Jana Says

Living life from cover to cover

Books

Show Us Your Books: January edition

It’s my favorite day of the month because it’s the day we all talk about books! Yay for books!

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Let’s get right to it.

For this month’s review, I’ve got 6 books for you. I’m in the middle of both As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of the Princess Bride and The Journalist and the Murderer but I didn’t finish either of them in time for today’s post (because naps and football and weekend laziness and I watched Apocalypse Now on Saturday so there went my whole life because holy fuck is that a long movie) so we’ll talk about them next month.

Here’s what we’ll be reviewing today

january books

 

Yes Please by Amy Poehler. Jana Says: Like basically everyone everywhere, I love Amy Poehler. She’s pretty much the best. Same with her book. It was filled with all kinds of personal stories and sound advice and it’s broken it up into sections that sort of made sense together and famous people names but what I loved most about the book was a) she refused to bad mouth her ex-husband and b) the love and passion she clearly has for her family, friends, and career. She comes across just as you’d think she would–confident and humble and hilarious. It’s a great read with one huge downfall. The book weighs about 2390478 pounds. It’s printed on photo paper and it’s freaking heavy. Be careful when picking up this book.

QBQ! The Question Behind the Question: Practicing Personal Accountability at Work and in Life by John G. Miller. Jana says: I read this at the recommendation of my friend Nick who I respect a lot. However. I did not enjoy this book at all. I mean, it’s well written and ridiculously short and has so much potential but rather than full of practical advice, I found it filled with short anecdotes, motivational quotes, and platitudes. Kind of like what you would get at a one day seminar your day job sends you to. There was no depth to the book, even in the chapters that seemed the most promising. I’m upset because the author seems like a genuinely nice guy who wants to help people but for me, the book fell completely flat.

After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Jana says: I finished this book in a day. Correction. A few hours. I love the premise behind the book–a married couple fall out of love with each other and seek to figure out their marriage not by divorce or by affair but by separating and cutting off communication with each other entirely. Or do they? Marriage is freaking hard work and I enjoyed how the book tackled that head on. It’s not always popular to dispel the fantasy of fairy tale marriages or ones that end in disaster and while the ending wasn’t my favorite, the rest of the story made up for it.

Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson. Jana says: I don’t even know how to review this book. If we’re friends on Goodreads, you’ll notice I gave it no stars. That’s not because I hated the book. Not since The Story of Edgar Sawtelle have I both loved and hated a book so much at the same time. I mean, it is an incredibly detailed, intricate, interesting story of a social worker in 1980s Wyoming who is simultaneously trying to find his runaway daughter, deal with a mess of teenage client, and save a survivalist and his son. Completely engrossing. But sometimes, it got to be too heavy, too tedious, too long winded to read. And honestly, I don’t get the 1980s setting. It could have easily taken place in any decade. And as a former social worker type, I truly don’t understand how Pete wasn’t fired for some of the shit he did. 

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult. Jana says: Oh, Jodi Picoult, how I want to quit you. And I almost did a few books ago. But then you churned out The Storyteller and now you gave me Leaving Time and I can’t let you go. What a great story you wove with this one. The ending was the first time one of your books actually caught me by surprise with your formulaic and expected twist and using a teenager, a real, complex teenager, as the narrator means that the next book you write will be on my to-read list. The only part of this book that got a bit tedious for me was the almost preachy tone about the elephants. I get raising awareness but it was too much at times. 

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes. Jana says: I had high, high hopes for this book after reading Me Before You a few months ago, which was probably unfair to the book and the author. And I did enjoy the first part of the book with Sophie and the painting and France and World War I (as a reader, I liked that she chose to set the beginning of the book during WWI. WWII is getting to be an overused setting and it’s almost too easy) and Liv’s sadness and loneliness in the present day are heartbreaking. The back and forth between present and past made for engaging reading but like After I Do, the ending was too easy, simple, and clean. I would have preferred a messier ending to a story like this. 

Now it’s your turn. What did you read this month? Link up below or, if you’re not a blogger, tell me in the comments: 

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Monthly book chat: December edition

 It’s my favorite time of the month. The day we all talk about what books we read! 

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After last month’s book reading blitz, I slowed down for November, only finishing 4 (well, 5 but I’m not reviewing one of them). It averages to one book a week and I’m quite pleased with that. 

Last month, I also told you that I’d review Laura Vanderkam’s 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think because I wanted to work through some of the exercises she recommended. While I fully intended to do those, I maybe sort of definitely didn’t do them, although if I want to prioritize how I spend my time next year, I will (specifically the list of 100 dreams and a time study). But I wanted to share my thoughts on the book.

So, Jana Says: The book is loaded with fantastic ideas and concepts for thinking about how to manage and use your time. After reading this, there’s really no excuse for complaining that you can’t get everything done. It’s all about how you choose to manage your time and being realistic with your goals, plans, and how you’re really spending your days, and it’s essential to figure where you’re spending your time. Does it match with your core competencies? Are you as busy as you think? Questions to think about and answer. However. Many of the ideas and concepts are presented with a very middle to upper class privileged bias, and sometimes it’s hard to see past her entitled attitude. Also, she believes exercise is crucial and as non-negotiable as sleep and eating. She has a point but I felt like she harped on it too much and almost went out of her way to make those who don’t have a regular exercise regimen feel like shit. Recommendation level: High. Even if you don’t read the book, check out her website or Facebook page for related information and downloads for the time study.

Moving on to the books I read this month.

december books

 

 

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. Jana Says: My Rainbow Rowell binge read is finished for the year as this was the last book of hers I needed to read (she’s written 4). This lands as my second favorite, after Eleanor and Park. It turned out to be a very cute, very creative love story that kept me reading long after I should have put the book down and I adored that it took place in the late 90s around the time of the Y2K obsession. I found myself liking all of the characters in the book, which almost never happens, and I want Lincoln to be a real person. Actually, thinking about it, he sort of reminded me of Jim Halpert. John Krasinski would be the perfect person to play him if this book ever becomes a movie.

The Fates Will Find Their Way by Hannah Pittard. Jana Says: After reading her book Reunion, I had high hopes for this book. I should have lowered my standards. Told from the first person plural perspective of a group of boys obsessed with a girl gone missing and her younger sister (which continued into adolescence), I found the book boring and tedious at times and some of her depictions about teenage (and later, adult) boys were stereotypical and cliche and annoying to read. At other times, though, it was weird and engrossing and made me glad I picked it up. I’m glad I read Reunion first because if this was the first book of hers I read, I wouldn’t read any more.

Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little. Jana Says: This was a fun little book. If you’re looking for an intriguing mystery along the same lines of Gone Girl, this is not it (despite what people say). The writing is more immature than Gillian Flynn’s, and the plot gets convoluted, and you don’t feel the same emotions but it’s still a good read for a Sunday afternoon while your husband is watching football and you need something else to do. I liked the almost real-time element of TMZ updates and blog posts and “breaking news” and the submystery of “where did Janie go”. I hated the ending, though. Not in the Gone Girl “I hate this” but I genuinely hated it. I definitely rate it lower because of it.

The Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley Jana Says: I genuinely don’t know how to review this book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, even if the pro-life agenda hidden in the story line bugged me from time to time (it was kind of preachy) but within the context of the story, it makes total sense so I’m willing to let it slide. The backstory between the two main characters was incredibly touching but I found myself getting annoyed with almost all of the characters at one point. The author did a wonderful job of handling the subject of infant loss, giving it the respect it deserves, and the controversial nature of the plot reminded me of Me Before You and some of Jodi Picoult’s books that deal with morally ambiguous (I can’t think of the actual word I want to use), and that makes for interesting reading.

On the December/January list: Yes Please, Leaving Time, Fourth of July Creek, and Why We Broke Up, among others. 

Now it’s your turn. Link up below and share what you’ve read:

 


 

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10 books that changed my life and a giveaway for you!

I think it’s pretty clear that books are some of my favorite things ever. And while I read a lot, I sometimes wonder if I read the “right” books. I mean, there are dozens of classics I’ve never read (even though every year I promise I’ll read some of them) and when I see books like My Ideal Bookshelf, I get so intimidated because a) I’ve never heard of half of the books people mention and b) they seem way above my intellect. And then I get sad.

And that lasts 5 minutes. 

Because even though I might not read the right books, I read the right books for me. That’s pretty much all that matters. 

book quote

So when my friend Sally (who blogs at Tiny Apartment Design) nominated (asked?) me to list 10 books that changed my life, I was first nervous and apprehensive but then excited and enthusiastic. Because I want you guys to know what books have made a difference to me. It’s hard for me to say that these books changed my life, per se, but they have all had a long lasting impact on me and have affected how I think about life, writing, storytelling, and made me feel all the feels (or some combination). 

These are my books in no particular order except the way PicMonkey cooperated:

10 books

  1. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
  2. Rest Rabbit Rest from the Sweet Pickles series
  3. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
  4. Alex: The Life of a Child by Frank Deford
  5. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton 
  6. Late, Late at Night by Rick Springfield 
  7. The Pact by Jodi Picoult (I could also have picked The Storyteller)
  8. Our Town by Thornton Wilder (I know it’s a play but it counts to me)
  9. A Separate Peace by John Knowles
  10. Start by Jon Acuff

 Honorable mentions include:

  • Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
  • The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

I’m sure the list is longer but we have something important to get to. 

Like free stuff.

gift card giveaway

Now that you know some of the books that impacted my life, I want to help you find the next one to impact yours. To do that, and to thank you guys for being THE BEST readers ever, I’m joining with a bunch of other bloggers in a giveaway. From me, you get a $25 gift card to Amazon (my favorite place to shop) and another gift of your choice, not to exceed $10 (nail polish, Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts gift card, more money to Amazon…whatever you want). Just complete the entry form below and when you’re done, keep reading to see what awesome stuff 8 other bloggers are giving away. You know you want it.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 favorite-things-collage

 1. Ellie: Ellie Petrov / 2. Sarah: Beauty School Drop Out / 3. Shelly: DIY Mama / 4. Karen: Book Delight / 5. Lisa: Expandng / 6. Dean: Mrs. AOK / 7. That’s me! / 8. NJ: A Cookie Before Dinner / 9. Kathleen: Kapachino

Good luck!

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Friday Favorites: Celebrity Memoirs

I’m taking a break (again) from my normal Friday Favorite format (hooray for alliteration!) to bring you a special edition. This time, we’re focusing on books. Specifically celebrity memoirs. 

I love a good memoir. Not a huge fan of biographies, although I do have Jim Henson’s and Steve Jobs’s on my bookshelf, waiting to be read, but a good celebrity memoir can make for an interesting and fun read. Some are really well done. Others, not so much. It does get on my nerves a bit that we’re getting to a point that if you’re even a quasi-celebrity, you’ll write a memoir because that’s just what you do (ignoring the fact that you might not be all that interesting. Like me. If I ever become famous, I will not write a memoir because it would be the most boring one of all time. I’d call it Vanilla With Sprinkles (which, incidentally, was what I was planning on naming this blog before I came up with stand out, creatively superior “Jana Says”)). 

I don’t think everyone needs to write a memoir. Which is why I’m happy to weed out the good ones and make some recommendations. Life is too short to read crappy books.

 

A note before we get started: there are many, MANY celebrity memoirs I have not read so this list is culled only from ones I have read. There are a number that are on my to-read list and we’ll get to those at the end of the list. Also, there are a bunch of memoirs that I have read that I loved but are not included in the list because they were not written by celebrities but I think you should read them anyway (ex., Adam Shepard’s Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream, Jenny Lawson’s Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Dave Cicirelli’s Fakebook: A True Story. Based on Actual LiesJared Dillion’s Street Freak: Money and Madness at Lehman Brothers, Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, Rob Sheffield’s Love Is a Mix Tape and Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture. This is turning into quite an extensive list. Maybe it needs its own post.)

In no particular order, here are my favorite celebrity memoirs so far: 

tony danza

Tony Danza. I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had. I know. Tony Danza? How could this possibly be enjoyable? But trust when I say that reading about his experience as a teacher for a year in a Philadelphia public school is time well spent.

nikki sixx

Nikki Sixx. The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star. Every kid who takes health class should be required to read this because it’s the most accurate, honest depiction of drug addiction I have ever read. It’s amazingly engrossing and disturbing and you find yourself (often) wondering how he survived.

rick springfield

Rick Springfield. Late, Late At Night. You guys already know how much I love this book. I’ve gushed about it before and there’s no way I wasn’t including it. 

the glass castle

Jeanette Walls. The Glass Castle. I don’t know that she necessarily qualifies as a celebrity but this book was so damn fantastic I’m highlighting it. This book made me feel all the feels: sadness, anger, hope, laughter–the whole gamut. When you can hit the whole range like that, you’re a book that needs to be read. And it’s apparently in development to be a movie with Jennifer Lawrence. 

Honorable mentions: Tina Fey’s Bossypants, Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out with Me?, and Joe Pantoliano’s Asylum: A Memoir About Hollywood, Mental Illness, and Being My Mother’s Son.

Coming up: Amy Poehler’s Yes Please, Cary Elwes’s As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride, and Danielle Fishel’s Normally, This Would Be Cause for Concern

#sorrynotsorry for all the links

In addition to everything mentioned here, there are dozens of memoirs I’ve read or have marked to read and I’ll probably do a follow up post to this some time next year. 

 Which ones do you guys recommend or think I should add to my ever growing list?

Coming up on Monday: More cheer mom series. Most likely a list of what to expect when you become a cheer mom.

Have a great weekend!

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Linking up with Amanda

Friday Favorites

Monthly book chat: November edition

Today’s post is all about books. Because today is the day you show us your books!!! And it’s also the day Steph and I share with you the books we’ve read over the last month.

book button linkup

Last month was a busy month, reading-wise for me. I not only blew past my Goodreads reading goal of 37 books but I added a bunch more. In fact, I read 8 books between the last books post and this one. I don’t know exactly how it happened except for telling you guys upfront that I read a bunch of not very long, YA books and I can typically polish off those in a day, maybe two. And I also had a ton of waiting time at appointments and cheer and tumbling practices and since I didn’t have errands to run, I read. 

I don’t expect this coming month to be as productive, reading-wise.

Of the books I read, I LOVED one (Me Before You), I really liked a couple, and the rest were just average. Unlike last month, there wasn’t one particular book that I hated, which is nice, but I don’t know that I’d highly recommend most of them. If you have a hole in your reading schedule, or you need a book to read on a moderately long plane ride, then they’d be good; they’re filler books. 

november books

Let’s get more specific:

  1. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. Jana Says: I loved this book. It’s powerful and sad and uplifting all at the same time. It turned out to be a timely read, with the Brittany Maynard story being front and center in the news, but I’m confident I’d feel the same way even if it hadn’t been relevant. Recommendation level: High. Read it ASAP.
  2. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. Jana Says: I adored the story and plot of this book. So different from anything I’ve read lately. I did struggle at times as I couldn’t stop thinking of Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory narrating the book, and that bothered me. And Rosie sort of reminded me of Penny (a dark version of Penny. But Penny) and thinking of Sheldon and Penny together got disturbing. But it was good enough that I put the sequel on hold at the library. I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!!! Recommendation level: High. Read it soon. 
  3. Looking for Alaska by John Green. Jana Says: This is one of the books I read in a day. John Green (who is so freaking awesome I can’t stand it) is a compelling storyteller and not only does he make you feel all the feels, I love that he makes teenagers complex and weird and smart and stupid; everything teenagers actually are. This book wasn’t nearly as sad as The Fault In Our Stars but if you’re not careful, it can make you a tad weepy. If this is ever a movie, I’d totally see it. Recommendation level: High. Great for a Sunday afternoon.
  4. Magnificent Vibration by Rick Springfield. Jana Says: Remember how I freaked out over Rick Springfield’s memoir? Well, imagine how excited I was to learn he wrote fiction. Then I read the book. And my balloon deflated. It’s not that it was a bad book, per se, but the story jumped around too much and some of the sections bugged me because they were annoying to read, although everything did eventually come together. Also, the narrator’s tangents about his…manly fantasies got to be bothersome. I truly wanted this book to be better. Recommendation level: Moderate. If you want something different and don’t mind lots of discussion about masturbation, have it.
  5. Reunion by Hannah Pittard. Jana Says: I learned about this author from Buzzfeed Books and she seemed interesting so I thought I’d give her latest book a try. The premise of the books isn’t anything special but the way she writes her characters definitely is. The narrator has alcohol, money, and relationship issues (she talks quite a bit about her credit card debt and her infidelity) and while you hate her at times, you feel for her, too. I wholly enjoyed reading her story. It’s a quick read, too. Recommendation level: High. Winner for main character who seems like a real person you could know.
  6. Landline by Rainbow Rowell. Jana Says: After loving Eleanor and Park and Fangirl, this one sort of disappointed me. I mean, I loved that she finally wrote about adults, and like John Green, she’s a wonderful storyteller, but I had a hard time buying the relationship between Georgie and Neal (the married main characters) which made it difficult to truly appreciate their struggle and their story. Recommendation level: Moderate. Don’t expect Eleanor and Park awesomeness in this one.
  7. If I Stay by Gayle Forman. Jana Says: I almost never say this but I think if I’d seen the movie, that would have been good enough. This book stood out for me only for it’s sappy YA cheese and the author really needs to learn from Rainbow Rowell and John Green how to write teenagers so they don’t sound like oversimplified assholes. However. There were parts of the story that were quite sweet and well written, and she wrote the family dynamics realistically and the out of body narration made for an interesting read. Recommendation level: Moderate. Or just watch the movie. I’m pretty sure it covers everything.

 
The eighth book I read this month was Laura Vanderkam’s 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think but I’m going to wait until next month to review it. I gave it 3 stars on Goodreads however, there are a few exercises I want to try before I review it for you guys. They might change my mind.

So there you have it. All my October books, laid out for you in all their glory. Now it’s your turn. Show us your books (and nonbloggers, tell me your favorite or least favorite book in the comments):  


 

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