, a child who looks very much like Gavin and who has the same last name as Gavin’s high school girlfriend Anna, whom Gavin last saw a decade ago. Gavin—a former jazz musician, a reluctant broker of foreclosed properties, obsessed with film noir and private detectives—begins his own private investigation in an effort to track down Anna and their apparent daughter who have been on the run all these years from a drug dealer from whom Anna stole $121,000.

Haruki Murakami
Norwegian Wood
I loved Murakami’s 1Q84 (and it’s hard to keep me interested for almost 1,000 pages!) and his memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. I’m dying to see what he does with a campus novel (one of my favorite sub-genres)!

Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before. Toru begins to adapt to campus life and the loneliness and isolation he faces there, but Naoko finds the pressures and responsibilities of life unbearable. As she retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself reaching out to others and drawn to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman.

Maggie O’Farrell
This Must Be the Place
I loved O’Farrell’s memoir/essay collection, I Am, I Am, I Am. And, before I even knew about her memoir, I had This Must Be the Place on my TBR list. I snagged it in a Kindle Daily Deal and can’t wait to test out her fiction (hopefully sometime this year).

Meet Daniel Sullivan, a man with a complicated life. A New Yorker living in the wilds of Ireland, he has children he never sees in California, a father he loathes in Brooklyn, and a wife, Claudette, who is a reclusive ex–film star given to pulling a gun on anyone who ventures up their driveway. Claudette was once the most glamorous and infamous woman in cinema before she staged her own disappearance and retreated to blissful seclusion in an Irish farmhouse.

But the life Daniel and Claudette have so carefully constructed is about to be disrupted by an unexpected discovery about a woman Daniel lost touch with twenty years ago. This revelation will send him off-course, far away from wife, children and home. Will his love for Claudette be enough to bring him back?

Ann Patchett
Truth and Beauty
Ann Patchett is one of my very favorite authors. My favorites of hers so far are: Commonwealth (my review), State of Wonder (my review), and This is the Story of a Happy Marriage (my review). I read about her memoir of a friendship, Truth and Beauty, in This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, and am thinking it may be a good audio choice for me.

Ann Patchett and the late Lucy Grealy met in college in 1981, and, after enrolling in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, began a friendship that would be as defining to both of their lives as their work. In Grealy’s critically acclaimed memoir Autobiography of a Face, she wrote about losing part of her jaw to childhood cancer, years of chemotherapy and radiation, and endless reconstructive surgeries. In Truth and Beauty, the story isn’t Lucy’s life or Ann’s life but the parts of their lives they shared. This is a portrait of unwavering commitment that spans twenty years, from the long winters of the Midwest to surgical wards to book parties in New York. Through love, fame, drugs, and despair, this is what it means to be part of two lives that are intertwined–and what happens when one is left behind.

Jo Piazza
Fitness Junkie

I only read Jo Piazza (Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win) this year, but Catherine from Gilmore Guide to Books and Susie from Novel Visits told me to read Fitness Junkie well before that!

When Janey Sweet, CEO of a couture wedding dress company, is photographed in the front row of a fashion show eating a bruffin–the delicious lovechild of a brioche and a muffin–her best friend and business partner, Beau, gives her an ultimatum: Lose thirty pounds or lose your job. […] As Janey eschews delicious carbs, pays thousands of dollars to charlatans, and is harassed by her very own fitness bracelet, she can’t help but wonder: Did she really need to lose weight in the first place?

Anna Quindlen
Still Life With Bread Crumbs
Y’all know how much I love Anna Quindlen (see my “Women Who Get Women” Authors Club post). Still Life With Bread Crumbs is one of her only novels I have yet to read.

Still Life with Bread Crumbs begins with an imagined gunshot and ends with a new tin roof. Between the two is a wry and knowing portrait of Rebecca Winter, a photographer whose work made her an unlikely heroine for many women. Her career is now descendent, her bank balance shaky, and she has fled the city for the middle of nowhere. There she discovers, in a tree stand with a roofer named Jim Bates, that what she sees through a camera lens is not all there is to life.

Curtis Sittenfeld
I loved An American Wife years ago, but was initially turned off of Eligible because it was a Pride and Prejudice retelling. But, my interest in it was rekindled when I read and loved her short story collection, You Think It, I’ll Say It (my review) this year!

This version of the Bennet family and Mr. Darcy is one that you have and haven’t met before: Liz is a magazine writer in her late thirties who, like her yoga instructor older sister, Jane, lives in New York City. When their father has a health scare, they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling and the family is in disarray. […]

Enter Chip Bingley, a handsome new-in-town doctor who recently appeared on the juggernaut reality TV dating show Eligible. At a Fourth of July barbecue, Chip takes an immediate interest in Jane, but Chip’s friend, neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy, reveals himself to Liz to be much less charming. . . . And yet, first impressions can be deceiving.

Elizabeth Strout
Olive Kitteridge
I loved both My Name is Lucy Barton (my review) and Anything is Possible and, if you can believe it, still haven’t read her Pulitzer Prize winner, Olive Kitteridge.

At times stern, at other times patient, at times perceptive, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town of Crosby, Maine, and in the world at large, but she doesn’t always recognize the changes in those around her: a lounge musician haunted by a past romance; a former student who has lost the will to live; Olive’s own adult child, who feels tyrannized by her irrational sensitivities; and her husband, Henry, who finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse.

As the townspeople grapple with their problems, mild and dire, Olive is brought to a deeper understanding of herself and her life – sometimes painfully, but always with ruthless honesty.

Meg Wolitzer
The Ten-Year Nap
Meg Wolitzer is another one of my very favorite authors and I’ve rated every single book I’ve read by her 5 stars: The Interestings (my review), The Wife (my review), and The Female Persuasion (my review). When I was a guest on The Readerly Report Podcast recently, co-host Gayle Weiswasser recommended The Ten-Year Nap to me since I have toddler age children at home.

For a group of four New York friends, the past decade has been largely defined by marriage and motherhood. Educated and reared to believe that they would conquer the world, they then left jobs as corporate lawyers, investment bankers, and film scouts to stay home with their babies. What was meant to be a temporary leave of absence has lasted a decade. Now, at age forty, with the halcyon days of young motherhood behind them and without professions to define them, Amy, Jill, Roberta, and Karen face a life that is not what they were brought up to expect but seems to be the one they have chosen.

Have you read any of these backlist-ers? Which ones do you recommend I read first? And, what books by your favorite authors have you not read yet?

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What I’m Reading Now (9/24/18)

September 24, 2018 It's Monday! What are you reading? 16

Well, I thought we’d escaped Hurricane Florence last week, but we got an out-of-nowhere (well, it was actually caused by Hurricane Florence, but no one was expecting it!) tornado blitz on Monday afternoon. The kids and I spent 2 hours in our basement storage room as funnel cloud after funnel cloud was spotted around town. There was some pretty severe damage, but thankfully nothing hit us directly. And, we do not live in tornado country, so this was pretty incredible.

I’m hoping my reading has gotten back on track…I feel like it might have! I just need these next couple books to fall in line. I’m also overloaded with listening at the moment. Serial just dropped Season 3 (covering the Ohio justice system), I’m listening to the Dr. Death podcast, and an audiobook library hold just came in (Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs). There’s nothing like a library due date to get me to push an audiobook ahead of all the podcasts I listen to!

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I have a finicky relationship with historical fiction. I used to LOVE it. But, I think I’ve gotten bored with it lately…and started to view the genre as perfect for my mother’s generation, but not edgy enough for me. ⠀ _⠀ ⠀ However, there are a few historical fiction novels that I’ve loved…and I finally figured out that they’re unconventional in specific ways. Check out my full blog post for the 6 Types of Unconventional Historical Fiction that work for me! (LINK IN PROFILE)⠀ _⠀ ⠀ How do you feel about historical fiction? Are there certain types that work better for you than others? ⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ #bookstagram #bookstagrammer #bookgram #amreading #bookworms #instabooks #instabook #booktalk #booklovers #booklover #bibliophile #biblio #bookaddict #bookaddiction #badassbookbabes #historicalfiction @melaniebenjamin_author @georgiahunter @tjenkinsreid @ahoffmanwriter @johnboyne @stephenking @delacortepress @vikingbooks @atriabooks @simonbooks @simonandschuster @hogarthbooks @scribnerbooks @bookofthemonth

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I finished reading…

what I'm reading now


November Road by Lou Berney (October 2, 2018)
Just so-so. The page-turning vibe I thought I was getting didn’t show up until the very end and I didn’t really care by then. Mini review coming.
Affiliate Link: Amazon

A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl by Jean Thompson (October 9, 2018)
Whew! Lots of thoughts about this book, but I was overall pleasantly surprised (think a bleaker Anna Quindlen)…despite it’s unfortunate title and cover. I’m trying to decide whether to do a full length or mini review. Regardless, some type of review will be coming soon!
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

Witch Elm


The Witch Elm by Tana French (October 9, 2018)
I’ve only read one Tana French (The Secret Place), but I’m in the mood for a good mystery (and my Instagram followers voted that this is what I should read next!). I’ve literally just started, so I don’t have any opinions yet.

Upcoming reading plans…

A Well-Behaved Woman


A Well-Behaved Woman by Therese Anne Fowler (October 16, 2018)
I absolutely loved Fowler’s last novel, Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, so I’m super excited to see what she does with Alva Vanderbilt.

was reading…

One Year Ago: I was reading an old school favorite author that I think I’ve now outgrown.

Two Years Ago: I was reading back to back 5 star memoirs!

How was your reading week?

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

September 20, 2018 Discussions 19

Unconventional Historical Fiction


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

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

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

Explore Modern/Still Relevant Themes

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

Successful Examples: 

Feature Strong Female Characters

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

Successful Examples: 

Set During A Specific Event I’m Interested In

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

Successful Examples: 

Contain Simmering Tension

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

Successful Examples: 

Based on Real People

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

Successful Examples:

Have a Soap Opera Quality

Pure, unadulterated juiciness. 

Successful Examples:

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

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What I’m Reading Now (9/17/18)

September 17, 2018 It's Monday! What are you reading? 23

We were bracing for big impacts from Hurricane Florence in Virginia this weekend, but thankfully we just ended up with some rain…not even any wind to speak of. I’m so glad we escaped most of the damage (less glad that the kids’ school was needlessly canceled on Friday), but feel horrible for those in North and South Carolina who didn’t. I have a particular soft spot in my heart for Wilmington, NC as I lived there for a summer during college, so I hate to see Wilmington residents going through all this.

On a happier note, We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter (author Q&A), which I know many of you read and loved, was selected at the 2018 One Book for Thomas County, GA (home of The Bookshelf in Thomasville and From the Front Porch podcast)! 

Finally, I made my second guest appearance on a podcast last week…this time I joined Gayle Weiswasser and Nicole Bonia on The Readerly Report to break down Celebrity Book Clubs! Listen here (it’s the 9/14/18 episode).

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

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There’s something about the stage of life I’m in right now that really has me gravitating towards “women who get women.” _ I’m now experiencing marriage, motherhood, and a struggle to maintain my own identity through all of that. Seeing many things I’d been thinking and feeling put so eloquently on the page brought a tremendous sense of relief…and camaraderie that others struggle with the same things. This is one of my favorite joys of reading. _ All that being said, I don’t think these particular authors would have resonated with me before my thirties because I didn’t have the necessary experience under my belt to appreciate their wisdom. So, save these fantastic women authors for well after college… LINK IN PROFILE WITH FULL LIST _ What type of authors do you most identify with right now? What other “women who get women” authors do I need to read? * * * * * #bookstagram #bookstagrammer #bookgram #amreading #bookworms #instabooks #instabook #booktalk #booklovers #booklover #bibliophile #biblio #bookaddict #bookaddiction #badassbookbabes @megwolitzer @camille_pagan @cherylstrayed @kellycorrigan @randomhouse @scribnerbooks @aaknopf @vintagebooks

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I finished reading…

Tell Me Lies


Tell Me Lies by Carola Lovering (June 12, 2018)
Tell Me Lies explores sociopathic behavior and the girls that get mixed up in it from Lucy’s and Stephen’s alternating perspectives. It was a somewhat uncomfortable read, yet I was absolutely riveted. Part of me thinks this is the kind of book every high school girl should read as a cautionary tale, but it might also completely destroy her capacity to trust. And, I’m sure the many women who have experienced this type of relationship at some point in their lives will identify (but also be totally frustrated with) Lucy.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently Reading…

November Road


November Road by Lou Berney (October 2, 2018)
I’m almost three quarters of the way through my September Book of the Month pick…a historical fiction thriller centered around a cat and mouse chase connected to the JFK assassination. And, it’s just so-so. I expected it to have more of a page turning vibe than it does and I don’t really care what happens to these characters.
Affiliate Link: Amazon

I tried, but wasn’t feeling…

Bitter Orange


Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller (October 9, 2018)
DNF at 24%
Sigh…I loved Fuller’s previous two novels, Our Endless Numbered Days and Swimming Lessons, but this one was sloooow. The writing was too descriptive and focused too much on architecture. I also couldn’t get a good sense of Frances (the main character)…she felt vague and the whole story felt hazy. There was supposed to be simmering tension similar to Tangerine, but I felt absolutely zero tension.

Upcoming reading plans…

A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl


A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl by Jean Thompson (October 9, 2018)
This Midwestern family novel focusing on three generations of women came to me unsolicited from the publisher. It’s the kind of premise that I’ve absolutely loved before, but could also be the type of book where nothing ever happens. We’ll where it lands!

was reading…

One Year Ago: I was embarking on a bit of a reading slump…similar to this year!

Two Years Ago: I was reading a massively popular book that I didn’t love…and my review of it is still one of my best performing reviews of all time.

How was your reading week?

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