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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January Read It, Skip It: Grist Mill Road, Tell Me More, The Immortalists, Anatomy of a Scandal

January 18, 2018 Mini Book Reviews 23

Grist Mill Road, Tell Me More, The Immortalists, Anatomy of a Scandal

You may be familiar with my Read It, Skip It posts where I normally cover two books. I’m trying something different this month by rounding up all my January releases into one big Read It, Skip It post. What could give you a clearer picture of the January releases than that?!

Plus, if you’re thinking about tracking your reading this year, check out my “Rock Your Reading” Tracker! It automatically compiles all your reading stats into pretty Summary Charts and enables you choose better books by helping you track your recommendation sources.

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

Read These

Grist Mill Road by Christopher J YatesGrist Mill Road by Christopher J. Yates
Fiction (Released January 9, 2018)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Publisher: Picador)

Plot Summary: Two and a half decades after Patrick, Hannah, and Matthew were involved in a childhood crime in their hometown of Roseborn, NY, they meet again in New York City and have to grapple with what happened years ago.

My Thoughts: Yates’ debut novel, Black Chalk, was one of my favorite books of 2014 and I had high expectations for his sophomore effort. Though Grist Mill Road wasn’t perfect and I didn’t love it as much as Black Chalk, I couldn’t put it down. It’s the kind of book I could’ve read in one sitting if I had the time. It’s part coming of age story (reminiscent of My Sunshine Away) and part psychological thriller, while managing to remain literary (well…until the overly thriller-y ending). The opening Prologue reveals the big “what” of the story and will take your breath away, but the intensity doesn’t let up as you start to learn the “how” and “why.” I do wish Matthew’s backstory had been introduced earlier in the book and that certain storylines hadn’t been told in letter format. Nevertheless, Grist Mill Road is a solid choice if you like dark, twisty, literary thrillers about extremely complicated friendships (a la If We Were Villains).

That there must have been a thousand and one different ways I could have saved her that day. But what did I do? I did nothing.

Tell Me More by Kelly CorriganTell Me More by Kelly Corrigan
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released January 9, 2018)
256 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Random House)

Plot Summary: Corrigan’s memoir is organized around the “12 hardest things she’s learning to say,” including “No,” “I don’t know,” and “I Was Wrong.”

My Thoughts: I absolutely adored (it’s my favorite 2018 release I’ve read so far!) this memoir that spoke to me in a “yes, that’s exactly how it is” way. She kicks things off with an essay that will touch the conflicted hearts of overtaxed moms everywhere and moves on to cover many big life issues (marriage, motherhood, illness, religion, friendship, grief, and loss) in a relatable and irreverently funny way. And, the second to last essay might even make you cry. Corrigan is a welcome addition to my “women who get women” club (current members include Anna Quindlen, Ann Patchett, and Cheryl Strayed) and I’d highly recommend Tell Me More to anyone who loved Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake or This is the Story of a Happy Marriage.

What Will didn’t point out, because he wanted me to arrive there on my own, was that his brand of acceptance wasn’t grim compromise or gritted-teeth tolerance. He was not suggesting that we roll over, but rather that we keep rolling, onward.

Skip These

The Immortalists by Chloe BenjaminThe Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
Fiction (Released January 9, 2018)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Putnam)

Plot Summary: When a psychic in 1969 NYC tells the four Gold children the dates of their respective deaths, the information drives their choices for the rest of their lives.

My Thoughts: I’m definitely in the minority in not loving this debut novel. It’s getting lots of attention from the bookish media and love from some bloggers I normally agree with (Ann Marie at Lit Wit Wine Dine and Renee at It’s Book Talk). The beginning felt like The Rules of Magic: 1960’s/70’s NYC, a bit of magic, and young siblings trying to slide things by their parents. From that point on, the story is told in sections, one focusing on each of the four Gold children’s lives. These were hit and miss…I was engrossed in some parts (Simon’s and parts of Daniel’s) and kept tuning out during others (Klara’s and Varya’s). I didn’t care much about the sibling in the final section because he/she had been virtually absent for much of the book. That being said, the writing was great, so I would consider reading whatever Chloe Benjamin does next.

For so long, he hated the woman, too. How, he wondered, could she give such a terrible fortune to a child? But now he thinks of her differently, like a second mother or a god, she who showed him the door and said: Go.

Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah VaughanAnatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan
Fiction (Release Date January 23, 2018)
400 Pages
Affiliate Link: Pre-Order from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Atria Books)

Plot Summary: When charismatic politician James is accused of a serious crime, his wife (Sophie) is forced to confront who he might be under his smooth veneer while the prosecutor (Kate) wrestles with her own past.

My Thoughts: Anatomy of a Scandal is a timely book (privilege, abuse of power, scandal, ego) and got a fair amount of pre-publication hype. While I expected the story to be fascinating, the telling of it fell flat. It reads easily, but is predictable and lacks subtlety and nuance in the serious issues it addresses. Every character is a cliche. By the second half, I was skimming just to see what would happen (nothing particularly interesting did).

She feels like laughing. James will be fine because he is the right type, he has done nothing illegal, and he has the prime minister’s patronage. She glances past him to the bookshelves on which Hilary Mantel’s pair of Cromwell novels sit: stories of an era in which a mercurial king’s favour was everything. More than four centuries have passed, and yet, in Tom’s party, there is still a flavor of life at court.

What are some of your favorite January 2018 releases?

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7 Books To Help You Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

January 16, 2018 Book Lists 11

Books to Help You Keep Your New Year's Resolutions

We’re three weeks into the new year and you’ve probably made your New Year’s resolutions. And you’ve probably been pretty good about keeping them…so far. But, we’re heading into the period when people tend to fall off the wagon.

These books will keep you motivated and give you a bit of the science behind some common New Year’s resolutions. Plus, they’re all great on audio.

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

7 Books To Help You Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

If you’re trying to cut down on screen-time…

Bored and Brilliant by Manoush Zomorodi (September 5, 2017)
The host of the Note to Self podcast (which is awesome, by the way!) explores the connection between boredom (aka the opportunity for your mind to wander) and creativity. Hint: it involves unplugging from your phone and social media for periods of time. The science she shares about what excessive smartphone use is doing to our brains is fascinating and scary. And, she includes easy tips to help manage your smartphone use. Bonus: Pair Bored and Brilliant with Ann Patchett’s What Now?, a commencement speech, which covers unplugging a bit more anecdotally.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

If you’re looking to start or keep a new habit…

Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin (March 17, 2015)
In Better Than Before, “happiness guru” Gretchen Rubin teaches you the best way for YOU to start and keep new habits. She accounts for different personality types using her Four Tendencies (Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels) and shares practical, actionable tips for each type of person to establish lasting habits. I found this book more useful and less preachy than The Happiness Project and it was great on audio!

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

If you’re chasing a big-time goal…

Grit by Angela Duckworth (May 3, 2016)
Duckworth uses examples from the military, sports, education, and business to illustrate how perseverance (rather than talent) is the best predictor of success. The primary message seems like common sense, but Duckworth supports it with entertaining real life examples and multiple studies. It reinforced to me that you have far more control over your destiny than you think. And, it’s super applicable to parenting.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

If you’re trying to pick up running (or any other sport) after a period of inactivity…

My Year of Running Dangerously by Tom Foreman (October 6, 2015)
After CNN Correspondent Tom Foreman’s daughter challenges him to train for a marathon with her, he ends up running 3 marathons, 4 half marathons, and an ultra-marathon in one year. This is a story of an impressive running feat (prior to Foreman’s year of races, he hadn’t run since he was much younger) and incredibly motivating for anyone that’s getting into running.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

If you’re a budding entrepreneur…

Originals by Adam M. Grant (February 2, 2016)
This combination economic / social analysis, business how-to guide, and “life lessons” book is a must-read for anyone interested in entrepreneurship and contains tons of Malcolm Gladwell-esque data analysis. In that sense, it’s far more engaging than your average business book. It also has a strangely motivating quality, which left me wanting to try out a new idea for the blog…and having a better understanding of how to go about it. 
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

If you want to understand yourself (and those around you) better…

Reading People by Anne Bogel (September 19, 2017)
This primer on the major personality type frameworks (including Meyers-BriggsEnneagramStrengthsFinder, and the 5 Love Languages) is an approachable place to start if you’re interested in personality types and how to apply personality types to your own life in an actionable way. It doesn’t go deep into any of these types, but it’s a good overview that can help you decide where you might like to go deep. 

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

If you want to prioritize your life…

The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck by Sarah Knight (December 29, 2015)
The subtitle of this book says it all: “How to Stop Spending Time You Don’t Have with People You Don’t Like Doing Things You Don’t Want to Do.” It teaches you, in a witty way, how to de-clutter your life (rather than your house, a la Marie Kondo) and spend more time and energy doing the things that are most important to you. Bonus: pair it with Episode 79 of the Sorta Awesome podcast, entitled The Awesome Freedom of the Don’t Do List.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

What are your 2018 New Year’s resolutions? Do you have any favorite books to help you keep your New Year’s resolutions?

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Pick Better Books with the Rock Your Reading Tracking Spreadsheet

January 11, 2018 Tools to Pick Better Books 11

Rock Your Reading Tracking Spreadsheet


Do you spend way too much time figuring out your reading stats at the end of the year? Have you had trouble finding books that perfectly fit your reading taste?

Finally, there’s a way to track your reading that will help you pick better books for your reading taste and will automatically compile your stats at the end of the year…the Rock Your Reading Tracking Spreadsheet!

The Rock Your Reading Tracking Spreadsheet is ideal for bookworms that read a high volume of books each year and book bloggers.

The Story

Last year, I was disappointed in the big books that publishers hyped and those listed on various Best Books lists by non-blogger media sources.

So, I started thinking about a new system for picking books. Many of my favorite books of 2017 were recommended to me by trusted sources and weren’t on my radar from publishers or those big media sources. I realized the source of the recommendation is just as important, if not more, than the book itself.

Over the last few months, I used this tracker to monitor my recommendation sources and numerically figure out who gives me the best (and worst) ones. I’ve used these sources to pick my books for Winter 2018.

How the Rock Your Reading Tracker Will Help You

For $11.99, you’ll be able to:

  • Track the key elements bookworms like to keep tabs on (books and pages read, genre, format, diversity, etc). They’re built right into the spreadsheet…with Summary Charts that automatically populate as you enter the books you’ve read!
Rock Your Reading Tracking Spreadsheet Summary Charts Rock Your Reading Tracking Spreadsheet Pie Charts Rock Your Reading Tracking Spreadsheet Pie Charts Rock Your Reading Tracking Spreadsheet Recommendation Sources
  • Keep your To Be Read (TBR) list and reading tracker in one place.
  • Track the recommendation sources for books you do not finish (DNF’s) because knowing who gives you bad recommendations is just as important as knowing who gives you great ones!
  • Customize the spreadsheet for your needs. Delete items you don’t care about tracking. Add columns for anything you’d like to track that I haven’t included.

And, possibly the best part…no more tallying up your numbers and manually creating Excel pie charts at the end of the year! It’s all done for you on the Summary Charts tab!

I’m available at sarahsbookshelves@gmail.com to answer any questions before and after your purchase and provide support using the tracker. And, if I make substantial updates and / or improvements in the future, anyone who purchased the original version will be able to purchase the new version at a discount.


Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books:

As someone who doesn’t enjoy mucking around in spreadsheets, but very much loves keeping track of things, Sarah’s Rock Your Reading Tracker, is a dream. Not only does it do all the hard work for me, it allows me to geek out on statistics about my reading. A win-win for book lovers and bloggers.

Susie at Novel Visits:

Sarah helped me with tracking my reading shortly after I started my blog. Her spreadsheet was a life saver and now Sarah’s Rock Your Reading Tracker does even more! Whether you’re a blogger, a bookworm or a more casual reader you’ll love this tool for tracking everything about your books. And, the statistics features? Golden!

Purchase the Rock Your Reading Tracker…

10 New-To-Me Authors I Read in 2017

January 9, 2018 Book Lists 30

New-To-Me Authors I Read in 2017

What reader doesn’t love discovering new authors? Many of the best books I read last year were by authors new to me and I can’t wait to dig into some of their backlists!

This list does NOT include debut authors…since I already honored them in my Best Debuts of 2017 list.

10 New-To-Me Authors I Read in 2017

John Boyne (The Heart’s Invisible Furies, My Review)
My hands down #1 book of the year! And, now I’d like to read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

Kelly Corrigan (Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say)
This book is actually coming out today! But, I read it in 2017 and now I’d like to read Glitter and Glue.

Laurie Frankel (This Is How It Always Is, My Review)
Another one of my Best Books of 2017. I’ve never heard of any of her previous novels, but I’d love for someone to vet them for me!

David Grann (Killers of the Flower Moon, My Review)
Grann’s investigative story about the Osage indian tribe won all kinds of awards last year. And, I’ve been hearing great things about his previous book, The Lost City of Z, so now I’d like to read that.

Katherine Heiny (Standard Deviation, My Review)
Standard Deviation was one of my Best Debuts of 2017 (it’s her debut novel), but Heiny had previously published a short story collection (Single, Carefree, Mellow) that I now want to read.

Dennis Lehane (Since We Fell, My Review
If you’re a regular reader, you know how skittish I am about thrillers. The ones that usually work for me are always “the different kind of thrillers,” and that’s what Since We Fell is. The first part reads like an exploration of a marriage and the second half feels more like a traditional thriller.

Jardine Libaire (White Fur, My Review)
White Fur definitely isn’t for everyone, but it may have been the most gorgeous writing (and hottest love story!) I’ve read all year. I hadn’t heard of any of her previous books, but I’m now itching to check them out.

Taylor Jenkins Reid (The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, My Review)
It took a LOT of people raving about this one to get me to pick it up and I’m so glad I did. Yet another favorite of 2017 and I’m hesitantly considering trying something from her backlist. I only say hesitantly because I hear this book is a departure from her previous work.

Gretchen Rubin (The Happiness Project, Better Than Before)
I listened to both these books on audio and, going a bit contrarian here, but I liked Better Than Before better than The Happiness Project (she’s a little less grating and more practical). Now, I want to listen to The Four Tendencies.

Graham Swift (Mothering Sunday, My Review)
This tiny, unique book completely surprised me. And, Swift has an extensive backlist!

What new-to-you authors did you read last year?

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

January 8, 2018 It's Monday! What are you reading? 29

Look at this…I’m out of my hole! I haven’t written a Monday update in a couple weeks because of various holidays, so lots to cover today. This past week was supposed to get back to normal, but like much of the country, school was canceled for a couple days and it still feels like we’re on holiday break. 

While I wasn’t posting Monday updates, I did share:

Finally, my Rock Your Reading Tracker will be available for purchase on Thursday! If you want to avoid compiling end of year reading stats in 2018, this is your ticket!

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…

Virgin Suicides, Anatomy of a Scandal, Heating and Cooling
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides (April, 1993)
I had to read this after Annie Spence raved about it in Dear Fahrenheit 451 (which you should also read)! It’s gorgeously written, nostalgic, and wistful. And, Eugenides created simmering tension that had me almost as obsessed with the Lisbon sisters as the neighborhood boys were. PS – the first and last lines are among the best ones I’ve ever read.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan (January 23, 2018)
An easy read that I didn’t mind in the beginning, but that I was kind of hate-reading by the end. Mini review coming.

Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs by Beth Ann Fennelly (October 10, 2017)
This memoir told in an unique format came recommended by Annie Jones at From the Front Porch podcast (one of my Go-To Recommendation Sources) and was clever, witty, and delightfully random. I read it in under two hours if you’re looking for a super short one!

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Books I Read While on my December Monday Update Hiatus

I’m currently reading…

Wife Between Us

The Wife Between Us
 by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen (January 9, 2018)

I’m only 15% through this psychological thriller (yet another with “wife” in the title), but I’m not turned off yet (which is rare for a psychological thriller for me!) and hope that continues!
Affiliate Link: Pre-Order from Amazon

Upcoming reading plans…

I’m hoping to fit in a library hold or two before starting on my February releases…

Turtles All the Way Down

Turtles All the Way Down
by John Green (October 10, 2017)

I haven’t read John Green since The Fault in Our Stars, but I’ve heard his latest is particularly poignant and well-done. I suspended by library hold until January 8, so I’m hoping I get my hands on it this week!

was reading…

One Year Ago: I’d finished reading Chris Bohjalian’s 2017 January thriller (which has sort of become an annual thing).

Two Years Ago: I was reading one of my favorite books of 2016 by an author I’m hoping will release a sophomore novel this year!

How was your reading week?

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My 2017 Reading and Blogging Stats

January 4, 2018 Stats 19

2017 Reading Stats

Happy New Year, everyone! Your brains are probably on overload getting back into the swing of things at work. But, I’m still going to throw some more stats at you…at least these are fun ones (for bookworms)!

I gotta tell ya, it was a pain to manually compile all these stats. I keep track of the raw data throughout the year, but I didn’t total everything up until the bitter end. That makes for a lot of work come December 31.

BUT, next year will be so much easier because I’ll be using my “Rock Your Reading” Tracker, which automatically tallies all your stats for you (and even sticks them into pretty pie charts) throughout the year. You can see how you’re doing with your stats as the year progresses and have all the totals (and Summary Charts) at your fingertips come year-end. The Tracker will be available for purchase next week, so you too can avoid all the end of year tallying! 

Reading Stats

I blew through my goal of 100 books with a final 2017 count of 114 books. Thirteen were 5 stars compared to eight last year. This is surprising because I felt like this year’s reading was dismal compared to last year’s. Maybe I feel that way because many of this year’s hyped books failed for me. I also continue to be drawn to lighter books that I can read amidst chaos (at playgrounds, sports practices, with kids running and screaming around me, etc).

% Successful Books:
I personally view a “successful” book as a 3.5 rating or higher. 43% (65 of 152 books attempted, which includes DNFs) of my 2017 books were “successful.” UGH – this is too low! I hope to break 50% next year.

Next year I’ll be using my “Rock Your Reading Tracker” (available for purchase next week!), which will automatically calculate this for me throughout the year! 

I read slightly less literary and historical fiction this year and more general nonfiction (thank you, audiobooks!) and mysteries / thrillers. I think I’m getting over my mystery / thriller burnout (loving Emma in the Night probably helped with that).

I listened to 30 audiobooks this year, 26% of my overall reading. This is up from 15% last year and was integral in achieving my 2017 Goodreads goal of 100 books.

I read 32 backlist books (28% of my reading) this year compared to 21 last year. Another area where audiobooks really helped me.

Publishers / Imprints:

Longest Book Read: The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne (592 pages)…also my favorite book of the year! I’m still shying away from long books. They have to be outstanding to be worth it for me…luckily, The Heart’s Invisible Furies was.

Shortest Book Read: A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen (64 pages)

Diversity Stats

I don’t set particular diversity goals, but I am interested in seeing where my reading naturally falls…

73% of my 2017 reading was by female authors (up from 66% last year) and 70% of my Best Books of 2017 were by female authors.

15% of my 2017 reading was by POC authors, compared to 14% last year. 

Blog Traffic Stats

This year, I focused on continuing to build my Pinterest presence (it’s my #1 social media traffic source), growing my email subscriber list, and spending more time on Instagram. Not surprisingly, this focus is reflected in my social media and blog traffic numbers.

I didn’t really start paying attention to Instagram until November and am still somewhat ambivalent about it. It takes a lot of time, doesn’t directly drive a lot of traffic to my blog, and it’s now harder than ever to build a following because of the new algorithm. But, I do think it helps get my blog name out there in the #bookstagram community and I am gaining followers, so I’ll keep putting some effort into it for now.

Overall Traffic Source Comparison:

Top 5 Sources 2016
% Traffic
% Traffic
Google Organic Search 49% 43%
Pinterest 17% 21%
Direct 16% 12%
MadMimi Email 1% 5%
Facebook Mobile 3% 2%

Social Media Network Traffic Source Comparison:

Top Networks 2015 
% Traffic
% Traffic
% Traffic
Pinterest 11% 69% 79%
Facebook 36% 17% 10%
Twitter 27%  8%  7%
Blogger 19%  4%  2%
WordPress   1% 1%

Social Media Growth Over 2016:

Network % Increase in Followers % Increase in Traffic
Twitter  22%  65%
Facebook  29%  16%
Pinterest  128%  102%
Email Subscribers  187%  711%
Bloglovin’  51%  43%
Instagram  80%  82%

Blog Stats

Key Takeaways

  • For the second year in a row, “Sticky content” (i.e. recommendation lists like Book Club Recommendations and Page Turner Books) performed well via Google Search and Pinterest. These pages reside in my main menu and are constantly updated with new books.
  • Lists like “Best Books of the Year, Summer Reading Guide, and my quarterly Most Anticipated Books posts continue to perform well and aren’t going anywhere.
  • My best performing book reviews were mostly Spoiler Discussions. This is illuminating for me because I don’t write many of them. I’ll look for more opportunities for Spoiler Discussions in 2018.

Pageviews / Unique Visitors

  • Pageviews increased 70% over 2016.
  • Unique Visitors increased 57% over 2016.
  • My best months (by pageviews) were February, November, October (in that order). I had a post go viral on Pinterest in February and the Fall months are generally high traffic times for me.

Best Performing Posts/Pages of 2017

Best Performing Book Reviews of 2017 (all mostly Google search)

Most Discussed Posts (determined by number of comments in 2017)

My Personal Favorites

What interesting things did you learn from your reading and blogging stats? Who were your most successful recommendation sources?

Eight 2017 Books I Missed

January 2, 2018 Book Lists 34

2017 Books I Missed

There’s never enough time to get to all the books you mean to in a year…especially after adding even more books from various Best Books of 2017 lists to my TBR! But, y’all know my 2017 wasn’t the best reading year. I normally have trouble narrowing this list to just ten books, but this year I was hard pressed to come up with eight. 

The good news is that I actually managed to read 6 (60%) books from last year’s 2016 Books I Missed list! I’m hoping I’ll be able to do the same this year.

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

Eight 2017 Books I Missed

American Radical by Tamer Elnoury (October 23, 2017)
This memoir from an undercover, Muslin American FBI agent fighting terror comes highly recommended by Renee at It’s Book Talk. She called it “the most fascinating book she’s read in a long time” and said it “reads like a page-turning novel.” I’ve always been fascinated by the FBI and anything undercover, so I’m definitely looking forward to this one even if I don’t get to it until Nonfiction November 2018!

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Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge (April 4, 2017)
This plane crash / survival page turner got almost no press last year, but a couple of my Go-To Bloggers (Renee at It’s Book Talk and Susie at Novel Visits) raved about it. I’m planning to read it as a potential for my 2018 Summer Reading Guide.

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Eveningland: Stories by Michael Knight (March 7, 2017)
This collection of short stories set in Mobile, Alabama right before a major hurricane comes recommended from Rebecca Schinsky on Book Riot’s All the Books podcast and from Kelly at the Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, VA.

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Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips (July 25, 2017)
Liberty Hardy called this page turner about a mother and son caught in a zoo during while a tragedy unfolds “the most stressful book she’d ever read.” It was also an August Book of the Month selection, which is one of my Go-To Bookish Media Sources. Another book I’m hoping will be a potential for my 2018 Summer Reading Guide.

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Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs by Beth Ann Fennelly (October 10, 2017)
I actually sampled this series of “micro-memoirs” (some are just a few sentences long) when it came highly recommended from Annie Jones of From the Front Porch podcast (one of my Go-To Bookish Media Sources), but the book is so short, there wasn’t actually anything to sample other than the intro pages. It jumped back on my radar when I saw it on Leigh Kramer’s Best Nonfiction of 2017 list.

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Nomadland by Jessica Bruder (September 19, 2017)
Susie at Novel Visits said this investigative story into a growing population of people that can’t retire, so they roam the country living out of RVs and working various jobs was surprising and fascinating. Since then, Tara at Running N Reading and Joann at Lakeside Musing have said good things about it. I’m hoping to read it during Nonfiction November 2018 if not before.

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The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson (July 11, 2017)
It’s been awhile since I read Joshilyn Jackson (Someone Else’s Love Story), but her latest comes highly recommended from Modern Mrs. Darcy and I’ve been hearing great things about it from tons of others as well. I’m finally nearing the top of the library hold list, so will hopefully read it soon!

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The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers (January 10, 2017)
Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books told me I should read this Civil War-era story about a young mother who murders her own child while her husband is away at war back when it came out, but I’m skittish about historical fiction, so I never got around to it. I also don’t think I really understood the premise, which does sound enticing to me. Then, I recently heard it discussed on The Readerly Report Podcast, which put it back on my radar (and alerted me to its short length!), and I now have it on hold at the library.

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What 2017 books did you miss? And, which ones do you realistically think you’ll get around to reading?

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

January 1, 2018 Book Recommendations 26

Book of the Month January 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).

The January picks include a number of judges departing from their usual types of selections. We have a massively hyped psychological thriller, a police procedural, a feel-good love story, a historical fiction set during the Spanish Flu epidemic, and yet another The Handmaid’s Tale copycat. I can’t say I’m super psyched about these selections.

Fantastic news…the Book of the Month “Book of the Year” is The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne (my review)! I adored this book and was sorry to see the traditional media virtually ignore it in their Best Books of 2017 lists, so I couldn’t be more excited to see it top this list!

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 (below) to help you find your go-to BOTM judge!

I’ve added in the most recent judge’s selections, so download the new version even if you grabbed it last month!

Book of the Month January 2018 Selections

The Woman in the WindowWoman in the Window by A.J. Finn by A.J. Finn (Release Date: January 2, 2018)
448 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.12 on 898 ratings
Selected By: Elizabeth Sile (Senior Editor – Books Coverage, Real Simple Magazine)

What did she see?

It’s been ten long months since Anna Fox last left her home. […]

Anna’s lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits day after day, watching her neighbours. When the Russells move in, Anna is instantly drawn to them. […]

But one evening, a frenzied scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something no one was supposed to see. Now she must do everything she can to uncover the truth about what really happened. But even if she does, will anyone believe her? And can she even trust herself?

My Thoughts:
The Woman in the Window is a massively hyped debut psychological thriller with a plot that sounds very similar to The Girl on the Train. The publisher is marketing it as great for readers of Gillian Flynn and Tana French and as appealing to readers of genre thrillers and literary fiction. The movie is already in development and it’s been blurbed by big name suspense writers Stephen King (who I don’t trust after Final Girls), Gillian Flynn, Louise Penny, Ruth Ware, and Joe Hill. Library Journal (which almost made my Top 5 Go-To Bookish News Sources) also said it “lived up to the hype” and was a “mature first novel that stands out in a crowded genre.” Goodreads readers said it was good suspense once it got going, but that it had a slow start and some plot holes. Susie at Novel Visits (a blogger I trust) said it was a bit gimmicky and just “so-so.”

The Judge:
Elizabeth Siles is a new “Judge Emeritas,” so does not have a Book of the Month track record. 

Two Girls Down by Louisa LunaTwo Girls Down by Louisa Luna (Release Date: January 9, 2018)
320 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.1 on 202 ratings
Selected By: Nina Sankovitch (Bestselling Author)

When two young sisters disappear from a strip mall parking lot in a small Pennsylvania town, their devastated mother hires an enigmatic bounty hunter, Alice Vega, to help find the girls. Immediately shut out by a local police department already stretched thin by budget cuts and the growing OxyContin and meth epidemic, Vega enlists the help of a disgraced former cop, Max Caplan. […]

With little to go on, Vega and Cap will go to extraordinary lengths to untangle a dangerous web of lies, false leads, and complex relationships to find the girls before time runs out, and they are gone forever.

My Thoughts:
Two Girls Down is a police procedural and it sounds like genre mystery to me. It’s been blurbed by Lee Child and Michael Koryta, two big name genre mystery authors. Goodreads readers said it was a suspenseful whodunnit, fast-paced, and unputdownable, but that the plot was convoluted and overly confusing. There were also a couple mentions of undefined trigger warnings. Update: Review from Novel Gossip.

The Judge:
Nina Sankovitch chooses mostly literary and historical fiction and has chosen a number of books I’d never heard of. This pick seems to be a departure for her.

Music Shop by Rachel JoyceThe Music Shop by Rachel Joyce (Release Date: January 2, 2018)
320 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.99 on 1,149 ratings
Selected By: Kim Hubbard (Books Editor for People Magazine)

It is 1988. On a dead-end street in a run-down suburb there is a music shop that stands small and brightly lit, jam-packed with records of every kind. Like a beacon, the shop attracts the lonely, the sleepless, and the adrift; Frank, the shop’s owner, has a way of connecting his customers with just the piece of music they need. Then, one day, into his shop comes a beautiful young woman, Ilse Brauchmann, who asks Frank to teach her about music. […] But Ilse is not what she seems, and Frank has old wounds that threaten to reopen, as well as a past it seems he will never leave behind. […] The journey that these two quirky, wonderful characters make in order to overcome their emotional baggage speaks to the healing power of music–and love–in this poignant, ultimately joyful work of fiction. 

My Thoughts:
Joyce is known for charming, contemporary fiction and the plot of this one sounds like The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry with music instead of books. Eva at Paperback Princess (a blogger I trust) really enjoyed it despite not expecting to and thought it was “kind of a perfect book to combat all the garbage in the world.” Goodreads readers said it was an unconventional love story, a feel-good book, nostalgic, and delightful, but a couple readers who loved her Harold Frye series said it was boring.

The Judge:
Kim Hubbard is my #1 Go-To Judge, so I trust her opinion. Kim’s picks have been eclectic in the past, but The Music Shop sounds more “feel-good” than her past fiction choices.

As Bright As Heaven by Susan MeissnerAs Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner (Release Date: February 6, 2018)
400 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.39 on 158 ratings
Selected By: Stacey Armand (“You Be the Judge” Contest Winner)

In 1918, Philadelphia was a city teeming with promise. Even as its young men went off to fight in the Great War, there were opportunities for a fresh start on its cobblestone streets. Into this bustling town, came Pauline Bright and her husband, filled with hope that they could now give their three daughters—Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa—a chance at a better life.

But just months after they arrive, the Spanish Flu reaches the shores of America. […] But even as they lose loved ones, they take in a baby orphaned by the disease who becomes their single source of hope. Amidst the tragedy and challenges, they learn what they cannot live without—and what they are willing to do about it.

My Thoughts:
As Bright as Heaven is historical fiction set during the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic. Its Goodreads reviews are outstanding…I had to dig deep to find anything negative at all. Goodreads readers said the story is well researched and told from multiple perspectives; it’s heartfelt and gorgeously written. People seemed to like the characters and said readers might need tissues. The one negative comment I found was that it was a bit predictable.

The Judge:
Stacey Armand has picked a thriller and a Young Adult (YA) in the past, so this choice is a departure for her. I haven’t read any of her past choices.

Red Clocks by Lena ZumasRed Clocks by Leni Zumas (Release Date: January 16, 2018)
368 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.17 on 99 ratings
Selected By: Cristina Arreola (Bustle Books Editor)

Five women. One question. What is a woman for?

In this ferociously imaginative novel, abortion is once again illegal in America, in-vitro fertilization is banned, and the Personhood Amendment grants rights of life, liberty, and property to every embryo. In a small Oregon fishing town, five very different women navigate these new barriers alongside age-old questions surrounding motherhood, identity, and freedom.

My Thoughts:
Along with Gather the Daughters, The Power, and Future Home of the Living God, Red Clocks is yet another The Handmaid’s Tale copycat (i.e. feminist dystopian). Susie at Novel Visits (a blogger I trust) DNF’d it around the halfway mark with the caveat that she wasn’t fully able to focus on it. As far as where it falls among The Handmaid’s Tale copycats, she said she was liking it better than Future Home of the Living God, but not as much as The Power or Gather the Daughters. Goodreads readers said it was important, tackled big issues, and had beautiful writing, but was slow, hard to get into, and lacked emotional pull. Some readers did say it was worth it in the end if you could make it through the slow beginning.

The Judge:
Cristina Arreola has selected thrillers in the past, so this is a departure for her. She’s not one of my Go-To Judges.

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

For the second month in a row, I’m going to skip.

Despite my #1 Go-To Judge (Kim Hubbard) making an appearance this month, the book she selected just does not sound like something that would appeal to me.

If I was a historical fiction fan, I’d choose As Bright As Heaven since the Goodreads reviews are so outstanding.

Make your Book of the Month Club selections by Saturday, January 6th.

What book will you choose this month?

This Month’s Special Deals

In addition to the five January 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 1 month free! Use code MYBOTM.

NEW 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
Free shipping, always

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The Best Audiobooks I Listened To In 2017

December 28, 2017 Annual "Best Books" Lists 10

Best Audiobooks I Listened to in 2017

Audiobooks are a relatively new, but welcome, addition to my reading life. It took me awhile to get into a good grove with them. I had to figure out what type of books worked best for me (lighter nonfiction) and the right times to listen (not while I’m exercising), but I’m now confident enough with my strategy to put together a Best Audiobooks I Listened to in 2017 list.

Even though I’ve been in a good listening groove for about a year and a half, you don’t hear much about audiobooks on the blog because I find it hard to review them (taking notes and marking favorite passages is inconvenient with audio!) and the pressure of knowing I’m going to write about them decreases my listening pleasure. But, I’ve been getting more and more requests for audiobook recommendations, so I’m going to try to be better about sharing my favorites here in 2018…most likely in round-up or extremely mini review format.

Audiobooks are also where I knock out lots of backlist books, so unlike my other Best Books of 2017 lists, this one includes books that were published before 2017.

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

The Best Audiobooks I Listened To In 2017

A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold
Columbine shooter Dylan Klebold’s mother (Sue) shares her struggle following the shooting and Dylan’s suicide in this poignant memoir. I was initially skeptical of this one (would she just try to excuse her son’s actions?) and, while she did search for a “why?”, there was much more to this extremely complex story.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Born A Crime by Trevor Noah
The Daily Show host Trevor Noah’s memoir about growing up as a mixed race child in apartheid South Africa is technically a celebrity memoir, but it’s actually not that at all. It is a heartfelt, funny, sad, and warm story about growing up as an outcast in an incredibly oppressive place.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Daring to Drive by Manal al-Sharif
al-Sharif started the campaign for women to drive in Saudi Arabia and this book is the story of her life as well as a stark portrayal of the oppression women face in Saudi Arabia. This is one eye-opening, heart-breaking read and is perfect for anyone who loved The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg (my review).

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Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
My Mom gave me this book when I was pregnant with my first child seven years ago and it didn’t make much of an impact on me. But, Will Schwalbe made me want to try it again in his Books for Living. The second time, it spoke directly to my core…maybe because I had seven years of motherhood under my belt by then.

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Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen
Listening to Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake was like seeing a therapist and falls into the same category as Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things. Quindlen has such a grounded, practical outlook on life that really puts things in perspective and this book could have made my overall Best Books of 2017 list had it been published this year! 

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My Year of Running Dangerously by Tom Foreman
After CNN Correspondent Tom Foreman’s daughter challenges him to train for a marathon with her, he ends up running 3 marathons, 4 half marathons, and an ultra-marathon in one year. Not only is this memoir about an impressive running feat, but it’s a sweet story of a father and daughter connecting over a shared hobby. 

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The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel
The true story about Christopher Knight, the man who lived alone in the Maine forest for 27 years before finally being arrested for stealing food and essentials from nearby vacation homes, is strange, but completely captivating. It’s like a mash-up between a wilderness story and a study of the introverted personality trait and came extremely close to making my overall Best Books of 2017 list

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What I Talk about When I Talk about Running by Haruki Murakami
This memoir is about running. But, it’s also about writing and the two are inextricably linked for Murakami.

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What Made Maddy Run by Kate Fagan
This heart-breaking story of a seemingly perfect (if you looked at her Instagram account) teenager who commits suicide during her freshman year on the Penn State track team is a must-read for parents of young athletes. 

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? by Alyssa Mastromonaco
This behind-the-scenes memoir by President Obama’s former Deputy Chief of Staff is technically a political memoir, but it really doesn’t include any politics. It’s more a juicy, behind-the-scenes look at working in the White House and on Obama’s campaign trail sprinkled with tips on making the most of your career…all told through the voice of someone you’d love to grab a glass of wine with! 

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What are your favorite audiobooks of 2017?

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