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Tag Archive: Show Us Your Books

Show Us Your Books, March 2017

Not only is today Show Us Your Books day, it also happens to be the birthday eve for Steph, my amazing friend and SUYB co-host. For those who don’t know, Steph and I have known each other since 1995 when we were freshmen at the University of Delaware, and with the exception of about an 8 year or so period where we lost touch, have been friends ever since. Many, MANY of my college memories involve her and now, as an adult, I could not be more fortunate to have such a fierce, smart, funny, and outspoken friend. Steph, I hope you have the happiest of birthdays and holy shit, how are we 40?

Now, onto the books!

As always, my reviews are copied and/or embellished from my Litsy reviews. You can follow me there if you want but as a warning: it’s boring. Even more boring than my IG account. 

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood. I cannot succinctly review this book. It’s too much, too big, too emotional. The writing is absolutely stellar and the characters’ pain was palpable. Even the annoying characters. The story was incredible and she used multiple POV and time jumping to further plot instead of as a gimmick. The abuse is hard to read and the pedophilia but also love but also still pedophilia is uncomfortable but both are necessary and not gratuitous. This is a strong, gritty book that’ll rip you but make it worth it. 

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. If Looking for Alaska and The Messenger had a book baby, this would be it. A sad, haunting, engaging, sometimes rage inducing fast paced YA book that is a) impossible to put down; b) thought-provoking AF; c) one of those books you reference when people say YA books are just for teenagers; and d) insanely creative. You will feel all the emotions when you read it. Also, it was made into a Netflix series and it starts on 3/31.

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay. I generally do not like horror or paranormal books in any form so reading this was completely outside my comfort zone. It wasn’t a terrible book; it just wasn’t for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the blog posts peppered throughout the book and the ending smacks you in the face–HARD–but the rest was just meh. It passed the time just fine but nothing spectacular. Plus, it became glaringly obvious what was going on and after that, it all seemed dragged out. Except the end. THAT was a surprise. 

Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett. DNF. I picked it up and put it down and picked it up and put it down and repeat about 6 more times. I wanted to like this book but I couldn’t force it. The writing style wasn’t for me, I didn’t like the characters and I genuinely gave no fucks about what happened to them and there are too many others to choose from so I cut it off. 

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. You all know what a TJR fanatic I am so I was thrilled, stoked, dance out of my seat happy to get this from NetGalley. Hands down, this is her best book. It’s a love story, exactly what you’d expect from her, complete with stellar writing and storytelling. But not at all what you should expect. The story is more complex, the women stronger, and she tackles LGBTQ issues, particularly for those of an older generation. Most of all, I loved the statements she made about forgiveness, family, choices, and protecting who and what we love. 

Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano. Holding Smoke was one of my 2016 favorites so when I learned she has more books, I had to read them (sequel reviewed next). This one was a tightly written, smart, engaging thriller that completely threw me at the end. I loved and hated all the characters and I enjoy when a book does that. There were small mysteries within the larger mystery that could have been messy and annoying but weren’t. It’s a YA book, and some parts definitely felt like it, but overall, a great read. 

Nearly Found by Elle Cosimano. If you read The Hunger Games trilogy, you probably adored the first book and when you read the second, scratching your head thinking “I’ve read this before”. That’s how this one felt. Like a rehashing of Nearly Gone. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still good but this one had the same characters and same plot and same types clues and the ending wasn’t as shocking because you saw the twist coming. It was nice to have answers from the smaller mysteries in the previous book but I found myself caring less and wanting new. 

The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion. So, I loved The Rosie Project and DNF’d The Rosie Effect. This one fell in between. It’s chick lit, written by a man with a male protagonist, which is different. But I couldn’t help feel that had it been a female main character doing some of the stuff the male one did, there’d be huge backlash and that bothers me. The musical references and using people’s connections to music made it more interesting but I don’t recommend running out and getting this one. It counts for the Aussie author challenge and I got it from NetGalley. 

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay. A collection of short stories. I don’t want to review this book because it’s everything you don’t expect and nothing you do and I want you to judge it for yourself. Her writing is simply spectacular and usually, when I read a collection of short stories, I can pick a few that stand out or a few I skimmed over. Not the case here. Read every single one and cannot choose a favorite. However, I will caution: if reading about sex makes you uncomfortable, pass on this one. 

TL;DR: Add The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Difficult Women, and All the Ugly and Wonderful Things. Add the others, too. Just not Imagine Me Gone

Now it’s your turn! Link up and show me your books! Nonbloggers, let me know in the comments what you’ve been reading!

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Show Us Your Books, February 2017: The one with no clever title

So, it’s been like 27 weeks since the last SUYB. Well, maybe only 5 but it feels way longer. I’m pretty sure we all know why. WINTER. Winter slows down time. It’s also slowed down my reading mojo to an almost stopped pace. I normally read around 9 books when we go this long but this time, it’s only 7. Six that I finished and 1 was a DNF.  We’ll get that one out of the way first (Hint: most of you aren’t going to be happy with me).

And remember, as always, visit Steph and some of the other bloggers joining us. Nonbloggers, let me know in the comments what you’re reading. 

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly. If you’ve been around here for awhile, you know I generally don’t like historical fiction. However, when it’s a book that everyone raves about, I’ll break tradition and read it. Sometimes it pays off (see: The Book Thief, The Storyteller). Other times it does not. This is one of those latter times. Now. This is not a bad book in and of itself. The writing is strong and it’s an engaging plot. However, for me, it hurt too much to read. For as much as I can handle violence and murder, Holocaust fiction, particularly when it graphically describes what happens inside concentration camps, is something I cannot do. It’s too personal, it goes above and beyond thriller-type murder and violence, and I could not push through it. Because it’s not fiction. Those atrocities actually happened and I could not, for one second longer, read it for the sake of entertainment. I have a feeling it’ll be a long time, if ever, I pick up another book like this. I know myself well enough to know I can’t do it and that I shouldn’t even try.

Moving onto the books I did finish. Reviews, as always, are copied directly from my Litsy reviews.

Kissing in America by Margo Robb. This was a surprisingly touching story about family and grief and love and friendship and finding yourself. Eva didn’t feel like a teenage caricature; she was given real thoughts and feelings and written with respect. It’s a fairly strong story but had Eva not been as likable and relatable, the plot would have felt weaker. She made the book what it was. And the poetry woven in was relevant and meaningful without feeling forced or gimmicky.

Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West. I read this book immediately following the weekend of the Women’s March and it was exactly what I needed at the time. Her unapologetic feminism, intelligence, confidence, humor, courage, honesty…all of it. I’m grateful for her opinions and her willingness to speak them on behalf of herself and all women. I didn’t even mind all the stuff about her personal life. I liked getting to know her along with her opinions. 

Idaho by Emily Ruskovich. SLOW. This book is SLOW. It’s also a beautifully written, poetic, sad piece of art that, at times, bored me to tears. It was almost too artsy and I wanted a concrete story for the whole book. She did weave an intricate, well developed plot filled with sometimes interesting (and often unnecessary) characters but it occasionally droned on (and on and on) for what seemed like beauty rather than story. Which is fine if you’re into that. I am not. And the time jumping made me insane. It was all over the place. ALL OVER. 

The Quickening by Michelle Hoover. Meh. Didn’t love or hate this book. It just was. It started off strong, almost reminding me of Little House fanfic if Laura and Nellie wound up as adult neighbors but then it tapered off into boring and overdramatic. Also really sad. Too sad. Had the book been any longer I  might have quit but the brevity kept me going. It also helped that it really picked up again in the last 30 pages. A well written, mediocre read. 

Blood Men by Paul Cleave. Ah, a refreshing return to my comfort zone. A graphic, fucked up little thriller set in New Zealand. Definitely kept me guessing up until the end, which was nice (usually I figure stuff out. I’m superfun to play Clue with). I love his writing so I figured I’d like this one and it’s nice to be right. If you like thrillers and have a strong stomach for violence, I recommend reading this book.. Oh! And it’ll piss you off, too. 

Get Your Shit Together by Sarah Knight. I loved her first book, The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck, so I clearly had to read this one, too. As someone who struggles more with getting her shit together than not giving a fuck, I quite enjoyed this practical little handbook. I won’t take everything in it as gospel but she has some good insight about goal setting and the keys to getting and keeping your shit together. Plus she’s funny and smart and self-deprecating and doesn’t come across as a know-it-all. This is basically a perfect adulting primer or a book filled with reminders in case you forgot how to adult. Do not read this book if you do not like profanity. 

TL;DR: Read Blood Men and Shrill. I’ll leave the rest to your discretion. 

Also, today is Valentine’s Day. A day I do not celebrate (you can ask me why if you’re curious but it’s not really worth discussing) but because I love books more than most things, I will say that I don’t think SUYB could have fallen on a more perfect day. I love how many of you guys I’ve gotten to know because of our mutual love of books and if that’s not a testament to the power of them, I don’t know what is. Thank you so much for joining me and Steph every month and for always sharing your books and love of reading with us. 

Okay. Now it’s your turn! Link up and show us your books!

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Show Us Your Books, January 2017: The good, the bad, the one that made me feel dumb

Hey, hey, hey, what do we have here? It’s barely a week into the new year and we already have a Show Us Your Books. Because what’s a better way to start the year than with an ever bigger TBR list? 

For those who are new or newish, I run my month from linkup to linkup rather than the calendar month so when you see my list, please know that even though I read relatively quick, I have not read 7 (well, 8) books since the first of the year. I leave that to people like my co-host, Steph. Oh, and the order I list my books is the order I read them and the reviews are directly copied (and sometimes expanded) from my Litsy reviews. You can find me on Litsy if you want; my username is my name (creativity level: 10). I’ve also discovered, thanks to Book Riot, another book app. I’ll share all about that on Friday #suspense

As always, please remember to visit Steph and the other bloggers on the list. If you’re a nonblogger, please leave me a comment with what you’ve read the last month or even a book that you’re excited to read this year. 

We’re All Damaged by Matthew Norman. You know how sometimes you read a book and you love it but there’s no specific reason? That’s how this was for me. I found it funny, smart, touching, amusing, and the fact that it was littered with relevant pop culture references and current events made it that much better. The characters felt real, the plot felt real, and it was more like listening to someone talk about his fucked up life rather than reading a fiction book.

Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta. I adored Saving Francesca so I was crazy excited to read this one. It did not disappoint. A fast paced, well written, intricate thriller that used time jumping as a way to move the plot forward rather than a gimmick. I loved watching the story unfold and I love that she didn’t shy away from the racism and assumptions made amidst crimes like this (a bus bombing). My only gripe is SO MANY CHARACTERS and I couldn’t always keep them straight.

Darktown by Thomas Mullen. It’s a crime novel, a mystery but also so much more than that. It’s set in post-WWII Atlanta, with racism and police brutality and corruption as much of characters as the characters themselves. It’s a commentary on how things have changed but how they haven’t changed at all. There’s crimes within the crimes. It’s a complex, ridiculously well written, intriguing book that keeps you hooked the entire time. I can’t remember how I found this book but I’m glad I did. It’s not an easy read by any standards but well worth it. 

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance. It’s like a mix of The Other Wes Moore and The Glass Castle and a research paper and a family history project. A sociology nerd, I love learning and reading about subcultures and this is a particularly fascinating one given the current climate of the US. Vance highlights a culture full of stereotypes and makes them understandable and explains a lot of “whys” but based mainly on his experience rather than stats and research (which he does use at times but not often). The book provides a ton of food for thought. It’s important to remember that this is a memoir, not a study because it’s an important distinction.

Salvage the Bones by Jessamyn Ward. I fluctuate between recommending this book and not. I mean, the writing is phenomenal. Every scene, you feel like you’re there, breathing the air and sweating and fighting along with Esch. Her description of Katrina is heart stopping and you feel like you’re part of the family. And the relationship between Skeeter and China is incredible. But the dogfighting and puppy stuff was too much for me and it was incredibly repetitious at times. Read with caution.

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple. Somewhere in this busy, annoying, repetitive, rushed story narrated by an insufferable, snobby, bitchy, selfish asshole is a good book. It peeks out at you every once in a while and then retreats. I think those glimpses are what kept me going and not fully hating the book, despite wanting to put it down and walk away several times. There was so much potential in this story that never materialized. I can take an unlikable narrator so that didn’t put me off. The terrible story and plot did.

Private Citizens by Tony Tulathimutte. I honestly don’t know how I feel about this book. On the one hand, the characters and story and plot are amazing. On the other hand, the writing was too much, like the author had to prove that he’s smarter than everyone or just how smart he is. I swear, I didn’t understand a fourth of the words and I have a decent vocabulary. I don’t like fiction that makes me feel stupid, and this book did. The overwriting compromised my enjoyment, even if he did it to make some sort of point I don’t get. 

Bonus book: I’m not counting this in my book total for the year because it’s essentially a throw away book (I got it for free during my free trial of Kindle Unlimited) but I recently learned about the Danish concept of hygge and this book, The Cozy Life: Rediscover the Joy of the Simple Things Through the Danish Concept of Hygge by Pia Edberg, is a pretty good primer/overview of the idea. It’s not anything special or different but it puts an umbrella on self-care, avoiding SAD, and minimalism which is pretty cool. 

TL; DR: Read Darktown, We’re All Damaged, Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil. Hillbilly Elegy if you like that kind of stuff. The rest, proceed with caution.

Now it’s your turn. Link up and show us your books!

 

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Show Us Your Books: The month with amazing books

You voted, right? If not, stop reading this, go vote, and then come back. Unless you live outside of the US in which case, keep on reading. 

I don’t know what happened this month. It’s like the gods and stars of book goodness aligned and sent me a whole bunch of great books all at once. Even the one I didn’t finish was great (you’ll understand when you see my explanation as to why it was a DNF). There’s a TL;DR at the end since I believe there’s 9 or 10 books this month and, as always, the reviews are similar to what you see on Litsy if you follow me there. And, also as always, make sure to visit my co-host, Steph, as well as some of the other bloggers who join us. 

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Alright, friends. Prepare your Goodreads. 

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena. I waffle back and forth between this being awesome or just okay. Because it’s both. At times, it’s a gripping, intense, fast paced thriller and at others it’s a sloppy let’s throw stuff at the wall to see what sticks mess. It became quite predictable so the twist wasn’t really a twist at all and that was disappointing, and the missing baby seemed more like a plot object than point and that got under my skin. But the writing was fine and it’s a wonderful plane/vacation read. It also kept reminding me of the Madeline McCann case, like the author fictionalized or speculated on those events.

Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh. The writing in this book is simply astounding. Probably some of the best writing I’ve read in awhile. However, the story was mediocre and Eileen, the main character, was horrible. I know she’s supposed to be, and the the narrator, Eileen’s elderly self, tells you that up front but she was so insufferable and pathetic it made the book hard to get through at times. The end pay off was decent and if you like character studies, this would be a good choice for you. 

Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina. SO. GOOD. It’s a contemporary historical fiction story set in 1977 New York. Queens, to be precise which, incidentally is where I live following my birth so I was ACTUALLY ALIVE when this story takes place. My parents never talk about the events the story is set against and so it made that part even more interesting to read. Then there’s the compelling, wonderfully written family drama, coming of age, fiction story wrapped in a YA novel you forget is YA. And the pieces of feminism thrown give it that extra kick of awesome. 

Adulting: How to Become a Grown-Up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps by Kelly Brown Williams. As a 39 year old self-described mostly competent adult, I can safely say that had this book existed when I was in my early 20s, it would not have taken me 39 years to become a competent adult. This books is smart, funny, comprehensive, and practical. There isn’t a topic that goes untouched. If there’s a person in your life who’s struggling, at any age, with adulting, give them this book. And then make them read it.

The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay. I know I’m late boarding the bus on this book. I know everyone read it last year. But. OMG. This book ripped my heart apart. I don’t even know how to discuss what a painfully beautiful and heart wrenching story this is. Phenomenally written, too. A lesser writer would have made this a trite, stereotypical YA romance with tortured souls and all that shit. Nope. This was way beyond that. This was intense in the way of All the Bright Places and it will haunt me like that one still does, too. 

Holding Up the Universe. Speaking of Jennifer Niven, this is the book that follows All the Bright Places (it’s not a sequel. Just her next book). It was not a bad book. The characters were interesting and I love her writing but the story wasn’t as strong as I’d hoped. And I would have loved to see less talk of Libby’s weight. It was basically it’s own character and it got annoying. Like she was trying REALLY HARD to prove that fat people are beautiful, too. STOP. We get it. I can’t help but compare this book to Dumplin’, which is similar but executed much better.

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris. FUCKED UP. That’s what this book is. FUCKED. UP. It got predictable at times but then it turned on its head and wasn’t necessarily what you thought would happen. It should come with 8 million trigger warnings because it’s disturbing and depicts emotional, physical, and psychological abuse in an unfortunately realistic manner. But when you think twisted thriller, think of this book. It’s hard to read at times but definitely worth it. Oh, and if you’ve read it and figured out what the fuck he does in Thailand, can you let me know? 

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I don’t have words to do this book justice. And it’s not really my place to do it justice because it’s not about me. This book wasn’t written for people who look like me, although all people need to read it. It’s painful and magnificent and make you think on every page about systemic racism and how it influences and seeps into everything. His writing is superb and framing it as a letter to his son makes it that much more impactful. Read it, read it, READ IT.

Adnan’s Story: The Search for Truth and Justice After Serial by Rabia Chaudry. This was my DNF. I know! It surprised me, too. And please don’t let the fact that it was a DNF for me make you think it’s reflective of the quality of the book. It’s not. If you’ve followed Adnan’s case, you know that Rabia is a passionate advocate for him and the book makes a compelling case against his unjust conviction (and the courts agree, too, so there’s that). But since I was obsessed with Serial and continue to follow what’s happening, the book didn’t really present anything new and it became boring and I had to let it go. 

Bonus book: The Recovering Spender by Lauren Greutman. Ordinarily I don’t review books I read for work purposes for SUYB but this one was worth a mention. If you have a problem with debt or overspending, I highly recommend this one. She talks, very candidly, about her problem and how she and her husband worked their way to a debt free life and her 12 step plan (which is based on the AA plan), is freaking brilliant. She does get a little pushy at times with her website and courses but you can skip those parts without losing context. P.S. She sent me a copy of the book.

TL;DR: You’ll be fine adding any or all of these to your TBR. Not a single one I don’t recommend. But if you limit yourself, definitely add The Sea of Tranquility, Burn Baby Burn and Between the World and Me.

Okay. Now it’s your turn! Show us what you’ve got! Bloggers, link up; nonbloggers, leave a comment with what you’ve been reading. And for those of you who like to plan, next month’s is on December 13 (my daughter’s birthday, incidentally) and there will be a bonus best of linkup later in the month. We’re working out the details. 

 

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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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