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Living life from cover to cover

Show Us Your Books, January 2017: The good, the bad, the one that made me feel dumb

Hey, hey, hey, what do we have here? It’s barely a week into the new year and we already have a Show Us Your Books. Because what’s a better way to start the year than with an ever bigger TBR list? 

For those who are new or newish, I run my month from linkup to linkup rather than the calendar month so when you see my list, please know that even though I read relatively quick, I have not read 7 (well, 8) books since the first of the year. I leave that to people like my co-host, Steph. Oh, and the order I list my books is the order I read them and the reviews are directly copied (and sometimes expanded) from my Litsy reviews. You can find me on Litsy if you want; my username is my name (creativity level: 10). I’ve also discovered, thanks to Book Riot, another book app. I’ll share all about that on Friday #suspense

As always, please remember to visit Steph and the other bloggers on the list. If you’re a nonblogger, please leave me a comment with what you’ve read the last month or even a book that you’re excited to read this year. 

We’re All Damaged by Matthew Norman. You know how sometimes you read a book and you love it but there’s no specific reason? That’s how this was for me. I found it funny, smart, touching, amusing, and the fact that it was littered with relevant pop culture references and current events made it that much better. The characters felt real, the plot felt real, and it was more like listening to someone talk about his fucked up life rather than reading a fiction book.

Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta. I adored Saving Francesca so I was crazy excited to read this one. It did not disappoint. A fast paced, well written, intricate thriller that used time jumping as a way to move the plot forward rather than a gimmick. I loved watching the story unfold and I love that she didn’t shy away from the racism and assumptions made amidst crimes like this (a bus bombing). My only gripe is SO MANY CHARACTERS and I couldn’t always keep them straight.

Darktown by Thomas Mullen. It’s a crime novel, a mystery but also so much more than that. It’s set in post-WWII Atlanta, with racism and police brutality and corruption as much of characters as the characters themselves. It’s a commentary on how things have changed but how they haven’t changed at all. There’s crimes within the crimes. It’s a complex, ridiculously well written, intriguing book that keeps you hooked the entire time. I can’t remember how I found this book but I’m glad I did. It’s not an easy read by any standards but well worth it. 

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance. It’s like a mix of The Other Wes Moore and The Glass Castle and a research paper and a family history project. A sociology nerd, I love learning and reading about subcultures and this is a particularly fascinating one given the current climate of the US. Vance highlights a culture full of stereotypes and makes them understandable and explains a lot of “whys” but based mainly on his experience rather than stats and research (which he does use at times but not often). The book provides a ton of food for thought. It’s important to remember that this is a memoir, not a study because it’s an important distinction.

Salvage the Bones by Jessamyn Ward. I fluctuate between recommending this book and not. I mean, the writing is phenomenal. Every scene, you feel like you’re there, breathing the air and sweating and fighting along with Esch. Her description of Katrina is heart stopping and you feel like you’re part of the family. And the relationship between Skeeter and China is incredible. But the dogfighting and puppy stuff was too much for me and it was incredibly repetitious at times. Read with caution.

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple. Somewhere in this busy, annoying, repetitive, rushed story narrated by an insufferable, snobby, bitchy, selfish asshole is a good book. It peeks out at you every once in a while and then retreats. I think those glimpses are what kept me going and not fully hating the book, despite wanting to put it down and walk away several times. There was so much potential in this story that never materialized. I can take an unlikable narrator so that didn’t put me off. The terrible story and plot did.

Private Citizens by Tony Tulathimutte. I honestly don’t know how I feel about this book. On the one hand, the characters and story and plot are amazing. On the other hand, the writing was too much, like the author had to prove that he’s smarter than everyone or just how smart he is. I swear, I didn’t understand a fourth of the words and I have a decent vocabulary. I don’t like fiction that makes me feel stupid, and this book did. The overwriting compromised my enjoyment, even if he did it to make some sort of point I don’t get. 

Bonus book: I’m not counting this in my book total for the year because it’s essentially a throw away book (I got it for free during my free trial of Kindle Unlimited) but I recently learned about the Danish concept of hygge and this book, The Cozy Life: Rediscover the Joy of the Simple Things Through the Danish Concept of Hygge by Pia Edberg, is a pretty good primer/overview of the idea. It’s not anything special or different but it puts an umbrella on self-care, avoiding SAD, and minimalism which is pretty cool. 

TL; DR: Read Darktown, We’re All Damaged, Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil. Hillbilly Elegy if you like that kind of stuff. The rest, proceed with caution.

Now it’s your turn. Link up and show us your books!

 

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53 Comments

  1. Olya @ The Siberian American

    Were All Damaged sounds like my kind of read! Definitely adding it to my list!

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      It was a great read! Hope you like it!

      Reply
  2. Tanya @ A Mindful Migration

    Some really good reads here! I’m adding Darktown, We’re All Damaged and Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil to my TBR. My reading mojo has been a bit low lately so I’m hoping a good book will help me recover it!
    Tanya @ A Mindful Migration recently posted…December Bookshelf: The Ho-Hum MonthMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I think you’ll really like all of those. And avid readers all go through a lull. You’re in good company 🙂

      Reply
  3. Jess

    Adding We’re All Damaged to my list, and Hillbilly Elegy is already on there. I’m going to stay away from Salvage because I know I can’t handle any dog stuff.

    Reply
  4. kristen

    ooooh another book app! how exciting. added We’re All Damaged to my list. I got Tell the truth shame the devil from my library via e-book but i didn’t get to it quick enough and it went back within 2 weeks, but i’ll have to get it again. love her.
    hahahahaha @ your review for today will be different. goodness, i did not enjoy that book. so awful.
    darktown sounds good! also, i want to check out the cozy life.

    Reply
  5. Heather

    I haven’t read Today will be Different but I had planned to after enjoying Bernadette…I haven’t heard anything good about it yet though so it’s not a priority! haha! The Cozy Life sounds like a fun read – I love that kind of thing. I look forward to reading the new Marchetta book sometime this year too!!

    Reply
  6. April

    Hillbilly Elegy sounds right up my alley. I love sociology and enjoyed studying it in school. I’m definitely going to check it out and maybe see how things hold true with my own (Southern albeit not hillbilly) family. 😉 Was this non fiction?

    Reply
  7. Jenn @ Optimization, Actually

    I’m always reluctant to count books that are shorter than 200 pages. I think all the book challenges have influenced my definition of what constitutes a “book” because that’s the limit they always use. But then I’ll have an 80-something page thing that makes really good points and I want to review it but not count it towards my total and I’m torn.

    I’m trying to read more books about other cultures and especially about the subcultures within the US, so Hillbilly Elegy is one I should probably add to my TBR.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I would have considered it a real book had it been an intentional, purposeful read not one that felt like something I would have reviewed for work. Page length doesn’t matter so much as content for me.

      You like nonfiction so you should like Hillbilly Elegy.

      Reply
  8. Nancy @ NY Foodie Family

    I wasn’t a fan of Today Will Be Different either. Otherwise, I haven’t heard of any of the other books you read. I added Dark Town and We’re All Damaged to my to read list.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      If you’re going to pick any two from the list, those are the ones!

      Reply
  9. Ashley @ The Wandering Weekenders

    I love a good mystery, so I’ll definitely be picking up Darktown, and We’re All Damaged sounds really interesting too. Both of those are definitely on my TBR. Thanks for warning me about the dog fighting in Salvage The Bones. Books that deal with dogs dying or being mistreated are books I just can’t read because they make me too sad. I can read WWII books, but have a hard time with those, I know it’s really messed up. I’m so excited to see what other books people have read this year!

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I skipped the entire section describing the actual dogfight because I just couldn’t handle it. Sort of ruined the book from that point forward.

      Reply
  10. Alexandra

    Hillbilly Elegy sounds really really interesting. Boo for writers who have to come off as overly smart. I don’t think I could handle the dog fighting content. Yikes. Glad you enjoyed most of your reads. Good to know about The Cozy Life. I’ve recently added tons of Hygge related books to my TBR. XO – Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      The Cozy Life is a good, comprehensive overview of hygge so if you’re interested in it, I recommend this one.

      Reply
  11. SMD @ Life According to Steph

    HA! Stop. I also do linkup to linkup not monthly. Our reading months are according to SUYB!

    We’re All Damaged has been on my kindle since it came out. I got a deal. I’m hoping to get through all of my books on there before the end of March.

    I’m definitely going to read Hillbilly Elegy even though it’s my nemesis, nonfiction.

    Added Darktown.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I think you will like all of them. Darktown might give you rage, though.

      Reply
  12. Rebecca Jo

    I am so bummed about Today Things will be Different. I was really holding out for this book & I’ve not heard one person give it any kind of review that makes me want to pick it up now.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      It was not good. It had so much potential that did not deliver.

      Reply
  13. Brittany Pines

    Love books like Norman’s, when it’s just a great book for no special reason. Hillbilly Elegy sounds really interesting…

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      A friend recommended it to me and he totally wasn’t wrong about how good it was!

      Reply
  14. Audrey

    “Creativity level: 10” – hahahahaha 😀

    Hygge seems to be a pretty popular thing now a days… The book you mentioned sounds interesting.
    Nooooo thank you to the one w/ dog fighting. I don’t think my soul could take it.
    We’re All Damaged sounds pretty good! So does Hillbilly Elegy!
    Audrey recently posted…What I Read… 2017 vol.1My Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I keep saying that if I had known it was in the book, I would have passed solely on that.

      Hygge does seem to be the thing now. I totally understand why, especially with the huge numbers of people affected by SAD. Hygge really does seem to be a cost-effective way to combat it.

      Reply
  15. Bailey

    I have Hillbilly Elegy on my holds list from the library. I’m actually from Kentucky, like the author, but I’m from the western part of the state, not Appalachia. I’ve never actually visited Appalachia!

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      The book isn’t just about his life in KY. He actually spent most of his life in Ohio! But I think you’ll like it. It’s fascinating.

      Reply
  16. Pingback: Show Us Your Books: December to January - Oh Hey! I Like That!

  17. Carly

    I didn’t have any expectations going into We’re All Damaged but I really enjoyed it too. Could not agree more with what you said about Today Will Be Different, I had high hopes but was so bored waiting for something to happen or pick up just a little bit.
    Carly recently posted…Carly Reads Here | JanuaryMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      It made me angry that she gave just enough to not entirely hate it and DNF. But it really wasn’t good at all.

      Reply
  18. Mattie

    I added Darktown when I saw you rate it on Goodreads. Just added Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil and Hillbilly Elegy!

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      Those are solid choices! I hope you love them!

      Reply
  19. Gwen

    Glad to see that you liked Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil! I haven’t read it yet but I’m looking forward to it. I added Darktown even though I bet it will make me angry.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      It will give you rage but it is worth it.

      Reply
  20. Nicole

    I was happy to see you read Hillbilly Elegy because I’ve been interested but haven’t committed yet. You’ve sold me on it. Hope I can get to it this month yet. Thanks for hosting again. Always love getting my book suggestions each month!

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I love me some sociological nonfiction so there was no way this was going unread. Looking forward to your thoughts on it!

      Reply
  21. ShootingStarsMag

    I am really curious about Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil so I’m happy to hear that you enjoyed it. I hadn’t heard of We’re All Damaged so I added that to my to-read list! Thanks for sharing.

    -Lauren
    ShootingStarsMag recently posted…Show Us Your Books: In Which Not All Have Been Reviewed…My Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I hope you like them once you get a chance to read them!

      Reply
  22. Megan

    I have not read any of these books but I’m always looking for something new to read! Darktown & Hillbilly Elegy sound the most interesting.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      They probably were the most interesting I read last month. I cannot recommend them enough.

      Reply
  23. Lauren @ Oh Hey! I Like That!

    Hillbilly Elegy is already on my TBR, and now I’ve added two more from your list! Thank you, as always, for great recommendations!

    Reply
  24. Lauren

    “Good but I’m not sure why” feels like my ideal genre lately. Totally adding We’re All Damaged.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I think it should be an actual genre. Let’s start that.

      Reply
  25. Teh Megan

    We’re All Damaged has been on my TBR for quite a while. I should just do it already.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      Yes. You should.

      Reply
  26. Jill K.

    Darktown sounds really good. I’m adding that.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      Had I finished it before I wrote my best of list, it would have been on there.

      Reply
  27. Kerri

    I had a good few books in December that were ones I just loved for no specific reason, which makes it rather frustrating to actually write about them haha.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      It kind of does. “Hey, I like this book a whole lot but I really can’t tell you why but just read it and you’ll understand” isn’t exactly helpful.

      Reply
  28. Brie @ A Slice of Brie

    That’s so disappointing about Today Will Be Different. After I read Bernadette and loved it, I read This One is Mine by her and it was terrible. I think maybe she just had one good book in her from the sounds of it.
    Brie @ A Slice of Brie recently posted…The Books I’ve Been Reading {#15}My Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I didn’t realize she had a third book. I might try it before I decide I’m done with her.

      Reply
  29. texerinsydney

    I tried to get We’re All Damaged yesterday, but my library doesn’t have it. Boo.
    I have Melina Marchetta’s on the way and glad to hear that it did not disappoint.
    I DETEST books that I feel the author is trying to prove how smart they are or that they can use big words.
    texerinsydney recently posted…I show you my books, you show me yours… vol.24My Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      It infuriated me to feel like I needed a dictionary to understand this book.

      Reply
  30. lauren

    so sad I missed the linkup this month! you had a great month of reading!

    Reply

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