Tag: Top Ten Tuesday

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

March 27, 2018 Book Lists 23

Books Set Outside US


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

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

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Linking up with Top Ten Tuesday hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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14 Favorite Book Quotes

March 6, 2018 Bookish Posts 18

Favorite Book Quotes

Putting this post together gave me the opportunity to go down the favorite book quotes rabbit hole and it was a hole I didn’t realize how much I wanted to go down! I loved revisiting some of my favorite parts of my favorite books and I need to do it more often.

These aren’t my favorite book quotes of all time, but rather my favorite quotes of the ones I could get my hands on easily at the moment! Some probably would fall into my all-time favorites bucket, but I can’t know that for sure.

Finally, I realized as I was putting this together, that I could’ve written the entire thing in Cheryl Strayed quotes.

This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link).
Linking up with Top Ten Tuesday hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

14 Favorite Book Quotes

Beartown by Fredrick Backman (my review)
On ice hockey, but this could really pertain to any sport…

It’s only a game. It resolves tiny, insignificant things. Such as who gets validation. Who gets listened to. It allocates power and draws boundaries and turns some people into stars and others into spectators. That’s all.

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Books for Living by Will Schwalbe (my review)
On reading and recharging…

Reading is a respite from the relentlessness of technology, but it’s not only that. It’s how I reset and recharge. It’s how I escape, but it’s also how I engage. And reading should spur further engagement.

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Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen (my review)
On parenting…

Being a parent is not transactional. We do not get what we give. It is the ultimate pay-it-forward: We are good parents, not so they will be loving enough to stay with us, but so they will be strong enough to leave us.

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Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny (my review)

You know, it would be far simpler and more effective if you could march your houseguest over to a bench in Central Park and say, You just sit right there while I go home and read the newspaper in peace. I’ll be back to pick you up in two hours. And if your houseguest was of the older, feebler variety, and you feared they might be mugged or beaten in the park, you could take them to a movie, possibly a matinee. Actually, there should be a houseguests’ club, like the kids’ club in a resort, where your houseguest could watch movies and play games and have a snack while you recharged your batteries.

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Tell Me More by Kelly Corrigan (my review)
I’m probably one of these people…

Accepting things as they are is difficult. A lot of people go to war with reality.

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The Mothers by Brit Bennett (my review)
On betrayal…

The how of any betrayal was the hardest part to justify, how the lies could be assembled and stacked and maintained until the truth was completely hidden behind them.

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The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy (my review)
The memorable first line of The Prince of Tides probably encapsulates virtually all of Conroy’s work…

My wound is my geography. It is also my anchorage, my port of call.

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The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (my review)
On intimacy…

People think that intimacy is about sex. But intimacy is about truth. When you realize you can tell someone your truth, when you can show yourself to them, when you stand in front of them bare and their response is ‘you’re safe with me’ – that’s intimacy.

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Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed (my review)
You didn’t think you were getting out of here without a Cheryl Strayed quote, did you? Or two?

Trust yourself. It’s Sugar’s golden rule. Trusting yourself means living out what you already know to be true.

Or two?

Do you know what boundaries are? The best, sanest people on the planet do […]

Or three? This one on motherhood…

But as the mother of two children, I can tell you what most moms will: that mothering is absurdly hard and profoundly sweet. Like the best thing you ever did. Like if you think you want to have a baby, you probably should. I say this in spite of the fact that children are giant endless suck machines. They don’t give a whit if you need to sleep or eat or pee or get your work done or go out to a party naked and oiled up in a homemade Alice B. Toklas mask. They take everything. They will bring you to the furthest edge of your personality and abso-f*cking-lutely to your knees. They will also give you everything back. Not just all they take, but many of the things you lost before they came along as well.

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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
On reading…

Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.

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When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
On living…

At those critical junctures, the question is not simply whether to live or die but what kind of life is worth living.

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White Fur by Jardine Libaire (my review)
On the wealthy, snobby grandmother…

Binkie, the one and only. He can hear her rings clacking on the plastic phone, and he chuckles, envisioning with amusement the bejeweled and suntanned manicured grip his grandmother thinks she has on his balls. And she does.

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Do you find yourself collecting literary quotes? What are some of your favorites?

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12 Unconventional Love Stories for Readers Who Don’t Like Romance

February 13, 2018 Book Lists 39

Unconventional Love Stories

So…Valentine’s Day is actually one of my least favorite holidays. I feel pressure to participate in the cheesiness even though cheesy feels so uncomfortable to me. Luckily, my husband isn’t really into Valentine’s Day either.

Since it’s almost the big red day, you’re probably seeing lots of lists of “the best romances, etc” around the bookish internet. Here’s what bugs me about traditional “romances.” The predictable (no matter how unrealistic) happy endings, the cheesy dialogue, the equally cheesily written love scenes. Shall I go on? I promise, you won’t find those elements in these unconventional love stories. Most readers probably wouldn’t even call these love stories. But, I do and they’re the kind I prefer.

This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link).
Linking up with Top Ten Tuesday hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

12 Unconventional Love Stories for Readers Who Don’t Like Romance

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood (my review)
Some would call this love story horrifying. I definitely did at times. But, it’s also different than anything I’ve ever read and Greenwood makes you question what you thought were your rock solid convictions.

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An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (my review)
What happens to a love story when a husband of only a year and a half goes to prison? Oprah sure wants her book club members to find out!

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Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (my review)
Most people probably wouldn’t consider this sci-fi page turner a love story. But, ultimately, Jason is fighting tooth and nail to be with his wife and child…his idea of home.

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Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift (my review)
An illicit affair between a British heir and his neighbor’s maid. It definitely doesn’t have a happy ending, but I finished the book completely satisfied.

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Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf (my review)
Two older people (Louis and Addie) stop caring what everyone else thinks and do what they need to do to be happy. It’s sort of like they read The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck by Sarah Knight.

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Sunburn by Laura Lippman
A love story where the two lovebirds are totally messing with each other and you have no idea who will come out on top.

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Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler (my review)
This is the kind of love story that many of us had in our youth (especially if you lived in NYC) and look back on with horror. We wish we would’ve been stronger, smarter, and valued ourselves more. It’s raw and most definitely not sweet.

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Tender by Belinda McKeon (my review)
A story of friendship, unrequited love, desperation and obsession. This one will make you uncomfortable…I was cringing often.

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The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel (my review)
Probably the most F’d up love story you’ll ever read (with a love story you can actually root for buried amid the horror)…starring a supremely dysfunctional family.

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

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The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugoby Taylor Jenkins Reid (my review)
The true love story of this book isn’t the one you think it will be.

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White Fur by Jardine Libaire (my review)
A classic “wrong side of the tracks” love story…told in a raw, gritty, edgy, and uncomfortable way.

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How do you feel about romances? Do you prefer the traditional or unconventional type?

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10 Books I Can’t Believe I Liked at the Time

January 30, 2018 Book Lists 24

Books I Can't Believe I Liked at the time

Here we go with another snarky post…I just have to break these out every now and then!

You know how some books stand the test of time? Well, these books don’t necessarily hold up for me. I did like them when I read them, but am pretty confident they’d be heading to the DNF pile if I read them now. And, some of them are pretty embarrassing to admit.

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Linking up with Top Ten Tuesday hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

10 Books I Can’t Believe I Liked at the Time

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
Yes, I admit I read it (and the two sequels). Though I recognized how badly written they were, I was weirdly intrigued by the premise of the story. But, I don’t think I’d be able to overcome the writing now.

Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews
I ADORED this book and all its sequels and everything else she wrote when I was a tween. At some point, my Mom read one of them and was completely horrified at what I was reading. But, I can’t promise I wouldn’t still love Flowers in the Attic now. I mean, I did really like The Roanoke Girls just last year…

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue
This book probably looks like the outlier on this list. It’s here because, when I read it, I distinctly remember not understanding why so many people liked it. Yet, my tracking spreadsheet says I did. Wha??

Revenge Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
I really did love The Devil Wears Prada and think I still would if I read it today. It was one of those Brain Candy books that’s super smart and well done. But, the sequel was just taken way too far and I’m not sure what I saw in it back then.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
I loved The Fault in Our Stars when I read it years ago. The overly precocious-for-teens dialogue didn’t even bother me. But, I couldn’t even get through the first few pages of Turtles All the Way Down because I could feel the YA-ness oozing out of the writing. I suspect I’d feel the same about The Fault in Our Stars if I read it now.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
For some reason, my spreadsheet says I liked this one even though I’ve been telling people for years I thought it was overrated and I kind of skewered aspects of it in my Spoiler Discussion post. Maybe I liked it enough, but didn’t think it came close to the hype? I’ll go with that…

The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin
I used to love these roman-a-clefs exposing the crazy behavior of wealthy New Yorkers. While there’s certainly a place for some escapist entertainment, I’ve just realized there are so many great books out there (even light ones that are still very well done and smartly written)…why waste time on something like this?

The Twins of Tribeca by Rachel Pine
Ditto The Nanny Diaries. This one is a thinly veiled novel about Miramax and the Weinstein brothers, which might actually be somewhat enlightening through the lens of everything that has come out about the Weinsteins. But, it’s average Goodreads rating is 2.89 stars. Yikes.

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
Why oh why was I ever engrossed by a story about a girl torn between a vampire who convinced her to give up every part of her identity and a werewolf? At least I can take solace in the fact that I was far from alone…

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
This one was a cheap trick and a rip-off of a popular movie. Not sure why this didn’t bother me more at the time. Plus, I immediately followed it up with a very similar book that was much better written and didn’t rely on a ridiculous plot trick (Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly – Whittemore, my review). I almost feel like I should take down my review.

Do you have any books you can’t believe you liked?

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10 New-To-Me Authors I Read in 2017

January 9, 2018 Book Lists 30

New-To-Me Authors I Read in 2017

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

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

10 New-To-Me Authors I Read in 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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6 Book Titles I Love…and 5 I Hate

October 24, 2017 Book Lists 19

Book Titles I Love...and Hate


I’ve got to admit…I’m not a huge book title person. I rarely buy a book solely based on the title (but, I know lots of people do this), and the few times I have, it hasn’t turned out well (see The People We Hate at the Wedding).

Book titles are more likely to go unnoticed by me unless I can’t stand them…or, on the good side, they make me laugh. So, today you’re getting both book titles I love…and hate!

Here’s a little book publishing tidbit for you. Did you know authors have very little say about the title of their book? They can throw their title choice into the ring, but the publisher’s marketing team generally has the final say (many publishing contracts specifically state this). And, the title is often determined by marketing research and what the publisher’s title committee thinks will sell. I had no idea about this until very recently. So, don’t blame the authors for the “hate” section of this list!

Linking up with The Broke and the Bookish.
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Six Book Titles I Love

11/22/63 by Stephen King
Because I now can actually remember the date of JFK’s assassination.

Born A Crime by Trevor Noah
Because it’s the perfect title for this book…intriguing and perfectly encapsulates Noah’s history.

The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving A F*ck by Sarah Knight
Because it’s sarcastic, witty and cheeky.

The People We Hate at the Wedding by Grant Grinder
Because who hasn’t hated those people at the wedding?! PS – I also kind of hated the 27% of this book that I read, but the title is still awesome.

Why Mummy Drinks by Gill Sims
I haven’t read this book, nor do I have any idea what it’s about. I just saw it on Instagram last week and burst out laughing at the title. And, suspect I’ll probably relate to the protagonist.

You Are An Ironman by Jacques Steinberg
This is the only book title that’s ever given me goosebumps. It’s what the race announcer says to every single Ironman triathlon finisher as he or she crosses the finish line (“Sarah Dickinson, you are an Ironman” – this will be the only time I ever see or hear that phrase, I can assure you!).

…and Five Book Titles I Hate

A Lowcountry Heart by Pat Conroy (my review)
Y’all know how much it pains me to have Conroy on this list, but I’m sorry, this title is just cheesy.

Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson
I never got how this title had anything to do with the story other than using the main character’s name.

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen (my review)
I adored this book. 5 stars. The title is cheesy, while the book is decidedly not.

One True Thing by Anna Quindlen (my review)
Another cheesy title for an Anna Quindlen book that I loved. This one sounds like a YA romance novel. Who’s on her publisher’s titling committee?! She deserves better.

Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Ed Tarkington (my review)
Another book I adored and another cheesy title. I understand it refers to a Neil Young song that plays a role in the book, but it’s not a huge role and doesn’t relate much to what the book is really about. Plus, it’s way too long.

What are some of your favorite and least favorite book titles?

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12 Books I Loved Before I Started Blogging

September 12, 2017 Book Lists 26

Books I Loved Before I Started Blogging

Last week was all about books I didn’t like, but we’re flipping the coin this week. There are so many books that I adored years ago, way before I started blogging, that I don’t talk about much here.

So, today I’m going to spotlight 12 Books I Loved Before I Started Blogging

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12 Books I Loved Before I Started Blogging

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
I honestly haven’t read much John Irving since I started this blog, but he still remains one of my all-time favorite authors and Owen Meany is my favorite book of his. It’s on my all-time favorites list and is due for a re-read!

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
I love fiction that’s inspired by real people and this one had me all kinds of curious about the inner life of Laura Bush.

Another City, Not My Own and anything else by Dominick Dunne
Dunne is the man responsible for getting me started reading about “wealthy people behaving badly” with his nonfiction about wealthy and/or famous people in criminal situations. I loved his snark, his tenacity in taking down prominent people who took advantage of being prominent, his gossipy tidbits…and his Vanity Fair column. RIP Mr. Dunne.

Beach Music by Pat Conroy
My love for Pat Conroy began when I was pretty young and I read all my favorite books by him before I started this blog. Beach Music is one of the few that I haven’t re-read in the past five years and I’m due. I also have a slight concern that it won’t hold up for me…luckily, my cousin is test-driving it as we speak!

Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World by Michael Lewis
Awhile back, Michael Lewis was one of my all-time favorite authors. He can make the most mundane financial stories riveting and is a master at clearly explaining complicated financial concepts so non-finance nerds (like me!) can understand. In Boomerang, he investigates how the 2000’s real estate bubble and 2008 crash impacted various foreign countries. He melds finance and hilarious studies of each country’s culture into what I think is his most entertaining book! Sadly, his latest two books (Flash Boys and The Undoing Project) have missed the mark for me.

My Life in France by Julia Child
I used to read a ton of food / cooking memoirs before I started blogging and this was one of my favorites. Julia’s booming personality shines through and I enjoyed reading about the period when she first fell in love with food.

No Angel and The Spoils of Time Series by Penny Vincenzi
The British Spoils of Time series are juicy, multi-generational, historical fiction sagas that are full of drama. These were my guilty pleasure reading way back when!

Philistines at the Hedgerow : Passion and Property in the Hamptons by Steven Gaines
Rich people real estate porn set in the Hamptons. Similar to Michael Gross, but without the crushing, excruciating detail.

The Charm School by Nelson DeMille
Another of my old-school favorite authors! The Charm School is one of his more unique books and it made me wonder if something like The Charm School might have actually existed in the USSR during the Cold War. Bonus: DeMille has a new book (The Cuban Affair) coming out on September 19th!

The Emperor of Ocean Park by Stephen L. Carter
This was the first book that introduced me to Stephen L. Carter’s political thrillers. His books are page-turning thrill rides, but they’re smart and throw in a fascinating look into upper crust, Harlem society. I went on to read four more of his books, including Back Channel most recently.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Believe it or not, I knew nothing about all the hype surrounding this book when I read it. I just wasn’t plugged into the book world back then. It blew me away. I went on to find out that it blew most everyone else away too. 

The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer
I remember picking up this coming of age memoir on a complete whim, knowing nothing about it. It’s stuck with me and introduced me to J.R. Moehringer’s writing, which is right up my alley.

What are some of your old favorites?

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10 Hyped Books I Wish I Hadn’t Finished (i.e. DNF’d)

September 5, 2017 Top Ten Tuesday 37

Top 10 Hyped Books I Wish I Hadn't Finished


Talking about the books you didn’t like is somewhat of a controversial topic among book bloggers. You’ll never hear a peep about the books some bloggers didn’t like and other bloggers tell you all about the books that didn’t connect. 

I’ve always chosen to talk openly about the books that didn’t click with me because my goal to is to make this blog as useful for readers as possible. Knowing which books (especially hyped ones) may not be the right choices for them is valuable information for readers. So, here are 10 Hyped Books I Wish I Hadn’t Finished…and I’m getting a little snarky.

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10 Hyped Books I Wish I Hadn’t Finished

Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams (my review)
 the cheesiness of the romance

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (my review)
Why: the crushing quantity of grating mommy drama (but, interestingly, I loved the HBO series!)

City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg (my review)
the long, drawn out (to the tune of 300 pages) non-ending

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
 I lost all interest after the Italian food porn of the “Eat” section

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson (my review)
Why: the anxiety I was getting just reading the scattered story-telling style of her adult life (though her childhood stories contained some gems!)

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt (my review)
 because she never really delved deep into the part that truly interested me (Lizzie Borden’s arrest and trial) 

The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling (my review)
because I never really got the point of it all

The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas
because the second half was predominantly “stories within stories,” which drive me crazy

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti (my review)
because the violence all ran together and I skimmed a lot towards the end

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin (my review)
because Choose Your Own Adventure…and an overall gimmicky second half

What hyped books do you wish you’d DNF’d?

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Eight Campus Novels That Will Make You Want to Go Back to School…or Not!

August 22, 2017 Top Ten Tuesday 38

Eight Campus Novels That Will Make You Want to Go Back to School
Regular readers know how big a sucker I am for campus novels, so I was so surprised when I realized I’d never done a round-up of my favorites! And, when I say campus, I mean college, boarding school, or elite private high school. For some reason the “campus” feels more “campus-y” and the potential for drama much greater with these types of schools.

You’ll notice that many of these books fall into the dark and twisty category…which will probably make some of you glad you’re watching all the drama from the sidelines instead of living it!

Eight Campus Novels That Will Make You Want to Go Back to School…or Not!

Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates (my review)
I feel like I talk about this book all the time…but, with good reason! A secret society, friends backstabbing friends, dares gone way too far…at Oxford University. Bonus: Yates’s sophomore novel, Grist Mill Road, is coming out on January 8 and I couldn’t be more excited! 

If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio (my review)
Seven Shakespeare students who are best friends, life imitating art, a tragedy…at the fictional Dellecher Classical Conservatory (a small, uber-intense performing arts college in the Midwest).

Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito (my review)
Rich and neglected high schoolers that love to party, a school shooting, an obsessive love story, an abusive father…at a fictional, elite Swedish prep school.

Shadow of the Lions by Christopher Swann (my review)
A boy who disappeared years ago, his best friend who returns to find out what happened…at Blackbourne, a fictional, all boys boarding school in Virginia (but, it’s based on the very real Woodberry Forest School in Orange, VA, also the author’s alma mater).

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (my review)
Coming of age story, lovable characters, baseball, sports psychology (but, don’t worry, this book is not really about baseball)…at Westish College (a small, fictional college on the shores of Lake Michigan). 

The Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy (my review)
Possibly my very favorite campus novel and the grandaddy of them all! A gorgeous and sinister Charleston setting, abuse and hazing, friendship…at the very real Citadel (The Military College of South Carolina). 

The Secret History by Donna Tartt (my review)
Best friends, a murder, betrayal…at the fictional Hampden College (a small, elite Vermont college closely resembling Tartt’s alma mater, Bennington College). 

The Takedown by Corrie Wang (my review)
High school girl drama, technology and social media on steroids, public shaming…at a fictional, elite Brooklyn high school.

Are you a fellow sucker for campus novels? What are some of your favorites?

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Ten Read-Alikes I’m Dying to See

May 9, 2017 Book Lists 29

Top 10 Read-Alikes I'm Dying to See

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by the Broke and the Bookish) topic is Ten Things on our Reading Wishlist.

Read-alikes are similar books that would appeal each other’s fans. Whenever you see books described by the publisher as “the next _____” or “for fans of _____”….those are read-alikes. Actually, those are what the publisher wants to you believe are read-alikes so they can sell lots of books. Hence, the egregious overuse of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train comparisons that never seem to live up to the originals.

With this list, I’m not looking for the publisher’s view, but for books that actually do remind me of and come close to living up to the originals! For example, If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio (my review) actually did remind me of The Secret History and Black Chalk (my review) recently. So, cheers to not having to include those books on this list!

Ten Read-Alikes I’m Dying to See

Another City, Not My Own by Dominick Dunne
Well, I actually just want another author like Dominick Dunne. He wrote about the real crimes of the rich and famous in a delightfully gossipy and snarky way. He covered the OJ Simpson trial (in Another City, Not My Own), the Martha Moxley murder/Michael Skakel trial, the Billy Woodward murder, and financier Edmond Safra’s death, among others. There’s no one out there now quite like him.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
You’d think this would be an easy read-alike to find given the number of books publishers slap with “the next Gone Girl” label! Alas, not so. I’m on the hunt for a psychological thriller that has a twist or ending that is completely surprising, yet not outlandish…and that, with hindsight, fits with the story.

Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead (my review)
Like Gone Girl, tons of subsequent books have been marketed as “for fans of Seating Arrangements.” But, I haven’t found one that actually hits the right fun, but still dark and snarky tone of the original.

Shelter by Jung Yun (my review)
So many people I recommended this to loved it…and asked for more like it. I’ve got nothing! Find me another book that is as fast-paced, yet gorgeously written, emotionally brutal, and chock full of substantive issues!

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
The Devil in the White City is such a perfect and entertaining blend of true crime and history. The recent Killers of the Flower Moon kind of gets there, but didn’t have me quite as enthralled as The Devil in the White City.

The Dinner by Herman Koch (my review)
Koch has such a distinctive style (biting social commentary, has his characters think and say things that regular people would never admit to thinking…but probably do) and The Dinner is his masterpiece in my opinion. It’s tight, action-packed, and exemplary of his trademark style. His subsequent books don’t quite hit The Dinner‘s mark.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Can you tell thrillers have been letting me down lately?! I’m in the market for another super unique, twisty, dark thriller with a bad*ss lady heroine!

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer (my review)
“Group of friends making their way in New York City” books are a dime a dozen…and I approach each one hoping for the next The Interestings. Easier said than done. Recent underwhelming attempts are The Futures and Why We Came to the City.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin (my review)
I’ve recommended this book out the wazoo since reading it last year and I haven’t heard of anything else like it. It’s technically a novel, but is based on real events and uses real names. Benjamin even manages to write in a style reminiscent of Truman Capote, the main character in her novel.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple (my review)
This is another Seating Arrangements-type situation. Tons of books claim to be “the next Where’d You Go, Bernadette?” and none of them quite hit the right tone. Even Semple’s follow-up book, Today Will Be Different, didn’t do it.

What read-alikes are you dying to see? And, do you have read-alike recommendations for these books?

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