What I’m Reading Now (9/11/17)

September 11, 2017 It's Monday! What are you reading? 15

Every year the first week of school is crushingly busy. And, every year I forget just how crazy it is. Figuring out new routines, getting set up on all the different online systems for each child, all the forms, all the forms, all the forms…

This year was no different and I barely had time to read. I don’t think I’ve had a week all year when I’ve read less. I made it 30% through one book this week. I’m LOVING the book…I just need some good chunks of time to sit down with it. It’s frustrating, isn’t it, when you love a book, but aren’t getting to focus on it?!

#Buildsarahsbookshelves Library Update

I’m putting together a very selective library for my new (but small) built-in bookshelves and am sharing each book I acquire on Instagram (follow me at sarahsbookshelves)! And, I’m trying to acquire all these new books at rock bottom prices.

The books are going to start arriving fast and furious now…I just ordered a bunch from Amazon so we can take a first pass at getting the shelves organized in the next couple weeks. This week’s addition is The Unraveling of Mercy Louis (my review) one of my favorite books of 2015…it’s a great choice if you love Southern literature and/or badass female characters!

Hosted by The Book Date.

This post contains affiliate links.

I finished reading…

Sourdough by Robin Sloan

 by Robin Sloan (September 5, 2017)
Aaah. This book. I could have absolutely adored it. But, it jumped the shark in a couple places. I’m still glad I read it, but it wasn’t as delightful as it could have been. I’ll be discussing it more in an upcoming post about questionable editorial decisions.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

Twelve Mile Straight by Eleanor Henderson

The Twelve-Mile Straight
 by Eleanor Henderson (September 12, 2017)
This is a long, immersive, multi-generational family saga set in 1930’s Georgia. It’s SO good and reminds me of Mudbound. I just wish I had hours and hours of uninterrupted reading time to devote to it. It’s been slow going (I’m around 30% through) only because of my schedule. I’m hoping to really dig in this week.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I tried, but wasn’t feeling…

Burning Girl by Claire Messud


The Burning Girl by Claire Messud (August 29, 2017)
DNF at 20%. The story hadn’t gone anywhere by that point and that was too long for me.

Upcoming reading plans…

Cuban Affair by Nelson DeMille

The Cuban Affair
 by Nelson DeMille (September 19, 2017)
DeMille was one of my favorite authors awhile back. His latest books (Radiant Angel, my review) didn’t live up to his older stuff for me, but I’m hoping his debut of a new lead character (Mac McCormick) will shake things up. 

was reading…

One Year Ago: I was on vacation!

Two Years Ago: And vacation again!

How was your reading week?

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August 2017 Monthly Round-Up

September 7, 2017 Monthly Round-Ups 8

August 2017 Monthly Round-Up


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August Reading / Life

  • And, the summer of slumpiness continues through August. My reading this month was extremely unfocused…mostly due to moving. I read less (9 books) and with less concentration than I have all year. A couple super short books are the only reason I even hit 9.
  • Lots of library holds came in this month: The HeirsThe Hate U Give, and Exit West. And, other than the hands-down winner this month (Emma in the Night, my review), most of my relative successes came from the library!
  • Ann Patchett’s memoir on writing, The Getaway Car, was only 45 pages, but it was outstanding. I’m not an aspiring writer (as in writing an actual book rather than a blog), but much of her advice can be applied to work in general. And, I love her grounded take on things.
  • My audiobooks were hit and miss: I didn’t really connect with Sheryl Sandberg’s Option B (but, possibly could during a period of grief), but Kate Fagan’s What Made Maddy Run was eye-opening. It’s a must-read for parents, especially parents of young athletes.
  • Finally, I read two very confusing ARCs (advance reader copies): I adored parts of Young Jane Young (my review) and The Resurrection of Joan Ashby, but borderline inexplicable editorial choices tarnished both books for me.
  • We can’t forget the DNF’s: two super hyped debut novels (Stay With Me and My Absolute Darling), and South Pole Station.
  • Check out my commentary on the September Book of the Month Club selections…I’ve read 2.5 of this month’s selections and have to say it’s a great month to join! I’m also working on a new addition to my monthly Book of the Month Club feature…another tool to help you pick the Book of the Month Club selection that you’re most likely to enjoy!
  • Finally, I’m continuing to share my small, but highly selective library for my new, built-in bookshelves on Instagram. So far, I’ve acquired 4 books for a total of $2.00 – pretty thrifty! Follow me at @sarahsbookshelves to see what books make the cut!

Best Book of the Month

My Favorite Book(s) of the Month

Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker (August 8, 2017), My Review
Fiction – Mystery/Thriller, 320 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

PS – last year’s Best Book of August was Dear Mr. M by Herman Koch (my review)! 

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

By a landslide…
Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker (my review)

September Releases I’m Excited About

Sourdough by Robin Sloan (September 5)
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (September 12)*
The Twelve-Mile Straight by Eleanor Henderson (September 12)
The Cuban Affair by Nelson DeMille (September 19)
The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall (September 19)

*I’ve already read it and it’s awesome!

Most Popular Posts

Posts Actually Published in August
My Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2017

Eight Campus Novels That Will Make You Want To Go Back To School…Or Not
Book of the Month Club August 2017 Selections: What Would I Choose?

Overall Posts
Book Club Recommendations

Best Books of 2017 So Far
Behind Her Eyes and THAT Ending: Spoiler Discussion (#WTFthatending)

Favorite Posts by Fellow Bloggers

How was your reading month?

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10 Hyped Books I Wish I Hadn’t Finished (i.e. DNF’d)

September 5, 2017 Top Ten Tuesday 37

Top 10 Hyped Books I Wish I Hadn't Finished


Talking about the books you didn’t like is somewhat of a controversial topic among book bloggers. You’ll never hear a peep about the books some bloggers didn’t like and other bloggers tell you all about the books that didn’t connect. 

I’ve always chosen to talk openly about the books that didn’t click with me because my goal to is to make this blog as useful for readers as possible. Knowing which books (especially hyped ones) may not be the right choices for them is valuable information for readers. So, here are 10 Hyped Books I Wish I Hadn’t Finished…and I’m getting a little snarky.

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10 Hyped Books I Wish I Hadn’t Finished

Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams (my review)
 the cheesiness of the romance

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (my review)
Why: the crushing quantity of grating mommy drama (but, interestingly, I loved the HBO series!)

City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg (my review)
the long, drawn out (to the tune of 300 pages) non-ending

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
 I lost all interest after the Italian food porn of the “Eat” section

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson (my review)
Why: the anxiety I was getting just reading the scattered story-telling style of her adult life (though her childhood stories contained some gems!)

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt (my review)
 because she never really delved deep into the part that truly interested me (Lizzie Borden’s arrest and trial) 

The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling (my review)
because I never really got the point of it all

The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas
because the second half was predominantly “stories within stories,” which drive me crazy

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti (my review)
because the violence all ran together and I skimmed a lot towards the end

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin (my review)
because Choose Your Own Adventure…and an overall gimmicky second half

What hyped books do you wish you’d DNF’d?

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What I’m Reading Now (9/4/17)

September 4, 2017 It's Monday! What are you reading? 22

Happy Labor Day, y’all! We had a low key weekend, which we desperately needed. Recharged the batteries (well, partially anyway) and got the kids organized for the first day of school tomorrow.

My reading got a bit more focused again after the chaos of moving. Don’t get me wrong, the chaos isn’t over yet, it’s just lessened slightly. Now I just need some books that 100% hit the spot!

Hosted by The Book Date.

This post contains affiliate links.

I finished reading…

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (March 7, 2017)
I really loved parts of this hyped novel, but thought others were kind of meh. The writing was searingly gorgeous and Hamid particularly cut to the bone when talking about the violence. But, my interest faded once Saeed and Nadia left their hometown and I felt like the story petered out a bit towards the end. Surprisingly, the magical realism that I was so hesitant about didn’t bother me too much.

I’m currently reading…

Sourdough by Robin Sloan

 by Robin Sloan (September 5, 2017)
I’m almost finished with this one and I have mixed feelings about it. It’s definitely quirky and delightful in some ways, but some other elements take things a bit too far. PS – Sourdough is a September Book of the Month Club selection (my thoughts on all the selections)!

Upcoming reading plans…

Burning Girl by Claire Messud


The Burning Girl by Claire Messud (August 29, 2017)
I was first on the pre-release library hold list for Messud’s coming of age novel about two best friends. I read The Emperor’s Children years ago and don’t remember much about it, but lots of readers I trust have been buzzing about Messud’s latest!

was reading…

One Year Ago: I was reading a book about the Patty Hearst kidnapping.

Two Years Ago: I had just finished one of my favorite debuts of 2015!

How was your reading week?

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

September 1, 2017 Book Recommendations 17

Book of the Month Club September 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 September 2017 selections before making your choice(s)? 
Welcome to my monthly feature “Book of the Month Club Selections: What Would I Choose?”! Every month, I 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. In addition to the five September selections, Book of the Month Club is offering three extras this month (which Book of the Month Club members can add to their boxes for only $9.99 each):

Y’all, this month’s selections are AWESOME! Totally makes up for last month. I’ve read and loved two of them, just started a third, and have heard great things about a fourth. If you’ve been toying with joining (details at the end of this post), you’ve got some great choices this month!

And one announcement: I’m working on an additional tool to help you make the best Book of the Month Club selection for you! Look for that in the coming month or so…

Book of the Month Club September 2017 Selections

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste NgLittle Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (Release Date: September 12, 2017)
384 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.4 on 538 ratings
Selected By: Kim Hubbard (Books Editor for People Magazine)

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned […]. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

My Thoughts:
Following Ng’s award-winning debut (Everything I Never Told You, my review), Little Fires Everywhere is one of the most anticipated new releases this year. I’ve read it and it’s NOT a sophomore slump! It’s premise didn’t really jump out at me, yet the way Ng told this story had me engrossed immediately. It’s the kind of story where you sink into the community and the characters’ lives…and, I think it has the potential for even broader appeal than Everything I Never Told You. Michelle at That’s What She Read (a blogger who has steered me in the right direction on a couple key books this year – The Wanderers and Emma in the Night!) loved it too. And, not surprisingly, Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly both gave it starred reviews.

Emma in the Night by Wendy WalkerEmma in the Night by Wendy Walker (Released: August 8, 2017)
320 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.9 on 1,338 ratings
Selected By: Guest Judge Krysten Ritter (actress and soon-to-be published author)

From the bestselling author of All is Not Forgotten comes a thriller about two missing sisters, a twisted family, and what happens when one girl comes back…

My Thoughts:
My regular readers know I’ve recently had a hard time finding thrillers I love. Well, I 5 star-loved Emma in the Night! It’s the most satisfying psychological thriller I’ve read since Gone Girl! No lie…here’s my review. What made it so satisfying? I questioned who was telling the truth the entire time I was reading and, best of all, the ending was surprising, yet absolutely made sense with the story (which is my number one criteria for a successful thriller). I’m not saying Emma in the Night is one of those ubiquitous Gone Girl copycats…it just left me feeling equally as satisfied. Don’t believe me? Here are some other reviews from sources I trust: Novel Visits, Running N ReadingDoing Dewey, Kirkus Reviews, and Publisher’s Weekly

Sing Unburied Sing by Jesmyn WardSing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward (Release Date: September 5, 2017)
304 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.32 on 325 ratings
Selected By: Elizabeth Kiefer (Books & Senior Features Editor, Refinery 29)

In Jesmyn Ward’s first novel since her National Book Award winning Salvage the Bones, this singular American writer brings the archetypal road novel into rural twenty-first-century America. Drawing on Morrison and Faulkner, The Odyssey and the Old Testament, Ward gives us an epochal story, a journey through Mississippi’s past and present that is both an intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle.

My Thoughts:
Sing, Unburied, Sing is Ward’s sophomore effort following her National Book Award-winning Salvage the Bones. Tara at Running N Reading says it’s “definitely an emotional, somewhat heavy, read and entirely worth the time and effort.” She also said the “publisher’s description thankfully doesn’t give away too much and there is so much more in store for readers.” Susie at Novel Visits called it “raw” and said the writing was “beautiful.” Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus both gave it starred reviews. If you like a good emotional gut-wrencher, this one is your pick! Though I DNF’d Salvage the Bones, I do plan to give this one a try once my life calms down a bit (for me, the timing isn’t right for a heavy, emotional gut-wrencher).

Lies She Told by Cate HolahanLies She Told by Cate Holahan (Release Date: September 12, 2017)
304 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.96 on 213 ratings
Selected By: Stacey Armand (“You Be the Judge” Contest Winner)

Liza Jones has thirty days to write the thriller that could put her back on the bestseller list. In the meantime, she’s struggling to start a family with her husband, who is distracted by the disappearance of his best friend, Nick.

Beth is a new mother who suspects her husband is cheating on her while she’s home alone providing for their newborn. […] But before she realizes it, she’s tossing the body of her husband’s mistress into the river.

Then the lines between fiction and reality begin to blur.

My Thoughts:
Lies She Told is the only September selection that I hadn’t heard of…but, I now know it’s a psychological thriller. It’s gotten a lot of blurbs, but this one from Library Journal jumped out at me: “Recommended for anyone who enjoys Paula Hawkins or Gillian Flynn, primarily because it’s better.” You know I’m super skeptical of the ubiquitous The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl comparisons, so there’s also that. It got a starred review from Kirkus and a good, but not starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. And, Crime by the Book said this “book within a book” mystery is “pure, binge-worthy entertainment.”

Sourdough by Robin SloanSourdough by Robin Sloan (Release Date: September 5, 2017)
272 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.09 on 151 ratings
Selected By: Dana Schwartz (Author)

Lois Clary is a software engineer at General Dexterity, a San Francisco robotics company with world-changing ambitions. She codes all day and collapses at night, her human contact limited to the two brothers who run the neighborhood hole-in-the-wall from which she orders dinner every evening. Then, disaster! Visa issues. The brothers close up shop, and fast. But they have one last delivery for Lois: their culture, the sourdough starter used to bake their bread. She must keep it alive, they tell her—feed it daily, play it music, and learn to bake with it.

When Lois comes before the jury that decides who sells what at Bay Area markets, she encounters a close-knit club with no appetite for new members. But then, an alternative emerges: a secret market that aims to fuse food and technology. But who are these people, exactly?

My Thoughts:
I adored Sloan’s quirky debut about a bookstore mixed in with a bunch of technology (odd, but it worked!), Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore (my review). So, I expected a ton of quirk in his take on food…and the technology in this one takes the form of robotics. I’m about 20% through so far and am enjoying it…it’s definitely quirky, a bit funny, and has a main character that I’m rooting for (however, the tech talk has gone a bit far a few times). Kirkus wasn’t a fan, calling it “Fluffy but overbaked.” Hmm. Publisher’s Weekly also said it “overreaches.” Double hmm. We’ll see how I end up feeling as I read farther.

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

This is a tough one for me because I’m not over the moon about any of the choices. There’s a chance I would skip this month.

If you’re looking for a page turner that you won’t be able to put down, Emma in the Night is the ticket!

If you want something a bit more literary, you can’t go wrong with Little Fires Everywhere.

Make your Book of the Month Club selections by Sunday, August 6th.

How to 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 (NEW pricing below)!

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

A book of your choice for $14.99 / month
Add extra books to your shipment for $9.99 each
Skip any month you want
Free shipping, always

Special Deal:
Try 1, 2, or 3 months for just $9.99 each! 

*All book descriptions are from Goodreads.

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I’ve Been Thinking About Dream Reading Nooks…

August 29, 2017 Bookish Posts 12

Dream Reading Nook

As you may have gathered from all my recent talk about built-in bookshelves and building a library, we’re in the process of furnishing our new house. In addition to the bookshelves, dream reading nooks have been swirling around my brain.

I don’t have the ability to design my dream reading nook from scratch, but that didn’t stop me from going down the Internet rabbit hole of dream reading nooks (even if some won’t exactly work in my house).

My Dream Indoor Reading Nooks

Mountain Lodge
by Michael Rex Architects

Mountain Lodge Reading Nook

I mean…THIS. I love the calm colors, comfy looking pillows, and obviously that view. Now if I could just transplant a gorgeous mountain range outside of my window!

Gray Window Seat
by Alyssa Kapito Interiors

Easy like Sunday morning ☀️

A post shared by Alyssa Kapito Interiors (@alyssakapitointeriors) on

Again…light, calm colors. And, that window. I sense some running themes here.

Baby Nursery with Furry Rug
by The Havenly

Yes, I realize this is a baby nursery and a crying baby in that crib probably isn’t conducive to great reading. But, imagine that room without the crib and you’ve got a fantastic reading nook! I’ll take a furry, white rug any day!

Another Gray Window Seat
by Rehkamp Larson Architects

Adding a white, furry blanket or rug to the running themes…

And we can’t forget the outdoor options…

Hanging Basket Chair
by The Havenly

PS – The Havenly is a cool service that helps you design your home using a virtual stylist…and is a great option for people that don’t want to shell out for an expensive, full service interior designer! Plus, they’re a great follow on Instagram.

Wood Porch Swing
by Swatchpop

Happy Saturday! Hope your day is as relaxing as this #swatchpopdesign front porch!👌

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Love this massive porch swing that can fit a gazillion pillows!

Wood Hammock Over Lily Pad Pond
by Jamie Durie

Reading Nooks - Lily Pad Hammock


Add hammocks/swings to the running themes list…

Outdoor Glass House
from Better Homes and Gardens

Reading Nooks - Glass House


My version of the man-cave…

So, what will I do in my house?

My house doesn’t really have a space for a dedicated reading nook, but there is a sectional with a chaise lounge going right in front of the fireplace in my living room that’s going to double as my reading nook! The calm colors are already a go and you can bet I’m going to throw a furry, white blanket on the end of that chaise!

As for outdoors…we’re still deciding what to do with our patio, so that’s up in the air! I’m thinking a chaise with lots of pillows, though!

What would your dream reading nook look like?

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What I’m Reading Now (8/28/17)

August 28, 2017 It's Monday! What are you reading? 17

Many of y’all know I’ve been in the process of moving. The week before last was a full “unpack the boxes” push. We’re now at a point where, while we still have a lot to do, the house is functional…so, this past week I got back to somewhat of a regular routine (i.e. exercise, trying to take care of my back, errands other than unpacking boxes, etc.).

The highlight of the week was that I got convinced to try a Deep H2O workout class. I was told it would help my injuries, but I was resistant because I’d always considered “water aerobics” the workout for people who don’t really want to work out. Well…it was legitimately hard (I didn’t wear the floatation belt) and I actually liked it! Consider me officially 70 years old because I’m going back this week!

Finally, I posted a list of my favorite campus novels last week. And, man, y’all came back with so many recommendations for me…my campus novels TBR list is exploding! These looked especially appealing:

#Buildsarahsbookshelves Library Update

I’m putting together a very selective library for my new (but small) built-in bookshelves and am sharing each book I acquire on Instagram (follow me at sarahsbookshelves)! And, I’m trying to acquire all these new books at rock bottom prices.

This was a winning week for the library collection! I got not one, but two, new books and they were both thoughtful gifts! Susie at Novel Visits (one of my favorite book bloggers…if you don’t read her blog, you should!) mailed me A Little Life (my review) and my mother-in-law gave me Gone with the Wind from her own shelves. I never in a million years expected an outcome of this library project being that people would give me books! It’s pretty awesome!

Books 3 & 4 in the #buildsarahsbookshelves (where I’m slowly accumulating a very selective collection of beloved books to live on my first set of built-in bookshelves!) series are here! And, they were both gifts! A totally unexpected outcome of sharing how I’m filling my bookshelves is that people have been sending me books to put on them. How awesome is that?! Thanks to all these gifts, my spend total for my 4 book library is still only $2!! _ A LITTLE LIFE by @hanyayanagihara emotionally wrecked most readers (me included) and was one of my top 3 books of 2015! Huge thanks to Susie @novelvisits (one of my favorite fellow book bloggers) for mailing me this one! @alittlelifebook @doubledaybooks Link to my full review in profile. _ And, GONE WITH THE WIND is one of my favorite classics! My mother-in-law gifted me this one from her own shelves! @scribnerbooks _ Stay tuned to see what else makes the shelves! #bookstagram #amreading #bookshelvesofonstagram #bookworm #bookshelf #instabooks #bookblogger #booklover

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Hosted by The Book Date.

This post contains affiliate links.

I finished reading…

Resurrection of Joan Ashby, What Made Maddy Run

The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas (August 29, 2017)

The only reason I manage to finish this doorstop this week is that I skimmed a good portion of the second half. I loved/hated this book because, well, stories within stories. Discussion post coming soon.
Affiliate Link: Pre-Order from Amazon

What Made Maddy Run by Kate Fagan (August 1, 2017)
This true story about a star student-athlete who seemed to have everything going for her on the surface, yet committed suicide her freshman year of college is a must-read for parents in general, but particularly parents of young athletes. It was great on audio.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (March 7, 2017)
I’m about 30% through his novel that’s gotten a lot of buzz this year…and, I’m pretty blown away by the searing writing so far. I’m OK with the magical realism now, but we’ll see how things progress.

Upcoming reading plans…

Sourdough by Robin Sloan

Sourdough by Robin Sloan (September 5, 2017)
I loved Sloan’s quirky novel about bookstores, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore (my review), and now he’s writing about food! Admittedly, I can’t begin to figure out what about food this book is actually about (you try deciphering this blurb!). But, I’ll take Robin Sloan and food together in any way!

was reading…

One Year Ago: I was reading the latest Herman Koch novel.

Two Years Ago: I had just finished a fantastic Southern, Gothic mystery!

How was your reading week?

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Eight Campus Novels That Will Make You Want to Go Back to School…or Not!

August 22, 2017 Top Ten Tuesday 38

Eight Campus Novels That Will Make You Want to Go Back to School
Regular readers know how big a sucker I am for campus novels, so I was so surprised when I realized I’d never done a round-up of my favorites! And, when I say campus, I mean college, boarding school, or elite private high school. For some reason the “campus” feels more “campus-y” and the potential for drama much greater with these types of schools.

You’ll notice that many of these books fall into the dark and twisty category…which will probably make some of you glad you’re watching all the drama from the sidelines instead of living it!

Eight Campus Novels That Will Make You Want to Go Back to School…or Not!

Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates (my review)
I feel like I talk about this book all the time…but, with good reason! A secret society, friends backstabbing friends, dares gone way too far…at Oxford University. Bonus: Yates’s sophomore novel, Grist Mill Road, is coming out on January 8 and I couldn’t be more excited! 

If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio (my review)
Seven Shakespeare students who are best friends, life imitating art, a tragedy…at the fictional Dellecher Classical Conservatory (a small, uber-intense performing arts college in the Midwest).

Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito (my review)
Rich and neglected high schoolers that love to party, a school shooting, an obsessive love story, an abusive father…at a fictional, elite Swedish prep school.

Shadow of the Lions by Christopher Swann (my review)
A boy who disappeared years ago, his best friend who returns to find out what happened…at Blackbourne, a fictional, all boys boarding school in Virginia (but, it’s based on the very real Woodberry Forest School in Orange, VA, also the author’s alma mater).

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (my review)
Coming of age story, lovable characters, baseball, sports psychology (but, don’t worry, this book is not really about baseball)…at Westish College (a small, fictional college on the shores of Lake Michigan). 

The Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy (my review)
Possibly my very favorite campus novel and the grandaddy of them all! A gorgeous and sinister Charleston setting, abuse and hazing, friendship…at the very real Citadel (The Military College of South Carolina). 

The Secret History by Donna Tartt (my review)
Best friends, a murder, betrayal…at the fictional Hampden College (a small, elite Vermont college closely resembling Tartt’s alma mater, Bennington College). 

The Takedown by Corrie Wang (my review)
High school girl drama, technology and social media on steroids, public shaming…at a fictional, elite Brooklyn high school.

Are you a fellow sucker for campus novels? What are some of your favorites?

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What I’m Reading Now (8/21/17)

August 21, 2017 It's Monday! What are you reading? 29

Whew! Last week was moving week…and things were obviously chaotic! I spent almost all day every day unpacking boxes (I now understand that it can take a full 1.5 days to unpack a kitchen) and did not do a ton of reading. However, podcasts made all that unpacking much more enjoyable!

Thankfully, we were able to take a break from all the moving nonsense with a quick family trip to the Chesapeake Bay area last weekend. Let me tell you, it was much needed!

#Buildsarahsbookshelves Library Update

I’m putting together a very selective library for my new (but small) built-in bookshelves and am sharing each book I acquire on Instagram (follow me at sarahsbookshelves)! And, I’m trying to acquire all these new books at rock bottom prices.

I didn’t acquire any new books for my new shelves last week, but I’ll do you one better…I actually got to see my shelves live and (almost) finished for the first time! You’ll see more in my upcoming post, but I’m leaning towards turning to Havenly for some free shelf styling advice.

My new babies…anxiously awaiting their books! @gates.interiors #buildsarahsbookshelves #bookstagram #bookshelves #bookshelvesofinstagram

A post shared by Sarah’s Book Shelves (@sarahsbookshelves) on

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I finished reading…

Hate U Give, Getaway Car

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (February 28, 2017)

High readable, super compelling, and heart-breaking. An “issue” book that happens to also be, at its heart, a flat-out great story about a family. I can see why people are buzzing about this one. Also, an excellent choice for book clubs.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Getaway Car by Ann Patchett (August 25, 2011)
This slim little book (or, essay is probably a better term as it’s only 45 pages long) is Patchett’s thoughts and advice on writing. I’m not an aspiring writer, but Patchett’s advice and outlook on life and work is down to earth and applicable beyond writing. Without the benefit of being a writer myself, I suspect this is a must read for anyone that is!

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas

The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas (August 29, 2017)
This debut novel about a woman’s view of work and marriage was a last minute Netgalley request…before I realized it was over 500 pages long! I’m about 25% through and enjoying it…Joan’s struggle between achieving her professional goals and being a wife and mother is real.

Affiliate Link: Pre-Order from Amazon

South Pole Station by Ashley Shelby

South Pole Station by Ashley Shelby (July 4, 2017)
I read about 10% of this one…it was fine, but wasn’t blowing me away. And, since it was a library hold, I wasn’t feeling any pressure to continue with something that didn’t blow me away.

Upcoming reading plans…

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (March 7, 2017)
I’ve been shying away from this critical darling because I’m not a fan of magical realism, but finally put it on hold at the library after reading the first few pages at a bookstore (the writing is great!) and seeing Susie at Novel Visits mention it’s a good choice for readers who think they don’t like magical realism.

was reading…

One Year Ago: I was on vacation and didn’t post a Monday update!

Two Years Ago: I had just finished my first Sprint Triathlon!

How was your reading week?

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Read One, Skip Two: Shadow of the Lions, See What I Have Done, and Young Jane Young

August 17, 2017 Mini Book Reviews 15

I moved this week, so life has been crazy! Hence the round-up of August mini-reviews you’re getting today. Two of these books are already out and one is coming on August 22.

Shadow of the Lions by Christopher SwannShadow of the Lions by Christopher Swann
Fiction (
Released August 1, 2017)
368 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Algonquin)

Plot Summary: After his life spirals out of control following the success of his first novel, Matthias returns to teach at his old boys’ boarding school, where his best friend (Fritz) vanished from campus during their senior year.

My Thoughts: Y’all know I’m a sucker for boarding school novels. But, I’ve had read some stinkers over the past few years. Shadow of the Lions is NOT one of the stinkers! It’s been described as a “literary thriller,” which I’m not sure I agree with. I’d say it’s more of a literary “mystery” than a “thriller” because it doesn’t have all the heart-pounding franticness that a thriller brings to mind.

The story begins with a wistful feeling as Matthias returns to campus and reminisces about his time there as a student and Fritz’s disappearance. And, it gradually picks up speed as Matthias decides he wants to find out what happened to Fritz once and for all. This is also a story about male friendship…the kind of bond that can only be developed in extremely close quarters with shared experiences (i.e. living together in dorms, in the military, etc). Shadow of the Lions is one of those books that you don’t have to think too hard about (I need these sometimes!), but that has enough depth to keep you interested…and is the final book I’m adding to this year’s Summer Reading Guide!

See What I Have Done by Sarah SchmidtSee What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
Historical Fiction – Debut (
Released August 1, 2017)
336 Pages
Bottom Line: Skip it.

Affiliate Link: Amazon
Source: Publisher (Atlantic Monthly)

Plot Summary: A fictional telling of the famous, unsolved Lizzie Borden murders of 1892.

My Thoughts: I love books about crime. I love fiction based on real people and/or events. I love books about dysfunctional families. See What I Have Done is all of these things, but I didn’t love it. Most of the story centers around the Borden family dynamics (each family member has their own motives to have possibly killed Abby and Andrew Borden) and the days immediately following the murders. Oddly for a story involving crime and a dysfunctional family, it moved slowly and I got bored around the 40-50% mark. I kept expecting things to move along to Lizzie’s arrest and the subsequent trial (the part of the story I find most intriguing), but that didn’t happen until three quarters of the way through. And, when we finally did hear about it, it was covered only briefly and on a surface level (we never even got to hear about the evidence that led to Lizzie’s arrest). When I finished, I felt like I didn’t know much more about the murders than I did before I read the book.

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle ZevinYoung Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin
Fiction (
Release Date: August 22, 2017)
320 Pages
Bottom Line: Skip it.

Affiliate Link: Amazon
Source: Publisher (Algonquin)

Plot Summary: When intern Aviva Grossman’s affair with her much older, married Congressman boss becomes public, she must figure out how to get her life back in order.

My Thoughts: Zevin’s last book, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry (my review), was my favorite book of 2014, so I had high expectations going into Young Jane Young. And, I did love the first half. Young Jane Young is an “issue” book without feeling too much like an “issue” book. The storyline closely mirrors the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal, which I was fascinated with when it happened. But, Young Jane Young explores the reverberating impact of a public scandal like this on the female cheatee…and how different it is from the impact on the male cheater. It illuminates the gross double standard that exists in today’s society and how that can truly wreck lives. Zevin had me glued through this point.

But, a gimmicky second half sent things sailing downhill. First, the writing style and tone of the story completely changed during the section told from Ruby’s (Aviva’s daughter) perspective (which was written in a one-sided email exchange with her pen pal). I didn’t like that we never heard from the pen pal either. But, what really sent me over the edge was the final section told from Aviva’s perspective that was written as a Choose Your Own Adventure story (yes, you read that correctly). What?!! There was a point to it, but it still didn’t work for me…mainly because I thought I was reading an adult novel, not a kids’ comic book. To be fair, this was clearly mentioned in the book’s blurb, but I must have skimmed right over that part. I imagine Young Jane Young will be a somewhat controversial read, so it would make a great book club selection even though it didn’t work for me.

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