Jana Says

Living life from cover to cover

Show Us Your Books, August edition: The one with short books

Second Tuesday of the month. You know what that means. 

Don’t forget to visit both me and Steph, some of the others linking up, and let me know what you’re reading in the comments if you forgot to write a post and/or you’re a non-blogger. 


You guys. The Devil in the White City is murdering my reading mojo. The parts about the serial killer are fucking fascinating but getting through the parts about the coming together of the World’s Fair is a tedium I’ve never read through before. Since I’m still working through it, and cannot read more than 20 pages at a time (although I have taken to skipping the World’s Fair chapters completely and just reading the murdery ones), I also have a side book. As you do. And the side books this month have all been rather short. I don’t think I read one that was more than 350 pages. I was more eclectic than usual this month as well. No real reason. 

If you follow me on Litsy (I think my user name is just my name, Jana, because I am insanely creative), you’ve seen these reviews and I apologize but I am way too lazy to rereview them. 

Hurt People by Cote Smith. A decent thriller that I liked, not loved. The premise was great, the plot well executed, the tension was palpable, and he’s an engaging writer but the fact that that narrator was what I pictured to be a 9 year old boy became tiring after awhile. I don’t know how to properly describe it but there was a lot of what the narrator imagined would happen in a scenario before there was actually what happened. It bothered me. Also, the two main characters didn’t have names. I’m sure it’s a stylistic choice to make a point but it bothered me.

First Comes Love by Emily Giffin. Emily, you and I are done. Between the last book and this piece of shit, I can’t read you anymore. In fact, the best thing I can say about this book is that it was better than your last one. I loathed the characters, the plot, and it was difficult to care about anything that happened, even the sad stuff. And, having struggled with infertility issues, the whole pregnancy/baby daddy/sperm donor storyline was oversimplified and borderline offensive. This was an ARC from NetGalley and I think I’m supposed to thank the publisher for the book, too, but I can’t remember who it is. Sorry, publisher. 

The Invoice by Jonas Karlsson. This book sort of reminded me of a literary version of Defending Your Life (the movie with Albert Brooks and Meryl Streep where he dies and goes on trial to see if he goes to heaven or has to try life again. It’s a great movie if you’ve not seen it). What I liked most about the book was not the writing or characters, which were good and interesting, respectively, but the way it makes you think about the value of happiness and how we measure a life. It’s a quick, thoughtful read and while it starts off slow, it’s worth it to keep going. This was a NetGalley ARC as well. 

Real Artists Have Day Jobs by Sara Benincasa. After this book, I am now obsessed with her and I swear it has nothing to do with the fact that she regrammed my blurb about her book on IG. She’s just fucking awesome and I cannot wait to get my hands on her other books. This book, though, is funny and real and honest and packed with self-help information that anyone of any age can use and she gives it in such a noncondescending way that you feel empowered after you read it. She says that she loves Amy Poehler (there’s a whole chapter about it) and this book actually reminds me of Yes Please. Personal stories with a tinge of self-deprecation intertwined with life lessons and almost no ego or braggadocio (and trust when I say she has plenty to brag about). Even if you don’t like self-help books, read this one. 

The Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon. If you listen to The Armchair Librarians, you know my thoughts on this book but to sum up: what a badass, pioneering, smart, determined woman we have sitting on the bench. This country is better because of her. Not only did she advocate and fight for equality but her own personal struggles and triumphs over the discrimination she faced made it all that more compelling of a read. Her relationship with her husband was incredible and the chapter at the end for how to live like RBG is probably my favorite. The only con is reading through the legalese but the authors break it down pretty well. 

Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss. I’m not sure exactly what it is about this book that made me enjoy it so much. But there was something about the way the characters intersected and the way she wrote, like she was in my living room, telling me a story instead of writing it, and the backdrop of 1980 and the NYC arts scene that made it a compelling, heartbreaking, and beautiful read. I feel like this book is what Sweetbitter tried to do. 

Listen to Me by Hannah Pittard. I enjoy Hannah Pittard as a writer. Having read all of her books, I say that with certainty. She weaves a story with beautifully and perfectly choiced words, and, since her books are short, precision. She tells wonderful narratives and constructs realistic plots. That said, this book did not do what I wanted it to. The defining moment of the plot was rushed, and I felt completely misled as to what it was going to be, and there was too much minutia instead. And that type of climactic moment usually reduces me to tears but in this book, it felt too clinical and matter of fact. There was no emotion connected to it. And Mark, the husband, is a raging turd. He almost ruined the book. I hated him and wanted him to go away. 

TL;DR–Add Tuesday Nights in 1980, Real Artists Have Day Jobs, The Notorious RBG. The Invoice if you need a quick vacation book. Avoid Emily Giffin. Watch Defending Your Life

Your turn. You know what to do. Next one is September 13. 

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  1. Olya @ The Siberian American

    That’s so disappointing about Emily Giffin’s book. I was hoping she would redeem herself after that awful football book.
    Olya @ The Siberian American recently posted…Six Books I Read in JulyMy Profile

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  3. Tanya @ A Mindful Migration

    Like I told you earlier, I completely skimmed/skipped the parts about the world fair too. The book did get really good at the end when a Pinkerton detective gets involved. I imagine Larson had more records to reference and detail. I’m adding Real Artists Have Day Jobs to my TBR and The Notorious RBG is already on there. I love Ginsburg and worry about the day when she needs to step down from the Supreme Court..

  4. texerinsydney

    I followed directions and added the books you told me to in your TL:DR.
    I laughed hard at your Emily Giffin review.
    I think I already have Hurt People on my tbr.
    texerinsydney recently posted…I show you my books, you show me yours… vol.19My Profile

  5. Kerri

    I do the same thing if I’ve got a big or tough book on the book, I like to have a book in the side to alternate with to break it all up. I was doing it with Lord Of The Rings, but in the end, I gave up with LOTR because I just couldn’t bare to read it anymore, no matter how many side books I had.

    I’m enjoying all these short book recommendations, I will have to keep an eye out for them!

    ~ K

  6. Kristin

    I’m on the wait list for the Giffin book. I think I’ll be avoiding it now because everyone is saying her books just aren’t good anymore. I read one, once upon a time, and it was okay but I don’t even remember the title.

    I had Devil in the White City on my list awhile back and dropped it because it just didn’t seem like an enjoyable book to read.

  7. kathy @ more coffee less talky

    not a fan of emily giffen. when I read “Something Blue”, it angered me because what friend would steal their best friend’s fiancee????????

  8. kathy @ more coffee less talky

    woops, hit “post” too soon.

    whenever i read any true crime book, i always skip the boring parts (ie. author’s narrative) because i only want to read about the serial killer’s life/reasons why they committed such awful crimes.

  9. Ericka @ A Quiet Girl's Musings...

    Tuesday Nights in 1980 looks right up my alley! I do love me some 1980s… ๐Ÿ˜‰

  10. Heather

    Probably because I’m Canadian and don’t pay A LOT of attention to the news, I didn’t know who RBG was until I started reading reviews of that book. It sounds really good though. I don’t think I’ve ever read an Emily Giffin book – not because I’m against chick lit but I just really didn’t enjoy the movie Something Borrowed and figured her books weren’t for me.

  11. Nadine

    I thought Emily’s book was a lot better than her last, but you are right…I didn’t really like the characters but I did appreciate the story line and I think I was parcel to it because it took place somewhere I was familiar with and it felt a little nostalgic because of that. I wont be rushing to get in line for any of her other new books though. Seems like she lost her spark. I am going to look at Hannah Pittard other books based on what you said.

  12. SMD

    I can’t believe you haven’t burned Devil in the White City yet!

    Adding Tuesday Night’s in 1980.

  13. Jenn @ Optimization, Actually

    I do side books too, usually when I’m reading self help, because a lot of those books need time to reflect and absorb. Of course, I’m also pretty guilty of my “side books” becoming my primary book until I’ve forgotten what the start of the self help book even said. ๐Ÿ˜›

  14. Brittany Bates

    I think I’ve heard of the Benincasa book before, in another rave review. I should really check it out- and the RBG book, becuase..duh, RBG. Giffin seems to be one of those people who started off strong and then just…started sucking (Sparks, anyone?).

  15. Jess

    I’ve almost picked up Devil in the White City so many times, but I’m afraid of the same thing. I’m not a huge non-fiction fan to begin with, unless I’m specifically in the mood. I have Real Artists on my TBR! I can’t wait to read it!

  16. Ashley @ The Wandering Weekenders

    I struggled with Emily’s last book too. I absolutely hated the storyline, and thought that certain parts were really creepy. I had higher hopes for her current book, so that sucks that you didn’t like it. I’ve heard great things about Devil In The White City, but I would probably hate the parts about getting the fair set up too. I would want to read all about the crazy serial killer!

  17. Jill K.

    I didn’t mind the new Emily Giffin, only because the last one was SO BAD.

    RBG has been on my list for a while. I think I need to fast track it.

  18. emily @ a little bit of emily

    I just read another review about Emily Giffin’s book that wasn’t so great. I never have been a huge fan of her, but it seemed everyone was reading that book so I thought I might need to. Glad to hear I wasn’t actually missing out!

  19. Lauren

    The only Giffin book I’ve read was the really bad one. I was wondering about the newest, but I think we have similar taste, so I’ll just leave her alone and stick Taylor Jenkins Reid when I need a chick lit fix.

    Okay, so Listen to Me… I think we read it at the same time. It just went on and on, nothing happened, and neither of them were especially good communicators. I’ll email more bc I want to talk about the end.

    The Invoice sounds cute and like it has some good perspective. I want to check it out. And I am SOCLOSE to getting RBG.

  20. Carly

    I just finished up First Comes Love and I liked the writing but did NOT care for the storyline at all. I still find it so weird there were all of these other characters that took up quite a bit of the plot and then they just disappeared? I haven’t heard of Tuesday Nights before, but I just added it to my TBR list.
    Carly recently posted…Carly Reads Here | augustMy Profile

  21. kristen

    i kept hearing you talk about The Devil in the White City and it was seriously draining me just listening to you talk about not being into it haha. i’ve heard it’s amazing but still.
    i haven’t read a lot of emily giffin, so i think my expectations were pretty mediocre, but i didn’t hate first comes love. i didn’t love it though, at all, and your review makes me dislike it even more. i really disliked most of the characters and the story was slightly ridiculous at times.
    tuesday nights sounds super interesting, and i added RBG after listening to your podcast episode, you guys definitely sold me on it!

  22. Linda Sheridan

    Awesome reviews. I want to read all from The Invoice on down. Thank Goddess for women like RBG. Can we have an all-women Supreme Court for a while? It’s only fair!!
    Love, Steph’s Momma

  23. Jessie @ The Acquired Sass

    I’ve read 1 Emily Griffin book, but honestly, I can’t even remember which one, so that shows you how much I enjoyed it. -___-

    So, no need to pop that one on my TBR.

  24. Mackenzie

    The Notorious RBG sounds like a book I would enjoy ๐Ÿ™‚
    Mackenzie recently posted…As The Page Turns: July EditionMy Profile

  25. Kelly @ Noodle to the Rescue

    Re: Emily Giffin, I guess I was just so glad this one wasn’t as bad as the football one, but her books have really gone downhill over the years. I thought she should have picked one storyline and then could have gone more in depth (like if she did Josie only she could have made it more authentic & real-life). Too bad she didn’t ask my opinion first, Haha.
    Kelly @ Noodle to the Rescue recently posted…Reading Roundup – July 2016My Profile

  26. Rebecca Jo

    I loved that movie Defending Your Life – so I’m totally going to keep an eye out for The Invoice

  27. Lauren @ Oh Hey! I Like That!

    I love love LOVED the Notorious RBG book! She is one of the most amazing people in the world. My hero.

  28. Brie @ A Slice of Brie

    I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t know who RBG is, despite seeing this book pop up all over the internet lately. Guess I should go google that…
    Literally LOL’d at your Emily Giffin review. I haven’t read anything of hers in years, although I have a few of her more recent books on my shelves (unread of course).
    Brie @ A Slice of Brie recently posted…The Books I’ve Been Reading {#11}My Profile

  29. Nancy @ NY Foodie Family

    Oh man, I actually enjoyed First Comes Love! LOL….to each his own. Real Artists have Day Jobs and The Notorious RBG look like books that I’d enjoy!

  30. Rachel @ Never Enough Novels

    I completely gave up on Devil in the White City. After hearing blogger after blogger rave about it, thank you for speaking the truth : ) That is a good idea to read just the murderer parts, though…

  31. Emily @ Out and About

    Hi Jana! I just found out about your linkup from Kelly at Noodle to the Rescue. Love it!

    I had trouble with Devil in the White City, too. I am a lifelong Chicago resident and am fascinated by Chicago history, but even I found some of the details difficult to get through, too. It will be interesting to see how they put together the movie, yes?
    Emily @ Out and About recently posted…2016 BTN Big 10K race recapMy Profile

  32. alyssa

    Really glad to know that before I picked up Devil in the White City. My friend (who loves reading about serial killers) recommended it to me I think last year, and it’s not my usual thing but I’ve heard good things or optimistic things, so I thought maybe. But now, probably notโ€”at least not now while I’m in a reading slump.

    I’ve read two by EG, hated one (The One and Only) and liked the other (Where We Belong), and though this one did come up available for me on the library hold list, I just couldn’t motivate myself to take it. Meh. She just might not be an author for me. Glad to hear your review though so I don’t feel like I’m missing out now.

    Real Artists sounds really interesting. Sounds like it might be similar to Big Magic, which I loved so much. Will check it out.

    Again, can’t wait to hear your podcast ep about RBG! She really is amazing and this country IS better because of herโ€”which makes it scary to think about where we’d be if it weren’t for her.

  33. Kathleen

    The only Emily Griffin I’ve read are those Something Borrowed and Blue books. Having been captivated by any of her other stuff.

    And YES YES YES to the Devil in the While City. When I was reading it I start skimming the architecture stuff and just reading the serial killer stuff. I wanted to get through it because I’ve heard that it’s going to be make into a movie and Leonardo DiCaprio is gonna be playing H.H. Holmes. Again I’ve just heard rumors but still if it’s true I wanted to read the book. But it was struggle for sho.

  34. Kristen

    Oh, that sucks that The Devil in the White City has so many boring parts. That’s been on my list for what feels like forever, and I was really hoping it would suck me in the way a lot of other true crime books have in the past. I think this is why I don’t do well with most nonfiction: too often the main point of interest gets bogged down in all the boring details. At least some of it is interesting, though, right?

    I wish you’d loved Hurt People, but I’m glad that you at least enjoyed it. For a while it bothered me that the two main boys weren’t given names, but I eventually got over it. I also really liked that the author chose the young boy to be the narrator of the story, which is actually kind of weird since child narrators are really hit or miss for me. My biggest problem with the book was that a few things kind of felt incomplete (including the ending). I really loved the way so much of the book played out, though, because it felt so real.

    I’m adding Real Artists Have Day Jobs. I think Listen to Me is already on my list, but I feel like I should check out some other books by this author as well since you said you really like her.
    Kristen recently posted…From the Bookshelf: Recently Read – August 2016 EditionMy Profile

  35. Crystal

    Sara Benincasa is THE BEST. One of my fav people to talk to on Twitter! <3 I really need to get around to reading that book! (Haven't read "Great" yet, either!)

  36. Athena

    OMG but The Devil In White City is sooooo good! I’m glad you are reading it nonetheless! See ya in a month! ๐Ÿ™‚

  37. Rose @ Ramblin' Rose

    I really liked Devil in the White City. Sorry it’s not working for you. I do remember the worlds fair parts were really long winded with the HH Holmes parts way more engrossing. I would have liked more from that part of the story. I read his In the Garden of the Beasts and really liked that as well. It was about an American diplomat in Nazi Germany circa 1936-ish. So really before the world at large knew how purely evil he was.

  38. Kimmi

    Real Artists Have Day Jobs is going on my list immediately.

  39. Gwen

    I’ve been curious about Sara Benincasa since I started listening to All the Books (at your recommendation!). I just went to Goodreads and removed First Comes Love from my to-read list. Buh-bye, Emily.


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