Tag: Book of the Month Club

Book of the Month March 2019 Selections: What Book Should You Choose?

March 1, 2019 Book Recommendations 10

Book of the Month March 2019 Selections

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

 

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

Way to go, Book of the Month! For the second month in a row, there are multiple selections that I’m interested in! There’s a hyped novel in a unique format, a psychological thriller from an author I like, a debut Sci-Fi novel from an acclaimed short story writer, a debut short story collection that’s getting critical hype, and debut novel billed as a cross between Bridget Jones Diary and Americanah.

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

I’ve just updated my Ultimate Guide to the Book of the Month Judges to reflect the February 2018 structural changes that significantly changed the judges that appeared regularly. Here’s a free, downloadable template to help you find your go-to BOTM judge!

Book of the Month March 2019 Selections

Daisy Jones and the SixDaisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Release Date: March 5, 2019

368 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.41 on 1,242 ratings
Selected By: Katherine Center (Author of How to Walk Away and others)

Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six, but nobody knows the reason behind their split at the absolute height of their popularity . . . until now.

The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies.

My Thoughts:
Daisy Jones & The Six is one of the more hyped releases of the year from a beloved author (although, this book is a departure for her). Though the premise sounds like nonfiction, this is a novel. To me, it sounds like a fictional music version of Live from New York since it’s told in an oral history / interview format. Three book sources I trust have read it and landed in slightly different places. Susie from Novel Visits loved the format, the 70’s rock scene setting, and the three very different female characters…and she rated it 5 stars. Gayle from The Readerly Report Podcast and Everyday I Write the Book blog liked it a lot (4 stars), but didn’t loved it as much as she thought she would (the sex/drugs angle got a little tiresome, but the band felt so real she sometimes forgot she was reading fiction). And, Renee from It’s Book Talk (who isn’t a big music lover) also got frustrated with the amount of sex/drugs and felt disconnected from the characters because of the oral history format. Ashley Spivey (a recent podcast guest) loved it. Amazon has ordered a limited series adaptation of Daisy Jones & The Six with Reese Witherspoon producing (source: Variety). If you liked VH1’s Behind the Music back in the day or Live from New York, I think this could be a good pick for you.

Before She Knew HimBefore She Knew Him by Peter Swanson
Release Date: March 5, 2019

320 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.01 on 362 ratings
Selected By: Riley Sager (Author of Final Girls and The Last Time I Lied)

From the hugely talented author of The Kind Worth Killing comes an exquisitely chilling tale of a young suburban wife with a history of psychological instability whose fears about her new neighbor could lead them both to murder . . .

My Thoughts:
Y’all know how finicky I am about psychological thrillers, but Peter Swanson is an author I’ve actually had a good experience with! I really liked The Kind Worth Killing and it was different than all those thrillers that tend to run together. That being said, I’m always nervous about plots that center around neighborhood drama. Goodreads reviewers said it has a noir feeling and was unputdownable, the twists didn’t feel outlandish, the first half is a lot of setting the stage (but, the second half takes off), and that this is a wild plot that somehow does work. They also recommend you go in blind (I agree…lots was given away in some of the Goodreads reviews I read…and they weren’t “hidden for spoilers”). It was blurbed by Alafair Burke (author of The Wife, another thriller I like).

The MunicipalistsThe Municipalists by Seth Fried
Release Date: March 19, 2019
272 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.05 on 22 ratings
Selected By: Siobhan Jones (Book of the Month Editorial Director)

In Metropolis, the gleaming city of tomorrow, the dream of the great American city has been achieved. But all that is about to change, unless a neurotic, rule-following bureaucrat and an irreverent, freewheeling artificial intelligence can save the city from a mysterious terrorist plot that threatens its very existence.

My Thoughts:
The Municipalists is a debut Sci-Fi novel from an acclaimed short story writer (The Great Frustration). It centers around male friendship and apparently has an optimistic outlook on AI (Artificial Intelligence), which is different from many other books about AI. There is only one meaningful review on Goodreads that describes it as a fun adventure. The reviewer liked the voice and finished it in one night, but wished for more world building. Author Karen Russell (Swamplandia!) has called Fried “a delight to read.”

Lot: StoriesLot: Stories by Bryan Washington
Release Date: March 19, 2019
240 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.53 on 33 ratings
Selected By: Mat Johnson (Author of Pym and Loving Day)

In the city of Houston – a sprawling, diverse microcosm of America – the son of a black mother and a Latino father is coming of age. He’s working at his family’s restaurant, weathering his brother’s blows, resenting his older sister’s absence. And discovering he likes boys.

My Thoughts:
Washington is 24 years old and has written nonfiction and social commentary, but this is his debut story collection. Goodreads reviewers said the stories are interconnected with half following a bi-racial family with a gay son and half following the surrounding neighborhood. They describe these stories as raw and intense, and said they paint a picture of the city of Houston. One reviewer said this collection addresses a lot of issues, but they felt organic to the story. Tyler Goodson (Manager of Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA and one of my best recommendation sources) rated this one 5 stars and said “the light that shines from these stories is almost too much.” Aja Gabel (author of The Ensemble, one of my favorite books of 2018) called it “haunting and powerful.” It’s also been compared to Junot Diaz’s Drown.

QueenieQueenie by Candice Carty-Williams
Release Date: March 19, 2019
320 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.93 on 243 ratings
Selected By: JoJo Moyes (Author of Me Before You)

Bridget Jones’s Diary meets Americanah in this disarmingly honest, boldly political, and truly inclusive novel that will speak to anyone who has gone looking for love and found something very different in its place.

Queenie Jenkins is a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London, straddling two cultures and slotting neatly into neither. She works at a national newspaper, where she’s constantly forced to compare herself to her white middle class peers. After a messy break up from her long-term white boyfriend, Queenie seeks comfort in all the wrong places…including several hazardous men who do a good job of occupying brain space and a bad job of affirming self-worth.

My Thoughts:
This debut, part epistolary novel is said to be a mash-up of Bridget Jones Diary and Americanah (quite a pairing!). But, Goodreads reviewers disagreed with the comparison to Bridget Jones Diary…saying it ends at a girl living in London and struggling with dating. They said the story is not light and feel-good, but much deeper than Bridget Jones Diary. They said Queenie is a complex character…funny and raw, but makes a lot of really bad decisions. Some loved Carty-Williams’ handling of mental illness and particularly how it’s viewed in the Caribbean and black communities, while others mentioned the issues didn’t feel fully organic to the story. Jaclyn Crupi (a reviewer I trust) praised the character development, but struggled with Queenie’s “lack of agency in sex” and thought Carty-Williams tried to cram too much into the novel. JoJo Moyes called it “brilliant, timely, funny, heartbreaking.”

What Book of the Month March 2019 selection(s) will I choose?

I’m choosing Daisy Jones & the Six this month…because of all the good reviews I’m seeing from people I trust, my love for the oral history format (however, I am nervous because I’m not a big music person!), and my love for her last book, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (my review).

But, if you’re looking for a psychological thriller, I recommend Before She Knew Him based on my prior experience with Peter Swanson!

Make your Book of the Month selections by Wednesday, March 6th.

What book will you choose this month?

This Month’s Special Deals

NEW MEMBER DEAL: New members can get a free book when they join. Use code SPRINGFLING.

ANNUAL PAYMENT DEAL: BOTM is now a monthly subscription service. However, given that some members preferred paying upfront, they are now offering a 12-month option. Members who sign up for 12 months will pay $149.99/year. That’s $12.50/book, instead of the standard price of $14.99/month.

How to Join Book of the Month…

Book of the Month is a subscription service for people who like to try new books from a curated selection and like to read in hardcover format. Through Book of the Month, you can get a hardcover book for generally significantly less than you’d pay in a bookstore or through Amazon. And, you get to try something new that has been vetted by one of Book of the Month’s well-read judges!

Sign up for any of the subscription plans below and you get to choose one of five books selected by Book of the Month’s panel of judges (including a surprise guest judge). Book of the Month will then mail your chosen book to your house with a cute note. You also have the option to purchase additional books for $9.99 each and to skip a month if you want.

Sign up for a Book of the Month membership (NEW pricing below)!

New members will sign up for a membership that renews monthly:

A book of your choice for $14.99 / month
Add extra books to your shipment for $9.99 each
Skip any month you want
Free shipping, always

Support Sarah’s Book Shelves on Patreon!
(and get personalized book recommendations and access to our private Facebook Group)

Support Us!

The NEW Ultimate Guide to the Book of the Month Judges (plus a free download!)

February 26, 2019 Book Recommendations 19

Book of the Month Judges

 

Every month, I share my commentary on the Book of the Month selections and which ones I’d choose that month (ex: February 2019 selections). Putting these posts together got me thinking about creative ways to help Book of the Month members choose the monthly selection that is right for them

Then, I created The Ultimate Guide to the Book of the Month Judges as another way to help members choose the right selection for their reading taste. Many of the judges pop up over and over again, creating a track record of their selections…which you can analyze to figure out what types of books certain judges tend to choose and which judges are most compatible with your personal reading taste.

Last February (2018), Book of the Month announced a change to the structure of their judges (details here). They didn’t specifically say that the Book of the Month judges would change, but I noticed a large shift ever since that announcement. Many recurring judges disappeared and some new judges entered the fold. The types of books chosen as monthly selections also changed. So, this updated Judges Guide reflects this new landscape. 

Changes Since the February 2018 Announcement

  • The number of judges has shrunk drastically (we are looking at a smaller time period, so some decrease makes sense).
  • Judges predominantly focusing on serious literary fiction disappeared entirely.
  • A psychological thriller is featured almost every month.
  • Nonfiction selections have fallen considerably (i.e. there have only been 3 selections in the year since the structural change).
  • Same with Young Adult (i.e. there has only been 1 selection in the year since the structural change).
  • My favorite judges (Kim Hubbard, Sarah Weinman, and Laia Garcia) disappeared.

If you downloaded the template at the bottom of the post when I first released it, I recommend doing it again because you’ll find your results are very different! And, your results from this template will be far more useful. As with my last Judges Guide, I will update the template every month with the new selections and judges.

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

How to Join Book of the Month…

Book of the Month is a subscription service for people who like to try new books from a curated selection and like to read in hardcover format. Through Book of the Month, you can get a hardcover book for generally significantly less than you’d pay in a bookstore or through Amazon. And, you get to try something new that has been vetted by one of Book of the Month’s well-read judges!

Sign up for any of the subscription plans below and you get to choose one of five books selected by Book of the Month’s panel of judges (including a surprise guest judge). Book of the Month will then mail your chosen book to your house with a cute note. You also have the option to purchase additional books for $9.99 each and to skip a month if you want.

Sign up for a Book of the Month membership (NEW pricing below)!

New members will sign up for a membership that renews monthly:

A book of your choice for $14.99 / month
Add extra books to your shipment for $9.99 each
Skip any month you want
Free shipping, always

The Ultimate Guide to the Book of the Month Judges

Lighter Literary Fiction

Elizabeth Mitchell (Readers Committee, Author, Editor, Journalist)

  • She’s only had one selection so far, which didn’t work for me.
  • Pick that Didn’t Work for Me: Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser

Skye Sherman (Brand Ambassador – Freelance Travel Writer & Blogger)

Thrillers

AJ Finn aka Dan Mallory (Author, Editor)
*Scandal surrounds Finn/Mallory right now (details here), so I’ll be interested to see if he ever reappears as a BOTM judge.

Cristina Arreola (Bustle Books Editor)

  • While she picks mostly thrillers, she did select Red Clocks by Leni Zumas, a literary dystopian novel in the vein of The Handmaid’s Tale.
  • Also selected The Child by Fiona Barton (a mystery) and Cross Her Heart, Sarah Pinborough’s sophomore novel. 
  • Pick that Didn’t Work for Me: Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough (my spoiler discussion

Elizabeth Sile (Judge Emeritas, Features Editor for Real Simple Magazine)

  • She’s only had one selection so far, which I haven’t read.
  • Pick: The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn (see above)

Laura Whitelaw (Readers Committee)

  • She’s only had one selection so far, which I haven’t read.
  • Pick: Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

Eclectic Judges

Brianna Goodman (Book of the Month Editorial Team)

Etaf Rum (Brand Ambassador, Author, #Bookstagrammer)

Liberty Hardy (co-host of Book Riot‘s All the Books podcast)

Samantha Irby (Author, Blogger)

Siobhan Jones (BOTM Editorial Director)

Steph Opitz (Book Reviewer at Marie Claire)

Taylor Jenkins Reid (Author)

Who are MY go-to Book of the Month judges?

Taylor Jenkins Reid is my #1 judge…I liked two out of three of her picks! I hope she starts appearing more often.

Etaf Rum is in second place…but, I’ll have to keep an eye on this one as she’s only picked two books so far (I liked one of them). 

Who are MY no-go Book of the Month judges? – UPDATE

Elizabeth Mitchell and AJ Finn are my top no-go judges.

Elizabeth Mitchell is based on only one choice, though, so that could change moving forward.

How to find YOUR go-to and no-go Book of the Month judges

  • Download my free template below.
  • In the spreadsheet, look for the genre categories that you generally prefer. You can skip this step if you want to consider every single judge as an option for you.
  • Look for Columns D, E and F (Read?, Liked?, Interested in Reading?). For each book you’ve read, use the dropdown menu change the “No” to “Yes”. Do the same for “Liked?” and “Interested in Reading?”
  • Look in the Total Column (Column G) to find your go-to and no-go judges! The go-to’s are obviously the ones with the highest numerical total and the no-go’s are the ones with the lowest…and preferably negative numerical total (highlighted in yellow).

Using this guide, who are your go-to Book of the Month judges?

Pin this post…

 

Book of the Month Judges

Book of the Month February 2019 Selections: What Book Should You Choose?

February 1, 2019 Book Recommendations 18

Book of the Month February 2019

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

 

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

It’s been awhile since I’ve loved the Book of the Month selections overall…but, I love this month’s picks! There are lots (3) of debuts this month…two of which I’m really interested in! Plus, the obligatory monthly psychological thriller and a sci-fi / fantasy pick. 

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

Check out my fun new tool to help you pick the best Book of the Month selection for your taste: my Ultimate Guide to the Book of the Month Judges and free, downloadable template to help you find your go-to BOTM judge!

Book of the Month February 2019 Selections

Winter SisterThe Winter Sister by Megan Collins
Release Date: February 5, 2019

320 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.03 on 267 ratings
Selected By: Brianna Goodman (Book of the Month Editorial Team)

In this spellbinding and suspenseful debut, a young woman haunted by the past returns home to care for her ailing mother and begins to dig deeper into her sister’s unsolved murder.

My Thoughts:
The Winter Sister is this month’s psychological thriller and it’s a debut. It’s about family dynamics, particularly mother / daughter relationships and relationships between sisters. Goodreads reviewers praised the writing (especially for a debut) and the character development, but the overwhelming complaint was that the plot was tired / predictable (almost every review I read said that frequent thriller readers will have seen the plot before). They also said it’s atmospheric and focuses on the effects of guilt. Wendy Walker (author of All is Not Forgotten and Emma in the Night, one of my favorite thrillers) said it has a “gripping, suspenseful plot with a compelling character study of a grieving family.”

Early RiserEarly Riser by Jasper Fforde
Release Date: February 12, 2019

416 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.13 on 1,542 ratings
Selected By: Liberty Hardy (co-host of Book Riot‘s All the Books podcast)

Every Winter, the human population hibernates.

During those bitterly cold four months, the nation is a snow-draped landscape of desolate loneliness, devoid of human activity.

Well, not quite .

Your name is Charlie Worthing and it’s your first season with the Winter Consuls, the committed but mildly unhinged group of misfits who are responsible for ensuring the hibernatory safe passage of the sleeping masses.

You are investigating an outbreak of viral dreams which you dismiss as nonsense; nothing more than a quirky artefact borne of the sleeping mind.

When the dreams start to kill people, it’s unsettling.

When you get the dreams too, it’s weird.

When they start to come true, you begin to doubt your sanity.

My Thoughts:
Fforde is the British bestselling author of The Eyre Affair and the Thursday Next and Nursery Crimes series. Early Riser is a stand-alone sci-fi / fantasy novel and, like with the last sci-fi pick from BOTM, I can’t make heads or tails of the premise of this book other than that it’s something about life going into hibernation every winter. Goodreads reviewers called it quirky and inventive and praised its witty writing and funny footnotes (they warn readers not to skip them!). They also said the plot is original and that it’s a bit slow in the beginning (first third to half of the book) in the name of world-building, but picks up the pace later. And, Fforde fans say it’s not his best book but they enjoyed it nonetheless.

Age of LightThe Age of Light by Whitney Scharer
Release Date: February 5, 2019
384 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.09 on 138 ratings
Selected By: Taylor Jenkins Reid (Author of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and more)

A captivating debut about Vogue model turned renowned photographer Lee Miller, and her passionate affair with the artist Man Ray in 1930s Paris.

My Thoughts:
This debut historical fiction novel falls into the category of fiction based on real-life epic love affairs (a category I love!), which reminds me of similar books Loving Frank and Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald (my review). And, even better when the woman is trying to find her own purpose in the midst of these affairs, as is the case with all these books. A murderers’ row of stand-out authors blurbed this book: Madeline Miller, Paula McClain, Celeste Ng, and Georgia Hunter. I’m reading it right now (and loving it so far!), but I’m only six chapters in, so I’m calling on some trusted recommendation sources to share their thoughts. Georgia Hunter recommended it on Episode 1 of the Sarah’s Book Shelves Live podcast (click the timestamp to hear her comments: [38:10])…she talked about it’s strong sense of time and place (I agree based on the first six chapters!), called it “gripping” and “sensual”, and said it made her want to immediately Google everything about Lee Miller and Man Ray. Susie from Novel Visits (one of my top recommendation sources) said it’s her favorite book of the year so far and that she was left hoping for a sequel to learn more about Lee Miller. The more critical Goodreads reviews mostly cite the steamy love scenes and call the book out for being a romance masquerading as historical fiction.

A Woman is No ManA Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum
Release Date: March 5, 2019
336 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.5 on 78 ratings
Selected By: Siobhan Jones (Book of the Month Editorial Director)

In Brooklyn, eighteen-year-old Deya is starting to meet with suitors. Though she doesn’t want to get married, her grandparents give her no choice. History is repeating itself: Deya’s mother, Isra, also had no choice when she left Palestine as a teenager to marry Adam. Though Deya was raised to believe her parents died in a car accident, a secret note from a mysterious, yet familiar-looking woman makes Deya question everything she was told about her past. As the narrative alternates between the lives of Deya and Isra, she begins to understand the dark, complex secrets behind her fragile community.

My Thoughts:
First, the author. Even though this is a debut novel, Rum’s name may sound familiar because she’s a Book of the Month Ambassador and extremely popular Bookstagrammer (@booksandbeans). She’s also the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, but was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. The story is about three generations of Palestinian women and the challenges Muslim women face. It’s a family drama that covers a range of issues…religion, abuse, marriage, mental illness, addiction, etc. And, the Goodreads reviews are outstanding! Many reviewers mention this being the best book they’ve read in awhile. They also call it a feminist book despite focusing on a decidedly un-feminist culture and they mention the cultural and generational clashes facing traditional Muslims who are raised in America (a theme I personally love in my reading). Bonus: I hear the three main characters are all book lovers! Honestly, I hadn’t paid much attention to this book prior to yesterday…but, I’m now super interested.

On the Come UpOn the Come Up by Angie Thomas
Release Date: February 5, 2019
447 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.39 on 518 ratings
Selected By: Helen Hoang (Author of The Kiss Quotient)

Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighborhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But now that her mom has unexpectedly lost her job, food banks and shutoff notices are as much a part of Bri’s life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it.

My Thoughts:
You’ve probably at least heard of The Hate U GiveOn the Come Up is Thomas’s sophomore novel and it has BIG shoes to fill. It’s being called her “homage to hip-hop.” Just in case you don’t know, Thomas is a YA (Young Adult) author, but The Hate U Give had massive crossover appeal, so I expect the same from On the Come Up. Many of the Goodreads reviews were by people who were just excited about the book, but hadn’t actually read it. But, I did find some actual reviews, which were mostly positive. They talked about the gorgeous writing, Bri’s song lyrics and hilarious, yet challenging personality, and the rawness. A few also mentioned they felt less of an emotional connection with Bri than they did with Starr from THUG. Reviewers say it’s a different book from THUG, but takes on some of the same themes (ex: poverty, police brutality) and is written with the same heart and soul. I loved THUG, but am going to wait for some more reviews from trusted sources on this one before I decide to commit.

What Book of the Month February 2019 selection(s) will I choose?

I’m choosing two books this month!

1) The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer – I already have an e-galley, but am liking it so much already that I want a hard copy for my shelves.

2) A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum – This one wasn’t on my radar until yesterday, but the Goodreads reviews are so outstanding that I’m adding it to my list!

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

What book will you choose this month?

This Month’s Special Deals

NEW MEMBER DEAL: New members can get their first book for just $5. Use code LOVEISLOVE.

ANNUAL PAYMENT DEAL: BOTM is now a monthly subscription service. However, given that some members preferred paying upfront, they are now offering a 12-month option. Members who sign up for 12 months will pay $149.99/year. That’s $12.50/book, instead of the standard price of $14.99/month.

How to Join Book of the Month…

Book of the Month is a subscription service for people who like to try new books from a curated selection and like to read in hardcover format. Through Book of the Month, you can get a hardcover book for generally significantly less than you’d pay in a bookstore or through Amazon. And, you get to try something new that has been vetted by one of Book of the Month’s well-read judges!

Sign up for any of the subscription plans below and you get to choose one of five books selected by Book of the Month’s panel of judges (including a surprise guest judge). Book of the Month will then mail your chosen book to your house with a cute note. You also have the option to purchase additional books for $9.99 each and to skip a month if you want.

Sign up for a Book of the Month membership (NEW pricing below)!

New members will sign up for a membership that renews monthly:

A book of your choice for $14.99 / month
Add extra books to your shipment for $9.99 each
Skip any month you want
Free shipping, always

Support Sarah’s Book Shelves on Patreon!
(and get personalized book recommendations and access to our private Facebook Group)

Support Us!

Book of the Month January 2019 Selections: What Book Should You Choose?

December 29, 2018 Book Recommendations 13

January 2019 Book of the Month Selections

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

 

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

This month’s picks….hmm. I’d never heard of a single one before. None seem particularly up my alley; however, I’m intrigued by a couple. Not enough to choose them as my pick, but enough to keep my ears open for others’ opinions and maybe pick them up at the library later. There’s also a special add-on this month: Watching You by Lisa Jewell.

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

Check out my fun new tool to help you pick the best Book of the Month selection for your taste: my Ultimate Guide to the Book of the Month Judges and free, downloadable template to help you find your go-to BOTM judge!

Book of the Month January 2019 Selections

MaidMaid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land
Release Date: January 22, 2019

288 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.89 on 224 ratings
Selected By: Meghan MacLean Weir (Author of The Book of Essie)

Evicted meets Nickel and Dimed in Stephanie Land’s memoir about working as a maid, a beautiful and gritty exploration of poverty in America.

My Thoughts:
Author Stephanie Land had aspirations of going to college and becoming a writer, but an unplanned pregnancy threw her into a job in housekeeping and dependence on government assistance. Barbara Ehrenreich, author of bestseller Nickel and Dimed, wrote the Foreward. Author Roxane Gay rated it 4 stars on Goodreads, though she did have a couple issues with it. Gay (and some others on Goodreads) mentioned the comparison to Evicted might be a stretch as that is a meticulously researched book on poverty, while Maid is straight-up memoir. Goodreads reviewers also mention Maid illuminates how hard it is to break the cycle of poverty, but some were frustrated with some of Land’s decisions. Land wrote an article for Vox that went viral…in which she discusses snooping on her cleaning clients and all it taught her about wealth. If you like social justice nonfiction, this might be a good pick for you.

Night TigerThe Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo
Release Date: February 12, 2019

384 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.34 on 82 ratings
Selected By: Brianna Goodman (Book of the Month Editorial Team)

A sweeping historical novel about a dancehall girl and an orphan boy whose fates entangle over an old Chinese superstition about men who turn into tigers.

My Thoughts:
Choo’s sophomore novel (her debut was The Ghost Bride) is Historical Fiction with some coming of age elements set in 1930’s Malaysia. It’s being compared to Pachinko by Min Jin Lee and Isabel Allende’s books. Goodreads reviewers mentioned its themes of Imperialism, mysticism, Chinese superstition, folklore, the dream world, sibling rivalry, and romance. They said the story is incredibly unique, complicated but approachable, and that the tiger angle doesn’t play that big of a role. 

Golden ChildGolden Child by Claire Adam
Release Date: January 29, 2019
288 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.83 on 102 ratings
Selected By: Siobhan Jones (Book of the Month Editorial Director)

Rural Trinidad: a brick house on stilts surrounded by bush; a family, quietly surviving, just trying to live a decent life. Clyde, the father, works long, exhausting shifts at the petroleum plant in southern Trinidad; Joy, his wife, looks after the home. Their two sons, thirteen years old, wake early every morning to travel to the capital, Port of Spain, for school. They are twins but nothing alike: Paul has always been considered odd, while Peter is widely believed to be a genius, destined for greatness.

When Paul goes walking in the bush one afternoon and doesn’t come home, Clyde is forced to go looking for him, this child who has caused him endless trouble already, and who he has never really understood. And as the hours turn to days, and Clyde begins to understand Paul’s fate, his world shatters–leaving him faced with a decision no parent should ever have to make.

My Thoughts:
Golden Child is Adam’s debut novel and the second acquisition for SJP for Hogarth (actress Sarah Jessica Parker’s imprint), following A Place for Us. Adam, now living in London, grew up in Trinidad, where the novel is set. Golden Child has been described as a family drama with secrets, lies, and betrayal. Goodreads reviewers mention Adam’s spare writing (my kind of writing!) and her vivid portrait of life in Trinidad (warts and all). They called the story suspenseful, moving, intense, emotional, and disturbing. Reviewers mentioned needing some time to wrap their heads around what they’d just read upon finishing the book. And, it sounds like this is book driven by both the plot and the characters.

Golden StateGolden State by Ben H. Winters
Release Date: January 22, 2019
384 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.76 on 75 ratings
Selected By: Liberty Hardy (co-host of Book Riot‘s All the Books podcast)

Laz is a resident of The Golden State, a nation resembling California, where like-minded Americans retreated after the erosion of truth and the spread of lies made public life, and governance, increasingly impossible. There, surrounded by the high walls of compulsory truth-telling, knowingly contradicting the truth–the Objectively So–is the greatest possible crime. Stopping those crimes, punishing them, is Laz’s job. In its service, he is one of the few individuals permitted to harbor untruths–to “speculate” on what might have happened in the commission of a crime.

But the Golden State is far less a paradise than its name might suggest. To monitor, verify, and enforce the Objectively So requires a veritable panopticon of surveillance, recording, and record-keeping. And when those in control of the truth twist it for nefarious means, the Speculators may be the only ones with the power to fight back.

My Thoughts:
Honestly, y’all, the publisher’s synopsis for this dystopian novel is incomprehensible to me. I couldn’t tell you what it’s about. Hopefully, you’ll have better luck. Golden State is described as “part Minority Report and one part Chinatown.”  Goodreads reviewers describe the story as a commentary on truth and rules, in a place (California in the future) where the biggest sin is to lie. They said it’s timely, clever, twisty, and thought-provoking, but some were disappointed with the ending (was described as “WTF” and “absurd”).

Silent PatientThe Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
Release Date: February 5, 2019
336 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.34 on 709 ratings
Selected By: AJ Finn (Author of The Woman in the Window)

Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.

Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. […]

Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations—a search for the truth that threatens to consume him….

My Thoughts:
This month’s obligatory psychological thriller…and it’s a British debut. The premise of this one reminds me of The Sinner (the book and the TV series starring Jessica Biel)…unexplainable act of violence, silence from the unlikely perpetrator, and an investigator’s or psychiatrist’s obsession with unraveling the case. It’s told from dual perspectives (Theo the psychiatrist and excerpts from Alicia’s diary before the murder). Though you know I’m picky about my psychological thrillers, I’ve realized I do like those that include a psychologist’s or psychiatrist’s perspective (i.e. All is Not Forgotten and An Anonymous Girl). Goodreads reviewers said it’s best to go in blind and people really aren’t saying much about it in their reviews other than they didn’t see the twists coming and it definitely deserves the hype its getting (although I hadn’t heard of it before seeing it as a Book of the Month pick).

What Book of the Month January 2019 selection(s) will I choose?

I’m skipping this month. None of the selections grabbed my interest enough to take a chance; however, I will keep an eye on the reviews of Golden Child, Maid, and The Silent Patient. If people I trust like them, I’ll definitely give them a shot later.

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

What book will you choose this month?

This Month’s Special Deals

SPECIAL JANUARY ADD-ON: Watching You by Lisa Jewell

NEW MEMBER DEAL: New members can get their first book for just $5. Use code FRESHSTART.

ANNUAL PAYMENT DEAL: BOTM is now a monthly subscription service. However, given that some members preferred paying upfront, they are now offering a 12-month option. Members who sign up for 12 months will pay $149.99/year. That’s $12.50/book, instead of the standard price of $14.99/month.

How to Join Book of the Month…

Book of the Month is a subscription service for people who like to try new books from a curated selection and like to read in hardcover format. Through Book of the Month, you can get a hardcover book for generally significantly less than you’d pay in a bookstore or through Amazon. And, you get to try something new that has been vetted by one of Book of the Month’s well-read judges!

Sign up for any of the subscription plans below and you get to choose one of five books selected by Book of the Month’s panel of judges (including a surprise guest judge). Book of the Month will then mail your chosen book to your house with a cute note. You also have the option to purchase additional books for $9.99 each and to skip a month if you want.

Sign up for a Book of the Month membership (NEW pricing below)!

New members will sign up for a membership that renews monthly:

A book of your choice for $14.99 / month
Add extra books to your shipment for $9.99 each
Skip any month you want
Free shipping, always

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

November 30, 2018 Book Recommendations 14

Book of the Month December 2018 Selections

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

 

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

After almost a year into Book of the Month‘s new judging structure, I’m detecting some trends. They’ve been choosing books from previous Book of the Month authors (John Boyne, Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanan, Jasmine Guillory, Sarah Pinborough, Riley Sager, etc.). They seem to pick at least one psychological thriller every month…and generally a light read as well. We’ve seen less literary fiction and far less nonfiction this year, which I really miss. 

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

Check out my fun new tool to help you pick the best Book of the Month selection for your taste: my Ultimate Guide to the Book of the Month Judges and free, downloadable template to help you find your go-to BOTM judge!

Book of the Month December 2018 Selections

An Anonymous GirlAn Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Release Date: January 8, 2019

384 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.29 on 1,798 ratings
Selected By: Riley Sager (Author of Final Girls and The Last Time I Lied)

Seeking women ages 18–32 to participate in a study on ethics and morality. Generous compensation. Anonymity guaranteed. 

When Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr. Shields, she thinks all she’ll have to do is answer a few questions, collect her money, and leave. But as the questions grow more and more intense and invasive and the sessions become outings where Jess is told what to wear and how to act, she begins to feel as though Dr. Shields may know what she’s thinking…and what she’s hiding. As Jess’s paranoia grows, it becomes clear that she can no longer trust what in her life is real, and what is one of Dr. Shields’ manipulative experiments. Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.

My Thoughts:
From the ladies of The Wife Between Us fame comes their sophomore novel, the premise of which sounds a little like Wendy Walker’s All is Not Forgotten (my spoiler discussion). Kaytee Cobb of the Currently Reading Podcast said it’s “Super readable, much less predictable than their first novel and far more twisty, this sophomore thriller by Hendricks and Pekkanen is weird and crazy.” Goodreads reviewers said it was unputdownable, is told from dual points of view (Jessica and the psychiatrist), is full of dislikable characters, the twists are more subtle (a few select reviewers did say it was slow), and is better than The Wife Between Us. They also recommend going in blind, which I plan to do. I DNF’d The Wife Between Us, but this one sounds more up my alley, so I’m planning to give it a try.

One Day in DecemberOne Day in December by Josie Silver
Released: October 16, 2018

416 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.1 on 6,950 ratings
Selected By: Erica de Leon (BOTM Readers Committee)

A love story about what happens after you meet, or rather, don’t meet the one.

Laurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn’t exist anywhere but the movies. But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees a man who she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there’s a moment of pure magic…and then her bus drives away.

Certain they’re fated to find each other again, Laurie spends a year scanning every bus stop and cafe in London for him. But she doesn’t find him, not when it matters anyway. Instead they “reunite” at a Christmas party, when her best friend Sarah giddily introduces her new boyfriend to Laurie. It’s Jack, the man from the bus. It would be.

My Thoughts:
This is a light, rom-com style story…and those usually aren’t up my alley. But, I’m planning to give this one a try because three of my most trusted recommendation sources loved it! Gayle Weiswasser, co-host of The Readerly Report podcast, said it has a “cheesy premise,” but it was a “thoroughly enjoyable, engrossing book with a surprising amount of heft.” Renee at It’s Book Talk said she “read this in one sitting, laughing, crying and in the end slowing down because I didn’t want it to end. And, Jan (one of my blog readers) said “This book is all about fate, timing, and star-crossed love, told with a side of humor and a lot of heart. You’re not a romance reader? Neither am I! But this book melted my non-romance reading heart into a puddle.”

Far FieldThe Far Field by Madhuri Vijay
Release Date: January 15, 2019
448 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.17 on 12 ratings
Selected By: Brianna Goodman (Book of the Month Editorial Team)

In the wake of her mother’s death, Shalini, a privileged and restless young woman from Bangalore, sets out for a remote Himalayan village in the troubled northern region of Kashmir. Certain that the loss of her mother is somehow connected to the decade-old disappearance of Bashir Ahmed, a charming Kashmiri salesman who frequented her childhood home, she is determined to confront him. But upon her arrival, Shalini is brought face to face with Kashmir’s politics, as well as the tangled history of the local family that takes her in. And when life in the village turns volatile and old hatreds threaten to erupt into violence, Shalini finds herself forced to make a series of choices that could hold dangerous repercussions for the very people she has come to love.

My Thoughts:
Vijay’s debut novel is said to examine “Indian politics, class prejudice, and sexuality through the lens of an outsider, offering a profound meditation on grief, guilt, and the limits of compassion.” It sounds like a hefty, serious book. It’s being compared to Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West and has gotten blurbs from Anthony Marra (author of The Tsar of Love and Techno) and Ben Fountain (author of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk). Goodreads reviewers said the writing is gorgeous, excellent character development, the pace is somewhat slow, and the story is moving.

No ExitNo Exit by Taylor Adams
Release Date: January 15, 2019
352 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.2 on 10.048 ratings
Selected By: Liberty Hardy (co-host of Book Riot‘s All the Books podcast)

A brilliant, edgy thriller about four strangers, a blizzard, a kidnapped child, and a determined young woman desperate to unmask and outwit a vicious psychopath.

A kidnapped little girl locked in a stranger’s van. No help for miles. What would you do?

On her way to Utah to see her dying mother, college student Darby Thorne gets caught in a fierce blizzard in the mountains of Colorado. With the roads impassable, she’s forced to wait out the storm at a remote highway rest stop. Inside, are some vending machines, a coffee maker, and four complete strangers.

Desperate to find a signal to call home, Darby goes back out into the storm . . . and makes a horrifying discovery. In the back of the van parked next to her car, a little girl is locked in an animal crate.

My Thoughts:
No Exit is a mystery / thriller and the Goodreads reviewers are saying all the things you generally hear about mysteries and thrillers…”the twists left me breathless”, “unputdownable”, “will keep you up at night”, etc. A few reviewers were frustrated by the ridiculousness of Darby’s lack of preparation for snow in that area of the country and some unrealistic plot scenarios. Reviewers did warn of bad language and graphic violence. No Exit is said to be for fans of Karin Slaughter and Harlan Coben…and the film rights have been purchased by 20th Century Fox.

Severance by Ling MaSeverance by Ling Ma
Released: August 14, 2018
304 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.93 on 2,579 ratings
Selected By: Brianna Goodman (Book of the Month Editorial Team)

An offbeat office novel turns apocalyptic satire as a young woman transforms from orphan to worker bee to survivor.

My Thoughts:
I’ve been seeing this debut novel popping up on some high profile Best Books of 2018 lists (Kirkus, New York Times 100 Notable Books). Jaclyn Krupi (a trusted recommendation source) said it’s “a very clever, humane satire about the global economy, the meaningless nature of contemporary life, consumption and survival. A recent past dystopia where an epidemic sweeps the world, this book questions consumerism, connection and life itself and it’s completely brilliant.” Tyler Goodson (one of my best recommendation sources) rated it 5 stars and said “what happens when nostalgia becomes a disease? I’m not sure how Ling Ma has written a novel about this question that is so smart and funny, but also so horrifying. I’m in awe.” Goodreads reviewers said it’s a post-apocalyptic anti-capitalist office satire, resonates with millennials, and is told in fragments. Some mentioned not liking the ending and some reviewers said the story was slow.

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

I’m choosing An Anonymous Girl and One Day in December…both books that are out of my comfort zone, but I’m choosing based on the strength of reviews from trusted sources. 

Make your Book of the Month selections by Thursday, December 6th.

What book will you choose this month?

This Month’s Special Deals

GIFT DEAL: When you give a Book of the Month subscription as a gift this season, you’ll get a gift for yourself: one free month! We have 3-, 6-, and 12-month subscription plans available for purchase. Purchase here!

NEW MEMBER DEAL: New members can get their first book for just $5. Use code NICE2MEETU.

ANNUAL PAYMENT DEAL: BOTM is now a monthly subscription service. However, given that some members preferred paying upfront, they are now offering a 12-month option. Members who sign up for 12 months will pay $149.99/year. That’s $12.50/book, instead of the standard price of $14.99/month.

How to Join Book of the Month…

Book of the Month is a subscription service for people who like to try new books from a curated selection and like to read in hardcover format. Through Book of the Month, you can get a hardcover book for generally significantly less than you’d pay in a bookstore or through Amazon. And, you get to try something new that has been vetted by one of Book of the Month’s well-read judges!

Sign up for any of the subscription plans below and you get to choose one of five books selected by Book of the Month’s panel of judges (including a surprise guest judge). Book of the Month will then mail your chosen book to your house with a cute note. You also have the option to purchase additional books for $9.99 each and to skip a month if you want.

Sign up for a Book of the Month membership (NEW pricing below)!

New members will sign up for a membership that renews monthly:

A book of your choice for $14.99 / month
Add extra books to your shipment for $9.99 each
Skip any month you want
Free shipping, always

Support Sarah’s Book Shelves on Patreon!
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Support Us!

The Best Holiday Gifts for Book Lovers 2018 (including book recommendations)

November 27, 2018 Gift Guides 20

Best holiday gifts for book lovers

 

Welcome to my 2018 Best Holiday Gifts for Book Lovers guide!

Every year, I compile a list of the books I came across that year that I think make perfect holiday gifts plus some fabulous book subscription services and some bookish goodies that aren’t actual books!

If you can’t find anything on this year’s list that’s the right match for your friend or loved one, check out my previous lists (201720162015201420132012).

The Holiday Gift Guide has a couple new elements this year:

  • Printable Cheatsheet – the Holiday Gift 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 (Go-To Recommendations, Edgy Literary Fiction, Introspective Books, Page Turners, Something Fun, For the Hobbyist, and Investigative Journalism).

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!).

Go-To Recommendations

These books have broad appeal and are all-around great selections for most readers.

My #1 Pick

Where the Crawdads SingWhere the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Fiction – Literary (Released August 14, 2018
)
384 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When local star quarterback Chase Matthews is found dead, suspicion falls on Kya Clark (the “Marsh Girl”), who is not at all who the town residents think she is.

My Thoughts: I was worried Where the Crawdads Sing would be a beautiful, but boring book, but I couldn’t be more wrong. The writing is gorgeous, the story is propulsive, and it’s 5-star immersive. There’s a coming of age element, a mystery, and a bit of romance that I did not expect from this book, but that totally worked for me. This is probably my most recommended book of the year and will be on my Best Books of 2018 list (coming in mid- December)! Full Review

A Well-Behaved WomanA Well-Behaved Woman by Therese Anne Fowler
Historical Fiction (Release Date: October 16, 2018)
400 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: To save her family from financial ruin, Alva Smith finagles a marriage to the extremely wealthy, but socially shunned William K. Vanderbilt, but it doesn’t turn out to be everything she’d hoped.

My Thoughts: I absolutely adored Fowler’s 2013 novel, Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald (my review)…so, A Well-Behaved Woman had big shoes to fill. While Alva is no Zelda, she is interesting. She was a modern woman in some ways and had a sassy side. And, I liked the fact that it made me think about class, the working rich vs. the inherited money rich, and women’s roles in society and the household. Perfect for fans of historical fiction and great mother-in-law gift! Full Review

An American Marriage An 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! 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.

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. I could feel Tara’s emotional tug-of-war over her own beliefs and the blood ties of her family…it was heart-wrenching. There are many parts that are hard to read…and that I’d have found totally unbelievable had this been fiction. Perfect for fans of The Glass CastleHillbilly Elegy (my review), and/or Under the Banner of Heaven (my review)! Full Review

Loving FrankLoving Frank by Nancy Horan
Historical Fiction (Released August 7, 2007)
384 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: A novel based on the true story of famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s epic affair with Mamah Borthwick Cheney, one of his married clients.

My Thoughts: While this story is about an epic love affair, it goes much deeper than that. It’s also about a woman’s journey to find herself in a time (the early 1900’s) when women weren’t supposed to have their own identities or interests. It’s about women’s roles in society and marriage and losing your identity through marriage and motherhood. Neither Mamah nor Wright is an entirely sympathetic character. PS – tell your gift recipient NOT to Google the real story of Frank and Mamah before you read the book…you don’t want to spoil the ending!

Rules of MagicThe Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
Historical Fiction (Released October 10, 2017)
369 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: In the prequel to Hoffman’s novel Practical Magic (also a movie starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman), siblings Franny, Jet, and Vincent come of age in 1960’s New York City while trying to obey the rules of magic their parents have instilled in them…until they visit Aunt Isabelle in Boston and begin to embrace who they truly are (i.e. witches).

My Thoughts: I am not a reader who normally likes anything related to magic, paranormal, or fantasy, but The Rules of Magic was an exception. The magic is not hokey at all and makes what is ultimately a story about love and family more fun and unique. It’s also got some mystery, tragedy, a family feud, and a bit of history about the Salem witch trials and New York City. It’s an unconventional kind of historical fiction, which is my favorite kind. Perfect for your quirky aunt!

Edgy Literary Fiction

These books are a bit darker, tackle more fraught issues, or have more aggressive language, etc. than my go-to literary fiction recommendations. Read the publishers’ summaries carefully before choosing one of them for your prim and proper grandmother!

My #1 Pick

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

A Ladder to the Sky A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne
Fiction – Literary (Released: November 13, 2018)
384 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Maurice Swift is single-mindedly focused on becoming a world famous author (despite having trouble coming up with story ideas) and will use anything and anyone to get there.

My Thoughts: It’s much darker (I don’t mean sadder…I mean more messed up) than The Heart’s Invisible Furies. For that reason, I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone who loved The Heart’s Invisible Furies, but Boyne’s writing style is absolutely there and I 5 star-loved it. Maurice isn’t likable, but he’s disturbingly fascinating for sure…and he’s much like many of Herman Koch’s characters in that he’ll say incredibly unsettling things that most regular people may not even think, much less say aloud. A great pick for readers who like their stories dark and disturbing (yes, we are out there!)! Full Review

Great BelieversThe Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
Fiction – Literary (Released: June 19, 2018)
432 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: A group of gay friends and their female friend (Fiona) navigate the AIDS crisis and deal with the death of one of their own in 1980’s Chicago…and decades later, Fiona sets out to Paris to find her estranged daughter and encounters the past in the process.

My Thoughts: The Great Believers is one of those “issue” book that makes the issue an organic part of the characters’ lives. It’s ultimately a gorgeous story about friendship in the face of disaster and is the kind of book you can just sink into. It’s got a little bit of The Heart’s Invisible Furies (sexuality, the AIDS crisis, characters you can root for wholeheartedly) and a little bit of A Little Life (a group of male friends facing terrible circumstances, but without the overwhelming violence), but retains its own uniqueness. This book has heart…and it’s seriously literary, but will still keep you turning the pages because you just have to find out what’s going to happen to these characters. Full Review

The WildlandsThe Wildlands by Abby Geni
Fiction – Literary (Released: September 4, 2018)
368 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: After the McCloud children lose everything in a Category 5 tornado in their hometown of Mercy, Oklahoma (thus attracting considerable media attention), their brother (Tucker) runs away leaving the three McCloud sisters to fend for themselves. He returns three years later amid further tragedy and thrusts the family into the spotlight yet again.

My Thoughts: The Wildlands is a fast-paced story about children that have lost literally everything trying to find their way again. This story touches themes far and wide…humans’ place in the ecosystem, environmental terrorism, children surviving on their own, the media spotlight, Patti Hearst-esque Stockholm syndrome, and complicated sibling relationships. It has the love of animals and nature of Where the Crawdads Sing (my review), the focus on media attention following a tragedy of Before the Fall (my review), and the family manipulation of Wiley Cash’s This Dark Road to Mercy (my review). 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.

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

Introspective Books

These books are quiet, calm, and comforting…and might lead you to ponder your life.

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

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 is perfect for any woman in their 30’s-50’s on your gift list! Full Review

Glitter and GlueGlitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released February 4, 2014)
224 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Corrigan hadn’t given much thought to what it’s like to mother someone or quite appreciated her own mother until she stepped into the role of surrogate caring for two children who had lost their own.

My Thoughts: Corrigan’s signature brand of heartfelt, relatable, and sometimes irreverent observations about life and motherhood are on display here. If your gift recipient has already read Tell Me More, this is your pick (especially if it’s your Mom!)! BUT, if you think she’d like a book like this and hasn’t read Tell Me More, go there first. Full Review

I Am, I Am, I AmI Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell
Nonfiction – Memoir / Essays (Released February 6, 2018)
304 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: O’Farrell shares seventeen seminal moments in her life…all “near death experiences.”

My Thoughts: It took me awhile to pick up this memoir / essay collection because the whole “near-death experiences” premise struck me as a little melodramatic, but I shouldn’t have worried because they were powerful and unsettling in a way that had me riveted. Some experiences are more serious than others, but a couple of them will knock your socks off and all impart some wisdom about life. Unquestionably 5 stars!

Page Turners

These books are pretty much the opposite of the last bunch.

My #1 Pick

Witch ElmThe Witch Elm by Tana French
Fiction – Mystery (Release Date: October 9, 2018)
464 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: After lucky golden boy Toby gets beaten in his apartment during a burglary, he goes to Ivy House (his ancestral home) to recover and care for his dying uncle Hugo…but, a skull is found in the trunk of a massive elm tree in the garden.

My Thoughts: I consider Tana French a “mystery” author, but The Witch Elm doesn’t start out with a “mystery” feel. It’s more of a family drama / mystery hybrid, which I knew was absolutely up my alley once I aligned my expectations. It’s a mystery with a level of complexity and character development generally uncharacteristic of the genre. It’s a slow build, but I wanted to find out what happened and to enmesh myself with this flawed family. Full Review

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. Great Dad gift!

Banker's WifeThe 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

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.

Something Fun

These books are your brain candy. They read easy, but their stories still have great depth.

My #1 Pick

From the Corner of the OvalFrom the Corner of the Ovalby Beck Dorey-Stein
Memoir (Released July 10, 2018)
330 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Dorey-Stein gets a job as a White House stenographer in the Obama administration from an ad on Craig’s List…and embarks on some transformative years of her life.

My Thoughts: This quarter life crisis memoir set in the world of politics might be my favorite audiobook of the year! It’s like listening to your fun friend who happens to have a job in the White House with access to the President give you all the very best anecdotes (plus, a good dose of her love life) over a glass of wine! It’s fun, snarky, and heart-felt and Beck is the rare “DC creature” who doesn’t take herself too seriously. Great pick for college age or early 20’s women! 

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. PS – Bachelor Nation would make a great pairing with The Book of Essie! Full Review

Calypso David SedarisCalypso 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! Great pick for anyone entering middle age. Full Review

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

I'll Be There For YouI’ll Be There for You: The One About Friends by Kelsey Miller
Nonfiction – Television (Released October 23, 2018)
304 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Yep, you guessed it…a behind-the-scenes history of Friends.

My Thoughts: This book is one big ball of 90’s nostalgia and, upon finishing it, I immediately started binge-watching Friends on Netflix. Not only do you get all the cute anecdotes you’d expect from this book, but there’s some interesting discussion about some ways the show is problematic when viewed through today’s cultural lens. An easy read and a no-brainer stocking stuffer for fans of Friends!

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. Great pick for fans of reality TV! Full Review

For the Hobbyist

Books for people that are into specific things…in this case, football, space, White House history, espionage, golf and life improvement.

My #1 Pick

Big Game Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times by Mark Leibovich
Nonfiction – Sports (Released September 4, 2018)
400 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Political writer Leibovich switches gears to go deep inside the NFL…with extensive access to Tom Brady and the Patriots.

My Thoughts: Mark Leibovich is the Chief National Correspondent for The New York Times Magazine focusing on politics and is known for his dry, sarcastic writing style and his propensity to make fun of self-important big-shots. The targets are self-important NFL owners (and there are some eccentric personalities in this bunch) and Commissioner Roger Goodell. It’s full of funny anecdotes about all the looney-tune personalities and hoopla surrounding the game…and doesn’t dig into the actual X’s and O’s of football too much, which I found infinitely more interesting. 

Endurance by Scott KellyEndurance by Scott Kelly
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released October 17, 2017)
400 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: The true story of Kelly’s year he spent on the International Space Station and his bumpy journey to becoming an astronaut.

My Thoughts: During his somewhat trouble-making youth, Scott Kelly read Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff and immediately decided he wanted to be a test pilot…eventually leading to his career as an astronaut. Life on the International Space Station is fascinating to hear about, particularly how long periods in space affect the human body, and Kelly’s path to becoming an astronaut is motivational, particularly for people that are floundering in their youth. A great pick for fans of The Martian. Full Review

The ResidenceThe Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Andersen Brower
Nonfiction – Presidential History (Released August 7, 2015)
281 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: A portrait of life in the White House for the first families told from the perspective of the residence service staff.

My Thoughts: I love a good behind-the-scenes of anything Presidential book, especially the ones that don’t really get into politics…and I’ve read a lot of them. The household service staff brings a unique viewpoint, since they see the first families at their most unguarded. Perfect if you’re interested in the inner workings of the White House (especially if you liked Ronald Kessler’s books, In the President’s Secret Service and The First Family Detail)!

American RadicalAmerican Radical: Inside the World of an Undercover Muslim FBI Agent by Tamer Elnoury
Nonfiction – War (Released October 23, 2017)
364 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Written under a pseudonym for the author’s safety, this is his story of working undercover for an elite counterterrorism unit following 9/11.

My Thoughts: Elnoury made a career change from going undercover in the drug world to undercover in the terrorism world. And, his story is absolutely chilling. It illuminates terrorism plots that were thankfully thwarted and characters who are the worst of the worst. But, the most interesting part about it for me was the exploration of Elnoury’s version of Islam and how he feels about those that practice the radicalized version of his religion. And, I wondered if the terrorists in this book read it and recognized themselves in it…and what that means for Elnoury’s safety. Great pick fans of cloak and dagger.

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. Another great Dad gift!

Tools of TitansTools of Titans by Tim Ferris
Nonfiction – Business/Productivity (Released December 6, 2016)
707 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Ferris took the highlights from his interviews with the top people in various fields (he’s all over the map with this…business, sports, entertainment, thinkers, etc) and organized them into Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise sections.

My Thoughts: This one is a chunkster, but it’s fascinating, extremely helpful, and easy to read in little snippets. There are absolutely some parts that may not interest you, but it’s very easy to skim or skip certain parts entirely. I highlighted tons and adopted a number of new routines from the book in my life. Would make a great gift for anyone looking for a little life improvement!

Investigative Journalism

Uncovering the secrets behind major news stories…I find these books make great Dad gifts!

My #1 Pick

I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamaraI’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
Nonfiction – True Crime (Release Date: February 27, 2018)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: McNamara, previously a true crime writer and blogger at TrueCrimeDiary.com, investigated the unsolved crimes of a 1970’s-80’s serial rapist (approximately 45 rapes per the FBI’s Wanted poster) and murderer (approximately 12 murders per the FBI’s Wanted poster) that she dubbed the Golden State Killer (also known as the EAR for East Area Rapist).

My Thoughts: The best true crime books put themselves on another tier by telling the story in a compelling, engrossing way and avoiding getting bogged down in overly dry details. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark does just that. The story is just as much about McNamara and her investigation as it is about the Golden State Killer, who came to dominate her life before she died unexpectedly while writing this book. And, ex-cop Joseph James DeAngelo was arrested soon after the book was published. Warning: do not read at night if you want a good night’s sleep!

Bad BloodBad Blood by John Carreyrou
Nonfiction – Business / Investigative Journalism (Released May 21, 2018)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: The true story of the meteoric rise and spectacular fall of the Silicon Valley biotech startup, Theranos.

My Thoughts: My favorite types of business books are the explosive, behind-the-scenes tell-all kinds and Bad Blood fits the bill. Though I did get lost in some of the science and engineering details, I was fascinated / horrified at the arrogance of Elizabeth Holmes, Theranos’s young CEO who viewed herself as the next Steve Jobs, and the lengths Theranos went to to create a “unicorn” whether or not they actually had a viable product. This one will make a great Dad gift!

Fifth Risk The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis
Nonfiction – Government (Released October 2, 2018)
219 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Lewis dives deep into the inner workings of murky government agencies (Department of Commerce, Department of Agriculture, etc) to explore the obscure risks the government grapple with every day.

My Thoughts: Michael Lewis is a master at making boring, tedious information sound absolutely fascinating and he did it again with The Fifth Risk. He shines a light on these obscure people with extremely important and interesting, but relatively unknown jobs within the federal government. He exposes risks that regular citizens probably never consider, but that the federal government works to mitigate every day (i.e. risks to the electrical grid). And, he investigates the Trump transition (or lack thereof). I should also mention that it’s clear what side of the political aisle Michael Lewis identifies with…and he writes from that perspective.

Mockingbird Next DoorThe Mockingbird Next Door by Marja Mills
General Nonfiction (Released July 15, 2014)
278 Pages

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. Perfect for literature buffs!

Bookish Subscriptions

Hard Copy Book Subscriptions

Book of the Month
Affiliate Link: Purchase
The gift that keeps on giving for book lovers! On the first of every month, members get to choose one of five books selected by Book of the Month’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 will mail your chosen hardcover book (along with any extras you ordered) to your house for free. 

Shelf Subscription (from The Bookshelf, an independent bookstore in Thomasville, GA)
Annie Jones, the owner of The Bookshelf, is also the co-host of From the Front Porch podcast and one of my very best book recommendation sources. For the Shelf Subscription, you choose The Bookshelf staffer whose taste best matches yours (there’s descriptions and a fun quiz on the website to help you!) and you get a surprise hardcover in the mail every month. You don’t have the choice of Book of the Month, but I’ve preferred The Shelf Subscription’s picks lately! Perfect for readers interested in supporting independent bookstores!

Audiobook Subscriptions

Audible (Amazon’s audiobook service)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
For $14.95 per month, members get one audiobook and two Audible Originals each month. Members get discounts on audiobooks you purchase above the credits that come with your plan. You can also upgrade your subscription to get more than one audiobook a month. Make sure to tell your gift recipient to download the Audible app on their smartphone.

Libro.fm (independent bookstore audiobook service)
Affiliate Link: Purchase
For about $15 per month, you can get a 1, 3, 6, or 12 month subscription that includes one audiobook per month. The big difference between from Audible is, with Libro.fm, you select which independent bookstore you’d like to purchase from. So, you can support your favorite independent bookstore even when you’re buying audiobooks! Just like with Audible, make sure to tell your gift recipient to download the Libro.fm app on their smartphone.

Bookish Gifts

The NEW Kindle Paperwhite (the latest Kindle upgrade)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Paperwhite is my very favorite way to read books and I’ve been using it for years! But, the new version is waterproof (hooray because I love to read on a pool float!) AND has 2x the storage of the previous version. A new Kindle pre-loaded with a couple carefully chosen books makes a fantastic gift!

Bose QuietComfort Noise Cancelling Headphones 
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

My husband got me these for Christmas last year (after a few years of begging!) and they’re a must-have for anyone who likes to read in peace and quiet…even in public places. I use mine on airplanes, in the nail salon, in coffee shops, and also around my own house to drown out the kid chaos. You can also actually play music and podcasts on them, but let’s face it…we like the noise canceling feature best!

Comfy Throw Blanket

Every reader loves to curl up on the couch with a good book and a comfy throw blanket is a must for the winter months! I just ordered these two from Amazon (one for myself and one as a gift): Catalonia Cable Knit Sherpa Throw and Cable Knit Throw with Faux Fur Reverse Knitted Cozy Blanket.

The “Rock Your Reading” Tracker

I built this Excel spreadsheet that helps you track your reading and automatically compiles all your reading stats into summary charts for super high volume readers. Get more details here.

Books > People T Shirt

Snarky reading T shirts for the introverted bookworm: Books > People and Book Hangover.

Happy Holidays!

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

November 1, 2018 Book Recommendations 21

Book of the Month November 2018 Selections

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

 

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

Well, phew! As soon as I read A Ladder to the Sky a few weeks ago, I knew my head would explode if it wasn’t a November Book of the Month pick! Especially since it’s by the author of Book of the Month‘s 2017 Book of the Year (The Heart’s Invisible Furies). Thank you, Book of the Month, for keeping my head intact and not completely going off the rails by ignoring this one!

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

Check out my fun new tool to help you pick the best Book of the Month selection for your taste: my Ultimate Guide to the Book of the Month Judges and free, downloadable template to help you find your go-to BOTM judge!

Book of the Month November 2018 Selections

For Better And Worse For Better and Worse by Margot Hunt
Release Date: December 11, 2018

336 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.06 on 215 ratings
Selected By: Siobhan Jones (Book of the Month Editorial Director)

When they fell in love back in law school, Natalie and Will Clarke joked that they were so brilliant, together they could plan the perfect murder. After fifteen rocky years of marriage, they had better hope they’re right.

Their young son Jacob’s principal is accused of molesting a troubled student. It’s a horrifying situation—and the poison spreads rapidly. One night before bed, Jacob tells Natalie he is a victim, too. In that moment, her concept of justice changes forever. Natalie decides the predator must die.

My Thoughts:
For Better and Worse is Hunt’s sophomore novel and your obligatory psychological thriller for this month. Goodreads reviewers said the premise is clever, it’s fast-paced (although a few reviewers disagreed, calling it slow), and it’s well-written. Others mentioned they kept zoning out and that Nat and Will aren’t super likable. People also seem divided about the ending, mentioning it’s somewhat unrealistic. The Goodreads reviews are mostly 4 stars and above or 2 stars and below (there are very few 3 star reviews), making me think this could be a “love it or hate it” kind of book. Hunt has some big name author blurbs (Alafair Burke, Amy Engel, Peter Swanson), but they are all for her debut novel, Best Friends Forever, which is a little worrisome. Where are the author blurbs for this novel??

The ProposalThe Proposal by Jasmine Guillory
Release Date: October 30, 2018

336 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.9 on 551 ratings
Selected By: Helen Hoang (Author of The Kiss Quotient)

When someone asks you to spend your life with him, it shouldn’t come as a surprise–or happen in front of 45,000 people.

When freelance writer Nikole Paterson goes to a Dodgers game with her actor boyfriend, his man bun, and his bros, the last thing she expects is a scoreboard proposal. Saying no isn’t the hard part–they’ve only been dating for five months, and he can’t even spell her name correctly. The hard part is having to face a stadium full of disappointed fans…

At the game with his sister, Carlos Ibarra comes to Nik’s rescue and rushes her away from a camera crew. He’s even there for her when the video goes viral and Nik’s social media blows up–in a bad way.

My Thoughts:
Guillory’s debut novel, The Wedding Date, was super popular (though, I DNF’d it at 22%) and The Proposal continues her theme of rom-com style romance / chick-lit hybrids with diverse characters. The Proposal a companion novel (but, not a sequel) to The Wedding Date. The main characters are different (though two characters from The Wedding Date do make appearances in The Proposal) and I hear you can absolutely read The Proposal without reading The Wedding Date. Tara at Running N Reading (one of my trusted recommendations sources) liked it, but didn’t love it as much as The Wedding Date. She said it was slower and didn’t feel quite as exciting, but thought readers who liked The Wedding Date would still like this one. Both Liberty and Rebecca from Book Riot‘s All the Books podcast loved it. Goodreads reviewers said it’s cute, sweet, and deals with empowerment and friendship. They also lamented the cliched writing and dialogue and weren’t buying the chemistry between Nik and Carlos.

Nine Perfect StrangersNine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty
Release Date: November 6, 2018
464 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.7 on 3,832 ratings
Selected By: Rosie Walsh (Author of Ghosted)

Could ten days at a health resort really change you forever? In Liane Moriarty’s latest page-turner, nine perfect strangers are about to find out…

Nine people gather at a remote health resort. Some are here to lose weight, some are here to get a reboot on life, some are here for reasons they can’t even admit to themselves. […] But none of them could imagine just how challenging the next ten days are going to be.

Frances Welty, the formerly best-selling romantic novelist, arrives at Tranquillum House nursing a bad back, a broken heart, and an exquisitely painful paper cut. […] But the person that intrigues her most is the strange and charismatic owner/director of Tranquillum House. Could this person really have the answers Frances didn’t even know she was seeking? Should Frances put aside her doubts and immerse herself in everything Tranquillum House has to offer – or should she run while she still can?

My Thoughts:
Liane Moriarty doesn’t need much of an introduction. However, I am one of the few that is not on her bandwagon (all the mommy politics…more details here). Annie Jones of From the Front Porch podcast said not to worry…that Moriarty fans that were disappointed with Truly Madly Guilty will probably like this one (she rated it 4 stars)! Kelly Massry said the first half is mostly getting to know the characters (but, they’re interesting!) and the action really took off in the second half. Goodreads reviewers liked the witty and sly writing (which pokes fun at the wellness / self-improvement industry), the relatable characters that really make this story, how it deals with the way we connect with each other, and how it really takes off in the second half. However, some said the ending is anti-climactic, while others said it’s far-fetched.

A Ladder to the SkyA Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne
Release Date: November 13, 2018
384 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.2 on 1,089 ratings
Selected By: Liberty Hardy (co-host of Book Riot‘s All the Books podcast)

Maurice Swift is handsome, charming, and hungry for success. The one thing he doesn’t have is talent – but he’s not about to let a detail like that stand in his way. After all, a would-be writer can find stories anywhere. They don’t need to be his own.

Moving from the Amalfi Coast, where he matches wits with Gore Vidal, to Manhattan and London, Maurice hones his talent for deceit and manipulation, preying on the talented and vulnerable in his cold-blooded climb to the top. But the higher he climbs, the further he has to fall…

My Thoughts:
Y’all know how much I loved Boyne’s 2017 novel, The Heart’s Invisible Furies (my review). Well, I also 5 star-loved A Ladder to the Sky. BUT, I have to caution HIF lovers…just because you loved HIF doesn’t mean you’ll automatically love this one (even though I did). A Ladder to the Sky is much darker and more messed up than HIF. And, Maurice is incredibly dislikable (but, deliciously dislikable in my opinion)…and reminded me a bit of a Herman Koch character (the kind that has no problem saying very settling things that most people would never say aloud). I loved the structure (each section is told from the perspective of someone Maurice meets/manipulates on his quest for literary fame), the focus on the publishing world’s dark underbelly, and Boyne’s writing (which is reminiscent of HIF). I know some people who didn’t like this one…mostly because they expected something similar to HIF. Let me warn you again…this one is very different. Make sure you like dark, twisted stories and aren’t turned off by dislikable characters before picking this up!

UnshelteredUnsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver
Release Date: October 16, 2018
480 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.8 on 874 ratings
Selected By: Brianna Goodman (Book of the Month Editorial Team)

Unsheltered is the story of two families, in two centuries, who live at the corner of Sixth and Plum, as they navigate the challenges of surviving a world in the throes of major cultural shifts.

My Thoughts:
I’ve been waffling over whether to try Kingsolver’s latest novel. I think I’d love the dysfunctional family story and the writing, but I’m worried about the complicated dual narrative, keeping track of the many characters, its political nature, and its somewhat slow pace. Annie Jones of From the Front Porch podcast loved it (5 stars) despite worrying it would be too slow for her. Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books (my book twin!) loved it as well and said, “Yes, she draws on politics, but at its heart Unsheltered is a novel of family, aging, relationships, and society.” Goodreads reviewers preferred one narrative over the other (although there wasn’t consistency about which narrative people preferred!) and said Kingsolver is heavy-handed and unnatural with the many political issues she addresses. Some called it preachy and tiresome…and some who loved her previous novels were disappointed with this one. The overall feeling I got from the Goodreads reviews was that you’ll like it if you don’t mind overt political agendas in your fiction and you’ll be turned off if you don’t.

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

I’m choosing A Ladder to the Sky! I’ve already read and loved it, but want a hard copy for my shelves.

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

What book will you choose this month?

This Month’s Special Deals

NEW MEMBER DEAL: Anyone who purchases a new BOTM subscription will get a credit for a free book! Use code FRIENDSGIVING.

ANNUAL PAYMENT DEAL: BOTM is now a monthly subscription service. However, given that some members preferred paying upfront, they are now offering a 12-month option. Members who sign up for 12 months will pay $149.99/year. That’s $12.50/book, instead of the standard price of $14.99/month.

How to Join Book of the Month…

Book of the Month is a subscription service for people who like to try new books from a curated selection and like to read in hardcover format. Through Book of the Month, you can get a hardcover book for generally significantly less than you’d pay in a bookstore or through Amazon. And, you get to try something new that has been vetted by one of Book of the Month’s well-read judges!

Sign up for any of the subscription plans below and you get to choose one of five books selected by Book of the Month’s panel of judges (including a surprise guest judge). Book of the Month will then mail your chosen book to your house with a cute note. You also have the option to purchase additional books for $9.99 each and to skip a month if you want.

Sign up for a Book of the Month membership (NEW pricing below)!

New members will sign up for a membership that renews monthly:

A book of your choice for $14.99 / month
Add extra books to your shipment for $9.99 each
Skip any month you want
Free shipping, always

Support Sarah’s Book Shelves on Patreon!
(and get personalized book recommendations and access to our private Facebook Group)

Support Us!

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

September 30, 2018 Book Recommendations 21

Book of the Month October 2018 Selections

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

 

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

Honestly, I’m not a fan of this month’s selections at all. There are so many great books coming out in October, some that I’ve already read. But, Book of the Month has given us two women’s fiction authors that are so well known you definitely don’t need Book of the Month to help you find them (Elin Hilderbrand and Kate Morton), the obligatory psychological thriller that seems to be included every single month, a YouTube sensation’s book, and a thick, history tome. 

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

Check out my fun new tool to help you pick the best Book of the Month selection for your taste: my Ultimate Guide to the Book of the Month Judges and free, downloadable template to help you find your go-to BOTM judge!

Book of the Month October 2018 Selections

Lies We ToldThe Lies We Told by Camilla Way
Release Date: October 9, 2018

336 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.27 on 623 ratings
Selected By: Liberty Hardy (co-host of Book Riot‘s All the Books podcast)

When Clara’s boyfriend, Luke, disappears, everyone believes that he’s left her, but Clara thinks she knows the truth. Recent evidence suggests that Luke had a stalker, and Clara worries that he’s been kidnapped. Then Luke’s older sister, Emma, who vanished twenty years ago, suddenly reappears.

Emma wants to help Clara with her search for Luke, but she refuses to talk about what happened–even though it nearly destroyed her family when she vanished. And the deeper Clara digs into Luke’s mysterious disappearance, the more convinced she is that the two incidents are connected.

My Thoughts:
The Lies We Told is this month’s obligatory psychological thriller…this time British and from the author of Watching Edie. It involves a possibly psychopathic child (sounds a bit like Baby Teeth to me) and a friendship gone wrong. Goodreads reviewers said there’s a dual timeline and that it will test your detective skills, but some mentioned a lack of emotional connection and a frantic feeling plot. Most of the Goodreads reviews described it the exact same way every other psychological thriller is described (e.g. page-turner, twisty, shocking ending, secrets, lies, etc). I got blurbs from Fiona Barton, B.A. Paris, Heather Gudenkauf, and J.T. Ellison.

Winter in ParadiseWinter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand
Release Date: October 9, 2018

272 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.27 on 67 ratings
Selected By: Etaf Rum (Book of the Month Brand Ambassador)

Welcome to Paradise, the first book in the Paradise series, has everything that readers have come to know and love about an Elin Hilderbrand novel, plus a healthy dose of intrigue. Irene Steele’s idyllic life-house, husband, family-is shattered when she is woken up by a late-night phone call. Her beloved husband has been found dead, but before Irene can process this tragic news, she must confront the perplexing details of her husband’s death. He was found on St. John island, a tropical paradise far removed from their suburban life. Leaving the cold winter behind, Irene flies down to the beautiful Caribbean beaches of St. John only to make another shocking discovery: her husband had a secret second family. As Irene investigates the mysterious circumstances of her husband’s death, she is plunged into a web of intrigue and deceit belied by the pristine white sand beaches of St. John’s.

My Thoughts:
Elin Hilderbrand probably doesn’t need much explanation (she writes chick-lit / romance and is known for her series set in Nantucket). Winter in Paradise is the first in her new series set in St. John. Goodreads reviewers mentioned its  mystery elements, family drama, and secrets and said it focuses on 5 characters, but from the 3rd person perspective. The reviews also indicated this is more standard Elin Hilderbrand fare. There is somewhat of a cliffhanger ending, but I think that’s to be expected from an early book in a series. Jessica Howard (of the Sorta Book Nerds Facebook Group) says it’s “super fun, but also poignant.”

Absolutely Remarkable ThingAn Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
Release Date: September 25, 2018
343 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.33 on 572 ratings
Selected By: Jennifer Dernievelle (BOTM Readers Committee)

The Carls just appeared. Coming home from work at three a.m., twenty-three-year-old April May stumbles across a giant sculpture. Delighted by its appearance and craftsmanship–like a ten-foot-tall Transformer wearing a suit of samurai armor–April and her friend Andy make a video with it, which Andy uploads to YouTube. The next day April wakes up to a viral video and a new life. News quickly spreads that there are Carls in dozens of cities around the world–everywhere from Beijing to Buenos Aires–and April, as their first documentarian, finds herself at the center of an intense international media spotlight.

Now April has to deal with the pressure on her relationships, her identity, and her safety that this new position brings, all while being on the front lines of the quest to find out not just what the Carls are, but what they want from us.

My Thoughts:
Hank Green has quite an Internet following as co-creator of Crash Course, Vlogbrothers (with John Green), and SciShow and is YA author John Green’s brother. His debut novel is sort of sci-fi and set in NY. Tina at TBR, etc. is reading it right now and said she was immediately drawn in, that she identifies with April May (the protagonist), that is doesn’t feel super sci-fi so far, but that there is something weird going on. Goodreads reviewers said it explores fame, the media, and sexuality. They described it as quirky, pop culture-filled, fast-paced, a little overly moralistic, and as having some political undertones. They said April May is snarky and is a love her or hate her type. The description “YA” was thrown around a fair amount even though it’s technically not YA…but, it apparently has a YA-ish and millennial feel.

Clockmaker's DaughterThe Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton
Release Date: October 9, 2018
496 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.92 on 845 ratings
Selected By: Steph Opitz (Book Reviewer at Marie Claire)

In the summer of 1862, a group of young artists led by the passionate and talented Edward Radcliffe descends upon Birchwood Manor on the banks of the Upper Thames. Their plan: to spend a secluded summer month in a haze of inspiration and creativity. But by the time their stay is over, one woman has been shot dead while another has disappeared; a priceless heirloom is missing; and Edward Radcliffe’s life is in ruins.

Over one hundred and fifty years later, Elodie Winslow, a young archivist in London, uncovers a leather satchel containing two seemingly unrelated items: a sepia photograph of an arresting-looking woman in Victorian clothing, and an artist’s sketchbook containing the drawing of a twin-gabled house on the bend of a river.

My Thoughts:
The Clockmaker’s Daughter is a multi-generational family mystery spanning the 1860’s to present day. Kelly Massry (one of my trusted book recommendation sources) read it and rated it 3 stars. She said it’s part ghost story and a bit creepy. She was frustrated with the slow pace and chaotic structure, but loved the but great writing. Goodreads reviewers mention the intriguing premise and brilliant ending, but that it’s cluttered with side stories, and is entirely too long. Almost every review I read (even the 4 and 5 star ones) mention that it’s confusing to follow (jumping around in time periods and lots of points of view) and is a book that takes lots of concentration. It’s an October Library Reads pick.

In the Hurricane's EyeIn the Hurricane’s Eye by Nathaniel Philbrick
Release Date: October 16, 2018
416 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.82 on 17 ratings
Selected By: Siobhan Jones (Book of the Month Editorial Director)

In the Hurricane’s Eye opens in the fall of 1780. For five years, American and British forces had clashed along the edge of a vast continent and were now at a stalemate. The Royal Navy, with its fleet of powerful warships (just one of which mounted more cannons than possessed by the entire rebel army), could attack the rebels’ seaside cities at will. The Rebels could just fall back inland and wait. Neither side could inflict the killing blow. As Washington knew better than anyone, only the French navy could break Britain’s stranglehold on the eastern seaboard and thus ensure an American victory.

In the Battle of the Chesapeake (1781 – called the most important naval engagement in the history of the world), a French admiral foiled British attempts to rescue the army led by General Cornwallis. By making the subsequent victory at Yorktown a virtual inevitability, this naval battle–masterminded by Washington but waged without a single American ship–was largely responsible for the independence of the United States. A riveting and wide-ranging narrative, full of dramatic, unexpected turns, In the Hurricane’s Eye reveals that the fate of the American Revolution depended, in the end, on Washington and the sea.

My Thoughts:
Nathaniel Philbrick is apparently a very popular historical author…all his “major titles” have been NYT bestsellers (including Valiant Ambition and Bunker Hill). In the Hurricane’s Eye is about the “less discussed in history books” Battle of Yorktown, which was the last major land battle of the Revolutionary War. Admittedly, this is not my kind of book at all…I glazed over just reading the synopsis! There are only 3 reviews on Goodreads, one of which just thanks Viking (the publisher) for sending an ARC. Another is written by a historian (probably not the perspective of most Book of the Month readers), but the third says it “fill[s] in some heavy knowledge gaps and help[s] give a solid handle on all that encompassed the amazing path to the final battle of the American Revolution” and calls it “exciting.” 

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

I’m skipping this month.

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

What book will you choose this month?

This Month’s Special Deals

NEW MEMBER DEAL: Anyone who purchases a new BOTM subscription will get a credit for a free book! Use code SUGARHIGH.

ANNUAL PAYMENT DEAL: BOTM is now a monthly subscription service. However, given that some members preferred paying upfront, they are now offering a 12-month option. Members who sign up for 12 months will pay $149.99/year. That’s $12.50/book, instead of the standard price of $14.99/month.

How to Join Book of the Month…

Book of the Month is a subscription service for people who like to try new books from a curated selection and like to read in hardcover format. Through Book of the Month, you can get a hardcover book for generally significantly less than you’d pay in a bookstore or through Amazon. And, you get to try something new that has been vetted by one of Book of the Month’s well-read judges!

Sign up for any of the subscription plans below and you get to choose one of five books selected by Book of the Month’s panel of judges (including a surprise guest judge). Book of the Month will then mail your chosen book to your house with a cute note. You also have the option to purchase additional books for $9.99 each and to skip a month if you want.

Sign up for a Book of the Month membership (NEW pricing below)!

New members will sign up for a membership that renews monthly:

A book of your choice for $14.99 / month
Add extra books to your shipment for $9.99 each
Skip any month you want
Free shipping, always

Support Sarah’s Book Shelves on Patreon!
(and get personalized book recommendations and access to our private Facebook Group)

Support Us!

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

August 31, 2018 Book Recommendations 21

Book of the Month September 2018 Selections

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

 

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

I initially thought there wasn’t anything for me in this month’s selections…lots of thrillers, some magical realism, Greek mythology, and a murder / fashion Brain Candy. But, then I realized one of those thrillers was centered around the JFK assassination!

But, I’ve got to be honest, I do feel like the selections overall this year have been less enticing (at least to me) than in previous years…possibly because Book of the Month changed the way judges select the books? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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

Check out my fun new tool to help you pick the best Book of the Month selection for your taste: my Ultimate Guide to the Book of the Month Judges and free, downloadable template to help you find your go-to BOTM judge!

Book of the Month September 2018 Selections

Cross Her HeartCross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough (Release Date: September 4, 2018)
352 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.06 on 1,078 ratings
Selected By: Cristina Arreola (Bustle Books Editor)

Lisa lives for her daughter Ava, her job, and her best friend Marilyn, but when a handsome client shows an interest in her, Lisa starts daydreaming about sharing her life with him too. Maybe she’s ready now. Maybe she can trust again. Maybe it’s time to let her terrifying secret past go. Then her daughter rescues a boy from drowning and their pictures are all over the news for everyone to see. Lisa’s world explodes, and she finds everything she has built threatened. Not knowing whom she can trust, it’s up to her to face her past to save what she holds dear.

My Thoughts:
This pick surprises me because, not even two years ago, Pinborough’s Behind Her Eyes was also a Book of the Month selection. If you read my blog regularly, you know I HATED Behind Her Eyes (spoiler discussion), so I’m not going to be picking this one. Goodreads reviewers said the story alternates between three timelines, the chapters are short, it starts slow before hitting you in the face, and is a more traditional thriller than Behind Her Eyes (i.e. maybe a less outlandish ending?). They also mentioned it addresses social media, has flawed characters and some said the ending is predictable / a cop-out, while others said they were completely surprised by the ending. Multiple reviewers warned of graphic / disturbing content.

Silence of the GirlsThe Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker (Release Date: September 4, 2018)
304 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.99 on 188 ratings
Selected By: Taylor Jenkins Reid (Author of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and more)

Pat Barker turns her attention to the timeless legend of The Iliad, as experienced by the captured women living in the Greek camp in the final weeks of the Trojan War.

My Thoughts:
The Silence of the Girls delves into Greek mythology, retelling The Iliad from the perspective of Briseis, a woman whose perspective is not included in the Iliad at all. It sounds similar to Madeline Miller’s Circe and The Song of Achilles. Susie at Novel Visits (one of my most trusted recommendation sources) is halfway through it now and likes it, but does not think it’s as compelling as Circe or The Song of Achilles. She does like that it’s told from a female perspective. Goodreads reviewers said some base knowledge of the Trojan War is helpful, it’s well written, the story possibly extends too far into the aftermath of the war, and it has page-turning YA vibe. Honestly, I glazed over even reading the reviews for this novel because I’m not at all into Greek mythology and didn’t like Circe even one little bit (my review).

Mermaid and Mrs. HancockThe Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gower (Release Date: September 11, 2018)
496 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.86 on 2,529 ratings
Selected By: Brianna Goodman (Book of the Month Editorial Team)

One September evening in 1785, the merchant Jonah Hancock hears urgent knocking on his front door. One of his captains is waiting eagerly on the step. He has sold Jonah’s ship for what appears to be a mermaid.

As gossip spreads through the docks, coffee shops, parlours and brothels, everyone wants to see Mr Hancock’s marvel. Its arrival spins him out of his ordinary existence and through the doors of high society. At an opulent party, he makes the acquaintance of Angelica Neal, the most desirable woman he has ever laid eyes on… and a courtesan of great accomplishment. This chance meeting will steer both their lives onto a dangerous new course, a journey on which they will learn that priceless things come at the greatest cost…

What will be the cost of their ambitions? And will they be able to escape the destructive power mermaids are said to possess?

My Thoughts:
The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock is a debut historical fiction novel with a bit of magical realism, a bit of romance, and feminist themes. Set in 18th century London, the mermaid in the book is based on the Feejee Mermaid, “a mummified corpse of a monkey stitched to a fish’s tail that made sideshow rounds after it was purchased from Japanese sailors by a ship captain using capital from the ship’s expense account.” Goodreads reviewers said the story is told through multiple perspectives, has a strong sense of time and place (what some, not me, call “atmospheric”), memorable female characters, and gorgeous and witty writing (but the sample I saw was overly intricate, in the style of A Gentleman in Moscow). On the other hand, they mentioned it was slow and had a meandering plot. It was blurbed by Madeline Miller and Tyler Goodson (one of my trusted recommendation sources) rated it 4 stars.

November RoadNovember Road by Lou Berney (Release Date: October 2, 2018)
336 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.3 on 132 ratings
Selected By: 
AJ Finn (Author of The Woman in the Window)

Set against the assassination of JFK, a poignant and evocative crime novel that centers on a desperate cat-and-mouse chase across 1960s America—a story of unexpected connections, daring possibilities, and the hope of second chances from the Edgar Award-winning author of The Long and Faraway Gone.

My Thoughts:
November Road is historical fiction with a thriller-style plot. The publisher said it’s for fans of Dennis Lehane, Noah Hawley, Kate Atkinson, Amor Towles, and Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men (quite an eclectic group of authors for comparison!). Goodreads Reviewers said it’s well written, page turning cat and mouse story with a noir feel, has a mother/daughter storyline, is a road trip story, has a bit of romance. It sounds a bit like Laura Lippman’s Sunburn to me and I do love fiction that involves various conspiracy theories about JFK’s assassination (e.g. 11/22/63 and The Bone Tree).

#FashionVictim#FashionVictim by Amina Akhtar (Release Date: August 21, 2018)
320 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.64 on 99 ratings
Selected By: Danielle Esplin (Author and BOTM Ambassador)

A darkly thrilling take on the fashion world, #FashionVictim is Heathers meets The Devil Wears Prada.

Fashion editor Anya St. Clair is on the verge of greatness. Her wardrobe is to die for. Her social media is killer. And her career path is littered with the bodies of anyone who got in her way. She’s worked hard to get where she is, but she doesn’t have everything.

Not like Sarah Taft. Anya’s obsession sits one desk away. Beautiful, stylish, and rich, she was born to be a fashion world icon. From her beach-wave blonde hair to her on-trend nail art, she’s a walking editorial spread. And Anya wants to be her friend. Her best friend. Her only friend.

But when Sarah becomes her top competition for a promotion, Anya’s plan to win her friendship goes into overdrive. In order to beat Sarah…she’ll have to become her. Friendly competition may turn fatal, but as they say in fashion: One day you’re in, and the next day you’re dead.

My Thoughts:
The plot of this Brain Candy debut novel sounds totally ridiculous. I saw more “if such and such had a baby” comparisons about this book than about any other book I’ve ever seen: The Devil Wears Prada and Heathers, Mean Girls and Dexter, Clueless and Jawbreaker, American Psycho and The Devil Wears Prada with some Jane Doe, and Gossip Girl and Scream. Goodreads reviewers said it has dark, campy humor, is told from the POV of the killer and not the victims, and that Anya’s mental state is a focus. They also mentioned that social media lingo (OMG, WTF, etc) is annoyingly overused, that the writing style is similar to Social Creature (short, staccato sentences), that the story is somewhat eye-roll inducing, and it’s definitely full of murder.

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

I’m choosing November Road…because I’m a total sucker for JFK assassination conspiracy theory stories and, frankly, every other selection this month couldn’t be farther from my wheelhouse.

Make your Book of the Month selections by Thursday, September 6th.

What book will you choose this month?

This Month’s Special Deals

NEW MEMBER DEAL: Anyone who purchases a new BOTM subscription will get a credit for a free book! Use code FALLFEELS.

ANNUAL PAYMENT DEAL: BOTM is now a monthly subscription service. However, given that some members preferred paying upfront, they are now offering a 12-month option. Members who sign up for 12 months will pay $149.99/year. That’s $12.50/book, instead of the standard price of $14.99/month.

How to Join Book of the Month…

Book of the Month is a subscription service for people who like to try new books from a curated selection and like to read in hardcover format. Through Book of the Month, you can get a hardcover book for generally significantly less than you’d pay in a bookstore or through Amazon. And, you get to try something new that has been vetted by one of Book of the Month’s well-read judges!

Sign up for any of the subscription plans below and you get to choose one of five books selected by Book of the Month’s panel of judges (including a surprise guest judge). Book of the Month will then mail your chosen book to your house with a cute note. You also have the option to purchase additional books for $9.99 each and to skip a month if you want.

Sign up for a Book of the Month membership (NEW pricing below)!

New members will sign up for a membership that renews monthly:

A book of your choice for $14.99 / month
Add extra books to your shipment for $9.99 each
Skip any month you want
Free shipping, always

Support Sarah’s Book Shelves on Patreon!
(and get personalized book recommendations and access to our private Facebook Group)

Support Us!

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

August 1, 2018 Book Recommendations 17

Book of the Month August 2018

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

 

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

This month Book of the Month brings us chick-lit romance and music…plus, Grit Lit, a police procedural, and a complicated female friendship. 

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

Check out my fun new tool to help you pick the best Book of the Month selection for your taste: my Ultimate Guide to the Book of the Month Judges and free, downloadable template to help you find your go-to BOTM judge!

Book of the Month August 2018 Selections

Dinner ListThe Dinner List by Rebecca Serle (Release Date: September 11, 2018)
288 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.91 on 170 ratings
Selected By: Natalie Reece (Creator of Birchbox Book Club)

At one point or another, we’ve all been asked to name five people, living or dead, with whom we’d like to have dinner. Why do we choose the people we do? And what if that dinner was to actually happen?

When Sabrina arrives at her thirtieth birthday dinner she finds at the table not just her best friend, but also three significant people from her past, and well, Audrey Hepburn. As the appetizers are served, wine poured, and dinner table conversation begins, it becomes clear that there’s a reason these six people have been gathered together.

My Thoughts:
Rebecca Serle is known for her YA romances (including the Famous in Love series). The Dinner List is chick-lit / romance, but is not YA as far as I can tell. It sounds a bit like a rom-com and has been compared to One Day by David Nichols. The premise sounds completely ridiculous to me, but may appeal to you! Amanda from the Gun in Act One book blog rated it 5 stars and said she was “expecting a fluffier read”, but got “totally caught up.” She “felt like a fly on the wall watching Sabrina between her BFF, her ex-boyfriend and the amazing Audrey Hepburn.” Goodreads reviewers said it’s heart-wrenching and heart-warming, will make you feel, and alternates chapters between the dinner table and Sabrina’s past. Other reviewers said it has a slow start before the story really takes off (but it apparently does) and couldn’t get past the unrealistic premise. This one might be best for the type of reader who can just suspend disbelief and go with the story. P.S. – three authors I love blurbed this book, but I’ve learned not to put too much stock in author blurbs: Stephanie Danler (Sweetbitter), Gabrielle Zevin (The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, Young Jane Young), and Jennifer Close (The Hopefuls).

Line That Held UsThe Line That Held Us by David Joy (Release Date: August 14, 2018)
272 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.29 on 55 ratings
Selected By: Siobhan Jones (Book of the Month Editorial Director)

[…] a remarkable novel about the cover-up of an accidental death, and the dark consequences that reverberate through the lives of four people who will never be the same again.

The Line That Held Us is a story of friendship and family, a tale balanced between destruction and redemption where the only hope is to hold on tight, clenching to those you love. What will you do for the people who mean the most, and what will you grasp to when all that you have is gone? The only certainty in a place so shredded is that no one will get away unscathed.

My Thoughts:
David Joy writes gritty, Southern fiction (aka Grit Lit) set in Appalachia and I really liked his debut novel, Where All Light Tends to Go (my review). I’ve already read the first half of The Line That Held Us and, so far, it has a very similar feel to Where All Light Tends to Go. Gritty, bleak, yet containing characters trying to do their best within their messed up world. The plot clips along and I’m turning the pages quickly. If things continue like this, it’ll be a 4 star read for me. Goodreads reviewers said it’s bleak, disturbing, violent, and not for the squeamish, but also profound. Joy makes the familiar feel fresh and avoids many Grit Lit cliches (drugs, senseless violence). They also warned of some graphic descriptions of a body decomposing (which I think I’ve already read and they weren’t that bad). If you liked Bull Mountain (my review), The Line That Held Us will probably be up your alley!

Goodbye ParisGoodbye, Paris by Anstey Harris (Release Date: August 7, 2018)
288 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.09 on 65 ratings
Selected By: Steph Opitz (Book Reviewer at Marie Claire)

Jojo Moyes meets Eleanor Oliphant in Goodbye, Paris, an utterly charming novel that proves that sometimes you have to break your heart to make it whole.

Grace […] built a quiet life for herself in her small English village, repairing instruments and nurturing her long- distance affair with David, the man who has helped her rebuild her life even as she puts her dreams of a family on hold until his children are old enough for him to leave his loveless marriage.

But when David saves the life of a woman in the Paris Metro, his resulting fame shines a light onto the real state of the relationship(s) in his life. Shattered, Grace hits rock bottom and abandons everything that has been important to her, including her dream of entering and winning the world’s most important violin-making competition. Her closest friends–a charming elderly violinist with a secret love affair of his own, and her store clerk, a gifted but angst-ridden teenage girl–step in to help, but will their friendship be enough to help her pick up the pieces?

My Thoughts:
Goodbye, Paris seems to be the “happy book” of the bunch (possibly along with The Dinner List). It’s also a romance…sort of. Goodreads reviewers said it’s about disappointment and heart-break, but ultimately hopeful. They mentioned the memorable side characters (which can sometimes make the book!) and the quirkiness of the story. And, though this is a romance, reviewers talked about the focus on friendship, especially in times of crisis. Finally, some mentioned that Grace’s decisions are hard to understand and empathize with.

Sweet Little LiesSweet Little Lies by Caz Frear (Released: August 14, 2018)
352 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.96 on 7,720 ratings
Selected By: 
Louisa Luna (Author of Two Girls Down)

Cat Kinsella was always a daddy’s girl. Until the summer of 1998 when she sees her father flirting with seventeen-year-old Maryanne Doyle.

When Maryanne later disappears and Cat’s father denies ever knowing her, Cat’s relationship with him is changed forever.

Eighteen years later, Cat is now a Detective Constable with the Met. Called to the scene of a murder in Islington, she discovers a woman’s body: Alice Lapaine has been found strangled, not far from the pub that Cat’s father runs.

When evidence links Alice to the still missing Maryanne, all Cat’s fears about her father resurface.

My Thoughts:
This debut novel is the winner of the UK’s Richard & Judy “Search for New Talent Competition” (previous finalists include Fiona Barton’s The Widow) and is the first in a series. Goodreads reviewers, more than anything else, cautioned that this is NOT a psychological thriller despite what the title and cover would lead you to believe. It’s actually a British police procedural with a psychological angle. They said there is late 1990’s nostalgia, a past/present dual narrative, that you don’t know who to believe, and that the ending was surprising, yet made sense in hindsight (super important for me). They also mentioned it’s overly long and some said it was slow. Sweet Little Lies is being marketed to fans of Tana French, Kate Atkinson, Flynn Berry, Megan Abbott (based on just the descriptions, this comparison seems like a stretch to me), Susie Steiner, and Lisa Gardner.

Air You BreatheThe Air You Breathe by Frances de Pontes Peebles (Release Date: August 21, 2018)
464 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.13 on 45 ratings
Selected By: Diane Guerrero (Actress, Orange is the New Black and Jane the Virgin)

The story of an intense female friendship fueled by affection, envy and pride–and each woman’s fear that she would be nothing without the other.

Skinny, nine-year-old orphaned Dores is working in the kitchen of a sugar plantation in 1930s Brazil when in walks a girl who changes everything. Graça, the spoiled daughter of a wealthy sugar baron, is clever, well fed, pretty, and thrillingly ill behaved. Born to wildly different worlds, Dores and Graça quickly bond over shared mischief, and then, on a deeper level, over music.

[…] Music will become their shared passion, the source of their partnership and their rivalry, and for each, the only way out of the life to which each was born. But only one of the two is destined to be a star. Their intimate, volatile bond will determine each of their fortunes–and haunt their memories.

My Thoughts:
de Pontes Peebles is an internationally successful author and The Air You Breathe is historical fiction about a complicated female friendship and a musical theme. It seems to have the “females locked in professional competition” vibe of Megan Abbott’s Give Me Your Hand and the “friendship between a wealthy woman and her maid” vibe of Fruit of the Drunken Tree. Goodreads reviewers compared it to Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Series and the movie Beaches (with Bette Midler). They said the setting came alive and the writing was gorgeous (I read the first few pages and I did really like the writing).

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

I’m choosing The Line That Held Us…I’m currently reading the e-galley and would love a hardcover to photograph for Instagram!

I’m also adding The Air You Breathe…after researching this one, I’m intrigued.

Make your Book of the Month selections by Monday, August 6th.

What book will you choose this month?

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