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Show Us Your Books, December edition #1

Happy Hanukkah! Welcome to the (first) December edition of Show Us Your Books with me and Steph. I say first because we have second one planned for December 29 and for that one, we’re asking you to link up with your favorite reads of the year. That’s right! A BONUS Show Us Your Books! I hope you’ll join us! And make sure you stick around to the end of this post as there’s a giveaway for you to enter.

This past month I read 14 books. Five for work, 9 for fun. I’ll only be reviewing the 9 I read for fun but if anyone is interested in the books I read for work (4 business type books, 1 criminal justice/cold case book), let me know. I’ll put them in a separate post or we can talk about them over email. 

book button linkup

Let’s do it. But buckle up because this is one long ass post (you can skip to the bottom of the reviews for my must reads, the linkup and the giveaway):

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. I first learned about this book through Lisa’s book club and I waited quite awhile for it to come in at the library. Worth. The. Wait. Which is weird for me to say about a science fiction book (and one of two I read this month) but guys, this books is so good! Like The Martian, it helps if you skim through the really technical boring video game stuff but once you do, what a great adventure/mystery/love story behind it! So creative, a little WALL-E-esque, and also, a possible scary glimpse into our future. Not to mention all the 80s pop culture references. If you were a kid/teenager in the 80s, you will explode from excitement with all the references. And for me, an extra bonus, Rush (one of my all-time favorite bands) played a crucial part to the story.

Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor. The second science fiction book I read this month. It’s based on the podcast of the same name and I think it’s crazy awesome that a podcast was turned into a book. I don’t really know how to describe this book to you except to tell you that it’s weird, sarcastic, unlike anything I’ve ever read before, and it will hook you. That said, because it’s so damn weird, it gets hard to read sometimes. Also, it’s written with the exact same cadence and manner as the podcast so if you want to read the book, listen to the podcast first. You don’t have to but it’ll help it make more sense. 

Stoner by John Williams. I decided to read this after I heard both the hosts of All the Books (another podcast I listen to) rave about it. Unfortunately, I did not feel the same way about this book as they did. I mean, it was very well written and I felt many emotions, but it was just…meh. It’s a story about a college professor named William Stoner set in the 1930s-40s (mostly) at the University of Missouri, so the historical stuff was pretty cool, and the progression of his average, and at times failed, life made for a decent enough read but it didn’t floor me. I wanted it to. But it didn’t. 

Gangerland by Tod Goldberg. Nope nope nope nope nope. Don’t read this book. Boring, annoying, the good parts of the story were shortened and disrupted by the tedious ones, he killed the best character, and I only finished it because of the few pages of goodness peppered throughout. I wanted to read about the FBI agent and his pursuit of the mob hitman-turned rabbi (right?) not the other way around. I totally expected more from the guy who co-hosts a podcast with Shawn from Boy Meets World

Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Let me say upfront that she’s definitely on the list of authors I won’t quit. She reminds me of Jennifer Weiner in that she writes chick lit but does it in a way that makes you want to keep reading her books. The characters are not too over the top, they’re relatable, and the situations/scenarios they’re in feel real and not contrived for the sake of entertainment. You feel like you might know them or be one of them. She writes the kind of books I’d like to write. And this one falls in the same vein. It was like Sliding Doors/The Butterfly Effect (but less awful) and I loved the message that you can be happy with your life no matter what choices you make or what circumstances happen to you. It also made me really want to eat cinnamon rolls. 

The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter. I enjoyed the premise of this book way more than the execution. It told the story of Matt, a failed blogger and former newspaper reporter on the verge of losing his house and his family (due to a debt that’s not entirely his fault and it angered me how much of a pass the wife got on her responsibility in the whole situation, not to mention her cheating on him) and his failed attempt at dealing weed and the ramifications of his choices. Honestly, the parts of the book I found the most compelling were his financial and home life. I could not have cared less about the drug dealing. Or the terrible poetry that was weaved in. I did like the author’s writing style so I’m not giving up on him yet. 

God Shaped Hole by Tiffanie DeBartolo. This was a reread for me. I read it years ago and had forgotten about it until Julie Murphy (author of Dumplin‘), who I follow on Instagram, posted a picture of it. I couldn’t remember exactly what the book was about so I figured I’d give it a shot again. Much more memorable this time around and I’m glad I reread it. The book is heartbreaking and sad and touches on the intensity of romantic love and feeling stuck and fractured parental relationships and, without actually mentioning it specifically, mental illness. Trixie and Jacob remind me of an older Violet and Finch (from All the Bright Places), if that helps give a picture of their relationship and the direction of the book. The author wrote another book, How To Kill A Rock Star, which you should also put on your radar.

I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak. I’d had this book on my TBR for awhile but when one of your closest blogging friends can’t stop raving about it, you bump it up to the top of the list. You guys. So glad I did. What a phenomenal book. Not five stars because some of the plot felt choppy and unfinished, and the end was a little too rushed, but wow. Using playing cards to send cryptic messages to a directionless, kind of pathetic, underage cab driver who lives alone with an overly smelly dog to go out and do good in the world without him realizing exactly what he’s doing and the impact he’s having, but also making him suffer, made for a wonderfully different read. I love Zusak’s writing. He reminds me of an Australian John Green except not every book is about the longing of a teenage boy. 

Beneath the Bonfire by Nickolas Butler. OMG, I love this man’s writing. It’s just beautiful. I don’t even know what else to say about it. This book, unlike Shotgun Lovesongs, was a collection of short stories and yes, there were themes tying each one together, and yes, each one dealt with different moral issues, but each one of them could have been their own book. I’m glad, though, that he left them the way he did as it gives you more room to think about the characters and the endings and I feel that the impact was greater as a result of the brevity of the stories. 

Definitely add: Beneath the Bonfire (even if you don’t like short stories. Trust me), God Shaped Hole, I Am the Messenger

Alrighty. Now that we made it through all of that, it’s your turn. Show us what you’ve got!

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And now the giveaway! With the holidays upon us, Steph and I decided we wanted to give you a present and also, donate to a charity on your behalf. Because giving and receiving are not mutually exclusive. So one lucky winner will receive a $25 gift card to Amazon so they can buy books. And we’ll give $25 on your behalf to Project Night Night, which is a charity that provides free Night Night Packages to homeless children. Night Night packages contain a new security blanket, a children’s book, and a stuffed animal.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
 

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63 Comments

  1. Mariah-Food, Booze, & Baggage

    I loved Ready Player One!! It felt Willy Wonka like to me 🙂 I will have to look up Welcome to Night Vale, sounds really interesting. You were a busy busy reader this month 🙂 I will have to look at your business list too, I’ve been into a good non-fiction reading streak lately.
    Mariah-Food, Booze, & Baggage recently posted…Show Us Your Books: November 2015My Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I can totally see the Willy Wonka qualities in the book. I pictured all these people in those chairs from WALL-E wandering around this advanced Second Life game. It was a fun read.

      Reply
  2. Erin of TexErin-in-SydneyLand

    Markus (you know, I’m on first name basis and all, right?) said that one of his two favorite characters he’s written is The Doorman. The other is Rudy from The Book Thief. Soooo different. So, so, SO different. But, so good.

    Of course, I added 3 more books to my tbr pile from this post. Possibly four…because 80s references may win me over.
    Erin of TexErin-in-SydneyLand recently posted…I show you my books, you show me yoursMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I loved The Doorman. I loved that he was an old, smelly oaf and I am SO GLAD he lived for the entire book.

      Reply
  3. Kerry

    Maybe in Another Life sounds interesting. I am finally reading Shotgun Lovesongs next month so if I like that one I will add the short story of his.
    Kerry recently posted…November Books I’ve ReadMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      One of his short stories from the book, In Western Counties, is published as a novella so if you don’t want to commit to the whole book of stories, you can check that one out to get a feel for what he does with them.

      Reply
  4. Ericka @ A Quiet Girl's Musings...

    Will have to bump I Am the Messenger and Ready Player One up on the TBR list!
    Ericka @ A Quiet Girl’s Musings… recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday: New-To-Me Favorite Authors I Read For The First Time In 2015 & Recently Read – Show Us Your Books – Vol. 2 (Nov. ’15)My Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      YES! DO IT!!!

      Reply
  5. Heather H

    I Am The Messenger and Ready Player One are both on my TBR list and I am waiting on them at the library!! I have to admit that I still haven’t gotten through The Book Thief and I don’t know why. Glad to hear such great reviews though 🙂 Since you and Steph both recommended the Butler short stories, I think I will have to check that book out!!!
    Heather H recently posted…Recent Reads (Show Us Your Books Link-up!)My Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      Yay for already waiting for them from the library!! And someone else commented that she didn’t like The Book Thief. I’m curious to know why you guys didn’t like it.

      Reply
  6. Kristin

    I’ve never actually made it through a Zusak book, so maybe I’ll look up this one. I didn’t like The Book Thief.
    And maybe I’ll look up Reid’s books. I like chick-lit authors that come with real recommendations.
    Kristin recently posted…November BooksMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      Taylor Jenkins Reid and Jennifer Weiner are great chick-lit authors because even though you know what you’re getting, it’s not standard chick-lit fare. And I think you’re the only person I know who didn’t like The Book Thief.

      Reply
  7. Heather

    Maybe in Another Life and I Am the Messenger both sound really good, adding them to my TBR.
    Heather recently posted…All About the Books – DecemberMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      Awesome! I hope you like them both!

      Reply
  8. Ashley @ The Wandering Weekenders

    I love the movie Sliding Doors so I’m definitely adding Maybe In Another Life to my TBR list! It sounds like the perfect book that I could just relax with. And I loved the Book Thief so I think that I’ll have to give Mark Zusak’s other book a try.
    Ashley @ The Wandering Weekenders recently posted…6 Things I Learned While Visiting New York CityMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      Yes! It’s a great Sunday read. Markus Zusak is a great writer so definitely check out I Am the Messenger.

      Reply
  9. Linda sheridan

    Beneath the Bonfire is right up my alley! I love short stories and your review makes me want to read this!
    Happy Hanukkah!
    Love. Steph’s. Momma

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      You know if both of us recommend something, it’s definitely going to be good!

      Reply
    2. Jana (Post author)

      You know if both of us recommend it, it’s a good book.

      Reply
  10. ellesees.net

    i haven’t heard of any of these, which is why posts like these are so helpful. fav book as a child…i don’t think i had one, to be honest. i know i read the laura ingalls wilder books often. and i once read a set of 1968 encyclopedias for fun (n-o was missing).
    ellesees.net recently posted…Australian Makeup Haul!My Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I am amused that you read the encyclopedia for fun.

      Reply
  11. SMD @ Life According to Steph

    So I went to add Ready Player One to my TBR and it was already on there, like #142 so it’s been on there a while. Whoops.

    I also added God-Shaped Hole.

    Spot on on Butler’s short stories – I am not a fan of the short stories, but I loved those. I needed a little space to breathe and think after each of them.
    SMD @ Life According to Steph recently posted…Show Us Your Books – What I read in NovemberMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I do that, too. Think I want to add something but it’s already there. I need to slow my roll with my TBR.

      Reply
  12. Karen

    Maybe In Another Life and Ready Player One both sound really interesting to me. I liked the idea of the movie Sliding Doors but I just didn’t really care so much for Gwenyth Paltrow in it! I’m trying to use these posts to work on my Winter Reading challenge list that you wrote about last week. I still have to get on that and finish my list.
    Karen recently posted…What I’ve Been Reading // Nov – DecMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I like the idea of exploring what would happen if you made different choices or if different things happen to, which is what I think drew me to the book. And Ready Player One was different from the typical books I read so I enjoyed it a lot.

      Reply
  13. Torry @ A World without Wheat

    I love this! I only read one book in November so not much to recap but I will have to join in at the end of the month!
    Torry @ A World without Wheat recently posted…Reading Challenge for 2016My Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I’m looking forward to hearing what you read this year! And we do a linkup the second Tuesday of every month (our end of December one is a bonus) and even if you read only one book, join us! One book is better than zero books!

      Reply
  14. Kelli

    I Am Messanger is on the hold shelf at the library for me right now! I get to pick it up at lunch and your review makes me even more extied.
    Kelli recently posted…It’s All About The Books – Vol. 9My Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I hope you enjoy it!

      Reply
  15. Brittany Pines

    I keep hearing about Welcome to Night Vale, but haven’t checked it out yet.

    My favorite book as a kid was…maybe Little Women? That’s hard. Picking a favorite book has always been difficult for me.
    Brittany Pines recently posted…Show Us Your Books Link-Up!My Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      It’s so fun and different! I think that’s what draws me to it.

      Reply
  16. Nancy @ NY Foodie Family

    I really enjoyed Ready Player One, especially when I didn’t think I would! Since you and Steph both highly recommend Beneath the Bonfire, I am adding it to my TBR list, even though I usually don’t like short stories.
    Nancy @ NY Foodie Family recently posted…November 2015 ReadsMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I did.

      If you don’t like short stories, read his book Shotgun Lovesongs.

      Reply
  17. Jen

    Ok, if you AND steph both recommend Shotgun Lovesongs and this new book by the same author, I MUST add it to my list!
    Jen recently posted…My Favorite Holidays Things and More BooksMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      YES! Such amazing writing!!!

      Reply
  18. Jessica @ Pleas(e) and Carrots

    Ooo I want to check out Maybe in Another Life. I’ve never heard of the author but I love Jennifer Weiner.
    Jessica @ Pleas(e) and Carrots recently posted…Books LatelyMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      She’s published 3 books and I recommend them all. If you like Jennifer Weiner, you’ll most likely enjoy her.

      Reply
  19. Nadine

    Ohhhh Ready Player One Sounds like something totally different and interesting!!! I am also adding I Am the Messenger, Maybe in Another Life and Beneath the Bonfire since you and Steph both gushed over it. I still haven’t read Shotgun Love Songs yet. I know…..I need to get on it!
    Nadine recently posted…Books LatelyMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I cannot say enough good things about Butler’s writing. I think you’ll enjoy Maybe in Another Life a lot since you like romance books. It has some of that in it.

      Reply
  20. alyssa

    You and Steph both raving about Beneath the Bonfire, plus my own love for Nickolas Butler, made me put this on my TBR. Can’t wait to dive into it!
    alyssa recently posted…I’ll Show You MineMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      You will love it! His writing is wonderful!

      Reply
  21. Tanya @ A Mindful Migration

    Wow – so many books that I am unfamiliar with and that is super exciting! I have a long flight home coming up in a couple of weeks and now I know what books to check out. Ready Player One, Maybe in Another Life and Beneath the Bonfire are going on my read list.
    Tanya @ A Mindful Migration recently posted…10 Low-Cost DIY Holiday Gift IdeasMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      Those are all excellent choices. Especially the Butler book.

      Reply
  22. kristen

    okay, so good to hear about i am the messenger, its been on my list for ages but i’m so scared to read it because the book thief is one of my faves of all time. also, ready player one is on my list but i kept hemming and hawing but i’m definitely gonna read it now!

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      Definitely read I Am the Messenger! Completely different from The Book Thief so you won’t find yourself comparing the two.

      Reply
  23. Jess

    So do you think someone could read Welcome to Nightvale without listening to the podcast? I’ve always been intrigued by the podcast and heard it’s weird and cool, but never listened.
    Jess recently posted…Weekending: Traveling EditionMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I think you can enjoy it without having listened but I’d recommend listening to a couple, just to get a feel for what you’re getting into. Plus, there are some references from the podcast woven throughout the story.

      Reply
  24. Kristi @ Femme Frugality

    Welcome to the Night Vale looks interesting! I love sarcastic books. Also, how on earth do you read 14 books in a month!? What are your secrets?
    Kristi @ Femme Frugality recently posted…The Frugality Challenge: Gamification of Your FinancesMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      Haha! 14 was high, even for me. No secrets except I really don’t watch much TV (I’m extremely picky and only watch a handful of shows) and even if my husband is watching something and I don’t like it, I’ll read instead.

      Reply
  25. Emma @EverEmma

    Ready Player One was such a cool book! I didn’t get a lot of the eighties references (born in 89 and no older siblings), but was able to catch up with a little help from my friend Google. I really need to read some more Taylor Jenkins Reid. I loved After I Do and I really love the concept of The Butterfly Effect and Sliding Doors, so it sounds like I’d enjoy this one!
    Emma @EverEmma recently posted…How We Wore It // Holiday EditionMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I thoroughly enjoy her books. I’m looking forward to her next one, whenever that is!

      I definitely did not need Google to understand the references!

      Reply
  26. Christina

    I got Maybe in Another Life from NetGalley months ago. I wonder if it’s been archived. I’m currently reading Beneath the Bonfire, but it’s taking me a while because I can always put down books of short stories. I do love what I’ve read though. I think I’ll try to finish it tonight.
    Christina recently posted…Book ChallengeMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I think that’s what I’m starting to enjoy about short stories. Especially as my before bed reading.

      Reply
  27. Kristen

    Several of these (Ready Player One, Maybe in Another Life, and I Am the Messenger) are already on my “To Read” list, so I’m glad to see more glowing reviews!

    I’m going to add Beneath the Bonfire (Shotgun Lovesongs is already on my list) and God Shaped Hole. I feel like God Shaped Hole is going to be a book I need to read in the privacy of my apartment (instead of, say, during my lunch break at work), though, because it sounds like the kind of book that will make me sob like a baby.

    I would be interested in hearing more about the criminal justice/cold case book you read for work as well. True crime is the only nonfiction that I actually enjoy, so I’m always looking for more recommendations in that genre.
    Kristen recently posted…From the Bookshelf: Recently Read – December 2015 EditionMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      It’s a bit sad but nothing you’ll sob over like All the Bright Places.

      Reply
  28. carrie

    I completely agree with you about Nikolas Butler. He just strings stories together so beautifully. I’m not typically a fan of short-stories-books, but I’m leaning more and more towards making an exception for him because I’m hearing so many people rave about it!
    carrie recently posted…What I Read: NovemberMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      Definitely make an exception for him. I’m not a huge short story fan, either, but I’m getting into them. Books like this help.

      Reply
  29. Crystal W

    I can’t wait to read the WTNV book! Although I’ll most likely get the audiobook so I can have Cecil read it to me.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      Haha! Yes! I didn’t think of that but I might reread via audiobook simply for his narration!

      Reply
  30. Lauren

    I’m reading (well, listening to) Maybe in Another Life right now and I really like it! I thought the storytelling would be confusing, especially without being able to see chapter breaks, but so far, so good. Adding God-Shaped Hole based on the All the Bright Places comparison now!
    Lauren recently posted…november booksMy Profile

    Reply
  31. Lauren

    AND my favorite book as an actual child was called Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing (no idea why I loved it so) and the Stinky Cheese Man. And then The Giver when I got older…
    Lauren recently posted…november booksMy Profile

    Reply
  32. Alison @ Puppies & Pretties

    I’m going to look into Ready Player Game. If anything, I bet my husband would enjoy it.
    Alison @ Puppies & Pretties recently posted…Plaid and PearlsMy Profile

    Reply
  33. Kimmi

    I am currently reading the Nightvale book! I love the podcast. Ready Player One is on my shelf to read! I will have to move it up the que!
    Kimmi recently posted…Friday Favorites 12/11My Profile

    Reply

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