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Show Us Your Books, June edition: The one where I take a break from a break

Hey there! It’s Show Us Your Books day which means I’m taking a break from my break to talk books with all of you. 

It’s been 5 weeks since our last Show Us Your Books so I have a higher amount of books on the list than usual. That also means I’m going to (try to) abbreviate my reviews. We all know I’m long winded and paring down the words is a challenge, especially when I’m talking books, but I’m going to try. 

Also, don’t forget to visit Steph and some of the other bloggers who’ve linked up. As for me, I’ll be visiting all of you when I return from Phoenix (yes, this post is coming to you live from Phoenix!) since my computer access is limited and I’m also taking time to spend with the husband and some friends. If you’re following me on Instagram, you’ve probably seen some pictures already. 

But today is not about that, it’s about books so here’s what I read: 

Holding Smoke by Elle Cosimano–A NetGalley book! Given the hit or miss nature of ARCs, I was pleasantly surprised by this one. It was probably one of my favorites of the month, in fact. It’s a YA thriller that could easily be a non-YA thriller, if that makes sense. It had supernatural/sci-fi elements that worked rather than being distracting. Actually, it was sort of a YA Shawshank Redemption. That’s probably the best way I can describe it. Warning: there are some pretty graphic scenes of child abuse and if you’re planning on reading this book in public, prepare to choke back tears. I had to. 

The Bed Moved: Stories by Rebecca Schiff–A perfectly adequate book of short stories, mostly about sex and relationships and honestly, it got repetitive after awhile. If you like short stories, you might enjoy this book since her observations are pretty dead-on and she’s funny but if you’re not a short story fan, go ahead and pass on this one. 

The Girl from Home by Adam Mitzner–This was a standard thriller that started off strong and then tapered off, becoming pretty meh at the end. It had a predictable twist, basic characters, decent writing. I wanted to like this book so much more than I did. It’d make a good beach or plane book, though. 

A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold–How do I even talk about this briefly? I had so many emotions, thoughts, and opinions as I read it (if you listen to The Armchair Librarians you caught a bit of this conflict). It was the most emotionally taxing book I’ve ever read. Not so much from the perspective of reading about a real school shooting (Columbine, which was essentially the watershed moment for planned school shootings) but because Sue Klebold is a fucking asshole. I seriously cannot figure out her motivation for writing this book. It felt like a defense of herself as a parent and there was a lot of “look at me! Look how great of a mother I was!” and blaming Dylan’s mental illness (which she calls “brain health”. That’s its own topic) and Eric Harris for what Dylan did and how she’s been victimized by Columbine. She tries to minimize his role in the massacre, which is infuriating, and constantly refers to Columbine as Dylan’s suicide. While technically true, it gave me all the rage because it ignores his actions. That said, she does raise some important points about depression and suicidal tendencies in teenagers and implores parents to be vigilant and pay attention to their kids. Side note: I watched her Diane Sawyer interview after I read the book since I didn’t want to go in biased. It did not help. The interview only confirmed that I think she’s an asshole. 

American Youth by Phil Lemarche–Interesting choice to read on the heels of Sue Klebold’s book. This was another book (like 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl) that I liked in concept more than practice. The writing was decent but the story was all over the place and rushed. Too much crammed into a short space with a reprehensible main character, which is fine, but the author tried to make him sympathetic and interesting and failed. 

The Never-Open Desert Diner by James Anderson–Tied for Holding Smoke as my favorite read of the month. I can’t pinpoint exactly what it was about this book I liked so much. I just did. It was a mystery that was less thriller and more standard mystery. The characters were all weird and quirky, which you typically don’t get in this kind of book, and having a cello as a major plot point was unique and definitely drew me in. The writing was suspenseful without being overdramatic, and all the storylines tied together really well.

The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman–Not a terrible book, not an amazing book. I liked it and read it fairly quickly because it’s a fast read. You sort of figure out what’s going on right away so the whole big family secret isn’t really a secret which, for me, hurt the plot a bit but knowing it up front made reading what happens to the families as a result different. Like, you’re not trying to figure it out but rather watching them unravel as a result. I loathed the ending, though. It was too simple and felt like a cop out. I wanted more drama, and there should have been given all that happened throughout the book, and there was just…nothing. It seemed fake, like the author wanted a happy ending for these miserable people to vindicate them for their suffering. 

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix-Sweeney–This book did what Fates and Furies did. It left me itchy with anticipation, I stalked it at the library and then…meh. I did enjoy the voyeuristic look at this highly dysfunctional family and it gave you pause to think about the things you take for granted and what family really means but there was just too damn much going on. So many subplots and side characters. SO. MANY. It became bothersome to read after awhile. And there was just one subplot that meant absolutely nothing and had zero contribution to the overall storyline (which, at the very least, the rest of the supporting characters did do). I liked the ending; I think she did a good job with that, it had a little surprise, and it remained true to the characters. Oh, and Cynthia? The Mets haven’t played in Shea Stadium since 2008.

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt–This was a middle grade fiction taking place in 1967-68 Long Island (I think near where I’m from but he never actually gives the town. He made one up), and the main character is a 7th grader dealing with not only his burgeoning adolescence but all the societal things like Vietnam and MLK’s assassination and atomic bomb drills. It’s all set against his relationship with his teacher, who, whether he wants to acknowledge it or not, has a tremendous impact on his life. There’s lots of Shakespeare references, which was kind of different and interesting. 

TL;DR–add Holding Smoke and The Never Open Desert Diner to your TBR. The Wednesday Wars if you’re feeling it. The rest were just fine but definitely not priority reading. As for Sue Klebold’s, save yourself the time and energy and frustration and just watch her interview. 

Now it’s your turn! Link up and show us what you read! Nonbloggers, leave a comment with your favorite read from the last month: 

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  1. Kristen

    Holding Smoke sounds like it could be my kind of book. I’m a little iffy when it comes to sci-fi/supernatural elements in novels, but I’m willing to give this one a try.

    Almost all of the other books you reviewed are on my “To Read” list already!

    A Mother’s Reckoning … Whoa. I mean, I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be the mother of a teenage killer (or maybe I can since We Need to Talk About Kevin felt very real for me), but if she did indeed write this book as a defense of her parenting, that’s kind of shitty. I still think I want to read it, but now I’m wondering what I will actually take away from it.

    I’m glad you loved The Never-Open Desert Diner! That’s one of the books already on my list, so I’m happy to see a glowing recommendation.

    I’m also disappointed that The Nest was just “meh.” I have my hold on it paused at the library right now, but now I’m not really in a huge hurry to get it. I really dislike random subplots that have nothing to do with the rest of the book. What’s the point of even adding it? Why didn’t the editor cut this shit out? These are the things I find myself thinking when I read a book like that.

    P.S. I’m glad you took a break from your blogging break for books. 🙂 Enjoy the rest of your time in Phoenix!

  2. texerinsydney

    I axed Sue Klebold’s book because I’ve seen too many parents downplay or excuse their offspring’s heinous acts that I can’t see another for now. I just can’t.
    American Youth has been sitting on myself for probably two years. One day, it will be read.
    I added the diner book. You liked it, and I noticed Kelli from Kellibeans gave it 4 stars, so sounds like two solid endorsements to me.
    Let’s open some franchises of that bar/bookstore. Then, the company could pay for us to travel to see each other’s location. It’s a good idea. I swear.
    texerinsydney recently posted…I show you my books; you show me yours… vol.17My Profile

  3. Tanya @ A Mindful Migration

    Ugh. A Mother’s Reckoning sounds terrible. And like Erin, I’m not in the mood to listen to another mother paint her son as the victim and not hold him accountable for his actions. Nope. Holding Smoke and The Never Open Desert Diner are getting added to my list. If I remember correctly, which I may not, I think the Never Open Desert Dining was one of book covers your family judged and I remember thinking it sounded like a good back then. I’m glad it was! I somehow managed to get The Nest from the library pretty quickly but I had so many books to read that I returned it unread. From your and Steph’s reviews, I will likely read it at some point (maybe) but don’t feel any need to rush out and snag a copy.

  4. Linda Sheridan

    I love short stories. I watched a Sue Klebold interview on Dateline a while ago. God bless and heal her ! Good Lord. A nightmare to live with that.
    Good stuff here! Great reviews.
    Love. Stephs. Momma.

  5. Nadine

    I haven’t really tried any short stories other than a novella. I might add The Bed Moves. I saw The Never Opened Diner on Blogging for Books and now I am sad I chose something else. Maybe it will still be there when I chose my next one. (Fingers crossed!!!) I had added The Nest when I heard you and Steph talking about it on the podcast and it sounds like it sort of didn’t live up to the hype. I will just listen to the episode instead of bothering with it maybe.

  6. Jenn @ Optimization, Actually

    Holding Smoke sounds good! My favorite YA books are typically the ones that would work just as well as non-YA, because actual teenager-y teenagers drive me up the wall. 😛

  7. lauren

    Linking up for the first time, finally! I can totally relate to holding back tears in public from a book, usually it’s on a plane and super hard to hide. HAHA. Have fun in Phoenix.

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

    The Never-Open Desert Diner looks intriguing. I like a good, solid mystery, so I appreciate the way you described it. Enjoy your time in AZ with family and friends!
    Ericka @ A Quiet Girl’s Musings… recently posted…Recently Read – Vol. 8 (May ’16)My Profile

  9. kathy @ more coffee, less talky

    1) love the new layout.

    2) right now i’m reading a book called THe Cartel and i can’t.put.it.down. seriously. i bring it everywhere i go in case i have a few minutes to read a few pages. last night i went to bed at 7pm and read until 11pm and then i was mad that i had to go to bed because i wanted to read more!

  10. Kelli

    While I was reading The Never-Open Desert Diner I kept asking myself why I liked the book so much but I had no idea. It was compelling and hard to put down but I don’t really know why because the story and the characters were weird. It was definitely one of my favorite Blogging for Books choices so far.

    Holding Smoke gets an add.

    PS – Your new blog look is nice, I really like it!

  11. Ashley @ The Wandering Weekenders

    I have The Never Open Desert Diner from Blogging For Books and it sounds like I definitely need to sit down and read it soon! It sounds like a great read! Holding Smoke is another one that I really want to read based on your review! I love YA and this one sounds very interesting! I’ll definitely pass on the Sue Klebold book, but I kind of want to watch her interview based on what you said about her. I know that it’ll make me mad, but I think that it’ll still be interesting.

  12. kristen

    hmmm i don’t know about the nest now. it’s on my list and i was hoping to get to it before you all chatted about it on the podcast, at least so i could talk along with you (in my head of course) but we’ll see. i added the holding smoke after you mentioned it on the podcast but i will add the never open desert diner as well. i hope you are enjoying phoenix 🙂

  13. Brittany Pines

    I heard about Sue’s book and wasn’t sure what to think…your review makes me glad I have avoided it.

  14. Carly

    So many good reviews– I’ve gone back and forth on wanting to read never-open desert diner, but I think I’ll definitely add it to my list now. I want to read the nest eventually, but I think I wanted to hold off because of all the hype/ I’m not sure it’s worth a spot on my library hold list for like 3 months. Adding the wednesday wars to my list!
    Carly recently posted…Carly Reads Here | JuneMy Profile

  15. SMD @ Life According to Steph

    Gah. I want to read Holding Smoke but I know it’s going to make my stomach hurt.

    Definitely looking forward to Desert Diner.

    I don’t think I could do Klebold’s book.

    Word up on The Nest…LOL @ your Shea schooling.

  16. carrie

    I saw the Sue Klebold book at the book store last week and was intrigued. I read the book Columbine which blew my mind and made me really interested in the topic. I was HOPING Sue Klebold would use her book to talk about mental health in young adults. The fact that you’re saying it was just a pity party is disturbing. I’m going to look up her interview and see how her ass-holeness rates on my scale.
    carrie recently posted…What I Read: MayMy Profile

  17. Rebecca Jo

    You & Steph both on The Nest… that’s good to know.
    Two Family House – that still sticks out to me from where you did the first impression post with it 🙂

  18. Mackenzie

    The Wednesday Wars sounds like a good read; adding it to my list!
    Mackenzie recently posted…Monday Meanderings: School’s Out EditionMy Profile

  19. Jess

    I don’t know if I could read Sue Klebold’s book without being infuriated by it by the way you describe it. It would drive me into a rant. I’m going to avoid The Nest because I wasn’t that interested to begin with, and I’ve heard lots of lukewarm reviews.

  20. Nancy @ NY Foodie Family

    I already had The Girl from Home on my to read list. I feel like the Wednesday Wars will eventually be on my daughter’s middle school reading list, so maybe I’ll read it then when she does.

  21. Jessica @ Pleas(e) & Carrots

    Oh boy I do not think I could read the Sue Klebold book bc it would probably make me too ragey, and it’s summer time, I need non-emotionally taxing books lol

  22. Gwen

    I added Holding Smoke and Desert Diner. I seriously don’t know how you even managed to finish Sue Klebold’s book, but thanks for taking one for the team.
    Gwen recently posted…Showin’ My Books – Revenge of the JOTANMy Profile

  23. Heather @ I do what I want.

    Holding Smoke is added to the list. The Nest is moved a little further down the to read list, ha.

    After hearing you discuss Sue’s book on the podcast, I probably had the opposite reaction that I should’ve: now I have to read it. I don’t know what’s wrong with me other than I must be in the mood to be frustrated and angry?
    Heather @ I do what I want. recently posted…What I’ve Been ReadingMy Profile

  24. Emma @Ever Emma

    Looks like I’m taking A Mother’s Reckoning off of my TBR. Sounds like a book that would just piss me off.

  25. Alexandra

    ooh definitely looking into Holding Smoke and The Never Open Desert Diner… intriguing! 🙂 XO – Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things
    Alexandra recently posted…Summer Reading Giveaway! // Because, Why Not?! // BookwormMy Profile

  26. lisacng @ expandng.com

    After you mentioned Holding Smoke on the podcast, I knew I’d put it on my list!


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