Jana Says

Living life from cover to cover


Show Us Your Books, third anniversary edition

Holy shit, you guys. I cannot believe this is the THIRD ANNIVERSARY of Show Us Your Books. I think I can speak for Steph when I say that we are thrilled you guys love our little linkup and we are astonished that it’s lasted for three years. If that doesn’t speak to the power of books and how book lovers come together, I don’t know what does. 

As a thank you, we have a little giveaway for you (you can find it at the end of the linkup). But before we get to that, let’s check out what I read last month. It’s a bit less than I’d hoped but you know, it’s hard to read when you can’t stop crying.  Also, we were supposed to reveal the new button this month but I suck at life and responsibility lately so next month for sure.

As always, my reviews are copied/embellished from my Litsy reviews (I’d encourage you to follow me over there but honestly, it’s very boring):

Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions by Amy Stewart. To know me is to know how much I love the Constance Kopp books and how much I love Amy Stewart for bringing her into my life. This book is a little busier than the other ones but it ties itself up so well at the end. The social politics of the time are infuriating but necessary to read because without that context, you don’t realize how Constance is so groundbreaking and such a pioneer and integral to feminism. An unsung and under-noticed hero. This is the only historical fiction I read for a reason. (P.S. This review is Amy Stewart approved. She liked it on Litsy!) 

Janesville: An American Story by Amy Goldstein This book is sad, eye opening, frustrating, maddening, inspirational, and every emotion you can think of. She immersed herself in this town and legit cares for it and the people and it shows in her writing and careful portrayal. It’s a very political story but she does a phenomenal job of removing her biases. This is a fascinating look at what happened to this town during and after the Recession and for me, is on par with Matthew Desmond’s Evicted

Bird Box by Josh Malerman I have no idea what the flying fuck I read. Some sort of bizarre apocalyptic commentary on mass hysteria and what our imagination can do to us or a terrifying horror novel? That is a question I can’t answer and won’t even attempt to but I do know I was not a fan. I didn’t hate it and would recommend if you like weird novels with strange endings and a tinge of horror but if you like linear books that actually make sense, pass on this one. 

Grist Mill Road by Christopher J. Yates Sometimes you read a book and despite the fact that it has all your plot pet peeves rolled into one, you love the book anyway. It’s about the dangers of secrets and friendship and what can happen when you don’t know the whole story and it’s set in the aftermath of a tragic event (and also the Recession which made for an interesting side story). It’s horribly sad, a little thrillery, and wonderfully written. ARC from NetGalley. 

The Locals by Jonathan Dee This was more of a character study and analysis of a town in the wake of 9/11 and through the Recession and the Occupy Wall Street movement and all that rather than a novel with a tightly woven plot. Similar to Did You Ever Have a Family?, it was sad and beautifully written and SLOW and there was a distinct story progression that including the importance of otherwise peripheral characters but you kept reading because you wanted to learn about the people. The end was not the payoff I’d hoped for but the journey there was great. 

American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land This short book about arson on the Eastern Shore of VA is engrossing, interesting, and meticulously researched. It explores the region, the crimes, criminals, the firefighters, investigators…everyone and everything in a careful and sympathetic manner. Her bias does show but her sympathy shows more. It balances history with the way things are done currently and the only part I found lacking was an exploration into motive and the relationship between the arsonists. (P.S. My in-laws live near the Eastern Shore and my mother in law confirmed that this was BIG NEWS when it happened a few years ago so that’s pretty cool)

TL;DR. With the exception of Bird Box, I loved every book I read this month. If you’re not a nonfiction fan, Janesville won’t be for you but American Fire might be. The three Recession books in one month were unplanned. As was two books by women named Amy. 

Currently reading: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng with The Both Die At the End and Caroline in the queue. 

Now it’s your turn! Link up, visit some other bloggers, and show us your books (and don’t forget to scroll to the bottom and enter the Amazon giveaway)!


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Show Us Your Books, September 2017 edition

Although it’s been 5 weeks since our last SUYB and when we have an extra week in there I get an extra book or two read, such was not the case this month. The culprit? The TV show Rectify. I found it on Netflix and it proceeded to consume me for about 2 solid weeks. It’s not that many seasons or episodes but it left me emotionally spent. I’m not a crier but I cried MULTIPLE times, sometimes multiple times an episode, watching it. It’s a mystery, character study, and scathing indictment of our criminal justice system all at once and it centers around a man freed from death row after spending nearly 20 years on it for a crime he did not commit. You have to see it. I implore you. 

Anyway, you’re here for the books so that’s what I’ll give you. Don’t forget to visit Steph and the other bloggers who’ve joined us to talk books this month and if you’ve been on the fence about joining because you don’t feel like you read enough, I say fuck that and join us anyway. The average American reads less than 10 PER YEAR so at even one book a month, you’re above average. And we want to know what you’ve been reading! Share with us! Next one is on October 9 and we’ll be celebrating 3 years. It’s a big deal.

Reviews copied and/or embellished from Litsy.

The Readymade Thief by Augustus Rose. This book just didn’t do it for me like I’d hoped. It started off interesting enough but the level of detail about art and conspiracy theories I had to retain in order to follow half the plot was simply too much. It became distracting and it felt like this was an art version of The Following but less good. Lee’s story and subplot were engaging enough but overall, I struggled with this one. However, I can absolutely see why people would love it. But I did not. 

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. My god, what a book this was. It was beautiful and haunting and not at all what I was expecting. Sometimes when a modern book takes place in the 70s or 80s, it feels gimmicky but in this case it was perfect. Given the storyline around AIDS, it would not have been as powerful if it had taken place now. This book also had a central theme around art but unlike The Readymade Thief, this one connected with me. 

The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter. This is a good book. Not amazing but a solid read. The separate yet connected plots kept me intrigued and I had no interest in putting the book down. She’s a strong writer who knows how to tell a complicated story without being obnoxious about it. The characters are complex, she doesn’t tie up all the loose ends, and she smacks you hard with the unexpected that’s balanced with the easy to guess and it’s just the right about of fucked up. WAY less fucked up than Pretty Girls. So that was nice. 

The Cleaner by Paul Cleave. This was my 3rd book of his and he does not disappoint. He has quickly become my go-to for a violent psychological thriller because: he’s a great writer who messes with your head, knows how to develop a fucked up plot and characters, and he’s darkly funny. The only thing that bothered me about this book was that Joe, the main character, reminded me so much of Joe from YOU with the ego and narcissism and sociopathy and murder that it was hard not to think of them as the same character. But like I did with YOU, I read the sequel and I will read the sequel to this one as well. 

A Killer Harvest by Paul Cleave. If I read two books by the same author in one month, you know I like them. He is such a phenomenal storyteller and writes about fucked up things in such a different way and it makes it difficult to not stay up until 3AM reading. This one is WEIRD and so so unique for a thriller because it’s thrillery with twist after twist and such a blurring of good and bad and morals that you don’t actually know who is responsible for anything. I mean, you do, but not in the way you normally think about it. 

The Dinner Party and Other Stories by Joshua Ferris. Short story collection so if you don’t like short stories, this should be a hard pass for you. I have loved all of his books I’ve read. They’re weird and interesting and I appreciate the elements of realism. And I felt that way about some of the stories in this collection but after awhile they all felt like a rehashing of the same story with the same characters and it became repetitive and uninteresting. However. Any book that pays homage to Coach Taylor is okay by me.

TL; DR: The Paul Cleave and Karin Slaughter books are must reads for my fellow thriller lovers. Tell The Wolves I’m Home is outstanding. Maybe don’t read The Dinner Party and The Readymade Thief.

Currently reading: Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions. I’d hoped to have it done by today but life happens. 

Now it’s your turn. Link up below and Show Us Your Books!

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The Child’s First Book Review

You’ve all read my book reviews at some point. Mostly in Show Us Your Books. So you know that they’re pretty short and to the point. I typically don’t mince words. Apparently that’s a family trait because The Child is pretty concise herself. I should probably explain. She had a summer reading assignment that involved reading a book and writing about it. She didn’t want to do a poster and since The Armchair Librarians is on an extended hiatus, we decided that this year she’d contribute a post discussing one of the books she read. Fun fact: it’s a Babysitters Club book. I cannot tell you how freaking excited I am that she is enjoying the series. And not the newfangled graphic novel versions, either. The real, old school (as in, some of my copies) books. 

That said, this is her review. I’m not sure how much she adhered to the assignment guidelines but it seems okay to me. I didn’t fix any spelling or punctuation or grammar or anything (and y’all know how much that killed me) so this is legit her work. Feel free to ask her any follow up questions and when she gets home from school I’ll have her answer them.

Welcome, today we are going to be talking about a book in the series The Babysitters Club called: Mary Anne and Too Many Boys. But instead of talking about Mary Anne or Stacey  we are going to be talking about Vanessa. Vanessa is the 9 year old poet who is the sweet, kind, calm and creative one in the Pike family. She makes the story a lot more interesting because she in the story she has a crush on Chris a boy from the Ice Cream Place in Sea City the Pikes vacation spot. Why she is so important to the story is because thru out the book Mary Anne has to deal with her and Stacey’s old boyfriends,Vanessa’s crush and Babysitting 7 kids too. So this is just one of all the main 3 events. So what winds up happening is Vanessa writes a poem for him but he thinks that his crush Mallory wrote it for him. So the main important’s of Vanessa is that she is a little drama in the huge Drama fest that is this vacation.

Show Us Your Books, August 2017

This was a bizarre month for reading. In the beginning, I read a whole bunch of books very quickly. Then I started A Brief History of Seven Killings and it all went to shit because that book is killing ME. It’s so, so good but so, so dense and each chapter is like 4 pages and written in a different character’s voice and there’s about 97 characters (literally. There’s a cast of characters at the beginning to help you keep track) and it hurts my brain to read. I tried to quit 3 times but it keeps sucking me back in because I HAVE TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS. But also I can’t take it. I’m really torn about what to do. Usually I can DNF a book without thinking but I can’t let this one go. WHAT’S A BOOKWORM TO DO?

I guess while I continue to wrestle with that, we can review all the books I did read this month. As always, my reviews are copied and sometimes embellished from my Litsy reviews

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy. Whenever an author or band or actor produces something spectacular, it’s hard to imagine what the follow up will be like and it’s hard not to compare it to the previous work (did that make sense?). So it was hard to read this one, the one after Dumplin’, which is AMAZING, with no expectations but it lived up to all of them. Her take on sexuality, class, family, and obligations hit me in all the places and gave me the gamut of feels. You hate some characters, you love others, and you root for Ramona the whole time. Julie Murphy is an incredible storyteller and I love how she makes teenagers real, complex people rather than caricatures. I wish so hard her books existed when I was a teenager. They would have made such a difference to me. 

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Every idea, every anecdote, every thought is bigger than the 47 pages allow for and it is such an amazing conversation started around the ideas of feminism, culture, and gender roles that it should be required reading for everyone. It takes about 30 minutes to read but you will be thinking about it for hours afterwards. 

The GrownUp by Gillian Flynn. The fuck did I read? This book (does it even qualify as a book?) is simultaneously fucked up and not horrifying at all. I liked the progression of the story from normalish weird to REALLY BIZARRE and it MESSES with your head but I loathed and detested the ending. I would have read this as a full length novel, so there’s that. And it’s short so it’s hard to say not to read it but just know that the ending is a cop out. A big steaming cop out.

Saint Maybe by Anne Tyler. So. This book is probably one of the saddest, most depressing books I have ever read (it gave The Story of Edgar Sawtelle a run for its money and if you’ve read that one, you know it’s a HIGH HIGH bar) but it was also beautiful in its own way. The story of a man’s promising future marred by loss, penance, and familial obligation, it’s told over multiple decades that’s confusing to follow at first but you get used to it. The religious overtones were a bit much but necessary to the overall plot and in the end, they become background noise to the rest of the story. 

August Snow by Stephen Mack Jones. The thriller portion of this book is average, standard, and mostly predictable. What makes this book above average is the writing. It’s gorgeous and poetic and his descriptions of setting make you feel like you’re there. Like, I legit smelled Mexican food the entire time I read this book. I loved how he made Detroit a character as much as the people (like The Wire did with Baltimore) and he address class and racism and gentrification in a way that makes a point without being preachy.

The Half-Life of Remorse by Grant Jarrett. This was an ARC from NetGalley I finally got around to. This book about choices and trying to make things right when you’ve really fucked them up and how actions have bigger consequences than we imagine and loss and the tragic effect of one incident on multiple people is perfectly sad in all the right ways. The alternating POVs didn’t even get on my nerves! and when they all converged into one story, my heart broke. His storytelling is excellent and the simple yet huge plot made for a great read. 

Made for Love by Alissa Nutting. I adore Alissa Nutting as a writer (and independent of her marriage to Dean Bakopoulos because they are two separate and distinct people). She is smart and funny and engaging about topics that are unpleasant and taboo. She has such a way with words that you can’t stop reading. And this book is funny, sad, dark, and social commentary all at once. It was also WEIRD AS FUCK. Like “am I really reading this shit” weird. But good. However, if sex in books bothers you, don’t read it. If it doesn’t then this one is a keeper and a definite add to ye old TBR.

In progress: Ill Will by Dan Chaon 

TL; DR: Ramona Blue, Made for Love, and We Should All Be Feminists are must-adds. August Snow and The Half-Life of Remorse are also good choices but if you prefer lighter reading over the summer, save them for the fall and winter. The others I don’t not recommend but I don’t think they’re high priority reading either. 

Now it’s your turn! Link up or let me know in the comments what you’ve read lately. Don’t forget to visit my co-host, Steph, and some of the other bloggers joining us. Next one is September 12 and in October we’ll be celebrating THREE YEARS of Show Us Your Books!

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Bookish habits: 7 questions

I am a fan of Litsy. I don't use it like I should but I'm REALLY good at stalking and lurking. And it pays off sometimes because I find little get to know you questionnaires and they give me post ideas since summer brain is real. These are sort of along the lines of my Interview with a Bookworm series (real question: should I bring that back?) and they're all about bookish habits and behaviors which I find fascinating because #sociologynerd and here we go:

1. Probably 15-20. Sometimes less, sometimes more
2. In general, print but digital when traveling
3. Thriller/mystery and literary fiction.
4. Romance and horror
5. I have so many but it's a tie between using movie posters as book covers and when people mark up library books. THEY ARE NOT YOURS. DO NOT DO THAT.
6. Really, I have to pick one thing? I could write a 20 point list about my favorite things and they're all equal. A sample, though: getting lost in the story, I'm never bored, and books are a perfect way to avoid people AND responsibility
7. Hmmm. This is a hard one. I'm pretty open about all things bookish but I'll admit that I've never read a Harry Potter book, never plan to, and I give zero fucks if my daughter ever does. And I am also incredibly sick of the HP obsession. PLEASE MAKE IT STOP.

Any of my answers surprise you? How would you answer these questions?