Jana Says

Living life from cover to cover

Show Us Your Books, September edition: The one with the buzzy books

Remember how I said that August was going to be Westerns month? That declaration was slightly premature. While I had (and still have) several Westerns on my nightstand’s TBR pile, I only read one. Well, two if you count the DNF. Rather, this was the month of “it” books. I read three popular, much buzzed about books which is unusual for me (oh, and I’m currently reading a 4th. Review on that next month). 

The DNF book hindered my reading roll and I wound up only finishing my usual amount of books despite the extra week between August’s SUYB and September’s. Also on the list of August’s disappointments was being denied the ARC of Lady Cop Makes Trouble and Maria Semple’s new book. TWO. Two rejections. I think NetGalley is finally mad at me. HOW DO I SHOW YOU I’M SORRY?!

Let’s chat about what I did read since that’s why you came here today. As always, I’m copying my reviews straight from Litsy (now available for Android, I believe) with maybe a few extra words here or there. Follow me. My username or whatever is Jana. I know. I’m imaginative.

No Place by Todd Strasser The intent and heart of this book are in the right place, bringing a perspective to homelessness that’s not often shown in a fiction book, particularly a YA book. And he raised valid points in the plot. But it came across as oversimplified and what the author thinks happens to the homeless or goes through a kid’s head rather than what actually does and it came across as ignorant at times (ex., calling the homeless camp “Dignityville”). I wish he’d researched before writing. Would have had a better impact.

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson So. This book. The murdery parts were awesome, intriguing, and crazy and I couldn’t stop reading and the reason I didn’t DNF this one. I needed to keep learning about this psycho. The World’s Fair parts, not so much. Boring is too kind of a word. I appreciate the research (Todd Strasser could take notes on how to do research from this guy) and effort that went into it but good god, what a slog to get through. Drawn out and put me to sleep more than once. I know many love this book. I am not in that group.

I Love Everybody (and Other Atrocious Lies) by Laurie Notaro The title is basically the best part of this book. There were some amusing stories but overall, I found her bitter, kind of an asshole, and trying way too hard to be funny instead of actually being funny. I love a good humor memoir but honestly, this wasn’t it.

Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter Reading this book, I felt like someone who goes to an art show and sees a sculpture made of poker chips and branches and string and there are all these people around, saying how beautiful it is but you just don’t get it. You know you’re seeing something amazing and different but it’s confusing and you’re torn if you love or hate it. That’s this book. The writing is gorgeous and poetic and unique in its storytelling but I just didn’t get it. 

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch My brain does not comprehend science fiction. Especially the science part. So this book broke my brain a little, trying to understand the science behind what was happening. But, just like I did with The Martian, I muddled through that part to get to the story. Which was fantastic. Thriller, action, relationships…it all mixed together in this fast paced, unputdownable cocktail of awesome (you can hear my and Steph’s full thoughts on this in the most recent episode of The Armchair Librarians)

The Thicket by Joe R. Lansdale This book took a bit to get into but I am glad I stuck it out. A gruesome, violent, sometimes funny and touching story starring morally ambiguous characters (and one wild hog. Literally. A hog) set in the late 1800s (or what I assume is the late 1800s). The writing was strong and I loved how the narrator broke the 4th wall at times. This book isn’t for everyone but if you can handle graphic violence and you like westerns and people with questionable morals and motives, get on this one. (Thanks, Erin, for the recommendation).

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead I generally do not enjoy historical fiction for so many reasons not worth discussing. But this book. Holy shit, did I enjoy this one. It was difficult to read at times (especially with the state of race relations in this country right now) and it made me sad and uncomfortable but that means it did its job. This book wasn’t supposed to make you comfortable or tell a fluffy bunny story. It takes place in a terrible, awful part of US history. And the way he told Cora’s story hurt, even with the occasional bits of optimism thrown in. It did drag at certain parts but just as it was getting dull, he’d shift gears and have an interlude about a different character. (This is an upcoming Armchair Librarians topic)

The Girls by Emma Cline So I don’t get the hype with this one. It was an interesting story, a topic that definitely is intriguing, and the teenage narrator was a good choice. But the book was S-L-O-W and boring at a number of points, although the writing could be gorgeous in its mundane. Actually, the writing was almost too pretty for the story it was telling. Like, a worse author should have written it. Anyway, I left the book feeling sad and disappointed. There should have been more or different or something else. I know that life isn’t always more or something else but this story set itself up for that and then fell completely flat. It did pass the time just fine but certainly not what I had hoped.

Doc by Mary Doria Russell. This was my DNF. I had to let this one go. I love the premise–a fictional account of Doc Holliday–but it was too easy to put down and too hard to pick up. Not for me. Not linking to it either because I want to spare you.

TL;DR: Add Dark Matter, The Thicket, and The Underground Railroad. You’ll be fine skipping the rest. 

Now it’s your turn. Show me what you’ve got! Don’t forget to visit Steph and some of the other participants because there’s a bunch of diversity out there and you never know when you’re going to stumble onto something. Nonbloggers, let me know in the comments what you’ve been reading! 

Next one is October 11. October is also the 2 year anniversary of Show Us Your Books and Steph and I have something planned. Look out for that. 

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  1. Pingback: August Bookshelf: Sexy Cannibals, Harry Potter and Slasher Killers.

  2. texerinsydney

    “My username or whatever is Jana. I know. I’m imaginative.” <——-This made me laugh.
    I am glad that you enjoyed The Thicket. Like you said, it's definitely not for everyone, but I loved it. And, do you remember me saying that Peter Dinklage is in talks to be Shorty in a film adaptation? I hope that happens.
    I added The Underground Railroad.
    I have These Girls on my radar. I kinda feel like I need to read it to have my own opinion because there seems to be so many differing ones.
    texerinsydney recently posted…I show you my books, you show me yours… vol.20My Profile

  3. Tanya @ A Mindful Migration

    The Devil in the White City was such an odd duck for me. Like you, I loved the serial killer bits but was so bored with the World’s Fair stuff. I was very impressed with Larson’s meticulous research but wish the book had solely focused on the serial killer. The Girls was so frustrating to me. It started so strongly but ended so weakly. It makes me grumpy. Dark Matter has been on my radar and I completely forgot that it was recently released. So glad you liked it and can’t wait to read it. I’ve added The Thicket and The Underground Railroad to my TBR. I’m not a huge fan of westerns, but you’ve made me curious about the book. 🙂
    Tanya @ A Mindful Migration recently posted…August Bookshelf: Sexy Cannibals, Harry Potter and Slasher Killers.My Profile

  4. Kerri

    I’m looking forward to eventually reading Dark Matter, I think it’ll be right up my street since I’m a bit of a science nerd, although I do find physics a little tough at times.

    I’ve heard good things about The Girls, so it’s interesting to hear what someone who didn’t like it too much has to say about it. Sometimes, my favourite reviews are ones where you don’t like it, I find they are a lot more detailed and quite fun to read.

  5. Nadine

    Several people said that they didn’t get the hype with The Girls, so I think I am just going to pass. I had a month full of meh so I don’t need anymore! The Underground Railroad sounds interesting. I am like you, very choosy in my historical fiction reading because it isn’t my favorite genre but there are some really compelling stories you can find. I saw on Goodreads that you started Small Great Things this week, so did I! I cant wait to compare reviews next month. I am literally just a few pages in so I don’t have any opinions yet.

  6. Jess

    I also was not into the science descriptions in The Martian, but I have Dark Matter on my to read list and I’m glad the story is perhaps good enough to get through those parts. Pines is one of my favorite horror series. I had actually checked out The Girls and then had to turn it in before I got a chance to read it. I’ll probably avoid it if it’s nothing special.

  7. Rebecca Jo

    I have the hardest time with sci-fi books too. My mind doesnt work like that.
    There are so many books that get such a big hype about them & I’m like, WHAT? I appreciate honest thoughts though even when its against the hype.

  8. Heather

    I had to take a big long break from reading this post to try to get Litsy on my phone (android!)…it is in the beta stages so I emailed them & might be able to try it soon. I’m dying to try that app! Dark Matter sounds really intriguing and I keep hearing about it everywhere so I think I’m going to try it out. I did love the Martian (although I expect this to be very different!).

  9. Nancy

    I agree with you on The Girls being slow! I started it days ago and it’s taking me forever to finish! I like historical fiction so I’ll have to listen to your podcast about the book.
    Nancy recently posted…August 2016 Books ReadMy Profile

  10. kathy @ more coffee, less talky

    the underground railroad…what a book! it was so awful to read about that part of history but it was an incredible story of courage and strength of the human spirit.

    i’ve been on hold at the library for dark matter for months #rage.

  11. Jenn @ Optimization, Actually

    Adding The Underground Railroad! A lot of historical fiction makes me uncomfortable or sad, but like you said, I think that’s the point. It’s not there to be a fluffy, happy story. It’s there to remind us of the terrible shit that’s happened in our past and why we shouldn’t repeat it. And, especially as a white person, I think it’s important to read different viewpoints and see what life is and was like for people of other races.

  12. SMD @ Life According to Steph

    I *HATED* The Girls. Every time I saw someone reading it or about to read it I’d be thinking NOOOOOOOOO.

    Love the description of Grief is…I’ve been there many times with books.

    I’ve gotten zero from Netgalley recently. Not even denial emails.

  13. kristen

    netgalley rejections hurt my heart. yay for finishing the devil in the white city! i know you kept mentioning it in your podcast, so yay for finishing it 🙂 i officially took it off my TBR. i am behind on your podcast, so i’ll have to make sure i read dark matter first before listening. i am scared/intrigued because it definitely seems a bit sciencey but like you, loved the martian, so i hope i like it! definitely adding the underground railroad to my list.

  14. Lauren

    I started The Girls and automatically felt that it was going to be weird and not for me so I quit, but had some weird book FOMO since everyone else is reading it. Thanks for making that go away 🙂

    And The Underground Railroad… I don’t know. It didn’t work for me. I like the “how these people got this way” tangents, especially with the couple in the house but I couldn’t get past the railroad imagery and I wish that there was something more to the main character other than horror at her situation. But, as always, I look forward to hearing you and Steph discuss it! I listened to Girls on Fire last night and I should have listened to it sooner so I would have skipped that mess!

  15. Jen

    I’ve been intrigued by Devil in the White City for a while and Steph is sending me The Underground Railroad. Ever since reading The Invention of Wings and Ruby I’ve been fascinated and captivated by similar stories so I think I will enjoy it.

  16. Ashley The Wandering Weekenders

    I’ve heard some not so great things about The Girls so I’ll probably skip it. I’ve heard some great things about The Thicket though so I’ll have to pick that one up!

  17. Kelly @ Noodle to the Rescue

    LOL, The title is basically the best part of this book. It’s disappointing how true that often is.
    I might try Dark Matter. I felt exactly the same way about The Martian that I had to just stop trying to understand the science.
    Bummer that you got denied Lady Cop and the new Semple book – Those are both on my TBR already & looking forward to them.
    Kelly @ Noodle to the Rescue recently posted…Reading Roundup – August 2016My Profile

  18. Brittany

    I thought I was the only one who ever felt like the writing was too pretty for stories! It’s so frustrating when you can tell someone is a talented writer but the plot itself just doesn’t grab you.

  19. Olya @ The Siberian American

    I really want to read The Thicket and Dark Matter. I have The Girls on my NetGalley list but haven’t felt the urge to actually read it yet.
    Olya @ The Siberian American recently posted…Ten Books I Liked in AugustMy Profile

  20. emily @ a little bit of emily

    I heard The Underground Railroad is really good! I think I just got an email from B&N about it, too.

  21. Brie @ A Slice of Brie

    I keep “seeing” The Girls around and was wondering if it was worth picking up, but now I think I will skip it, thanks! The Underground Railway sounds really good though! I generally like historical fiction like that, especially since reading The Kitchen House, so I’ve added that one to my list.
    Brie @ A Slice of Brie recently posted…The Books I’ve Been Reading {#12}My Profile

  22. Crystal

    I take NetGalley rejections super personally. Like… what do you meeeeeeean I can’t have the book? BUT I WANTS THE PRECIOUS! (Although TBH I have no idea how they keep approving me for all the things, since I’m like a zillion reviews behind.

    BTW, I’m a fan of any book review that includes the phrase, “The mudery parts were awesome”.

  23. Gwen

    Snaps to you for finishing Devil in the White City! I thought for sure you’d abandon it. I bought Underground Railroad recently and I’ll have to make sure to read it before the podcast. I could not finish The Girls. Hell, I could barely start it.

  24. Jackie

    I’ve heard on and off for years that they were going to make a movie for the devil in the white city. I think it would be such a good movie and then even the visual of everything with the World’s Fair would be interesting as well.
    Jackie recently posted…August ReadsMy Profile

  25. Laura

    I’ve heard so much about The Girls and had it on my list for the library, but in the last week or two I’ve seen a bunch of not so good reviews. Might have to skip that one. Definitely adding some others though!

  26. Kathleen

    100% agree with you on Devil in the White City. Loved the serial killer part, hated the rest. I found myself skimming the World’s Fair parts and then reading the others. We read it for a book club I’m. And if I’m honest part of the reason I gave it a chance in the first place was because I’ve heard that Leonardo DiCaprio is gonna play the serial killer in the movie version. So yeah. lol

  27. Kristin

    Could you have read Devil in the White City without the boring parts? I’ve skipped a lot of boring books in the past. Was that info absolutely necessary?
    I was considering The Girls too, but now I don’t know.

  28. Alexandra

    Devil in the White City is definitely on my shelf at home, but I haven’t had time to get into it yet. Good to know your thoughts on it. I have heard good things from others about Underground Railroad too. That’s awesome, really hoping to get my hands on a copy soon! XO – Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

  29. Jill K.

    Litsy is on Android now? That’s the best thing I’ve heard all week. I haven’t read any of these books, but I’m waiting patiently for Underground railroad to come in from my library.

  30. alyssa

    Ugh, I hate deceptively funny/awesome/creative titles on bad books. I buy wine based on the label and I often pick books based on the titles. I’ve been duped by a snappy title and snoozer story more than once!

    Grief…Feathers sounds interesting BASED on the title—that alone is enough to make me look it up and contemplate adding it to the list. But I know exactly what you mean and I think I won’t be in a hurry to explore it further than the title.

    I have a friend reading Devil…White City right now and she says she’s enjoying it, but I also find her taste in books and media really weird so that’s not a glowing review. Hah! I think I’d feel similarly to you on this one.

    Only had 1.5 books read since last linkup, but I’m hoping I can pick up the pace and join book day again next month 🙂

  31. Rachel ¦¦ A Nesting Nomad

    Your description of Grief is the Thing with Feathers made me laugh because that’s how I feel about quite a few things in life! I guess I’m just not very highbrow. As someone who is working through grief right now, how likely am I to get it and how likely is it to make me feel worse about the whole thing?!

    I also generally dislike historical fiction, I feel like there is more than enough real history to be learned without having to start making stuff up. However, that was a very important time in history and worth seeing from new perspectives so maybe I’ll give it a shot.
    Rachel ¦¦ A Nesting Nomad recently posted…Recent Holiday ReadsMy Profile

  32. Megan

    I added The Underground RR to my list because other than the basic public education knowledge instilled in me during my teenager years, I know very little.

    1. Jana (Post author)

      Don’t use this for complete historical accuracy. He took liberties.

  33. Kristen

    I’m on the library waiting list for The Girls. Popular, buzzed about books are generally very hit or miss for me, so I’m interested to see how I’ll feel about this one.

    I’m adding The Underground Railroad to my “To Read” list. For the most part, historical fiction isn’t something I really enjoy either, so I have to assume this one is pretty good if you liked it! A couple of the other books are already on my list.
    Kristen recently posted…Recently Read: In-Depth Reviews – September 2016 EditionMy Profile


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