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Living life from cover to cover

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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69 Comments

  1. Olya @ The Siberian American

    Ugh, I hate cop out endings. You made me really want to read Made for Love!

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I hope you do and I hope you like it!

      Reply
  2. Pingback: July Bookshelf: Just Call Me Persnickety or Hypocritical Month

  3. Tanya @ A Mindful Migration

    I struggle to DNF book and some are so hard to do because even though they are driving you nuts, you just can’t let go. πŸ˜€ I still need to read Dumplin (I know, I know) but I’m still adding Ramona Blue to my TBR. Plus, We Should All Be Feminists and Made for Love. I hope you like Ill Will. I enjoyed it, even though it’s incredibly messed up.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I am liking it so far but I love messed up books. I think the more messed up, the better. Until it crosses over into horror. Then it’s a pass.

      Reply
  4. Donna Freedman

    “Fading Feast.” Raymond Sokolov had the job that *I* want: In the early 1980s, he was paid to drive around the country and write about traditional regional cuisine like boudin rouge and the Indiana persimmon. His employer, the American Museum of Natural History, had the idea that these local foods were dying out. Ha! This updated version, which includes additional essays, notes that our interest in these old-time comestibles has come roaring back. It’s a delightful read, except that it made me hungry.

    “The Memory Keeper’s Daughter.” I’m a little late to the game on this one, since it was a bestseller a few years back. It was a tough read but a wonderfully painful, infuriating and real look at how we justify our bad decisions — or, rather, how we HAVE to keep justifying them because we can’t call them back.

    “Caleb’s Crossing.” Another finally-caught-up book (it came out in 2011), this is a fascinating (and fictionalized) look at history as told by a young woman who lived in the 1660s on what would later be called Martha’s Vineyard. She was secretly friends with a local youth who would go on to become the first Native American graduate of Harvard. The sexism, subordination of women and dismissal of Natives as “salvages” (that’s the way they spelled it) made me ragey, but it was still a luminous read.
    Donna Freedman recently posted…The painful truth about your emergency fund.My Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      The Memory Keeper’s Daughter was an excellent book. Definitely agree with you on that. I haven’t read the others but if you like travel memoir books, check out Bill Bryson or Paul Theroux

      Reply
  5. Anne

    I just finished August Snow and have to admit I was kind of bored…if I hadn’t lived part of my childhood in the Detroit area and had that as an interest in the book, I would have not finished. Bummer. But! I absolutely love Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Her Dear Ijaeawele is also a super short and accessible read but will have you thinking and talking about it for days too. And I just heard another review with high praise for Ramona Blue, so it’s going on the list now!

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I loved the way he describes setting. I’d read a follow-up to this just for that. I’m not in love with August or his story but I do enjoy the way Jones writes.

      Reply
  6. Lauren

    Adding Ramona Blue and We Should All Be Feminists – I have heard that title so many times but had no idea it was so short. There’s no excuse not to read it now. I hate when you are dying to know the ending of something but don’t want to slog through and get there. Good luck with whatever you decide.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I need to just make a decision. I have a couple of books I’ll get through quickly and then read this one at night before bed. I should finish it in a few weeks that way without overwhelming myself.

      Reply
  7. Heather

    Ramona Blue and We Should all be Feminists are on my list. Sounds like a lot of weird WTF reading moments for you this past month!!! hehe
    Heather recently posted…Recent Summer Reads – Show us Your Books link up!My Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      Most of them came from Made for Love. It was such a weird book. I loved it but it was so damn weird.

      Reply
  8. Jess

    Adding Ramona Blue to my list… how could I not with that plot? Sounds fascinating. We Should All Be Feminists has been on my list… I love a good feminist read. I like short stories and Gillian Flynn, not sure how I have not read The Grownup yet, but maybe because I have not seen too many reviews of it. Anyway, I want to read it now!

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      Send me your address. I’ll mail you my copy.

      Reply
  9. Brittany Pines

    Hmm so now I want to read pretty much everything except Flynn. Sounds like you had a good month!

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      It was definitely a good reading month overall

      Reply
  10. Laura

    I need to try Made for Love. Saint Maybe sounds heavy, but interesting.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      It was definitely heavy. I’m glad I read it but I was not prepared for its gravity.

      Reply
  11. Karly

    Per the norm, I haven’t heard of hardly any of these so thanks for all the suggestions. I pretty much can’t stand Gillian Flynn books, so I’m not shocked she had a cop-out ending. Ha!

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I liked her books a lot (Dark Places and Sharp Objects more than Gone Girl) but this one. Meh. It’s like she thought because the Game of Thrones guy asked her to write it she could get away with it being mediocre.

      Reply
  12. Ashley The Wandering Weekenders

    I still haven’t read Dumplin, but I’m adding Ramona Blue to my list! It sounds like a great book! And I totally agree with you about The Grownup, it should have been a full blown book instead of novella. It just didn’t seem to really end well.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I would have read it as a novel but I feel like maybe it would have sucked then, too.

      Reply
  13. SMD

    WAIT. You didn’t tell me Julie Murphy and Alissa Nutting had new books out.

    I also would have read the Gillian Flynn as a full novel. Like all short stories, that one fell totally FLAT for me.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I thought I did! I’m sorry! I think you’ll like them both. Maybe not LOVE but you’ll like.

      Reply
  14. Kristin Darhower

    Sometimes I hold onto books for months, just reading bits and pieces. If a DNF bothers you, I’d keep at it slowly.

    I liked Gone Girl but didn’t like any of Flynn’s other books. I saw this one but didn’t think too hard about trying it.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I had it sitting on my nightstand for a year before I finally picked it up. I was clearly not in a rush to get to it.

      Reply
  15. Nadine

    I really loved Dumplin, she is one of my top favorite characters from books I read this year. Probably even ever. So I am excited to read Ramona Blue!!! I will also be adding Made for Love to the TBR.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      Willowdean is an incredible character. I’m nervicited (nervous and excited) for the movie adaptation of her.

      Reply
  16. kristen

    ugh that is the worst and i am the worst at ‘advice’. because i would totally keep trying with that book even if it was killing me, because the I HAVE TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS kills me more.
    i haven’t read any of julie murphy’s other books, i am scared after loving dumplin so much! i will add ramona blue to my list though.
    i also still haven’t read Tampa, but i’ll add the other Alissa Nutting book to my list!

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I was scared, too, because Dumplin’ was amazing and Side Effects May Vary was meh but I assure you there’s no reason to be afraid.

      Reply
  17. Alexandra Consolver

    Oh good to know about Ramona Blue. I have heard mixed things, and I LOVED Dumplin’, so I was on the fence. You’ve convinced me completely. Excited for it now! I still need to read We Should All be Feminists. And then I’ll have KC read it. πŸ™‚ XO – Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I hope you enjoy it!

      Reply
  18. Nicole

    Ramona Blue will go on my TBR. At the very least, Dumplin will be bumped up. I need to carve out more reading time for great suggestions. I agree with your thoughts on We Should All Be Feminists. After I read it, I told my teen daughter and her friends, they needed to read it. It’s definitely a book that people shouldn’t hesitate to buy and keep on their book shelf to go back to again and again.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      When my daughter is older, she’ll read it. She doesn’t know it yet but she will.

      Reply
  19. Nancy @ NY Foodie Family

    I read the Grownup and it was not my type of read! I have to read more of Adichie’s books. I read Half of a Yellow Sun and really liked it but never read any of her other books.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      This is my first of hers. I might read some others, I might not. But I’m glad I read this one.

      Reply
  20. Teh Megan

    DNF is harder than actually powering through something horrible for me.
    YYYAAAASSS to We Should All Be Feminists. I let myself get scared off for a while because of the African names. Stupiiiidddd.
    Now, I’m interested in reading Ramona Blue. I really appreciated Murphy’s perspective from Dumplin’ so if the same is reflected in this book, I will probably enjoy it.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      DNF is usually not difficult for me at all. This book, though, is a whole different beast.

      Reply
  21. Laura

    You’ve never steered me wrong on a good non-fictional piece, so definitely adding We Should All Be Feminists Going to add Ramona Blue as well!

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      It makes me happy when I meet another nonfiction reader!

      Reply
  22. Rebecca Jo

    HOLDDDD UP!!! I think I have Saint Maybe on my shelf at home & just never got to it – I have to look at that when I get home.

    After reading Dumplin’ this month, I’m all about that author right now & just ordered a few more of her books.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      Let me know if you do have it! Looking forward to your opinions if you do (also, I have a book I want to send to you. I need your address, please)

      Reply
  23. Mackenzie

    We Should All Be Feminists sounds like an interesting read!
    Mackenzie recently posted…As The Page Turns: July EditionMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      It definitely was!

      Reply
  24. Confuzzled Bev

    Ramona Blue sounds so good. Added to my list – even though I haven’t actually got round to reading Dumplin’ yet…

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      They’re not a series so read them in any order you feel like!

      Reply
  25. Dani

    Oh man, I hate when a book takes me forever. I’d probably DNF and look up the ending if it got really bad.
    Definitely adding both short stories to my TBR. My Blue (s/o) was trying to make the case for sexuality being fluid when we started, so I’m intrigued by Ramona Blue and want to check that one out too.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      That is definitely a major plot point of the book and if you’re already having that conversation, it adds to it.

      Reply
  26. Christina

    I forgot Alissa Nutting’s book came out last month! Hopefully the hold list isn’t a mile long.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I got it pretty quickly even with it being on every single summer reading list.

      Reply
  27. Jackie

    Ramona Blue looks really interesting. I was laughing out loud at your review of The GrownUp. I’m not a fan of the short little thrillers, I need more of an investment or I feel cheated!

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I’m okay with short stories and novellas but this one was not that great.

      Reply
  28. Gina

    Alright, I have got to check out some of your selections. Ramona Blue sounds especially interesting and unlike anything else I have read! I am usually not a fan of teenage characters in books but this sounds good!

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      She writes YA, which this one is, so be prepared!

      Reply
  29. Audrey

    It sounds like these were pretty solid reads for the month. I freakin’ hate when I want to/know I should quit a book but I just can’t because something is keeping me going…
    Good luck with that one. Lol
    Audrey recently posted…What I Read… vol. 8My Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      This is really one of the first times I’ve struggled this hard with letting a book go. Something keeps drawing me back in!

      Reply
  30. Hannah

    I feel like books that are told from a bazillion different viewpoints have to meet a higher standard. Like, it’s difficult to write that many engaging characters – but at the same time you HAVE to so I’ll remember them in their next viewpoint chapter in 100 pages or whenever. I totally DNFed Game of Thrones because of this – I got halfway through the 3rd book and by that point I was only enjoying maybe 2 of the character viewpoints.

    Reply
  31. Gwen

    I remember after Dumpllin’ thinking how much I wish that kind of book had been around when I was growing up, and Ramona Blue falls into that category too. I loved it. I think Made for Love will make it to my TBR.

    Reply
  32. Jill

    I’m cracking up at your review of The Grown Up. Now I’ll have to read it just to see what it’s about.

    Reply
  33. ShootingStarsMag

    I haven’t read anything by Julie Murphy, but I’m curious about Ramona Blue. I’m glad you enjoyed it! Hope you are liking Ill Will – that’s one I hope to read some day.

    -Lauren
    ShootingStarsMag recently posted…Permanent Ink by Avon Gale and Piper VaughnMy Profile

    Reply
  34. texerinsydney

    I’ve been intrigued by Alissa Nutting but you know, my personal choice was that I couldn’t read the subject matter of Tampa, so I will definitely be looking for Made for Love.
    texerinsydney recently posted…I’ll show you my books, you show me yours… vol.31My Profile

    Reply
  35. Crystal Ward

    I really need to read We Should All Be Feminists! I liked the writing of Americanah a lot, so I keep meaning to revisit that author!

    Reply
  36. Amber

    Any book that starts with a cast of characters makes me question my decision to read it. I don’t need anything confusing my scatterbrained self right now!

    Reply
  37. Emma @Ever Emma

    I thought The Grownup was such a good mind-fuck. At first the ending pissed me off, but then I realized that it was kind of genius. I ended up spending so much time thinking and talking about it.

    Reply
  38. Pam

    Hi Jana! Ramona Blue is on my YA TBR list! I have really gotten into YA this summer and have about 6 books to read. Pam πŸ™‚

    Reply
  39. Kay

    And now I’m really intrigued by A brief history of seven killings. Sounds like the tedious books I read during my english degree.

    Reply
  40. Alison @ Puppies & Pretties

    I hate DNF’ing books because I always need to know what is going to happen. Even when I know I should cut my losses.
    Alison @ Puppies & Pretties recently posted…Linen Wrap DressMy Profile

    Reply
  41. Kimberly

    I loved We Should All Be Feminists. If I were a rich philanthropist, I’d pay for it to be given to every high school senior.
    Kimberly recently posted…TBT: CousinsMy Profile

    Reply

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