Jana Says

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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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Summer reading list and $225 Amazon giveaway

So I’m still technically on my hiatus but then things like this happen and you make a brief appearance. Like that friend you wonder about for so long and then they mysteriously appear at a barbecue and then go away again until they’re back permanently. That’s kind of me right now. I’m also incredibly excited for this giveaway and this summer reading list (can you guess which is mine just by looking at the collage?). I’ve already read a number of the books on them and I second the recommendations, particularly for YOU considering, you know, it was one of my favorites of last year and Joe is my literary crush. #noshame

What’s that, friends? You feel that gorgeous sunshine on your back and hear those birds chirping? Yup, it’s officially SUMMER! And to all the readers of the world, that means one very, very important thing: it’s time to dig into that summer reading list!

Wa-hoo! Summer is here and that means summer reading is here! Looking for the perfect beach book or captivating read to get lost in this season? We've got the list of the top 20 books that belong on your summer reading list. They all come with the reason WHY you need to snatch them up, not to mention this INCREDIBLE giveaway--11 books, a $225 Amazon giftcard...seriously, you have to check this out to believe it! Here's to fantastic books!

Been a little too distracted by the end-of-school insanity to bone up on what all the hot summer reads are? No sweat! We’ve got you covered. Twenty of us blogging gals have teamed up with The Mom of the Year and Normal Level of Crazy virtual monthly book club to create a list of exactly what belongs on your summer reading list.

Not only do these books come highly recommended (along with the reason you need to be reading them!), we are giving eleven of them away to one of you, along with a $225 Amazon giftcard. I know, it’s insanely awesome! More details on the giveaway at the end of the post. For now, log into Goodreads, grab a notepad or settle in with however you track your to-read list and start adding these titles.

Wa-hoo! Summer is here and that means summer reading is here! Looking for the perfect beach book or captivating read to get lost in this season? We've got the list of the top 20 books that belong on your summer reading list. They all come with the reason WHY you need to snatch them up, not to mention this INCREDIBLE giveaway--11 books, a $225 Amazon giftcard...seriously, you have to check this out to believe it! Here's to fantastic books!

20 Books that Belong on Your Summer Reading List:

Wa-hoo! Summer is here and that means summer reading is here! Looking for the perfect beach book or captivating read to get lost in this season? We've got the list of the top 20 books that belong on your summer reading list. They all come with the reason WHY you need to snatch them up, not to mention this INCREDIBLE giveaway--11 books, a $225 Amazon giftcard...seriously, you have to check this out to believe it!

  1. Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini (Toulouse and Tonic) is a GREAT summer read. Leah Remini doesn’t hold anything back, from her decades-long experience with Scientology to celeb encounters along the way, especially experiences within Scientology. If you want to hear all the dish on Tom Cruise, including his “Scientology arranged and groomed” girlfriend and then his marriage to Katie Holmes, get the book now. Her honesty and lack of pretense is refreshing. I couldn’t put it down!
  2. The Storied Like of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (The Not So Super Mom) This is a bit of a quirky book, but it is perfectly quirky without falling into the creepy or just plain confusing. A.J. Fikry is not the most immediately likable character but you find yourself rooting for him (and his bookstore) anyway. I appreciated that he was a bit of an oddball, because who in our lives isn’t without their own idiosyncrasies? I enjoyed the themes in this book–loss, romance, mystery–all peppered with humor and the format–each chapter moves the story forward in time and serves as an ode to one of Fikry’s favorite books–was different but enjoyable to any book lovers who try to find themselves in the stories they read.
  3. Smart Women by Judy Blume (Meraki Lane) I was a huge Judy Blume fan when I was a kid (Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself was my favorite!), so it’s no surprise I jumped with joy when I discovered she writes novels for adults as well, and this book did NOT disappoint. If you like a light read with a little racy romance thrown in, this is the perfect summer pick!
  4. A Window Opens by Elizabeth Egan (Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms) A great novel with a fresh, funny voice guiding it, this book tackles the classic struggle of moms trying to have it all and stuck with us to the point of recommending it to others long after we turned the last page.Wa-hoo! Summer is here and that means summer reading is here! Looking for the perfect beach book or captivating read to get lost in this season? We've got the list of the top 20 books that belong on your summer reading list. They all come with the reason WHY you need to snatch them up, not to mention this INCREDIBLE giveaway--11 books, a $225 Amazon giftcard...seriously, you have to check this out to believe it! Here's to fantastic books!
  5. Beyond the Break by Kristen Mae (Kristen Mae) Quoted from Melissa Mowry of One Mother to Another‘s review on Amazon: “This book absolutely crushed me. The writing is hauntingly beautiful and full of depth, with well-rounded characters and gorgeous imagery. As a card-carrying heterosexual, I expected to feel a little squirmy about the girl-on-girl aspect and was just reading because I love this author’s writing. I was SO WRONG. The sex was, in a word, mind-blowing. None of that lazy, euphemistic smut book language (you won’t find talk of anyone’s blossoming flower here) just seriously hot, almost artistic love scenes. Hazel is a flawed but loveable main character with a haunting past and so much dimension. Claire is absolutely magnetic; even I was attracted to her. You owe yourself the pleasure–and I do mean pleasure–of reading this book. It will change everything you thought you knew about love, sexual attraction, and chemistry.”
  6. Summer Sisters by Judy Blume (Herd Management) Summer Sisters provides a fascinating view into the inner workings and dynamics of a close female friendship over the duration of their journey from young teens into adulthood. Many women will be able to relate to the power that female friends have over one another’s hearts, and their ability to shatter them completely sometimes. Riveting, relatable, and emotional.
  7. The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews (Confessions of a Mommyaholic) This summer/beach town set book is the absolute perfect read this summer while you are sitting beach or poolside that is filled with just enough intrigue, suspense, drama, romance and more.
  8. Mud Vein by Tarryn Fisher (See Mom Click) This is one of those books that draws you in and won’t let go, even after you’ve put it down. Senna Richard wakes up on her 33rdbirthday, locked in a house in the snow in the middle of nowhere, full of clues she has to piece together to gain her freedom. Not just a mystery, but a rip-your-heart-out love story, the author keeps you guessing while you become totally wrapped up in these characters’ lives.Wa-hoo! Summer is here and that means summer reading is here! Looking for the perfect beach book or captivating read to get lost in this season? We've got the list of the top 20 books that belong on your summer reading list. They all come with the reason WHY you need to snatch them up, not to mention this INCREDIBLE giveaway--11 books, a $225 Amazon giftcard...seriously, you have to check this out to believe it! Here's to fantastic books!
  9. Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker (Shakespeare’s Mom) In this collection of personal essays, Parker writes beautifully about her encounters and relationships with various men in her life – everyone from her grandfather to ex-boyfriends, to, in an essay that manages to be both brutal and hilarious, a male goat. I read the whole book in one day. I had to ignore my children and personal hygiene to do it, but finding myself sucked into the book’s spellbinding word-webs was totally worth it.
  10. Not Without My Father by Andra Watkins (Andra Watkins, New York Times best seller and 2015 National Book Award nominee). Sarah Cottrell of The Huffington Post calls it “one literary ride you do not want to miss!” Reader Claris explains why everyone should read Not Without My Father in her Amazon review: “Andra really made me stop and think how important each moment in life is. If we live in each moment – really LIVE – we won’t be as likely to miss making that moment an important memory. I expected to read a story about a memorable walk, but it turned into a thought-provoking quest to truly focus on the wonderful family and friends that I have and not miss making memories with them.”
  • Totto-chan: The Little Girl at the Window by Tetsuko Kuroyangi (Femme Frugality) This true story of alternative education in WWII era Japan serves to inspire. If you’ve ever known a kid that doesn’t seem to fit into a traditional education system, Tetsuko Kuroyangi’s story will warm your heart and give you hope. Kuroyangi, after getting kicked out of a traditional school, grew up to be one of Japan’s media sweethearts and a great, hands-on philanthropist.
  • A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley (The Whimsy One) will take you on a waltz between present day and the 18th century as Sara (present day) tries to decipher a journal written by Mary during the Jacobites uprising in Paris (1732) what she discovers in the handwritten pages is not at all what she was expecting.Wa-hoo! Summer is here and that means summer reading is here! Looking for the perfect beach book or captivating read to get lost in this season? We've got the list of the top 20 books that belong on your summer reading list. They all come with the reason WHY you need to snatch them up, not to mention this INCREDIBLE giveaway--11 books, a $225 Amazon giftcard...seriously, you have to check this out to believe it! Here's to fantastic books!
  • Summerlong by Dean Bakopoulos (Jana Says) I fell in love with this author after reading another one of his books but this one, a stunning, sad, sometimes funny, heartbreaking, (mostly) realistic portrayal of a marriage in crisis and its subsequent implosion during a summer long Midwestern heatwave, solidified him in my top 5 favorite authors.
  • What Alice Forgot By Liane Moriarty (Tamara (Like) Camera) This book gripped me – I felt all the joys and pains. I recommended it to both of my sisters who are still postpartum.
  • Mosquitoland by David Arnold (Kiss My List) You will not regret spending an afternoon curled up with this smart, funny, and poignant novel about a teenage girl’s bus ride back to her mom in Cleveland. Mim’s journey from Mississippi is filled with people who could be fascinating main characters in their own books.
  • Before the Fall by Noah Hawley (The Golden Spoons) Hawley alternates between perspectives of different characters as well as switches from past to present in this story of 11 people – some connected, some seemingly out of place – whose lives are changed or lost when their private jet goes down in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard on a foggy August night.Wa-hoo! Summer is here and that means summer reading is here! Looking for the perfect beach book or captivating read to get lost in this season? We've got the list of the top 20 books that belong on your summer reading list. They all come with the reason WHY you need to snatch them up, not to mention this INCREDIBLE giveaway--11 books, a $225 Amazon giftcard...seriously, you have to check this out to believe it! Here's to fantastic books!
  • The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (The Lieber Family) This second Cormoran Strike novel follows our detective as he investigates the disappearance and later death of a controversial, not-well liked author whose last novel didn’t have anything nice to say about…well, anyone!
  • You: A Novel by Caroline Kepnes (Pulling Taffy) If you love a good, creepy thriller, with an occasional chuckle, this is a great summer read. By the end you will be rooting for the serial killer and hoping his intended victim dies (Please. End. Her. Incessant. Whining.)
  • The Show by Filip Syta (Normal Level of Crazy) I’m taken by Amazon’s description of the book,Think of the greatest tech company in the world. Imagine getting a job there. Picture the perks: free gourmet food, free booze, a gym, a swimming pool, and a holiday bonus . . . every month. Brilliant coworkers. No dress code. Great parties. More money. Everyone’s admiration.” You know there are inevitably problems that will arise, but it sounds so exotic in comparison to my world, that I can’t wait to dig in!
  • The Tulip Factory by Kacie Davis Idol (The Mom of the Year) Amazon’s description makes it sound like the perfect dreamy, fun summer book: “Before they exchange even a single word, Corrine knows that James will change everything. And sure enough, their serendipitous meeting in a North Carolina coffee shop sets off a whirlwind of desire and possibilities for the two.”
  • Wa-hoo! Summer is here and that means summer reading is here! Looking for the perfect beach book or captivating read to get lost in this season? We've got the list of the top 20 books that belong on your summer reading list. They all come with the reason WHY you need to snatch them up, not to mention this INCREDIBLE giveaway--11 books, a $225 Amazon giftcard...seriously, you have to check this out to believe it! Here's to fantastic books!

    Now that you’ve got the whole list, I know you’re dying to immediately lose yourself in book pages, but don’t forget to first enter the fantastic giveaway here! Eleven of these books (Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology, The Storied Like of A.J. Fikry, The Weekenders, Not Without My Father, Totto-chan: The Little Girl at the Window, Beyond the Break, The Tulip Factory, The Show, A Desperate Fortune, Before the Fall, You: A Novel) are up for grabs in addition to a $225 Amazon giftcard!

    Delight in the books and use the giftcard to get any others that are on your summer reading list–or for this sweet amount, even snag a new Kindle for reading on-the-go! As long as you are 18 or older and live in the continental United States, you are eligible to enter the Rafflecopter below. All entries must be received before 7/8/16 at 5:30am ET.

    Here’s to a summer of fab books, friends! And as always, happy reading!

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    ****This post is not sponsored or compensated in any way. We are grateful to the following publishers for providing copies of the books for our giveaway: Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, Grand Central Publishing, Kristen Mae, Algonquin Books, Sourcebooks, Andra Watkins, St. Martin’s Press, Kodansha, and Inkshares. We bloggers have all chipped in together to provide the Amazon giftcard–because we love Amazon and we love you 😉 ****

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    Horizontal line of books in last graphic: depositphotos, image ID:6984753, copyright:aboikis

    Blogs you should read instead of mine, part 2

    There’s no weekly recap this week since I’m still on vacation but I was actually proactive and got this little space here set up ahead of time but I thought it’d be a good idea to point you to some other great blogs to read. I did a part 1 back in September so you should take a look at those, too. 

    Life According to Steph–for whatever reason, she wasn’t on the first list but how could I leave off someone I’ve known off and on for 20 years AND who’s my co-host for all things bookish? I know most of you already know Steph and her awesomeness but if you don’t, visit her now. 

    Femme Frugality–I can’t say enough nice things about Brynne. Also her blog is wonderful for frugal living tips and she has a great series on her Around the World in 80 Books reading challenge. 

    A Mindful Migration–Tanya is new to me but I feel like I’ve known her forever. She writes about mindful living and her struggles with self-confidence and self-esteem (I relate all too well) and has some wonderful insight and DIY tips and cat pictures. 

    Budget and the Beach–another Tonya, another awesome blog. This Tonya is also my roommate at FinCon. She writes about all kinds of finance related stuff from transitioning to being a freelancer to full-time worker to health and fitness on a budget to general lifestyle subjects. PLUS she makes killer videos. Visit her and her Budget and the Beach TV, too. 

    I Pick Up Pennies–what I love about Abby’s blog is that she’s so open about her struggles with depression and infertility along with her financial ups and downs. It’s rare to find a blogger like that, so willing to share so much of her life with her readers and in a way that’s fun and engaging to read. 

    I plan to do a part 3 in June when I’m in Phoenix so there’ll be more recommendations coming at you then. In the meantime, let me know:

    What are some of your favorite blogs I should be reading?


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    Show Us Your Books–the Month of Meh

    Did you see our beautiful new button, courtesy of Steph? It was time this linkup, the day our TBRs explode, got a new look, wasn’t it? 


    I’d hope to start off the first 2016 edition of Show Us Your Books with some amazing, incredible, YOU MUST ADD THESE TO YOUR TRB RIGHT NOW books. But alas, I don’t. Because of all the books I read last month, the highest I rated a book was 4 stars and that was being generous. The 7 I read weren’t bad enough to quit but not good enough that I couldn’t put them down. Which made me sad because one was Fates and Furies

    Let’s talk about that one first and go from there (if you’re new to our little linkup, I’m wordy. There’s a TL;DR summary at the end, right before the list). 

    Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. I was SO EXCITED to read this book after all I’d heard about it. The president picked it as his favorite book of 2016 for fuck’s sake. And then I started reading it. And my excitement dwindled almost instantly. It was such an average book. I did not find one thing special about it, unless you count the fact that Lauren Groff also wrote the plays that are featured in the book. The two main characters, husband Lotto and wife Mathilde, are two of the biggest assholes I’ve read, I cared absolutely nothing about either of them and it was a completely average, sad marriage. Lotto’s narcissism was maddening to read and thankfully, once we got to Mathilde’s portion of the book, the story improved exponentially. It’s actually what kept me going to the end. The study of their marriage was interesting but as far as books I’d recommend highly, this is not one of them.

    Infinite Home by Kathleen Alcott. This was another one I could not wait to read. I’d had in on my list for awhile and the library finally cooperated. I first started it and thought “wow, this author reminds me a lot of the chick who wrote You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine”, and that was a big fat DNF (oddly enough, she thanked Alexandra Kleeman in the acknowledgements so it kind of makes sense that I had that thought) since I hated everything about that book. However. This was had enough interesting characters and the plotlines were enough to make me want to keep reading to the end. It was a slow read because her pretentious writing style plucked all my nerves but not enough I wanted to throw the book against a wall. So that’s good.

    After You by Jojo Moyes. Me Before You made me cry so many tears and started me on a binge read of Jojo Moyes, who is definitely my kind of author. And as far as sequels go, this one didn’t suck. The strength of her writing definitely carried the story more than the story itself. Louisa is not unlikeable, and her grief is definitely palpable throughout the story. But there was just so much going on. Too much. Dizzying amounts of plotlines. They all fit together but the support group, teenage girl who I can’t say much more about without ruining a big part of the book, a new love interest/boyfriend, family issues…too much. I get that it’s a reflection of actual life but for a 400-ish page book, it just felt rushed. 

    The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I chose to read this book because I’d heard mixed opinions about it and I wanted to form my own. I do not have a problem with decluttering (when I’m not too lazy to actually do it); in fact, clutter increases my anxiety so I do what I can to keep the crap at bay all the time. And if you want to learn how to declutter and need a step by step process, this book is for you. For me, though, it was too fucking weird. Like, I do not, nor will I ever, thank my purse for the “hard work” it does for me during the day (no joke, she suggests talking to your stuff like it’s sentient. Nope, nope, nope. I’m not talking to shoes. I’ve got one foot in the crazy house; I don’t need to give my family reason to actually put me there). I also found her superior attitude a bit offputting but I’m hoping that’s just the way it came across in the translation and it’s not the way she actually is. I like her point that you should surround yourself with the things that matter and get rid of the stuff that doesn’t but still. I wasn’t blown away by her advice. Probably because I’m not her target audience. 

    American Salvage and Mothers, Tell Your Daughters by Bonnie Jo Campbell. These were collections of short stories, all about the people we pretend we don’t see or don’t want to think exist. People who are poor, rural poor. People who do meth (lots of people who do meth. This author REALLY likes that particular drug as a plot point). People who are lonely, abandoned, depressed. Women who are abused and cheated on and dying. And her stories are well written and some of them are quite good. The problem with her writing, though, is that her plots and character types are very repetitive. In fact, I’m having trouble recalling one specific story over another because they all sort of bled together. Except the titular story for Mothers, Tell Your Daughters because the lady who narrated that story mentioned 3 separate times that she drowned kittens. I hate her. 

    Refund: Stories by Karen E. Bender. What drew me to this collection of short stories was the financial/personal finance aspect that was advertised. Not falsely, I need to say, but not exactly accurate, either. There were some stories based around debt and job loss and recession, but there was one story with a woman teaching in an impoverished school that was put on lockdown and then she took one student to a sea turtle hospital or something like that and it was all very weird. She’s a good writer and I’d be willing to give her another chance, even if I didn’t love all the stories in this collection. It started off strong and then dwindled. Kind of like SNL does each episode. I also think she might be getting an unfair assessment from me as this was the 3rd consecutive short story collection I read and I might have had short story fatigue.

    I did notice this about my choices this month: all the books not for work were written by women. So that’s cool.

    TL; DR–I read a bunch of average, meh books this month. There’s not one I feel you must add to your list but a couple popular, trendy ones that you should read to form your own opinions. Specifically, Fates and Furies, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and After You.

    Now it’s your turn! Bloggers, link up with what you read. Nonbloggers or forgetful bloggers, leave a comment with your favorite reads of last month. And don’t forget to visit a few new to you bloggers to keep with the spirit of the linkup!

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    Show Us Your Books, Best of 2015 edition

    Happy week after Christmas! I hope you guys enjoyed yourselves and for those of you who celebrate, I hope you got everything you wanted (if you want, share with me your best gift in the comments. Mine was a signed copy of Summerlong. But more about that particular author and book in a bit). And now that Christmas is over and we’re all wearing our fat pants, what better time to sit around and discuss books? Specifically, our favorite books of 2015 (I’m not going to wax poetic about the end of this year because honestly, 2015 can go fuck itself and I wish it good riddance). Which is why Steph and I are thrilled to bring you this special bonus edition of Show Us Your Books, Best of 2015 edition!

    For this post, I focused only on books I read from July-December since I did a mid-year recap (read that here) and I didn’t want to repeat myself. Also, in making my picks, I didn’t necessarily pick all books I rated 5 stars on Goodreads but books that moved me, made me think, and stood out for me for being amazing in their own ways. They were not books that were published this year but books I read this year.

    Not on the list? Fates and Furies. I honestly thought it was meh (but my full review on that will be next month for our regularly scheduled Show Us Your Books). But here are the books I did pick:

    year end

    Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy Why you should read it: Willowdean is the kind of body positive role model people need even if she is a little bitchy and it’s a kickass, well written story. The author reminds me a little bit of Rainbow Rowell in her ability to write realistic characters and storylines and this was probably my favorite YA book I read this year. I loved reading a story about an overweight girl who’s not an outcast or awkward and has healthy self-esteem and boys liking her for her rather than as a joke and is able to stand up for and take care of herself. You know, a REAL person. Not a caricature.

    Summerlong and Please Don’t Come Back from the Moon by Dean Bakopoulos. Why you should read them: I don’t know how to properly articulate what it is about his books that just strike me but you know when you read a book and you think “OMG, this book! It just gets me” and “I could be living this” and “I want to climb inside this story and never come out”? That’s how it was for me with these two. The last time I felt as strongly about a book was about 5 or 6 years ago when I read The Art of Racing in the Rain. And you didn’t think a best of list from me was NOT going to include his books, did you (one absence–My American Unhappiness. I liked it. Did not love it. Mostly because the main character was an insufferable asshole and I hated him and it made the story hard to read at times)? Oh! Moon was just made into a movie thanks to James Franco. A movie version of one of my all-time favorite books made by someone who was in one of my all-time favorite TV shows? My brain can’t take it.

    Shotgun Lovesongs and Beneath the Bonfire by Nickolas Butler. Why you should read them: Butler has a command and a way of telling stories that is beautiful and heartbreaking and fascinating and you don’t want to put them down. I cannot comprehend why more people aren’t reading his books and talking about them. I don’t know why his books aren’t on more best of lists. I don’t know why he’s not on social media so I can stalk (follow. I mean follow. Because actual staking is a crime and you should not do that) like I do the aforementioned Dean Bakopoulos (sorry, Dean’s wife). But he’s on a short list of authors I will talk about all the time and whose books I will read and anxiously await. 

    Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg Why you should read it: Although slow at times, it’s creatively told in an unconventional way from the perspective of typically supporting characters. At its core, this a book about how people handle loss differently and that there’s not one wrong or right way to process grief and that when a tragic event happens, it affects more people than you would think. We all own a piece of that horrific event. It’s how we handle it that both separates and connects us.

    Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart Why you should read it: Constance Kopp is one of the most badass women who actually existed and the book is about her and her sisters, who are also badass in their own way. I love that Amy Stewart wrote this hybrid fictional/non-fiction (is there a literary term for docudrama? If there is, I’d like to know it) because Constance’s story is one that should be told as she’s one of the first female deputy sheriffs in the US. THE WHOLE UNITED STATES. That’s kickass and inspirational, considering she did it in a time when women definitely did not engage in those types of activities. If you read Frog Music by Emma Donoghue and enjoyed it (I did not), this is exponentially better than that, even if the premise is sort of the same. 

    Honorable mention because this post is getting too long and I’m not done yet: Some Girls Are (not an easy read but an incredible one. This book will hurt you), Ready Player One (a science fiction/mystery/crime-ish book featuring Rush and filled with 80s nostalgia? Yes, please), Galveston (gritty, bloody, dark with all the feels), Modern Romance (well researched, hilarious, insightful and my sociology nerd heart glowed with every page), and Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town (just freaking read it).

    Overall, it’s been a great reading year. I’ve read a substantial amount of wonderful books, a few clunkers, and a fair amount of books that were simply pleasant. I far surpassed my Goodreads goal, didn’t quite get around to a bunch of books I’d planned, but read some that I didn’t. I discovered some new authors, read some old favorites, and went outside my typical niches. I learned a ton about publishing, missed both bookish conferences I wanted to attend but I know that they exist now and will do my damnedest to get to them next year. And finally, thanks to all of you guys who read and comment and share and join us every month, I found a community of book nerds just like me. I love y’all so much.

    So, with that said, now it’s your turn. What are some of your favorites from 2015 that I should add to my 2016 TBR? 

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