Tag: Book Lists

My Favorite Nonfiction Audiobooks

August 7, 2018 Audiobooks 18

Favorite Nonfiction Audiobooks

 

Audiobooks are a relatively new addition to my reading life, but they’ve enabled me to read 25-30 more books each of the past two years…so, they’re a welcome addition! And, it seems many other readers are figuring out how to work audiobooks into their reading lives as well because audiobooks is the fastest growing segment of the publishing industry.

I initially didn’t think audiobooks worked for me because I tried listening to fiction while exercising and had trouble following the stories. Once I tried listening to nonfiction (generally lighter nonfiction) at other times of day (while driving, getting dressed and ready for bed, doing chores, etc), I was off to the races with audiobooks! So, I thought I’d share my favorite nonfiction audiobooks! And, if you’ve had trouble concentrating on audiobooks, I’d highly recommend trying some light nonfiction before giving up entirely!

And, I’ll continue to update this list as I find more great nonfiction audiobooks!

The List

Memoirs

Beautiful, Terrible ThingA Beautiful, Terrible Thing by Jen Waite
Memoir (Released July 11, 2017)
6 Hours and 41 Minutes
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Plot Summary: Waite’s story of her marriage to a psychopath / sociopath (Marco).
My Thoughts: There’s cheating and then there’s cheating as part of a pattern of psychotic or sociopathic behavior. Jen discovers her husband is cheating on her soon after having their first child. Then, she discovers a whole web of lies and starts to realize he’s not the man he seemed. I listened to this book on audio and was absolutely riveted…I ignored new podcasts to listen, something I don’t normally do. Jen chronicles her slow process of realization and recover, which definitely made me wonder if some people I know are also sociopaths. 

A Mother's ReckoningA Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold
Memoir (Released February 15, 2016)
11 Hours and 31 Minutes
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary: Columbine shooter Dylan Klebold’s mother (Sue) shares her struggle following the shooting and Dylan’s suicide in this poignant memoir.

My Thoughts: 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. I was riveted.

Born a Crime by Trevor NoahBorn A Crime by Trevor Noah
Memoir (Released November 15, 2016)
8 Hours and 44 Minutes
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary: The Daily Show host Trevor Noah’s memoir about growing up as a mixed race child in apartheid South Africa.

My Thoughts: Born A Crime 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.

Daring to DriveDaring to Drive by Manal al-Sharif
Memoir (Released June 13, 2017)
10 Hours and 17 Minutes
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary: 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.

My Thoughts: 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).

Gift from the SeaGift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Memoir (Released 1955)
2 Hours and 26 Minutes
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary: Lindbergh reflects on motherhood and being a woman during her solo vacation in a beach house.

My Thoughts: My Mom gave me this slim 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. A must read for every woman trying to balance being a mother with maintaining their own identity.

Glitter and GlueGlitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan
Memoir (Released February 4, 2014)
5 Hours and 38 Minutes
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary: Corrigan’s shares her realizations about motherhood and her own mother while serving as somewhat of a surrogate mother to two Australian children who had lost their own mother.

My Thoughts: While Glitter and Glue didn’t blow me away quite as much as the first memoir I read by her (Tell Me More), I still relished sinking back into Corrigan’s signature brand of heartfelt, relatable, and sometimes irreverent observations about life and motherhood. Corrigan hadn’t given much thought to what it’s like to mother someone or quite appreciated her mother until she stepped into the role of surrogate caring for two children who had lost their own. If you like women’s life observations-type writing (think Anna Quindlen, Cheryl Strayed), Kelly Corrigan should be next on your list!

Lots of Candles Plenty of CakeLots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen
Memoir (Released April 24, 2012)
7 Hours and 7 Minutes

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary:
Anna Quindlen talks about her experience as a woman in her own life and applies it to women everywhere.
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 has such a grounded, practical outlook on life that really puts things in perspective and this book would have made my overall Best Books of 2017 list had it been published that year!

My Year of Running DangerouslyMy Year of Running Dangerously by Tom Foreman
Memoir (Released October 6, 2015)
6 Hours and 27 Minutes

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary:
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.
My Thoughts:
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.

Tiny Beautiful ThingsTiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
Memoir (Released July 10, 2012)
9 Hours and 41 Minutes
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary:
A compilation of columns from Strayed’s time as the Dear Sugar advice columnist for The Rumpus.

My Thoughts: Strayed blends empathy, truth, bluntness, and humor to form a perfect blend of “yes, that’s exactly how it is” observations about life and useful, non-judgmental advice about how to live it. I’m generally not an advice column type of person, but this audiobook (read by the author) earned 5 stars from me!

Who Thought This Was a Good IdeaWho Thought This Was a Good Idea? by Alyssa Mastromonaco
Memoir (Released March 21, 2017)
5 Hours and 58 Minutes

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary:
The behind-the-scenes memoir by President Obama’s former Deputy Chief of Staff.
My Thoughts: 
Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? 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!

Investigative Journalism

False ReportA False Report: A True Story of Rape in America by T. Christian Miller & Ken Armstrong
True Crime – (Released February 6, 2018)
10 Hours and 6 Minutes
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary:
The true story of a woman (Marie) who was charged with lying about a rape and the detectives who were responsible for her case.

My Thoughts: A False Report is excellent true crime mixed in with a bit of history of rape investigation and would make a great companion read to I’ll Be Gone in the Dark (my review).

Mockingbird Next DoorThe Mockingbird Next Door by Marja Mills
General Nonfiction (Released July 15, 2014)
8 Hours and 11 Minutes

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary:
Chicago Tribune journalist Marja Mills was improbably accepted by famously private Harper and Alice Lee when she visited Monroeville, AL for a story and ended up living next door to them.
My Thoughts:
This story is as much about Mills’ journey to friendship with the Lees as it as about Lee herself. As I was listening, I almost felt like I was in To Kill A Mockingbird. For a real treat, pair with Episode 172 of From the Front Porch podcast about Annie Jones’ visit to Monroeville and a breakdown of what’s happened with Harper Lee’s estate since she passed away.

Stranger in the WoodsThe Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel
General Nonfiction (Released March 7, 2017)
6 Hours and 19 Minutes
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Plot Summary: 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.

My Thoughts: This story 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.

What Made Maddy RunWhat Made Maddy Run by Kate Fagan
General Nonfiction – Sports (Released August 1, 2017)
7 Hours and 36 Minutes
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Plot Summary: The 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.

My Thoughts: This story is absolutely heart-breaking, but is a must-read for parents of young athletes…and, really, parents of all high-achieving young girls in the social media age.

What are your favorite nonfiction audiobooks?

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Where I Was When I Read It

July 24, 2018 Book Lists 12

Where I Was When I Read It

 

Have you ever read book in a spectacular setting or during a seminal point in your life that makes that particular reading experience truly memorable? I don’t often remember exactly where I was, what I was doing, or what was going on in my life when I read a particular book, but on the rare occasions when this does happen, it’s a truly memorable experience.

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

Where I Was When I Read It

My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh (my review)
I read the second half of My Sunshine Away (one of my favorite books of 2015) while on a weekend away with my husband in February. I holed up in the relaxation room at our hotel (where, blessedly, talking is not allowed) and finished the second half of the book while watching snow fall into the ocean out a huge window. And, it really kick-started what was, up to that point, an extremely lackluster reading year.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

One Day in September by Simon Reeve
A account of the true story of the terrorist attack on 11 Israeli athletes and coaches at the 1972 Munich Olympics and the Israeli retaliation operation, Wrath of God. And, I read this while attending an Olympics myself. One Day in September was published in September of 2000, right in conjunction with the Sydney Olympics. I was over there working during the Olympics and not only read this book while I was there, but I saw the accompanying documentary in the theater. It certainly put me a bit on edge, but imagine I’d had this experience post-9/11…
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne (my review)
Last year was a fairly mediocre reading year without an obvious best book of the year up until the very last minute. I was desperately on the hunt for a book that would stand out above the rest when I picked up The Heart’s Invisible Furies in late October. And, it not only ended up being my #1 book of 2017, but it’s my favorite book of the past few years!

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Wife by Alafair Burke
Another kidless vacation reading experience. I read this entire book over 2 days on the beach in Miami. And it was the perfect beach read.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper (my review)
Indiscretion by Charles Dubow (my review)
I’m lumping these two books together because they were part of the same experience. I had a roller-coaster delivery with my second child and was in the hospital twice with early contractions before finally giving birth on the third trip to the hospital. During the first two visits, I read Indiscretion, a popcorn-y page turner that turned out to be totally necessary. I was in a room with lots of other patients separated by curtains and I could hear a nearby girl in labor who had no idea she was pregnant prior to that hospital visit (I am unfortunately not joking). For the real deal delivery, I read This is Where I Leave You in between contractions and it was the perfect humor to keep me somewhat distracted.

Tell me about your most memorable reading experiences!

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10 Short Story Collections and Novellas for First Time Short Fiction Readers

July 17, 2018 Book Lists 17

Short Story Collections and Novellas for first time short fiction readers

 

Prior to starting this blog, I never read short fiction…in any form. Actually, I preferred doorstop novels (I hadn’t yet wrapped my head around the concept of opportunity cost…the fact that each doorstop novel I read meant losing out on multiple other books). But now, I appreciate a something short every now and then. A short story collection or a very short novel / novella can feel like a break or palate cleanser amid heavier reading.

Over the past few years, I’ve found myself being much more open to short story collections and even rated two collections 5 stars (unheard of for me a few years ago). And, I always get excited about a super short novel! So, I’m excited to share short story collections and novellas for first time short fiction readers…the ones that originally attracted me to the genre!

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 Short Story Collections and Novellas for First Time Short Fiction Readers

Conventional Short Story Collections

Beneath the Bonfire by Nickolas Butler (my review)
Set in rural Wisconsin, many of these stories focus on the bond of old friends. Beneath the Bonfire is the first short story collection I’ve ever liked, let alone loved. It’s reminiscent of Shotgun Lovesongs, Butler’s debut novel (and one of my favorite books of 2014).

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Why They Run the Way They Do by Susan Perabo (my review)
On the surface, these stories are about mundane daily life…a harmless middle school prank, a child’s toy, spending time with your mother after some bad news…but, they have a darkness simmering just underneath. This combination makes them incredibly relatable, yet still eye-opening and unique.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld (my review)
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. If you’ve been hesitant to try short stories, You Think It, I’ll Say It is a perfect first collection!

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Interconnected / Linked Short Story Collections

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout (my review)
This subtle book grew on me the farther I read and I loved the theme of small-town life with threads of darkness running just beneath the surface. Though it’s technically short stories, it feels like a novel told from different characters’ perspectives and would be a perfect choice for readers that are new to short stories.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra (my review)
Like Anything is Possible, this one’s linked nature makes it feel more like a novel told from different perspectives and time periods. The way Marra used characters and events to link each story perfectly rode the line of being brilliantly intricate, yet not too confusing to follow.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Short Novels / Novellas

I did a little research on what exactly a novella is and came up with so many different answers that I ended up making my own rule of thumb: a novel that’s under 200 pages long is a novella in my book!

Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong (my review)
Though this story is about a sad and serious topic, it has a lightness to it and is amusing at times. The story is told through the main character’s journal entries that read like little vignettes, a format that worked for me in this case because I absolutely adored her endearing, witty, real, and relatable voice.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift (my review)
It’s a quiet, gorgeously written story about the evolution of a woman (Jane) from the Mothering Sunday tryst with her illicit lover to late in her life. The story is unique, yet not weird and I could say the same about Swift’s writing style.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout (my review)
I expected a story focusing on Lucy’s relationship with her mother, and it certainly covers this territory, but it felt much more about Lucy’s own life: her childhood, what it was like to grow up poor and never quite fit in, and her adult life.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf (my review)
Our Souls at Night is a sweet, calm, and uncomplicated novel about two older people (Louis and Addie) who stopped caring what everyone else thought and did what they needed to do to be happy.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips (my review)
Helen Phillips’ debut novel is a tiny ball of weirdness…reminiscent of a demented “Office Space”…that had me on the edge of my seat.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I know many people have a hard time with short fiction. How do you feel about it?

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Best Books of 2018 So Far

June 26, 2018 Annual "Best Books" Lists 37

Best Books of 2018 So Far

 

Can you believe it’s already time for the Best Books of 2018 So Far?!

For the past two years, 60% of the books on my June Best Books of the Year So Far lists (2017, 2016) ended up on my overall favorite books of the year lists (2017, 2016). I’ve had a couple big-time winners in the first half of this year that I’m 99.9% positive they will make it on my final list. So, we’ll see if I beat that 60% this year!

This year, I’m not only sharing my own favorite books, but I’m also sharing the Sarah’s Book Shelves Facebook Group members’ favorites! You can join the Sarah’s Book Shelves Facebook Group (where I share my unfiltered thoughts, sneak peeks of blog posts and members’ trade book recommendations amongst each other) by supporting the blog at the $3/month level on Patreon (more details here).

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!).

My Best Books of 2018 So Far

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (my review)
My first 5 star novel of the year…

Educated by Tara Westover (my review)
Your next book if you loved Hillbilly Elegy and/or Under the Banner of Heaven

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara (my review)
The book I couldn’t read at night…

Tell Me More by Kelly Corrigan (my review)
My new favorite “women who get women” author…

The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir
An easy read with a ton of substance (yes, a book can be both of those things)…

The Female Persuasionby Meg Wolitzer (my review)
That big, character-driven novel you can sink into…

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai (my review)
Your next book if you loved A Little Life and/or The Heart’s Invisible Furies…or, if you liked the idea of A Little Life, but avoided it because of the overwhelming abuse.

Us Against You by Fredrick Backman (my review)
The author who captures the emotion of sports like no other (except maybe the screenwriters on Friday Night Lights)…

Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties by Camille Pagan (my review)
A lighter, more sarcastic version of Anna Quindlen…and, my #1 “Fun” pick for on my 2018 Summer Reading List.

You Think It, I’ll Say It: Stories by Curtis Sittenfeld (my review)
One of only two short story collections I’ve ever rated 5 stars…

The Sarah’s Book Shelves Facebook Group’s Best Books of 2018 So Far

It’s kind of amazing…there is only one book on this list that got more than 1 vote! The Facebook Group is a varied bunch! And, that means you can mine this wide range of reading tastes for all kinds of book recommendations if you join in.

Get access to the Sarah’s Book Shelves Facebook Group by supporting the blog for $3/month on Patreon (more details here)!

What are your favorite books so far this year?

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2018 Summer Reading List

May 17, 2018 Book Lists 51

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, check out 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).

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

Latest Additions (July 23, 2018)

CalypsoCalypso by David Sedaris
Nonfiction – Memoir/Essays (Released May 29, 2018)
288 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Sedaris’ latest essay collection focusing on middle age.

My Thoughts: David Sedaris is generally known for his dark humor and his ability to make readers sob and laugh hysterically on the same page. Personally, I didn’t cry or laugh hysterically while reading Calypso, but I did chuckle and get sad and appreciate the crap out of his dark humor. I love how Sedaris says things that most people probably think, but are too scared to say out loud. And, though I read this one in print, Sedaris is fabulous on audio! Full Review.

 

Banker's Wife The Banker’s Wife by Cristina Alger
Fiction – Thriller (Released July 3, 2018)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When a private plane carrying a Swiss banker and his wealthy client goes off the radar, his wife is left to piece together the shady dealings Swiss United Bank was involved in.

My Thoughts: Despite it’s unfortunately domestic sounding title (really…can publishers try for at least one thriller without “Wife” or “Girl” in the title?!!), The Banker’s Wife is more of a conspiracy / financial thriller. It’s purely plot driven (so much so that I forgot to highlight passages to share in this post!) and will keep you turning the pages. Plus, there are characters who resemble real life people enough to make you wonder! Full Review.

Book of EssieThe Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir
Fiction – Brain Candy (Released June 12, 2018)
336 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When the youngest daughter (Essie) of a evangelical reality TV family becomes pregnant and realizes her mother is working with their show’s producers to come up with the best way to spin it for the show, she decides to take matters into her own hands.

My Thoughts: The Book of Essie is the type of brain candy I love…a story about weighty topics that reads quickly and easily. The first line will grab you immediately and I was dying to find out how all this was going to turn out. Bonus: you get an interesting behind-the-scenes look at reality TV and image management in the media spotlight. Full Review.

Favorite SisterThe Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll
Fiction – Brain Candy (Released May 15, 2018)
384 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: A shocking death occurs during the filming of a Real Housewives-esque reality TV show.

My Thoughts: The Favorite Sister was just the type of brain candy I love: smart, a bit different, and containing an ending that’s surprising, yet makes sense with the story looking back on it. I’ve always been intrigued by how the sausage gets made in reality TV and The Favorite Sister doesn’t disappoint in that department. If you read Reality Steve’s blog, liked Bachelor Nation by Amy Kaufman (my review), or love the TV show UnrealThe Favorite Sister is for you! Warning: if dislikable characters ruin books for you, steer clear of this one! Full Review.

Something Fun

My #1 Pick

Charlotte Walsh Likes to WinCharlotte Walsh Likes to Win by Jo Piazza
Fiction – Brain Candy (Release Date: July 24, 2018)
320 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When Charlotte Walsh leaves her high powered job as COO of a Silicon Valley tech darling to run for Senate in her home state of Pennsylvania, she’s forced to confront the impact on her marriage, her sanity, and her past.

My Thoughts: I’ve been loving books about substantial topics that read easy this summer and I can now add Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win to that list! Though it reads easy enough for the beach, it’s full of astute commentary on women in politics, women in business, managing your image in public life, marriage, motherhood, and gender roles. But, it also has snappy dialogue, a badass sister-in-law (Kara), and a Friday Night Lights name-check (the easiest way to my heart). An excellent choice for fans of The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close! Full Review.

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.

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.

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. Full Review (with spoilers).

Give Me Your HandGive Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott
Fiction – Thriller (Release Date: July 17, 2018)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When Diane and Kit become lab partners in high school, Diane shares an explosive secret. And, when the two women meet again as star lab scientists, the secret comes back to haunt them both. 

My Thoughts: Megan Abbott is one of my go-to authors for intense summer reads…generally about demented high school girls (The Fever and You Will Know Me are my favorites). She’s kept her streak alive with Give Me Your Hand…her most grown-up novel yet. This story is set in the world of science and Abbott’s writing makes the lab, the competition for limited positions on important studies, and the researchers’ dedication seem like the pressure cauldron of an Olympic Trials. Grab this one if you like dark and twisty with some substance! Full Review.

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.

Us Against YouUs Against You by Fredrick Backman
Fiction – Literary (Released June 5, 2018)
448 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Plot Summary: Amid the wreckage of the previous winter, Beartown residents face their beloved ice hockey team being disbanded and a volatile rivalry with nearby Hed Hockey.
My Thoughts: Us Against You is the sequel to last year’s Beartown (one of my favorites of 2017) and I highly recommend you read Beartown before reading Us Against You. This time around, Beartown has lost its innocence. The story is even darker, more sinister, and more focused on the adults and the politics of sports (a very real thing). Like in Beartown, the story is about far more than hockey…friendship, rivalry, marriage, parenting, power, sexuality, and violence. I was completely engrossed in the emotion of sports, which Backman captures better than anything save Friday Night Lights (and if you’re missing FNL, these are the books for you!). 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.). Full Review.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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!

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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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. 
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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. 

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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.

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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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