Monthly Mini-Reviews: January

I already explained in my New Year’s Resolutions post that I hold myself accountable for yoga classes by actually signing up for them, rather than showing up as a walk-in.  So to help me keep up with my new year’s resolution of reading 100 books in 2014, I’m going to post a monthly list/mini-reviews at the end of each month, recapping what I’ve been reading. Here’s January:

 

1. Adulting, How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps – Kelly Williams Brown

I thought this one was appropriate, since I’ve been living on my own for five months now and am still clueless about a few things. Kelly Williams Brown is informative yet witty, and sometimes downright hilarious. I can honestly say I’ve learned a lot from this book and would recommend it to anyone recently out on their own or anticipating independence. Plus, aren’t self-help books what you’re supposed to be reading in January?

 

2. I Hunt Killers – Barry Lyga

My friend Feliza has an really cool online geek culture magazine called Girls in Capes.  With the start of the new year, GIC has formed a book club, reading speculative young adult fiction.  I Hunt Killers was their January pick, and I really loved the story of Jazz, a teen who is dealing with some serious problems (like having a serial killer for a dad) and gets involved in the investigation of a new serial killer in his town. Jazz’s sidekicks are his hemophiliac best friend Howie and sassy girlfriend Connie. The series (there is a second Jasper Dent novel, Game) has been compared to the HBO show Dexter, which I coincidentally began watching right before I started the novel.

 

3. The Secret History – Donna Tartt

But why didn’t you read The Goldfinch? Well, because it’s a really expensive, really large hardback novel that we could barely keep on the shelves at the bookstore. However, the popularity of The Goldfinch is what sparked my interest in The Secret History – I wanted to read something by Tartt, whom I’d never heard of before demand for The Goldfinch became the bane of my existence. And I’m so happy I did, because The Secret History is my new favorite book. I love novels set in New England (this may be due to my mom’s massive Stephen King collection that I’ve been raiding since God-knows-how-long). This one is set in Vermont, which was even better because that’s where my boyfriend lives, so I knew some of the places characters went. Add in the cult-like Greek courses (although Latin is my favorite classic), a tight-knit group of slightly odd characters, and a few murders with Tartt’s skilled writing, and BOOM! My new favorite book.

 

4. The Girls from Corona del Mar – Rufi Thorpe [Advanced Copy, Pub Date July 2014]

This book showed up at the bookstore in a box along with a few other ARCs, and it just drew me in. It’s a beautifully written story of friendship, motherhood, addiction, and heartache. The trials that Mia and her best friend Lorrie Ann go through from childhood into adulthood and the toll that distance – both emotional and physical – takes on their friendship lead Mia to question her friendship with Lorrie Ann, as she may not be the person Mia thought all along.

 

5. Dear Life – Alice Munro

This collection of the Nobel Prize winner’s short stories is awash with the intricacies of everyday life.  This is the first book I’ve read of Munro’s, and it will definitely not be my last. Each short story developed into something that would resonate in my mind long after I had finished reading. With Dear Life, rather than novels which I’ll read for hours at a time, I read one or two short stories a day and that was enough.

 

6. The Maid’s Version – Daniel Woodrell

Alma Dunahew is a maid working for a prominent family when 42 people are killed in an explosion at a dance hall (including her own sister). She is privy to secrets that may lead her to know who caused the explosion, but nothing is done; she tells the story to her grandson in The Maid’s Version, a book that made me feel as if I was in on the secrets as well.

 
7. A Star for Mrs. Blake – April Smith
A Star for Mrs. Blake is a great piece of historical fiction based on the diary of Army Colonel Thomas West Hammond. The plot follows Cora Blake and a group of Gold Star Mothers traveling to France to see their sons’ graves. Each woman on the voyage has her own little quirks, but they share tension, friendship, and sorrow. Cora befriends an American journalist who was injured in the war, and he uncovers information about her son. Inevitably, the story has a few twists and an ultimately happy ending. I really enjoyed it.

 

I am almost on track for my 8.333 books a month to reach my goal of 100 books in 2014! I will keep you updated on February’s list.

 

Penn Center for Autoimmune Neurology

I have some HUGE NEWS for the AE community, and the world of autoimmune neurology as a whole.

This afternoon I received a letter from one of my doctors, Dr. Josep Dalmau (who discovered ANMDARE), announcing that the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania will be launching its Penn Center for Autoimmune Neurology this month.

This specialty clinic, developed through Penn’s Department of Neurology, “will be attended by leaders in the field including Dr. Josep Dalmau and Dr. Eric Lancaster. The clinic will focus on consultations and long-term care of patients with antibody mediated neurological diseases such as anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis. Additionally, this clinic will provide a platform to expand on translational research in the field, where patients have the opportunity to directly benefit from laboratory and clinical research happening now at the Perelman School of Medicine at Penn.”

Thousands of patients have been diagnosed with autoimmune encephalitis as awareness grows. With this comes a simultaneously growing need for more physicians who are knowledgeable and able to treat these diseases. Dedicating a specialty clinic to autoimmune encephalitis is a brilliant way to direct people to the information, diagnoses, and treatment they need. I could not be more pleased to bring this information to you guys, and to be a – healthy, happy, recovered – patient of Penn.

New Year’s Resolutions of a Darling Bibliophile

It’s (unbelievably to me) 2014. This means a few things – I’ve been living on the mainline for over four months, I successfully completed my first semester of graduate school (straight A’s, go me!), and I’m that much closer to graduation. And of course it’s time to make some resolutions. I am a firm believer in the “new year, fresh start” ideal. So what are the resolutions I’ve laid out for myself in 2014? Being the indecisive woman that I am, I made a list of several.  Here goes:

1. Read 100 books in 2014. This one is an easy resolution to at least attempt to keep. I didn’t keep track of how many books I read last year; in fact, I only recently made a Goodreads account. However, between books I’ll be reading for class, for pleasure, and galleys for work, I’m pretty confident I can make it to 100 by the end of the year.

2. Go to yoga at least 3x a week. I’m being pretty lenient on myself with this resolution. I already regularly attend yoga twice a week, so tacking on another day will not be that much of a stretch (no pun intended). It also doesn’t hurt that the yoga studio I attend is around the corner from my apartment. I like to schedule myself for each class so that I have a commitment I cannot back out on. So far, I’ve gone every day this week, including Sunday, a candlelit Vinyasa which was my FAVORITE class ever. Side resolution: Have a proper arm balance by the end of the year.

3. Practice forgiveness. That means forgiveness of others, but also forgiveness of myself. 2013 held a lot of negativity for me, between being unable to let go of old memories and hurt, broken friendships, and making mistakes of my own. In order to continue my personal growth and journey to living a positive life, I truly must forgive myself and others to be free of the control which grudges and negativity hold over me. Along these lines, I am resolving to treat myself better. I feel that we don’t give ourselves enough credit, and I often find that I’m punishing myself for something I messed up and ignoring my small accomplishments rather than celebrating them. More celebration, less punishment in 2014.

4. Write more. I have all these plans – plans for this blog, plans as a blogger professionally, and plans as a writer. But none of them will ever happen if I don’t actually sit down to write. So I resolve to write more in 2014 – journaling, blogging on here, submitting my blogs, and writing my story.

5. Try new foods (and re-try foods I disliked in the past). I am a notoriously picky eater. When I was younger, my mom would have to special order grilled cheese sandwiches for me at McDonald’s because I literally would not eat anything there except for fries. The pickiness continued with me into my adult life – I  don’t eat seafood; I will not eat steak or most red meat (tacos, meatballs, and the occasional cheeseburger are my only exceptions); I eat only white meat chicken; there is a laundry-list of dishes that I stay away from completely. I mean, I just started eating salad, and even that is a rare occasion. So I’ve resolved to try (almost) everything again, and you know what ? Cherry tomatoes aren’t so bad the second time around.

That’s what I came up with. Have you looked inwardly at yourself to resolve to do things differently in 2014?