Jana Says

Living life from cover to cover

Tag Archive: linkups

Back to Blogging: Significant songs

This post is part of Alyssa’s back to blogging nonchallenge challenge. I think I got that right.

I love music. Always have, as long as I can remember. I even write about it a lot (like my playlists with Erin, a regular feature I did back when I wrote about money, and I have some other random playlists floating around, too). So when the prompt came up to list 3 song that define your life and why, I had to get on that. 

I’ll say, it was hard to narrow it down. I went with 4 (because I do what I want) and while one isn’t a surprise since I mentioned it a couple of weeks ago, I’ll repeat it anyway. I also went with songs that define my life now, rather than overall because I’m a much different person than I was when I was 18 and even 30 and to use songs from back then would be fun but not necessarily accurate. However. Some of these songs have been constant in my life for the last 10 or so years so maybe what I just said isn’t entirely true. I don’t know. Music, especially good music, is timeless. 

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Song #1: Maybe by Sick Puppies
This song changed my life. I wish that were hyperbole but it’s not. It came to me during an extremely difficult time, personally and professionally, an while 2 years went by before I took the message to heart, it stayed with me the whole time. It’s like the song was giving me permission to walk away from all the horribleness and let me know that yes, it’ll be hard but things have to be hard and change before they get better. 

 

Song #2: The Middle by Jimmy Eat World

For whatever reason, when I’m in the middle of any sort of crisis or weird situation or some sort of tough, awkward time, this song appears on the radio almost every day. I take it as a sign, like the universe is sending me a message that it’ll all be okay in the end and whatever I’m going through is temporary. 

Song #3: America’s Sweetheart by Elle King

I love everything about the song. Specifically, the message. It’s amazing. Essentially it’s about embracing who you are, loving yourself, and everyone who doesn’t like you or wants you to change can fuck off.

Song #4: I’m Not Alright by Shinedown (also, Amaryllis by Shinedown. Is it cheating to have 2 songs by the same band grouped together if they’re from the same album?) 

What I love about I’m Not Alright is that it gives permission to be not okay. To not be perfect, to be flawed, to be weird and quirky and that if you have a mental illness, it’s okay because it’s not the sum of who you are but the sum of all those parts make you who you are. That’s exactly how I feel about my depression. And Amaryllis is a song I listen to on my bad days; it helps give me clarity and perspective and keeps me going.

 

 

Song #5: Count on Me by Default

I am not a big crier but this song gets me every. Single. Time. Not even kidding, I can not listen to this song without getting choked up. I’ll tell you why, too. I heard it when I was pregnant with the child and it says exactly everything I wanted and want her to know . Everyone knows that life sucks sometimes and that there’s one person in their life who is there for them all the time, unconditionally, no questions asked, no matter what, and I want her to know that that’s me. 

 

I’m sure I could have added to the list but we’ll just stop here. How about you guys? What songs provide the soundtrack to your life?

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My completely rational irrational fears

I originally posted this almost two years ago. But since I’m in San Diego this week, and many of you are new around these parts and might have missed it the first time around, I’m resharing. You can also read part 2 when you’re done!

One thing I’m more than happy to admit about myself is that I have many, many fears. Some of them are completely rational. Most of them are not. In fact, not only are they completely irrational but most of them are completely avoidable. Yet they continue to plague me, sometimes on a daily basis. 

I couldn’t even tell you WHY I fear these things. My time would be better spent living in fear of things that are real, like the black widow spiders that live in my neighborhood. Or the threat of a gas build-up in my house because the knobs on the stove like to turn on ever so slightly on their own (you know, not enough to start the burner but just enough to let the gas seep out). Or my neighbors being involved in a drug related shooting because I’m 99% sure they’re running drugs out of their garage. 

Nope. Instead, I find myself living in fear of:

  1. Horses. They’re gigantic and unpredictable and they pretend like they’re all sweet and awesome but really, I’m pretty sure they’re plotting against me and they’re secretly violent. When you’re that big and a fly can scare you, you need to stay the fuck away from me. Also, when I meet someone who also doesn’t like horses, we’re instantly BFFs. Because THEY GET IT.horses
  2. Setting my hair on fire. My favorite, and pretty much only, part of my appearance I like is my hair and I do almost nothing with fire. So of course I’m paranoid that I’m going to get involved in a Michael Jackson-like incident.
  3. Barbecues. Not the social events but rather the physical grill that you use to cook the food. I will not go near ours, not even to turn it on, because I fear singeing my eyebrows off and I won’t let my family use any of the ones in public areas because I’m convinced people pee on them. It’s useless to convince me otherwise. 
  4. Drive by shootings. I live in the sticks, across the street from a farm, and my neighborhood sits on a golf course. In other words, prime locations for a drive by. See also: being abducted.
  5. My cat being eaten by a wild animal. This one is not completely ridiculous. I have an indoor/outdoor cat and living in the country means there are all kinds of animals living outside, too. But she sleeps inside almost every night and she’s crazy fast and agile and she didn’t die during the 2 weeks she was missing. But the fear is real.
  6. Losing my teeth. I do not come from a long line of people with good teeth so genetics are not on my side. Despite how meticulous and ridiculous I am about oral hygiene, I can’t help but think that one day, all my teeth will fall out. 
  7. A car falling into my windshield. Specifically when I’m driving behind one of those trucks that hauls all kinds of different cars and all the cars look like they’re one bump away from coming loose. Can’t they secure them just a little  bit better? Like with chains instead of tape?
      

    My personal horror movie

  8. Tunnels. If you ever want to see my knuckles turn stark white or see me stop breathing, drive through a tunnel with me. I have an immense fear of the walls caving in and/or getting stuck in one. True story: when I drove from college to Key West with some friends for spring break (remember this one, Steph?), I had to drive through the Fort McHenry Tunnel (outside Baltimore). I wouldn’t let anyone speak for the entire duration we were in the tunnel. It makes me that crazy.Instant fear. Just add traffic and high speeds.
  9. Birds. Also bats. Not only do I fear them nesting in my hair and shitting on me, I’m confident they carry all kinds of diseases and I want no part of that. Another true story: one summer, when I was a sleepaway camp counselor, a bat got into our cabin. I hid under my blanket and let my campers fend for themselves. Because fuck them and that bat.

This is actually my nightmare:

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2016 update: The bathtub crashing through the floor and landing in the kitchen, mowing off my toes, falling into my washing machine (it’s a top loader, very deep, and I am short. This is a terrible equation), and every single unidentifiable bug or spider that leaves near my house.

Now that you all know how I’m sufficiently crazy, what irrational fears do you have?

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Show Us Your Books, August edition: The one with short books

Second Tuesday of the month. You know what that means. 

Don’t forget to visit both me and Steph, some of the others linking up, and let me know what you’re reading in the comments if you forgot to write a post and/or you’re a non-blogger. 

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You guys. The Devil in the White City is murdering my reading mojo. The parts about the serial killer are fucking fascinating but getting through the parts about the coming together of the World’s Fair is a tedium I’ve never read through before. Since I’m still working through it, and cannot read more than 20 pages at a time (although I have taken to skipping the World’s Fair chapters completely and just reading the murdery ones), I also have a side book. As you do. And the side books this month have all been rather short. I don’t think I read one that was more than 350 pages. I was more eclectic than usual this month as well. No real reason. 

If you follow me on Litsy (I think my user name is just my name, Jana, because I am insanely creative), you’ve seen these reviews and I apologize but I am way too lazy to rereview them. 

Hurt People by Cote Smith. A decent thriller that I liked, not loved. The premise was great, the plot well executed, the tension was palpable, and he’s an engaging writer but the fact that that narrator was what I pictured to be a 9 year old boy became tiring after awhile. I don’t know how to properly describe it but there was a lot of what the narrator imagined would happen in a scenario before there was actually what happened. It bothered me. Also, the two main characters didn’t have names. I’m sure it’s a stylistic choice to make a point but it bothered me.

First Comes Love by Emily Giffin. Emily, you and I are done. Between the last book and this piece of shit, I can’t read you anymore. In fact, the best thing I can say about this book is that it was better than your last one. I loathed the characters, the plot, and it was difficult to care about anything that happened, even the sad stuff. And, having struggled with infertility issues, the whole pregnancy/baby daddy/sperm donor storyline was oversimplified and borderline offensive. This was an ARC from NetGalley and I think I’m supposed to thank the publisher for the book, too, but I can’t remember who it is. Sorry, publisher. 

The Invoice by Jonas Karlsson. This book sort of reminded me of a literary version of Defending Your Life (the movie with Albert Brooks and Meryl Streep where he dies and goes on trial to see if he goes to heaven or has to try life again. It’s a great movie if you’ve not seen it). What I liked most about the book was not the writing or characters, which were good and interesting, respectively, but the way it makes you think about the value of happiness and how we measure a life. It’s a quick, thoughtful read and while it starts off slow, it’s worth it to keep going. This was a NetGalley ARC as well. 

Real Artists Have Day Jobs by Sara Benincasa. After this book, I am now obsessed with her and I swear it has nothing to do with the fact that she regrammed my blurb about her book on IG. She’s just fucking awesome and I cannot wait to get my hands on her other books. This book, though, is funny and real and honest and packed with self-help information that anyone of any age can use and she gives it in such a noncondescending way that you feel empowered after you read it. She says that she loves Amy Poehler (there’s a whole chapter about it) and this book actually reminds me of Yes Please. Personal stories with a tinge of self-deprecation intertwined with life lessons and almost no ego or braggadocio (and trust when I say she has plenty to brag about). Even if you don’t like self-help books, read this one. 

The Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon. If you listen to The Armchair Librarians, you know my thoughts on this book but to sum up: what a badass, pioneering, smart, determined woman we have sitting on the bench. This country is better because of her. Not only did she advocate and fight for equality but her own personal struggles and triumphs over the discrimination she faced made it all that more compelling of a read. Her relationship with her husband was incredible and the chapter at the end for how to live like RBG is probably my favorite. The only con is reading through the legalese but the authors break it down pretty well. 

Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss. I’m not sure exactly what it is about this book that made me enjoy it so much. But there was something about the way the characters intersected and the way she wrote, like she was in my living room, telling me a story instead of writing it, and the backdrop of 1980 and the NYC arts scene that made it a compelling, heartbreaking, and beautiful read. I feel like this book is what Sweetbitter tried to do. 

Listen to Me by Hannah Pittard. I enjoy Hannah Pittard as a writer. Having read all of her books, I say that with certainty. She weaves a story with beautifully and perfectly choiced words, and, since her books are short, precision. She tells wonderful narratives and constructs realistic plots. That said, this book did not do what I wanted it to. The defining moment of the plot was rushed, and I felt completely misled as to what it was going to be, and there was too much minutia instead. And that type of climactic moment usually reduces me to tears but in this book, it felt too clinical and matter of fact. There was no emotion connected to it. And Mark, the husband, is a raging turd. He almost ruined the book. I hated him and wanted him to go away. 

TL;DR–Add Tuesday Nights in 1980, Real Artists Have Day Jobs, The Notorious RBG. The Invoice if you need a quick vacation book. Avoid Emily Giffin. Watch Defending Your Life

Your turn. You know what to do. Next one is September 13. 

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Show Us Your Books, July edition: The one with lots of intensity

Well this Show Us Your Books sneaked up on us pretty damn quick, didn’t it? Or maybe it’s just me because I’m still on my blogging break (mostly). I wanted to come back sooner but I’m struggling with some things and want to sort that all out before I start writing consistently again. We’ll hash all that out in a post later on because today is all about the books.

This past month was full of intensely intense books. I’ve never been one to read with the seasons (i.e., light and fluffy in the summer, heavy in the winter) and this month definitely proves it. I read some seriously batshit crazy books with some seriously batshit crazy characters. I also read a book about a plane crash while actually on a plane so that shows you just how good my decision making skills are. 

Note: for the most part, these reviews are the ones I’ve written on Litsy (you can follow me there if you want, @saysjana, but only if you have an iPhone. It’s not available for Androids yet). I’ve learned that I’m terrible at most of the social media but this one is a bit different and it helps me track my reading and reviews for this here linkup. It also helps me keep my reviews a bit shorter because, as we all know, I’m longwinded. #sorrynotsorry 

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True Crime Addict: How I Lost Myself in the Mysterious Disappearance of Maura Murray by James Renner. I fucking loved this book. Read it in one sitting. I think it helped that I wasn’t familiar with the case so all the information was new to me. I adored his writing style and how he interwove his life with his obsession in solving Maura’s disappearance. To me, this is how you do a memoir.

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I’ve said before that TJR is an author I’ll never quit mostly because her books are predictably good and reliable. She’s just the right mix of solid writing, chick lit, and likable characters set in what feels like realistic situations. Her books consistently entertain me and this one was no different. I got this from NetGalley AND it was a book I read for Erin and Dani’s challenge. 

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley. You know how I said I read a book about a plane crash while physically on a plane? s: It’s this one. The plane crash is not at all a spoiler, I promise. I loved the writing and the storytelling and the way he told the story of the passengers on the plane but the plot had so much going on and too many characters that it got annoying and lost me at times. However, it’s still worth the read. Just not on a plane. That’ll freak you out. Also a NetGalley book and a book for Erin and Dani’s challenge. 

Breadline USA: The Hidden Scandal of Hunger in America and How To Fix It by Sasha Abramsky. The best thing I can say about this book is that it was decent. I like a good social policy book but this was not it. I found him pretentious and obnoxious and out of touch and, roughly 7 years after the book’s publication, it seems woefully out of date. This seems like a topic he seized on because at the height of the recession it was trendy but it lacked passion and a genuine concern for the problem he’s discussing. 

Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman. Steph and I will be discussing this on an upcoming episode of The Armchair Librarians so you’ll get a more in-depth review then. But for now we’ll say that this is one of those books that when it’s good, it’s kick ass awesome and intense and fucked up and you can’t put it down but when it’s not, it’s boring and tedious and whiny. The ending is MESSED UP so proceed with caution. 

Shelter by Jung Yun. This is a well-written examination of the repercussions of a violent event that hits (no pun intended) a Korean-American family (this last part is important because the book examines a lot of cultural family dynamics). It deals with all the things: debt, marriage struggles, domestic violence…so many issues are addressed here. This is not an easy, light read. It is hard. But it is so, so good. I also got this one from NetGalley (I know! Three in one month!)

Why We Came to the City by Kristopher Jansma. A gorgeously, if sometime overly, written story of grief and friendship and hope and sadness and loss and love filled with characters I cared nothing about. Except Jacob and Irene. I cared about them. They made the book worth reading. This one reminded me a little bit of A Little Life if that helps describe it. 

I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid. I don’t know how to fairly review this wonderfully insanely fucked up book. It’s bizarre and twisted and packs so much into it’s 200ish pages but honestly, I have no idea what the hell I just read. I finished it and reread the last 15 pages 4 more times and then the beginning twice more and I think I got it but wow. The decent into madness is harrowing to read and it’s gruesome and if someone has read it, please get in touch with me because I really need to discuss this book.

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler. I was so excited to read this book and then…I read it. At best, it’s annoying. At worst, it’s obnoxious. Snobby and elitist about food and wine, which I care zero about, and I feel like it’s the epitome of everything people love, hate, idealize, and romanticize about New York and New Yorkers. Like it’s one big New Yorky stereotype. And the characters are all assholes. I also could not stand the perpetual vagueness and unanswered questions about Simone and Jake’s relationship. It felt purposeful and it bugged the shit out of me. But she writes well.  

TL;DR: Add I’m Thinking of Ending Things, True Crime Addict, and One True Loves. Maybe Before the Fall. Steph and I are discussing Girls on Fire in an upcoming podcast episode. 

That’s it for me. Now it’s your turn. Link up with what you’ve read. Make sure you visit some other readers and most definitely me and Steph, your lovely hosts. Nonbloggers, leave a comment with what you’ve been reading lately. 

Next linkup is August 8.

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Show Us Your Books, June edition: The one where I take a break from a break

Hey there! It’s Show Us Your Books day which means I’m taking a break from my break to talk books with all of you. 

It’s been 5 weeks since our last Show Us Your Books so I have a higher amount of books on the list than usual. That also means I’m going to (try to) abbreviate my reviews. We all know I’m long winded and paring down the words is a challenge, especially when I’m talking books, but I’m going to try. 

Also, don’t forget to visit Steph and some of the other bloggers who’ve linked up. As for me, I’ll be visiting all of you when I return from Phoenix (yes, this post is coming to you live from Phoenix!) since my computer access is limited and I’m also taking time to spend with the husband and some friends. If you’re following me on Instagram, you’ve probably seen some pictures already. 

But today is not about that, it’s about books so here’s what I read: 

Holding Smoke by Elle Cosimano–A NetGalley book! Given the hit or miss nature of ARCs, I was pleasantly surprised by this one. It was probably one of my favorites of the month, in fact. It’s a YA thriller that could easily be a non-YA thriller, if that makes sense. It had supernatural/sci-fi elements that worked rather than being distracting. Actually, it was sort of a YA Shawshank Redemption. That’s probably the best way I can describe it. Warning: there are some pretty graphic scenes of child abuse and if you’re planning on reading this book in public, prepare to choke back tears. I had to. 

The Bed Moved: Stories by Rebecca Schiff–A perfectly adequate book of short stories, mostly about sex and relationships and honestly, it got repetitive after awhile. If you like short stories, you might enjoy this book since her observations are pretty dead-on and she’s funny but if you’re not a short story fan, go ahead and pass on this one. 

The Girl from Home by Adam Mitzner–This was a standard thriller that started off strong and then tapered off, becoming pretty meh at the end. It had a predictable twist, basic characters, decent writing. I wanted to like this book so much more than I did. It’d make a good beach or plane book, though. 

A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold–How do I even talk about this briefly? I had so many emotions, thoughts, and opinions as I read it (if you listen to The Armchair Librarians you caught a bit of this conflict). It was the most emotionally taxing book I’ve ever read. Not so much from the perspective of reading about a real school shooting (Columbine, which was essentially the watershed moment for planned school shootings) but because Sue Klebold is a fucking asshole. I seriously cannot figure out her motivation for writing this book. It felt like a defense of herself as a parent and there was a lot of “look at me! Look how great of a mother I was!” and blaming Dylan’s mental illness (which she calls “brain health”. That’s its own topic) and Eric Harris for what Dylan did and how she’s been victimized by Columbine. She tries to minimize his role in the massacre, which is infuriating, and constantly refers to Columbine as Dylan’s suicide. While technically true, it gave me all the rage because it ignores his actions. That said, she does raise some important points about depression and suicidal tendencies in teenagers and implores parents to be vigilant and pay attention to their kids. Side note: I watched her Diane Sawyer interview after I read the book since I didn’t want to go in biased. It did not help. The interview only confirmed that I think she’s an asshole. 

American Youth by Phil Lemarche–Interesting choice to read on the heels of Sue Klebold’s book. This was another book (like 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl) that I liked in concept more than practice. The writing was decent but the story was all over the place and rushed. Too much crammed into a short space with a reprehensible main character, which is fine, but the author tried to make him sympathetic and interesting and failed. 

The Never-Open Desert Diner by James Anderson–Tied for Holding Smoke as my favorite read of the month. I can’t pinpoint exactly what it was about this book I liked so much. I just did. It was a mystery that was less thriller and more standard mystery. The characters were all weird and quirky, which you typically don’t get in this kind of book, and having a cello as a major plot point was unique and definitely drew me in. The writing was suspenseful without being overdramatic, and all the storylines tied together really well.

The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman–Not a terrible book, not an amazing book. I liked it and read it fairly quickly because it’s a fast read. You sort of figure out what’s going on right away so the whole big family secret isn’t really a secret which, for me, hurt the plot a bit but knowing it up front made reading what happens to the families as a result different. Like, you’re not trying to figure it out but rather watching them unravel as a result. I loathed the ending, though. It was too simple and felt like a cop out. I wanted more drama, and there should have been given all that happened throughout the book, and there was just…nothing. It seemed fake, like the author wanted a happy ending for these miserable people to vindicate them for their suffering. 

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix-Sweeney–This book did what Fates and Furies did. It left me itchy with anticipation, I stalked it at the library and then…meh. I did enjoy the voyeuristic look at this highly dysfunctional family and it gave you pause to think about the things you take for granted and what family really means but there was just too damn much going on. So many subplots and side characters. SO. MANY. It became bothersome to read after awhile. And there was just one subplot that meant absolutely nothing and had zero contribution to the overall storyline (which, at the very least, the rest of the supporting characters did do). I liked the ending; I think she did a good job with that, it had a little surprise, and it remained true to the characters. Oh, and Cynthia? The Mets haven’t played in Shea Stadium since 2008.

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt–This was a middle grade fiction taking place in 1967-68 Long Island (I think near where I’m from but he never actually gives the town. He made one up), and the main character is a 7th grader dealing with not only his burgeoning adolescence but all the societal things like Vietnam and MLK’s assassination and atomic bomb drills. It’s all set against his relationship with his teacher, who, whether he wants to acknowledge it or not, has a tremendous impact on his life. There’s lots of Shakespeare references, which was kind of different and interesting. 

TL;DR–add Holding Smoke and The Never Open Desert Diner to your TBR. The Wednesday Wars if you’re feeling it. The rest were just fine but definitely not priority reading. As for Sue Klebold’s, save yourself the time and energy and frustration and just watch her interview. 

Now it’s your turn! Link up and show us what you read! Nonbloggers, leave a comment with your favorite read from the last month: 

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