Nonfiction November 2016: How I Choose My Nonfiction

November 8, 2016 Blogger Events 20

Nonfiction November 2016

Today’s Nonfiction November (hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey, Lory at Emerald City Book Review, Rachel at Hibernator’s Library, Julz at Julz Reads, and me) is how we pick our nonfiction! Hop on over to Rachel at Hibernator’s Library to link up your posts and check out the plans for the month at Doing Dewey.

What are you looking for when you pick up a nonfiction book?

It depends on whether I’m looking for a read or a listen.

For nonfiction I’m going to read…

I tend to look for mostly backlist nonfiction or recent releases that have been vetted by a couple trusted sources. So, this means I request very few nonfiction ARCs. I have a hard time selecting nonfiction that would interest me just based on the publisher’s blurb. It’s much easier for me to do this for fiction. Depending on how the book is written, nonfiction about a topic that really interests me could fall woefully short (i.e. The Midnight Assassin) or nonfiction about a topic I don’t care about could end up being fascinating (i.e. The Boys in the Boat). There are also only a few nonfiction authors I can comfortably rely on (i.e. Michael Lewis, Erik Larson, Jon Krakauer), whereas I have tons of go-to authors for fiction.

For nonfiction I’m going to listen to…

I’m much more willing to try an un-vetted nonfiction audiobook because the writing and storytelling style is less of a factor for me on audio. Plus, there’s Audible’s Great Listen Guarantee! That being said, I’ve found that lighter nonfiction (particularly these topics) is my audio niche.

Do you have a particular topic you’re attracted to?

My weird little nonfiction niches are cooking / food, sports, business (the behind-the-scenes, not boring kind), true crime and juicy celebrity biographies (what I like to call “biogossip”). I’ve been reading these types of books for years. Lately, I’ve also been interested in PTSD in returning soldiers, North Korea, and dysfunctional childhood memoirs.

On audio, I stick mainly to celebrity memoirs, life improvement, social/behavioral sciences, sports memoirs and trashy celebrity exposes.

Do you have a particular writing style that works best?

Definitely narrative nonfiction (aka nonfiction that “reads like fiction”) or investigative journalism.

How do you choose your nonfiction?

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It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? (11/7/16)

November 7, 2016 It's Monday! What are you reading? 20

Hosted by The Book Date.

Nonfiction November started last week, which always makes me so happy! Every year, I enjoy focusing on a genre that doesn’t normally comprise the majority of my reading. And, I love cleaning my schedule of review books for a month! If you’d like to join in, visit the welcome post including all the link-up topics, dates, and hosts.

I also enjoyed watching the New York City Marathon on TV yesterday morning. It’s one of my favorite sporting events of the year and we used to be able to watch the elites cross the finish line in person just a few blocks away from our old apartment. This year, I loved seeing Gwen Jorgensen, Rio Olympic gold medalist in Women’s Triathlon, switch over to marathon and finish 14th for overall women.

I finished reading…

My Reading Life, Pat Conroy

My Reading Life
 by Pat Conroy (2010)

This wasn’t my favorite Conroy memoir (a bit too much focus on esoteric literature), but I did enjoy getting to “hear” his voice. Mini review is posted on Litsy (@sarahsbookshelves) and Goodreads.

I’m currently reading…

Five Days at Memorial, Sheri Fink

Five Days at Memorial
by Sheri Fink (September 10, 2013)

I’m almost finished with this investigative report into what happened during and immediately after Hurricane Katrina at New Orleans’ Memorial Medical Center. It reads like a page turner and is giving me lots to think about.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Upcoming reading plans…

Generation Chef, Karen Stabiner

Generation Chef
by Karen Stabiner (September 13, 2016)
This true story of a young chef starting his first restaurant might be a nice follow-up to the intensity of Five Days at Memorial.

How was your reading week?

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October 2016 Monthly Round-Up

November 3, 2016 Monthly Round-Ups 21

October 2016 Monthly Round-Up

October Reading / Life

  • For the second month in a row, I have two best books of the month…lucky me! Not only are Commonwealth and The Mothers my two favorite books of the month, but they’re also two of my favorites of the year.
  • And, All the Ugly and Wonderful Things (ended up enjoying after being initially creeped out) and Miss Jane (just so-so for me, despite being longlisted for the National Book Award) rounded out my October fiction.
  • My October in audio was all about sports. Age is Just A Number (Olympic swimmer Dara Torres’ memoir) and The Sports Gene educated me about the body as it relates to peak performance and got me to make some major changes in how I work out. Check out my Litsy account (@sarahsbookshelves) for mini reviews of both.
  • I also read very different memoirs: Jennifer Weiner’s Hungry Heart (a win!) and Pat Conroy’s My Reading Life (not my favorite Conroy nonfiction).
  • Finally, I was thrilled to be Kate at Parchment Girl‘s October Featured Blogger! Hop on over to hear about Friday Night Lights, comfort food, the classics I haven’t read…and, books I’m loving!
  • Now, on to Nonfiction November! It’s ON after all and I hope you all can participate!

Best Book(s) of the Month

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett (September 13, 2016)
Fiction, 336 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Mothers by Brit Bennett (October 11, 2016)
Fiction, 288 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Most Popular October Posts

My Best All-Around, Go-To Book Recommendations
Ten Terrible Family Members of Fiction
The Girls on the Train Movie: Will it settle a conspiracy theory? (Spoiler Alert!)

Favorite Posts by Fellow Bloggers

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Ten SHORT Books That Will Spark Lively Book Club Discussion

November 1, 2016 Top Ten Tuesday 32

Top Ten Tuesday


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish that asks bloggers to create Top Ten lists on a variety of bookish topics. This week’s topic is Top Ten Books To Read If Your Book Club Likes _______________.

I tend to think all book club selections should be on the short side to accommodate a variety of reading schedules for book club members. But, the books on this list are especially short…around 300 pages or less. Yet, they’re incredibly meaty and will spark lively book club discussions despite their brevity.

Short Books that will spark lively book club discussion

Brain on Fire
 by Susannah Cahalan (290 pages)
This medical mystery memoir from the New York Post writer was the last book I chose for my former book club.

Did You Ever Have A Family by Bill Clegg (293 pages)
One of my favorite books of 2015, this book will get you talking about family (obviously), small-town life, prejudice, parent/child relationships, grief, heartache, and regret.

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (272 pages)
This memoir of growing up poor in Appalachia / social analysis is especially timely for this election season.

The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips (192 pages)
This entire book feels like a giant riddle and, even once the central questions have been answered, it will leave you thinking “what does it all MEAN?!”

The Dinner by Herman Koch (306 pages)
This is a love it or hate it type novel (always great for heating up the discussion!) which will also have you arguing over the many questionable decisions the main characters make.

The Mother by Yvvette Edwards (256 pages)
This novel centered around the trial of a sixteen year old boy’s murderer explores a mother’s grief, poverty, race, and the choices faced by people born into a rough life on the streets.

The Mothers by Brit Bennett (288 pages)
One of the hottest debuts of 2016, this novel is about many things (grief, recovering from trauma, teen pregnancy, race, and friendship) without being overwhelmingly about any one of them.

The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood (208 pages)
This award-winning Australian novel addressing the treatment of women is weird, has an ending that is entirely open to interpretation, and will likely generate strong opinions one way or another.

The Wife by Meg Wolitzer (211 pages)
This novel about a writer who puts her career aside to support her husband’s writing career and take care of her family…it explores the role of “the wife” in society and the expectations and pressures that many women face as they navigate harnessing their talents and/or devoting themselves to their families.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (208 pages)
Though this emotional gut-wrencher is technically a book about death, it’s more about humanity and how to live…this for you if you’re looking for an incredibly intense discussion.

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My Year in Nonfiction (2016) & It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? (10/31/16)

October 31, 2016 It's Monday! What are you reading? 42

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?
Hosted by The Book Date.

Happy Halloween, everyone! Last week’s reading was pretty unmemorable. I finished Miss Jane by Brad Watson, which was an interesting story, but diverted to boring American pastoral life background in the 1920’s-30’s a bit too much. And, after trying to get out of my comfort zone, I ended up DNFing Children of the New World by Alexander Weinstein at 32%. I’m now almost finished with Pat Conroy’s memoir, My Reading Life, which has been somewhat of a comfort read for me (Conroy always is), but is probably my least favorite thing he’s written. 

Nonfiction November 2016
The best news is that one of my favorite reading events, Nonfiction Novemberwill kick off this week after all! I’ll be co-hosting along with Katie at Doing Dewey (big thanks to her for organizing everything!), Lory at Emerald City Book Review, Rachel at Hibernator’s Library, and Julz at Julz Reads. Today, Katie is kicking things off with Your Year in Nonfiction. Hop on over to Doing Dewey to link up your posts and check out the plans for the month.

I’ll be hosting Nonfiction/Fiction Book Pairing the week of November 14 – 18.

My Year in Nonfiction

One of my reading goals for 2016 was to read more nonfiction than I did last year and I’m shocked that I’ve actually been doing just that! A big chunk of this is via audio, which I hadn’t been able to figure out how to make work for me prior to this year. But, I’ve found that lighter nonfiction (for me, sports and celebrity memoirs, life improvement, trashy celebrity exposes, and social/behavioral sciences) is the key to my audio success. So far, I’ve read or listened to 25 (32% of my total reading) nonfiction books so far this year, compared to 12 (16% of my total reading) for all of last year, and am looking forward to increasing that number this month!

Favorite Nonfiction of 2016
What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year?

It’s a tie between Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (review), When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, and Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed. Not the most unique list, but my favorites are my favorites.

What nonfiction book have you recommended the most?

Right now, it’s definitely Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (review) since it achieves a delicate balance of entertaining dysfunctional childhood memoir and social analysis that’s pertinent to this election cycle. However, I think I’ll be recommending Tiny Beautiful Things more over the long-term.

What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet?

Food / Cooking Nonfiction

This is actually a type of nonfiction I used to read tons of, but have fallen off the wagon with since I started blogging. I’m an unabashed foodie and used to love reading chef’s memoirs, cooking school memoirs, and general nonfiction about food, cooking, and restaurants. I’ve recently fallen prey to the allure of new fiction at the expense on some of the more niche genre reading I used to love and am working on incorporating this back into my reading diet. I’m planning to start by readingKaren Stabiner’s Generation Chef this month.

What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

I’m hoping to plough through as much of my Nonfiction November 2016 reading options list as possible, add a bunch of new nonfiction books to my TBR list, and discover some new blogs to follow!

How was your reading week? How was your year in nonfiction?

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Makeshift Nonfiction November 2016: My Reading Options

October 27, 2016 Blogger Events 44

Nonfiction November 2016

Nonfiction November has been one of my favorite reading events over the past few years…to the extent that I tend to put off reading many nonfiction titles I’m interested in until November! It looks like the official event is on hiatus this year, but I still have this huge list of nonfiction books I was planning to read. So, I thought I’d still dedicate November to reading nonfiction…and hopefully share some nonfiction-focused posts.

Here’s what I have on my radar to read this month. I won’t get to nearly all of these, but I need options!

A Different Kind of Daughter by Maria Toorpakai (May 3, 2016)
I wish I could remember who recommended this one, but it made me think of The Underground Girls of Kabul, which I loved.

A DIFFERENT KIND OF DAUGHTER tell of Maria’s harrowing journey to play the sport she knew was her destiny, first living as a boy and roaming the violent back alleys of the frontier city of Peshawar, rising to become the number one female squash player in Pakistan.

Darling Days by iO Tillett-Wright (September 27, 2016)
The ladies at All the Books podcast and Eva at Paperback Princess recommended this memoir…and the author was peripherally involved in the Johnny Depp/Amber Heard divorce.

Unfolding in animated, crystalline prose, an emotionally raw, devastatingly powerful memoir of one young woman’s extraordinary coming of age—a tale of gender and identity, freedom and addiction, rebellion and survival in the 1980s and 1990s, when punk, poverty, heroin, and art collided in the urban bohemia of New York’s Lower East Side.

Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink (September 10, 2013)
I’ve had this story about the situation at a New Orleans hospital in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on my TBR list forever. It’s length (over 550 pages) keeps making me hesitate.

In the tradition of the best investigative journalism, physician and reporter Sheri Fink reconstructs 5 days at Memorial Medical Center and draws the reader into the lives of those who struggled mightily to survive and to maintain life amid chaos.

Generation Chef by Karen Stabiner (September 13, 2016)
I jumped on the opportunity to read this chef/restaurant story because I love all things food…now I have this ARC sitting in front of me, so this one is high on my November reading list.

Inside what life is really like for the new generation of professional cooks—a captivating tale of the make-or-break first year at a young chef’s new restaurant.

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren (September 13, 2016)
This is one of those memoirs that did not initially sound appealing to me, but the rave reviews have convinced me to give it a try. I tried to time my library hold to come in for Nonfiction November, but I’m still 6th in line, so likely won’t be reading it this month.

Lab Girl is a book about work, love, and the mountains that can be moved when those two things come together. It is told through Jahren’s stories: about her childhood in rural Minnesota with an uncompromising mother and a father who encouraged hours of play in his classroom’s labs; about how she found a sanctuary in science, and learned to perform lab work done “with both the heart and the hands”; and about the inevitable disappointments, but also the triumphs and exhilarating discoveries, of scientific work.

My Reading Life by Pat Conroy (2010)
In honor of Conroy’s passing earlier this year, I promised myself I’d read the only one of his books I hadn’t yet read. But earlier this week, I heard his final book (A Lowcountry Heart) was published on Tuesday, so I’ll have to fit that in before this year is out also!

Bestselling author Pat Conroy acknowledges the books that have shaped him and celebrates the profound effect reading has had on his life.

The Man Who Wasn’t There by Anil Ananthaswamy (August 4, 2015)
Monika at Lovely Bookshelf recommended this one.

In the tradition of Oliver Sacks, a tour of the latest neuroscience of schizophrenia, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, ecstatic epilepsy, Cotard’s syndrome, out-of-body experiences, and other disorders—revealing the awesome power of the human sense of self from a master of science journalism.

The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner (January 5, 2016)
This memoir has been on my TBR list all year…one of those books I was “saving” for November!

A riveting, deeply-affecting true story of one girl’s coming-of-age in a polygamist cult.

Which of these do you recommend…or not? What’s your favorite nonfiction book of the year so far? Is anyone else planning to focus on nonfiction this month?

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Alcohol & Advil: The Mothers and Hungry Heart

October 25, 2016 Mini Book Reviews 17

Alcohol and Advil Literary Style
Welcome back to Alcohol & Advil, where I pair a book likely to cause a “reading hangover” (i.e. the alcohol) with a recovery book (i.e. the Advil)! For me, the “alcohol” is usually a book that I either absolutely loved or one that punched me in the gut in an emotionally depleting way…and, in this case, it’s the former.

The Alcohol

The Mothers, Brit BennettThe Mothers by Brit Bennett
Fiction (Released October 11, 2016)
288 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased (Publisher: Riverhead Books)

Plot Summary: While seventeen year-old Nadia Turner is mourning the shocking loss of her mother, she starts a relationship with Luke Sheppard, her pastor’s son, resulting in an unwanted pregnancy.

My Thoughts: The Mothers was one of the most hyped books and the big debut novel of this Fall (author Brit Bennet is only 25 years old and was named to the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35). And, it completely lived up to the hype! The first page is one of the best first pages I’ve ever read and I highlighted three passages before moving on to Page 2. I could immediately tell that Bennett’s writing was my kind of writing (which I will try to clearly articulate in an upcoming post) and the tone and style reminded me a bit of Ann Patchett’s in Commonwealth.

Grief was not a line, carrying you infinitely further from loss. You never knew when you would be sling-shot backward into its grip.

What I loved most about the actual story is that it takes on a number of serious topics, but none of them dominate the book. It’s about a young girl trying to make sense of her mother’s death and being left with a father who has withdrawn into his own grief. It’s about a teenager’s relationship to her church…and the feelings that come along with doing things the church likely wouldn’t approve of. It’s about the ongoing repercussions of those actions. It’s about friendship. It’s about race (the story takes place in a black community in California). It’s about the aftermath of trauma. Bennett handles all this in a subtle way…it’s there, a part of Nadia’s life, impacting her feelings and decisions, but life goes on. For me, this rang true to how life really happens. The Mothers will no doubt make my Best Books of 2016 List and would also make a fantastic book club selection.

The Advil

Hungry Heart, Jennifer WeinerHungry Heart by Jennifer Weiner
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released October 11, 2016)
432 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Atria Books) via NetGalley

Plot Summary: Bestselling author Jennifer Weiner’s memoir-style essay collection about her childhood, writing, her struggle with her weight, marriage, and motherhood…and the Bachelor/ette.

My Thoughts: You probably know Jennifer Weiner from her bestselling novels Good in Bed and In Her Shoes or her hilarious and pointed live-tweeting of the Bachelor/ette shows. But, her memoir reminded me that there is far more to this lady than enlivening my Twitter feed on Monday nights. Hungry Heart is an incredibly relatable memoir about a girl gradually growing comfortable in her own skin. After reading about her childhood (which includes a horrific father and adjusting to her mother starting to date women at age 54), I came to respect her determination, work ethic, and ability to recover from her father’s abandonment. She worked her tail off to become the writer she is and was never swept up in the glamour of the “writer’s life.” This memoir also confirmed my belief that she is an author who should host a podcast and I can see her dispensing Dear Sugar-style advice to women as successfully as Cheryl Strayed. Though the book was overly long and a bit repetitive towards the end, it was the perfect mix of light-hearted humor and real-life struggle to help me adequately recover from The Mothers!

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It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? (10/24/16)

October 24, 2016 It's Monday! What are you reading? 28

Hosted by The Book Date.

I hope everyone had an awesome Readathon on Saturday! I never participate because it’s always on the same day as the big Halloween parade our town puts on for the kids, which is one of my favorite activities of the year (it’s fun for the parents too…*cough*, to-go cups, *cough*). Sadly, this year’s parade was rescheduled because of bad weather. Yet, I still didn’t participate in the Readathon. On a more positive note, I currently have two books going on…one for peaceful reading environments and one for chaotic ones. This method might be the key to continued reading success given my life right now!

Finally, I was thrilled to be the this month’s featured book blogger at Parchment Girl. I love Kate’s blog (and this feature is a great way to find new blogs to follow) and had fun talking about food, Friday Night Lights, my dream superpower…and obviously books. Check it out!

I finished reading…

Hungry Heart, Jennifer Weiner

Hungry Heart
 by Jennifer Weiner (October 11, 2016)

This memoir surprised me in many ways…Weiner has been through far more than I imagined. And, also, there is a full chapter of Bachelor/ette commentary! Mini review coming.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

Miss Jane, Children of the New World

Miss Jane
 by Brad Watson (July 12, 2016)
This Southern, historical novel based on the author’s great-aunt was reviewed by Ed Tarkington (author of Only Love Can Break Your Heart) as part of #30Authors. I’m only 25% in, but I think I can get into this story if I’m reading in a relatively quiet atmosphere.

Children of the New World by Alexander Weinstein (September 13, 2016)
I’ve only read the first story in this speculative short stories collection, but I found it thought-provoking and weirdly funny. This is my current book for more chaotic reading locations (i.e. playgrounds, the gym, etc).

Upcoming reading plans…

Nonfiction November, anyone?!! I’ve participated for the past few years, but haven’t heard anything about it this year. Does anyone know if it’s happening? If not, I think I’m going to make my own Nonfiction November since I have a pile of books I’m excited to dig into.

How was your reading week?

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How Does Litsy Fit Into Your Review Strategy?

October 20, 2016 Discussions 20


I recently joined Litsy (a relatively new app that’s like a cross between Instagram and Goodreads) and originally thought, since Litsy is image-centric, that my preference for e-reading would make me more of a lurker than a poster (who wants to see a million pictures of my kindle?!). But, I’ve enjoyed it far more than I ever thought I would!

Now that I know I like it, I’ve been pondering how it might fit into my overall reviewing strategy and would love to hear what others are doing. I want to avoid just duplicating what I’m doing on the blog and other social media. But, what niches will Litsy help me (and you) fill? Here’s what I’ve been doing and thinking…


  • Post all blog posts
  • Share occasional interesting book/reading articles


  • Post all blog posts
  • Share quick thoughts on reading and specific books
  • Share other bloggers’ work
  • Communicate with authors and other bloggers


  • Share what I’m reading in real time
  • Post full book reviews and ratings


  • Post all blog posts
  • Share other bloggers’ work


I barely have a presence here…I post extremely occasional pictures of reading spots and books, but I’m definitely more of a lurker.

Where does Litsy fit?

  • Share what I’m reading in real time
  • Share quotes
  • Review audiobooks (I don’t currently review them on the blog)
  • Rate all books
  • Post quick reviews of select books with accompanying image

Lingering Litsy Questions: 

  • Does it make sense to consider Litsy my place to share quick thoughts on books I don’t review on the blog?
  • Or should I also post quick reviews of select books (maybe particular favorites) that I do review on the blog?
  • Should Litsy be my place to share quick thoughts on why I DNF certain books?

How does Litsy fit into your review strategy? Do you review every book you read and/or review on your blog on Litsy? If not, how do you choose which books to review there?

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Two Winning Novels about Dysfunctional Families: Commonwealth and All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

October 18, 2016 Mini Book Reviews 22

Dysfunctional families are one of my favorite topics to read about in fiction…and I was lucky enough to come across two winners this Fall.

Commonwealth, Ann PatchettCommonwealth by Ann Patchett
Fiction (Released September 13, 2016)
336 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased (Publisher: Harper)

Plot Summary: An ill fated christening party is the catalyst that ruins the Keating and Cousins marriages…and creates a blended family trying to navigate their new world.

My Thoughts: Commonwealth is a simply and perfectly told story of a cobbled together family…and is one of my favorite books of 2016 so far! Every member of the blended Keating/Cousins family behaves dreadfully, but I was somewhat sympathetic towards all of them. The four Cousins children and two Keating girls are impressively creative in their antics, but I rooted for them because their parents are so completely uninterested in and overwhelmed by them. And, it wasn’t their fault that their parents selfishly created this impossible situation. But, I also sympathized with the parents because their children’s united hatred of them resulted in an incredible amount of tormenting.

The Cousins children and the Keating children smiled up with beatific forgiveness. They had done everything they had ever wanted to do, they had had the most wonderful day, and no one even knew they were gone.

There is nothing grand about this story, no bells and whistles in the plot or the writing. But Ann Patchett can really tell a story…one that is beautiful and satisfying and reflects the mess of real life without resorting to tricks. She releases information about her characters in drips and drabs (similar to Did You Ever Have A Family) and describes scenes of mundane life that perfectly illustrate her characters:

When their father took the girls to the alley behind the grocery store at six o’clock in the morning with their racquets and fresh cans of tennis balls, Caroline would have as many as twenty-seven consecutive hits without missing. Thwack, thwack, thwack, into the blank wall that was the back of the A&P, her long arms intuitively graceful in their swing. Franny’s personal best was three consecutive hits, and that had only happened once. But the real difference between Caroline and Franny was that Caroline cared. She cared about the law and tennis and her grades in classes she didn’t even like. She cared what their father said about their mother, what he said about everything. Franny just wanted to go back to the car and read Agatha Christie.

Commonwealth is a book that I enjoyed every minute of reading. I couldn’t wait for my next opportunity to read and I didn’t want it to end.

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, Bryn GreenwoodAll the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
Fiction (Released August 9, 2016)
352 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased (Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books)

Plot Summary: After Wavy, the daughter of a meth dealer father and addict mother, witnesses Kellen’s (one of Wavy’s father’s “employees”) motorcycle accident, he takes her under his wing, leading to an unlikely relationship.

My Thoughts: I was all over the place with my feelings about All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, but I ended up in an emotionally invested and somewhat surprising (to me) place. I immediately loved the voice of Amy, Wavy’s cousin, and the storyline of Wavy’s integration into her extended family’s normal way of life the first of many times she stayed with them. Then, I became thoroughly creeped out by the story’s direction once Wavy returns to her parents at the ranch (her home and the site of her father’s meth cooking business). My discomfort with a specific theme of the story began to make me actually dislike the entire book. I kept saying to myself “please tell me this isn’t going there.”

But, by the halfway point, Greenwood completely brought me around again. She sold me on her creepy storyline (to the tune of 4 stars instead of the 2.5/3 stars I was considering)! I’ve read many books that started off well only to fall off a cliff later on, but it’s rare that I find one that does the opposite (Fates and Furies is the last one I can think of). Greenwood wrote in a way that demanded my sympathy for and understanding of these characters, despite my initial misgivings. Plus, the story’s action picked up considerably in the second half. Because All the Ugly and Wonderful Things addresses a controversial topic likely to spark strong feelings one way or another, it would make an excellent book club selection.

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