Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

I have been waiting to read this book for months, maybe over a year. I would see it at Target and pick it up but put it down, or think about buying a copy on Amazon before x-ing out of the tab, or be discouraged when the library didn’t have an ebook version. BUT NO MORE! My library got the ebook and I patiently waited for it to be my turn, and then devoured this book in 2 days.

Susannah Cahalan was a normal 24 year old living the dream in NYC, when everything starts to go wrong. She thinks she has the flu, she’s just stressed, she’s just tired, but then she has a seizure and ends up in the ER. Her journey is crazy and scary and intense – Cahalan does such a good job at recounting her psychosis, and making the reader feel as if you are right there with her. I also loved how much of her parent’s perspective she included – between her mom in denial that everything will be fine/get better eventually, to her poor dad who writes in his journal about crying on the elevator, I think her parent’s speak for the reader’s perspectives as well.

The medical research is solid. I LOVE medical memoirs/non fictions. I read the Emperor of all Maladies (a cancer “biography”), books about the plague, the influenza of 1918, sleeping sickness, death and dying, corpses, malaria, polio, vaccines, I could go on. I love them! Brain on Fire is a solid addition to my collection.

Here’s a summary from Susannah’s website:brain on fireIf you click the image you can follow through and learn more about it. I really enjoyed this! Would highly recommend to anyone who likes medical mysteries, memoirs, and peaking into the most intimate moments of a person’s life – which tbh is the best part of a good memoir.


Dog Days of Summer Reading: August

Hello all! I am so sorry for the lack of updates – I got married on Saturday in my hometown of Sacramento, CA! We journeyed back to Sacramento on the 14th, and it was a whirlwind week of bachelor/bachelorette parties, lots and lots of errands and last minute tasks, visiting family, MAKING A LIFETIME PROMISE TO MY HUSBAND, seeing friends from near and far… whew, it was magical and amazing and I’m a little sad to be back in my normal life again.

I’ve read 4 books in the last couple weeks:


Oh crap, these are actually in backwards order – oh well.

Beyond Belief by Jenna Miscavige Hill was a roller coaster of a read. I read “Going Clear” by Lawrence Wright last year, and of course watched the HBO documentary earlier this year, and am pretty interested in Scientology. Jenna Hill is the niece of David Miscavige, who is in charge of the Church. That her story is SO NUTS and she is family to the boss is just incredible. Growing up without parents, no education, manual labor, separated from anyone she became close to, her parents are declared Suppressive Persons, psychologically tortured, the list goes ON and ON … the isolation she suffered is awful. I liked this memoir because it was very direct and honest – she isn’t the best writer, but her story is engaging enough to overlook the clunky writing. I was really rooting for her to make her escape with her husband at the end. I’m genuinely happy that Jenna has a happy ending after her ordeal of a childhood/young adulthood.

Longbourn by Jo Baker was a wonderful, beautiful, lovely read. The premise is that this is the Pride and Prejudice story from the perspective of the servants. Sara is the main character, and we see her grow, develop and fall in love during the same course of events as the Bennett girls deal with Bingley and Darcy. There is the dashing badboy footman of Mr. Bingley that distracts Sara’s heart from her true love James, a mysterious young man who arrives at Longbourn and has secrets of his own… ugh. It’s wonderful. Also, I felt very vindicated because I do NOT love P&P and Jo Baker paints the Bennett girls as less than lovable and sympathetic – they seem shallow, and oblivious, and spoiled in this book. Which I like! It seemed more realistic.

The Bone Tree by Greg Iles – I was really excited to finally get this book from the library after reading the proceeding book in the Penn Cage series Natchez Burning last year. Penn Cage is a former DA and current mayor of Natchez who uncovers a KKK Civil Rights era murder that has had lasting effects and repercussions on his town and family. Basically, Cage is trying to defeat the Double Eagles, a old KKK offshoot still active in LA/MS, and deal with the sins of their fathers from the 60s. Oh, and throw in connections to the JFK assassination. There is A LOT going on in this book. Unfortunately, most of the mystery and suspense is built upon the main characters hiding information from each other. I found myself skimming through pages of unnecessary drama that I think was created just to add length to the book and artificial character development. I think it was a dud, a very clunky 850 pages. It wasn’t as good as Natchez Burning, which had crazy pacing and revelations throughout all 800 pages. I wanted to give up on this one, but I powered through.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was great, as we all could have predicted. Rereading in quick succession as a grown up, I feel much more in tune with the increasing complexity of the characters/story. I read this cover to cover during our journey home on Sunday – we spent ~8 hours in airports/planes, and it was nice to lose myself in Hogwarts. I think I’ll do a big round up of my Harry Potter experience when I finish the series.

Alrighty everyone! I’m currently reading The Vacationers by Emma Struab, and I have the Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd up next.

Reading Challenge 2015 update: 41 of 60 books

I’m about 2/3rds of the way complete towards my goal of reading 60 books this year! I started really tracking my reading in 2014, with no set goal in mind. I ended up reading 54 books. For 2015, I upped my goal to an even 60.

I read every night before bed for anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes. On my days off (I work part time), I can get in a couple hours of extra reading time, and on the weekends I sometimes spend mornings or afternoons reading.

I am pretty broke, so my partner and I don’t go out all that often, leaving me with a lot of time to spend reading. He is in law school, so he spends a lot of time studying, and I don’t want to watch our shows without him, so I usually read or surf the net while he is studying. Ha, I don’t think anything is more frustrating than wanting to watch the next episode, but your tv partner is busy!!! I’m very serious about my shows…

Also, I work part time, which gives me extra time to dedicate to reading that I know not everyone else has. If I could afford to, I would work part time forever! It’s so wonderful. I think those European countries with the 4 day work week are really onto something. I was unemployed for 5 months before getting hired at my current job, which I love – its an amazing institution, with great coworkers, and I’m doing productive work. I want to stay in this position and show some growth/development, and get some longevity on my resume – I’ve jumped around a lot the last few years, so all my positions are only for 1 or 2 years. I think scraping by on a low salary is worth establishing myself a little – plus my job title sounds prestigious (if I do say so myself), which I think will help a lot whenever I move on. My current plan is to wait until Spring/early Summer 2016 to look for a better paying job, either with the same institution as an internal applicant or elsewhere, after I’ve reach an official year in my current position. Plus, I’ve heard rumors of people retiring in my department, meaning that positions could open up or roles could change… you gotta be patient sometimes.

Sorry for a detour into personal details – but I get a lot of questions about how I have so much time to read, or how I’m able to read so much. It’s a combination of having the time to do it, and making it a priority. I always read at night. Reading during the day is an added bonus, especially if I’m in the middle of an amazing book. If I’m really into a book, I’ll take my kindle to work and read on my hour lunch break.

Reviewing the 41 books I’ve already read, I’m really proud of myself! I’ve read some amazing books this year, and I hope that the fall and winter have even more good reads in store for me. Click here to browse my 2015 Reading Challenge on GoodReads. You can always add me on Goodreads, I love seeing what everyone else is reading!!

Reliving the magic of Harry Potter: the Sorcerer’s Stone and the Chamber of Secrets

harrypotter1On a whim last month I put The Sorcerer’s Stone on hold at the library, and read it last week. I haven’t religiously reread the series over the years, or in preparation for each  movie release, like a lot of people who grew up with Harry. This was published in 1997, I was 8 at the time. As a big reader in elementary school, I remember reading these as new books. I can perfectly picture the classroom library/reading nook my 5th grade teacher Mrs. Jones had set up in the back corner of her classroom, and discovering my love of historical fiction with “The Last Silk Dress” and “Wolf By the Ears” by Ann Rinaldi… but I also remember having Harry Potter books next to my pencil case in my desk. Does anyone else remember in images? It’s like a perfect snapshot of my pencil box stacked on top of a hardcover of Harry Potter.

I saw the first movie in theaters in Winnemucca, Nevada, on a road trip with my family – my dad took my sister and I so our mom could relax in peace at the motel with a glass of iced white wine. It was wonderful. But I had stopped reading the books around #4 or #5, and only saw the first 2 or 3 movies. It just never sparked a fire for me as a teenager – I can say the same for the Lord of the Rings mania, which was also huge during middle school and high school. The real kicker for me was that the books and movies ALWAYS came out during the summer, usually around my birthday in July –  for so many years, people would skip my birthday party to wait in line for the new Harry Potter book, or be too tired from the midnight premier of the newest movie. It made me bitter!

harrypotter2When I was 18, I finally read the last 2 books and absolutely loved them. I know I’ve read all the books at one point or another… but the middle of the series remains very muddled to me. I think I’ve patched most of my Harry Potter knowledge from the movies, vague memories of reading the books when they original came out, and piecing together information from tumblr.

Well at the ripe old age of 26, I am aiming to rectify this situation! I read the first 2 books last week, and was enchanted by them. Very very good stuff. The level of detail is extraordinary, and the lush background given to each character and setting makes for a very engrossing experience. It’s fun to see the clues Rowling has left sprinkled throughout the early books, and I like vaguely knowing what is going to happen, but not remembering any of the actual details. I didn’t remember Gilderoy Lockheart AT ALL, and its fun seeing Harry and the gang interacting as babies. Ginny’s school girl crush on Harry, Ron’s feelings towards Hermoine. Dumbledore being mysterious as hell – he really isn’t very involved in the first few books AT ALL. I know all is revealed later, but I’ve been surprised at how much of an enigma he is at this point.

I don’t like going on benders with series – I read the first 2 books in 10 days, and feel like I can probably take a break and read other things from my to do list for a little while. Luckily, I can borrow the Harry Potter series for free as part of the Amazon Prime Lending Library, and won’t have to wait to get them from the library – also, I’m limited to 1 per month, which is a nice way to not get too crazy about it. Between Harry Potter and Outlander, I feel pretty good about my options for series.

I don’t think I’ll have any groundbreaking opinions to add to the many many many things written about Harry Potter, but it is nice to relive some memories and revisit some amazing characters.