12 Unconventional Love Stories for Readers Who Don’t Like Romance

February 13, 2018 Book Lists 39

Unconventional Love Stories


So…Valentine’s Day is actually one of my least favorite holidays. I feel pressure to participate in the cheesiness even though cheesy feels so uncomfortable to me. Luckily, my husband isn’t really into Valentine’s Day either.

Since it’s almost the big red day, you’re probably seeing lots of lists of “the best romances, etc” around the bookish internet. Here’s what bugs me about traditional “romances.” The predictable (no matter how unrealistic) happy endings, the cheesy dialogue, the equally cheesily written love scenes. Shall I go on? I promise, you won’t find those elements in these unconventional love stories. Most readers probably wouldn’t even call these love stories. But, I do and they’re the kind I prefer.

This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link).
Linking up with Top Ten Tuesday hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

12 Unconventional Love Stories for Readers Who Don’t Like Romance

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood (my review)
Some would call this love story horrifying. I definitely did at times. But, it’s also different than anything I’ve ever read and Greenwood makes you question what you thought were your rock solid convictions.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (my review)
What happens to a love story when a husband of only a year and a half goes to prison? Oprah sure wants her book club members to find out!

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (my review)
Most people probably wouldn’t consider this sci-fi page turner a love story. But, ultimately, Jason is fighting tooth and nail to be with his wife and child…his idea of home.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift (my review)
An illicit affair between a British heir and his neighbor’s maid. It definitely doesn’t have a happy ending, but I finished the book completely satisfied.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf (my review)
Two older people (Louis and Addie) stop caring what everyone else thinks and do what they need to do to be happy. It’s sort of like they read The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck by Sarah Knight.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Sunburn by Laura Lippman
A love story where the two lovebirds are totally messing with each other and you have no idea who will come out on top.

Affiliate Link: Pre-Order from Amazon

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler (my review)
This is the kind of love story that many of us had in our youth (especially if you lived in NYC) and look back on with horror. We wish we would’ve been stronger, smarter, and valued ourselves more. It’s raw and most definitely not sweet.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Tender by Belinda McKeon (my review)
A story of friendship, unrequited love, desperation and obsession. This one will make you uncomfortable…I was cringing often.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel (my review)
Probably the most F’d up love story you’ll ever read (with a love story you can actually root for buried amid the horror)…starring a supremely dysfunctional family.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Rules of Magicby Alice Hoffman
Love permeates this story about family and magic. Can the Owens children find love? Should they? 

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugoby Taylor Jenkins Reid (my review)
The true love story of this book isn’t the one you think it will be.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

White Fur by Jardine Libaire (my review)
A classic “wrong side of the tracks” love story…told in a raw, gritty, edgy, and uncomfortable way.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon 

How do you feel about romances? Do you prefer the traditional or unconventional type?

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What I’m Reading Now (2/12/18)

February 12, 2018 It's Monday! What are you reading? 27

For the first time ever last week, I successfully read two non-audiobooks at the same time! Normally, if I’m reading more than one book at a time, it means neither one is really grabbing my attention. Not the case this week. Each book I was reading fulfilled a distinct purpose and I read each book during different times of day.

And to add to my true crime week, I listened to the podcast Dear John from the L.A. Times. It’s an absolutely chilling story of a sociopathic con man and blind love. If you liked the original Serial, try this one!

My Rock Your Reading Tracker is available for purchase here! What’s special about this reading tracker? It automatically compiles your stats in real time…and helps you pick better books for your reading taste by enabling you to track your recommendation sources. I’ve been using it for a few months now and love being able to see my stats as I go! And, I know I’m going to love all the hours I’ll save tallying up numbers at the end of the year.

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⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐// An intimately written novel that tackles a number of weighty current issues in an organic way…and it’s my favorite novel of 2018 so far! I recommend going in blind on this one – the publisher’s blurb gives away far too much! And, in case you haven’t heard, @oprah just picked this one for #oprahsbookclub. I think it would be an excellent selection for your book club too. LINK TO FULL REVIEW IN MY PROFILE.⠀ _⠀ ⠀ When Roy goes to prison for a crime he didn’t commit only a year and a half into their new marriage, Celestial must figure out how to cope with his absence and shape her life in the face of this massive upheaval.⠀ _⠀ ⠀ Does @oprah’s latest pick sound appealing to you?⠀ ⠀ Recommendation Source: @nicolebonia @readerlymagazine (Thank you!)⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ @tayari @algonquinbooks #bookstagram #amreading #bookworm #instabooks #bookblogger #booklover #booklovers #booksofinstagram #bookgram #bookblogger #bookaddict #bookaddiction #bookofthemonth @bookofthemonth

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I finished reading…

I'll Be Gone in the Dark, Bachelor Nation


I’ll Be Gone in the Dark
 
by Michelle McNamara (February 27, 2018)
Excellent for true crime fans. As much about McNamara’s story investigating these unsolved cases years after they’d gone cold as the story of the Golden State Killer himself. I definitely couldn’t read it at night, so Bachelor Nation was the perfect companion read to fill my head with fluff before falling asleep. Mini review to come.
Affiliate Link: Pre-Order from Amazon

Bachelor Nation by Amy Kaufman (March 6, 2018)
Not a gossipy read revealing who’s hooking up with whom, etc, but more a look at how the show is put together behind the scenes. How does the show get contestants to do things they’d never do in real life. An interestingly psychological look at The Bachelor.

Affiliate Link: Pre-Order from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge
Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge (April 4, 2017)
I’m about 40% through this plane crash / survival page turner that a couple of my Go-To Bloggers (Renee at It’s Book Talk and Susie at Novel Visits) loved. So far, this is similar to stories I’ve read or seen on the screen many times before, but I’m getting the sense there are some pretty big bombshells to come.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Upcoming reading plans…

I’m waiting for this one to come out tomorrow…

Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore by Kim fu
The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore by Kim Fu (February 13, 2018)

I’m hoping this novel about a group of girls who get stranded on an island during a kayaking trip at summer camp will be a candidate for my 2018 Summer Reading Guide!

was reading…

One Year Ago: I read one of my favorite books of 2017!

Two Years Ago: I was reading about being an introvert.

How was your reading week?

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An American Marriage by Tayari Jones: My Favorite Novel of 2018 So Far

February 8, 2018 Southern Fiction 22

An American Marriage by Tayari JonesFiction
Released February 6, 2018
320 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Algonquin Books)

Headline

An American Marriage is an intimately written novel that tackles a number of weighty current issues in an organic way…and is my favorite novel of 2018 so far!

Plot Summary

When Roy goes to prison for a crime he didn’t commit only a year and a half into their new marriage, Celestial must figure out how to cope with his absence and shape her life in the face of this massive upheaval.

Why I Read It

This year, I’m trying to select books that come highly recommended by people whose recommendations I trust and that have already read the book (rather than are just excited to read it). An American Marriage came with a 5 star review from Nicole Bonia of The Readerly Report Podcast. Since then, it’s been chosen as an Oprah Book Club pick and a Book of the Month February selection.

Major Themes

Marriage (obviously), race, class, incarceration, love, friendship, family, grief, fidelity, recovery

What I Liked

  • You see how many major themes An American Marriage tackles? You’d think the story would feel cluttered with all that, but it doesn’t. It’s about so many things, but not overwhelmingly about any one of them (kind of like The Mothers). And, Jones handles them in a completely organic way that doesn’t make the book feel overwhelmingly like “an issue book.”
  • I loved the writing. It’s not “gorgeous” in the traditional sense, rather it’s casual, intimate, and has personality. I felt like I was hanging out in the backyard with each character (the story is told through multiple perspectives) as he/she told me his/her side of a crazy story.

    I hate using that word, career. It always feels like the word bitch is hiding out between the letters.

  • Roy and Celestial’s story digs deeper into race to the class divisions within the African American community. Roy comes from poverty and is driven to improve his station in the world, while Celestial comes from an upper class family. The ripple effects of these different mentalities has a large impact on their marriage.
  • The last quarter of the book is absolutely riveting. You want action? You’ll get it here.
  • With all the issues addressed in An American Marriage, it’s not surprising that it would make a great book club selection. There’s a ton to discuss here including a big “what would you do in their shoes?” question.

What I Didn’t Like

  • When I heard Nicole talk about this book on The Readerly Report Podcast, she advised to go in blind and I’m so glad I did. The publisher’s blurb gives away far too many plot details and I’d advise you to avoid it if you’re interested in reading this one! Sadly, I feel like I’ve had to list this item under “What I Didn’t Like” for far too many books over the past couple years…
  • I’m not a fan of Epilogues in general and this one didn’t drive me crazy, but it didn’t add much to the story.

A Defining Quote

We were properly married for a year and a half, and we were happy for that time, at least I was. Maybe we didn’t do happy like other people, but we’re not your garden-variety bourgeois Atlanta Negroes where the husband goes to bed with his laptop under his pillow and the wife dreams about her blue-box jewelry. I was young, hungry, and on the come-up. Celestial was an artist, intense and gorgeous. We were like Love Jones, but grown. What can I say? I always had a weakness for shooting-star women.

Good for People Who Like…

Southern fiction, marriage, hard-hitting writing, books about “issues” that don’t feel like “issue books”

Other Books You May Like

Another book that tackles weighty issues, but isn’t overwhelmingly about any one of them:
The Mothers by Brit Bennett (my review)

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January 2018 Monthly Round-Up

February 6, 2018 Monthly Round-Ups 19

January 2018 Monthly Round-Up


It was a rocky month on the personal front, which definitely impacted my reading. I still read 9 books, but only thanks to some super short ones! It was also a big month for backlist and audiobooks. But, I’m thrilled with my reading quality (see below for details) so far in 2018…I improved my “successful books” percentage from last year and DNF’d mostly the right books.

Winners

Losers

DNF’s

Announcements

  • I’m going to leave the Sarah’s Book Shelves Reader Survey open until the end of this week, so get your responses in if you want them included in my summary blog post (coming once I can compile all the data, hopefully by the end of the month).
  • January Book of the Month Club selections are due today! As always, I have commentary on all the selections.

January Quality and Recommendation Sources

Reading Quality

  • % Successful Books Attempted (includes DNF’s) = 53% (improved from my 43% 2017 success rate!) 
  • % Successful Books Finished (does not include DNFs) = 89% (yay!)

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.

February Releases I’m Excited About

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (February 6)
All the Castles Burned by Michael Nye (February 13)
The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore by Kim Fu (February 13)
Sunburn by Laura Lippman (February 20)
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara (February 27)

Most Popular Posts

Posts Actually Published in January
Book of the Month Club January 2018 Selections: What Book Should You Choose?

Eight 2017 Books I Missed
What I’m Reading Now (1/8/18) and a Quick Catch-Up

Overall Posts
Book Club Recommendations
Behind Her Eyes and THAT Ending: Spoiler Discussion (#WTFthatending)
Most Anticipated Books of Winter 2018

Favorite Posts by Fellow Bloggers

  • Amen to Brianna Wiest at Thought Catalog for reminding us that “self-care is “making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from.” Perfectly timed reminder as we kick off a new year.
  • Brianna from Pages Unbound Reviews shared her predictions for 2018 book blogging…one of which is more audiobook reviews, which I’ll be implementing here.
  • Check out these actual steps in Julie’s from Julz Reads‘ actual house that she actually painted herself. Astounding.
  • Looking to add more nonfiction to your reading life? Check out Katie at Doing Dewey‘s Beginner’s Guide to Nonfiction
  • I’m admittedly terrible about reading the classics, but this list of 25 Must-Read Classics for Women from Modern Mrs. Darcy made me want to change that. 
  • I’m always a sucker for those “books you can read in one sitting” lists…and doubly so when they come from a recommendation source I trust! Here’s Amy at Read a Latte‘s version.
  • Most Anticipated Books of 2018 lists: The Millions, Bustle, Novel Visits (debuts), Read a Latte (thrillers)

How was your reading month?

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What I’m Reading Now (2/5/18)

February 5, 2018 It's Monday! What are you reading? 23

I was laid up with the flu for most of last week and couldn’t even read for the first couple days. But, once I was over the worst of it (but still not back to normal life), I blew through some reading.

Cute story: my Mom helped me with the kids while I was sick and she told me that my 7 year old son told her he wanted to “major in words.” I’m sure that will change 50 times before it’s all said and done, but I’ll take it for now!

For anyone who missed it, my Rock Your Reading Tracker is now available for purchase here! What’s special about this reading tracker? It automatically compiles your stats in real time…and helps you pick better books for your reading taste by enabling you to track your recommendation sources. I’ve been using it for a few months now and love being able to see my stats as I go! And, I know I’m going to love all the hours I’ll save tallying up numbers at the end of the year.

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Now that we’ve moved into a long-term house, I’ve actually unpacked my book boxes that had been languishing in storage for years! I’m so glad to have my books actually visible these days and wanted to share some of my favorite authors and book categories. ⠀ _⠀ ⠀ I think the first Irving I read was The Cider House Rules, but that wasn’t what turned me into a die-hard fan. That would be A Prayer for Owen Meany, followed closely by The World According to Garp. Both are on my All-Time Favorites list. There’s just something about his writing style that immediately makes me comfortably settle in. ⠀ _⠀ ⠀ Who else is a John Irving fan? I’m sure there are tons of you out there…⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ #bookstagram #amreading #bookworm #instabooks #bookblogger #booklover #booklovers #booksofinstagram #bookgram #bookblogger #bookaddict #bookaddiction #johnirving #aprayerforowenmeany #worldaccordingtogarp ⠀

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I finished reading…

Sunburn by Laura Lippman


Sunburn
 
by Laura Lippman (February 20, 2018)
I needed something fast-paced to get me through the last couple days of the flu and I ended up finishing Sunburn in 2 days. I’m skittish about my thrillers, but I really liked this one. It’s a bit more subtle than your average thriller, which I loved. Mini Review to come.

Affiliate Link: Pre-Order from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

I'll Be Gone in the Dark, Bachelor Nation


I’ll Be Gone in the Dark
 
by Michelle McNamara (February 27, 2018)
I started this true crime about the Golden State Killer on Friday night while my husband was out with some friends. Bad move. I decided that I probably shouldn’t be reading about a man that raped women in their beds while I was home alone at night. So, I decided to make this my daytime book and mix in Bachelor Nation to lighten things up at night. However, I’m about 8% in and McNamara’s story-telling is fantastic so far. 

Bachelor Nation by Amy Kaufman (March 6, 2018)
I’m 39% through and after a hiccup with some unnecessary history of other dating shows (The Dating Game, Love Connection), we’re into the meat of the Bachelor juice and it’s gooood!!

I tried, but wasn’t feeling…

Great Alone by Kristin Hannah


The Great Alone
 by Kristin Hannah (February 6, 2018)

I know I’m probably in the minority on this one, but I DNF’d at 37%. I enjoyed the Alaska setting, but I got kind of bored. And, I was incredibly frustrated with Cora’s decision-making…I couldn’t stomach reading anymore of it.
Affiliate Link: Pre-Order from Amazon

Upcoming reading plans…

Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore by Kim fu
The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore by Kim Fu (February 13, 2018)

I’m hoping this novel about a group of girls who get stranded on an island during a kayaking trip at summer camp will be a candidate for my 2018 Summer Reading Guide!

was reading…

One Year Ago: I read Claire Fuller’s sophomore novel.

Two Years Ago: I was in the middle of a reading slump.

How was your reading week?

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

February 1, 2018 Book Recommendations 20

Book of the Month February 2018 selections

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


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

After skipping the past two months, I’m thrilled about the February selections! I’ve read (and loved) one and am partway through (and am really liking) a second. Book of the Month is also honoring Black History Month with one selection by an African American author (An American Marriage) and this month’s add-on (Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward).

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

If you missed it, 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!

SPECIAL NOTE: The February selections have now been publicly announced and the judges who picked each book have still not been revealed as usual. This is odd. I have tweeted BOTM and emailed their customer service to figure out what’s going on. But, I remember receiving an email that they were making some changes to how they were announcing new selections. I don’t remember judges being specifically mentioned, but I suspect the missing judges have to do with this change. If you’d like to see them include the judges in their monthly selection announcements, email member.services@bookofthemonth.com. I have to believe the more people they hear from, the more likely they’ll be to include the judges again!

Book of the Month February 2018 Selections

Great Alone by Kristin HannahThe Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (Release Date: February 6, 2018)
448 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.22 on 445 ratings
Selected By: Oh no…BOTM didn’t include the judges this month! See special note above.

Alaska, 1974. Cora Allbright and her husband Ernt, a recently-returned Vietnam veteran scarred by the war, uproot their thirteen-year-old daughter Leni to start a new life in Alaska. Utterly unprepared for the weather and the isolation, but welcomed by the close-knit community, they fight to build a home in this harsh, beautiful wilderness.

My Thoughts:
Many of you probably know Kristin Hannah from her previous novel, the blockbuster The Nightingale. Early reports are that her latest effort is excellent as well. I’m about 25% in and I love the focus on the Alaskan setting. Overall, I’m liking it, but it’s not blowing me out of the water…it’s definitely not fast-paced. Susie at Novel Visits was totally immersed throughout and loved the writing, the characterization, the storyline, and the amazing feeling for life in Alaska. However, she thought the ending “felt a bit forced.” Goodreads reviewers pretty much echoed Susie’s thoughts. Note that there are some triggers in this book that may be hard to read for some. 

UPDATE: I DNF’d The Great Alone yesterday at 37%. I just got bored and also got super frustrated with Cora’s decision-making. 

Still Me by JoJo MoyesStill Me by JoJo Moyes (Release Date: January 30, 2018)
400 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.16 on 267 ratings
Selected By: Oh no…BOTM didn’t include the judges this month! See special note above.

Louisa Clark arrives in New York ready to start a new life, confident that she can embrace this new adventure and keep her relationship with Ambulance Sam alive across several thousand miles. She steps into the world of the superrich, working for Leonard Gopnik and his much younger second wife, Agnes. Lou is determined to get the most out of the experience and throws herself into her new job and New York life.

As she begins to mix in New York high society, Lou meets Joshua Ryan, a man who brings with him a whisper of her past. Before long, Lou finds herself torn between Fifth Avenue where she works and the treasure-filled vintage clothing store where she actually feels at home. And when matters come to a head, she has to ask herself: Who is Louisa Clark? And how do you reconcile a heart that lives in two places?

My Thoughts:
Still Me is the third installment of the Me Before You series. I loved Me Before You, but I haven’t read either of the second two books. Goodreads reviewers were either hooked from the very first line and loved it because they loved Lou and will read as much as they can starring her…or thought it was just okay and felt the series probably didn’t need another book. 

Broken Girls by Simone St. JamesThe Broken Girls by Simone St. James (Release Date: March 20, 2018)
336 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.32 on 171 ratings
Selected By: Oh no…BOTM didn’t include the judges this month! See special note above.

Vermont, 1950. There’s a place for the girls whom no one wants–the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the too smart for their own good. It’s called Idlewild Hall. And in the small town where it’s located, there are rumors that the boarding school is haunted. Four roommates bond over their whispered fears, their budding friendship blossoming–until one of them mysteriously disappears. . . .

Vermont, 2014. As much as she’s tried, journalist Fiona Sheridan cannot stop revisiting the events surrounding her older sister’s death. Twenty years ago, her body was found lying in the overgrown fields near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. And though her sister’s boyfriend was tried and convicted of murder, Fiona can’t shake the suspicion that something was never right about the case.

When Fiona discovers that Idlewild Hall is being restored by an anonymous benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But a shocking discovery during the renovations will link the loss of her sister to secrets that were meant to stay hidden in the past–and a voice that won’t be silenced.

My Thoughts:
Another thriller with “Girls” in the title…whoopee (that was sarcastic…)! This one is being billed as part ghost story, part suspenseful thriller and seems to be a departure from St. James’s other books. For anyone that normally doesn’t go for the paranormal stuff (me!), Goodreads reviewers said that part is not overwhelming and I saw multiple reviews by people who said they don’t normally like paranormal, but did like this book. Goodreads reviewers also categorized it as “Gothic suspense” and said some parts are “dark and disturbing.” It’s gotten blurbs from Karen White (The House on Tradd Street Series, The Sound of Glass) and Fiona Barton (The Child, The Widow).

An American Marriage by Tayari JonesAn American Marriage by Tayari Jones (Release Date: February 6, 2018)
320 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.25 on 104 ratings
Selected By: Oh no…BOTM didn’t include the judges this month! See special note above.

Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined.

My Thoughts: I was thrilled to see An American Marriage among these selections because it’s my favorite novel of 2018 so far! It tackles a number of weighty themes, but in a completely organic way. It’s about marriage, friendship, race, class, grief, incarceration, etc, but not overwhelmingly about any one of them (kind of like The Mothers). The writing isn’t “gorgeous” in the traditional sense, rather it’s casual, intimate, and has personality…and I loved it. The story builds gradually and the last quarter is absolutely riveting. Others’ opinions: Nicole Bonia from The Readerly Report Podcast also loved it, while Renee at It’s Book Talk (who I normally agree with, but didn’t in this case) didn’t. Warning: go into this book as blind as you can. The publisher’s summary revealed way too much in my view (I edited it out of the in this post).

Philosopher's Flight by Tom MillerThe Philosopher’s Flight by Tom Miller (Release Date: February 13, 2018)
432 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.3 on 75 ratings
Selected By: Oh no…BOTM didn’t include the judges this month! See special note above.

A thrilling debut from ER doctor turned novelist Tom Miller, The Philosopher’s Flight is an epic historical fantasy set in a World-War-I-era America where magic and science have blended into a single extraordinary art.

Eighteen-year-old Robert Weekes is a practitioner of empirical philosophy—an arcane, female-dominated branch of science used to summon the wind, shape clouds of smoke, heal the injured, and even fly.

When a deadly accident puts his philosophical abilities to the test, Robert rises to the occasion and wins a scholarship to study at Radcliffe College, an all-women’s school. At Radcliffe, Robert hones his skills and strives to win the respect of his classmates, a host of formidable, unruly women.

My Thoughts:
Wow – this book sounds overwhelming. It’s a genre mash-up of Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Romance, and Historical Fiction…with some gender politics thrown in. It’s been compared to Lev Grossman (The Magicians) and said to have elements of Harry Potter. Goodreads readers say it’s fun, has well developed characters, great world-building, and great writing, but is lacking in suspense and contains lots of jargon that tripped some people up. This selection is not up my alley at all, but maybe it’s up yours!

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

I’m going to choose An American Marriage!

I’ve already read it (in e-book format), but I’d like a hard copy for my shelves!

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

What book will you choose this month?

This Month’s Special Deals

In addition to the five February selections, Book of the Month Club is offering one extra this month (which Book of the Month Club members can add to their boxes for only $9.99 each):

NEW MEMBER DEAL: Anyone who purchases a new BOTM subscription will get their first month free! Use code YESPLZ.

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
Add extra books to your shipment for $9.99 each
Skip any month you want
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10 Books I Can’t Believe I Liked at the Time

January 30, 2018 Book Lists 24

Books I Can't Believe I Liked at the time


Here we go with another snarky post…I just have to break these out every now and then!

You know how some books stand the test of time? Well, these books don’t necessarily hold up for me. I did like them when I read them, but am pretty confident they’d be heading to the DNF pile if I read them now. And, some of them are pretty embarrassing to admit.

This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link).
Linking up with Top Ten Tuesday hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

10 Books I Can’t Believe I Liked at the Time

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
Yes, I admit I read it (and the two sequels). Though I recognized how badly written they were, I was weirdly intrigued by the premise of the story. But, I don’t think I’d be able to overcome the writing now.

Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews
I ADORED this book and all its sequels and everything else she wrote when I was a tween. At some point, my Mom read one of them and was completely horrified at what I was reading. But, I can’t promise I wouldn’t still love Flowers in the Attic now. I mean, I did really like The Roanoke Girls just last year…

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue
This book probably looks like the outlier on this list. It’s here because, when I read it, I distinctly remember not understanding why so many people liked it. Yet, my tracking spreadsheet says I did. Wha??

Revenge Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
I really did love The Devil Wears Prada and think I still would if I read it today. It was one of those Brain Candy books that’s super smart and well done. But, the sequel was just taken way too far and I’m not sure what I saw in it back then.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
I loved The Fault in Our Stars when I read it years ago. The overly precocious-for-teens dialogue didn’t even bother me. But, I couldn’t even get through the first few pages of Turtles All the Way Down because I could feel the YA-ness oozing out of the writing. I suspect I’d feel the same about The Fault in Our Stars if I read it now.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
For some reason, my spreadsheet says I liked this one even though I’ve been telling people for years I thought it was overrated and I kind of skewered aspects of it in my Spoiler Discussion post. Maybe I liked it enough, but didn’t think it came close to the hype? I’ll go with that…

The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin
I used to love these roman-a-clefs exposing the crazy behavior of wealthy New Yorkers. While there’s certainly a place for some escapist entertainment, I’ve just realized there are so many great books out there (even light ones that are still very well done and smartly written)…why waste time on something like this?

The Twins of Tribeca by Rachel Pine
Ditto The Nanny Diaries. This one is a thinly veiled novel about Miramax and the Weinstein brothers, which might actually be somewhat enlightening through the lens of everything that has come out about the Weinsteins. But, it’s average Goodreads rating is 2.89 stars. Yikes.

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
Why oh why was I ever engrossed by a story about a girl torn between a vampire who convinced her to give up every part of her identity and a werewolf? At least I can take solace in the fact that I was far from alone…

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
This one was a cheap trick and a rip-off of a popular movie. Not sure why this didn’t bother me more at the time. Plus, I immediately followed it up with a very similar book that was much better written and didn’t rely on a ridiculous plot trick (Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly – Whittemore, my review). I almost feel like I should take down my review.

Do you have any books you can’t believe you liked?

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What I’m Reading Now (1/29/18)

January 29, 2018 It's Monday! What are you reading? 46

I’m typing this post in an airport on the way home from a great weekend with friends from college. I hadn’t seen some of these girls in years and it was so refreshing to slide right back into the old comfort level. There’s nothing like old friends! I even got some good reading time in…thanks to a roomie who loved sleeping in and a couple long plane flights!

For anyone who missed it, my Rock Your Reading Tracker is now available for purchase here! What’s special about this reading tracker? It automatically compiles your stats in real time…and helps you pick better books for your reading taste by enabling you to track your recommendation sources. I’ve been using it for a few months now and love being able to see my stats as I go! And, I know I’m going to love all the hours I’ll save tallying up numbers at the end of the year.

Hosted by The Book Date.
This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link).

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I finished reading…

American Marriage, Wedding Toasts I'll Never Give, All the Castles Burned
An American Marriage
 by Tayari Jones (February 6, 2018)

Loved this one! One of my top 2 books of 2018 so far! Full review coming soon.
Affiliate Link: Pre-Order from Amazon

Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give by Ada Calhoun (May 16, 2017, Audiobook)
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

All the Castles Burned by Michael Nye (February 13, 2018)
I was pleasantly surprised by this debut, campus novel! It’s a classic coming of age story with some family drama, clas issues, and basketball. Mini review coming.
Affiliate Link: Pre-Order from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

Great Alone by Kristin Hannah


The Great Alone
by Kristin Hannah (February 6, 2018)

I’m sure fans of The Nightingale have been anxiously awaiting Kristin Hannah’s next novel. I’m literally JUST starting this family story set in 1970’s Alaska (i.e. only a few pages in), but have heard wonderful things from Susie at Novel Visits (one of my Go-To Recommendation Sources), so my hopes are high! 
Affiliate Link: Pre-Order from Amazon

I tried, but wasn’t feeling…

The Almost Sisters, The Wedding Date
The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson (January 11, 2017)

DNF at 13%. I know so many people have loved this one, but I was hot and cold on it. I loved the parts about Birchie, a fiery Southern grandmother, but was zoning out at other times.

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory (January 30, 2018)
DNF at 22%. This debut novel was billed as a smart and fun rom-com style story. Roxane Gay loved it and I was hoping it would be a good candidate for my 2018 Summer Reading Guide. Sadly, I felt the rom-com angle a bit too much. The dialogue felt cheesy and I wasn’t seeing the smart snappiness I was hoping for.

Upcoming reading plans…

Continuing with February releases…

Sunburn by Laura Lippman
Sunburn by Laura Lippman (February 20, 2018)

Y’all probably know I’m skeptical of thrillers, but Annie at From the Front Porch podcast (one of my Go-To Recommendation Sources) loved this one and said it was a different kind of thriller, which definitely appeals to me.

was reading…

One Year Ago: I read one of my favorite backlist books of list year.

Two Years Ago: I read one of my Best Debuts of 2016!

How was your reading week?

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The First Annual Sarah’s Book Shelves Reader Survey

January 23, 2018 Community 13

One of the things I’m focusing on in 2018 is making the most of my reading community…and helping you make the most of yours! A big part of that is learning more about my blog readers and helping you learn more about each other! 

I hear from some readers decently regularly in the Comments section, but I know that’s just a small group of you. I’d like to learn more about all of you…even those that prefer to read without commenting (which is totally OK…it took me forever to start commented on blogs!) The Reader’s Survey will help me do just that.

It will also help me understand more about your reading tastes (and tastes in general) and give you more of what you want (and less of what you don’t want) on the blog. 

I’ll share the collective results with all of you so you can learn more about your fellow Sarah’s Book Shelves readers! And, look for a future opportunity for ongoing interaction with other Sarah’s Book Shelves readers!

You can access the survey here if you’re having trouble with the embedded version.

The 2018 Sarah’s Book Shelves Reader Survey

Thanks for your participation!

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What I’m Reading Now (1/22/18)

January 22, 2018 It's Monday! What are you reading? 31

For anyone who missed it, my Rock Your Reading Tracker is now available for purchase here! What’s special about this reading tracker? It automatically compiles your stats in real time…and helps you pick better books for your reading taste by enabling you to track your recommendation sources. I’ve been using it for a few months now and love being able to see my stats as I go! And, I know I’m going to love all the hours I’ll save tallying up numbers at the end of the year.

In other news, life has been super chaotic and messy lately…and I feel like I’ve barely been able to read (time-wise and concentration-wise). I’m on track to have one of my lowest volume reading months I can remember. But, I *think* things are taking a turn for the better.

Hosted by The Book Date.

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

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⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️// Kind of appropriate that I finished this nonfiction financial thriller set mostly in Russia on a cold, snowy day. You may not think a nonfiction financial book could keep you on the edge of your seat, but you’re wrong! Think a cross between Michael Lewis and Dominick Dunne…told like a thriller.⠀ _⠀ ⠀ Bill Browder was one of the first foreign investors in Russia following the fall of Communism. He made a ton of money, angered some oligarchs via his anti-corruption battles, and ended up in a knockdown, drag-out battle with Putin and the Russian regime.⠀ _⠀ ⠀ Now…let’s just hope the kids finally go back to school tomorrow so I can finally dig into some books. It’s a miracle I finished this one with how much they’ve been home…⠀ ⠀ Recommendation Source: @keliteracy (Thank you!)⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ @simonbooks @simonandschuster #bookstagram #amreading #bookworm #instabooks #bookblogger #booklover #booklovers #booksofinstagram #bookgram #bookblogger #bookaddict #bookaddiction #nonfiction #putin

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I finished reading…

Bored and Brilliant, Red Notice
Bored and Brilliant by Manoush Zomorodi (September 5, 2017)
I listened to this one on audio. Check out my mini-review here.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Red Notice by Bill Browder (February 3, 2015)
Bill Browder was one of the first foreign investors in Russia following the fall of Communism. He made a ton of money, angered some oligarchs via his anti-corruption battles, and ended up in a knockdown, drag-out battle with Putin and the Russian regime. You may not think a nonfiction financial book could keep you on the edge of your seat, but you’re wrong! Think a cross between Michael Lewis and Dominick Dunne…told like a thriller.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones


An American Marriage
by Tayari Jones (February 6, 2018)

I’m only about 30% into this story about marriage and race, but I’m really enjoying it so far. I was told to go in blind and I did (I didn’t even remember what the publisher’s blurb said about the book) and I’ve been surprised at where the story has gone so far.
Affiliate Link: Pre-Order from Amazon

I tried, but wasn’t feeling…

Wife Between Us, Turtles All the Way Down, and Glass Forest
The Wife Between Us
 by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen (January 9, 2018)

DNF at 32%. This psychological thriller was fine, but fine psychological thrillers are everywhere. I’m looking for something that stands out. However, if someone tells me this one will stand out if I read past 32%, then I’ll consider picking it up again.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (October 10, 2017)
I made it through 3% of this one. I just couldn’t take the writing style.

The Glass Forest by Cynthia Swanson (February 6, 2018)
At the 14% mark, this dysfunctional family novel was fine (but no more than that). But, I just kept thinking about other books I was excited to read. I’ll pick it up again if any of my Go-To Recommendation Sources say it’s awesome.

Upcoming reading plans…

Continuing with February releases…

All the Castles Burned by Michael Nye


All the Castles Burned
by Michael Nye (February 13, 2018)

This one doesn’t come recommended by anyone who’s already read it, but I’m willing to take a risk for a boarding school novels.

was reading…

One Year Ago: I’d read one of last year’s backlist beauties and a short story collection.

Two Years Ago: I’d just finished one of my favorite books of 2016!

How was your reading week?

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