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Show Us Your Books, July edition: The one with lots of intensity

Well this Show Us Your Books sneaked up on us pretty damn quick, didn’t it? Or maybe it’s just me because I’m still on my blogging break (mostly). I wanted to come back sooner but I’m struggling with some things and want to sort that all out before I start writing consistently again. We’ll hash all that out in a post later on because today is all about the books.

This past month was full of intensely intense books. I’ve never been one to read with the seasons (i.e., light and fluffy in the summer, heavy in the winter) and this month definitely proves it. I read some seriously batshit crazy books with some seriously batshit crazy characters. I also read a book about a plane crash while actually on a plane so that shows you just how good my decision making skills are. 

Note: for the most part, these reviews are the ones I’ve written on Litsy (you can follow me there if you want, @saysjana, but only if you have an iPhone. It’s not available for Androids yet). I’ve learned that I’m terrible at most of the social media but this one is a bit different and it helps me track my reading and reviews for this here linkup. It also helps me keep my reviews a bit shorter because, as we all know, I’m longwinded. #sorrynotsorry 

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True Crime Addict: How I Lost Myself in the Mysterious Disappearance of Maura Murray by James Renner. I fucking loved this book. Read it in one sitting. I think it helped that I wasn’t familiar with the case so all the information was new to me. I adored his writing style and how he interwove his life with his obsession in solving Maura’s disappearance. To me, this is how you do a memoir.

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I’ve said before that TJR is an author I’ll never quit mostly because her books are predictably good and reliable. She’s just the right mix of solid writing, chick lit, and likable characters set in what feels like realistic situations. Her books consistently entertain me and this one was no different. I got this from NetGalley AND it was a book I read for Erin and Dani’s challenge. 

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley. You know how I said I read a book about a plane crash while physically on a plane? s: It’s this one. The plane crash is not at all a spoiler, I promise. I loved the writing and the storytelling and the way he told the story of the passengers on the plane but the plot had so much going on and too many characters that it got annoying and lost me at times. However, it’s still worth the read. Just not on a plane. That’ll freak you out. Also a NetGalley book and a book for Erin and Dani’s challenge. 

Breadline USA: The Hidden Scandal of Hunger in America and How To Fix It by Sasha Abramsky. The best thing I can say about this book is that it was decent. I like a good social policy book but this was not it. I found him pretentious and obnoxious and out of touch and, roughly 7 years after the book’s publication, it seems woefully out of date. This seems like a topic he seized on because at the height of the recession it was trendy but it lacked passion and a genuine concern for the problem he’s discussing. 

Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman. Steph and I will be discussing this on an upcoming episode of The Armchair Librarians so you’ll get a more in-depth review then. But for now we’ll say that this is one of those books that when it’s good, it’s kick ass awesome and intense and fucked up and you can’t put it down but when it’s not, it’s boring and tedious and whiny. The ending is MESSED UP so proceed with caution. 

Shelter by Jung Yun. This is a well-written examination of the repercussions of a violent event that hits (no pun intended) a Korean-American family (this last part is important because the book examines a lot of cultural family dynamics). It deals with all the things: debt, marriage struggles, domestic violence…so many issues are addressed here. This is not an easy, light read. It is hard. But it is so, so good. I also got this one from NetGalley (I know! Three in one month!)

Why We Came to the City by Kristopher Jansma. A gorgeously, if sometime overly, written story of grief and friendship and hope and sadness and loss and love filled with characters I cared nothing about. Except Jacob and Irene. I cared about them. They made the book worth reading. This one reminded me a little bit of A Little Life if that helps describe it. 

I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid. I don’t know how to fairly review this wonderfully insanely fucked up book. It’s bizarre and twisted and packs so much into it’s 200ish pages but honestly, I have no idea what the hell I just read. I finished it and reread the last 15 pages 4 more times and then the beginning twice more and I think I got it but wow. The decent into madness is harrowing to read and it’s gruesome and if someone has read it, please get in touch with me because I really need to discuss this book.

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler. I was so excited to read this book and then…I read it. At best, it’s annoying. At worst, it’s obnoxious. Snobby and elitist about food and wine, which I care zero about, and I feel like it’s the epitome of everything people love, hate, idealize, and romanticize about New York and New Yorkers. Like it’s one big New Yorky stereotype. And the characters are all assholes. I also could not stand the perpetual vagueness and unanswered questions about Simone and Jake’s relationship. It felt purposeful and it bugged the shit out of me. But she writes well.  

TL;DR: Add I’m Thinking of Ending Things, True Crime Addict, and One True Loves. Maybe Before the Fall. Steph and I are discussing Girls on Fire in an upcoming podcast episode. 

That’s it for me. Now it’s your turn. Link up with what you’ve read. Make sure you visit some other readers and most definitely me and Steph, your lovely hosts. Nonbloggers, leave a comment with what you’ve been reading lately. 

Next linkup is August 8.

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66 Comments

  1. texerinsydney

    I immediately reserved I’m Thinking of Ending Things (I’m second on the list)…even though I’m juggling books challenges, including my own, I feel I need to read this soon, so we can discuss.

    Also, that True Crime book looks right up my alley.
    texerinsydney recently posted…I show you my books, you show me yours… vol.18My Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I think you’ll like it like I did. And we’ll discuss. Obviously.

      Reply
  2. Kristen

    Most of these books are already on my list (which is probably not surprising since I feel like we often have similar taste in books).

    I will definitely let you know when I get to I’m Thinking of Ending Things because, while I obviously love discussing books in general, I REALLY love discussing books that force you to go back and revisit parts of them after you’ve finished the last page. It clearly sounds like my kind of book!

    I’m also so glad you loved the James Renner book! I really liked his novel, The Man from Primrose Lane, and I think he kind of drew inspiration from the Maura Murray case for that book as well. (At least, I believe so based on my limited knowledge of the Maura Murray book. I’ll know for sure once I read that one.)

    I’m adding Shelter, though I’ll have to be in the right mood for that one.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      YES! Please let me know when you do read it! I desperately want to discuss it. And I’m adding James Renner’s other book to my TBR. I love, LOVE his writing style.

      Reply
  3. Tanya @ A Mindful Migration

    I don’t read by season either, more by mood. Lots of books are already of my TBR: Shelter, Girls on Fire, One True Loves. I’m definitely intrigued by I’m Thinking of Ending Things from your review and I’m also adding Noah Hawley’s book too. He’s done an amazing job with Fargo and I’m curious to read his novel.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I had no idea Noah Hawley was involved with Fargo and now so much more makes sense especially with the volume of characters and the way he tells the story.

      Reply
  4. Jill K.

    Funny, you’re not the first person I’ve heard say that they read Before The Fall on a plane. Must be a thing.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      Really?! That makes me feel less bad about my poor judgment.

      Reply
  5. Heather

    I am going to have to avoid reading Before The Fall on a plane…that sounds nervewracking, haha! And I really need to get to a TJR novel because I’ve heard so many good things!!! I actually sometimes find it easier to read more intense books in the summer because (for me) the rest of life seems a bit less intense. BUT I live in a climate with a lot of snow in the winter and that’s enough to deal with that I sometimes need fluffier books then. haha.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      The weather/books thing makes sense. I need some fluffier books in the winter, too. Especially in February when enough is enough with the coldness.

      I adore TJR’s books so I obviously agree that you need to read her!

      Reply
  6. Nadine

    You are the fourth person who didn’t love Sweetbitter. Drats. I was excited about that book but I am going to go ahead and remove it from my list I think. I loved One True Loves!!! I could not would not read a plane crash book on a plane. Girl that is brave!!!! I am going to go ahead and wait to listen to your podcast on Girl on Fire before I decide if it is worth my time. I am intrigued by the True Crime book and I might go ahead and add it to the TBR.
    Nadine recently posted…Books LatelyMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I read it on the plane essentially by accident. I couldn’t remember what it was about, started reading and, well, there it was.

      I’m glad to know I’m not the only one for whom Sweetbitter was not a good read.

      Reply
  7. Rebecca Jo

    You got me wanting to check out True Crime Addict… anything that bring on the sentence “I F’ing love it” – its gotta be good 😉

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      It was so good. SO. GOOD. Definitely going on the list of yearly favorites.

      Reply
  8. Kristin Darhower

    I reviewed One True Loves this month too. I didn’t love it as much as Maybe in Another Life. But it was a solid book for sure.
    I’m glad I found another reliable author!

    Girls on Fire is on my list (or rather, I’m on the wait list), but I’ll probably listen to your podcast first.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I found them to be similar in topic which was a bit disheartening but not enough to make me not love her.

      Girls on Fire is FUCKED UP. No other way to describe it.

      Reply
  9. Linda Sheridan

    Great reviews. I always read the endings because I am so damn impatient. Then I go back and leisurely read the book. I know it’s silly , but I am who I am. The first reviewed book is interesting. I used to read true crime authors , like Ann Rule, but my soul can’t take it anymore. Love you girls for these great reviews.
    Love. Stephs. Momma

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

    I really enjoyed Maybe in Another Life by TJR, so I was interested to hear that you are so fond of her writing that you consistently read her. (I gave MiAL a coveted 5/5 rating…) I will add One True Loves to my TBR. True Crime Addict looks interesting, too. I am unfamiliar with the case. Your line, “THIS is how you do a memoir.” speaks volumes. Have a good one!
    Ericka @ A Quiet Girl’s Musings… recently posted…Recently Read – Vol. 9 (June ’16)My Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      TJR is predictable and consistent and that’s part of what I enjoy about her.

      I’d never read James Renner before but I am hooked on him now.

      Reply
  11. Micah @ Unabashedly Me

    True Crime Garage (a podcast I love) discussed Maura Murray’s disappearance at length. And I’m still thinking about her case. I should probably pick up that book.

    Given the short reviews you and Steph have provided, I can’t wait to hear you discuss Girls on Fire.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      NEW PODCAST!!! Thank you!!!

      Reply
    2. Rose @ Ramblin' Rose

      I totally need to check out that podcast. I live pretty close to where she disappeared and have been following the case since the beginning.

      Reply
  12. Ashley @ The Wandering Weekenders

    You really did read a lot of intense books, but they all sound so good! True Crimes Addict sounds really interesting! I’m usually not one for nonfiction, but I love mysteries, and this sounds so interesting! Everybody has so much praise for One True Loves, that I can’t wait to read it! I started listening to Why We Came To The City on Audible, and I just couldn’t finish it. I didn’t care too much for the characters and it just got old. I don’t know if I’ll be able to finish listening to it or not. I haven’t touched it in a couple of months, so I’m guessing not.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      It was a struggle to get through. I found myself skimming over certain parts just to get to more about Jacob and Irene. I really cared not at all for the rest of them.

      Reply
  13. Kelli

    I have True Crime Addict on my reading list, it sounded fascinating because I could see how someone could get wrapped up in a true crime story.

    I liked Sweetbitter but having worked in the restaurant industry I found it true to what happens behind the scenes at restaurants. From the drugs all the way down to the fucked up relationships.
    Kelli recently posted…It’s All About The Books – Vol. 16My Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I’m sure it was accurate. I just thought it was a shitty book.

      Reply
  14. Macy

    You are about the 16th person to post about Girls on Fire, I am so intrigued and can’t wait to read more about it. I need to get back into reading more, my list looks terrible compared to yours 😉

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      No need to compare lists. We all have different reading habits.

      Reply
  15. Jessie @ The Acquired Sass

    Ooh, Before the Fall sounds like my type of book, & I just put a bunch of TJR books on hold at the library last week, so I get to pick them up in a few days, for some reason, I thought that Maybe in Another Life was her only book so far, so I was so glad I was wrong!

    Thanks for hosting!

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      She has 4!!!

      I hope you like Before the Fall!

      Reply
  16. SMD @ Life According to Steph

    I’m definitely going to read I’m Thinking of Ending Things.

    I’ve intentionally avoided Why We Came to the City and as you know I will be giving Sweetbitter the kaibosh too.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I think that it should be an episode topic. There is much to discuss.

      Reply
  17. carly

    I read Before the Fall a few months ago and thought it was just okay, and now I keep seeing it everywhere as a “best book of summer” and the like, and I just don’t get it. I’m anxiously waiting for my library to get an e-copy of One True Loves!
    carly recently posted…currently// summer editionMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I really want to know how books end up on those lists. Before the Fall was good but not that good.

      Reply
  18. Jessica @ Pleas(e) & Carrots

    I’ve heard such great things about One True Loves and I like TJR so I’m definitely going to read it! Thanks for always hosting this great linkup!

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I will fangirl over TJR every day.

      Thanks for participating!

      Reply
  19. Jen

    I am in the middle of One True Loves right now and LOVE it so far. I am sad you didn’t like Sweetbitter, I thought it was really good! Before the Fall is on my nightstand so I am excited to get to it since you liked it! Tried to find you on Litsy but couldn’t= add me @jenniferjr Happy reading!!

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      REALLY?! We can’t be friends now. But you liked the other ones so…okay. We can be friends.

      Reply
  20. kristen

    hmmm i had sweetbitter on my list but you’re like the 3rd or 4th person who has said something like that… i mean, i know we like different books but that does not sound like my jam at all. i’m not really one to read with the seasons either, though i guess you could say i tend to stick to lighter fluffy books year round, with a sprinkle of the heavy shit. i’m glad you liked one true loves, i agree with what you said about TJR. she’s a great writer!

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I really do love her books. I feel like I’m almost Bakopoulos level addicted to her.

      Sweetbitter sucked big time. I agree with your choice to skip it.

      Reply
  21. Kathleen

    I was supposed to read “Why We Came to the City” for a blog club but I wasn’t thrilled by the synopsis. And when I read other reviews on it I was glad I decided to skip it. But I’ve never heard of any of these other books! Now I’ve got a few others to add to my to-read list! 🙂

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      It wasn’t the worst book I read all month or even all year but it’s definitely not a great one or a must-read.

      Reply
  22. Mackenzie

    The James Renner book definitely sounds like an interesting read!
    Mackenzie recently posted…As The Page Turns: June EditionMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I definitely think you’ll like it.

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

    Your 3 faves are officially added to be TBR list!

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      Yay! Hope you like them!

      Reply
  24. Olya @ The Siberian American

    I really loved One Trite Loves too. I need to read all her other books now!

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      Definitely do that! She’s wonderful!

      Reply
  25. Nancy @ NY Foodie Family

    Sweetbitter and Girls On Fire were already on my to read list. I just added Shelter.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      Looking forward to your thoughts on them!

      Reply
  26. Kelly @ Noodle to the Rescue

    Wow, These books do all seem pretty intense! I’m not sure I’m up for it. Lately I’ve been taking the easy road of reading and saying, Oh, These books are all so-so, but whenever I do read an intense book I’m always impressed and it sticks with me… I guess that means I should go for the toughies more often!
    Kelly @ Noodle to the Rescue recently posted…Reading Roundup – June 2016My Profile

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      The toughies have a bigger payoff (usually) but there definitely needs to be a balance between the difficult and fluffy ones.

      Reply
  27. Jackie

    I’m so excited to add Girls On Fire to my read list. I loved your and Steph’s review of it and can’t wait to read it and listen to the podcast!

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      Make sure you chime in on Twitter or email and let us know what you think!

      Reply
  28. Gwen

    Many of these are already on my list but I just added True Crime Addict. I’m bummed about Sweetbitter because I feel like you and I like similar books but I’ll probably still give it a shot. We’ll see…

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      It was better than the Emily Giffin book we both hated. So there’s that.

      Reply
  29. lauren

    I love that you read breadline usa. I oddly enjoy reading books like this, sorry to hear it wasn’t great though.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      I love these kinds of books but this was a bad one. Raises some good points but overall, meh.

      Reply
  30. Jess

    That True Crime book really sounds intense but good! I felt the same way about Before the Fall. I really enjoyed the main character’s perspective but it kept diverting to all these side characters.

    Reply
    1. Jana (Post author)

      There were too many of them. Someone else mentioned that he works on Fargo so all the characters make sense but still. Too many.

      Reply
  31. alyssa

    I’m Thinking of Ending Things sounds really interesting. I’m going to see if I can get my hands on it.

    Thanks for the warning about Sweetbitter too. I keep seeing it around and haven’t made up my mind about it yet but I feel like I’d be in agreement with your take.

    Reply
  32. Kimmi

    Thinking of ending things and true crime addict are going on my list immediately! I am super intrigued!

    Reply
  33. Rachel @ Never Enough Novels

    I passed on Before the Fall in favor of Sleeping Giants for my Book of the Month club choice. I may have to add that to my TBR list anyway! Also, I’m 1/4 of the way through Sweetbitter and am I’m enjoying the restaurant world background so far. Hoping the annoying characters don’t get in the way : )

    Reply
  34. Rose @ Ramblin' Rose

    Pretty much thinking I need to add almost your whole list to my tbr. I live not far from where Maura disappeared and have been by it many times. It really is insane when you drive by and think someone disappeared from this very spot. I’ve been following the case since the beginning and was even reading Renner’s blog for awhile until there got to be too many crazies on it.

    The Iain Reed book sounds totally like my kind of book.

    Reply
  35. Alexandra

    Whew, that is a lot of intense reads! Good for you, that’s a TON of books to finish in one month! 🙂 And all the Netgalley! I am always behind on that… : / Plane reading is the best… but plane reading about a plane crash… not so much! hehe XO – Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

    Reply
  36. Amber

    I am so behind in books because of the move. Ugh. But I do want to read a lot of books you listed. I’m on the waiting list at the library for a lot of them. I really want to read One True Loves!
    Amber recently posted…Someone Stole My Daughter’s BikeMy Profile

    Reply

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