Posted in Reviews

Review: 30 Things I Love About Myself by Radhika Sanghani

30 Things I Love About Myself by Radhika Sanghani
Verdict: ehhh…

Recommended: maybe
If you feel like you could use a self-help book but in a more palatable novel format, if you like crystal-astrology spirituality, if you can support a main character who is ACTUALLY a bit of an idiot

Summary

Nina didn’t plan to spend her thirtieth birthday in jail, yet here she is in her pajamas, locked in a holding cell. There’s no Wi-Fi, no wine, no carbs–and no one to celebrate with.

Unfortunately, it gives Nina plenty of time to reflect on how screwed up her life is. She’s just broken up with her fiancé, and now has to move back into her childhood home to live with her depressed older brother and their uptight, traditional Indian mother. Her career as a freelance journalist isn’t going in the direction she wants, and all her friends are too busy being successful to hang out with her.

Just as Nina falls into despair, a book lands in her cell: How to Fix Your Shitty Life by Loving Yourself. It must be destiny. With literally nothing left to lose, Nina makes a life-changing decision to embark on a self-love journey. By her next birthday, she’s going to find thirty things she loves about herself.

Thoughts

I definitely didn’t love this as much as I thought I would. It was a little too goofy with some of the spiritual stuff, and the totally serious conversation about making a “heightest” (like racist) jokes was a bit too much to me. It wasn’t a bad point, exactly, but the way it was conveyed was a little holier-than-though.

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Mini Review: Delicates by Brenna Thummler

Delicates by Brenna Thummler

I don’t know why I didn’t expect this to take a dark turn. Especially when I think back to being in eighth grade… this story is depressingly spot on. I suppose it’s because the first story was a little lighter and sillier.

I loved the exchange where Eliza tells her mom Tommy Prickle calls her a weirdo, and her mom says “would you rather be a weirdo or Tommy Prickle?”

And Eliza’s poor dad. I guess I empathize a hell of a lot with the parents here, which I guess shows my age a bit.

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Posted in Reviews

Review: How To Fail at Flirting by Denise Williams

How To Fail at Flirting by Denise Williams
Verdict: worth it!

Recommended: sure!
For a sexy ride through a romance, for that fun cliche of changing your life via list to break out of your shell, but be aware there’s some freaky moments in here with MCs past abuser

Summary

When her flailing department lands on the university’s chopping block, Professor Naya Turner’s friends convince her to shed her frumpy cardigan for an evening on the town. For one night her focus will stray from her demanding job and she’ll tackle a new kind of to-do list. When she meets a charming stranger in town on business, he presents the perfect opportunity to check off the items on her list. Let the guy buy her a drink. Check. Try something new. Check. A no-strings-attached hookup. Check…almost.

Jake makes her laugh and challenges Naya to rebuild her confidence, which was left toppled by her abusive ex-boyfriend. Soon she’s flirting with the chance at a more serious romantic relationship—except nothing can be that easy. The complicated strings around her dating Jake might destroy her career.

Naya has two options. She can protect her professional reputation and return to her old life or she can flirt with the unknown and stay with the person who makes her feel like she’s finally living again.

Thoughts:

This book started off a lot darker than I expected, as right away we’re plunged into her fear at hearing that her abuser has returned to her workplace, where they originally met. I’m grateful I don’t have any personal experience with that situation, but reading the scenes where they interacted or even where she just thought about her past with him really affected me. They were tense and haunting and one scene was so stressful I had a few tears during / after because I was really wound up by it. So an FYI that if you’re sensitive to those situations or have your own experience, those parts will not be easy to read.

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Review: The New Girl by Kid Toussaint

The New Girl by Kid Toussaint

Recommended: for sure!
For a cute friendship story with a twist of family drama, for some (possibly accurate?) insight into Dissociative Identity Disorder, for a flavor of Inside Out with the different personalities that come out, for gorgeous art to render a potentially complicated problem

Summary

Elle is just another teenage girl… most of the time. Bubbly and good-natured, she wastes no time making friends on her first day at her new school. But Elle has a secret: she hasn’t come alone. She’s brought with her a colorful mix of personalities, which come out when she least expects it… Who is Elle, really? And will her new friends stand by her when they find out the truth?

Thoughts

I saw this book a few times and was debating reading it, but I figured it would be pretty much like that movie inside out and didn’t really want to bother reading a story I felt like I would already know (despite the fact that I haven’t actually seen that movie…). Finally, I read a couple of reviews and several people mentioned that it’s more focused on dissociative identity disorder and other personality things like that rather than just being a characterization of emotions in general. Frankly, that’s what sold me. I was hoping this would be fun, and creative, but also a way that mattered a little bit more and could give people insight into those that need it.

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Posted in Fast-Forward Friday

Fast Forward Friday: The Mirror Season, 3/16/21

Hey y’all! In contrast to Throwback Thursday, I like to use Fridays to look forward to an upcoming release that I’m excited about! Today’s is The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore.
Expected Release: March 16, 2021

Why wait on this one?

  • The point that men can be sexually assaulted as well as women is not often touched upon in stories. True, it’s likely far FAR less common, but I appreciate the duality of the story here as I think that the combined perspectives can make the overall horror clearer and hit harder.
  • Part of the premise reminds me in a way of the mood in Mooncakes and while I wasn’t a huge fan of that story, I do think it can work well here. I expect that magical realism to fit seamlessly into the all-too-real elements of the story as a way to soften the blow and allow for personal discovery.
  • Man, this is going to be a tough read in a lot of ways. And yet, it seems like it has these touches of light in there as glimmers of hope for the main characters as well as the reader going along with them. I think that if this is done well, it will be really successful.

Summary

Graciela Cristales’ whole world changes after she and a boy she barely knows are assaulted at the same party. She loses her gift for making enchanted pan dulce. Neighborhood trees vanish overnight, while mirrored glass appears, bringing reckless magic with it. And Ciela is haunted by what happened to her, and what happened to the boy whose name she never learned.

But when the boy, Lock, shows up at Ciela’s school, he has no memory of that night, and no clue that a single piece of mirrored glass is taking his life apart. Ciela decides to help him, which means hiding the truth about that night. Because Ciela knows who assaulted her, and him. And she knows that her survival, and his, depend on no one finding out what really happened.

Posted in Reviews

Review: If I Tell You the Truth by Jasmin Kaur

If I Tell You the Truth by Jasmin Kaur

Recommended: yup
For an intersectional story, for a well done blend of poetry and prose, for a fictional-but-way-too-real look at how sexual assault affects not only the person attacked but so many others around them

Summary

Kiran is a young Punjabi Sikh woman who becomes pregnant after being sexually assaulted by her fiancé’s brother. When her fiancé and family don’t believe her, she flees her home in India to Canada, where she plans to raise the child as a single mother. For Kiran, living undocumented means constant anxiety over finances, work, safety, and whether she’ll be deported back to the dangers that await her in Punjab. Eighteen years later, Kiran’s daughter, Sahaara, is desperate to help her mother, who has been arrested and is facing deportation. In the aftermath, Kiran reveals the truth about Sahaara’s conception. Horrified, Sahaara encourages Kiran to speak out against the man who raped her—who’s now a popular political figure in Punjab. Sahaara must find the best way to support her mother while also dealing with the revelation about her parents.

Thoughts:
I didn’t expect this to begin with Kiran as a kiddo, but that’s just what happened. What we get is a quite robust look at a life, from young Kiran to young adult Kiran to older Kiran as a mother. It switches to her daughter, Sahaara, as she grows up as well. I particularly loved the way Sahaara’s sections grew in stylistic complexity as she grew in age. In her early poetry entries, it’s simple rhyming couplets. It grows more complex, utilized different techniques and the abstract, and eventually turns to lengthier prose entries as well.

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Posted in Fast-Forward Friday

Fast Forward Friday: Parenthesis, 2/9/21

Hey y’all! In contrast to Throwback Thursday, I like to use Fridays to look forward to an upcoming release that I’m excited about! Today’s is Parenthesis, a graphic novel memoir by Élodie Durand. And as I’ve said before, graphic novels are so often the most expressive and open medium for memoirs and personal stories. Just look at Banned Book Club! It’s no surprise that I’m ready for this one.
Expected Release: February 9, 2021

Why wait on this one?

  • As always, I pursue stories about experiences I haven’t or can’t (or in this case, hopefully never will) have myself. For Durand, it’s a tumor that emerged on her brain in her teens, causing seizures and memory loss and the identity struggles that come with it. Just when expected to be able to find herself in the world, she instead encounters a physical cause of her loss of self.
  • Since this book exists… I’m hoping for a happy ending. Or at least, a happy at-the-moment. I’m positive it will be filled with pain and hurt and fear, absolutely. But it seems that so often with those comes inevitable hope (which is itself painful, at times).
  • Graphic novels are, I think, a perfect medium for memoirs. I stand by that pretty firmly, and I so look forward to this one holding up that tradition.

Summary

Julie is barely out of her teens when a tumor begins pressing on her brain, ushering in a new world of seizures, memory gaps, and loss of self. Suddenly, the sentence of her normal life has been interrupted by the opening of a parenthesis that may never close. Based on the real experiences of cartoonist Élodie Durand, Parenthesis is a gripping testament of struggle, fragility, acceptance, and transformation which was deservedly awarded the Revelation Prize of the Angoulême International Comics Festival.

Posted in Book Talk

My favorite non-fiction – part 1

As I’ve gotten older I’ve had the delight of falling into the varied world of nonfiction. I am a forever-curious person (did you know that “flops” and “nines” and “banana dosage” are all units of measurement?), which means that nonfiction will always have something to interest and entertain me.

There are books written about pretty much anything, like this one about salt. As a firm believe that every little thing is surprisingly awesome, I adore deep explorations into what seemed simple or mundane but is actually incredible. It’s much the same how I feel about people. (….usually.)

Often times, nonfiction also makes me a laugh a lot, because the authors can write the way they might talk and take a conversational tone. This includes jokes, and who doesn’t love jokes?

Here’s a range of some of my favorite nonfiction, some of which really changed my life. I can track important events in my life through my nonfiction reading, but some of it is also just really fun and cool. Why not have both? 😊


This is a recent re-read that rather inspired this post. I’ve had some crazy life decision being thrown at me and with that comes all the requisite fear of making said decision plus then living with that decision. Anyway – this book is my master guide to dealing with bad days. It makes me laugh, cry, and feel better. There are the deep talks about how to handle your own depression and bad days, how to help others through theirs, what hers are like, and tales of how she lives aggressively full throttle on the good days. It’s everything I need when I’m starting to feel terrifyingly overwhelmed.

This was my first “sit at a coffee shop and read a book” book. And my god, was it a good choice. It’s a perfect example of a nonfiction topic I love because I know just about nothing about morgue-life (or morgue-death?). Having taken a forensics class, I know enough about other death-stuff to be really interested and not grossed out. Again, this was also hilarious. I love that all the questions were from kids, because I still have a lot of those same questions too.

I lived in Korea for a while, and I absolutely fell in love with it. To be honest, it kills me daily that I’m not there now. And yes, I do mean literally now, even though I lived in Daegu which is currently a quarantine zone for Covid-19. This book is primarily in Korea’s northern c ounterpart, but realistically these are the same people. Yet with drastically different lives. I’ve read a lot of nonfiction about North Korea, but this was by far my favorite because it’s handled with thorough interviews of people from various walks of life and reads almost like a novel through the recreations of scenes and included emotion. It’s absolutely stunning, and humanizing to a place that needs it. The amount of general ignorance I encountered when telling Americans I was going to live / had lived in Korea was painfully revealing.

Ahhhh, WoW Classic. You triggered this all over again. World of Warcraft is (if you’re somehow unfamiliar) an online roleplaying game where you collect stuff, kill stuff, and do stuff. It’s amazing. And last year the company re-released the game as it was when it originally released YEARS ago. There was a huge resurgence of players and excitement, and part of my own excitement was to finally track down Felicia Day’s memoir. She had issues with addiction to the game in some depressive times, but there’s more to her book than that. Ultimately for my life, this means I was playing the video game, reading about someone who played the video game, listening to other people play the video game, and watching a show about people who played the video game. ….It’s a good game. (Though not so much at the moment…)


I have more I want to highlight, but also want to do them justice, so they’ll be in the second part of this post!

Posted in Book Talk

Reading is a huge favor for future-you

Let’s not make assumptions…

If you have never heard the good news before now, then let me have the joy of letting you know! I will make an assumption that if you’re reading this, you probably read a good deal. Well, your extensive time spent reading is one fantastic way to do future-you a favor. Reading and writing are proven ways to help strengthen your brain, which in turn compensates for deterioration later in life from dementia, Alzheimer’s, or simple aging.

While that alone is probably enough to convince you to keep the habit up (or to start developing it if it’s not quite a habit yet), more fascinating is exactly how reading and writing manage to encourage brain health.

Brain work makes the brain work

The idea of how mental stimulation can help your brain is called the cognitive reserve hypothesis (which definitely sounds like an episode title of the Big Bang Theory). Basically, you strengthen the connections between cells with your brain-busting activities. Later in life when the cells themselves are deteriorating, the strong connections between let them rely on each other more to get the work done.

Even when their brains actually had signs of deterioration or other brain damage, those who had a lifelong habit of reading retained more mental function in the last years of their life.

mental stimulation seemed to help protect memory and thinking skills, accounting for about 14 percent of the difference in decline

ALZinfo.org, Keep Reading to Keep Alzheimer’s at Bay

In case it’s not clear, fourteen percent is HUGE in a study like this!

If you happen to be starting this habit late, don’t worry! The same study showed that those who didn’t start until later in life still had a 32% reduction in the rate of brain decline (again, that’s huge!).

If you don’t want to read, you could always become a taxi driver

Maybe reading isn’t your favorite thing, or maybe you just want to mix it up every now and then. No fear, because any activity that requires you to focus or think really hard about something will do you good. Here’s an example list from past activities participants in the study performed that were shown to have helped:

  • studying for medical exams
  • apprenticing as a London taxi driver
  • deciphering mirrored words or Morse codes
  • learning novel color names
  • performing brainteasers

Now to be honest, I’m not sure what “learning novel color names” means, but it sounds fun. On the other hand, I can totally see how working as a taxi driver in London would require focus and constant mental gymnastics. Just… don’t combine reading with taxi driving.

This is real too, this guy was pulled over for reading while driving. Sparked a new motto: “Stay Alive: Don’t Novel and Drive”

Sources

Keep Reading to Keep Alzheimer’s at Bay” by ALZinfo.org, The Alzheimer’s Information Site. Reviewed by William J. Netzer, Ph.D., Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation at The Rockefeller University.

Robert S. Wilson PhD, Patricia A. Boyle PhD, Lei Yu, PhD, et al: “Life-span Cognitive Activity, Neuropathologic Burden, and Cognitive Aging.” Neurology, Vol. 81. 2013.

Prashanthi Vemuri, PhD, Elizabeth C. Mormino, PhD: “Cognitive Stimulating Activities to Keep Dementia at Bay.” Neurology, Vol 81. 2013

It’s like a Moth story as an entire book

I stumbled across Jessica Pan’s Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come on hoopla a month or so ago and have had it on my list since then, waiting for the right mood to strike to pick it up. (Also I had some ARCs and library books to get through….) Well, on this rainy day post-party, THE MOOD HAS STRUCK!

I was pretty sure I would love this, and shortly in, I was loving it, and then she started talking about how much she loved The Moth, and then doing a show on The Moth, and then doing a show on The Moth with David Litt and my god, there’s probably no way I could love this more. Jessica Pan, how do I apply for friendship? I can visit London. I’m 100% willing to get into Deep Talk (just ask me about my difficulty sharing my passions with people!). I feel like this might be another five-star read. 😍

Two sentence summary: Jessica blocked herself off from life by hiding behind her introvert label. Jessica forces herself to do socially terrifying things to overcome her depression and stagnation, like asking Londoners if England has a Queen.