Jana Says

Living life from cover to cover

Tag Archive: books

Friday Six-Pack: The last of 2016

This is the last recap of 2016 because next week, with the child and the husband both on vacation, I will be spending (even more) time away from my laptop to hang with them. Of course I’ll be around on Tuesday for our second Show Us Your Books this month, recapping our favorites from the year but other than that, I’ll be (even more) absent. I’m looking forward to coming back here in January with renew purpose and presence. Well, that’s the plan anyway. We’ll see what actually happens. 

Reading. Darktown by Thomas Muller. Picked up Hillbilly Elegy and Today Will Be Different. Was strong armed persuaded by my favorite librarian into doing a reading challenge she created. Also created a reading challenge which I’ll share with you guys when it’s all ready to go (it’s for the site I write for rather than this one). 

Listening. No new podcasts to share with you guys this week and as far as music, I’ve been sticking to my standards and my Spotify most played in 2016 with a splash of nontraditional Christmas music thrown in. It’s been an uneventful week.

Watching. Home Alone x45 million. It’s the child’s favorite and she doesn’t have HBO or a DVD player in her room so we all have to suffer. Also Singles. I fucking love that movie.

Giving. Since Giving Tuesday, we’ve also donated to a scholarship established by the husband’s fraternity alumni, BuildOn, and, thanks to Instagram, I learned about a new local charity that gives Christmas gifts to kids in foster care who are too old for Toys for Tots. We picked a 17 year old girl in an out of state placement because those kids have a special place in my heart, and we went all out for her. She deserves it, and I’m grateful we were able to afford it this year. 

Celebrating. Most of y’all know how disappointed and angry and frustrated I am at our government. It’s revolting what’s happening. However, this week, my school district just passed a referendum that will build 3 new schools and do capital improvements on 2 of them. Where I live is exploding, population-wise, and we desperately need the new schools to accommodate all the kids. Overcrowding presents a host of problems, and these kids deserve quality education that overcrowding will prevent. It thrills me to no end that others agree with me and that this passed by a wide margin. It gives me hope that, despite what’s going on at a national level, on a local level, people are practical and invested and make good choices. 

Laughing.

That’s it. I hope you guys have an awesome holiday, whatever you do or don’t celebrate, and that you have a fun (or uneventful and boring) New Year’s, and I’ll see you in January!

 

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Show Us Your Books, December edition: The one where I didn’t read a lot

I don’t know what happened this month. It’s been 5 weeks since the last Show Us Your Books and I read exactly 5 books. That’s one a week. WAY below my average. I mean, I know it’s not a competition and sometimes the pace slows and it’s all fine but when I’m trying to tackle a huge pile and the library keeps sending me more, it feels like a race. I suppose I could stop putting books on hold but let’s be honest, that’s not going to happen. So. We continue the epic battle of me vs. library. show-us-your-books-2016-300by300

As for what I read last month, I had 2 books I almost quit but in the end, I’m glad I didn’t. And of the 5, only 2 were strong; the others were good but not great. I wouldn’t say don’t read them but I wouldn’t say bump them to the top of your TBR, either. Let’s explore:

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty. Confession: I confuse her and Jojo Moyes all the time. I don’t know why. Anyway, this books is not my favorite of hers. It was meh. The storytelling annoyed the fuck out of me. She dragged out storylines for the sake of mystery and it fell flat. The characters were mostly irritating and unlikable yet not enough to make me stop reading so there’s that. I thoroughly enjoyed the last few chapters (though not the last one because Clementine sucks the most). The mostly strong finish offset a generally mediocre novel. Not the best but not the worst book I’ve ever read. 

The Mothers by Brit Bennett. This will be the topic of the newest episode of The Armchair Librarians when season 2 launches in January so I’m not going to give too much away. It’s an absolutely phenomenal book. Sad and engaging and heartbreaking and heartwarming. The writing is stellar. I loved the characters and the stories and everything about it. It’s like a perfectly finished puzzle: once you see how it all comes together, it just clicks and you understand. This is the kind of book that reminds me why I love reading. 

The Summer That Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel. The struggle was REAL with this one. At first, it was a DNF but instead I just put it down and came back to it a couple of weeks later. I’m glad I did. I mean, this book is S-L-O-W for the first 250 pages but the last 60 make it worth the slog. Sad, powerful, explosive, heartwrenching. I’m not a huge fan of her writing but you get over the pretentiousness after awhile. I loved, eventually, all the characters and the narrative punches you in the gut at the end. Note: although this is labeled as a YA book, it most definitely is not. 

I’m Just a Person by Tig Notaro. I think Tig is awesome and hilarious and I was thrilled to find out she wrote a book. And it was enjoyable. She’s such a great writer and a badass survivor. However, having watched and read interviews and her Netflix special, I don’t feel like I learned a ton more about her. It was interesting to get a glimpse inside her head during that one year and how she dealt and survived and pushed through. She’s definitely inspiring but the book was average.

All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker. This is the other book I’ll almost DNF. I wanted to quit because the narrator is condescending and arrogant and insufferable. But once you realizes he’s actually a sociopathic narcissist, it becomes a whole different book. He reminded me of an unlikable Joe (from YOU and Hidden Bodies) and that helped me get through. The plot was engaging enough and the twist at the end was both predictable and shocking and definitely worth finishing the book for. If you can get over the narrator’s tone, it’s a worthy read. 

TL;DR: The only one that’s a must read is The Mothers. Please, please read it. 

And FYI, there’s another SUYB on December 27, where we’re asking you to join us and talk favorite books of the year. And as a thank you for all the support, Steph and I are hosting our annual holiday giveaway. The winner gets an Amazon gift card and a donation to Dolly’s Imagination Library will be made in the winner’s name. So, linkup, enter, and let’s talk books! (Giveaway is below the linkup)

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Show Us Your Books: The month with amazing books

You voted, right? If not, stop reading this, go vote, and then come back. Unless you live outside of the US in which case, keep on reading. 

I don’t know what happened this month. It’s like the gods and stars of book goodness aligned and sent me a whole bunch of great books all at once. Even the one I didn’t finish was great (you’ll understand when you see my explanation as to why it was a DNF). There’s a TL;DR at the end since I believe there’s 9 or 10 books this month and, as always, the reviews are similar to what you see on Litsy if you follow me there. And, also as always, make sure to visit my co-host, Steph, as well as some of the other bloggers who join us. 

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Alright, friends. Prepare your Goodreads. 

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena. I waffle back and forth between this being awesome or just okay. Because it’s both. At times, it’s a gripping, intense, fast paced thriller and at others it’s a sloppy let’s throw stuff at the wall to see what sticks mess. It became quite predictable so the twist wasn’t really a twist at all and that was disappointing, and the missing baby seemed more like a plot object than point and that got under my skin. But the writing was fine and it’s a wonderful plane/vacation read. It also kept reminding me of the Madeline McCann case, like the author fictionalized or speculated on those events.

Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh. The writing in this book is simply astounding. Probably some of the best writing I’ve read in awhile. However, the story was mediocre and Eileen, the main character, was horrible. I know she’s supposed to be, and the the narrator, Eileen’s elderly self, tells you that up front but she was so insufferable and pathetic it made the book hard to get through at times. The end pay off was decent and if you like character studies, this would be a good choice for you. 

Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina. SO. GOOD. It’s a contemporary historical fiction story set in 1977 New York. Queens, to be precise which, incidentally is where I live following my birth so I was ACTUALLY ALIVE when this story takes place. My parents never talk about the events the story is set against and so it made that part even more interesting to read. Then there’s the compelling, wonderfully written family drama, coming of age, fiction story wrapped in a YA novel you forget is YA. And the pieces of feminism thrown give it that extra kick of awesome. 

Adulting: How to Become a Grown-Up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps by Kelly Brown Williams. As a 39 year old self-described mostly competent adult, I can safely say that had this book existed when I was in my early 20s, it would not have taken me 39 years to become a competent adult. This books is smart, funny, comprehensive, and practical. There isn’t a topic that goes untouched. If there’s a person in your life who’s struggling, at any age, with adulting, give them this book. And then make them read it.

The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay. I know I’m late boarding the bus on this book. I know everyone read it last year. But. OMG. This book ripped my heart apart. I don’t even know how to discuss what a painfully beautiful and heart wrenching story this is. Phenomenally written, too. A lesser writer would have made this a trite, stereotypical YA romance with tortured souls and all that shit. Nope. This was way beyond that. This was intense in the way of All the Bright Places and it will haunt me like that one still does, too. 

Holding Up the Universe. Speaking of Jennifer Niven, this is the book that follows All the Bright Places (it’s not a sequel. Just her next book). It was not a bad book. The characters were interesting and I love her writing but the story wasn’t as strong as I’d hoped. And I would have loved to see less talk of Libby’s weight. It was basically it’s own character and it got annoying. Like she was trying REALLY HARD to prove that fat people are beautiful, too. STOP. We get it. I can’t help but compare this book to Dumplin’, which is similar but executed much better.

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris. FUCKED UP. That’s what this book is. FUCKED. UP. It got predictable at times but then it turned on its head and wasn’t necessarily what you thought would happen. It should come with 8 million trigger warnings because it’s disturbing and depicts emotional, physical, and psychological abuse in an unfortunately realistic manner. But when you think twisted thriller, think of this book. It’s hard to read at times but definitely worth it. Oh, and if you’ve read it and figured out what the fuck he does in Thailand, can you let me know? 

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I don’t have words to do this book justice. And it’s not really my place to do it justice because it’s not about me. This book wasn’t written for people who look like me, although all people need to read it. It’s painful and magnificent and make you think on every page about systemic racism and how it influences and seeps into everything. His writing is superb and framing it as a letter to his son makes it that much more impactful. Read it, read it, READ IT.

Adnan’s Story: The Search for Truth and Justice After Serial by Rabia Chaudry. This was my DNF. I know! It surprised me, too. And please don’t let the fact that it was a DNF for me make you think it’s reflective of the quality of the book. It’s not. If you’ve followed Adnan’s case, you know that Rabia is a passionate advocate for him and the book makes a compelling case against his unjust conviction (and the courts agree, too, so there’s that). But since I was obsessed with Serial and continue to follow what’s happening, the book didn’t really present anything new and it became boring and I had to let it go. 

Bonus book: The Recovering Spender by Lauren Greutman. Ordinarily I don’t review books I read for work purposes for SUYB but this one was worth a mention. If you have a problem with debt or overspending, I highly recommend this one. She talks, very candidly, about her problem and how she and her husband worked their way to a debt free life and her 12 step plan (which is based on the AA plan), is freaking brilliant. She does get a little pushy at times with her website and courses but you can skip those parts without losing context. P.S. She sent me a copy of the book.

TL;DR: You’ll be fine adding any or all of these to your TBR. Not a single one I don’t recommend. But if you limit yourself, definitely add The Sea of Tranquility, Burn Baby Burn and Between the World and Me.

Okay. Now it’s your turn! Show us what you’ve got! Bloggers, link up; nonbloggers, leave a comment with what you’ve been reading. And for those of you who like to plan, next month’s is on December 13 (my daughter’s birthday, incidentally) and there will be a bonus best of linkup later in the month. We’re working out the details. 

 

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Show Us Your Books, October edition: Celebrating 2 years!

YOU GUYS. This month marks two years–TWO YEARS–of Show Us Your Books. I cannot even express in words how amazing that is and how honored I am that every month for the last two years, you have linked up and talked books with me and Steph. It is amazing to connect with other readers from all over the world and there are dozens of books I’ve read that maybe I wouldn’t have if it weren’t for your participation. So, as a thank you, we have a little giveaway. Make sure you read through the whole post to see what prizes we have for you guys and enter to win. 

As far as my reads this past month, it was quite a mixed bag both in terms of my reaction to the books and in terms of topic. I don’t want to say it was my most eclectic month on record but it’s definitely a contender. And, as always, these are either direct copies or derivatives of my Litsy reviews (follow me there if you’d like. Just search for my username, Jana).show-us-your-books-2016-300by300

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware. You’ll get more of my feedback on this book when Steph and I discuss it on The Armchair Librarians but for now, let’s say that it’s exponentially better than her other book but it’s still an average, standard, passes the time just fine thriller. It’s a perfect plane or vacation book, one that keeps you reading but doesn’t hurt your brain and isn’t 100% unputdownable. She weaves an intriguing story, even if you solve the mystery pretty early on, but the storytelling is kind of lazy and boring at times. That said, I read the book in a day so it didn’t totally suck.

Heartbreaker: Stories by Maryse Meijer. I have mixed feelings about this collection of short stories. On the one hand, it’s a beautiful collection of gorgeously written, sad, and fucked up stories about love and sex and relationships and the really dark parts of all of those. On the other hand, they were so damn weird that I struggled through it at times. But I guess that’s what made it so compelling. I can’t say that I recommend it to everyone, because some might find some of the stories  offensive or way too out there, but it was good. Very good.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. While written in typical Picoult formula, it’s probably the most relevant and intense book of hers I’ve read (save for Nineteen Minutes. Probably on par with that). It addresses all the things regarding racism we’re afraid to confront and you can tell the care she took in researching and writing. This book will give you all the emotions and, in the end, gives you pause to truly think. This is not an easy book, and might upset people, but I’m glad it’s out there (and I can’t wait until Steph and I get to see her talk about it). *received as an ARC from NetGalley

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware. NOPE NOPE NOPE. There was nothing about this book I liked except maybe the news reports and emails. Had I not had to finish it for The Armchair Librarians, I would have bailed. It was boring and sloppy and tedious and tried so hard to be The Girl on the Train but failed so hard. The main character was wholly unlikable and I gave zero fucks about what happened to her and I gave less fucks about the plot. And the ending sucked balls.

Lady Cop Makes Trouble by Amy Stewart. The Kopp sisters series is easily my favorite series of the last 5 years and I don’t generally like historical fiction. That’s how good this shit is. I love, love Constance’s tenacity and badassery and take no shit and get shit done and shut your face, I can take care of myself and don’t you tell me I can’t because I’m a woman attitude. We need more books about women like this, historical or fiction, and all the kudos to Amy Stewart for writing these. I swallowed this book whole in about 3 hours, I loved it so. It maybe wasn’t as good as Girl Waits with Gun but definitely close. 

Monster by Walter Dean Myers. I got this from last month’s SUYB but cannot remember who reviewed it but thank you to whomever that was. As a former juvenile probation officer, the subject of this book hurt me in places. It was such a creative way to tell Steve’s story, and the diary entries were particularly poignant but the end felt rushed. It tapered off when it shouldn’t have. For all the in-depth, thoughtful moments throughout the rest, it was disappointing. The author did a great job writing from Steve’s perspective and it really makes you think about some moral issues in our justice system. 

The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck by Sarah Knight. ALL THE YESSES TO THIS BOOK!!! I loved it so, so, so much. Hilarious and practical and perfect for anyone no matter your level of fuck-giving. You will learn, you will laugh, you will have revelations. This is book #1 in my adulting starter kit. However, if heavy swearing is not something you enjoy or if you are offended by that kind of language, then maybe pass. And she has a second book coming out in December. I CANNOT WAIT.

TL; DR: Add The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck, Lady Cop Makes Trouble, and Small Great Things. Run away from Ruth Ware. 

Now it’s your turn! Link up and show us what you’ve read! Make sure you visit some other bloggers, too. And below the linkup is the giveaway so definitely check that out.

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Giveaway time!!!

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Here’s the prize breakdown (and of course they’re all book related): 

  • First prize = $50 Amazon gift card;
  • Second prize = banned books socks and a library card catalog coffee mug;
  • Third prize = reading journal and book ornament;
  • Fourth prize = card catalog pouch (when we bought it, Out of Print sent a book to a community in need, so it’s a feel good prize too). 

Good luck and thanks again for 2 amazing bookish years!!

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Friday Six-Pack: Reset the counter

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve done a weekly recap but I figured maybe I should start that again. Maybe I’ll even begin including pictures (insert collective gasp)!Friday Six Pack

Not too interesting of a week but there were some highlights:

  • I bought planner stickers. They were on sale and I get jealous of Kathy and Rebecca Jo‘s pretty planners so I figured for $3, what the hell. Now I own the stickers and I don’t know what to do with them. Suggestions?
  • Mr. Robot is the biggest mindfuck of a show in the history of ever and I watched LOST. Just when I think I get it, I don’t. But damn, Craig Robinson, are you good at being creepy and my 15 year old self loves seeing Christian Slater every week.
  • Last weekend, my town had a big craft beer festival to support our historic preservation society or something like that. So we went. I had fun, despite the 8 billion degree weather and despite eating tacos from a stand advertising “Taco’s” (At first, I did refuse to eat from there due to the poor grammar but you know…drunk) and despite eating tacos rather than Old Bay tater tots. I did successfully avoid using the portapotty and I made some new friends. Many wins for me!
  • I finished The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck by Sarah Knight. You guys. READ THIS FUCKING BOOK. If you listen to The Armchair Librarians, you heard me discuss it and I’ll do so in-depth for the next Show Us Your Books but expect many references to this book around these parts in the near future. 
  • Speaking of books, my next library haul is going to be nuts. So many books, so much diversity in topic, and one of them is Lady Cop Makes Trouble!!!!  IG post coming as the books roll in (not following me on IG? You should!) or after I hit the library at some point today, depending on how many are there. 
  • The child is now the proud owner of an iPhone. I’m not prepared for this. Also, does anyone else not give a fuck about the iPhone7? I’m quite happy with the 6 and I am in no rush at all to buy the new one, especially before others buy it and I hear feedback. I might wind up getting one when the times comes for an upgrade on my line but I don’t care enough to make it a priority. Mostly because it’s a fucking phone. 

A funny:

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Enjoy your weekend! I’ll be celebrating my mother-in-law’s 60th and a childfree Friday night while she’s at some cheer team bonding sleepover thing. Hope you do something fun, too!

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