Jana Says

Living life from cover to cover

Tag Archive: books

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


 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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Show us your books!!!

Last month, Steph and I posted our book reviews on the same day and from that, we got to talking and decided we’d start a monthly book chat where we share and review books we read the previous month. It’s one of the dozens of things I’ve come to love and appreciate about bloggers–most of us share a huge love of books and we have no qualms about recommending our favorites (and warn against the ones we hate don’t like as much). So, in addition to sharing our reading choices, we want to know what you read, too. 

In other words, we want you to show us your books!!!

book button linkup

How you choose to do it is up to you. You can write a thorough review, you can summarize in a few sentences, or you can be like Lisa and do it in 140 characters or less. There are no rules other than to let us know what you read and what you thought. 

As for me, in September (and by “September”, I mean the 4 weeks after Steph and I had the conversation so maybe it includes a little bit of October, too) I read 5 books (well, technically 6 but one was SO, SO BAD, I’m pretending I didn’t actually read it). I liked all of them; however, there were a few I liked way more than others. So let’s start with those.

September books 1

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. You can read the Goodreads summary here. Jana says: I loved this book. Not quite as much as Eleanor and Park because the little snippets of the Harry Potter-like stories got on my nerves after awhile, and I found myself skipping over those at times. Trust when I say it didn’t impact the overall story. I adored the characters, identified immensely with the main character, Cath, and the plot was so realistic. If you’re looking for a quick, can’t put it down book, read this one.

Late, Late at Night by Rick Springfield. You can read the Goodreads summary here. Jana says: I am now officially obsessed with Rick Springfield. Yes, that Rick Springfield. The guy who performs “Jessie’s Girl”. But after reading the book, you realize he is so much more than that. Yes, he’s basically a scumbag but he admits it. He admits all of his ugly secrets and flaws and how he’s spent almost his whole life trying to fight his demons and be a better person. The way he talks about his depression is so open and honest and raw, and I believe that if you want to understand how depression truly operates, you need to read this book. He makes you realize that depression isn’t just chronic sadness; it’s a lurking presence, waiting to come out when you least expect it. 

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple. You can read the Goodreads summary here. Jana says: The way the book is written took some getting used to but once you figure it out, it’s so worth the effort (like The Time Traveler’s Wife but better). It’s such a creative, well done, intriguing story and like Fangirl, you forget at times that it’s actually a YA book. Honestly, with the amount of quality YA books I’ve been reading lately, I feel kind of cheated that all I had was the VC Andrews saga/trash and Sweet Valley High. Or maybe that’s all I chose to read. Definitely one of those. 

And now for the ones I liked but not nearly as much.

September books 2


How To Tell Toledo From the Night Sky by Lydia Netzer. You can read the Goodreads summary here. Jana says: I did like this book, even with all the sciency stuff mixed in. I mean, it did bore me a little at time and I found myself not falling in love with the characters like in some of the other books I read this month, but overall, it was a good read. Took me longer to finish than the others because it got tedious but it was great for the plane ride and as a read before bed.

Accidents of Marriage by Randy Susan Meyers. You can read the Goodreads summary here. Jana says: I wanted to like this book so much more than I did. I love the premise of this book and it had so much potential, yet for me, it fell a flat. The characters weren’t developed enough or something and I found myself getting annoyed with every single one of them. There were plot points that felt unfinished or the resolution was too simplified. It wasn’t terrible but I wouldn’t put it high on my list of books I’d recommend.

I’m excited for my October reads and I’ve already gotten started reading The Rosie Project. You’ll have to wait for next month to hear what I think of it!

The next chat is on November 10, and then the second Tuesday of every month going forward. We hope you’ll join us!

Tell me: What books did you read in September? 


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Friday favorites, volume 21

I’m not really sure what to say about this week. My motivation to do anything except read books or watch The Wire is nonexistent, I’m running on almost no sleep because my dog thinks it’s fun to jump on and off the 465104 per night and he’s too stupid to figure out how to get back on (it is at this point I ask for recommendations for places to buy doggie steps. I have officially become that person), and the child’s first cheer competition is on Sunday, meaning we have to leave at the crack of dawn to get there on time or be subjected to cheer wrath. I want no part of that.  

On the plus side, I have a great stack of books to read and if my husband drives home from the competition, I’ll get to take a nap. I’ve also started using a blog planner and it seems to be working to keep me organized in one part of my life, and I finally have a good, consolidated place to keep all my ideas. Because while I love all my pieces of paper, as well as the occasional napkin, it’s nice to not lose my ideas. Now if I could just move this newfound organization to other areas of my life, I’d be all set. 

Favorite song

I’m going 90s on this one. I have been longing for my 90s music lately. It’s not that new music is bad, per se, it’s that I’ve been, for some reason, swept up in nostalgia for my high school and college days. Let’s be clear: high school was a fucking nightmare. I have no interest in reliving that. However, we had some great music. I miss that.

 Long Way Down by The Goo Goo Dolls on Grooveshark

Favorite frugal find

Since I’m participating in Steph’s October Wallet Watch, I have not been spending money. Or even thinking about spending money. Okay, fine, I’ve been thinking about it but I haven’t been doing it. But I did have to buy the child new cheer sneakers for her competitions and thanks to the Omni Cheer website, I was able to find her new shoes for 60% off. Cheerleading is so damn expensive, I was thrilled to find something that saves me money.

Favorite book/TV thing

One of my boyfriends, Wentworth Miller, will be on TV this month and not in a Law and Order: SVU rerun (which I confess I compulsively check to see if the one episode he was on is airing). It’s for the CW’s version of The Flash and while watching Gotham fulfills my obligation to all things superhero, I’ll make an exception and watch The Flash. Because this:

wentworth miller


As far as books go, I don’t necessarily have a favorite this week but I do have a huge stack of books that I cannot wait to get through. I finished Fangirl yesterday and started Accidents of Marriage. Also on tap: The Rosie Project, Me Before You, 3 business/blogging type books, and Greil Marcus’s A New Literary History of America. That’s in addition to a bunch of eBooks and since I’m now obsessed with him, Rick Springfield’s fiction book, Magnificent Vibration, which I recently placed on hold at the library.

Favorite internet reads

If you’re like me and hate taking pictures, this post on how to look better in photos based on your body type is super helpful (I still opt for the “completely avoid the camera” pose but this stuff might work, too). Rolling Stone has long been my favorite magazine, and Sons of Anarchy (are you watching? Is this season amazing or what?) is definitely one of my all-time favorite shows, and the profile on creator Kurt Sutter is basically everything. This post on successful people posed as societal stereotypes was quite eye opening (and props to my girl Athena for sharing it on Facebook). And, finally, this Buzzfeed post on sorority rush on Instagram vs. rush in real life. It all so true, and I loved the last picture more than all of the rest because maybe that’s my sorority (not my chapter, but my sorority).

Favorite quote

weird relative


Favorite funnies

Much more practical than the academic Master’s I have

Me, every day lately










True story








I want to know who spied on me long enough to draw this

working out 
























I hope you all have a good weekend! See you on Monday with a post on how to be a shitty neighbor (or, how my neighbors do everything wrong and it makes me hate them). Oh, and if you want to see what life looks like from the sidelines of an outdoor cheerleading competition, make sure to follow me on Instagram. Pictures served with a side of snarky comments. 

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Linking up with Amanda as always 

Friday Favorites