Brain on Fire Reading & Signing at MPB

My dear friend and author Susannah Cahalan is coming to Main Point Books (the awesome indie bookstore where I work) to do a reading from her New York Times bestseller Brain on Fire. Her book, which tells her story of being diagnosed with Anti-NMDA Receptor Autoimmune Encephalitis, is such an inspiration to so many – most of all to me, because the amount of awareness it has created is beyond impressive. And, of course, because without her, I wouldn’t be alive.

As some of my readers know, I am also writing my story with ANMDARE. Since there is so little accessible literature available (basically, Brain on Fire is it), I am of the belief that we need to get as much information out there as possible, and I hope to do so by telling my story in the tentatively-named Fall Risk: My Experience with Autoimmune Encephalitis and the People who Caught Me. Susannah got word (from my dad) that I am beginning to write, and she suggested that I read alongside her at MPB! To quote Rosemont College’s graduate publishing program director Anne Willkomm’s tweet, “Publishing student reads alongside author who saved her life.” Yep, that about sums it up for me.

So, I am happy to announce that on Sunday, April 13th, at 3 p.m., Susannah and I will be doing a reading – and she will be signing her amazing book, of course – at Main Point Books in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.

1041 W. Lancaster Ave. Bryn Mawr, PA 19010

You can join the Facebook event here.

Monthly Mini-Reviews: March

I am soo behind on blogging! I have a few posts in the works that will be up this month, but for now, I’ve got my March reads. Halfway through March, I had only read two books (and one was for class), but I plowed through five more and ended up with a total of 7, which leaves me a little behind, but still on my way to 100 for 2014! Here goes:

1. Fever 1793 – Laurie Halse Anderson

When the yellow fever hits Philadelphia, Mattie Cook’s life is derailed. At first, business at her family’s shop, Cook’s Coffeehouse, is booming because everywhere else has closed. But when her mother falls ill, Mattie and her grandfather depart for a family friend’s farm, leaving her mother with faithful friend and servant Polly. However, they never make it to the farm, and Mattie gets sick as well, but is able to recover in a hospital. She and her grandfather return to the coffeehouse, which is deserted -and there is no trace of her mother. By chance, Mattie reconnects with Polly and they rebuild the business at the coffeehouse, just in time for mother to return from the country, weak but alive. This piece of historical middle grade fiction was a short, enjoyable read. Laurie Halse Anderson gives insight to the worries, hardships, and joy of a fourteen-year-old girl at the time of the yellow fever.

2. The Liars’ Club – Mary Karr

The Liars’ Club is poet and professor Mary Karr’s first memoir – one of her unusual childhood growing up in Texas and Colorado with a dysfunctional family. I read this for my creative nonfiction class. The story is intriguing, and Karr’s poetic background lends itself to great descriptions in the book. The majority of the book takes place when Karr is between the ages of seven and nine years old, and follows her family through her grandmother’s death, her mother’s psychotic break, a spur-of-the-moment move to Colorado, tumultuous relationships, and much, much more. Before the age of nine, Karr had been through more than most people in their entire lives.

3. A Long Way from Verona – Jane Gardam

A Long Way from Verona was Main Point Book Club’s pick for March. It is the coming of age story of Jessica Vye, a young girl living in England in World War II. An author visits Jessica’s school and tells her she is meant to be a writer, which is her dream. The book follows Jessica and her friends’ adventures, including when she and Christian, an older boy whose family is friends with hers, venture to a nearby town, which gets bombed. Her and Christian’s subsequent reactions to the bombing are strikingly contrast, and the result of Jessica’s experience is a poem – one the reader never gets to see – that wins a poetry contest. To complement Jessica’s growth in the story, Gardam does this really cool thing where Jessica’s writing skills subtly develop and improve throughout the book.

4. Liv, Forever – Amy Talkington

I am trying to read more YA, and this book was right up my alley. Liv, Forever was an easy read, and a pretty good twist on a ghost story. Liv Bloom gets an art scholarship to elite prep school Wickham Hall, where she befriends loner Gabe and popular legacy student Malcolm. Wickham Hall is a school of secret societies and cover-ups, and Liv finds out what she’s gotten herself into – too late. When she is murdered and Gabe is her only connection left to life, the three team up to figure out what happened to Liv – and the other ghost girls that haunt Wickham Hall. One of the coolest things about the book is how Talkington weaves art into Liv’s every day descriptions of things – as an artist and art student, Liv makes comparisons to great painters and her imagery is awesome.

5. The Round House – Louise Erdrich

When thirteen-year-old Joe’s mother Geraldine is brutally attacked, he and his father, a judge on the North Dakota reservation, are determined to seek justice for her. Geraldine retreats into herself, so traumatized that she is unable to leave her room. As Joe and his friends start investigating for themselves, they are brought to the Round House, a sacred space of the Ojibwe tribe where the horrific crime was committed. The boys discover clues, and Joe’s memory of his mother that day – going to work to pick up a certain file – points in the direction of one suspect in particular. This novel does a great job of showing the love that binds a family together. It is also really interesting how Erdrich incorporates Native traditions and legends into this reality where characters see ghosts and also shows how government made jurisdiction and enforcing laws so difficult.

6. Boy, Snow, Bird – Helen Oyemi

Helen Oyemi’s most recent novel is loosely-based on the fairytale of Snow White. Boy Novak escapes her abusive, rat catcher father and their life in New York in search of beauty and meets Arturo Whitman and his beautiful daughter Snow. When Boy gives birth to her daughter Bird, a startling family secret is uncovered. Bird is colored, and Arturo’s family has been passing as white for decades (the story takes place in the 1950s). Rather than send Bird away to live with her aunt Clara (who was sent away for the very same reason by Boy’s mother-in-law) to protect the secret, Boy sends Snow away instead – in essence, becoming the “evil stepmother.” Years later, Snow and Bird begin corresponding, and Snow comes home. Both girls have a special relationship with mirrors. Boy’s best friend, a writer, unvcovers another secret, leading to a twist at the end, which I will not divulge, but suffice to say that in this book, nothing is as it seems.

7. The Weight of Blood – Laura McHugh

This dual-narrative novel is told from the point of view of teenage girl Lucy Dane – who only has stories of her mother who disappeared when she was a baby – and also from the past point of view of Lila Dane and what leads up to her disappearance. When Lucy’s mentally challenged friend Cheri disappears, Lucy investigates and stumbles upon a decades-old family secret, that puts her in danger of people whom she trusted. Lila’s story supplements what Lucy is missing from her mother’s past – how she came to Henbane, Missouri and ended up with Carl Dane, the brother of her boss, Crete. I loved this book so much that I don’t want to give away too much of the elegantly crafted, Southern Gothic story, so I’ll just end it here and say this: If you love a well-written thriller with a strong heroine, READ IT.