Q2 2018 Update: My Go-To and No-Go Book Recommendation Sources

July 10, 2018 Stats 10

Book Recommendation Sources

 

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 that of independent of publishers’ marketing machines.

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

My Q2 2018 Reading Quality

 % Successful Books ATTEMPTED (includes DNFs)  56%
 % Successful Books FINISHED (does not include DNFs)  83%

My Successful Books Attempted increased almost 30% 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 Q2 2018

Read It Forward’s Best Books of the Month Lists  9
(You Think It, I’ll Say It: StoriesEducatedThe GunnersHow to Walk AwayThe Favorite SisterTin ManThe Great BelieversThe Book of EssieA False Report: A True Story of Rape in America)
 Library Reads  5
(EducatedYou Think It, I’ll Say It: StoriesThe Girl Who Smiled BeadsThe Favorite SisterTin Man)
Novel Visits  5
(EducatedThe GunnersTin ManUs Against YouThe Great Believers)
Tyler Goodson, Manager at Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA  4
(You Think It, I’ll Say It: StoriesSocial CreatureThe GunnersThe Great Believers)
Annie Jones from From the Front Porch podcast  4
(Alternative Remedies for LossEducatedThe Mockingbird Next DoorThe Book of Essie)
Running N Reading  4
(
EducatedThe GunnersThe Favorite SisterUs Against You)
Gilmore Guide to Books  4
(
EducatedThe Favorite SisterTin ManCharlotte Walsh Likes to Win)

My No-Go Book Recommendation Sources for Q2 2018

Read It Forward’s Best Books of the Month Lists  5
(The High SeasonThat Kind of MotherFloridaOnly Child, A Place for Us)
Annie Jones from From the Front Porch podcast  4
(Campaign WidowsThat Kind of Mother, A Place for UsFlorida)
Amazon Best Books of the Month  2
(CirceFlorida)
Library Reads  2
(
CirceBaby Teeth)
Trusted Authors (Paula McLain, Lauren Groff)  2
(Love and Ruin
Florida)
Modern Mrs. Darcy  2
(A Place for Us
What We Were Promised)

Key Takeaways

  • Read it Forward, Annie Jones, and Tyler Goodson made my top Go-To Sources list two quarters in a row. I’m thinking I should start a Hall of Fame?
  • Some of my top Go-To Recommendation Sources are also my top No-Go Recommendation Sources. Wha?? I’m guessing this is based on sheer numbers…I go to these sources often and I’m not going to like every single book they recommend.
  • Trusted authors have let me down two quarters in a row. Last quarter, trusted authors were my top No-Go Recommendation Source with 3 unsuccessful books. This is unexpected and disappointing. Maybe my reading taste is changing?

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 (7/9/18) – A Double Shot

July 9, 2018 It's Monday! What are you reading? 17

Welcome back to real life, y’all! At least for me. I was on vacation last week, which was awesome. For the first time, both our kids were old enough to do fun activities, not have to nap, and stay up a little later. We did lots of swimming (including some actual lap swimming for me), beaching, water sliding (the kids, not me), fishing (Team Female won on our boat!), fire-working, and eating. So, you’re getting a double shot of books this week and I’m thrilled to say I actually did get a decent amount of reading done on vacation! Plus, I finished a couple books I’d been reading in small snippets over a long period of time.

Congratulations to Becky Shemeley, winner of my 8 audiobook giveaway in conjunction with the June is Audiobook Month blog tour! Enjoy saving all those Audible credits for a bit!

I also shared my Best Books of 2018 So Far last week. And, I’m 99.9% sure at least a couple of these will stay atop the leaderboard for my overall Best Books of 2018 list come December.

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It’s about halfway through the year and I’ve got some favorite books for you (that means “get out your TBR lists, it’s time to prioritize”)! So far this year, I’ve read 6 books that I’m 99.9% sure will make it onto my overall Best Books of 2018 list come December. And, I’m thrilled with that…especially considering I had very few hands-down, unquestionable winners at this point last year. ⠀ _⠀ ⠀ Overall, this is a pretty wide-ranging list. We’ve got a couple engrossing, character-driven novels, a couple lighter books, a couple memoirs, a true crime, a sports fiction, and a short story collection.⠀ LINK IN PROFILE WITH FULL LIST⠀ _⠀ ⠀ What are your favorite books of 2018 so far?⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ #bookstagram #bookstagrammer #bookgram #amreading #bookworms #instabooks #instabook #booktalk #booklovers #booklover #bibliophile #biblio #bookaddict #bookaddiction #badassbookbabes @aaknopf @meghanmacleanweir @megwolitzer @riverheadbooks @tayari @algonquinbooks @camille_pagan #lakeunionpublishing @kellycorrigan @randomhouse @bookofthemonth #bookofthemonth #botm

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I finished reading…

what I'm reading now

 

Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris (December 6, 2016) 
I finally finished! I’d been reading this 700 page behemoth for months! But, it’s fascinating and easy to read in little snippets. Basically, Ferris took the highlights from his interviews with the top people in various fields (he’s all over the map with this…business, sports, entertainment, thinkers, etc) and organized them into Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise sections. I highlighted tons and adopted some new routines in my life. I kind of want to listen to his podcast now.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

A False Report: A True Story of Rape in America by T. Christian Miller & Ken Armstrong (February 6, 2018) – Audiobook
Excellent true crime mixed in with a bit of history of rape investigation and would make a great companion read to I’ll Be Gone in the Dark (my review).
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win by Jo Piazza (July 24, 2018) 
Mini review coming on Thursday.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott (July 17, 2018) 
Mini review coming on Thursday.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Calypso by David Sedaris (May 29, 2018) 
I just love Sedaris’ dark humor and I promptly bought Theft by Finding on audio after finishing this one. Mini review coming soon.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

Fruit of the Drunken Tree

 

Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras (July 31, 2018) 
I’m about halfway through this hyped debut set during the Colombian drug wars and it started out great, but slowed down a bit soon after. I’m going to give it a bit more time to pick up before I make a decision.

I tried, but wasn’t feeling…

The Incendiaries

 

The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwan (July 31, 2018)
DNF at 10%
This debut novel about a girl who gets wrapped up in a cult and the boy who is obsessed with her has gotten tons of pre-release hype (and Annie Jones and Tyler Goodson both rated it 4 stars), but it just seemed weird to me. I kept spacing out and the writing seemed really distant to me.

Upcoming reading plans…

Clock Dance

 

Clock Dance by Anne Tyler (July 10, 2018)
I’ve never read Anne Tyler before, but Annie Jones and Tyler Goodson loved this one…plus, it’s about a dysfunctional family. I’m #1 on the pre-release library hold list, so I’m trying to finish my current book by Tuesday!

was reading…

One Year Ago: I read 2 books told in vignettes…one that worked and one that didn’t.

Two Years Ago: I was on vacation!

How was your reading week?

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June 2018 Monthly Round-Up

July 3, 2018 Monthly Round-Ups 13

June 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!).

My June reading started off with a bang…I read three books in a row that made my Best Books of 2018 So Far list! Then, it fell off a cliff with a string of DNFs and one book that I sort of hate-read. But, I think I’ve found my groove again…

I read 7 books this month…a little less than normal. We traveled a lot and were getting adjusted to the summer routine with the kids out of school. I also read a couple longer books, which I used to steer clear of, but I’m glad I’ve gotten over that because I would’ve missed out on some amazing books! I have fallen behind with my Goodreads Challenge goal of 100 books for the year, but I’m not sure I care.

Winners

Losers

DNF’s

Best-Selling Book (via my affiliate links)

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez – I’m not sure how to explain this one…I really liked it, but I haven’t talked about it on the blog since last year!

Announcements

  • I shared by Best Books of 2018 So Far list on Tuesday!
  • If you missed it, check out my 2018 Summer Reading List…and stay tuned because I’ll be adding a couple more books to it this month!
  • Personalized Book Recommendations and the Superstars Facebook Group are now available to anyone who supports Sarah’s Book Shelves on Patreon!

June Quality and Recommendation Sources

Reading Quality

June 2018

  • % Successful Books Attempted (includes DNF’s) = 56% (above my 43% success rate from 2017)
  • % Successful Books Finished (does not include DNFs) = 71%

2018 Year-to-Date (through June)

  • % Successful Books Attempted (includes DNF’s) = 56% (above my 43% success rate from 2017)
  • % Successful Books Finished (does not include DNFs) = 83%

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.

July Releases I’m Excited About

Clock Dance by Anne Tyler (July 10)
Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott (July 17)
The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon (July 31)

Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras (July 31)

Most Popular Posts

Posts Actually Published in June
Best Books of 2018 So Far
June 2018 Books to Read (and Skip)
Book of the Month June 2018 Selections: What Book Should You Choose?

Overall Posts
Book Club Recommendations
2018 Summer Reading List
Am I the Only One Who Didn’t Love Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine?

Favorite Posts by Fellow Bloggers

How was your reading month?

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

July 1, 2018 Book Recommendations 13

Book of the Month July 2018

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).

Continuing with Book of the Month‘s focus on summer reading, all of this month’s selections are easy reads that would be great for the beach. Unfortunately, none really grabbed my personal interest. As a follow-up to last month’s selections, I loved The Book of Essie and included it on my Best Books of 2018 So Far list! I’m also adding it to my 2018 Summer Reading Guide. I’m about 2/3 of the way through Calypso and am really enjoying that too!

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 July 2018 Selections

book of the month july 2018The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager (Release Date: July 3, 2018)
384 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.17 on 570 ratings
Selected By: Brianna Goodman (Book of the Month Editorial Team)

In the new novel from the bestselling author of Final GirlsThe Last Time I Lied follows a young woman as she returns to her childhood summer camp to uncover the truth about a tragedy that happened there fifteen years ago.

My Thoughts:
I wasn’t a fan of Sager’s debut novel, Final Girls, which was a horror movie-esque thriller. I had trouble buying the main character’s decision-making and I thought the ending jumped the shark. But, Annie Jones of From the Front Porch podcast (and one of my best recommendation sources) liked The Last Time I Lied and thought it was possibly even better than Final Girls. Tina from TBR, etc. had trouble getting into it, but couldn’t put it down once she got to the last quarter. Goodreads reviewers said it’s more grown up and less horror movie-ish than Final Girls, it has a large cast of characters, the storyline alternates between past and present, it has a bit of a slow start, and people can’t decide how they feel about the ending. Overall, the Goodreads reviews are excellent and this seems to be a standout psychological thriller.

book of the month july 2018The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams (Release Date: July 10, 2018)
384 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.95 on 417 ratings
Selected By: Liberty Hardy (co-host of Book Riot‘s All the Books podcast)

New York Times bestselling author Beatriz Williams brings us the blockbuster novel of the season—a spellbinding novel of romance, murder, class, power, and dark secrets set in the 1950s and ’60s among the rarified world of a resort island in the Long Island Sound . . .

My Thoughts:
Beatriz Williams writes beach-y historical fiction that usually contains some sort of mystery and usually involves wealthy families with secrets. I loved her older books (A Hundred Summers, The Secret Life of Violet Grant, Tiny Little Thing), but have given up on her more recent work starting with Along the Infinite Sea (my review). She began publishing a book a year and I thought the quality suffered. The Summer Wives is “typical Beatriz Williams fare” according to Susie from Novel Visits (one of my favorite book bloggers) and involves family secrets and wealthy vs. the locals dynamics in an exclusive vacation enclave. She said that, of Williams’ previous books, it’s most like A Hundred Summers (my review) and Tiny Little Thing (my review)…a good thing in my view! And, Renee at It’s Book Talk (another favorite book blogger) also really liked it…saying that Williams pulled off the two alternating time period narrative so well.

book of the month july 2018Ghosted by Rosie Walsh (Release Date: July 24, 2018)
352 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.17 on 878 ratings
Selected By: Skye Sherman (Book of the Month Brand Ambassador)

Seven perfect days. Then he disappeared. A love story with a secret at its heart.

When Sarah meets Eddie, they connect instantly and fall in love. To Sarah, it seems as though her life has finally begun. And it’s mutual: It’s as though Eddie has been waiting for her, too. Sarah has never been so certain of anything. So when Eddie leaves for a long-booked vacation and promises to call from the airport, she has no cause to doubt him. But he doesn’t call. […]

Minutes, days, weeks go by as Sarah becomes increasingly worried. But then she discovers she’s right. There is a reason for Eddie’s disappearance, and it’s the one thing they didn’t share with each other: the truth.

My Thoughts:
Ghosted is a debut page turner with some romance and a mystery thrown in…and it was blurbed by Liane Moriarty (Big Little Lies). Nicole Bonia, co-host of The Readerly Report podcast, rated it 5 stars and called it “a lovely and absorbing novel with a uniquely modern twist on the oft told tale of doomed lovers.” I read the first chapter and a little bit of the second chapter and wasn’t immediately grabbed, but I may go back to it after reading the Goodreads reviews. Goodreads reviewers said it’s about love and grief, is unputdownable, has likable characters, and is surprising in a very good way. But, they also said it has a bit of a slow start, unlikely coincidences, and an ending that is neatly tied up. Many Goodreads readers recommended going in blind.

book of the month july 2018Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik (Released: July 10, 2018)
448 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.45 on 536 ratings
Selected By: 
Brooke Lee (BOTM Readers Committee member)

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders… but her father isn’t a very good one. Free to lend and reluctant to collect, he has loaned out most of his wife’s dowry and left the family on the edge of poverty–until Miryem steps in. Hardening her heart against her fellow villagers’ pleas, she sets out to collect what is owed–and finds herself more than up to the task. When her grandfather loans her a pouch of silver pennies, she brings it back full of gold.

But having the reputation of being able to change silver to gold can be more trouble than it’s worth–especially when her fate becomes tangled with the cold creatures that haunt the wood, and whose king has learned of her reputation and wants to exploit it for reasons Miryem cannot understand.

My Thoughts:
Spinning Silver is fantasy (not one of my preferred genres), a loose retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, and said to be for fans of A Game of Thrones. Goodreads reviewers said it’s different from Uprooted (her previous novel), has lots of different perspectives, and a bit of magic, religion, and romance. It also apparently has no dialogue. Honestly, I had to stop reading the Goodreads reviews because of ALL THE CAPS, gazillions of exclamation points, talking solely in GIFs, and many reviews just blathering incredible excitement about this book, but not actually reviewing the book (because they likely haven’t read it yet). I think I’m too old for this one just based on the style of the Goodreads reviews.

book of the month july 2018The Girl from Blind River by Gale Massey (Release Date: July 10, 2018)
329 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.51 on 37 ratings
Selected By: Siobhan Jones (Book of the Month Editorial Director)

A gritty tale of how far we’ll go to protect the ones we love for fans of Daniel Woodrell’s Winter’s Bone and Emma Cline’s The Girls from Gale Massey, a talented new name in crime fiction.

Everyone says the Elders family are nothing but cheats, thieves, and convicts—a fact nineteen-year old Jamie Elders has been trying desperately to escape. She may have the natural talent of a poker savant, but her dreams of going pro and getting the hell out of the tiny town of Parsons, New York are going nowhere fast. Especially once she lands in a huge pile of debt to her uncle Loyal.

At Loyal’s beck and call until her debt is repaid, Jamie can’t easily walk away—not with her younger brother Toby left at his mercy. So when Loyal demands Jamie’s help cleaning up a mess late one night, she has no choice but to agree. But disposing of a dead man and covering up his connection to the town’s most powerful judge goes beyond family duty. When it comes out that the victim was a beloved athlete and Loyal pins the murder on Toby, only Jamie can save him. But with a dogged detective on her trail and her own future at stake, she’ll have to decide: embrace her inner criminal, or defy it—and face the consequences.

My Thoughts:
This is a debut coming of age story / small town crime drama and it sounds pretty gritty. Goodreads reviewers said it’s sad and depressing, but is also a page turner. Jamie is a spunky protagonist and the ending is surprising. Others mentioned that it’s possible to get bogged down in the poker jargon and that they would’ve enjoyed the book more had they been interested in poker.

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

I’m going to skip this month. I already have an ARC of Ghosted and haven’t had great luck with Riley Sager or Beatriz Williams lately. 

Make your Book of the Month selections by Friday, July 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 FIREWORKS.

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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Best Books of 2018 So Far

June 26, 2018 Annual "Best Books" Lists 37

Best Books of 2018 So Far

 

Can you believe it’s already time for the Best Books of 2018 So Far?!

For the past two years, 60% of the books on my June Best Books of the Year So Far lists (2017, 2016) ended up on my overall favorite books of the year lists (2017, 2016). I’ve had a couple big-time winners in the first half of this year that I’m 99.9% positive they will make it on my final list. So, we’ll see if I beat that 60% this year!

This year, I’m not only sharing my own favorite books, but I’m also sharing the Sarah’s Book Shelves Facebook Group members’ favorites! You can join the Sarah’s Book Shelves Facebook Group (where I share my unfiltered thoughts, sneak peeks of blog posts and members’ trade book recommendations amongst each other) by supporting the blog at the $3/month level on Patreon (more details here).

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!).

My Best Books of 2018 So Far

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (my review)
My first 5 star novel of the year…

Educated by Tara Westover (my review)
Your next book if you loved Hillbilly Elegy and/or Under the Banner of Heaven

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara (my review)
The book I couldn’t read at night…

Tell Me More by Kelly Corrigan (my review)
My new favorite “women who get women” author…

The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir
An easy read with a ton of substance (yes, a book can be both of those things)…

The Female Persuasionby Meg Wolitzer (my review)
That big, character-driven novel you can sink into…

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai (my review)
Your next book if you loved A Little Life and/or The Heart’s Invisible Furies…or, if you liked the idea of A Little Life, but avoided it because of the overwhelming abuse.

Us Against You by Fredrick Backman (my review)
The author who captures the emotion of sports like no other (except maybe the screenwriters on Friday Night Lights)…

Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties by Camille Pagan (my review)
A lighter, more sarcastic version of Anna Quindlen…and, my #1 “Fun” pick for on my 2018 Summer Reading List.

You Think It, I’ll Say It: Stories by Curtis Sittenfeld (my review)
One of only two short story collections I’ve ever rated 5 stars…

The Sarah’s Book Shelves Facebook Group’s Best Books of 2018 So Far

It’s kind of amazing…there is only one book on this list that got more than 1 vote! The Facebook Group is a varied bunch! And, that means you can mine this wide range of reading tastes for all kinds of book recommendations if you join in.

Get access to the Sarah’s Book Shelves Facebook Group by supporting the blog for $3/month on Patreon (more details here)!

What are your favorite books so far this year?

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What I’m Reading Now (6/25/18)

June 25, 2018 It's Monday! What are you reading? 23

After a recent hot streak, my reading took a bit of a tumble last week. I almost didn’t finish a single book, but I ended up finishing Baby Teeth right under the wire. Last week was the first with my kids out of school for the summer and adjusting to the new routine was a bit crazy. 

I also shared my Best Audiobooks of 2018 So Far last week. And, as part of the June is Audiobook Month blog tour, I’m hosting a giveaway where you could win 8 audiobooks! Head on over here to enter. And, stay tuned for my Best Books of 2018 So Far (coming tomorrow)…

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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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The kids are out of school and you know what that means…I’ve gotta find reading time whenever and wherever I can! And, it’s not always in a peaceful, quiet place. Well, let’s be honest…it’s rarely ever in a peaceful, quiet place. I’ve been reading a lot while my kids are at swim practice…and my only issue (at least this week) is keeping all my sweat from dripping on my Kindle!⠀ _⠀ ⠀ How do you fit reading in when the kids get out of school?⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ #bookstagram #bookstagrammer #bookgram #amreading #bookworms #instabooks #instabook #booktalk #booklovers #booklover #bibliophile #biblio #bookaddict #bookaddiction #badassbookbabes #summer2018 #summerreading #beachreads #readeverywhere

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I finished reading…

Baby Teeth

 

Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage (July 17, 2018) 
I’m speechless. I don’t know what to think. I kind of hated it, but it did raise some interesting questions. I need to think about this one more and may write a spoiler discussion post. But, I’m not sure I can recommend it to anyone at this point, but it will absolutely get people talking.

I’m currently reading…

Nothing…I’m caught between books! I finished Baby Teeth about an hour ago and will start my next book later in the evening (after this post is scheduled).

I tried, but wasn’t feeling…

What I'm Reading Now

 

Only Child by Rhiannon Navin (February 6, 2018)
DNF at 22%
This novel is told entirely from the perspective of a seven year-old boy, which I found tedious after awhile. I wish we’d gotten to hear other perspectives…like his parents’, etc.

What We Were Promised by Lucy Tan (July 10, 2018)
DNF at 18%.
I was just kind of bored. Nothing was happening and I didn’t care about the characters.

Upcoming reading plans…

The Glitch, Elisabeth Cohen

 

The Glitch by Elisabeth Cohen (May 22, 2018)
Tara at Running N Reading liked this light novel about a mother of two with a high-powered Silicon Valley job who thinks she has it all under control and my library hold just came in.

was reading…

One Year Ago: I was reading a rare thriller that I really liked.

Two Years Ago: I was heading on vacation and watching the Olympic swimming trials!

How was your reading week?

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The Best Audiobooks I’ve Listened to in 2018 So Far + A Giveaway

June 21, 2018 Annual "Best Books" Lists 39

Best Audiobooks 2018 So Far

 

It took me awhile to get into a good grove with audiobooks, but now that I’m there, they’ve been such a great addition to my reading life. I had to figure out what type of books worked best for me (lighter nonfiction) and the right times to listen (not while I’m exercising). But, I’ve figured it out and incorporating audiobooks enables me to fit in so much more reading than I’d be able to otherwise! Plus, audiobooks are where I fit in lots of backlist books that it’s hard to make time for. So, I’m excited to share the best audiobooks I’ve listened to in 2018 so far…

June is Audiobook Month (#loveaudiobooks) and incorporating audiobooks into my reading life has enabled me to read 20-30 more books per year, so I’m thrilled to participate in the Audio Publishers Association’s “June is Audiobook Month” blog tour (#loveaudiobooks)!

Giveaway

And good news for you…as part of the blog tour, I get to offer you a giveaway of 8 audiobooks from Blackstone Publishing, High Bridge Audio, Hachette Audio, LA Theatre Works, Macmillan Audio, Post Hypnotic Press Audiobooks, Scholastic and Tantor Audio. The books will be available on Audiobooks.com, and you will get a promo code to access all 8 audiobooks. Let me know in the comments section if you’d like to be entered into the giveaway…
*Limited to U.S. residents only.

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!).

The Best Audiobooks I’ve Listened to in 2018 So Far

Bored and Brilliant by Manoush Zomorodi (September 5, 2017)
The host of the Note to Self podcast (which is awesome, by the way!) explores the connection between boredom (aka the opportunity for your mind to wander) and creativity. Hint: it involves unplugging from your phone and social media for periods of time. The science she shares about what excessive smartphone use is doing to our brains is fascinating and scary. And, she includes easy tips to help manage your smartphone use.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Enduranceby Scott Kelly (October 17, 2017)
It took me the entire month of February to listen to this 12 hour audiobook! It’s Astronaut Scott Kelly’s (Former Congresswoman Gabby Gifford‘s brother-in-law) story of his year on the International Space Station. Hearing about what it’s like to live on the Space Station was mostly really interesting, though the book could have been shorter.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan (February 4, 2014)
I absolutely adored Corrigan’s latest memoir, Tell Me More, so I was excited to delve into her backlist. While Glitter and Glue didn’t blow me away quite as much as Tell Me More, I still relished sinking back into Corrigan’s signature brand of heartfelt, relatable, and sometimes irreverent observations about life and motherhood. Corrigan hadn’t given much thought to what it’s like to mother someone or quite appreciated her mother until she stepped into the role of surrogate caring for two children who had lost their own. If you like women’s life observations-type writing (think Anna Quindlen, Cheryl Strayed), Kelly Corrigan should be next on your list!

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Mockingbird Next Door by Marja Mills
Chicago Tribune journalist Marja Mills was improbably accepted by famously private Harper and Alice Lee when she visited Monroeville, AL for a story and ended up living next door to Harper. The story is as much about Mills’ journey to friendship with the Lees as it as about Lee herself. As I was listening, I almost felt like I was in To Kill A Mockingbird. For a real treat, pair with Episode 172 of From the Front Porch podcast about Annie Jones’ visit to Monroeville and a breakdown of what’s happened with Harper Lee’s estate since she passed away.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give by Ada Calhoun (May 16, 2017)
This collection of essays flips wedding toasts on their heads…focusing on real talk about marriage with all its joys and challenges. Not the gushy platitudes that fill many actual wedding toasts. It’s contemplative, a bit sad, but also real and honest. If you prefer things less sugarcoated, this collection is for you.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Tiger Woods by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian (March 27, 2018)
You’ve probably heard much of the scoop in this book before (especially if you’re a golf fan), but mostly in little snippets over the course of his whole career. Benedict and Keteyian put all this together to paint a complete picture of Tiger as a person and an athlete. It’s a cautionary tale of the pitfalls of an elite athlete in the limelight who has been trained as a machine…and sorely under-trained as a whole person. PS – Bill Simmons, one of my favorite sports writers/podcasters, loved this book and read it in a few sittings.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

What are the best audiobooks you’ve listened to in 2018 so far?

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What I’m Reading Now (6/18/18)

June 18, 2018 It's Monday! What are you reading? 19

Last week, Goodsreads kindly informed me I was 2 books behind schedule for my 2018 reading goal. Well, I’m happy to say that, after this weekend, I’m now back on track! We spent the weekend in the Chesapeake Bay area and I was thrilled to get a lot of reading done (a house without a TV or Internet will help with that)…and do some fun things with my family (my son caught a skate off the dock!).

I also shared my June 2018 Books to Read (and Skip) last week. And, June had some winners!

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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!).

I finished reading…

what I'm reading now

 

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai (June 19, 2018)
LOVED and reviewed last week!
Affiliate Link: Pre-Order from Amazon

Nomadland by Jessica Bruder (September 19, 2017, Audiobook)
I thought the overarching themes of a new class of nomadic, working elderly were really interesting and I was also intrigued by the behind-the-scenes of how Amazon’s warehouses function, but I think this was probably more suited to a long-form article rather than a full length book. Overall, I’m lukewarm on it.

The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir (June 19, 2018)
A perfect, easy, but totally intriguing and well-done recovery book from The Great Believers! I flew through it. I’ll be adding it to my 2018 Summer Reading Guide.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

what I'm reading now

 

Only Child by Rhiannon Navin (February 6, 2018)
This novel about a school shooting told from the perspective of a seven year-old boy comes highly recommended by Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books and Michelle at That’s What She Read. I’m only 5% in, so I don’t really have an opinion yet…I’ll keep you posted!

Calypso by David Sedaris (May 29, 2018)
Y’all, I’m actually reading a hardcover book (it was one of my June Book of the Month picks)!! My first of the year if you can believe that. Because it’s a hardcover, it’s not my primary book…I’m reading an essay here and there. The first two essays were right on point.

Upcoming reading plans…

What We Were Promised

 

What We Were Promised by Lucy Tan (July 10, 2018)
Anne Bogel at Modern Mrs. Darcy recommended this family drama set in Shanghai in her 2018 Summer Reading Guide. We’ll see how it goes…

was reading…

One Year Ago: I was catching up on my Anna Quindlen backlist.

Two Years Ago: I was reading a quirky coming of age novel that ended up on my Best Books of 2016 So Far list.

How was your reading week?

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June 2018 Books to Read (and Skip)

June 14, 2018 Mini Book Reviews 14

June 2018 Books to Read

 

I’ve gotta say, my June books were excellent overall! Two of these books will definitely be on my Best Books of 2018 (So Far) list (coming soon). And, I managed to DNF the ones that weren’t working rather than force my way through them.

In addition to the June 2018 Books to Read in this post, I reviewed Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton last week. It’s certainly not for everyone, but is a “Read It” for a certain type of reader (i.e. the one who loves dark and demented).

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

Read These

Visible EmpireVisible Empire by Hannah Pittard
Historical Fiction (Released June 5, 2018)
288 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Plot Summary: Following the 1962 plane crash at Orly Airport that killed over 100 Atlanta art patrons (a massive chunk of the city’s social elite), Atlanta citizens connected to the crash must figure out who to recover amid the Civil Rights Movement.

My Thoughts: I know many people have mixed feelings about fiction based on real life events, but I’m a fan! In Visible Empire, the Orly plane crash is the big event that ties lots of disparate people and perspectives together (and the opening chapters recounting the crash are riveting). The overall book is more a portrait of Atlanta in the 1960’s from all these different perspectives (the Mayor’s wife, family of the crash victims, an African American teenager that has a chance encounter with a member of Atlanta’s elite, and an ambitious young woman) than about the plane crash itself. Pittard gives us a somewhat gossipy take on the crash’s impact on Atlanta’s elite and those who come in contact with them…and her social commentary is excellent. I felt like this would be the book that Dominick Dunne (former Vanity Fair columnist and author of “fictional” novels about real life crimes involving the wealthy) could have written about the crash…and it reminded me of a less epic A Man in Full (by Tom Wolfe). But, I did miss the Afterward that normally accompanies these types of books that lays out where the author stayed true to real life and where she took liberties for the sake of the story.

Don’t you understand, Lulu? The world – not just the governor, not just the president – the world is watching. Right now, I am being watched. You and I and our dear, dear city are being watched. Do you understand? They want to know if we’ll ever stand up again. They want to know if this is the beginning of a spiral into the ground, or if we’ve got fight and life in us yet.

We Are GatheredWe Are Gathered by Jamie Weisman
Fiction – Literary (Released June 5, 2018)
288 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Plot Summary: The story of an inter-faith wedding (between Jewish Elizabeth and Christian Hank), told from the perspectives of various wedding guests (mother of the bride, grandfather of the groom, childhood best friend of the bride, etc).

My Thoughts: The publisher says We Are Gathered is a debut novel, but I think it reads more like a series of closely interconnected short stories (similar to Elizabeth Strout’s Anything is Possible). Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different wedding guest, but much of the book is the each guest’s backstory with a smaller portion focused on the wedding itself. Before reading it, I thought We Were Gathered would be a light, fun read and a potential candidate for my 2018 Summer Reading Guide. It was immediately clear I’d judged wrong because many of the characters’ backstories are dark and sad and the overall tone is subdued. These people have demons and some are dealing with big challenges. There’s the childhood friend of the bride with a birthmark that covers half her face, the grandfather of the groom who can’t move or speak but whose mind is works just fine, yet no one knows it…and more. Despite it being different than expected, I liked We Were Gathered‘s unique perspectives and the astute life observations. But, the ending focused on two of the characters I was least interested in and was somewhat odd compared to the rest of the book. I’d recommend We Were Gathered if you like quieter books with life observations from interesting perspectives…and don’t mind depressing.

I was twenty-one years old; she was seventeen. We were children. I know that now, but that’s how old people were when they got married. Elizabeth is twenty-eight. She would have been considered an old maid. No one told us that marriage would be hard. There were no therapists or counselors. You got married, maybe for love, for lust, for comfort, because it was time and you didn’t want to die alone. You had children. You didn’t think about what you wanted.

Us Against YouUs Against You by Fredrick Backman
Fiction – Literary (Released June 5, 2018)
448 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Atria Books)

Plot Summary: Amid the wreckage of the previous winter, Beartown residents face their beloved ice hockey team being disbanded and a volatile rivalry with nearby Hed Hockey.

My Thoughts: Let me start by saying that Us Against You is the sequel to last year’s Beartown (one of my favorites of 2017) and I highly recommend you read Beartown before reading Us Against You. The minute I picked up Us Against You, I breathed a sigh of relief to be back among these people in this town. Like in Beartown, Backman masterfully plunks the reader right into the center of things and makes him/her feel deeply for these characters and the town. But this time around, Beartown has lost its innocence. The story is even darker, more sinister, and more focused on the adults and the politics of sports (a very real thing). The town is reeling amid the wreckage of what happened in Beartown (the book) and trying to find its way forward. Like in Beartown, the story is about far more than hockey…friendship, rivalry, marriage, parenting, power, sexuality, and violence. Backman captures general human nature and its basest elements beautifully. While I didn’t love Us Against You quite as much as Beartown, I was still completely engrossed in the emotion of sports, which Backman captures better than anything save Friday Night Lights (and if you’re missing FNL, these are the books for you!).

Side Note: I thought this series was supposed to be a trilogy and Us Against You did feel like a “bridge book” right up until the end. But, the ending made me question whether a third book is on the way. I couldn’t find anything online confirming the third book. Does anyone have any answers?

Have you ever seen a town fall? Ours did. We’ll end up saying that violence came to Beartown this summer, but that will be a lie, the violence was already here. Because sometimes hating each other is so easy that it seems incomprehensible that we ever do anything else.

Great BelieversThe Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
Fiction – Literary (Release Date: June 19, 2018)
432 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Viking)

Plot Summary: A group of gay friends and their female friend (Fiona) navigate the AIDS crisis and deal with the death of one of their own in 1980’s Chicago…and decades later, Fiona sets out to Paris to find her estranged daughter and encounters the past in the process.

My Thoughts: The Great Believers is one of those “issue” book that makes the issue an organic part of the characters’ lives…and these are the types of “issue” books that work for me. It’s ultimately a gorgeous story about friendship in the face of disaster and is the kind of book you can just sink into. It’s got a little bit of The Heart’s Invisible Furies (sexuality, the AIDS crisis, characters you can root for wholeheartedly) and a little bit of A Little Life (a group of male friends facing terrible circumstances, but without the overwhelming violence), but retains its own uniqueness. These characters worked their way into my heart, even as it was breaking for them. Makkai’s writing wasn’t the kind that had me highlighting right and left…it was more the kind that just pulled me right into the story. And, the dual timelines come together in a surprising and satisfying way. This book has heart…and it’s seriously literary, but will still keep you turning the pages because you just have to find out what’s going to happen to these characters.

And was friendship that different in the end from love? You took the possibility of sex out of it, and it was all about the moment anyway. Being here, right now, in someone’s life. Making room for someone in yours.

Skip These

Florida by Lauren GroffFlorida by Lauren Groff (Released June 5, 2018)
DNF at 17%

Short stories are always hit and miss for me, so I hesitantly picked up this collection (mostly because I liked Fates & Furies). I wasn’t a fan of the first story, did like the second, but the third totally lost me. From the bit I read, this collection seemed like a very dark, depressing take on life in Florida.

 

 

A Place for UsA Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza (June 12, 2018)
DNF at 29%.

I had high hopes for this novel because of its rave reviews and I liked it alright, but I just kept waiting for something to happen. I read the 3 star Goodreads reviews and the main complaint was the novel didn’t have much of a plot. So, I figured things weren’t going to pick up. For a novel like this to work for me, the writing has to sparkle and I thought this writing was just average.

 

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

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Readers Recommend: The Prince of Tides and The Long And Faraway Gone

June 12, 2018 Book Recommendations 20

Readers Recommend

 

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

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

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

Let’s welcome our first guest…

Get to Know Dotty

  • Home: I am a native of Atlanta, GA and have lived in the Atlanta area for most of my life.  I did spend some time in Florida and Las Vegas, but eventually made my way back to Atlanta.
  • Career: I am a retired teacher. I taught Pre-Kindergarten for many years. I continue to do some volunteer work with young children.
  • Hobbies: Other than reading, my hobbies are playing the guitar, walking my dog, Daisy, and yoga. I am taking guitar lessons with the hope that I could one day play like Joni Mitchell, Ha Ha. Is spending time with my grandchildren a hobby? (Sarah: Yes!)
  • Favorite TV Show: My current favorite TV shows are The Crown and Life in Pieces. I loved Mad Men and still miss it.

Dotty Recommends…

An Old Love

Prince of TidesThe Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
Fiction – Literary (Released 1986)
679 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dotty:
My favorite author is Pat Conroy and The Prince of Tides is my favorite book. Conroy had me at the first two sentences of the novel. 

My wound is geography.  It is also my anchorage, my port of call.

The characters are complicated and tortured. Conroy’s language is intricate and beautiful.  It’s sad, but there are times when I laughed out loud.  This novel is southern literature at its finest. Give it a try. It’s worth it!

My Take:
Well, Dotty, you know the way to my heart! Pat Conroy is my favorite author too. Our only difference is The Lords of Discipline (my review) is my favorite of Conroy’s novels. I re-read The Prince of Tides (my review) a couple years ago and still loved it, but did think some portions were a bit overwritten (however, not that first line, which is a beauty!). But, I totally agree with you that Conroy is Southern literature at its finest!

A New Love

Long and Faraway GoneThe Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney
Fiction – Mystery (Released February 10, 2015)
467 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Dotty:
I recently read The Long And Far Away Gone by Lou Berney.  This book was a $2.99 pick from Book Bub. It is not the type of book that I usually read, but I read the sample and I just had to buy it.  It is a mystery, but it is also very character driven. I can’t tell you too much because I don”t want to give anything away.  The author won a number of awards, including the prestigious Edgar award, for this book. I just could not put it down! I recently read that Lou Berney has a new book coming out in October!

My Take:
I’d never heard of this one, but I admittedly don’t often read mysteries. But, this one does sound intriguing! Especially since it was compared to Laura Lippman (Sunburn) and Dennis Lehane (Since We Fell), the authors of two of the rare thrillers I’ve actually really liked!

A “Didn’t Love”

Whered You Go Bernadette Where Did You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
Fiction – Brain Candy (Released August 14, 2012)
330 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dotty:
Please forgive me, but I did not like Where Did You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple.  In fact, I had to force myself to finish it. I know it is supposed to be sarcastic and funny, but I found it to be more sad than funny. Except for the daughter, the characters were not likable. For me, it was a short book that was too long! 

My Take:
We differ on this one. I loved Bernadette (my review) and did think it was sarcastic and funny. Light, but also had serious depth…a balance I always appreciate. 

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

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