The Wanderers by Meg Howrey: The Most Unique Book I’ve Read This Year

April 13, 2017 Fiction 25

The Wanderers, Meg HowreyFiction
Released March 14, 2017
384 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased (published by G.P. Putnam)


The Wanderers will appeal to fans of Andy Weir’s The Martian (my review), but manages to be its own thing entirely in a more psychological, less page-turnery way…and is the most unique book I’ve read all year.

Plot Summary

Prime Space (a private space exploration company) puts Helen, Sergei, and Yoshi (the meticulously selected crew for Prime’s first manned mission to Mars) through an incredibly life-like, seventeen months-long simulation (called Eidolon) of the mission.

Why I Read It

I really liked The Martian and Station Eleven (two books The Wanderers has been compared to) and heard good reports from Rebecca Schinsky on Book Riot’s All the Books podcast and from Michelle at That’s What She Read.

Major Themes

Space travel, psychological implications of long separations from family, how people behave when they’re being monitored 24/7, extreme stress

What I Loved

  • The Wanderers is first and foremost a story about getting the astronauts psychologically ready for a Mission to Mars, which takes years. They must get used to isolation from the world, living in cramped quarters for long periods of time with their 3-person crew, the physical affects of the mission, and the extreme pressure to perform perfectly or risk death.
  • Early on, you get glimpses of the tiny ways each astronaut is hiding personality deficiencies that, if really explored, could possibly compromise their spots on the crew. And, part of the suspense of the story is wondering if and/or how these will eventually blow up.
  • I loved getting the perspectives of each astronaut’s family and the impact of the astronauts’ stature and long absences on the families left behind. Each family deals with this in a different way…from a daughter who finds it difficult to live in her successful mother’s shadow to a son who starts acting out to a wife who questions whether she misses her husband at all.

If her mother goes to Mars, then that will be the only story of Mireille’s life. It will wipe out everything. Mireille wants to stay with that thought a little, but promises herself she will return to it later, when she has more time to savor how awful it is.

  • I’ve realized lately that I love snarky humor, especially when it’s somewhat unexpected. Let me stress that The Wanderers is not a funny book. But, there is very subtle humor and I especially appreciated what I’ll call the “corporate snark” (i.e. making fun of the “drink the Koolaid” vibe of Prime Space).

Nobody is allowed to say the words crash or explosion within a ten-kilometer radius of Prime Space. Suggested alternatives are: RUSE (Rapid Unplanned Separation Event) and learning experience.

  • I’d be remiss not to address the comparison to The Martian. What The Wanderers is and what it isn’t. It’s less scientific, there is far less on-the-edge-of-your-seat action (after all, this crew is in a simulator…they’re not actually risking death), it’s far more psychological, and you will recognize terms and some of the science from The Martian (“sol”, anyone?). It also as some weird Mary Roach-style scientific anecdotes about space (i.e. they recycle poop into the lining of the spacecraft as a barrier against cosmic radiation).
  • I’m not particularly interested in space or Mars, but Howrey made it fascinating for me by focusing on the psychology (how to pick the team, personality traits that are valuable, how those traits translate into good or bad things in the real world, and how people behave when monitored 24/7).  She truly made me appreciate the wonder of being in space even though this crew never left the ground.

What I Didn’t Like

  • The Wanderers has been knocked in reviews for moving at a glacial pace and lacking action. It’s true, there isn’t a ton of action and certainly nothing like the pace of The Martian. But, I disagree that nothing happens. These astronauts and their families go on a psychological journey, coming out different people than they were going in. There are definitely some slow points and times where the story veers off onto philosophical tangents, but they didn’t dampen my love for this book.

A Defining Quote

There are many things that can go wrong in the first minutes of leaving Earth and most of them come with a decision-making window of less than five seconds. If you are an astronaut it means that you are someone who can assess and react quickly. If you are a great astronaut it means that while your mental and physical reactions operate at top speed, your emotional reactions are stately and glacial. The combination that works best is someone who only needs four seconds to get to: This is what we need to do, and four months to get to: Gee, I’m a little bit uncomfortable.

Good for People Who Like…

Space, Mars, stories about mothers and daughters, stories about fathers and sons, unconventional families, gorgeous writing, unexpected humor, snarky humor, style books.

Other Books You May Like

Another novel about humans on Mars:
The Martian by Andy Weir

A nonfiction book about the scientific oddities of space:
Packing for Mars by Mary Roach

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How to Ask for Book Recommendations…So You Find Books You’ll Love

April 11, 2017 Book Recommendations 14

How to Ask for Book Recommendations

Last week, I announced that I would be trying out a personalized book recommendations service for a limited time.

While creating this service, I’ve thought a lot about how to give the best book recommendations possible…which in turn got me thinking about how to ask for book recommendations so you’ll have the best chance of finding a book that fits your personal taste. So, I thought I’d share my thoughts!

Most importantly, know yourself and your reading taste.

The clearer you can be about your reading tastes and preferences, the better book recommendations you will get!

Beyond what books and authors you like and don’t like, pay attention to why you like (or don’t like) a particular book or author. You’ll be surprised at the patterns you’ll find! Beyond knowing you like a certain genre, think about what you like or don’t like about books in that genre. These revelations can then be applied across all genres and help you expand your reading horizons in a more purposeful way.

For example, I’ve had trouble with mysteries and thrillers lately. I’ve figured out it’s because they can seem formulaic after awhile, rely more on plot than writing or style, and generally have “shocking” twists and/or endings that are either A) not surprising or B) so surprising that I roll my eyes at the ridiculousness.

Consider how you feel about key literary elements.

I’ve found that certain characteristics of books are much more important than a book’s topic in determining the right fit.

  • Length
    Are you open to chunky books (more than 400 pages) or do you prefer something short?
  • Plot vs. Style
    Do you need a propulsive plot to love a book or can you also enjoy quieter books that have gorgeous writing? Obviously, it’s ideal to have both, but many books don’t.
  • Likable / Relatable Characters
    Can you enjoy a book that has predominantly dislikable characters or do dislikable characters kill a book for you? Do you have to relate to at least one character to love the book?
  • The Happiness Factor
    Do you like to read books that are light and happy? Or at least end up that way? Do you mind emotional gut-wrenchers and/or books with dark storylines?
  • Humor
    Humor is a tough one, as it’s such a personal thing. Everyone finds different things funny and what one person finds funny, another could find offensive. How do you feel about inappropriate humor? Morbid humor? Gross-out humor? Snarky humor?
  • Endings
    Do you like your endings to resolve all the big questions (or, as I like to call it, “tied up neatly with a bow”)? Or, can you still be satisfied with an ending that leaves things somewhat unresolved?

Figure out what types of “outside of your comfort zone” books you might be willing to try.

I’ve had some good luck venturing outside of my literary fiction comfort zone lately. I’ve read a couple fascinating Science Fiction books and some gorgeous short story collections, both of which are outside of my wheelhouse. I know that I can carefully venture into these two genres for books that come recommended from trusted sources.

I’m also pretty comfortable in the fact that romance novels, fantasy series, and cozy mysteries are probably not going to work for me.

And, the answer to this question for you could very well be none, which is completely fine. But, at least you’ll know the answer!

Keep a record of your reading.

Some readers may know exactly what types of books they like and how they feel about the key literary elements I mentioned above. But, it’s perfectly fine if you don’t!

To get a handle on your personal reading taste, try keeping a record (spreadsheet, journal, scrap paper, whatever works for you!) of the books you like and why you liked them (and do the same for books you don’t like) for a month or two. Look for patterns in your likes and dislikes across books.

Now it’s time to put this to the test!
Participate in a limited time, free trial of my


It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? (4/10/17)

April 10, 2017 It's Monday! What are you reading? 35

Oh my gosh, what a frustrating reading week! I DNF’d two books and one audiobook (Anna Kendrick’s memoir, Scrappy Little Nobody) and have just found myself generally distracted and unable to find books that actually stick. Thankfully, I finally got my act together towards the end of the week, but only after feeling like I spun my wheels during days of precious reading time!

I did finish S-Town (the new podcast from the producers of Serial) and, man, was that good! It turned out to be quite different than I expected, but no less captivating. I also watched the first episode of HBO’s Big Little Lies. I resisted because I hated the book, but was assured the series was darker and more focused on the parents’ deeply messed up personal issues (rather than mommy politics). And, the first episode definitely stood up to this description! I’m in for the duration!

I also saw Ariel Levy, author of the memoir The Rules Do Not Apply (which I loved), speak at our local library this weekend. I met her and of course chickened out on asking her for a picture. I need some serious lessons on how to attend author events! She was a super engaging speaker and her personality was exactly what you would expect based on her book.

Hosted by The Book Date.

This post contains affiliate links.

I finished reading…

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, Kathleen Rooney

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney (January 17, 2017)
Delightful, playful, whimsical, and nostalgic. It’s a very New York book and Lillian is quite a New York character. One of those unique kinds of historical fiction novels that I really enjoy!
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

If We Were Villains, ML Rio

If We Were Villains
 by M.L. Rio (April 11, 2017)
Finally…campus novel that I’m loving (thank you, Susie at Novel Visits, for the recommendation)! I’m about over three quarters of the way through this debut and, after a rocky beginning with an overload of Shakespeare excerpts, I now can’t put it down. Think The Secret History and Black Chalk
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I tried, but wasn’t feeling…

Marlena, Julie Buntin

Marlena by Julie Buntin (April 4, 2017)
Though I really loved the first chapter of this debut, I kept zoning out after that point and put it aside around 30%. Yet another recent book I’m in the minority on…

Upcoming reading plans…

Anything is Possible, Elizabeth Strout

Anything Is Possible
 by Elizabeth Strout (April 25, 2017)
I’ve been long awaiting this companion book to My Name Is Lucy Barton (one of my favorite books of 2016). Fingers crossed it lives up to Lucy Barton!

I was reading…

One Year Ago: I was reading a book that everyone but me loved.

Two Years Ago: I was reading the very long sequel to Natchez Burning.

How was your reading week?

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Read One, Skip One: The Fall of Lisa Bellow and The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley

April 6, 2017 Mini Book Reviews 17

Fall of Lisa Bellow, Susan PeraboThe Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo
Fiction – Debut (
Released March 14, 2017)
352 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link:
Source: Publisher (Simon & Schuster)

Plot Summary: After Meredith Oliver witnesses the abduction of a her classmate (but not necessarily friend), Lisa Bellow, she and her entire family struggle to process the impact of being the one left behind.

My Thoughts: I adored Susan Perabo’s short story collection, Why They Run the Way They Do (my review), so was thrilled to hear her first full length novel was coming out this year. While I still prefer Why They Run the Way They Do, The Fall of Lisa Bellow is a psychologically suspenseful novel that gets to the nasty little heart of things (thank you, Catherine!), a type of story I’m always game for. This story is not about what happened to Lisa Bellow, but about the survivors and survivor’s guilt. It’s about the often ungenerous, but brutally honest thoughts, of those who escaped the worst. And, it’s about the minefield of life as a middle school girl. Perabo’s biting portrayal of middle school made me alternately chuckle and cringe…just like actual middle school.

Lisa looked at her. There was the look. This was why everyone hated her. This was why middle school girls had stomachaches when they woke up in the morning. This was why girls were afraid to read the next text, or turn the corner into the cafeteria. This was why Jules could think, why they all could think, all the girls who were not her friends, why they could all secretly think: Good riddance.

My major gripe lies with the publisher’s blurb, which calls The Fall of Lisa Bellow “gripping” and “suspenseful,” leading readers to expect a page turner. The suspense here is the emotional type rather than “what happens next” type, and readers going in expecting the latter will likely be disappointed. I’d call it more of a coming of age novel with a crime in the background than a page turning mystery.

Twelve Lives of Samuel HawleyThe Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti
Fiction (
Released March 28, 2017)
400 Pages
Bottom Line: Skip it.
Affiliate Link: Amazon
Source: Publisher (The Dial Press)

Plot Summary: Following a life of crime, Samuel Hawley and his daughter (Loo) move back to Loo’s mother’s hometown of Olympus, Massachusetts, where Loo begins to unravel her father’s past and how her mother died.

My Thoughts: This novel has gotten a ton of pre-publication hype and two fellow bloggers whose tastes I usually agree with loved it (Novel Visits, It’s Tara Leigh). It was also marketed as a coming of age novel / thriller, which sounded right up my alley. Unfortunately, The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley was just okay for me and I’m having trouble understanding all the hype.

The story alternates between Loo and Samuel navigating life in Olympus (the “coming of age” portion of the story) and chapters explaining each one of Samuel’s twelve bullet scars (the “thriller” portion of the story), with the two threads converging towards the end. I enjoyed the coming of age aspect (Loo/Samuel sections) of this structure, but after multiple “thriller” chapters (i.e. the bullet sections), I started to get bored with all the violence. With an exception or two, these chapters seemed senseless and the stories began to run together in my head. By the 75% mark, I began skimming just to find out how things would end.

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Coming Soon: Personalized Book Recommendations

April 4, 2017 Book Recommendations 26

Personalized Book Recommendations

Click HERE to submit a recommendation request.

My regular readers might remember a few months back when I got introspective about where I wanted to take this blog (you can get a refresher here and here if you’re interested). I mentioned that I was planning to test run a small book recommendations project around Mother’s / Father’s Days.

Personalized book recommendations are what I was referring to.

After reading the book reviews and lists on my blog, people frequently reach out to me asking for a particular type of book recommendation. Which got me thinking about about book recommendation services…

There are many book recommendation services available at the moment:

  • Amazon and Goodreads use computer algorithms to tell you what you might enjoy based on what you’ve previously purchased (Amazon) and added to your various lists (Goodreads). 
  • Book of the Month Club allows members to choose from five curated selections each month and mails you a hardcover book (incidentally, this is a great service if you like reading hardcover books and aren’t looking for personalized recommendations).
  • Some independent bookstores (i.e. Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, VA) also have personalized recommendation services where they mail you either a hardcover or paperback of the book they recommend for you. 

But, I keep thinking, why aren’t there more book recommendation services…

  • For people who prefer to e-read or listen to audiobooks?
  • Where humans give you a recommendation based on your personal tastes? Like the internet version of your neighborhood independent bookseller?
  • That pair personalized book recommendations with the freedom to choose your format and retailer?

So, I’m excited to announce a test run for a personalized book recommendations service from Sarah’s Book Shelves!

It will be a limited (and free) trial for the Mother’s / Father’s Day holidays (mid-April through mid-June) to gauge interest and gather your valuable feedback (via a follow-up survey).


Bonus! If you participate in the Mother’s / Father’s Day trial, you will receive a special discount if you sign-up for the paid service when it officially launches.

How Will the Trial Work?

  • Click on the Get Personalized Book Recommendations option on the Sarah’s Book Shelves menu (this option isn’t there right now, I will add it when I launch in mid-April).
  • Complete a short questionnaire about the kind of recommendation you’re looking for, and whether it’s for you or a gift.
  • I will email you 2-3 book recommendations that fit your criteria within a few days.
  • If your recommendations are for a gift, I can 1) email them directly to you so you can purchase the book(s) in whatever format you prefer OR 2) I can email the recommendations directly to your gift recipient!
  • After you receive your recommendations, I will send you a brief survey to complete. Everyone who completes a survey will be entered to win a $15 gift certificate to Amazon (which will generally cover at least one e-book or paperback).

After the test run…

I’ll review the survey and hope to launch the paid service in one of the following formats:  

  • A simple personalized book recommendation service where you can either buy one-time recommendations or a monthly subscription.
  • A premium level of Sarah’s Book Shelves content with a monthly personalized book recommendation as its key element, in addition to a few other features.

I’d love your feedback on this new endeavor. Please feel free to leave a comment or email me directly at

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It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? (4/3/17)

April 3, 2017 It's Monday! What are you reading? 34

A little bit about life this week…and what I’ve been watching and listening to before we get to the books.

My husband and I just finished watching OJ: Made in America, which is fantastic and full of tidbits that I’d forgotten or never knew in the first place. Next up (for me, not my husband) is Big Little Lies. Even though I hated the book, I’m planning to give the series a shot. Also, Season 4 of Southern Charm premieres this week and the Food Network is bringing back Iron Chef for a special (Iron Chef Gauntlet) on April 16. Tell me again why this show went off the air?!

I’m a few episodes into S-Town (the new podcast from the producers of Serial) and am completely hooked! It’s more like the original Serial than Season 2 was and is also a nice companion to Hillbilly Elegy (my review) in its own way. And, I’ve also been listening to a couple podcasts that focus on blogging and business tips: Brilliant Business Moms, The Strategy Hour, and The Chopped Podcast (technically for food bloggers, but much of their advice can be applied to all kinds of blogs). It’s nice to get my head out of the book blogging bubble with these new additions to my podcast queue.

Finally, I shared my commentary on the Book of the Month Club April selections…and there are more pre-releases than usual! Choices are due on Thursday, April 6.

Hosted by The Book Date.

This post contains affiliate links.

I finished reading…

Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti (March 28, 2017)
Ugh…ya’ll. This book never did really turn around for me and I’m having trouble understanding all the hype. I’m definitely in the minority on this one. Mini review to come.

I’m currently reading…

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, Kathleen Rooney

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney (January 17, 2017)
I’m almost finished with this one. It’s been awhile since I read a book I’d describe as “delightful,” but this one kind of is. It’s playful and whimsical and nostalgic. It’s a very New York book and Lillian is quite a New York character.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Upcoming reading plans…

Marlena, Julie Buntin

 by Julie Buntin (April 4, 2017)
I’ve actually already sneaked in the first chapter of this story of an ill-fated friendship…and that first chapter was GOOD! I’m looking forward to really diving in after I finish up with Lillian Boxfish.

I was reading…

One Year Ago: I was reading one of my top 3 books of 2016!

Two Years Ago: I was reading about beauty pageants and Beanie Babies.

How was your reading week?

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

April 1, 2017 Book Recommendations 8

Book of the Month Club April 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 to know more about the five Book of the Month Club selections before making your choice(s) 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.

This month, the Book of the Month Club selections are jam-packed with sneak peeks (i.e. books that haven’t been released to the public yet)! And if you’re considering adding on one of last month’s selections, check out my thoughts on those. I can also now say that I’ve listened to The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel (one of last month’s selections) and it’s a captivating story that would be perfect for fans of Jon Krakauer (and it’s my favorite audiobook of 2017 so far).

Book of the Month Club April 2017 Selections

Impossible Fortress, Jason RekulakThe Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak (Released: February 7, 2017)
285 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.75
Selected By: Tyler Coates (Culture Editor at GQ)

A dazzling debut novel—at once a charming romance and a moving coming-of-age story—about what happens when a fourteen-year old boy pretends to seduce a girl to steal a copy of Playboy but then discovers she is his computer-loving soulmate.

My Thoughts:
I’ve had The Impossible Fortress on my TBR list for a little while now…potentially as a candidate for my 2017 Summer Reading Guide (coming in mid-May). Kathy at Kathy Reads said it was “fun, fast, and original.  It’s that book that will warm your heart and keep you smiling.” However, Katie at Words for Worms found it an “enjoyable” book that was “based in nostalgia and not a literary heavy hitter.” Katie also didn’t think it lived up to the marketing dollars that Simon & Schuster put behind it. I’ve also heard discussions on at least one literary podcast about the fact that it’s so jam-packed with 1980’s nostalgia that it overpowers the overall story. I’ve also heard it’s a book that will appeal to gaming nerds…I’m definitely a nerd in many ways, but gaming isn’t one of them. So, my interest is wavering ever so slightly.

Startup, Doree ShafrirStartup by Doree Shafrir (Released: April 25, 2017)
304 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.03
Selected By: Glory Edim (owner of book club and newsletter Well Read Black Girl)

From veteran online journalist and BuzzFeed writer Doree Shafrir comes a hilarious debut novel that proves there are some dilemmas that no app can solve.

Mack McAllister has a $600 million dollar idea. His mindfulness app, TakeOff, is already the hottest thing in tech and he’s about to launch a new and improved version […]. Katya Pasternack is hungry for a scoop that will drive traffic. Sabrina Choe Blum just wants to stay afloat. When Mack’s bad behavior collides with Katya’s search for a salacious post, Sabrina gets caught in the middle as TakeOff goes viral for all the wrong reasons.

My Thoughts:
This debut novel caught my eye when I reviewed the spring 2017 publisher’s catalogs. Joanna Rakoff, author of one of my favorite memoirs (My Salinger Year, my review), said “if you have ever lived in New York or worked in an office, you will love this novel.” I’ve done both, so I’m thinking I’ll appreciate this book! And, it’s been compared to Adelle Waldman’s The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. (another NYC novel I loved) and was included in The Millions Great 2017 Book Preview. If you’re considering this one, check out some of Shafrir’s writing for Buzzfeed. Also note that Startup is not coming out until April 25, so this is a chance to get your hands on it early!

Killers of the Flower Moon, David GrannKillers of the Flower Moon by David Grann (Release Date: April 18, 2017)
320 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.43
Selected By: Sarah Weinman (writer, editor and “Crime Lady”)

From New Yorker staff writer David Grann, #1 New York Times best-selling author of The Lost City of Z, a twisting, haunting true-life murder mystery about one of the most monstrous crimes in American history.

[…] David Grann revisits a shocking series of crimes in which dozens of people were murdered in cold blood. […] it is a searing indictment of the callousness and prejudice toward Native Americans that allowed the murderers to operate with impunity for so long. Killers of the Flower Moon is utterly riveting, but also emotionally devastating.

My Thoughts:
I hadn’t heard of this book before seeing the Book of the Month Club April selections, but I love some good true crime, so my interest is now piqued! It’s been blurbed by Jon Krakauer and Erik Larson (whose The Devil in the White City is one of my all-time favorite nonfiction books) and Le Monde (Paris) called Grann “a worthy heir to Truman Capote.” High praise to be compared to the author of one of the first true crime books ever published, In Cold Blood. I thought I had my top 2 choices for this month all locked up until I saw this book!

American War, Omar El ArkadAmerican War by Omar El Akkad (Released: April 4, 2017)
407 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.07
Selected By: Maris Kreizman (Book of the Month Club Editorial Director)

An audacious and powerful debut novel: a second American Civil War, a devastating plague, and one family caught deep in the middle a story that asks what might happen if America were to turn its most devastating policies and deadly weapons upon itself.

My Thoughts:
American War is a dystopian war novel set in 2074, which is not really in my wheelhouse. It’s been compared to Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven (which I did love) and Corman McCarthy’s The Road. El Akkad is a Canadian journalist who has covered the Afghanistan war, the Guantànamo Bay military trials, and the Arab Spring revolution in Egypt. This novel portrays a world where the red states and blue states are at war and is likely to spark political debate. Publisher’s Weekly called it “a very dark read.”

One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter, Scaachi KoulOne Day We’ll All Be Dead by Scaachi Koul (Released: May 2, 2017)
288 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.19
Selected By: Kevin Nguyen (Digital Deputy Editor, GQ Magazine)

For readers of Mindy Kaling, Jenny Lawson and Roxane Gay, a debut collection of fierce and funny essays about growing up the daughter of Indian immigrants in Canada, “a land of ice and casual racism,” by the irreverent, hilarious cultural observer and incomparable rising star, Scaachi Koul.

My Thoughts:
Though she is a culture writer for Buzzfeed, One Day We’ll All Be Dead is Scaachi Koul’s first book. I don’t know anyone who has personally read this book yet, but I do know of some who are excited about it (Shannon at River City Reading). It was included in The Millions Great 2017 Book Preview and received a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly, which called it “simultaneously uproarious and affecting.” I’ve had great luck with this publisher, especially with books having to do with immigrant culture (i.e. Shelter, my review). But, I also have a hit and miss relationship with essay collections that are supposed to be funny, so while I’m definitely interested in this book, I’m going to let some other readers I trust vet it first.

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

My choices this month would be Startup and Killers of the Flower Moon!

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

Join Book of the Month Club…

Book of the Month Club is a subscription service for people who like to try new books from a curated selection and like to read in hardcover format. Through Book of the Month Club, you can get a hardcover book for generally significantly less than you’d pay in a bookstore or through Amazon. And, you get to try something new that has been vetted by one of Book of the Month Club’s well-read judges!

Sign up for any of the subscription plans below and you get to choose one of five books selected by Book of the Month Club’s panel of judges (including a surprise guest judge). Book of the Month Club will then mail your chosen book to your house with a cute note. You also have the option to purchase additional books for $9.99 each and to skip a month if you want.

Sign up for a Book of the Month Club membership (pricing below)!

1-month: $5 for first month, $14.99/month if you choose to continue
3-month: $9.99 for first 3 months, $14.99/month if you choose to continue
6-month: only available as a gift
12-month: $11.99/month
(Special March Deal: get a free BOTM tote when you sign up for a 3 month membership)

*All book descriptions are from Goodreads.

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March 2017 Monthly Round-Up

March 30, 2017 Monthly Round-Ups 17

March 2017 monthly round-up

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

March Reading / Life

Best Books of the Month

My Favorite Book(s) of the Month

The Wanderers by Meg Howrey (March 14, 2017)
Fiction, 384 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel (March 7, 2017)
Nonfiction, 224 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

PS – last year’s Best Book of March was The Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder (my review)…one of my Underrated Gems of 2016!

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

Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach (my review)

April Releases I’m Excited About

No One Is Coming to Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts (April 4)
Somebody with a Little Hammer by Mary Gaitskill (April 4)
Marlena by Julie Buntin (April 4)
Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann (April 17)

Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout (April 25)

Most Popular Posts

Posts Actually Published in March
My Most Anticipated Books of Spring 2017
Four Books I Just Added to My All-Time Favorites List
Five New Books You Can Read in a Weekend

Overall Posts
Book Club Recommendations
Behind Her Eyes and THAT Ending: Spoiler Discussion
My Best All-Around Go-To Book Recommendations

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It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? (3/27/17)

March 27, 2017 It's Monday! What are you reading? 30

After the stumbling block of two weeks ago, my reading is now back on track in a big way. I absolutely adored the book I read last week and have had back-to-back fantastic audiobooks. I never talk much about the audiobooks I listen to because I find that listening to them with the intent to review makes me enjoy them less, but I do occasionally mention them if they really wow me. So, you’re getting a couple of those this week.

My son’s and my March Madness brackets fell apart a bit yesterday. The only team we have left alive is Gonzaga. It was a good run while it lasted!

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I finished reading…

The Wanderers, The Strange in the Woods

The Wanderers by Meg Howrey (March 14, 2017)
I absolutely loved this book…it’s one of my favorites so far this year. It’s been compared to Station Eleven and The Martian, but I think it’s closest to being a much more subtle and philosophical version of The Martian. Review to come.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel (March 7, 2017)
This is story of “the last true hermit” is the best audiobook I’ve listened to this year. It’s strange, yet captivating and is perfect for fans of Jon Krakauer (particularly Into the Wild) and Quiet by Susan Cain (yes, I realize this is an odd pair of comparisons). It will make an appearance on my 2017 Summer Reading Guide for sure!

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I’m currently reading…

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti (March 28, 2017)
I’m about 25% through this literary thriller/coming of age novel and I like it, but it’s not blowing my mind at this point. I do feel invested in the characters, though, so am looking forward to seeing what happens to them.

What I Talk about When I Talk about Running by Haruki Murakami (July 29, 2008)
I’d been hearing about this memoir from the Japanese literary sensation (author of 1Q84) for years, but a chapter in Will Schwalbe’s Books for Living was what really got me interested in it. It’s about long distance running (duh), writing, solitude, triathlons, and changing the way you live your life. I adore it.

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Upcoming reading plans…

I should probably get started on April releases, but this book I’ve had my eye on for months just came in from the library!

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, Kathleen Rooney

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk
 by Kathleen Rooney (January 17, 2017)
I’m hoping this story about an 85 year-old woman who reflects on her life as she takes a walk around Manhattan in 1984 will be a new addition to my badass ladies reading category.

I was reading…

One Year Ago: I’d just finished The Nest and was starting a couple blah books.

Two Years Ago: I was reading potential books for my 2015 Summer Reading Guide.

How was your reading week?

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Five New Books You Can Read in a Weekend

March 21, 2017 Book Lists 38

New Books You Can Read in a Weekend

I’ve been on a short books kick recently and get really excited when I find tiny books that still pack a serious punch. The books on this list are all relatively new releases and are under 300 pages…short enough for you to read in a relatively plan-free weekend.

Five New Books You Can Read in a Weekend

A Separation, Katie MitamuraA Separation by Katie Kitamura
Fiction (Released February 7, 2017)
240 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased (Publisher: Riverhead) 

A Separation has catastrophically been described as a “whodunit” (by Elle Magazine) and “the literary Gone Girl of 2017″ (by The Millions). It is NOT either of those things. It is, however, a gorgeously dark rumination on a troubled marriage. It’s most definitely a “style” book (i.e. don’t look for a fast-moving plot), but I immediately adored the narrator’s voice and tone. Kitamura, through the wife’s perspective, creates emotional tension that propels the story (much like Tender, one of my 2016 favorites). This book is not for everyone. But, try the first few pages…if the writing connects with you, then you should probably keep reading! 

What would be irrational would be to remain in this state of indecision, neither in nor out of the marriage, neither with nor free of this man. The sooner I was able to deliver myself from this situation the better, I could not remain beholden to two separate and antagonistic sets of expectation […]

All Grown Up, Jami AttenbergAll Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
Fiction (Released March 7, 2017)
208 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) 

All Grown Up is a raw, compact story of a young woman (Andrea) trying to find her way in the world, but it’s taking longer than society says it should. Attenberg uses little snapshots of Andrea’s life to share her struggles with being single in New York City (a situation I could relate to from years ago) and provide “yes, that’s exactly how it is” commentary on how society treats single ladies in their thirties. Andrea’s floundering is frustrating, but also relatable and endearing. What really made All Grown Up for me was the unexpectedly funny writing. It’s snarky and filled with the type of dry, morbid humor that’s not for everyone, but is for me. All Grown Up tackles the quarter-life crisis theme in a brutally honest rather than grating way (I’m looking at you, The Futures) and is one of my favorite books of 2017 so far!

People architect new lives all the time. I know this because I never see them again once they find these new lives. They have children or they move to new cities or even just to new neighborhoods or you hate their spouse or their spouse hates you or they start working the night shift or they start training for a marathon or they stop going to bars or they start going to therapy or they realize they don’t like you anymore or they die. It happens constantly. It’s just me. I haven’t built anything new. I’m the one getting left behind.

The Roanoke Girls, Amy EngelThe Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel
Fiction (Released March 7, 2017)
276 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Crown) 

The Roanoke Girls features quite possibly the most dysfunctional (although, supremely F’d up is probably more accurate) family I’ve ever encountered in fiction. It’s the kind of book that I was slightly embarrassed to be reading, but was completely unable to put down. The extent to which Engel pushed the premise of this book is preposterous (think The Flowers in the Attic on steroids mixed with a bit of Sweet Home Alabama) and the characters’ decision-making is frustrating, but I was impressed with the writing and was even able to tolerate a bit of a love story (which is rare for me). It’s a fast, if not demented and twisted, read and would make a great vacation accessory.

I’ve been back in this house for less than an hour, and already I feel like I’m losing my mind, the Roanoke reality slithering into place. Where a tornado is a bit of wind or a missing woman is simply out having fun.

The Rules Do Not Apply, Ariel LevyThe Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released March 14, 2017)
224 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Random House) 

I immediately fell for the writing in this searing memoir of self-examination by a current New Yorker staff writer (also a native of my current town). Levy takes a brutally raw and honest look at her life including love, massive loss, and bad decisions. Her style is rambling – covering topics from crafting her career as a professional writer to gardening to covering the Caster Semenya story (the South African runner who was gender-tested at the 2009 Berlin World Championships) to her views on marriage in general and gay marriage specifically (she’s a lesbian) to infidelity to Mike Huckabee to late-in-life pregnancy – but it flows seamlessly. It’s a risky thing to market a book as “for readers of Cheryl Strayed” and, while I’m not putting Levy on equal footing with the giant, the comparison is not unfounded.

People have been telling me since I was a little girl that I was too fervent, too forceful, too much. I thought I had harnessed the power of my own strength and greed and love in a life that could contain it. But it has exploded.

Woman Next Door, Yewande OmotosoThe Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso
Fiction (Released February 7, 2017)
288 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased (Publisher: Picador) 

The Woman Next Door was a fantastic surprise for me…and it’s likely to end up on my Underrated Gems of 2017 list. It’s like Grumpy Old Men crossed with Desperate Housewives set in South Africa and involving race. The story kicks off with snarky humor before taking a more contemplative turn. Two next door neighbors (Marion and Hortensia) can’t stand each other and are constantly plotting how to figuratively take the other one down, yet The Woman Next Door ends up being a story about friendship and regret and a lesson in how you never really know what’s going on in someone else’s life. Plus, the writing shines!

It wasn’t like Marion to give away such easy points but, while she was being generous, it was Hortensia’s aim to collect. Their rivalry was infamous enough for the other committee women to hang back and watch the show. It was known that the two women shared hedge and hatred and they pruned both with a vim that belied their ages.

What great books have you read in a weekend?

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