Jana Says

Living life from cover to cover


Judging Covers with The Family: The return

This entry is part of 11 in the series Judging Covers

Guess what’s back?! It’s Judging Covers! 

It took an unexpected hiatus but now we’re back in full swing, with the child and the husband on board and now you’ll be able to look forward to it the first Wednesday or Thursday of every month (still haven’t figured out my blogging schedule. Baby steps). Exciting shit, right?

That said, let’s have a look at what’s currently on the nightstand: 

But What If We’re Wrong? Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past by Chuck Klosterman

The Child says: The book cover is on wrong. 

The Husband says: Did he do this on purpose?

Goodreads says:But What If We’re Wrong? visualizes the contemporary world as it will appear to those who’ll perceive it as the distant past. Chuck Klosterman asks questions that are profound in their simplicity: How certain are we about our understanding of gravity? How certain are we about our understanding of time? What will be the defining memory of rock music, five hundred years from today? How seriously should we view the content of our dreams? How seriously should we view the content of television? Are all sports destined for extinction? Is it possible that the greatest artist of our era is currently unknown (or—weirder still—widely known, but entirely disrespected)? Is it possible that we “overrate” democracy? And perhaps most disturbing, is it possible that we’ve reached the end of knowledge?…

Private Citizens by Tony Tulathimutte 

The Child says: It looks like a really dark neighborhood and no one really comes to that neighborhood but one day there’s like…I don’t know. There’s a huge party that goes on in one of the house and you can see lights and chalk but what it really is is an explosion happening (Husband: an explosion of fun!)

The Husband says: Looks like everybody decided on July 4 to set all the fireworks off at one time because dammit, it’s my house and I do what I want.

Goodreads says: Capturing the anxious, self-aware mood of young college grads in the aughts, Private Citizens embraces the contradictions of our new century: call it a loving satire. A gleefully rude comedy of manners. Middlemarch for Millennials. The novel’s four whip-smart narrators—idealistic Cory, Internet-lurking Will, awkward Henrik, and vicious Linda—are torn between fixing the world and cannibalizing it. In boisterous prose that ricochets between humor and pain, the four estranged friends stagger through the Bay Area’s maze of tech startups, protestors, gentrifiers, karaoke bars, house parties, and cultish self-help seminars, washing up in each other’s lives once again. 

Kissing in America by Margo Rabb

The Child says: It’s about a cowboy in the middle of nowhere and his adventures through there (Husband: And then he meets another cowboy on the mountain. Me: SCOTT!! Husband: What? That’d be a great plot for a movie)

The Husband says: Seems like the advertising for a brothel. (Child: what’s a brothel? Husband: What a wonderful conversation to have. Me: It’s not important what a brothel is)

Goodreads says: In the two years since her father died, sixteen-year-old Eva has found comfort in reading romance novels—118 of them, to be exact—to dull the pain of her loss that’s still so present. Her romantic fantasies become a reality when she meets Will, who seems to truly understand Eva’s grief. Unfortunately, after Eva falls head-over-heels for him, he picks up and moves to California without any warning. Not wanting to lose the only person who has been able to pull her out of sadness—and, perhaps, her shot at real love—Eva and her best friend, Annie, concoct a plan to travel to the west coast to see Will again. As they road trip across America, Eva and Annie confront the complex truth about love.

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

Jana says: I KNOW!!! I’m reading historical fiction! And a WWII historical fiction at that! #peerpressureFTW

The Child says: It looks like a group of old women who are stranded on a beach except for this one tower and their adventures on that stranded beach.

The Husband says: I think this is similar to The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (me: How do you know what that is?) but with some differences in that this is about post-war England and these women all wear lilac clothes as a symbol of their friendship.

Goodreads says: New York socialite Caroline Ferriday has her hands full with her post at the French consulate and a new love on the horizon. But Caroline’s world is forever changed when Hitler’s army invades Poland in September 1939—and then sets its sights on France.
An ocean away from Caroline, Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teenager, senses her carefree youth disappearing as she is drawn deeper into her role as courier for the underground resistance movement. In a tense atmosphere of watchful eyes and suspecting neighbors, one false move can have dire consequences.
For the ambitious young German doctor, Herta Oberheuser, an ad for a government medical position seems her ticket out of a desolate life. Once hired, though, she finds herself trapped in a male-dominated realm of Nazi secrets and power.

How do you think they did? 

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P.S. If we’re friends on Goodreads, you’ll notice that I have a reading goal for this year. It’s not an actual goal that I’m striving for; rather it’s a lazy, easy way for me to keep track of all the books I read. I have no goals but I am curious. 

Judging Covers with The Husband, first edition

This entry is part 1 of 11 in the series Judging Covers

You might have seen or heard about a site, Judgey, that lets you judge a book by its cover. I did it an I got pretty damn judgy which is pretty damn accurate. It’s a fun little time waster and I highly encourage you to take a few minutes and play it. 

This post is not about that. 

This post is about what happens when I show my husband a book cover and he decides the content. Not if the book is good or bad. Just the plot. It all started a few years ago when I read Wally Lamb’s The Hour I First Believed which he calls “the flying kid book”. It’s sort of become a thing between us and now, we’re sharing it with you. 

This is how it works. I show him a book. He tells me what he thinks it’s about. I’ll add the Goodreads summary for you guys. 

Hope you enjoy it. 

Note: All of these books are currently on my nightstand and I’ll be reviewing them in October for Show Us Your Books. 

Book #1: Dietland by Sarai Walker


The husband says: Sweets will kill you. 

Goodreads says: Plum Kettle does her best not to be noticed, because when you’re fat, to be noticed is to be judged. Or mocked. Or worse. With her job answering fan mail for a popular teen girls’ magazine, she is biding her time until her weight-loss surgery. Only then can her true life as a thin person finally begin.

Then, when a mysterious woman starts following her, Plum finds herself falling down a rabbit hole and into an underground community of women who live life on their own terms. There Plum agrees to a series of challenges that force her to deal with her past, her doubts, and the real costs of becoming “beautiful.” At the same time, a dangerous guerrilla group called “Jennifer” begins to terrorize a world that mistreats women, and as Plum grapples with her personal struggles, she becomes entangled in a sinister plot. The consequences are explosive.

Book #2: Ally Hughes Has Sex Sometimes by Jules Moulin

ally hughes

The husband says: She wrote the title in lipstick on a mirror. The book is exactly what the title is. It gives me nothing. You told me the plot. 

Goodreads says: Life isn’t easy for single mother Ally Hughes. Teaching at Brown, her class load is huge and her boss is a menace. At home, she contends with a critical mother, a falling-down house, and a daughter who never misses a beat. Between taking care of the people she loves, teaching full time, and making ends meet, Ally doesn’t have time for a man. She doesn’t date. She’s not into flings. But then she meets Jake, an eager student, young in years but old in soul, who challenges his favorite professor to open up her life, and her heart, to love. It doesn’t work. In fact, his urging backfires.

Ten years later, Ally’s still single. Jake reappears and surprises her in a brand-new role: He’s dating Ally’s now-grown daughter. In this hilarious, heartrending tale, Ally is finally forced to concede (not only to herself) that an independent, “liberated” woman can still make room in her life for love.

Book #3: Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

modern romance

The husband says: People have romance on phones. Without electronics you can’t find love.

Goodreads says (well, partly because the Goodreads summary is loooong): At some point, every one of us embarks on a journey to find love. We meet people, date, get into and out of relationships, all with the hope of finding someone with whom we share a deep connection. This seems standard now, but it’s wildly different from what people did even just decades ago. Single people today have more romantic options than at any point in human history. With technology, our abilities to connect with and sort through these options are staggering. So why are so many people frustrated?…

But the transformation of our romantic lives can’t be explained by technology alone. In a short period of time, the whole culture of finding love has changed dramatically. A few decades ago, people would find a decent person who lived in their neighborhood. Their families would meet and, after deciding neither party seemed like a murderer, they would get married and soon have a kid, all by the time they were twenty-four. Today, people marry later than ever and spend years of their lives on a quest to find the perfect person, a soul mate. 

Book #4: You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine by Alexandra Kleeman

body like mine

The husband says: It’s about a 3AM infomercial about losing weight. Or it’s about a mortuary. That’d be a lot funnier. 

Goodreads says: A woman known only as A lives in an unnamed American city with her roommate, B, and boyfriend, C, who wants her to join him on a reality dating show called That’s My Partner! A eats mostly popsicles and oranges, watches endless amounts of television, often just for the commercials— particularly the recurring cartoon escapades of Kandy Kat, the mascot for an entirely chemical dessert—and models herself on a standard of beauty that exists only in such advertising. She fixates on the fifteen minutes of fame a local celebrity named Michael has earned after buying up a Wally’s Supermarket’s entire, and increasingly ample, supply of veal.

Meanwhile, B is attempting to make herself a twin of A, who in turn hungers for something to give meaning to her life, something aside from C’s pornography addiction. Maybe something like what’s gotten into her neighbors across the street, the family who’s begun “ghosting” themselves beneath white sheets and whose garage door features a strange scrawl of graffiti: he who sits next to me, may we eat as one.

Book #5: $2 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America by Kathryn Edin and H. Luke Shaefer$2 a day

The husband says: Someone trying to eat on $2/day and all they can afford is milk. And they’re clean.

Goodreads says (again, abbreviated because long summary): After two decades of brilliant research on American poverty, Kathryn Edin noticed something she hadn’t seen since the mid-1990s — households surviving on virtually no income. Edin teamed with Luke Shaefer, an expert on calculating incomes of the poor, to discover that the number of American families living on $2.00 per person, per day, has skyrocketed to 1.5 million American households, including about 3 million children.

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Judging Covers with The Husband, third edition

This entry is part 2 of 11 in the series Judging Covers

You know what you do when you’re fumbling around for content and you have a pile of books on your nightstand and a husband who loves to tell you what the books are about soley based on the covers? You write the third edition of Judging Covers two weeks early (make sure you read the first edition and second edition if you haven’t. My husband is…something else). 

Book #1: Hate List by Jennifer Brown

hate list

The Husband says: This bitch (seriously, we need to have a discussion about his calling every girl on the cover of a book “this bitch”. Didn’t realize until now how much that actually bothers me) is gonna kill somebody. They’re scary. Those are hate eyes.

Goodreads says: Five months ago, Valerie Leftman’s boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saved the life of a classmate, but was implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create. A list of people and things she and Nick hated. The list he used to pick his targets.

Now, after a summer of seclusion, Val is forced to confront her guilt as she returns to school to complete her senior year. Haunted by the memory of the boyfriend she still loves and navigating rocky relationships with her family, former friends and the girl whose life she saved, Val must come to grips with the tragedy that took place and her role in it, in order to make amends and move on with her life.

Jana’s note: Pretty decent accuracy on this one. Then again, it’s not like the title or the cover took pains to hide the topic of the book.

Book #2: Bream Gives Me Hiccups & Other Stories by Jesse Eisenberg


The Husband says: Is this Jesse Eisenberg the actor? (after running through references to Sunbeam bread and former baseball player Sid Bream and me yelling at him to stop being ridiculous and actually tell me what he thinks the book is about), I’ve got nothing. I don’t even know what “Bream” is. It’s a nonsense cover.

Goodreads says: Taking its title from a group of stories that begin the book, Bream Gives Me Hiccups moves from contemporary L.A. to the dormrooms of an American college to ancient Pompeii, throwing the reader into a universe of social misfits, reimagined scenes from history, and ridiculous overreactions. In one piece, a tense email exchange between a young man and his girlfriend is taken over by the man’s sister, who is obsessed with the Bosnian genocide (The situation reminds me of a little historical blip called the Karadordevo agreement); in another, a college freshman forced to live with a roommate is stunned when one of her ramen packets goes missing (she didn’t have “one” of my ramens. She had a chicken ramen); in another piece, Alexander Graham Bell has teething problems with his invention (I’ve been calling Mabel all day, she doesn’t pick up! Yes, of course I dialed the right number – 2!).

Book #3: Infinite Home by Kathleen Alcott

infinite home

The Husband says: It’s about Qbert’s house because the game never ends and he just keeps jumping from square to square. Otherwise I have no clue what that cover means. It’s the only possible thing.

Goodreads says: Edith is a widowed landlady who rents apartments in her Brooklyn brownstone to an unlikely collection of humans, all deeply in need of shelter. Crippled in various ways—in spirit, in mind, in body, in heart—the renters struggle to navigate daily existence, and soon come to realize that Edith’s deteriorating mind, and the menacing presence of her estranged, unscrupulous son, Owen, is the greatest challenge they must confront together.

Faced with eviction by Owen and his designs on the building, the tenants—Paulie, an unusually disabled man and his burdened sister, Claudia; Edward, a misanthropic stand-up comic; Adeleine, a beautiful agoraphobe; Thomas, a young artist recovering from a stroke—must find in one another what the world has not yet offered or has taken from them: family, respite, security, worth, love. The threat to their home scatters them far from where they’ve begun, to an ascetic commune in Northern California, the motel rooms of depressed middle America, and a stunning natural phenomenon in Tennessee, endangering their lives and their visions of themselves along the way.

Book #4: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

player one

The Husband says: It’s a video game with some little guy who’s the character in the video game. 

Goodreads says: In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the  OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

Jana’s note: again, he was sort of close on this one. But he likes video games and it’s a pretty obvious title. 

For the next edition, let me know if you are reading a book with a cover you’d like my husband to judge, especially if you read different types of books than I do. That should make for some interesting stuff.

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Judging Covers with The Husband, second edition

This entry is part 3 of 11 in the series Judging Covers

It’s time once again for Judging Covers with The Husband! I mean, how can you not want to know his opinions after the last time and also from the man with whom I recently had this conversation:

Husband: What do you think are my chances for becoming the leader of a country?

Me: I think you have a better chance of leading a cult.

Husband: I *am* persuasive.


This time, we reviewed four books (well, eight, but I’m splitting it up into two posts mostly to protect your sanity because trust me). The first four, the ones we’re looking at today, are books I am ecstatic to read, especially Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt who also wrote The Sisters Brothers, one of my all-time favorite books. So of course he had some things to say about that. 

Let’s explore. Same as last time, I’ll show the cover, tell you what he said, and then give the Goodreads summary and let you judge for yourself how close he came (hint: not even close, bud. Also, points for me for throwing in a Breakfast Club reference because what goes better with books than one of my most favorite movies?)

Book #1: Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt



The Husband says: It’s about fun at a nighttime castle. (Jana’s note: I don’t really know what the difference is between a nighttime castle and a regular castle)

Goodreads says: A love story, an adventure story, a fable without a moral, and an ink-black comedy of manners, international bestselling author Patrick deWitt’s new novel is about a young man named Lucien (Lucy) Minor, who accepts employment at the foreboding Castle Von Aux. While tending to his new post as undermajordomo, he soon discovers the place harbours many dark secrets, not least of which is the whereabouts of the castle’s master, Baron Von Aux. 

Book #2: Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy


The Husband says: It’s about a fat, rich bitch who likes to be taken care of. Or it’s about the love of Chinese food. (Jana’s note: We had a small tiff about his choice of words for this one)

Goodreads says: Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

Book #3: Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg

have a family

The Husband says: What the fuck is this? I’m not even sure what this cover is! It’s like the last words a serial killer says to you.

Goodreads says: On the eve of her daughter’s wedding, June Reid’s life is completely devastated when a shocking disaster takes the lives of her daughter, her daughter’s fiancé, her ex-husband, and her boyfriend, Luke—her entire family, all gone in a moment. And June is the only survivor.

Alone and directionless, June drives across the country, away from her small Connecticut town. In her wake, a community emerges, weaving a beautiful and surprising web of connections through shared heartbreak.

From the couple running a motel on the Pacific Ocean where June eventually settles into a quiet half-life, to the wedding’s caterer whose bill has been forgotten, to Luke’s mother, the shattered outcast of the town—everyone touched by the tragedy is changed as truths about their near and far histories finally come to light.

Book #4: Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner

who do you love

The Husband says: It’s about an office romance. Because of paperclips.

Goodreads says: Rachel Blum and Andy Landis are eight years old when they meet late one night in an ER waiting room. Born with a congenital heart defect, Rachel is a veteran of hospitals, and she’s intrigued by the boy who shows up all alone with a broken arm. He tells her his name. She tells him a story. After Andy’s taken back to the emergency room and Rachel’s sent back to her bed, they think they’ll never see each other again.

Rachel, the beloved, popular, and protected daughter of two doting parents, grows up wanting for nothing in a fancy Florida suburb. Andy grows up poor in Philadelphia with a single mom and a rare talent that will let him become one of the best runners of his generation.

Over the course of three decades, through high school and college, marriages and divorces, from the pinnacles of victory and the heartbreak of defeat, Andy and Rachel will find each other again and again, until they are finally given a chance to decide whether love can surmount difference and distance and if they’ve been running toward each other all along.

Bonus conversation re: Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Me: Do you know anything about this book?

Husband: No.

Me: Do you know who Harper Lee is?

Husband: Yes. The author of To Kill a Mockingbird. It says so on the cover. 

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P.S. Don’t forget the anniversary edition of Show Us Your Books is October 13 and Steph and I have some surprises in store. So make sure you read and link up!

Judging Covers with The Husband, fourth edition

This entry is part 4 of 11 in the series Judging Covers

Oh, hey. Guess who forgot to do this in November? It’s a shame, too, because I had some good book covers. But we’ll gloss over that and move right along to this edition for which my husband would like me to issue this disclaimer: The covers this month are terrible. They gave me nothing to work with. 


Book #1: A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

owen meany

The Husband says: Maybe he needs to get his truck worked on because it’s how he gets to work to support his family. Why the hell else would you put a truck on the cover? (Jana’s note: The copy that I have from the library has George Clooney on the cover. This led to the both of us questioning why and my husband asking if Owen Meany looks like George Clooney. We still have no answer)

Goodreads says: John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany is the inspiring modern classic that introduced two of the author’s most unforgettable characters, boys bonded forever in childhood: the stunted Owen Meany, whose life is touched by God, and the orphaned Johnny Wheelwright, whose life is touched by Owen. From the accident that links them to the mystery that follows them–and the martyrdom that parts them–the events of their lives form a tapestry of fate and faith in a novel that is Irving at his irresistible best.

Book #2: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

tidying up

The Husband says: This one is self-explanatory. It’s about decluttering and organizing. And also using watercolors. 

Goodreads says: Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again. Most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, which doom you to pick away at your piles of stuff forever. The KonMari Method, with its revolutionary category-by-category system, leads to lasting results. In fact, none of Kondo’s clients have lapsed (and she still has a three-month waiting list). 

Book #3: Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

fates and furies

The Husband says: Something happening in an ocean or snowstorm because it’s blue. And it looks like the ocean is whitecapping. 

Goodreads says: At age twenty-two, Lotto and Mathilde are tall, glamorous, madly in love, and destined for greatness. A decade later, their marriage is still the envy of their friends, but with an electric thrill we understand that things are even more complicated and remarkable than they have seemed.

Book #4: Bootstrapper: From Broke to Badass on a Northern Michigan Farm by Mardi Jo Link


The Husband says: The front cover has an ax. The back cover as a log so there’s a lot of lumberjacking going on. It’s a tree farm. She goes and works on a tree farm. 

Goodreads says: It’s the summer of 2005, and Mardi Jo Link’s dream of living the simple life has unraveled into debt, heartbreak, and perpetually ragged cuticles. Still, when she and her husband call it quits, leaving her more broke than ever, Link makes a seemingly impossible resolution: to hang on to her northern Michigan farm and continue to raise her boys on well water and wood chopping and dirt. Armed with an unfailing sense of humor and her three resolute accomplices, Link confronts blizzards and coyotes, learns about Zen divorce and the best way to butcher a hog, dominates a zucchini-growing contest and wins a year’s supply of local bread, masters the art of bargain cooking, deals with rampaging poultry, and finds her way to a truly rich existence. Told with endless heart and candor, Bootstrapper is a story of motherhood and survival and self-discovery, of an indomitable woman who, against all the odds, holds on to what matters most. 

Book #5: American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell 

american salvage

The Husband says: It’s something about photography where someone goes out and takes pictures of people who don’t normally get their pictures taken.

Goodreads says: American Salvage is rich with local color and peopled with rural characters who love and hate extravagantly. They know how to fix cars and washing machines, how to shoot and clean game, and how to cook up methamphetamine, but they have not figured out how to prosper in the twenty-first century. Through the complex inner lives of working-class characters, Bonnie Jo Campbell illustrates the desperation of post-industrial America, where wildlife, jobs, and whole ways of life go extinct and the people have no choice but to live off what is left behind.

And then, while showing him the cover for another book by Bonnie Jo Campbell, Mothers, Tell Your Daughters, we had this conversation: 

Him: Is that a country song? (insert him singing)

Me: Why are you asking ME about country music? And please, good God, stop singing.

For more bookish entertainment courtesy of my husband, you can read his first, second, and third editions of Judging Covers. Eventually he’ll get his own button and archive page. 


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