Jana Says

Living life from cover to cover


Show Us Your Books–May edition

IT’S TIME TO SHOW US YOUR BOOKS!!! Although, I think I misrepresent what month I’m actually discussing because I’ve been using the month I publish the post instead of the month I read the books in. Not sure why I do that. Also, do you love that I used the word “month” 3 times in that sentence?

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I’ve said it before but it bears repeating–this is my favorite day of the month. I love learning about what you guys have read, I love stocking up my to-read list even more, and I love sharing with you what I’ve read. Because books. Books are the best.

This was actually a very slow reading month for me. I blame my weeklong vacation for part of it but I also realized I spent a lot of time reading in-depth investigative pieces. While some people indulge in magazines as a balance to books, I enjoy investigative journalism. It feeds my need to learn differently than books do and, since I’m not currently working, it helps keep the “smart” part of my brain sharper. I’ll link to some of my favorite stories in my Friday recap because today we focus on books. 

Here’s what I read:

That Night by Chevy Stevens. I liked her book Still Missing which prompted me to read this one. I read it in an afternoon. It reminded me of Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places but less…dark. Don’t get me wrong. This is still a dark book. But it’s a little lighter at heart, if that makes sense. It tells the story of a woman and her boyfriend sent to prison for the murder of her younger sister, and how they try to prove their innocence one they’re released from their 15 year sentences. The high school bullying part of the story is hard to read but, unlike in some other books, the bullying is integral to the plot. It’s a fast paced, engaging story and I highly recommend the book although, disclaimer, I read this book in the days following my miscarriage and it provided the distraction I needed from crying and staring at the walls so my opinion might be a bit skewed. 

Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America by Linda Tirado. Warning: Long review ahead. I could have written an entire series of posts on this book. I remember reading the viral essay that prompted her to write the book (and capitalize on going viral by starting a Go Fund Me campaign, which, if you have a spare 15 minutes, take the time to read it. It’s helpful, along with her original essay, to put her background into perspective if you plan to read the book), and, given my interest in poverty issues, prompted me to read it. The book is a fascinating read and introduces a firsthand perspective into being part of the working poor that I’ve never read before (well, in book form. There are some long form blog posts that are just as fascinating). The points that she raises get you thinking but unfortunately, some of the time, the angry, bitter, resentful tone of the book completely overshadows what she’s saying. I get why she’s frustrated but her attacks and overgeneralizations and stereotypes of anyone who’s not poor or working poor gets really old really quick. Her presumptions towards the middle class and “rich” (a term she overuses) are just as rude and obnoxious as the attitudes she’s trying to combat. She doesn’t want anyone in the higher economic classes judging her or her choices yet she does the same thing. She does admit that her observations are based solely on her experiences but throughout the book, she speaks as if she is speaking for the entirety of the working poor so it’s slightly contradictory. Overall, though, I enjoyed the book. I read it in a weekend. The author is intelligent, she’s a great writer, and if she publishes more books, I’ll read them and I do recommend this one if these are the kinds of issues that pique your interest. But be prepared for the vitriolic tone and a plethora of the word “fuck”.

The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books (and Two Not-So-Great Ones) Saved My Life by Andy Miller. Talk about a click bait book title. Honestly, based on his reviews of the books he read, I had a tough time figuring out which ones he loved and which ones he hated because he actually seemed to dislike more than he liked. I also don’t understand the “saved my life part” but that might have something to do with the fact that I stopped reading this book with 80ish pages left. I simply couldn’t take it anymore. The book started out great. He was funny, engaging, passionate, and although I won’t tackle any of the books on his “Betterment List” (that’s what he calls his to-read list. I thought it was a snobby title but whatever), he did make them seem tempting. Then it all stopped. The book became boring and annoying and pretentious and the ridiculously long footnotes became more cumbersome than intriguing. I had to put it down and walk away. 

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. I learned about this book from Lisa and first checked it out from the library in March. I kept getting distracted by other books but this month I finally got around to reading it. It’s a quirky, fun story and the main character, Allan, reminds me of Forrest Gump with his uncanny ability to wind up in a number of historical events (like the Korean War, working at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project). He also has the best luck of anyone ever, managing to escape death, prosecution, and torture more than once. The bouncing back and forth between the modern story got annoying after awhile because I found the modern story much better than the past. Except for the parts with Albert Einstein’s imaginary brother, Herbert. I enjoyed that. I definitely laughed out loud several times, and enjoyed the story once I finally got into it. It did drag at times but overall, it turned out to be a good read and I’d recommend it. 

Up next for me: Saving Francesca, Let It Be, The Storied Life of AJ Firky, The Universe Versus Alex Woods, The Leisure Seeker, True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa, and What Alice Forgot. Should be a busy month.

Separately and not at all related to reading–happy 11th birthday to my first baby, Barkley! He is the most appropriately named dog in the history of dogs and, while he’s slowing down a little in his oldish age, he’s still spunky, cuddly, charming, and he’s not above stealing food off your plate. And he definitely appreciates the value of falling asleep with a good book.

Now it’s your turn. Let us know what you read! Nonbloggers (or anyone that didn’t write a post), leave a comment and bloggers, link up below. And for the organized among us, the next one is June 9:

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Before we get started on today’s post, I want to take a minute to sincerely thank everyone who commented, emailed, or otherwise reached out to me regarding Monday’s post. All of your support and understanding means more to me than I can say and while everyone says they have the best readers, I’m pretty sure I actually do (and I have some of the greatest blogging and real life friends, too). It wasn’t easy for me to write but I’ve never shied away from the ugly parts of my life and if it made even one person feel less alone or encouraged one other person to share their story, then I’m glad I did it. 

Books. You all know I love them. Hell, I co-host a linkup about books so other book nerds like me can talk and spy on one another’s reading lists (next linkup date is May 12 for those who are keeping track). As an avid reader I come across a number of #readerproblems and today, for #HashtagHumpday, we’re going to explore some of them (if you want to read more, check out Problems of a Book Nerd. It’s hilarious and accurate and covers way more problems that I didn’t even think of). Let me know if you relate: 

  1. You put 10 books on hold at the library. They all come in on the same day. #whocanreadthatfast #whatthehell
  2. A book has some words you can’t pronounce so you make up how to say them. Then you see the movie (#gasp) or listen to the audiobook, the actors say it completely different than the gibberish you made up. #ithoughtmyvocabularywasbetter
  3. You read a book and cast the main characters for the movie but then when the inevitable movie is made, the casting people get it completely wrong. #ineedthatjob #mychoicesarealwaysbetter
  4. You have to physically restrain yourself from going into a bookstore or buying books from Amazon. #booksareexpensive #idontneedmore
  5. Books are stashed in every room in your house, especially the bathroom, because you never know when you’re going to need one. #booksareeverywhere
  6. Sometimes you have to pretend to have diarrhea because you really want to finish a good book and you know your family won’t leave you alone otherwise. #poopisagreatexcuse
  7. While we’re discussing using the bathroom as a reading retreat, sometimes you get so engrossed in a book while you’re pooping that you keep reading until your feet fall asleep and then you have to stand up but can’t and you resemble a baby deer and you’re really glad no one else can see you. #pleasetellmeimnottheonlyone
  8. It’s hard to be friends with people who don’t read because you have no idea what to talk to them about. #whatothertopicsarethere
  9. Your bookshelves are organized in a very specific system that no one except you understands and when you buy a new book that disrupts the order, it gives you a major anxiety attack. #organizationiskey #dontmesswiththeshelves
  10. The to-read pile on your nightstand is so huge, it’s actually become a secondary nightstand. #booksarecoasterstoo
  11. Putting a book on hold only to find out you’re 4379276 on the waiting list because your library only orders one copy #whydotheydothat
  12. And this:funny-new-book-eat-bathroom

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Linking up for #hashtaghumpday

#Hashtaghumpday @ Life with Lolo

Show Us Your Books: April edition

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This was a slower reading month for me than usual. Instead of 7-8, I only finished 6. Which is still a lot of books, I know, but I can’t help but feel like a reading slacker. I’ll just have to make up for it in April!

So what did I read? Check ’em out:

The Martian by Andy WeirKristen highly recommended this book to me. I was hesitant because it’s science fiction which, as a general rule, I don’t read. But I’m glad she was persistent because this book was AMAZING!!! I mean, if you take out a bunch of the science, which bored me to absolute tears but the fact that the author has a casual, not too over the top science nerd writing style and the main character, Mark, is a smart ass definitely made up for it. It’s a crazy interesting story that’s not completely outside the realm of reality and that helped me enjoy the book a bit more. Also interesting is the fact that this was originally a self-published eBook that was picked up by a major publishing house and has absolutely exploded. Well deserved, too. 

10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge and Found Self-Help That Actually Worked by Dan Harris–The memoir of a news anchor who had a panic attack live on TV. I liked the book, appreciated his self-deprecating humor and honesty regarding his issues and addictions, but to me, it was more of an advertisement for meditation rather than a memoir. If you’re into meditation, you might appreciate his journey more than I did. 

The Son by Jo Nesbo–I’d had this book on my to-read list for awhile and finally got the eBook. All 500 pages of it. I thought the length was a joke at first. It was not. Now, please understand that I love mysteries and thrillers but this book did not do it for me. It was too long, there were too many characters and subplots and the main story, or a good part of it, was completely implausible. That said, it did keep me interested enough to finish the whole book and I will read more books by this guy. 

Deadline by John SandfordErin talked about this one last month and it seemed like something I’d enjoy since it appeared to be in a similar vein to Nelson DeMille. Which it was. I liked the premise of main plot and found it to be an intriguing, engaging story with just enough humor and violence. The secondary plot? Meh. I could have lived without it OR he could have separated them into two books because both make interesting enough stories to hang out on their own. This a good beach/vacation/summer read. 

Stolen by Lucy Christopher–Loved this book. LOVED. Written from the perspective of a kidnapped teenage girl as a letter to her kidnapper, it was a fantastic story about Stockholm Syndrome that also has me terrified of the Australian Outback because why do all the dangerous things in the world live in Australia? Anyway. I enjoyed how the author portrayed both Gemma and Ty as sympathetic and she made them both complex instead of one dimensional characters which, in this kind of book, was completely possible. And the parts with the camel made me tear up. Read the book and you’ll know what I mean.

Mobile Library by David WhitehouseDisclaimer: I’m not 100% done with this book but I’ll finish it in the next day so I’m writing about it now rather than holding it over because I’m pretty sure my opinion won’t change. So. This book. I will say that it’s well written and descriptive and some of the parts (specifically, the bullying and the abuse and the longing for a mother who left him) were realistic and painful and that’s awesome reading. However. I found the primary relationship in the book–the one between Val and Bobby (who are 40 and 13, respectively)–moderately disturbing, and some of Bobby’s…habits disgusted me. As in, they made me nauseous. I think those two factors swayed my opinion more than they should so maybe if you read this, you’ll like it more than I did because they don’t bother you. 

If I had to pick my favorite from the month, it’d be The Martian or Stolen. Definitely add those to your to-read list (have I mentioned that the flurry of Goodreads activity on SUYB day is such fun to watch?). 

What did you guys read? Let us know! Nonbloggers, leave a comment with what you’ve read this past month.


Interview with a bookworm

If you’ve spent any time on the blog, even if you’re a new reader (as in, this is your first visit), you know I love books. Like, a lot. Among the people I know in real life, how much I love books and reading kind of makes me weird and different and maybe moderately freakish. I’m okay with that, though, because if being a voracious reader is the worst thing people have to say about me, I can live with it. 

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Because of how much I enjoy reading, I get asked lots and lots of questions. So I decided that I’d answer some of them. In an interview. With myself. Enjoy.

So, Jana, you like to read. Can you explain why?

You realize this a ridiculous question, right? How can you not enjoy reading? It’s basically the best thing ever. It’s free entertainment, and there’s so many books, you’ll never run out of choices. You’re never bored with a book by your side. Not only that, reading increases your vocabulary and expands your imagination and makes you a better thinker and also, if you’re socially awkward like me, having a book means you have a reason to avoid eye contact and people in general. reading quote 2

Okay, that all makes sense. But how do you find books to read?

All over the place. I’ll browse best seller lists, list posts from Book Riot and Buzzfeed Books, I check out Amazon recommendations, and I use Goodreads to see what my friends are reading. Social media like Twitter and Facebook are great places to learn about books. I talk to my mom and sister, who read completely different genres than I do.  I also host a monthly books linkup where I get dozens of good recommendations. Having friends who are readers is amazing. And of course I have my standby authors who I can rely on for a new book every year or two.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

It’s hard to say that I have a favorite more than standby ones, as I mentioned. For instance, Jodi Picoult. She had a slump but seems to be coming back to quality books with her last two. I’m a big Nelson Demille fan, although he hasn’t published anything new in awhile. I am also a major fan of John Green which might also have something to do with his Mental Floss videos and YouTube channel as much as it does his books. And some new ones that I’ve been binging on or plan on binging on are Jojo Moyes and Lisa Genova, and then there are a bunch of first time authors who I fell in love with and I will read their new books once they’re published. This is a hard question. 

Sorry about that. Let’s make it easier for you. What’s your favorite book?

Really, you think that’s easier? It’s definitely not. I’ve talked about my favorite celebrity memoirs, 10 books that changed my life, and awhile ago, I wrote my (for now) ideal bookshelf so those are probably good starting points but to pick just one is virtually impossible. However, since you’re asking and if you don’t want to read my other lists (which I totally understand), I’ll say that some of my favorites are Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain, S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park, and Wally Lamb’s I Know This Much is True. Recent favorites are You by Caroline Kepnes, All the Bright Places by Jennifer Nevin, and Stephen Elliott’s The Adderall Diaries.reading quote 5

That’s a pretty eclectic mix. Do you typically read a variety or do you stick to one genre?

While I’m drawn to memoirs and emotional, character driven novels, I do love a good chick lit book or mystery or anything that just seems interesting. I try to keep an open mind when it comes to picking books. In fact, I recently read a sci-fi book (The Martian) at the insistence of a friend and, despite my general loathing of that genre, I liked the book. I’ve read a few westerns and enjoyed them, too (if you want a recommendation, check out Patrick DeWitt’s The Sisters Brothers). If you close yourself off to a particular genre, you don’t know what you might miss. 

Do you watch movie adaptation of books? If you do, what do you think of them? 

That’s a loaded question. For the most part, movie adaptations of books are, in my opinion, horrible. They change the plots, leave out important details, and the characters almost never look or sound like what I picture in my head and it ruins it for me. In fact, there are a number of books I’ve loved that have been adapted into movies and I refuse to watch them. That said, recently, there have been a slew of books made into movies and the adaptations have been fantastic. I don’t know if it has to do with the novel writer being more involved with the movie or better casting or directing or something else. I still consider those exceptions to the rule, though. reading quote 3

Does that include 50 Shades of Gray?

Don’t talk to me about that blight on the face of books. Sorry about that. Okay, let’s get into the quick answer round. 

Go for it.

Does it offend you when people call you a bookworm?

Absolutely not. That’s like me getting offended at someone telling me I have brown eyes. It’s part of who I am.reading quote 4

What do you say to people who state that they don’t have time to read?

I don’t normally say anything. I just smile and silently judge them. I’m sure they do have time. They just choose to use it for other things. Which is fine if that’s their choice. It’s just not a choice I make. 

How do you find time to read?

I make time. It’s important to me and it’s something I’ve been doing literally as long as I can remember. Reading is big priority to me, like exercising is to other people so I make sure to fit it in to my day, even if it’s only a few pages. 

Do you enjoy the company of books more than the company of people? 

Most days.

Have you ever lost sleep from reading?

Of course. 

Has a book ever made you cry?

Yes. In fact, I’ve cried at the end of more books than I have movies. 

Paper books, eBooks, or audiobooks?

While I’m partial to real paper books, I’ve been known to read eBooks, too. I haven’t yet gotten into audiobooks.

Buy books or use the library?

Either. I prefer the library but I do buy books on occasion, particularly when I want to read a book my library doesn’t have.reading quote 6

Do you keep old books?

How can you not?

Any parting words? 

Hmm. I guess I’d say this–never, ever feel ashamed of what you read. Don’t worry about being a perfect reader because there’s no such thing. Just read whatever makes you happy without stressing if someone is judging you for it. Screw them if they do. Because reading–all reading–is magic.


Thanks for taking the time to chat with us.

Thanks for having me!

Now it’s your turn. Do you guys have any questions for me about my reading habits?


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Show Us Your Books!: March edition

You know those months when you read a ton of books and it’s hard to pick which is the best one because with the exception of maybe one or two they’re all so damn good and then you don’t really want to keep reading since you’re confident the hot streak has to end but you don’t want it to? That’s me after reading 8 books last month, loving 6 of them, and not thoroughly despising the other two. It was a good month, reading wise (in case you’re new to the linkup, my reading month is not a calendar month; it’s from the day after the linkup until the weekend before, when I write the post). 

So what did I read? Let’s find out.

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Why We Suck: A Feel Good Guide to Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy, and Stupid by Denis Leary This book was exactly what you’d expect from a book by Denis Leary. I’ve been a fan of his for a long time, particularly his stand-up and when I read the book, much of it sounded like the rants in his routine. Hilarious, offensive, rude, and also true. However, peppered in between the rants are stories about his childhood, his family, his career and to me, what’s abundantly clear is how much he loves his wife and children, the respect he has for his parents, and how proud he is of all he’s accomplished (which he manages to do without humblebragging). If you like him, read the book. If he bothers you, don’t. 

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Nevin Have you ever read a book that just destroyed you, emotionally? That how I felt about this one. It’s a YA book but it truly didn’t matter. I mean, some of it annoyed me, particularly how whiny Violet could be and her parents were atrocious characters but Finch’s part of the story? Holy shit. I cannot commend Jennifer Niven enough for dealing with mental illness and when Finch starts to go down the hole, you feel yourself going with him. The book has you forgetting you’re reading a YA book. And the end, well, that had me ugly crying more than The Fault in Our Stars. 

Ugly Girls by Lindsay Hunter I really wanted to like this book more than I did. The premise had so much potential. So much. And the last third made for compelling reading but you had to muddle through the tedious, boring, first two-thirds to get to it. What got on my nerves more than anything wasn’t so much the story line but the fact that the author, who’s clearly an adult, was trying way too hard to make the teenagers in the book sound like teenagers and wow, did they have poor grammar. It became painful to read after a few pages.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng Jumping back and forth in time from the 1950s to the 1970s, it deals with a mixed race family dealing with the death of their favorite child. I don’t even know how to sum it up properly or express what I think about it except this book gave me all the feelings and I completely understand why this book made it onto every “best of” list for 2014. While I couldn’t relate to some of the experiences of the family, as a parent, and the parent of a girl, I could relate to the mother in the story more than I thought I would and their grief was palpable, which also struck a chord for me.

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler I don’t know how I feel about this one. It’s a great, creative concept about the intense and short burning high school romance but Min was way too dramatic and over the top for me. She was also obsessed with classic movies and when I say obsessed, I mean obsessed. And not real classic movies, made up movies with made up actors and titles and it got to the point with the constant talking about it I’d get angry. Also, the book is printed on photo paper (like Yes Please) and if a book is going to be that heavy, it needs to be better. 

You by Caroline Kepnes This book does down in my reading history as the single most fucked up book I have ever read. Every single character was contemptible, particularly Beck, the shallow, selfish, spoiled object of Joe’s affection (Joe is the narrator) and let me tell you, Joe is psychopath stalker with even more issues beyond that. But when you put them together, it makes for a story you cannot stop reading, even if it makes you paranoid and disturbed and compulsively checking your doors. I can totally see this being made into a movie and I’m crazy excited for the next book in the series.

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green Oh, John Green. Why did you have to write a book involving math? Despite that, this book the epitome of John Green YA. A boy gets dumped, he goes on a road trip, and meets/falls in love with a girl…blah, blah, blah. The math bugged me, it had an abundance of footnotes that made Jen Lancaster’s footnotes seem not so annoying, and the overuse of the word “fug” (instead of “fuck”) plucked every single one of my nerves. Had this book been longer, and had Colin been less likable, I probably would have put it down. And I love John Green so that says a lot.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins I recently learned the term “cozy mystery” to describe a book (it’s when someone who’s not law enforcement gets involved in the investigation of a murder or something along those lines) and when I think of that term, I think of a campy, simple book. This one might fall into that category but it is anything but light and campy. Murder, infidelity, domestic violence, alcoholism, infertility, jealous, and obsession feature prominently in the plot. Like the characters in You, it’s hard to like anyone in this book, although you will find yourself pitying Rachel at times, but when you put them all together, it makes a story you need to read.

If you’re going to add any to your list, make it The Girl on the Train, You, Everything I Never Told You, and All the Bright Places. I’m okay telling you to skip the rest, even if I enjoyed them. 

On tap for March: The Martian, The Economy of You, 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works, and The Son. That’s just what I have checked out. Not sure what else the library will send my way.

Now it’s your turn! Link up with me and Steph and let us know what you read. Nonblogger, leave a comment with your favorite (or least favorite) reads from last month:

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