Jana Says

Living life from cover to cover

Tag Archive: books

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?

 

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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!

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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?

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Friday six-pack, 2017, v4: Here we go

Well, we’re one week in and I can’t. I CAN’T because WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK IS GOING ON? WHAT IS HAPPENING?! As those are mostly rhetorical because I know you’re all probably as befuddled as I am, I’m going to focus (well, mostly) on all the non-political things that happened because I am treading a very thin line between staying informed and having my head explode. I can’t afford to have my head explode.

Reading. Finished The Quickening and Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman. Started Idaho. Picked up A Head Full of Ghosts and Bottomland. Tabled The Lilac Girls because library due dates rule my life. Also reading Mr. Popper’s Penguins along with The Child since we had in the house and she’s reading it in school for their one school/one book thing. 

Watching. A four part documentary series on Netflix about the disappearance of this British woman. I can’t remember the name of it but it’s fascinating. 

Following. All the rogue Twitter accounts, like AltNatParkSer (for the National Park Service), RogueNASA (NASA, obviously), AltUSDA (the USDA. Also obvious) and others because science fucking matters, censorship is bullshit, and this is out of hand. A president was elected, not a dictator and the motherfucker’s blatant disrespect for the Constitution, the citizens, general common sense and decency, and the world is insane. I cannot comprehend this level of hatred and narcissism and insanity and disregard for what’s staring you in the face and I’m even more concerned for those who build him up and assure him that this is how a democratically elected leader behaves. If you can explain it to me, please do. Also, and let me say this and then I’ll stop, I feel like this country is becoming the pot, we’re the frogs, and the administration is in charge of slowly turning up the water. Well, I’ll you what. This frog isn’t getting in the fucking water and I’m going to do my damnedest to protect those who are too vulnerable to know better from getting in the pot. They can turn up the temperature but I refuse to boil. #resist

Losing. Specifically, weight. It’s not something I talk about much here because…well, mostly my own issues but as of today, I’m down 15 pounds and a full pants size. While I feel I still have a long way to go, I’m pleased with my progress, even if it is slower than I’d prefer. 

Buying. Almost nothing. 26 days into the spending freeze and I’ve spent less than $50 unplanned. Each purchase I made in defiance of the freeze was purposeful and mindful which, to me, means it’s working. Full recap next Thursday, along with the next 30 day challenge. 

Laughing. 

Have a great weekend! We’ll be celebrating my dad’s 65th birthday and my nephew’s 9th topped off with a Sunday cheer practice (which means she practices and I read and/or nap while she’s there. In other words, a perfect Sunday for me). See you on Tuesday when I’ll be linking up with Lauren and Bre for their new monthly linkup, Add it to My List. 

Eat, Drink, and Be Lauren

 

 

 

 

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Show Us Your Books, January 2017: The good, the bad, the one that made me feel dumb

Hey, hey, hey, what do we have here? It’s barely a week into the new year and we already have a Show Us Your Books. Because what’s a better way to start the year than with an ever bigger TBR list? 

For those who are new or newish, I run my month from linkup to linkup rather than the calendar month so when you see my list, please know that even though I read relatively quick, I have not read 7 (well, 8) books since the first of the year. I leave that to people like my co-host, Steph. Oh, and the order I list my books is the order I read them and the reviews are directly copied (and sometimes expanded) from my Litsy reviews. You can find me on Litsy if you want; my username is my name (creativity level: 10). I’ve also discovered, thanks to Book Riot, another book app. I’ll share all about that on Friday #suspense

As always, please remember to visit Steph and the other bloggers on the list. If you’re a nonblogger, please leave me a comment with what you’ve read the last month or even a book that you’re excited to read this year. 

We’re All Damaged by Matthew Norman. You know how sometimes you read a book and you love it but there’s no specific reason? That’s how this was for me. I found it funny, smart, touching, amusing, and the fact that it was littered with relevant pop culture references and current events made it that much better. The characters felt real, the plot felt real, and it was more like listening to someone talk about his fucked up life rather than reading a fiction book.

Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta. I adored Saving Francesca so I was crazy excited to read this one. It did not disappoint. A fast paced, well written, intricate thriller that used time jumping as a way to move the plot forward rather than a gimmick. I loved watching the story unfold and I love that she didn’t shy away from the racism and assumptions made amidst crimes like this (a bus bombing). My only gripe is SO MANY CHARACTERS and I couldn’t always keep them straight.

Darktown by Thomas Mullen. It’s a crime novel, a mystery but also so much more than that. It’s set in post-WWII Atlanta, with racism and police brutality and corruption as much of characters as the characters themselves. It’s a commentary on how things have changed but how they haven’t changed at all. There’s crimes within the crimes. It’s a complex, ridiculously well written, intriguing book that keeps you hooked the entire time. I can’t remember how I found this book but I’m glad I did. It’s not an easy read by any standards but well worth it. 

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance. It’s like a mix of The Other Wes Moore and The Glass Castle and a research paper and a family history project. A sociology nerd, I love learning and reading about subcultures and this is a particularly fascinating one given the current climate of the US. Vance highlights a culture full of stereotypes and makes them understandable and explains a lot of “whys” but based mainly on his experience rather than stats and research (which he does use at times but not often). The book provides a ton of food for thought. It’s important to remember that this is a memoir, not a study because it’s an important distinction.

Salvage the Bones by Jessamyn Ward. I fluctuate between recommending this book and not. I mean, the writing is phenomenal. Every scene, you feel like you’re there, breathing the air and sweating and fighting along with Esch. Her description of Katrina is heart stopping and you feel like you’re part of the family. And the relationship between Skeeter and China is incredible. But the dogfighting and puppy stuff was too much for me and it was incredibly repetitious at times. Read with caution.

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple. Somewhere in this busy, annoying, repetitive, rushed story narrated by an insufferable, snobby, bitchy, selfish asshole is a good book. It peeks out at you every once in a while and then retreats. I think those glimpses are what kept me going and not fully hating the book, despite wanting to put it down and walk away several times. There was so much potential in this story that never materialized. I can take an unlikable narrator so that didn’t put me off. The terrible story and plot did.

Private Citizens by Tony Tulathimutte. I honestly don’t know how I feel about this book. On the one hand, the characters and story and plot are amazing. On the other hand, the writing was too much, like the author had to prove that he’s smarter than everyone or just how smart he is. I swear, I didn’t understand a fourth of the words and I have a decent vocabulary. I don’t like fiction that makes me feel stupid, and this book did. The overwriting compromised my enjoyment, even if he did it to make some sort of point I don’t get. 

Bonus book: I’m not counting this in my book total for the year because it’s essentially a throw away book (I got it for free during my free trial of Kindle Unlimited) but I recently learned about the Danish concept of hygge and this book, The Cozy Life: Rediscover the Joy of the Simple Things Through the Danish Concept of Hygge by Pia Edberg, is a pretty good primer/overview of the idea. It’s not anything special or different but it puts an umbrella on self-care, avoiding SAD, and minimalism which is pretty cool. 

TL; DR: Read Darktown, We’re All Damaged, Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil. Hillbilly Elegy if you like that kind of stuff. The rest, proceed with caution.

Now it’s your turn. Link up and show us your books!

 

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