Jana Says

Living life from cover to cover

Tag Archive: Show Us Your Books

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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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? 

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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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