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Tag Archive: linkups

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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Show Us Your Books, May edition: The one with all the time jumping

I love that this month’s linkup falls the same week as Book Expo America. I thought I’d be able to get there this year but alas, it was a no go. But chatting books with you guys is a perfect substitute. 

This month’s reads. I swear, they made me feel like I was driving around in a Delorean, trying to fill up my flux capacitor. Every single book I read had time jumping in it. ALL OF THEM. I generally don’t mind it as a way of telling a story but it’s a gimmick that gets old after the third consecutive book you read does it. It doesn’t mean they were bad books–most of them were quite good–but it became annoying. 

Admin note: Steph and I will be discuss Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy for the May 26th episode of The Armchair Librarians. As always, it’ll be spoiler free but just in case you want to read it ahead of time, you can. I’m also discussing it in this month’s recap if you can’t decide if you want to read it or not (unlike what I typically do in a review, I’m including a bit of a plot summary to help you out).

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Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy. This book tells the story of Alice, diagnosed with cancer, and Harvey, her lifelong friend and boy who’s in love with her. Thinking she’s going to die, Alice exacts revenge on those who’ve wronged her but then she goes into remission and she has to live with the consequences. I enjoyed the journey, told at different points in time, and the revenge fantasies she carried out but the way Alice used Harvey enraged me. As did the way he mostly accepted it. It wasn’t quite as good as Dumplin’ but overall, it was a very good, well written YA book. She writes strong, real characters and has a knack for dialog which carries the story when the plot falls flat. 

We’ve Already Gone This Far by Patrick Dacey. I thoroughly enjoyed this book of short stories about the residents of a hurting town. The stories all wind up being connected, and most can trace to a single event, and they’re just enough real, sad, happy, and weird to keep you engaged. If you’re a fan of short stories, definitely read this one. If you’re not a fan, I don’t know that this would be the best book for you to read. 

Liar by Rob Roberge. This is a NetGalley book (see, NetGalley! I do read the books I request!). At first, I was all “holy fuck, this book is incredible and I love it and this is how you do a book about mental health and addiction”. Then I was all “this book is too weird and this guy is seriously fucked up and how many more shitty things he’s done do I need to read about?” I mean, it was a very open and honest book about his struggles with rapid cycling bipolar disorder and a pretty serious addiction, and he’s a hell of a writer, but most of the time, I just fucking hated him. I mean, I get that his diseases made him do most of what he did that was so despicable but still. He’s not really a likable guy. And the time jumping made me dizzy. It was all over the place. OH! Stylistically, he wrote it in present tense. So that was cool and different. 

13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad. I liked the idea of this book more than the execution. Lizzie, the main character, made me constantly sad and frustrated and while I enjoy varying POVs in books, including this one which had Lizzie looking at herself and her life at different phases like she was a different person, it just didn’t really work in this book. Also, it read more like short stories than a novel. I like short stories but when I want to read a novel, I want it read like one. BUT. I loved how the author addressed body image and happiness and how they’re not always connected (skinny does not always equal happy, for instance). And Lizzie was extremely complex and well written. Like an actual person. So, I can’t really decide how I feel about this book. 

How to Start a Fire by Lisa Lutz. I read this book because of Lauren. She read it last month and I told her it was on my TBR and now, here we are. This also had time jumping and different POVs but it worked quite well. Like The Girl on the Train, the book’s main characters are wholly unlikeable yet together, they told a weird, incongruent, messy story that I could not stop reading. Part mystery, part character study, part ugly facets of life, this book hit me in a bunch of different places. So much so, I stayed up until 1:30AM to finish it, fell asleep with 40 pages left and didn’t get out of bed the next morning until it was done. 

Currently reading Holding Smoke by Elle Cosimano. I got it from NetGalley. Don’t remember requesting it but when I checked my shelf, there it was. I think it archived so it made sense to pick it up.  

Now it’s your turn! Leave your link below and tell us what you’ve read. Non-bloggers, let us know in the comments. Don’t forget to visit some of the other participants, too!

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Show Us Your Books, April edition: The one with the reading slump

Before we get started, let me just wish all my awesome booknerds a happy National Library Week! It’s mostly a coincidence that this month’s Show Us Your Books happens this week but it’s not a coincidence that libraries are The Armchair Librarians’ topic this week (well, we hope. Lots of tech problems) so make sure you look for the new episode landing on your favorite podcasting app this Thursday. 

Now let’s talk books. I had a huge reading slump this month, leading me to only read 5 books which is the same as last month but given the extra week between linkups it should have been more. I mostly blame Skippy Dies by Paul Murphy. I just could not get into that book (it was a DNF after 10 pages) and it sort of put me in a tailspin. But I accept that reading slumps happen and I’m not overly stressed about it. Mostly because I’ve come out on the other side but also because I read so much that to go a few days of not reading a book isn’t really the worst thing in the world. show-us-your-books-2016-300by300

As I predicted, Evicted by Matthew Desmond brought me out of the slump and now I’m back to my old reading pace. I need the library to stop holding out on me and give me what I want (namely, the 7 books I have on hold) but I’m finally working through all my NetGalley books. I also have a bunch of books on my bookshelf I’ve been meaning to read (and, thanks to Erin, I’ll plan to do that this summer. She and Dani are launching another reading challenge in June and this one is dedicated to reading the books you have on your shelf that you just haven’t gotten around to reading. Make sure you’re following her to get updates about that challenge which, incidentally, has a prize at the end!)

Beasts and Children by Amy Parker. This is a book of short stories all about, well, beasts and children. It is extremely well written but all kinds of horrible things happen to kids and animals and that made it hard for me to read at times and, if I’m being honest, I actually did not finish a few of the stories because I just couldn’t do it. I did enjoy how many of the stories were connected to each other, which is different from most books of short stories I read, but overall, this not my favorite collection of short stories. Definitely not my favorite book of the month either. I did like it more than Skippy Dies, though. 

American Housewife by Helen Ellis. Also a book of short stories but one I absolutely adored. All of the stories revolved around different types of women, mothers and wives mostly. My favorite ones were her “how to…” stories but there were some with crazy ladies, overworked ladies, and a few that were just straight up bizarre. The variation kept me reading and engaged and I couldn’t wait to find out what happened in the next story. I read this while on vacation in Massachusetts and it was a perfect vacation read. It’s really a good anytime read but it worked well while in the midst of a reading slump on vacation, too. 

Fallout by Ellen Hopkins. The final book in the Crank trilogy. This one is told from the perspective of three of Kristina’s kids, and while it still was in that sonnet/poem format which plucks all my nerves and I wish she’d written these books as novels instead, this particular book was probably my favorite of the three. She did an incredible job telling the story of her grandkids and the impact having a meth addicted mother has on them. This could probably be a standalone book if you don’t want to read the first two. I’m not sure that I’ll read more of Hopkins’s writing but I’m extremely glad I read this particular trilogy. I like books that tackle ugly subjects and take care not to sugar coat anything but still handle the subject with respect. 

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald. I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I love the quirkiness of the characters, the obvious affection for books (this book is essentially a love letter to books and authors), the addressing of what happens to dying towns, and the writing. On the other hand, the book had A LOT going on, it was pretty slow until the last 100 pages, and there were way too many characters. I needed some sort of character map to keep them all straight. It was a decent book and had I read it not in the midst of a reading slump, I might have felt differently about it because this is the kind of book you need to read at the right time. I don’t know what that time is, exactly, but definitely not on the heels of a book you hated. 

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond. Holy fuck, did I love the hell out of this book. I got it as an ARC from NetGalley because it’s right in my wheelhouse for nonfiction, and I figured I’d like it. Never imagined I’d love it as much as I did. It’s an ethnographic study of renters and landlords in Milwaukee, focusing primarily on 8 families and their quest to find safe, affordable, decent housing and two landlords who own the properties and how they make money on the dilapidated properties they own. There’s a lot about eviction (as expected from the title), relationships between landlords and tenants, and housing policy and it was fucking fascinating. Also, he is an incredible writer and the amount of research he did for this book beyond his own field work is amazing. Fun fact: The author won a MacArthur Genius Grant for his work on poverty. 

Currently reading but didn’t finish in time to include it in the linkup: Crooked Little Lies by Barbara Taylor Sissel. So far, it’s a decent read. Update: thanks to a raging case of sleeplessness, I finished this book. Don’t bother with it. I give the author an A for effort but it’s a terrible mess of a book. It can’t decide what it wants to be and while it’s definitely a cozy mystery, it’s poorly done. It worked too hard when it didn’t need to and then no hard enough at other times. I can’t even with the dialogue throughout, and the rest was just meh. P.S. This was also a NetGalley book. 

Now it’s your turn! Bloggers, link up with your posts and nonbloggers, tell me in the comments what you’ve been reading. Don’t forget to visit Steph as well as some of the other bloggers joining us this month: 

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Hey, it’s okay: Vacation edition

Amber over at Airing My Laundry hosts a linkup every Tuesday. Sometimes I like to join in. Today’s one of those times. 

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For me, it’s okay that:

    • We totally hired a pet sitter because of our cat. Not the dogs. The cat. Who sometimes has to be forced back into the house. The cat who will probably sleep outside every night we’re gone, defeating the whole purpose of having a pet sitter. The cat who won’t go near a single person except me because she’s an asshole who hates everyone. 
    • I bought a bunch of our tickets for Boston attractions and hotels with Groupons or credit card rewards or using online discounts. I like to travel but there’s no need to always pay full price. 
    • I haven’t gone full grocery shopping in like two weeks because of our vacation. I don’t need to come home to rotting food. I’m also dreading the big, expensive shopping trip coming up. Because it means lots of groceries to put away. I don’t like to do that. 
    • I am ridiculously excited to have a week free of everything. Laundry, work, cooking, chores, cheerleading, the parent pickup line…all of it. 
    • I feel no pressure to share my whole vacation on social media. But I’m sharing some so go ahead and follow me on Instagram for a week free of cat and dog pictures (but, let’s be honest, if I find a cat or dog, I’m taking a picture).
    • I totally want to find a historic bookstore or at least make a stop at the Boston public library because books don’t stop for vacations. 
    • The history nerd in my is going berserk over all the American history we’re going to see. We also might take a trip to Colonial Williamsburg in May after US Finals in Virginia Beach and this makes my heart and brain insanely happy. 
    • That a small part of me wishes we were headed somewhere warm because who in their right mind goes to Boston in March?
    • We only planned a 5 day trip so it can be bookended with weekends, giving us time to gear up and then recover. Also Easter. 
    • I enjoy my job but this: 

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Also linking up with Nadine and Kathy for Humpday Confessions a day early because confession, I don’t have enough content ideas for more than 3 posts a week. 

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Show Us Your Books, March edition: Really, that’s all I read?

I feel like I read zero books this past month even though I really read 6, not including one for work and I don’t review books I read for work on my blog. So that’s 7. But it feels like zero. I don’t know why. 

That’s said, at least this month’s reviews will be shorter. And by that, I really mean there will just be less of them. I’m still the same long winded book reviewer you know and love and there’s a TL;DR summary for the skimmers in the group who just want to know what to add to Goodreads. 

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In no particular order: 

The Flood Girls by Richard Fifield. I loved this book so, so much. It was as fabulous as Jake (once you read the book, you’ll understand what I mean) and it was heartwrenching and funny and weird and infuriating and full of hope and I loved that it took place in 1990/1991. The nostalgia didn’t feel forced and while I could see this story taking place now, it just worked better as an early 90s novel, with homages to Madonna and trashy romance writers and Laura Ingalls Wilder (actually, there are a lot of book references in the book). The ending was SAD but also so fucking amazing. The only thing that got on my nerves was this one particular character, Red Mabel. I pretty much detested her and whenever she was in the story, I found myself getting enraged. Fun and unrelated fact: My first car was named Mabel.  

The Woman Who Stole My Life by Marian Keyes. A very fine chick lit book, one that served its purpose of being a light, entertaining read amidst all the heavy books I read. Almost all of the characters are assholes, including the main character, Stella, but for some reason, their collective assholery comes together in a way that makes for a decent read. There’s some good stuff about what happens when you publish a book and it disappoints, there’s some good stuff about the disintegration of a family, and the backbone of the plot, Stella’s illness, was pretty different than anything I’d read before. This book didns’t set my reading world on fire but it was just fine.

Sweetgirl by Travis Mulhauser. A very short book you desperately want to be longer. I don’t think any review I could give this book will do it justice. It was that fucking good. A little rushed at times, but so incredibly well written you can forgive it. Taking place in Michigan, (like another favorite of mine, Please Don’t Come Back From the Moon), it tells the story of a teenager in search of her meth addicted mother and instead finds a baby and the tragic mayhem that ensues as Percy tries to rescue the baby. You find your heart racing and breaking simultaneously, and the part that gets to you the most is the fact that this is not an unrealistic situation. But it ends on quite an optimistic note and if there’s a sequel, put me on the list to read it.

Glass by Ellen Hopkins. The second in the Crank trilogy, it deals with Kristina’s relapse in her meth addiction (I really do read an awful lot about meth. I’m starting to get worried) after the birth of her son. So, I didn’t quite like this one as much as I did Crank and I think a lot of it has to do with the writing style. Hopkins is a wonderful writer but stylistically, trying to write this stuff as spoken word poetry does the story a disservice. It would work better for me if it was written as a disjointed diary. I think I said this in my review of Crank–this book reminded me of The Heroin Diaries if they’d been written by a wholly unlikable teenage girl. That said, it’s the addiction that makes her unlikable. That’s the part that kicks you in the gut. 

Remember Mia by Alexandra Burt. You can probably file this one in the “just like Gone Girl” review pile that I love so much. It was actually a pretty weird book but it was a well done thriller, and I liked the memory loss/memory recovery part of it. Burt knows how to construct a mystery that, while it reveals itself to you and you can figure it, you still want to keep reading specifically to see how and why and what happens next. And unlike the main characters in some of the other “next Gone Girl” books, Estelle is pretty likeable and sympathetic. You definitely find yourself feeling her frustration and agony and caring about what happens to her. *selection for Erin’s reading challenge

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder. A reread. This is my favorite in the Little House series because to me, it’s the only one where she doesn’t sugar coat anything. The whole book is basically “this fucking sucks and it’s hard and I hate it”. There’s no idealistic prairie living or disguising what a racist her mother was or what a terrible farmer her father was or what an asshole her sister was. I also enjoy the later books where the perspectives go back and forth between Laura and Almanzo. *selection for Erin’s reading challenge

TL:DR–Definitely read The Flood Girls and Sweetgirl (as of now, these two are on my best of 2016 list, along with Violent Ends, if that helps). Remember Mia if you like a good thriller. Glass is a decent follow up to Crank but you can probably go right from Crank to Fallout without reading this one and not lose anything. The Woman Who Stole My Life is a perfectly adequate chick lit book. The Long Winter is a perfect winter read because if they can survive that shit, we can survive our crappy winters. 

Now it’s your turn! Bloggers, linkup with your posts and nonbloggers, let me know in the comments what you’re reading. Don’t forget to visit some of the other participants!

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P.S. I bet you’re wondering where our podcast episode is! Well, until I work out a few of the tech glitches I’m having, you can have a listen to the raw audio right here (it’s also embedded below). This is the first episode we ever recorded so we apologize for the poor audio quality and assure you it improves with each one.

In this episode, we spend a good deal of time discussing Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies and then there’s a whole bunch of other random crap. And a lot of me using the word “um”. Steph is more articulate than I am. Warning: we talk like write. As in, there’s cursing. #sorrynotsorry