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


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.

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.


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, 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”


Keep Reading to Keep Alzheimer’s at Bay” by, 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.

Posted in Reviews

Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart

Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart – ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Release Date: October 1, 2019
Whew. Would Ava hate it if I called this story “inspirational?” 😉

“Don’t you get it? It’s never going to be okay.”
“I never said it’s going to be okay. I said I’m not leaving.

Recommended: definitely
For anyone willing to gain some empathy and insight into what it’s like for your body to be more burned than not, who has ever fought to find their identity, who has ever felt hopeless, for anyone who wants to be torn apart only to heal shine brighter than before. It would also be a great read around Thanksgiving, because you’ll find a lot to be grateful for, like “my skin is all one piece” and “my toe is not being used as my thumb.”

I hate the cover, but I get it

The doctors say she’s more burn than girl. Her aunt and uncle say they love her and they’ll make things work, with pain in their eyes. Strangers say she’s an inspiration. Classmates say she’s a freak. The mirror says she’s a monster.
But Piper says she’s a badass.
And Ava is the only one who can decide if she’ll listen to what everyone else is telling her, or if she can find the strength to define herself after the fire that left her alive, but still took her life.

One of the things I liked best was the obvious research and detail given to making sure the treatments and expectations that Ava has to deal with post-burn are accurate. Both in the technical aspects, of how and why, but also in the emotional aspects, with the “finding her new normal.” That seems like something a lot of people might need at some point, even if not because they, like Ava, became a literal butthead due to where skin grafts were needed and where skin was available.

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Posted in Reviews

Every Colour of You by Amelia Mandeville

Every Colour of You by Amelia Mandeville – 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

WOW. I had no idea what I was getting into. First suggestion: don’t read the last quarter of this book in public. Huge thanks to Netgalley and Sphere for a free copy of this to review.

Recommended: YEEEESSSSS
For those who know, love, or are someone who has dealt with grief, love, depression, identity, mental illness, passion, general happiness… basically that list is “everyone” so my recommendation is more or less to “everyone.” A raw story, characters with secrets that are hinted at then revealed, a story that will make you feel terrible and lovely at the same time and renew the power of a smiley face. ☺

Be ready for a good cry (if you’re a particular softie for this stuff) and some deep thoughts about life that end with gratitude.

Classroom book for sure. Enough that I’m inspired to create a new Goodreads shelf right now for it and add some of my others on the list of “books I definitely want available for my students.”

Don’t be fooled by the curly font and bright colors: this book is heavy and intense and so, so good

Quiet pain: Zoe. Loud and outgoing and determined. Endlessly optimistic and manages to say exactly the right things, even when they might seem like just the opposite. And yet, giving up on her passion for athletics and abandoning her dreams, replacing them with salad and coaching and careful living.

Loud pain: Tristan, re-christened Tree by our aforementioned Zoe. Considering not living, carefully or otherwise. Fallen – or perhaps pushed – from his bright and charismatic self into a depression that is somehow both devoid of feeling and excruciatingly emotional.

Loss ties them together, but being together will help them create something new.

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Posted in Reviews

Heroine by Mindy McGinnis

Heroine by Mindy McGinnis – ⭐⭐⭐

New anti-drug campaign from this book: “Don’t do drugs if you still want to love puppies.”

Or possibly, “Did you know drug usage and withdrawal can make you uncontrollably throw up and poop yourself at the same time? Because it can. Don’t do drugs.”

Recommended: Maybe, for certain people/reasons
For people who have no sympathy for addicts, for people who blame the addict for their addiction, for people who might be starting that slide into addiction themselves and need a non-threatening dose of reality

I love a clever cover

Mickey plays softball. Mickey is a softball BEAST. Mickey gets in a bad accident. Mickey can’t play softball until she’s healed. Mickey is prescribed pills to help her heal. Mickey really likes the way the pills make her feel. Mickey makes friends through her pill use. Mickey is pretty much healed… Mickey doesn’t need the pills anymore. Except that Mickey DEFINITELY still needs the pills…

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Posted in Reviews

What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum

What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum – ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Sweet and honest and unexpected. ☺️

Recommended: yes!
For those who want a different-than-usual read on high school, particularly for those who aren’t neurotypical.

From Goodreads: When an unlikely friendship is sparked between relatively popular Kit Lowell and socially isolated David Drucker, everyone is surprised, most of all Kit and David. Kit appreciates David’s blunt honesty—in fact, she finds it bizarrely refreshing. David welcomes Kit’s attention and her inquisitive nature. When she asks for his help figuring out the how and why of her dad’s tragic car accident, David is all in. But neither of them can predict what they’ll find. Can their friendship survive the truth?

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