Tag: Book Lists

2018 Summer Reading List

May 17, 2018 Book Lists 39

2018 Summer Reading List

 

Summer reading means something a bit different to everyone. Some of you like to put their brains completely on vacation with fun, easy reads. Some of you like an action-packed page turner. Some of you want something with a bit more substance. And some of you might like to head off the beaten path.

Personally, I like books you can fly through, books you don’t have to work too hard on, and books you can get easily immersed in. I avoid books that demand to be read in perfect peace and quiet (last time I checked, the beach and pool generally have screaming kids around!).

I’ve read every book that appears on this list and, as always, will continue to add new selections throughout the summer. And, stay tuned for My Most Anticipated Books of Summer 2018 (i.e. books that will be published later this summer, many of which I haven’t read yet) on Thursday, May 24.

The Summer Reading Guide has a couple new elements this year:

  • Printable Cheatsheet – the Summer Reading Guide in quick recommendations in PDF format for easy printing (great for taking to the bookstore or library!). Download for free below!
  • #1 Picks for Each Category – I highlighted my very favorite book in each category in the Guide (Something Fun, Something Intense / Fast-Paced, Something With A Bit More Substance, and Something Different). Stay tuned because these picks could change as I add more books to the list throughout the summer!

IT’S COME TO MY ATTENTION THAT THE CHEATSHEET IS PRINTING OUT BLURRY.

WHEN YOU SIGN UP BELOW, BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR AN EMAIL FROM SARAHSBOOKSHELVES@GMAIL.COM WITH A NON-BLURRY VERSION OF THE CHEATSHEET!

Previous Summer Reading Lists: 2013201420152016, 2017

This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link), through which I make a small commission when you make a purchase (at no cost to you!).

2018 Summer Reading List

Something Fun

My #1 Pick

Woman Last Seen in Her ThirtiesWoman Last Seen in Her Thirties by Camille Pagan
Fiction – Brain Candy (Released February 27, 2018)
254 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When when 50-something year old Maggie’s husband abruptly leaves her, she is forced to rediscover her identity and rebuild her life.

My Thoughts: Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties is an easy and fun, but not silly read with small threads of darkness running underneath. There’s salty humor and real talk about aging, marriage, divorce, finding your identity, and piecing your life back together after an upheaval. I absolutely related to Maggie’s realization that she had lost her identity after having children and her struggle to regain it again. Pagan reminds me of a lighter, more sarcastic version of Anna Quindlen and I recommend this one particularly to the mothers out there.

Alternative Remedies for LossAlternative Remedies for Loss by Joanna Cantor
Fiction – Brain Candy (Released May 8, 2018)
320 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When Olivia’s Dad brings his new girlfriend on a family trip to India only months after her Mom’s death from cancer, Olivia has to figure out how to navigate her grief and get her life back on track.

My Thoughts: I bet you wouldn’t expect a novel about grief to be a light, easy read, but Alternative Remedies for Loss is both those things! I flew through it in just a few days at the beach…and it was an excellent beach read despite the focus on grief. Beyond Olivia’s grief, Alternative Remedies for Loss is a story about a family trying to figure out their new normal after the loss of their mother and a daughter trying to get to know who her mother was as a person, beyond her role as mother and wife. Full review.

Bachelor NationBachelor Nation by Amy Kaufman
Nonfiction (Released March 6, 2018)
320 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Kaufman, a L.A. Times reporter who covered The Bachelor franchise until ABC shut down her access because they weren’t pleased with what she was writing about the show, exposes the inner workings of The Bachelor franchise.

My Thoughts: In Bachelor NationKaufman investigates The Bachelor‘s cultural place in America, how producers get contestants to give them good TV, how and why contestants think they fall in love over such a short period of time, and what happens to the couples after the show ends. Beware if you want to preserve the fairytale because you’ll for sure be watching the show differently after reading it. Full Review.

Dear Fahrenheit 451Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released September 26, 2017)
256 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Spence, a public librarian, shares her “love letters and break-up notes” to her favorite books, as well as musings and rants about various aspects of her reading life…plus, a whole section of book recommendation lists.

My Thoughts: Dear Fahrenheit 451 is the anti-My Life with Bob (which was a similar book, but got too esoteric and intellectually snobby for my taste)! You’ve probably heard of most of the books she discusses and even read a few…and there’s no intellectual snobbery here. Spence is relatable, funny, and often snarky. The chapters are short and it will explode your TBR list…consider yourself warned. Big-time bookworms with a sense of humor, this one’s for you!

How To Walk Away How to Walk Away by Katherine Center
Fiction – Brain Candy (Released May 15, 2018)
320 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: After Margaret is in a tragic accident the night she gets engaged, she must figure out how to move forward and who she is post-accident.

My Thoughts: How to Walk Away is another book about a very serious topic that’s handled in a light-hearted way…and it reads like brain candy. How to Walk Away reminded me of a less ugly-cry spin on Me Before You. There’s a number of likable characters that I was rooting hard for, some romance, some humor, family drama, and a hopeful, inspirational tone. The ending is utterly ridiculous, but I would have been furious had it ended any other way (a sign of a true rom-com?). Full review.

Look Alive Out ThereLook Alive Out There: Essays by Sloane Crosley
Nonfiction – Essays (Released April 3, 2018)
256 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: A collection of essays about Crosley’s mostly New York City life, with her “trademark hilarity, wit, and charm.”

My Thoughts: I generally have trouble with essay collections billed as humorous. Humor is hard. I often feel like the author is trying too hard with the jokes. But, Crosley’s humor is more subtle…the kind that has me chuckling rather than LOLing (a promise of so many of these types of essay collections), which is much more up my alley. Look Alive Out There is light and fun, but also smart and sharp. Crosley captures the ridiculousness and weirdness and occasional hilariousness of living in New York City and doesn’t hold back with the social commentary. Full Review.

The Heirs by Susan RiegerThe Heirs by Susan Rieger
Fiction – Brain Candy (Released May 23, 2017)
254 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When Rupert Falkes passes away from cancer, the rest of his wealthy Manhattan family (his wife and five sons) struggles with their identity amid accusations that he fathered two children out of wedlock.

My Thoughts: Don’t make the same mistake I did by assuming The Heirs is another version of The Nest! It’s not “wealthy people behaving badly”…it is the story of one wealthy Manhattan family, their relationships with each other, and their own internal struggles. The writing about NYC society reminded me of Jay McInerney (a little pretentious with lots of needlessly big words), but the story reminded me of early Beatriz Williams (i.e. A Hundred Summers). If you read Rieger’s debut (The Divorce Papers), this one is very different.

Something Intense / Fast-Paced

My #1 Pick

Social CreatureSocial Creature by Tara Isabella Burton
Fiction – Literary (Released June 5, 2018)
320 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When Louise, a nobody trying to make it in NYC, meets Lavinia, an outrageous party girl/socialite, they embark on an intense friendship during which Lavinia ends up dead (this is not a spoiler…it’s revealed almost immediately and in the publishers’ blurb!).

My Thoughts: Social Creature is completely ridiculous and messed up, but also addictive and intriguing. This book made me say “holy sh*t” multiple times. This is one demented story and maybe the most messed up book I’ve read since The Roanoke Girls. If you like dark and twisted, Social Creature is for you (but try to go in as blind as possible)! But, fair warning, this book is not for everyone. PS – stick it out to around the halfway point, things really take off from there.

Grist Mill RoadGrist Mill Road by Christopher J. Yates
Fiction – Mystery / Thriller (Released January 9, 2018)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

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 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). Grist Mill Road is a solid choice if you like dark, twisty, literary thrillers about extremely complicated friendships (a la If We Were Villains). Full Review.

Sunburn by Laura LippmanSunburn by Laura Lippman
Fiction – Mystery / Thriller (Release Date: February 20, 2018)
384 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When Polly and Adam meet at a bar in tiny Belleville, Delaware in the 1990’s each is merely passing through. As they become more enamored with each other, they discover both are keeping secrets.

My Thoughts: Recommended by Annie Jones from From the Front Porch podcast (one of my Go-To Recommendation Sourcesand Megan Abbott (one of my few trusted thriller authors), Sunburn is an unconventional love story where essentially everyone is messing with everyone else. There’s not a single character who is 100% likable or trustworthy (take note if dislikable characters bother you!). Sunburn kept me quickly turning the pages even while sick with the flu! Full Review.

Tangerine by Christine ManganTangerine by Christine Mangan
Fiction – Literary (Released March 20, 2018)
320 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Alice Shipley can’t figure out whether to be relieved or unsettled when her college roommate (Lucy Mason), who she hasn’t spoken to in over a year after a deeply disturbing incident, shows up on her doorstep in Tangier, Morocco, where she’s living with her new husband (John).

My Thoughts: Told in dual perspectives, Mangan’s debut novel is the story of a fraught, obsessive friendship and all the wreckage it leaves behindTangerine is a very specific type of book that I generally adore (and I did in this case!), but that probably isn’t for everyone. It’s kind of a page turner, but not in the traditional sense. It’s taut with emotional and psychological tension and reminded me of Tender (my review), Sunburn (my review), and Based on a True Story (Spoiler Discussion). And, the Moroccan setting makes the story even more enigmatic. P.S. – Don’t be fooled by this cover because Tangerine does not read like historical fiction at all despite the 1950’s time period. Full Review.

The Wife by Alafair BurkeThe Wife by Alafair Burke
Fiction – Mystery / Thriller (Released January 23, 2018)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: After Angela is plucked out of the Hamptons by her marriage to NYU professor and media personality Jason Powell, two women accuse Jason of misconduct and Angela has to figure out how to protect the most important thing in her life.

My Thoughts: The Wife is part domestic thriller / part legal thriller and is the first domestic thriller I haven’t DNF’d in ages! I read it in a day and a half at the beach and it’s absolutely perfect for that setting. The ending was mostly surprising, yet not outlandish, which is a must for me to like a thriller. I recommend skipping the Prologue, as I thought it gave away too much. Bonus: it deals with a timely topic.

Unraveling OliverUnraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent
Fiction – Mystery / Thriller (Released August 22, 2017)
272 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When successful children’s book author Oliver Ryan beats his wife into a coma, their friends and acquaintances try to piece together how he could have done it.

My Thoughts: After reading the first line of Unraveling Oliver (“I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her.”), you think you know what you’re getting. You think you’re getting a thriller. You think you know Oliver. You think you’ll unequivocally hate Oliver. But, you don’t know anything. I promise, you’ll be surprised. It’s a story told from different perspectives, a character study that peels back many layers, and all the pieces came together like a symphony.

Something With A Bit More Substance

My #1 Pick

An American Marriage by Tayari JonesAn American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Fiction – Literary (Released February 6, 2018)
320 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

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.

My Thoughts: An American Marriage is an intimately written novel that tackles a number of weighty current issues in an organic way…and is one of my favorite novels of 2018 so far! It’s about so many things (marriage, race, class, incarceration, love, friendship, family, grief, fidelity, recovery), but not overwhelmingly about any one of them (kind of like The Mothers). Jones handles them in a way that doesn’t make the book feel overwhelmingly like “an issue book.” And, the last quarter of the book is absolutely riveting. Full Review.

All the Castles BurnedAll the Castles Burned by Michael Nye
Fiction – Literary (Released February 13, 2018)
384 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Owen Webb, a scholarship student at the prestigious Rockcastle School (a private day school for boys) embarks on an obsessive, dangerous friendship with Carson Bly, the son of a wealthy and absent father.

My Thoughts: All the Castles Burned is a classic coming of age story with some dysfunctional family drama, some “outsider enters the realm of the wealthy” dynamics, a foreboding friendship, a father/son angle, a touch of romance, and basketball. You can feel the tension simmering and you know things will explode at some point. I’d recommend this one for fans of Shadow of the Lions (my review) and Unraveling Oliver…and campus novels in general! Full Review.

Educated Tara WestoverEducated by Tara Westover
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released February 20, 2018)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Westover tells her story of growing up in a survivalist Mormon family who didn’t believe in public education and her journey to break the mold by getting her PhD at Cambridge University.

My Thoughts: Imagine if you had to choose between getting an education (both the traditional kind and an education about life in general) and having a relationship with your family. That’s what happened to Tara Westover. Tara’s father insisted the whole family live “off the grid”…with no interaction with the government or modern medicine. There are many parts that are hard to read…and that I’d have found totally unbelievable had this been fiction. If you liked The Glass CastleHillbilly Elegy (my review), and/or Under the Banner of Heaven (my reviewEducated should be next on your list! Full Review.

Female PersuasionThe Female Persuasionby Meg Wolitzer
Fiction – Literary (Released April 3, 2018)
464 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Greer is a shy college student still in love with her high school boyfriend when she meets Faith Frank, an icon of the women’s movement, who changes the trajectory of Greer’s life.

My Thoughts: Meg Wolitzer is one of my very favorite authors, so I’m not entirely surprised that The Female Persuasion is one of my few 5 star books of this year! The Female Persuasion is ultimately a story in which the characters are the stars: Greer, her boyfriend (Cory), her best friend (Zee), and Faith Frank. I was completely enmeshed in these people’s lives and the issues (gender, feminism) this book addresses fit organically around the characters’ stories without overwhelming them (like An American Marriage and The Mothers). Don’t be scared of the 464 pages…I flew through this one in just a few days! Full Review.

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

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

My Thoughts: In Visible Empire, Pittard uses the true story of the Orly plane crash as the big event that ties lots of disparate people and perspectives together (and the opening chapters recounting the crash are riveting) to create a portrait of Atlanta in the 1960’s. Pittard gives us a sort of gossipy take on the impact of the crash on Atlanta’s elite and those who come in contact with them. I felt like this would be the book that Dominick Dunne (former Vanity Fair columnist and author of “fictional” novels about real life crimes involving the wealthy) would have written about the crash…and it reminded me of a less epic A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe (R.I.P.).

Something Different

My #1 Pick

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 nonfiction so far!) this memoir that spoke to me in a “yes, that’s exactly how it is” way. She covers many big life issues (marriage, motherhood, illness, religion, friendship, grief, and loss) in a relatable and irreverently funny way. 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. Full Review.

Laura and EmmaLaura & Emma by Kate Greathead
Fiction – Literary (Released March 13, 2018)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Laura, the somewhat quirky daughter of a blue-blood Upper East Side family, becomes pregnant after a one-night stand and wrestles with how to raise her daughter.

My Thoughts: The key to loving Laura & Emma is loving Laura’s voice and the writing style (which I did)…because there isn’t a ton of action to propel the story. Laura is offbeat, but likable and funny in an awkward way (she reminded me of a less damaged version of Eleanor Oliphant). The story is told in vignettes both momentous and mundane, which might turn some people off, but these hung together quite well to form a cohesive story (e.g. similar to Goodbye, Vitamin). P.S. – there’s an kooky, entertaining grandmother…always a plus in my reading! Full Review.

Heating and CoolingHeating and Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs by Beth Ann Fennelly
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released October 10, 2017)
112 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: In a series of tiny chapters (some only a single paragraph), Fennelly shares anecdotes from her life.

My Thoughts: This memoir is told in a totally unique format…actually a number of different formats (short essays, single paragraphs or sentences, a poem, etc) collected into one volume. It’s clever and witty and random, but delightfully random. It’s a 100% “real life” book. She touches on marriage, parenthood, her writing career, her Catholic upbringing (Catholics beware – she sort of skewers them), and everyday life. It’s the perfect choice for a time when you’re distracted or don’t have much reading time…and would make a perfect “bathroom book” (i.e. the book that sits on the back of the toilet to be picked up by whoever sits down).

Red NoticeRed Notice by Bill Browder
Nonfiction – Business (Released February 3, 2015)
380 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: The true story Browder’s experience as one of the first foreign investors in Russia after the fall of Communism and widespread privatization.

My Thoughts: You might think the premise of Red Notice sounds boring. Let me assure you…it’s not. It’s a financial thriller (if there is such a thing) that reads like fiction and kept me quickly turning the pages…while giving a fascinating picture of Russian culture in the Post-Communism era. During the course of his investing, Browder made a ton of money, partnered with billionaire Edmond Safra, angered some oligarchs via his anti-corruption battles, showed some serious guts, and ended up in a knockdown, drag-out battle with Putin and the Russian regime. Think a cross between Michael Lewis, Dominick Dunne, and the TV show Billions.

Tiger WoodsTiger Woods by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian
Nonfiction – Sports (Released March 27, 2018)
512 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: The new biography of the ex-World #1 golfer, including his fall from grace.

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

You Think It, I'll Say ItYou Think It, I’ll Say It: Stories by Curtis Sittenfeld
Fiction – Short Stories (Released April 24, 2018)
256 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Novelist Curtis Sittenfeld’s (author of PrepAmerican Wife, and Eligible) first short story collection.

My Thoughts: Short stories are not my thing, but this collection is unquestionably 5 stars for me! The stories in You Think It, I’ll Say It are mostly about otherwise normal relationships that have a hidden element of unconventionality or an awkward incident. They’re normal situations that end up taking unexpected turns…they’re relatable, yet surprising. I was completely invested in the characters in every story, which is a rarity for me with short stories. If you’ve been hesitant to try short stories, You Think It, I’ll Say It is a perfect first collection! Full Review.

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12 Books That Would Make Great Gifts for Moms

April 17, 2018 Book Lists 18

Books That Would Make Great Gifts for Moms

 

These books all examine women’s experiences and mothers’ experience in particular. I related to much of these authors’ and characters’ outlooks on life, love, marriage, friendship, work, family…and, of course, motherhood.

I’ll be giving one of these to my Mom for Mother’s Day this year…but, I can’t tell you which one since she reads the blog!

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

Books That Would Make Great Gifts for Moms

Books for Living by Will SchwalbeBooks for Living by Will Schwalbe
Nonfiction – Essays (Released December 27, 2016)
288 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary: The author of The End of Your Life Book Club‘s collection of essays featuring individual books and how they impacted his life.

My Thoughts: Each chapter of this introspective collection focuses on one book and how it impacted and contributed to Schwalbe’s life. He covers classics (Stuart Little), nonfiction (The Importance Of Living), serious books (A Little Life), and lighter fare (The Girl on the Train). I certainly hadn’t read all the books he discusses, but I related to many of his points about life. This book would be a fantastic gift for serious readers or someone who is reflecting a bit on life. Full Review.

Gift from the Sea Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released 1955)
130 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary: During a seaside vacation, Lindbergh shares her thoughts on motherhood, marriage, aging, and many other topics related to women.

My Thoughts: My mom first gave me this book while I was pregnant with my first child. I didn’t quite connect with it then, but I re-read it after having my second child and that changed completely. Lindbergh beautifully vocalized the many conflicted feelings I’d been having about motherhood, maintaining my identity, etc. It’s every bit as relevant now as it was in the 1950’s.

Glitter and Glue Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released February 4, 2014)
224 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary: Corrigan’s stint as a nanny to an Australian family who had lost their mother helps her reflect on what it means to be a mother and her relationship with her own mother.

My Thoughts: I absolutely adored Corrigan’s latest memoir, Tell Me More, so was excited to delve into her backlist. While Glitter and Glue didn’t blow me away quite as much as Tell Me More, I still relished in sinking back into Corrigan’s signature brand of heartfelt, relatable, and sometimes irreverent observations about life and motherhood. Read by the author, this one is also great on audiobook!

Laura and EmmaLaura & Emma by Kate Greathead
Fiction – Literary (Released March 13, 2018)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary: Laura, the somewhat quirky daughter of a blue-blood Upper East Side family, becomes pregnant after a one-night stand and wrestles with how to raise her daughter.

My Thoughts: The key to loving Laura & Emma is loving Laura’s voice and the writing style (which I did)…because there isn’t a ton of action to propel the story. Laura is offbeat, but likable and funny in an awkward way (she reminded me of a less damaged version of Eleanor Oliphant). The story is told in vignettes both momentous and mundane, which might turn some people off, but these hung together quite well to form a cohesive story (e.g. similar to Goodbye, Vitamin). Full Review.

Little Fires EverywhereLittle Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Fiction – Literary (Released September 12, 2017)
384 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Plot Summary: When nomadic artist Mia Warren and her daughter (Pearl) rent an apartment from Elena Richardson in Shaker Heights, Elena’s entire family becomes enmeshed in the Warrens’ lives, resulting in uncovered secrets, unanticipated consequences, and a raging debate about what it means to be a mother.

My Thoughts: Little Fires Everywhere is an engrossing story about a family and a community that you can sink right into…and may have even broader appeal than Everything I Never Told You (Ng’s debut novel). It’s central theme is what it means to be a mother…is it biology or the act of mothering? Full Review.

Lots of Candles Plenty of CakeLots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released April 24, 2012)
182 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Plot Summary: A combination memoir/essay collection covering marriage, girlfriends, motherhood, faith, loss, work, and much more!

My Thoughts: 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 just has such a grounded, practical outlook on life that really puts things in perspective for me. Highly recommend for anyone craving a “life wisdom” type of read!

One True ThingOne True Thing by Anna Quindlen
Fiction – Literary (August 30, 1994)
315 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Plot Summary: Ellen Gulden returns home from her prestigious job as a New York City journalist to care for her mother as she’s dying of cancer…only to be accused her mercy killing.

My Thoughts: Anna Quindlen is fast becoming a go-to author for me whenever I’m craving some “life lessons/perspective” in my reading. She just gets life…especially marriage, motherhood, and women’s work/life balance. One True Thing explores the relationship between Ellen (an ambitious career woman) and her mother (a Stepford-style stay-at-home mother) and their efforts to understand each other as people before it’s too late. Full Review.

Tell Me More by Kelly CorriganTell Me More by Kelly Corrigan
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released January 9, 2018)
256 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
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 one of my favorite 2018 releases 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. Full Review.

Female PersuasionThe Female Persuasionby Meg Wolitzer
Fiction – Literary (Released April 3, 2018)
464 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Plot Summary: Greer is a shy college student still in love with her high school boyfriend when she meets Faith Frank, an icon of the women’s movement, who changes the trajectory of Greer’s life.

My Thoughts: The Female Persuasion is my second 5 star book of the year! In a letter to the reader at the beginning of the book, Riverhead’s Editor-in-Chief (Sarah McGrath) says The Female Persuasion is a novel about “female power, ambition, leadership, and mentorship […].” And it is, but those issues are secondary to what is ultimately a story in which the characters are the stars: Greer, her boyfriend (Cory), her best friend (Zee), and Faith Frank. I was completely enmeshed in these people’s lives and the issues this book addresses fit organically around the characters’ stories without overwhelming them. Full Review.

This Is How It Always IsThis Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel
Fiction – Literary (Released January 24, 2017)
336 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Plot Summary: 
When Claude, the youngest son of a family of five boys, starts to realize he wants to be a girl, the family must learn how to best support Claude and adjust to the situation.
My Thoughts: 
This Is How It Always Is is an accessible story about a weighty topic that had me feeling a whole range of emotions…it’s the kind of book many people will enjoy, yet will also provide excellent discussion for book clubs. It’s heart-warming, but also heart-breaking. It’s unexpectedly funny, sad, inspirational, and made me angry at times. Full Review.

This is the Story of a Happy MarriageThis is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett
Nonfiction – Essays (Released December 11, 2011)
308 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Plot Summary:
Ann Patchett’s essay collection about the most important things in her life.
My Thoughts:
Pat Conroy is one of the rare authors whose fiction and nonfiction I’ve truly enjoyed. Now that he’s gone, Ann Patchett might be taking his place (thanks to his recommendation in A Lowcountry Heart). She covers the gamut of topics in this essay collection: marriage (obviously), divorce, writing, book tours, opera (the only low point for me), friendship, how to be productive, and the story behind the opening of Parnassus Books. She lives an interesting, yet fairly normal life and I like her outlook on things.

Woman Last Seen in Her ThirtiesWoman Last Seen in Her Thirties by Camille Pagan
Fiction – Brain Candy (Released February 27, 2018)
254 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Plot Summary: When when 50-something year old Maggie’s husband abruptly leaves her, she is forced to rediscover her identity and rebuild her life.

My Thoughts: Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties is an easy and fun, but not silly read with small threads of darkness running underneath. There’s salty humor and real talk about aging, marriage, divorce, finding your identity, and piecing your life back together after an upheaval. I absolutely related to Maggie’s realization that she had lost her identity after having children and her struggle to regain it again. Pagan reminds me of a lighter, more sarcastic version of Anna Quindlen.

Book of the Month Club: The Gift That Keeps on Giving for Book Lovers

Can’t find the perfect book to get your Mom for Mother’s Day? 

A subscription to the Book of the Month Club is the book lovers gift that keeps on giving!

How it Works

On the first of every month, members get to choose one of five books selected by Book of the Month Club’s panel of judges (including a surprise guest judge). You also have the option to purchase additional books for $9.99 each and to skip a month if you want. Book of the Month Club will mail your chosen book (along with any extras you ordered) to your house for free. 

PRICING

MOTHER’S DAY DEAL: Give a gift and get a free month for yourself! And, check out their Best Books for Mom list for some ideas. 

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

Pin for later…
Books That Would Make Great Gifts for Moms

 

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12 Books Set Outside of the U.S…But Not in Europe

March 27, 2018 Book Lists 23

Books Set Outside US

 

I love a book where the setting is just as much of a character as the actual characters and, more often than not, this happens with books set in exotic locales. There’s something mysterious, sometimes enchanting, and sometimes dangerous about a place that couldn’t be more different from your home. 

When I was putting this list together, the majority of books I’d read set in foreign (to the U.S.) countries took place in Europe (with France crushing other EU countries). So, I thought I’d share those books set outside of the U.S…but also outside of Europe. 

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 Books Set Outside of the U.S…But Not in Europe

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (my review)
Set in Japan, 1Q84 follows the parallel journeys of Aomame, a female assassin, and Tengo, an aspiring writer, as they enter an alternate reality (the year 1Q84) to solve the mystery of a religious cult and the myth of the “Little People”. Sounds totally ridiculous, but I was engrossed for the full 900+ pages.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

An Untamed State by Roxane Gay (my review)
An absolutely brutal book about a kidnapping set partially in Haiti.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain (my review)
Historical fiction based on the true story of Beryl Markham, a British woman raised on a horse farm in 1920’s Kenya, who went on to break the glass ceiling for women in horse training and aviation.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy (my review)
A plot-based page turner where cruise ship vacationers’ children go missing in an unnamed South American country that is extremely similar to Costa Rica.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts (my review)
A sweeping epic about an escaped convict who finds friendship, love, and an unbelievable amount of adventure in Bombay (as it was called at the time, now Mumbai), India. PS – the story is supposed to be somewhat autobiographical.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (my review)
I will never un-see the anaconda scene (anyone who has read the book will know exactly what I’m talking about) in this novel about a tribe of people in the Amazon where women can give birth well into their seventies.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Tangerine by Christine Mangan
A story of a fraught, obsessive friendship and all the wreckage it leaves behind in 1950’s Tangier, Morocco.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson (my review)
A beautifully written story full of generational and cultural clashes about two young Brooklyn girls who are sent to live with their grandmother in Barbados.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra (my review)
A collection of linked short stories spotlighting life in the USSR/Russian Federation/Russia from 1937 to present day (including life under Stalin, Brezhnev, Gorbachev, and Putin).

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon 

The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso (my review)
This novel is like Grumpy Old Men crossed with Desperate Housewives set in South Africa and involving race. And, ultimately, it’s about friendship and regret.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Whiskey Tango Foxtrotby David Shafer (my review)
A Burma (aka Myanmar) based non-profit worker (Leila), a directionless heir to a board game empire (Leo), and an one hit wonder self-help guru (Mark) are improbably brought together to prevent an international cabal from taking control of all the world’s information. Huh?! That’s what I thought, but I really enjoyed this debut!

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Youngbloodby Matt Gallagher (my review)
A story about the personal side of war and its complexities that takes place during the Iraq insurgency.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

What are some of your favorite books set outside of the U.S?

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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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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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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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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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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!

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

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.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

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.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

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.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

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.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

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.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

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!

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

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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My Most Anticipated Books of Winter 2018

December 26, 2017 Book Lists 29

Most Anticipated Books of Winter 2018


It’s a new year with new books…and, a new method for picking books for me!

After many of my 2017 Most Anticipated Books flopped, I re-evaluated my system for picking books. Previously, I’d comb the publishers’ catalogs and Preview lists from various bookish media sources looking for books that appealed to me. But, all I had to go on was the description of the book and marketing material provided by the publisher. There are precious little unbiased opinions out there months before a book is published.

I realized this system wasn’t serving me well and was leading me to waste time with a lot of books that didn’t pan out. So, I’ve changed things up this year…and it will hopefully benefit you too!

My Most Anticipated Books of Winter 2018 list is almost entirely made up of books from trusted sources (to find your personal trusted recommendation sources, check out this post and free downloadable template) who, in as many cases as possible, have already read the book. For the first time ever, I did not look at a single publisher’s catalog to create this list. I’m sharing the recommendation source for each book and will specify if that source has or has not read it yet.

Finally, I’ve already read two of the books on this list myself and can personally vouch for them!

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

January

Grist Mill Road by Christopher J. Yates (January 9, Picador)
You know how I always rave about the 2014 novel, Black Chalk (my review)?! Well, Grist Mill Road is Yates’s sophomore novel. I’ve already read this one and the bottom line is that, despite some structural elements that bothered me, I couldn’t put it down. A dark, twisty, coming of age story about friendship.

The year is 1982, the setting an Edenic hamlet some 90 miles north of New York City. There, among the craggy rock cliffs and glacial ponds of timeworn mountains, three friends—Patrick, Matthew and Hannah— are bound together by a single, terrible, and seemingly senseless crime. Twenty six years later, in New York City, living lives their younger selves could never have predicted, the three meet again–with even more devastating results.

Recommendation Source(s): Trusted author and I’ve already read the book

Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say by Kelly Corrigan (January 9, Random House)
This memoir absolutely spoke to me in a “yes, that’s exactly how it is” kind of way. It’s funny, relatable, and covers all kinds of big life issues including marriage, motherhood, illness, and religion…yet, it’s a light, easy read. This might be for you if you loved Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake or This is the Story of a Happy Marriage.

In channeling the characteristically streetwise, ever-relatable voice that has defined Corrigan’s work, Tell Me More is a meaningful, touching take on the power of the right words at the right moment to change everything.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read by Annie Jones on From the Front Porch podcast (one of my Go-To Bookish Media Sources) and me

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin (January 9, Putnam)
This is not a book that would naturally appeal to me (psychics?! No, thanks!), but the good reports from trusted sources are piling up and my recent enjoyment of The Rules of Magic (another book with magical elements) has made me more open to these themes I don’t normally go for. I just started it and am enjoying it so far. 

If you were told the date of your death, how would it shape your present?

It’s 1969 in New York City’s Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children—four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness—sneak out to hear their fortunes.

Their prophecies inform their next five decades.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read by Renee at It’s Book Talk (trusted book blogger), Susie at Novel Visits (trusted book blogger), and Michael Kindness (co-host of the now defunct Books on the Nightstand podcast)

The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin (January 16, Delacorte Press)
Melanie Benjamin wrote The Swans of Fifth Avenue (my review), one of my favorite books of 2016 and very best of the Brain Candy. This is all I needed to know to grab this book immediately…but, a trusted book blogger has also read it already. So, we’ve got some icing on the cake!

An intimate portrait of the close friendship and powerful creative partnership between two of Hollywood’s earliest female superstars: Frances Marion and Mary Pickford.

Recommendation Source(s): Trusted author and already read by Susie at Novel Visits (trusted book blogger)

February

Berlin 1936: Sixteen Days in August by Oliver Hilmes (February 6, Other Press)
I have a slight (OK, massive) obsession with the Olympics and became fascinated with the 1936 Olympics in particular after reading The Boys in the Boat. This was the “Nazi Olympics” and it was used by Hitler’s regime as a propaganda tool. I’m certain the events of this story are fascinating and I hope the book about them proves to be too!

A lively account of the 1936 Olympics told through the voices and stories of those who witnessed it, from an award-winning historian and biographer.

Recommendation Source(s): Published by Other Press (the publisher who brought me Quicksand, one of my favorite books of 2017)

The Glass Forest by Cynthia Swanson (February 6, Touchstone)
I love novels about dysfunctional families and literary suspense (though, I hear this one is a slower burn). Plus, this novel is getting fantastic reviews from regular readers on Goodreads.

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Bookseller comes a gripping literary suspense novel set in the 1960s about a deeply troubled family and three women who will reveal its dark truths.

Recommendation Source(s): Susie at Novel Visits (trusted book blogger) via her 2018 Winter Preview (not yet read)

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (February 6, Algonquin Books)
I love a good marriage drama and this one is getting great reviews from regular readers on Goodreads. I’ve heard you want to go into this one as blind as possible.

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. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read and loved by Nicole Bonia (host of The Readerly Report Podcast), published by one of my Go-To Imprints

Sunburn by Laura Lippman (February 20, William Morrow)
Lippman is a new-to-me author and I’m always a little skeptical of psychological thrillers. But, Annie Jones (one of my Go-To Bookish Media Sources) said it was “a different kind of thriller,” which are the kinds that generally appeal to me.

New York Times bestselling author Laura Lippman returns with a superb novel of psychological suspense about a pair of lovers with the best intentions and the worst luck: two people locked in a passionate yet uncompromising game of cat and mouse. But instead of rules, this game has dark secrets, forbidden desires, inevitable betrayals—and cold-blooded murder. . .

Recommendation Source(s): Already read by Annie Jones on From the Front Porch podcast (one of my Go-To Bookish Media Sources)

March

Bachelor Nation by Amy Kaufman (March 6, Dutton)
I should probably be embarrassed to admit that this is one of the books I’m most excited about for 2018, but I’m truly not! Amy Kaufman has covered The Bachelor for the LA Times for years and I’ve been following her on Twitter for awhile now. I’ll be listening to this on audio the very second it’s released!

The first definitive, unauthorized, behind-the-scenes cultural history of the Bachelor franchise, America’s favorite guilty pleasure.

Recommendation Source(s): Honestly, I don’t even need a recommendation source for this one. I’d read it even if people said it was terrible. But, Annie Jones on From the Front Porch podcast (one of my Go-To Bookish Media Sources) has already read it, so there!

Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao (March 6, Flatiron Books)
I love the focus on female friendship coupled with the India setting. Plus, the Goodreads reviews from regular readers are outstanding. Plus, it’s a debut, which I’m always eager to try.

A searing, electrifying debut novel set in India and America, about a once-in-a-lifetime friendship between two girls who are driven apart but never stop trying to find one another again.

Recommendation Source(s): Liberty Hardy (co-host of Book Riot’s All the Books podcast) on Instagram (has not yet read the book), published by one of my Go-To Imprints.

The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian (March 13, Doubleday)
Bohjalian’s page turners always have an unique element that makes them stand out from the sea of run-of-the-mill thrillers out there. I hear the main character in this one may not be especially likable (which doesn’t bother me, but does bother some readers).

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Guest Room, a powerful story about the ways an entire life can change in one night: A flight attendant wakes up in the wrong hotel, in the wrong bed, with a dead man – and no idea what happened.

Recommendation Source(s): Trusted author

Tangerine by Christine Mangan (March 27, Ecco)
I like the 1950’s Morocco setting and the reports of extreme tension in this friendship. Plus, it’s another debut.

The last person Alice Shipley expected to see since arriving in Tangier with her new husband was Lucy Mason. After the accident at Bennington, the two friends—once inseparable roommates—haven’t spoken in over a year.

But soon a familiar feeling starts to overtake Alice—she feels controlled and stifled by Lucy at every turn. Then Alice’s husband, John, goes missing, and Alice starts to question everything around her: her relationship with her enigmatic friend, her decision to ever come to Tangier, and her very own state of mind.

Recommendation Source(s): Liberty Hardy via Book Riot’s 101 2018 Books list (unclear whether she’s read the book yet).

*All book summaries (in block quotes) are from Goodreads (edited for length).

What Winter 2018 books are you looking forward to?

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My Must Try Before the End of 2017 TBR List

November 21, 2017 Book Lists 28

Must Try Before End of 2017 TBR list

 

Throughout the year, I keep a running list of all the books I missed right when they came out, but that I want to fit in at some point during the year. I call this my Must Try Before the End of 2017 TBR list.

Some of my best reading this year has come from this list (BeartownDead LettersThe Heart’s Invisible Furies)…probably because these books had been vetted by multiple readers I trust before I actually read them.

I generally devote mid/late November to mid-December to trying to find at least one more book to sneak into my Best Books of the Year list. We now have about 3 weeks until I share my Best Books of 2017. I obviously can’t read all the books on this list in that time (do you think I’m a magician?!), so I want y’alls help.

If you’ve read any of the books below, tell me which ones you think could be Best Books of the Year candidates! And, which ones I shouldn’t waste time on. And, any others you think I’d absolutely love.

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

My Must Try Before the End of 2017 TBR List

Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber (August 1, 2017)
Recommended by Off the Shelf’s 5 Best Books I Read This Month (November)

Serial meets Ruth Ware’s In a Dark, Dark Wood in this inventive and twisty psychological thriller about a mega-hit podcast that reopens a murder case—and threatens to unravel the carefully constructed life of the victim’s daughter.

Castle of Water by Dane Hucklebridge (April 4, 2017)
Recommended by Renee at It’s Book Talk and Susie at Novel Visits

For Sophie Ducel, her honeymoon in French Polynesia was intended as a celebration of life. For Barry Bleecker, the same trip was meant to mark a new beginning. But when their small plane is downed in the middle of the South Pacific, the sole survivors of the wreck are left with one common goal: to survive.

Everybody’s Son by Thrifty Umgar (June 6, 2017)
Recommended by Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books and Reading & Eating

The bestselling, critically acclaimed author of The Space Between Us and The World We Found deftly explores issues of race, class, privilege, and power and asks us to consider uncomfortable moral questions in this probing, ambitious, emotionally wrenching novel of two families—one black, one white.

Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory (June 27, 2017)
Recommended by Michelle at That’s What She Read

A generations-spanning family of psychics–both blessed and burdened by their abilities–must use their powers to save themselves from the CIA, the local mafia, and a skeptic hell-bent on discrediting them in this hilarious, tender, magical novel about the invisible forces that bind us.

The Break by Marian Keyes (September 7, 2017)
Recommended by Eva at Paperback Princess

Amy’s husband Hugh isn’t really leaving her.

At least, that’s what he promises. He is just taking a break – from their marriage, their children and, most of all, from their life together. For six-months Hugh will lose himself in south-east Asia, and there is nothing Amy can say or do about it.

But a lot can happen in six-months. When Hugh returns, if he returns, will he be the same man she married? And will Amy be the same woman?

The Confusion of Languages by Siobhan Fallan (June 27, 2017)
Recommended by The Readerly Podcast

A searing debut novel […] about jealousy, the unpredictable path of friendship, and the secrets kept in marriage, all set within the U.S. expat community of the Middle East during the rise of the Arab Spring.

The Misfortune of Marion Palm by Emily Culliton (August 8, 2017)
Recommended by Annie Jones at From the Front Porch Podcast

A wildly entertaining debut about a Brooklyn Heights wife and mother who has embezzled a small fortune from her children’s private school and makes a run for it, leaving behind her trust fund poet husband, his maybe-secret lover, her two daughters, and a school board who will do anything to find her. 

The Party by Elizabeth Day (August 15, 2017)
Recommended by Michaela at The Ardent Biblio and Born and Read in Chicago

A gripping story of obsession and betrayal, privilege and hypocrisy, set in the unassailable heart of the British establishment.

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman (October 10, 2017)
Recommended by Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books and Susie at Novel Visits

For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man.

The Owens children cannot escape love even if they try, just as they cannot escape the pains of the human heart. The two beautiful sisters will grow up to be the revered, and sometimes feared, aunts in Practical Magic, while Vincent, their beloved brother, will leave an unexpected legacy.

Wonder Valley by Ivy Pochoda (November 7, 2017)
Recommended by Susie at Novel Visits

When a teen runs away from his father’s mysterious commune, he sets in motion a domino effect that will connect six characters desperate for hope and love, set across the sun-bleached canvas of Los Angeles.

Tell me, which ones should I read first?

*All book summaries (in block quotes) are from Goodreads (edited for length).

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