Jana Says

Living life from cover to cover

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!

 Loading InLinkz ...

resized signature 2

Judging Covers with The Family: Two months in a row!

Time for another round of Judging Covers! This one should prove to be even more interesting because a) I couldn’t remember the title of one of the books I plan to read and b) my husband actually bought me one of these and claims to not know what it’s about.

I think he lies. 

Let’s see what they have to say. And if you like any of the books below, click on the cover image to go right to the Goodreads page for that book. No searching necessary. 

The child says: A poor little girl who lives in a small falling apart house in like a field and her parents don’t treat her very well and her dad is constantly working and her mom isn’t nice to her. It takes place around the 1900s, maybe the 1800s.

The husband says: A young girl from the Mississippi Delta and it’s about her growing up poor.

Goodreads says: Follows the Hess family in the years after World War I as they attempt to rid themselves of the Anti-German sentiment that left a stain on their name. But when the youngest two daughters vanish in the middle of the night, the family must piece together what happened while struggling to maintain their life on the unforgiving Iowa plains.

In the weeks after Esther and Myrle’s disappearance, their siblings desperately search for the sisters, combing the stark farmlands, their neighbors’ houses, and the unfamiliar world of far-off Chicago. Have the girls run away to another farm? Have they gone to the city to seek a new life? Or were they abducted? Ostracized, misunderstood, and increasingly isolated in their tightly-knit small town in the wake of the war, the Hesses fear the worst.

The child says: This one is about a…like a murder mystery type of book. It’s about a kid’s brother who goes missing somewhere and he is looking for him even in the most dangerous places until he finds out he’s dead. 

The husband says: I think it’s about…hmmm….long silence…someone’s brother who lives in the middle of nowhere who gets into trouble and the other brother or sister has to come help him in the backward ass world the brother lives in. 

Goodreads says: Deep in the heart of Appalachia stands a crooked farmhouse miles from any road. The Morrows keep to themselves, and it’s served them well so far. When girls go missing off the side of the highway, the cops don’t knock on their door. Which is a good thing, seeing as to what’s buried in the Morrows’ backyard.

But nineteen-year-old Michael Morrow isn’t like the rest of his family. He doesn’t take pleasure in the screams that echo through the trees. Michael pines for normalcy, and he’s sure that someday he’ll see the world beyond West Virginia. When he meets Alice, a pretty girl working at a record shop in the small nearby town of Dahlia, he’s immediately smitten. For a moment, he nearly forgets about the monster he’s become. But his brother, Rebel, is all too eager to remind Michael of his place.

The child says: Oh, I know what this one is! You’ve talked about it before! So it’s about all these 80s movies and these people writing letters to them. I forget some of it but it’s a love letter to 80s movies. Me: That’s what it says on the cover. Child: Yeah…it gives it away. #smartass

The husband says: I think there’s a particular aspect to 80s movies that is unique to that time period and this person is writing about the uniqueness about that time period while showing the iconic The Breakfast Club closing scene. Me: John Bender! Child: The Criminal! #proudmama #ihavedonemyjob

Goodreads says: From the fictional towns of Hill Valley, CA, and Shermer, IL, to the beautiful landscapes of the “Goondocks” in Astoria and the “time of your life” dirty dancing resort still alive and well in Lake Lure, NC, ’80s teen movies left their mark not just on movie screen and in the hearts of fans, but on the landscape of America itself. Like few other eras in movie history, the ’80s teen movies has endured and gotten better with time. In Brat Pack America, Kevin Smokler gives virtual tours of your favorite movies while also picking apart why these locations are so important to these movies.

The child says: A memoir in 21 songs. 

The husband says: It’s about 21 songs and the guy is holding a CD player! Me: What does that have to do with anything? Husband: Because CDs could only hold 21 songs max. I got the hidden meaning. #imsureyoudid

Goodreads says: In Party of One, Holmes tells the hilariously painful and painfully hilarious tales—in the vein of Rob Sheffield, Andy Cohen, and Paul Feig—of an outsider desperate to get in, of a misfit constantly changing shape, of a music geek who finally learns to accept himself. Structured around a mix of hits and deep cuts from the last four decades—from Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart” and En Vogue’s “Free Your Mind” to LCD Soundsystem’s “Losing My Edge” and Bleachers’ “I Wanna Get Better”—and punctuated with interludes like “So You’ve Had Your Heart Broken in the 1990s: A Playlist” and “Notes on (Jesse) Camp,” this book is for anyone who’s ever felt like a square peg, especially those who have found their place in the world around a band, an album, or a song.

How’d they do? Have you read any of these? 

resized signature 2

Judging Covers with The Family: What edition is this?

This was supposed to happen last week and I think also the week before but bronchitis and forgetful and my family’s schedule often sucks. So, better late than never.

Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett

The Child says: It’s about someone who doesn’t like their life so far and what’s happening to them and they come across this place and they start to imagine themselves gone and away from everything. 

The Husband says: Seems pretty self explanatory. About someone who says imagine me gone and the other person says no, I don’t want to do that. They’re like the other half.  

Goodreads says: When Margaret’s fiancé, John, is hospitalized for depression in 1960s London, she faces a choice: carry on with their plans despite what she now knows of his condition, or back away from the suffering it may bring her. She decides to marry him. Imagine Me Gone is the unforgettable story of what unfolds from this act of love and faith. At the heart of it is their eldest son, Michael, a brilliant, anxious music fanatic who makes sense of the world through parody. Over the span of decades, his younger siblings–the savvy and responsible Celia and the ambitious and tightly controlled Alec–struggle along with their mother to care for Michael’s increasingly troubled and precarious existence.

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

The Child says: I think it’s about a family from a prairie and they’re traveling to Oklahoma to start a new life but it’s not how they expected it and the book is about what happened to them. 

The Husband says: By the looks of it, it’s about being out on the prairie because they’re growing wheat and it’s all the good things and bad things of farm livin’.

Goodreads says: As the daughter of a meth dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents. Struggling to raise her little brother, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible “adult” around. She finds peace in the starry Midwestern night sky above the fields behind her house. One night everything changes when she witnesses one of her father’s thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold, wreck his motorcycle. What follows is a powerful and shocking love story between two unlikely people that asks tough questions, reminding us of all the ugly and wonderful things that life has to offer.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

The Child says: It’s about a woman or teenager who is does have a lot of problems with herself and she doesn’t get very much help from her family and she has 13 reasons why she has these problems and what’s going on in her life that she can’t get rid of them. 

The Husband says: It’s about a woman who has a lot of problems and she doesn’t get rid of her problems because she has 13 reasons why she can’t. (Slams book down, confident that he got it right)

Goodreads says: Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker–his classmate and crush–who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why. Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.

Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

The Child says: It’s about a place like out West and there are some crazy people who live there but the reason why they’re crazy is because the place is haunted and throughout the time they’re in the house, they start to develop ghosts in their mind and it’s about their adventure in a haunted house. 

The Husband says: Let me tell you about this book. It’s about a crazy person who’s schizophrenic who has all of these ghosts or people who aren’t real in their head and how they view things. 

Goodreads says: To her parents’ despair, the doctors are unable to stop Marjorie’s descent into madness. As their stable home devolves into a house of horrors, they reluctantly turn to a local Catholic priest for help. Father Wanderly suggests an exorcism; he believes the vulnerable teenager is the victim of demonic possession. He also contacts a production company that is eager to document the Barretts’ plight. With John, Marjorie’s father, out of work for more than a year and the medical bills looming, the family agrees to be filmed, and soon find themselves the unwitting stars of The Possession, a hit reality television show. When events in the Barrett household explode in tragedy, the show and the shocking incidents it captures become the stuff of urban legend.

Fifteen years later, a bestselling writer interviews Marjorie’s younger sister, Merry. As she recalls those long ago events that took place when she was just eight years old, long-buried secrets and painful memories that clash with what was broadcast on television begin to surface–and a mind-bending tale of psychological horror is unleashed, raising vexing questions about memory and reality, science and religion, and the very nature of evil.

Jana says: I really have no idea how I stacked all these mental illness books into one month of reading. Should get interesting.

How do you guys think they did?

 

resized signature 2

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!

 Loading InLinkz ...

 

 

resized signature 2

January spending freeze results and February’s challenge

Roughly a month ago, I shared that I was doing a spending freeze in January. The purpose was to regain mindful control of my spending. This didn’t mean I couldn’t spend money; it simply meant there had to be a reason for it and if I couldn’t give myself a good enough reason, or there was no point other my own laziness or inability to control myself, I prohibited myself from the purchase. I didn’t care about savings or anything else other than getting back into the habit of paying attention to my money. 

I gave myself 3 rules:

  1. Don’t spend money on unplanned expenses
  2. Gift cards are cheating
  3. Stuff other people buy me is not (ex., husband bringing me coffee)

That’s it. That’s all I had to do. Not difficult at all, right?

Right. 

So let’s talk about how I did. 

I did buy some things:

  • 1/5ish (I forgot to write down the exact date but it was early in the month): $26.99 at Ulta. This was for gigantic bottles of my shampoo and conditioner that ordinarily run around $28/bottle and were on sale plus I had $9.50 in coupons and reward points. I now do not have to buy shampoo or conditioner until maybe the summer since I had bought two bottles at the same price at the end of December. 
  • 1/9: $12 for a subscription to The New Yorker. I read a ton of articles from this magazine and I was tired of running out of my monthly free ones. So now they come to me, unlimited.
  • 1/13: $255 for tickets to see Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden. I know. It’s a lot for a concert. But it’s item #2 on my life to-do list to see Billy Joel at home (I’ve seen him in Philly twice) because growing up in New York, he’s basically a religion. When the tickets became available, we bought them without thinking twice. 
  • 1/14: $12 on a bow keychain for my daughter. She’s a cheerleader. We were at a competition. This happens sometimes. I think I was also still on my Billy Joel high because I ordinarily have zero problems telling her no.
  • 1/25: $2.39 for an iced coffee and $14.40 for a book (Bottomland by Michelle Hoover). The coffee because I just wanted it and the book because it’s not available at my library in any form except audiobook and I don’t do those. I also supported a local indie bookstore by doing so. 

Total without concert tickets (I’m not including them since they were planned for; I just wasn’t sure when we’d actually be able to buy them): $67.78

I’m completely pleased with how I did and since the point was to fix a bad habit, I’d say I succeeded. I don’t see myself going back to what I was doing because it didn’t leave money for the things I actually want to buy and now it’s there. 

Which is awesome. 

30 Day Challenge #2

With that out of the way, let’s talk about my February challenge. 

This month, I’m not so much aiming to fix a bad habit but more to use up what I have and get my reading pile back down to something normal (rather than the impending avalanche that lives on my nightstand). To accomplish that, I’m going on a library diet. 

It’s true. 

For the next 30 days, I am not allowed to put a book on hold (the ones that are currently there are fine), get books from NetGalley, Kindle First, friends (except one from Steph that we talked about last month), or anywhere else. I currently have 6 library books on my nightstand, 5 more on hold, 4 NetGalley books, and roughly 2394370 books I’ve bought. It’s out of hand and I need to rein it in. I have no shortage of what to read not to mention my stacks are anxiety inducing and I’m three books short of having to move my nightstand lamp to the floor to make room. 

If I’m being honest, I’m panicked as hell at the thought of not putting books on hold but it’s become a legit problem. I read fast but not that fast and book FOMO is real. I used to not care and now I care too much. I need to stop caring and read what I want, when I want. 

February’s challenge should help with that. 

That’s it. Wish me luck!

Have you ever done a library diet? How’d it go? Any helpful hints?

resized signature 2