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Author Archive: Jana

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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Weekly six pack, 2017, v17

Recapping this week in light of Comey’s testimony which I’m still trying to process and I don’t think I can comment on until I have my thoughts together. I don’t even know how long that’ll take because shit just got real. Like, really real. 

Reading. Finished The Joy of Leaving Your Shit All Over the Place. Currently reading The Widow of Wall Street and Homesick for Another World. Picked up A Brief History of Seven Killings, Better Than Before, and The You I’ve Never Known. Hitting pause on NetGalley for awhile. Show Us Your Books on Tuesday!

Watching. House of Cards and The Path. Both insane in their own ways and both highly recommended. OITNB, I’m coming for you this weekend. 

Eating. Well, drinking. Cold brew coffee made with Steph’s instructions. It took a few tries but I think I finally found the right ratio (for me) of water to coffee. This makes me happy and it makes my wallet happy since I can stop hitting DD every day.

Preparing. For another round of Whole30. Things have gotten a bit out of control around here and the weight loss has stagnated so it’s time for a reset. This is a great month for me to do it since I have no major plans except for a few days at my parents’ house. If you have a favorite recipe that’s Whole30 compliant, please share it with me. I don’t want to get bored with the same 5. 

Reminding. You to join this giveaway. There’s an Amazon gift card and 100 copies of a book up for grabs!

Laughing. 

Hope you all have a great weekend! We’re finishing my birthday week with a Shawshank escape room and dinner at the beach followed by a cheer fundraiser (because God forbid we go a weekend without cheerleading). See you on Tuesday for the best book day of the month!

 

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It’s my birthday and I’ll philosophize if I want to

I KNOW! A Monday post from me! But it’s my birthday and I do what I want. 

So, a few weeks ago, someone found my site by searching for “don’t give a fuck anymore”. I hope they meant it in a good way, like the Sarah Knight Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck way and not in a mental health depression way because that makes me concerned and I hope they’re okay, but either way, this is clearly a topic that’s near and dear to my heart. I know I’ve written about things I don’t care about before (you can read a couple of my favorites here and here and here) but in honor of my 40th birthday, here’s yet another incomplete list of things that I’ve learned are completely unimportant and a list of things that are and they’re in no particular order or even separate lists or because that’s how my mind works now. 

  • How much money you make. I’ve met rich people who are stingy assholes and poor people who would give you their last and only sandwich. It’s not about how much money you have. It’s about what you do with it and how you treat people. 
  • Speaking of money, if it’s not my budget, it’s not my business. I give zero fucks about how other people choose to spend their money and you will get zero judgment from me if you make a choice I wouldn’t. I might not understand your choice or make that one for myself but I don’t have to live with your wallet. 
  • Your religion. Okay, that sounds wrong. But what I mean is that I don’t care who or what you worship, or if you worship at all, because it genuinely doesn’t matter to me. We can be friends regardless as long as you’re not harming anyone or leading a cult. 
  • What you feed your kids (if you have them). Are they fed? Good. 
  • Speaking of kids, it’s unimportant to me how many you have or if you have them at all. I love my non-parent friends as much as my parent friends and I also believe that having kids doesn’t make you superior to anyone and that having 5 kids doesn’t make you superior to those with 1. It’s not a fucking contest. It does take a village so let’s all work together to raise a generation of caring, compassionate, driven, helpful, decent people. 
  • Comparing myself, my situation, my progress, my kid, my anything to anyone else. I do me. You do you. There’s room for all of us to succeed and be happy. I’ve said it before and it bears repeating: success is not a finite resource. It’s not cake. 
  • Take risks. Or don’t. It’s up to you and what you feel comfortable with and I don’t care one way or the other. I just want you to be happy with your choices and if you want to do something that scares you, I’ll be there to support you. I will encourage but never pressure and if staying in your comfort bubble makes you happy, then I’ll support that, too. 
  • One more thing about kids and this one is preachy rather than an important vs. unimportant musing. If you choose to have them, remember that they are not there to fix your past mistakes or live your missed opportunities. They are their own people with their own minds and interests and gifts and talents. Your kids’ accomplishments are your kids’ accomplishments. They are not yours. Be proud of them, encourage them, and provide options and opportunities as time and money allow for it. But let them make their own choices. 
  • Social status, or perceived social status, is an absolute load of shit. We don’t live in a caste system, no one is better than anyone, and how you treat animals, service and retail workers, and the elderly will tell me more about you than anything else.  
  • Other’s opinions of you, at the end of the day, don’t matter. It means nothing to me if someone thinks I’m fat or lazy or the grammar police or a terrible mother or a good mother or funny or anything else. I have to look in the mirror at the end of the day and be okay with myself and how I lived that day. 

For more of what I believe, you can also read my 14 Commandments, life lessons from my grandfather, and 38 pearls of wisdom (I wrote that on my 38th birthday). 

Let me be clear that my beliefs, my thoughts, and my opinions are fluid and when I turn 50, they might change. Most likely not but I’m open minded and I’m willing to see what the next 10 years have in store. 

And now that my brain is exhausted from all this deep stuff, I will eat carrot cake and take a nap because that’s how you celebrate your birthday when you’re 40.

Some summer book recommendations and a giveaway!

The weekly six pack will return next week but at least this week it’s not here because of books. Seriously, what better way to interrupt a schedule than with books? 

This is my second year joining these ladies and I have to say, this year’s giveaway is even better than last year’s. So that’s nice. Also, I had to submit my pick before I finished The Hate U Give and while I’ll review it in full on Show Us Your Books day (June 13th), let me say that I would have selected that one instead. 

And now, the giveaway.

Friends, you know we love our books around these parts! We love sharing our latest picks and favorite finds through our monthly virtual book club, and we LOVE hearing what YOU think as we break it all down. One of the coolest parts of our book club year is partnering with blogging friends at the kick-off of summer and compiling a list of the best summer books and why we think you’ll love them. In addition to sharing our picks, we celebrate the start of summer reading in a big way–with a fantastic giveaway for a $250 Amazon gift card and EIGHT free books! So tune in below for the 20 Best Summer Books List and then make sure to enter the Rafflecopter at the end for your chance to score big. And this year we have a fun bonus–WE ARE GIVING AWAY 100 COPIES OF OUR TOP ALL-TIME PICK too! Wa-hoo!

It's here! The annual list of the 20 best summer books! All come highly recommended and are perfect reads to kick back with this summer! Plus, check out this incredible giveaway--100 copies of ONE book, a $250 Amazon giftcard and a bunch of new beach reads? Enter now!!

20 Best Summer Books:

  1. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Femme Frugality: “Psychology, philosophy and theology have a way of blending together. In this book, psychologist Viktor Frankl relates his experiences as a prisoner in Hitler’s concentration camps, using it as a way to underpin his philosophy that man can get through anything if he assigns meaning to life. Great for anyone going through a difficult time, or anyone who has detached from organized religion but is still seeking the meaning of life.”
  2. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Lindsay of See Mom Click: “If you’ve ever felt like the days are slipping by and you’re just trudging along, The Happiness Project is a must-read. Rubin’s writing really speaks to me, the perfect balance of hard facts and science combined with practical wisdom about proactively making yourself happier and living in the now.”
  3. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver. Wendy of ABCs and Garden Peas: “An inspiring, food-filled story of the Kingsolver family’s adventure as they move to a farm in southern Appalachia and begin living their lives in a way that works with the local food chain. This year’s 10th Anniversary Edition also gives readers a glimpse into how their family has carried their inspiring “real food” journey with them throughout the next decade.
  4. A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline. Mikaela Fleisher of Iris and Honey: “Christina Baker Kline brings an artist and his muse to life in this novel that blends fact and fiction. Based on Andrew Wyeth’s painting, Christina’s World, Kline gives readers a truly beautiful glimpse into the life of the woman behind the painting.
  5. Red Water by Kristen Mae. Kristen Mae of Abandoning Pretense: “An Amazon best seller, Red Water will slither under your skin and stick there. Erotic, raw, and disturbing, and with deeply flawed but relatable characters, Mae’s sophomore novel is a dark, unflinching examination of the psychology of self-loathing and the secret, unspeakable lust for depravity that lies dormant within us all.”
  6. My Lame Life: Queen of the Misfits by Jen Mann. Jen Mann of People I Want to Punch in the Throat: “My Lame Life is a great summer read for teens and adults because it’s a funny and endearing book that is entirely relatable!”
  7. Famished by Meghan O’Flynn. Meghan O’Flynn: “Famished is a bestselling psychological thriller that explores the darkest parts of the human psyche. Hailed as “Thrilling, emotional and depraved,” this novel is one you won’t want to put down.”
  8. Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach. Stephanie of When Crazy Meets Exhaustion: “This one is part cookbook with fabulous, EASY recipes and part narrative by Jenny, fellow frazzled Mama juggling personal and professional responsibilities. When she realizes a family meal is the best shot at quality time with her husband and kids, so begins her journey to make it happen. Witty, relate-able, and educational (I learned how to cook things, you guys!) I went through Jenny-withdrawal when I finished the book!”
  9. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson. Shari of Adore Them pick: “Jon Ronson is an incredible author who combines objective observations with his own take on these experiences. For this book he spent years meeting people who had been subject to public shaming. It is fascinating (& horrible) to see how one tweet could ruin someone’s life.”
  10. The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner. Kim Bongiorno of Let Me Start By Saying: “The story is told in alternating voices of three best friends as they begin their senior year: one knowing she is OUTTA THERE, one being OK with staying exactly where he is because he has his stories to escape into, and one not feeling like he can or is deserving of going anywhere but right where his father’s crimes put him. I felt so many things while I read this, but mostly that I will now read literally anything this author writes from now on.”
  11. The Most Beautiful by Mayte Garcia. Suzanne of Toulouse & Tonic: “I devoured this book about Prince by his ex-wife Mayte Garcia. At first I was afraid it would be exploitive but after reading reviews carefully, I gave it a try. It was so worth it. A great portion of the book is the story of HER life. It’s interesting and insightful. The parts of her life she shared with Prince are handled in a respectful but honest way. I feel like I actually know something about this enigmatic man now. I still miss him but 4 me, it brought a little peace.”
  12. Redemption Road by John Hart. Lydia of Cluttered Genius: “Redemption Road caught me from page one and had me guessing the entire way through. I don’t generally choose murder mysteries or thrillers, but Hart’s novel has me wanting to find the rest of his books to read more!”
  13. Everyone is Beautiful by Katherine Center. Natalie of a Turtle’s Life for Me: “Everyone is Beautiful is a heartwarming and humorous look at one woman’s journey through marriage and motherhood as she tries to find small moments of personal fulfillment. The epiphanies and insights she gains along the way are told in a light-hearted manner, but resonate deeply in a way that will have you thinking about it months later. I read this with my book club and we found we were bringing it up again even a year later, because it struck such a deep chord with us.”
  14. Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda. Dani of Meraki Lane: “I loved this book. It explores so many emotionally sensitive topics – infertility, adoption, motherhood, and interracial marriage – and the author did such an amazing job of jumping back and forth between the United States and India. She described each with such vivid detail, and the story truly encapsulated the meaning of the word ‘family.’ It was an easy, yet complex read, and the ending brought me to tears. I highly recommend this one!”
  15. The Twelves Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti. Jana of Jana Says: “I LOVED this book. Dark and twisted and violent and a thriller complimented with a father/daughter/coming of age story told between alternating POV and bouncing back and forth in time until it all catches up to itself. It’s so well done and well written and I cannot recommend it enough.”
  16. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Kimberly of Red Shutters: “It’s the story of a family, torn apart by slavery. One branch of the family aids in the slave trade in Ghana, later becoming involved in conflict with the British, and finally finding their way to America. The other side of the family is sold into slavery and generations later experience an America of incarceration, poverty, and drug abuse. Despite its challenging subject matter, Homegoing is captivating, an extraordinary story about hope, connection, and loss. I couldn’t put it down, and when it did end, I was disappointed–I wanted more. That’s the sign of an extraordinary book!”
  17. The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles. Janine of Confessions of a Mommyaholic: “This is the beginning of a supernatural, romance YA series that struck all the right notes for me. Honestly, think it could be in the leagues of Twilight or even Harry Potter as the writing was superb. Plus, the storyline was unique, fast moving and heart tugging, as well. Therefore, recommend as the perfect summer vacation read.”
  18. The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian. Rabia of The Lieber Family: “Lianna’s mom has disappeared. The most plausible explanation is that her frequent sleepwalking took her over a bridge to her death. But on closer inspection, that doesn’t really make a lot of sense. And the good looking detective assigned to the case is trying to help, isn’t he? So what really happened? I can’t wait to find out!”
  19. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman. Anne of Once Upon a Mom: “I haven’t read this one yet but it looks amazing! It’s a story about a quirky kid with an even quirkier grandma who, after her death, leaves a a series of letters apologizing to people. I’m looking forward to finding out about all of Grandmother’s secrets!”
  20. City Mouse by Stacey Lender. Carrie of Normal Level of Crazy and Meredith of The Mom of the Year: “This defines a beach read for me! So relatable to our own lives as it is all about mom trying to find out exactly where she fits in the in the scheme of suburbia–all that goes along with it. Plus, when a book is described as ‘The Stepford Wives meets Bad Moms’, how can you go wrong?”

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It's here! The annual list of the 20 best summer books! All come highly recommended and are perfect reads to kick back with this summer! Plus, check out this incredible giveaway--100 copies of ONE book, a $250 Amazon giftcard and a bunch of new beach reads? Enter now!!

And that’s it, friends! Our list of the 20 Best Summer Books you need to kick back with during all the sun-soaked days ahead of us! As promised, the giveaway for a $250 AMAZON GIFT CARD and copies of some of the titles on this list (Red Water, Famished, My Lame Life: Queen of the Misfits, The Sleepwalker, Man’s Search for Meaning, Homegoing and Redemption Road) is below! No better way to keep your reading stash well stocked and you can use the gift card to grab some other titles that are on your own wish list. Sweet!

As long as you are 18 or older, live in the continental United States, and enter before June 16, 2017 at 5:30am EST, you are eligible to win!

It's here! The annual list of the 20 best summer books! All come highly recommended and are perfect reads to kick back with this summer! Plus, check out this incredible giveaway--100 copies of ONE book, a $250 Amazon giftcard and a bunch of new beach reads? Enter now!!

Also as promised, we are tickled to be giving away 100 COPIES of the favorite title our book club has ever read, This is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel! Read the whole post HERE to find out why it is such an exceptional book, and then hop over quickly to enter the giveaway! Thanks to the generosity of Flatiron Books, copies will be sent to the first 100 people who enter the giveaway* (The grand prize winner included! The same giveaway deadline and rules as above apply.) We could go on and on about This Is How It Always Is, but to put it simply: it is important, life-changing, and beautiful. This isn’t just a book you want to read, it’s a book you need to read.

*Note: remember each person can gain multiple entries, so don’t assume that all 100 copies have been claimed when the entries total goes over 100! I will be updating on social media how many copies are left if you want to check in on this as the giveaway progresses!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Thanks for joining us in this kick-off to summer reading celebration with this list of the 20 best summer books! Happy summer and happy reading, friends!

It's here! The annual list of the 20 best summer books! All come highly recommended and are perfect reads to kick back with this summer! Plus, check out this incredible giveaway--100 copies of ONE book, a $250 Amazon giftcard and a bunch of new beach reads? Enter now!!

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***Thank you to Flatiron Books, Jen Mann, Kristen Mae, Meghan O’Flynn, Macmillan Publishers, Anchor Books, Beacon Press and Vintage Books for providing copies of the books for the giveaway. All opinions are entirely our own.***

Book photo in second graphic: depositphotos.com, Image ID:9056658, Copyright:belchonock

Last image credit: depositphotos.com, Image ID:13362963, Copyright:coolfonk

 

Reflections on 6 years

Six (!) years ago today I hit publish on my very first blog post. I barely remember what it was about–something money related, since this started as a personal finance blog–and I remember being nervous as fuck that my writing was now out there for other people to read but I have never once regretted starting it (Since, you know, I don’t believe in regrets). Blogging has taught me more about myself than I could have ever imagined. Not to mention the fact that I’ve met some incredible people, had some amazing experiences, and tried some things I never would have thought I’d try. 

But 6 years is a long time. 

I’m not even sure what I have left to say or do. 

I mean, I know I have plenty. And I want and need to keep saying it. But the blogging world has changed SO MUCH since I started and honestly, I don’t know if I can keep up. Because I don’t give a shit about stats or followers or creating Pinnable images or shareable content or or witty listicles or creating a product or getting sponsors or advertising or whatever it is people are doing now and I suck at catchy titles and SEO and even responding to comments. I JUST WANT TO WRITE. I want to make readers laugh or think or realize they’re not alone or help or some combination of those. Maybe even do things I haven’t thought of yet.

But all that is hard to do when you feel like you’ve become irrelevant. 

Okay, maybe irrelevant is the wrong word. Maybe private is a better one? I don’t know. I feel, lately, that what I have going on in my life isn’t anything people want to read about or I’m not comfortable sharing. Like, for the last 7 months, I’ve been working out and losing weight and I’m down just about 25 pounds. But I’m no weight loss guru, my workouts are whatever classes I take, and I cook the most boring foods around. Hard to turn that into anything worth sharing. And it’s not that I feel people wouldn’t be encouraging or supportive; in fact, I know it’s the opposite. I just can’t wrap my head around the fact that anyone genuinely cares or that it would make a difference to someone else. 

See also: everything else in my life. Hence the quiet and inconsistencies. 

Perhaps this is the lingering effects of depression talking. It is, after all, a lying bastard I’ve been trying to shut up for the past few months. And I know that once the fog has lifted I’ll be back to whatever normal actually is. 

I appreciate all of your patience with me as I work through all of the shit cluttering my head. I know it’s been fairly morose around here when I have managed to string together a few sentences in a row. But I’m trying and while I can’t promise another 6 years, I do know that this isn’t the end. 

Yet. 

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