How Do You Measure of a Year? In Books, Of Course!

The last few days while everyone else was sharing their reflections on their year in reading, I was scrambling to complete my Goodreads goal and editing podcast episodes (*cue confetti* *have a nap waiting in the wings*). I don’t like to review a year until I’m in the new year, anyway.

As you’ll see in my stats, my reading for the challenge was heavily weighted one way. While I enjoyed the books I read and look forward to reading more of the same in 2019, I want to make sure I read more of other genres I love this year. I’ll share my new reading goals in a separate post. On the positive side, I upped the number of books I wanted to read in 2018 by 15 books, and I met my goal! Without further ado, here’s my year in books *:

Books read: 65

Library books finished: 3

Read What You Own Books (that I know I owned before 2018): 6

Review/Launch Team Books: 7

Fiction: 58

Non-Fiction: 7

Romance: 54

-Romantic Suspense: 14

-Contemporary Romance: 38

-Historical Romance: 2

Non-Romantic Fiction: 4

Memoir/Autobiography: 6

These stats provide a good snapshot of my year, but for a more accurate picture, I wanted to spotlight some notable books.My affiliate links are included.

First book finished*: The Trophy Husband by Lynne Graham
This was a quick, fun read that reeked of 90’s romance tropes. If you can appreciate it for what it is–trope soup, limited POV, and 90s level of understanding of masculinity/femininity/happily ever after–it’s a fast and funny book.

Last book read: Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston

I really ended the year on a high note. I LOVED this book! This book combines many elements of my favorite reads: Zora Neale Hurston; Anthropological/Ethnographical study; a personal story told in the subject’s voice; a snapshot of an interesting time in history, etc. This story is an important one, and I’m thankful it has finally been published and disseminated.

Better Than Expected: Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

This book had some pretty harsh reviews, but I like Anne Tyler and retellings of classics are some of my favorite stories, so I decided to give this one a try. If you’re a fan of Taming of the Shrew or Ten Things I Hate About You, you might like this retelling set between academia and daycare.

FOMO Reads of 2018: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman and I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell

I heard these two books recommended several times on What Should I Read Next. I caved to FOMO and read both, and I’m glad I did! Both of these books lived up to the hype. Eleanor is funny and endearing, and Maggie O’Farrell’s memoir is gripping and reflective in an engaging way. I highly recommend both.

Best Book for Book Lovers: I’d Rather be Reading by Anne Bogel

If you love all things books and reading, you must read this book! Anne beautifully portrays many of the joys and dilemmas of the reading life. This book is a beautiful celebration of all the things I love about literature.

Series I enjoyed this year:

The Precinct Series by Julie Miller

I read many books in this series in 2016, but I read the backlist and became current on this series in 2018. If you love romantic suspense, seeing your favorite characters in several different books, mini-series within a larger series, and heroes/heroines with real world conflicts and complications, then I highly recommend this series.

Mirror Lake Series by Kathryn Springer
This inspirational romance series was wonderful. The characters were realistic and made me root for them. Springer made the town and its inhabitants come alive, and the conflicts were just as realistic. If you’re a fan of inspirational romances set in a small close knit town involving a core group of characters, then give this six book series a try.
Get in My Kindle picks I’ve Read: Butterface by Avery Flynn and I’d Rather be Reading by Anne Bogel (I also listened to the audiobook of Remember God by Annie F. Downs, but I’m not counting this as I plan to read the physical copy)


I’ve read a few of Avery Flynn’s other books, and Butterface had the humor and heart I’ve come to expect from her. If you like hot romantic comedies (and the heat level is pretty high on this one), you might like this first book in The Hartigans series. Book two, Muffin Top, is also out now, and book three, Tomboy, will release February 18, 2019.

The books I’m Most Looking Forward to in 2019:

Inheritance by Dani Shapiro
You can read my post on this book here.
The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman
Read my reasons for looking forward to this The Next Right Thing here.

MY BOOK!!!!!
121418_SS Front CoverI’ve been holding this news in for months! If you’re an email subscriber, you might have heard about this book already, but I wanted to officially announce it to my By Her Shelf readers. The Speaking Season: Poems and Pieces, my first poetry collection, will be releasing this month! If you’re a fan of poetry, this book is a must have for your collection. More details to come soon!

*Note: I don’t track my progress/read status for every book I read through Goodreads. Sometimes I forget. Sometimes I don’t want to share what I’m reading. This post was created using my 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge statistics. It’s by no means definitive, but it’s mostly accurate.

Author Interview: Kelsey Baldwin, Author of Strong Girl, Brave Girl

Happy Friday, Shelfies! Today, I invited author Kelsey Baldwin to By Her Shelf to talk about her book, Strong Girl, Brave Girl: A Single Mother’s Candid Story of Reconciling a Life Unexpected and Navigating the Messy In-Between. Grab your morning cup of coffee (or tea, or beverage of choice), and get to know Kelsey By Her Shelf!

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What’s the elevator pitch (short summary) for Strong Girl, Brave Girl?
SGBG is about my journey as a single mother, going through a pregnancy and divorce at the same time, and how I’ve reconciled a life that looks completely different than I ever expected since then. It covers a wide range of life changes beyond divorce including dating after divorce, moving to a new city (twice!), giving birth, and becoming a mother without a partner.

Why was it important to you to tell this story? Who is it written for?
The more I shared about my story on my blog in the years before writing the book, the more I knew a book was on the horizon. I’ve always loved writing and always wanted to write a book. Once I saw how my story was inspiring + encouraging people, I felt like I couldn’t not write it! I also wrote it a lot for myself to work through a lot of the seasons I’ve been through (writing is like therapy to me!), and I wrote it for my daughter to read someday to see that her family might be really different than the others around her, but she has extra people who love her and parents who aren’t perfect. And hopefully she can find some encouragement in that.

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Why did you decide to write Strong Girl, Brave Girl, when you were, as you say, still in the middle of this story?
I decided to tell this story candidly, from the middle of my mess, not from the end with a wrapped up bow and rose-colored glasses. When I’m going through difficult seasons, the most helpful conversations were with women who were going through something similar. They were struggling with the same things I was, and they didn’t have it all figured out either. I wanted to be that for other women, because the middle of our stories is where we connect with each other.

How did you make time to write this story while running Paper & Oats and raising a human?
I gave myself plenty of time to write, and worked it into my calendar during a slower season for my business. I wrote mostly at night after my daughter went to bed, that’s when I feel my most creative!

Why did you choose the publishing route you took, and how has it changed your perspective on books?
I didn’t know anything about traditional publishing except that it takes a LONG time to get a publisher to say yes, and then it takes a LONG time to get it released after that. I didn’t want to drag this out forever, and I really wanted to write it on my terms and my timeline. As a former book designer, I knew the design side of things very well (which is a hang up for a lot of self-published authors), which helped make it an easy decision, too. Plus, having an existing audience who was interested in my story gave me a good head start for marketing. Someday I’d like to pursue traditional publishing, but for this very personal book, I knew self-publishing was the right choice to start.

Do you plan to release another book in the future?
Yes! I’d love to write more books! Not sure what they’ll be about, but I really loved the entire process, so I’ll for sure be doing more.

Where can readers find out more about you and your work?
My website — www.paperandoats.com — has all my current projects, teaching, articles, and more about my business. I also hang out on Instagram a lot, so you can follow @paperandoats for some good behind-the-scenes stuff.

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Reading Questions
What book made you fall in love with or reignited your love of reading?
“Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott. I really love all things Anne Lamott — her writing and her teaching on writing was a huge inspiration for me writing my book. It’s effortless, not dramatic, but it sounds like you’re sitting across the table from her.

What book might people be surprised to find on your shelf?
I have a couple books about the LGBTQ community that I got when my brother came out as gay a few years ago. They definitely helped me understand him better and get a picture of what it’s like to be gay in middle America.

What are your ideal reading conditions?
Quiet, in bed or on the couch, fireplace going, warm drink in hand, low lights 🙂

What are you currently reading?
I’m currently reading “Finding God in The Waves” by Mike McHargue and “It’s Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool Too)” by Nora McInerny.

What book is currently on top of your TBR pile?
Anne Lamott’s new book, of course — “Almost Everything” 🙂

What book are you most looking forward to (not yet released)?
I’m really looking forward to Nora McInerny’s new book “No Happy Endings” — how she writes about her story is super inspiring to me!

Lightning Round
Print, eBook, or audiobook?
Print all the way!

Buy or Borrow from library?
Buy — I can’t finish a book before it’s due back to the library, haha!

Bookmark, dog ear, or scrap paper to hold your place?
Scrap paper — usually a little scribble from my daughter or a plane ticket.

Write/highlight in book or leave it pristine?
Maaaaybe write in pencil, but not usually. I like to loan out books, so notes feel too personal to me.

Worst book habit?
Not finishing them in a timely manner! I either finish a book within a couple days, or it takes me months and months, haha!
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KelseyBaldwinHeadshot3Kelsey Baldwin is an author, designer, and entrepreneur. She runs Paper + Oats, an online blog and resource for creative entrepreneurs looking to do business on their own terms. She helps fellow creatives organize, design, and market their digital products, so they can share what they know, and look good doing it. As a single mother, she is also an advocate for women learning to sustain themselves and gain independence through online business. Her first book – Strong Girl, Brave Girl – chronicles her journey through divorce while being pregnant, and is now available on Amazon. She lives in Missouri with her daughter and dog, forever in search of their next ice cream cone.

 

Get in My Kindle: Becoming by Michelle Obama

Happy Thursday, Shelfies! It’s been a grueling week here after a fun but chaotic weekend of reading, editing, exploring with my dad to celebrate his birthday, and a series of flat tires. I finished I’d Rather be Reading this weekend before getting ensnared by Maggie O’Farrell’s beautifully written and well structured memoir I Am, I Am, I Am. I am 65% done and still turning the pages as fast as possible. In the spirit of sharing what promises to be a great memoir in its own right, I give you this week’s Get in My Kindle featured book (and a promise to start posting regularly again). 

Title: BecomingBecoming Michelle Obama

Author: Michelle Obama

Release Date: November 13, 2018

Description: In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.

In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.

Why I Can’t Wait to Read: Michelle Obama has become many things to me since I first saw her standing beside her husband at different campaign events, but perhaps the most important has been as a role model, an example of what’s possible, for young black women. She’s been poised under scrutiny, exhibiting class and refusing to be cast as another angry black woman while speaking out on issues and speaking up for those who have been marginalized. An intelligent woman, a gifted orator, and a woman who seemed to balance career and family well in what’s perhaps the world’s strongest spotlight, I can’t help but be interested in her story as a whole.

It’s no secret I’m a big fan of origin stories. Whether it’s the idea for a novel, a career defining decision, or the minute choices and steps taken to evolve into a world leader, I’m fascinated by stories that take me back to the beginning and show me how people and things came to be. To hear the tale in the person’s own words is even better. I want to know how Michelle became Michelle Obama, the first African-American woman to become FLOTUS, and what she’s evolving into in her post-White House life.

Affiliate Links:

Hardcover

Large Print:

Kindle:

Are you looking forward to Becoming? Any other memoirs coming soon you can’t wait to read? Let me know in the comments below. 

Get in My Kindle: Indestructible by Allison Fallon

Happy Monday, fellow readers! I had to work this weekend and didn’t get a chance to read until yesterday afternoon. Even though I didn’t get much reading done this weekend, I’m still eyeing books for my ever growing to be read pile. What better way to start a Monday than looking forward to an intriguing upcoming release? If you’re a kindle reader, heads up: you can have this one in your Kindle tomorrow! Paperback readers will have to wait longer, but it may just be worth the wait. *Thus far, no Get in My Kindle feature is a sponsored post, and I haven’t been giving an advance reader copy of the book. I’m simply sharing the books I’m interested in reading.

 

Title: Indestructible: Leveraging Your Broken Heart to Become a Force of Love & Change in the World

Author: Allison Fallon

Release Date: Kindle–August 7, 2018; Paperback–November 20, 2018

Description: Indestructible tells the shocking story of a marriage that didn’t go as planned, the truth that shattered everything, and the beautiful unfolding of a woman who decided that saving her marriage wasn’t worth losing herself. Like most people, Allison Fallon didn’t get married thinking she would get divorced. In fact, marrying a pastor felt like the surest way to guarantee a safe and happy marriage. So when she found out the man she married was not the man she thought he was, she had some choices to make. A wrestling with faith and love, romance and drama, truth and fiction, this story calls into question what it means to fall in love, stay in love, and become a force of love and change in the world. Although Indestructible is only one woman’s story, it serves as a powerful reminder to anyone who has been disillusioned by love that falling in love might be harder and easier than they ever imagined; and that “the one” they’re looking for is closer than they think.

Why I Can’t Wait to Read: It’s no secret I love a good memoir. To me, a memoir needs to do four things: 1) be honest with the ugly. 2) Be so specific it can’t help but be universal. 3) Drop truth bombs, and 4) Perform surgery, not suicide (For a more in-depth explanation of this criteria, read this post).  At first glance, Indestructible meets this criteria.

I first heard Allison’s story on the That Sounds Fun Podcast hosted by Annie F. Downs (you can listen here). If Allison writes half as well as she speaks, Indestructible promises to be a beautifully written book. In her interview, Allison was honest, dropped truth bombs left and right, and it’s clear she did the deep work to work toward healing in this book and off the page. Unfortunately, divorce and/or other unexpected transitions are a reality for most people. The description for Indestructible clearly states that Allison’s story is specific to her but promises to speak to others who have experienced a similar disillusionment. Indestructible sounds like a perfect addition to my list of most anticipated memoirs.

Amazon Associate links:

Paperback:

Kindle version:

Is Indestructible the type of book you’d love to read? Are there any memoirs you are looking forward to this fall? Let me know in the comments section!

FOMO: Educated: A Memoir

FOMO posts are blog posts about the books that have been buzzed about, made the bestseller lists, won all the awards, are constantly cited as life-changing or industry shaping…and I haven’t read a word of them. These posts are my chance to explain why I haven’t jumped on the bandwagon, and your chance to tell me if I should. The book I’ve chosen for this inaugural post is one of the Top 20 Picks for Best Book of the Year so Far for 2018, a #1 New York Times Bestseller, and one that’s been mentioned everywhere since before its release in February. So why haven’t I picked it up?

I’m not one to jump on a lot of bandwagons. They’re usually full, and crowds make me nervous. A recent galivant through the land of the Enneagram personality test revealed that I am what’s known as The Loyalist, so apparently NOT jumping ship for the next hot thing is an important part of who I am.

There’s something in me that, when I see a bunch of readers heading for the cliff, makes me want to go in the opposite direction. I may find myself at the same stream eventually, but I like to take my own path sometimes.

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover seems like a book that would be right up my alley. I love memoirs. I’m a fan of higher education. It’s a coming of age story about self-reinvention and family loyalty, which are themes right in my wheelhouse. Anyone who knows my criteria for a good memoir knows one of the top requirements is that the story is unique enough to be interesting, yet rendered universally enough for me to identify with the individual, and according to critics and lay readers, Westover has done just that. I should have been the first person in line to read this, especially since one of my favorite book recommenders, Anne Bogel, talked about it before its release on her show. So why wasn’t I?

First of all, February was busy. My book release had been pushed back and I was working like crazy to meet my new deadline. All that stress pushed me to binge on $.99 kindle romances in the evenings in between episodes of America’s Dumbest Criminals on Amazon Prime to rest my brain. I wasn’t interested in a “demanding” read.

Second, the book was a little too buzzed about. Many times when a book is so lauded early on, I’m skeptical. Was it really good advance marketing and a quirky spin on her story that garnered all this attention, or is the book actually good?

Third, I’m finicky when it comes to memoir or books that have an autobiographical component. I can read almost any romance as long as you can guarantee a man and a woman fall in love and have AT LEAST a happy for now ending that looks really promising, but when it comes to memoir, I need more than a good story. I have to connect with the person, their story, or their voice–and hopefully all three. I take less chances in this genre. I usually read memoirs of stories I heard about or people I’ve met online or in real life who I like. I know nothing about this Tara Westover, and while her story seems interesting enough, all I know of it is what’s been said about the book. As for her voice, I have no clue.

Four, and more or less important depending on how far I am from payday, is the price. The paperback price is listed at around $25, and the kindle is still $12.99 (the link above is to the hardcover and is $16.80). I’m not a world famous reviewer who gets Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) from major publishers regularly (yet!), so I have to at least pretend as if I’m minding my book budget. True, I could just check this one out of the library, but I imagine the hold requests on this are pretty up there (not that I’ve bothered to look–I’ll add this to future posts).

Instead of going round and round in my head, I’m putting it to a poll here on my blog. Do you think I should read Educated? Why or why not? I’m especially interested in the opinions of those who have read the book or heard the author speak. Once I get some feedback and make a decision, I’ll add it to the bottom of the post so you know what I decided (because I hate when I vote and I never find out the decision).

XOXO,

Erica

P.S. Eventually when I get more tech savvy, I’ll have an actual poll on these posts.

Get In My Kindle: Inheritance by Dani Shapiro

Hi, Friends! Get in My Kindle is fast becoming my favorite feature of this site. Today’s book is another I can’t wait to read when it releases. Unlike the previous book, an essay collection, this one is a memoir by author and writing teacher Dani Shapiro. 
Inheritance Dani ShapiroLike many aspiring authors, I have a copy of Still Writing on my writing craft book shelf, but I wouldn’t have called myself a Dani Shapiro fan until I started following her on social media. Instagram suggested her as someone I should follow when I first joined. Since then, I’ve been closely following her posts. I was interested in Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage, a memoir on marriage, but I decided to wait until the paperback version was available. Hourglass got lost in the flood of new books and suggestions, but I kept following Dani (I feel like I can call her Dani because her posts are so personal).

All authors and creators can learn a thing or two about creating investment and enticing readers from Dani Shapiro. She’s been posting throughout the process of writing her upcoming release Inheritance. Her followers have heard about the journey of this book, how what she discovered was changing her, how the writing of this story was changing her, and how it was changing everything she thought she knew about herself. We know this story was shocking and important, that it dealt with a family secret, but we didn’t know what this story was. I was hooked.

Finally, the wait is over, and the book is here! Here’s the description:

What makes us who we are? What combination of memory, history, biology, experience, and that ineffable thing called the soul defines us?
In the spring of 2016, through a genealogy website to which she had whimsically submitted her DNA for analysis, Dani Shapiro received the stunning news that her father was not her biological father. She woke up one morning and her entire history–the life she had lived–crumbled beneath her.
Inheritance is a book about secrets–secrets within families, kept out of shame or self-protectiveness; secrets we keep from one another in the name of love. It is the story of a woman’s urgent quest to unlock the story of her own identity, a story that has been scrupulously hidden from her for more than fifty years, years she had spent writing brilliantly, and compulsively, on themes of identity and family history. It is a book about the extraordinary moment we live in–a moment in which science and technology have outpaced not only medical ethics but also the capacities of the human heart to contend with the consequences of what we discover.
Timely and unforgettable, Dani Shapiro’s memoir is a gripping, gut-wrenching exploration of genealogy, paternity, and love.

Isn’t this description intriguing? I can’t wait to get this one! We’ll have to wait until January, but I think it might be worth it. It’s one of many releases I’m pre-ordering. If you’re interested, here are the pertinent details:

Title: Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love

Author: Dani Shapiro

Release Date: January 15, 2019

My Amazon Associate links to pre-order your copy of Inheritance:

Hardcover pre-order: //ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ss&ref=as_ss_li_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=ericadhearns-20&language=en_US&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=1524732710&asins=1524732710&linkId=4b53a1adc83e8e244cb57a78c81c87e3&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true

Kindle pre-order://ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ss&ref=as_ss_li_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=ericadhearns-20&language=en_US&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B07DBRGMFB&asins=B07DBRGMFB&linkId=78458652e6226a7d820e356eb839f3fd&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true

Will you be reading Inheritance? What book(s) are you looking forward to?