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Living life from cover to cover

Tag Archive: reading

Show Us Your Books, August 2017

This was a bizarre month for reading. In the beginning, I read a whole bunch of books very quickly. Then I started A Brief History of Seven Killings and it all went to shit because that book is killing ME. It’s so, so good but so, so dense and each chapter is like 4 pages and written in a different character’s voice and there’s about 97 characters (literally. There’s a cast of characters at the beginning to help you keep track) and it hurts my brain to read. I tried to quit 3 times but it keeps sucking me back in because I HAVE TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS. But also I can’t take it. I’m really torn about what to do. Usually I can DNF a book without thinking but I can’t let this one go. WHAT’S A BOOKWORM TO DO?

I guess while I continue to wrestle with that, we can review all the books I did read this month. As always, my reviews are copied and sometimes embellished from my Litsy reviews

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy. Whenever an author or band or actor produces something spectacular, it’s hard to imagine what the follow up will be like and it’s hard not to compare it to the previous work (did that make sense?). So it was hard to read this one, the one after Dumplin’, which is AMAZING, with no expectations but it lived up to all of them. Her take on sexuality, class, family, and obligations hit me in all the places and gave me the gamut of feels. You hate some characters, you love others, and you root for Ramona the whole time. Julie Murphy is an incredible storyteller and I love how she makes teenagers real, complex people rather than caricatures. I wish so hard her books existed when I was a teenager. They would have made such a difference to me. 

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Every idea, every anecdote, every thought is bigger than the 47 pages allow for and it is such an amazing conversation started around the ideas of feminism, culture, and gender roles that it should be required reading for everyone. It takes about 30 minutes to read but you will be thinking about it for hours afterwards. 

The GrownUp by Gillian Flynn. The fuck did I read? This book (does it even qualify as a book?) is simultaneously fucked up and not horrifying at all. I liked the progression of the story from normalish weird to REALLY BIZARRE and it MESSES with your head but I loathed and detested the ending. I would have read this as a full length novel, so there’s that. And it’s short so it’s hard to say not to read it but just know that the ending is a cop out. A big steaming cop out.

Saint Maybe by Anne Tyler. So. This book is probably one of the saddest, most depressing books I have ever read (it gave The Story of Edgar Sawtelle a run for its money and if you’ve read that one, you know it’s a HIGH HIGH bar) but it was also beautiful in its own way. The story of a man’s promising future marred by loss, penance, and familial obligation, it’s told over multiple decades that’s confusing to follow at first but you get used to it. The religious overtones were a bit much but necessary to the overall plot and in the end, they become background noise to the rest of the story. 

August Snow by Stephen Mack Jones. The thriller portion of this book is average, standard, and mostly predictable. What makes this book above average is the writing. It’s gorgeous and poetic and his descriptions of setting make you feel like you’re there. Like, I legit smelled Mexican food the entire time I read this book. I loved how he made Detroit a character as much as the people (like The Wire did with Baltimore) and he address class and racism and gentrification in a way that makes a point without being preachy.

The Half-Life of Remorse by Grant Jarrett. This was an ARC from NetGalley I finally got around to. This book about choices and trying to make things right when you’ve really fucked them up and how actions have bigger consequences than we imagine and loss and the tragic effect of one incident on multiple people is perfectly sad in all the right ways. The alternating POVs didn’t even get on my nerves! and when they all converged into one story, my heart broke. His storytelling is excellent and the simple yet huge plot made for a great read. 

Made for Love by Alissa Nutting. I adore Alissa Nutting as a writer (and independent of her marriage to Dean Bakopoulos because they are two separate and distinct people). She is smart and funny and engaging about topics that are unpleasant and taboo. She has such a way with words that you can’t stop reading. And this book is funny, sad, dark, and social commentary all at once. It was also WEIRD AS FUCK. Like “am I really reading this shit” weird. But good. However, if sex in books bothers you, don’t read it. If it doesn’t then this one is a keeper and a definite add to ye old TBR.

In progress: Ill Will by Dan Chaon 

TL; DR: Ramona Blue, Made for Love, and We Should All Be Feminists are must-adds. August Snow and The Half-Life of Remorse are also good choices but if you prefer lighter reading over the summer, save them for the fall and winter. The others I don’t not recommend but I don’t think they’re high priority reading either. 

Now it’s your turn! Link up or let me know in the comments what you’ve read lately. Don’t forget to visit my co-host, Steph, and some of the other bloggers joining us. Next one is September 12 and in October we’ll be celebrating THREE YEARS of Show Us Your Books!

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Bookish habits: 7 questions

I am a fan of Litsy. I don't use it like I should but I'm REALLY good at stalking and lurking. And it pays off sometimes because I find little get to know you questionnaires and they give me post ideas since summer brain is real. These are sort of along the lines of my Interview with a Bookworm series (real question: should I bring that back?) and they're all about bookish habits and behaviors which I find fascinating because #sociologynerd and here we go:

1. Probably 15-20. Sometimes less, sometimes more
2. In general, print but digital when traveling
3. Thriller/mystery and literary fiction.
4. Romance and horror
5. I have so many but it's a tie between using movie posters as book covers and when people mark up library books. THEY ARE NOT YOURS. DO NOT DO THAT.
6. Really, I have to pick one thing? I could write a 20 point list about my favorite things and they're all equal. A sample, though: getting lost in the story, I'm never bored, and books are a perfect way to avoid people AND responsibility
7. Hmmm. This is a hard one. I'm pretty open about all things bookish but I'll admit that I've never read a Harry Potter book, never plan to, and I give zero fucks if my daughter ever does. And I am also incredibly sick of the HP obsession. PLEASE MAKE IT STOP.

Any of my answers surprise you? How would you answer these questions?

Show Us Your Books, July 2017 edition

Guys. I am doing this post from my phone because I somehow got locked out of my blog on my laptop and until I can get somewhere with a different IP address and unlock myself, I have no access. And since that will not happen before I have a chance to post, I’m pretty much fucked. 

That said, I apologize if anything is screwy or unclear and I won’t be able to link the books to Goodreads until I get this shit fixed. 

Now. Books. There were 10 this month which is high even for me. Not really sure what happened. I don’t even think I had a DNF even if two came close. 

As always, my reviews are mostly copied from Litsy. Books from NetGalley are designated otherwise I borrowed from the library. 

Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison. This is not an easy book to read. At all. It wasn’t as violent or graphic as I had expected based on some descriptions, which was nice, but those scenes were incredibly difficult to get through especially once you remember how old Bone actually is (I kept thinking she was WAY older). There’s some nonsense and parts I skimmed a bit but overall, it’s a powerful story about choices, abuse, poverty, desperation, family, love, survival, and humanity. Also, if anyone can find the movie version of this, please let me know. I can’t find it anywhere that’s not purchasing it. NOT EVEN THE LIBRARY.

In the Shadow of Alabama by Judy Reene Singer. I wanted to like this book. I did. It tells an important story about family, race, war, and how we’re all haunted by something or someone. But OMG was it boring. The writing didn’t do it for me and I really don’t like horses so those parts were an absolute waste. This would have been a DNF but since it’s based on a real story I kept going mostly to fill in some gaps in the way the narrative was told. Others may like this book but it wasn’t for me.

Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane. I like his storytelling and way with words but this felt like 2 different stories smashed into one. The second half was intense and action packed and thrillery while the first felt more like something I can’t quite describe but definitely not a thriller. While I liked the book and characters, it didn’t turn out at all like it was set up at the beginning, which is fine, but it felt unnatural. Like I was conned. Which is oddly relevant to the plot.

The You I’ve Never Known by Ellen Hopkins. I love Ellen Hopkins and her ability to write a story and characters you can’t put down, even when the size of the book starts to hurt your hands. Her rawness, her emotions, and her willingness to share her life, even in a fictitious way, makes me admire her bravery even if the poetry thing is old. I did like how she wove prose into this book, and her opinions on Planned Parenthood and Scientology were also a bit unusual for her but very welcomed. And thanks to whomever first mentioned her books. I found her through this linkup and I’m now a huge fan.

The Long Haul: A Trucker’s Tale of Life on the Road by Finn Murphy. This book reminded me of Hillbilly Elegy in the sense of it being a sociological study but with the lens of a memoir. It combines trucking history, personal stories, and industry information, touches on some modern issues like sprawl and racism and our accumulation of cheap stuff, and overall, is just a good book. Even if you don’t have truckers in your family, it makes for a fascinating read. Fun fact: my husband read this right after I did and finished it in 4 days. He NEVER reads books that quickly.

Small Hours by Jennifer Kitses. I received this as an ARC from NetGalley. This is a perfectly fine book that passes the time just fine. The writing is good, the plot is strong, the characters are horrible in a likable way even when you want to punch them in the face. I liked the concept of parallel stories about secrets and lies taking place over a single day and told from alternating POV but the ending stunk. Cliffhangers have their place. This was not one of them. 

The Dinner by Herman Koch. I did not like this book at all. I didn’t find it amusing or smartly satirical or a commentary on anything other than a shitty plot with horrible characters. It reveled in the mundane and useless and skimmed over and rushed through the few parts that were actually enjoyable and kept it from being a big fat DNF. The ending sucked, too, which was disappointing because I was hoping for some sort of big payoff for the rest of the crap I read.

Penance by Kanae Minato. While this book wasn’t quite as good as Confessions, it was still an excellent, dark book about murder and choices and actions and consequences and responsibility and the effects of trauma and words on children and adults. I loved the way each chapter built on the one before and how she wove each girl’s story into the others’. The narrative felt natural and progressive and I read it in one sitting because I couldn’t put it down.

Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon. It feels like I’m the last person to read this. It reminded me of a lighter, quirkier The Fault in Our Stars. Similar premise but definitely its own book. I definitely had feels even when I figured out what exactly was going on so that’s telling and her storytelling was unique and made the book fun to read. However, it felt like a typical YA book and there could have been some more developed parts that were glossed over instead. Still, I recommend. 

Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin. Her ideas and theories about habits are fascinating to me and I loved reading through the book with an idea (I took the quiz) of my Tendency (Rebel with Questioner leanings. This should not be a surprise to anyone who knows me). It put so much into perspective and thinking about how I approach habit changes is different now. That said, this is not a book to be read once and absorb everything. To fully get what you need, this is one that requires several rereads or a binge of her blog because there is so much information. Also, and if I’m being completely honest, I feel like if I knew her in person, I wouldn’t like her. She is not any fun. Like, at all and I definitely read the book with that in mind. But to her credit, she owns it. OH! And did anyone else get RAGE-INDUCING ANNOYED with how often she mentioned her sister is a TV writer? WE GET IT, GRETCHEN. 

TL; DR. Penance, Since We Fell, The You I’ve Never Known are all must reads for me. I’d say the Gretchen Rubin book but I’m like the last person to read it so no need. Avoid The Dinner because the place has rats and will give you food poisoning. 

Currently reading: A Brief History of Seven Killings. On the list for the next month: Ramona Blue, August Snow, Saint Maybe, and some NetGalley books before NetGalley disowns me.

Now it’s your turn! Let me know what you’ve read and make sure you visit Steph and some other bloggers. And brace your Goodreads TBR.

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Judging Covers with The Family: It’s Back! Again!

It’s been many, many months since we’ve had an edition of Judging Covers but a few weeks ago the child mentioned it and I needed a post idea so here we go. 

For those who are new, this is a series I do where I ask my husband and daughter to deduce the plots of books I’m reading simply by looking at the covers. This month’s edition features a few of the books on my nightstand and none of the books on my Kindle and I figured it was a nice compliment to SUYB. Like a Preview My Books. 

Book #1: In the Shadow of Alabama by Judy Renee Singer

The Child says: I think this is about a family that lives on a farm in Alabama and everyone knows them as a sweet caring family but they aren’t fully who they seem to be. 

The Husband says: I think some people came to Alabama not from Alabama OR some people who don’t fit in Alabama are having to live in Alabama (me: STOP STAYING ALABAMA) and they can’t be who they are because they’re in Alabama.

Goodreads says: Rachel Fleischer has good reasons not to be at her father s deathbed. Foaling season is at hand and her horses are becoming restless and difficult. Her critical mother and grasping sister could certainly handle Marty Fleisher s resistance better without her. But Malachi, her eighty-something horse manager more father to her than Marty has ever been convinces Rachel she will regret it if she doesn t go.

When a stranger at her father’s funeral delivers an odd gift and an apology, Rachel finds herself drawn into the epic story of her father s World War II experience, and the friendships, trauma, scandal, and betrayals that would scar the rest of his life and cast a shadow across the entire family. As she struggles to make sense of his time as a Jewish sergeant in charge of a platoon of black soldiers in 1940s Alabama, she learns more than just his history. She begins to see how his hopes and disappointments mirror her own and might finally give her the means to free herself of the past and choose a life waiting in the wings.

Book #2: A Brief History of Seven Killing by Marlon James

The Child says: It looks like a mad person kills themself and the book explains why.

The Husband says: I think the title is pretty self explanatory but the bird adds nothing. It’s useless. I want to give the bird the bird because it gives me nothing. 

Goodreads says: On December 3, 1976, just before the Jamaican general election and two days before Bob Marley was to play the Smile Jamaica Concert, gunmen stormed his house, machine guns blazing. The attack nearly killed the Reggae superstar, his wife, and his manager, and injured several others. Marley would go on to perform at the free concert on December 5, but he left the country the next day, not to return for two years.

Book #3: Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane

The Child says: I think this is about two people who have a secret in murdering and it about what caused it.  (Child: Am I close? Me: No. Child: It sounds like that’s what it should be about)

The Husband says: I think it’s about since we’ve both left our former lives we’re now in some kind of shitty situation and we’re trying to figure it out together. 

Goodreads says: Since We Fell follows Rachel Childs, a former journalist who, after an on-air mental breakdown, now lives as a virtual shut-in. In all other respects, however, she enjoys an ideal life with an ideal husband. Until a chance encounter on a rainy afternoon causes that ideal life to fray. As does Rachel’s marriage. As does Rachel herself.

Book #4: The You I’ve Never Known by Ellen Hopkins

The Child says: I feel like it’s something related to 13 Reasons Why but instead of the girl having tapes for her classmates it explains all of what happened and how it affected the people who cared about her after what happened happened. 

The Husband says: This one is about woman who has never let you see all the parts of her but if you think about it, over time, you can build a full picture of who she really is. 

Goodreads says: For as long as she can remember, it’s been just Ariel and Dad. Ariel’s mom disappeared when she was a baby. Dad says home is wherever the two of them are, but Ariel is now seventeen and after years of new apartments, new schools, and new faces, all she wants is to put down some roots. Complicating things are Monica and Gabe, both of whom have stirred a different kind of desire.

Maya’s a teenager who’s run from an abusive mother right into the arms of an older man she thinks she can trust. But now she’s isolated with a baby on the way, and life’s getting more complicated than Maya ever could have imagined.

Ariel and Maya’s lives collide unexpectedly when Ariel’s mother shows up out of the blue with wild accusations: Ariel wasn’t abandoned. Her father kidnapped her fourteen years ago.

Not discussed: Bastard Out of Carolina, Better Than Before, The Long Haul: A Trucker’s Tale of Life on the Road

This was an off month for them, especially the child. She usually does a pretty good job of deciphering plots simply based on covers. Or she goes WAY off the deep end and isn’t even close. Like when she asked when I was going to read To Kill a Mockingjay. 

I cannot. 

Show Us Your Books, June 2017

No clever introduction, just straight to the book talk because it’s summer and there’s no school and my time is at a premium before I have to drive the child from one place to the next. Don’t forget to visit my co-host, Steph, and some of the other participants. Next one is July 11th.

Confessions by Kanae Minato. OMG. Insane and intense and weird and FUCKED UP and twisted and constantly full of surprises and the end was jaw dropping and one that I definitely did not see coming. Nothing was predictable at all. It’s a little hard to stomach given the nature of the plot but worth it. The author’s bio is pretty interesting, too, and I’m really curious to see the movie adaptation. 

A Colony in a Nation by Christopher L. Hayes. This is a big, important book which has even more meaning having read The Hate U Give in the same month (that wasn’t intentional, though). It’s short but packs so much thought provoking, rage inducing, well researched and personal experience/commentary that you could write a book just reviewing it. It’s both an exploration and an indictment of the disparities in our criminal justice system that regardless of political leaning you need to read it. Some of it will make you uncomfortable but you need to feel that way in order to comprehend the depths of the points he makes. 

Burntown by Jennifer McMahon. A supernatural thriller that both bored and captivated me. It fluctuated between gripping, interesting, and twisty and weird and annoying. It teetered on having too much plot and too many characters but at the same time needing them all to tell the complete story. The writing was strong and creative even if the plot was too big. It passed the time just fine but if it’s on your TBR, don’t rush to bump it up. 

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. This is a beautifully written book about love and obligation and war and refugees and migration and what happens to people and relationships when they’re forced into horrifying, extraordinary circumstances and while it takes place in modern times it could have been set in any decade. The realness and emotion come through on every page. It’s a short book but was a slow read for me. Not my favorite but I’m glad I read it. 

The Unbanking of America: How the New Middle Class Survives by Lisa Servon. This book tries to do for banking what Nickel and Dimed did for the working poor and Evicted did for housing except this one fell a little flat. It’s informative, well researched, mostly unbiased, and exploratory but focused slightly more on policy than consumers. I wish she’d spent time living as an unbanked person using the services as well as working at a few places and interviewing people. This would have provided a more well rounded picture and might have been more impactful. 

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. This book is a fucking masterpiece. There is no other way to describe it. She eloquently gives a voice to those who don’t generally have a leading role voice in literature, the story is powerful in ways I can’t adequately describe, and in the same way The Outsiders changed YA 50 years ago, this book will change things. It will make you angry, it will make you think, it will make you sad, and it’s impact is best represented by its last page (I apologize for how tiny it is but the photo editor won’t let me make it bigger which is a phenomenal pain in the ass):

The Joy of Leaving Your Shit All Over the Place by Jennifer McCartney. I love the concept behind this book, another parody of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, that it’s okay to have things and stuff everywhere and not have an immaculate house and her thoughts on Tidying Up echo mine but her humor and sarcasm are grating. I am no stranger to cursing and I’m not prude but her constant sex references became annoying and took away from her point of giving people permission to lighten up and not take minimalist culture so seriously. 

Homesick for Another World by Ottessa Moshfegh. I read her novel Eileen last year and enjoyed it more for her gorgeous writing than the story about an absolutely horrible person. This book of short stories is similar. Her writing is absolutely superb but every character is miserable and awful and insufferable and tragic. And she has an unexplained contempt for fat people that’s featured in almost every story. I get wanted to explore the less than perfect, and I appreciate it, but it’s morose and depressing.

The Widow of Wall Street by Randy Susan Meyers. DNF. If you know the story of Bernie Madoff, you know this book. Like straight up his and his wife’s story. And her fictionalization of some things was boring as fuck and I didn’t care about any of it or any of the characters and her writing isn’t for me. Her book Accidents of Marriage was decent. This one was not. 

TL;DR: The Hate U Give. Read it. Read it. READ IT.  A Colony in a Nation and Confessions are also worth a read. The others are optional depending on your taste.

On tap this month for me: Bastard Out of Carolina, In the Shadow of Alabama, The Long Haul: A Trucker’s Tale of Life on the Road, and a few others including some NetGalley books. That’s the plan, anyway. Who knows what’ll actually happen?

Now it’s your turn! Let us know what you’ve been reading! 

 

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