Books

Head Case: My Brain and Other Wonders by Cole Cohen

A hole in your brain the size of a lemon can cause anxiety, confuse you from telling your right from your left, lead you to misjudge distance, and leave the concept of time incomprehensible. There is a chance you will spend your childhood and most of your adulthood trying to mask your problems, be misdiagnosed with a battery of learning disabilities, cause family strife, and above all require tenacity and spunk to navigate your seemingly quirky self in a chaotic world. Cole Cohen tells you exactly what having a hole in the brain is like with wit and candor in her memoir Head Case: My Brain and Other Wonders.

Never before have I read a memoir that so precisely allowed me to experience a host of memories and emotions that are not mind in such a funny, intimate, and educational manner. We follow Cohen from her brain scan in her mid-twenties, back in time through her struggles as a child, her college education, and the difficulty of work and “adulting” when concepts like time and distance are imperceptible. Relationships with co-workers, boyfriends, family, and friends have their challenges and Cohen constantly tries to navigate a balance between allowing people to help her and asserting her independance. Western and Eastern medicine, philosophy and science, and large does of creativity are coping mechanisms and highlights how little we humans know about the science of the brain.

What I enjoyed most about this memoir is Cohen’s highlighting of what it is like to be someone with an “unseen” handicap or differing ability. As one with PTSD, anxiety, and chronic depression I have difficulty articulating to others how I can look fine, but have a brain working against me. Many of the coping skills Cohen details in her memoir like (DBT therapy) I have used to help me function.

With her tenacity and positive outlook Cole Cohen offers so much hope to those who struggle with quirky brains. The writing is effervescent and inspiring; a 5 star read!

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This book was released by Henry Holt and Company in May of this year. The publisher provided a copy in exchange for an honest review.  

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’d Love to See as Movies

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Today’s Top Ten Tuesday is about books to movies. Let’s get straight to it, but with one caveat… the movies MUST be well-done. No half-assing or plot/character changes.

The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman: This is my favorite historical novel and began my Wars of the Roses obsession. This would have to be a long movie or mini-series and Richard Armitage MUST play Richard the Third.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman: I would really love for this to be a Hayao Miyazaki animated film.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt: This would be so good. I have no idea who I would want in the cast, but I’m thinking it would make a great gritty Darren Aronofsky film.

Excellent Women by Barbara Pym: Not only would it be a wonderful BBC masterpiece film, but Thomas at Hogglestock once suggested that Miranda Hart (Chummy from Call the Midwife) would make an excellent Mildred Lathbury.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath: There was a horrible verison that didn’t resemble the book at ALL made in the 70s (good luck finding it). I was sort of excited about Julia Stiles directing and starring in the The Bell Jar. She really threw herself into studying Plath. No idea what happened to that project. I’d still like to see a film of this novel, but please don’t conflate Plath’s biography with the book.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: I’d love an animated version of this movie. I’m thinking a sort of The Triplets of Belleville type animation style.

Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl. Ellen Page must be in this movie. Seriously.

White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi: Of course this must be a highly stylized black and white film. Or an animated film with cut paper, much like this booktrailer.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson: Creepy and atmospheric with lush cinematography and plenty of focus on the actual house.

The MaddAddam Trilogy by Margaret Atwood: I hear this is in development as a mini-series and I am cautiously optimistic.

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June TBR Pile

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I finished five books in May, which I suppose is pretty good, but I honestly thought I’d get in more reading time. Oh well. I need to review a few of them (I’m backlogged on book reviews!), but my May reads included:

  1. The Lost Traveller by Antonia White
  2. Head Case by Cole Cohen (review forthcoming)
  3. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (review forthcoming)
  4. Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland by BIll Willingham
  5. The True Heart by Sylvia Townsend Warner (review forthcoming)

I’m ready for June reading! My anticipated TBR I’ll be pulling from includes:

  • The White Monkey and The Silver Spoon by John Galsworthy
  • Shelter Us by Laura Nicole Diamond
  • Saga v. 1 and v. 2 by Brian K. Vaughn
  • Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
  • Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
  • Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris
  • Something Terrible by Dean Trippe
  • Letty Fox: Her Luck by Christina Stead
  • and a pick from this project from The Estella Society; it starts tomorrow!

Mini-Challenge: Bookish Brews

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First off, no… that is not my Read-a-thon stack, but it does contain my two favorite things: Coffee and Books (okay, three… I really like owls). Right now we are in the thick of Read-a-thon and I know you all are reaching for some sort of caffeinated goodness. If not, you’re a robot. I’m going to make this challenge really quick and easy:

-snap a picture of your current beverage of choice AND your current read
-post it to your platform of choice (Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, blog, etc)
-use the hashtags #bookishbrews AND #readathon
-leave a link to your picture post in the comments section

You must follow these instructions precisely to win!

At the end of the mini-challenge I will randomly pick a winner for a Starbucks gift card.

Get to percolatin’!

Goodbye, February and Hello, March!

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February is such a busy blip of a month. I felt like it flew by too quickly. This was very much a month all about family. We spent so much time together, which is a good thing (for the most part).

Here’s a quick run down of what February looked like for me:

  • Persy turned two and Hope celebrated her 15th birthday. Big milestones for my girls!
  • Persy, Atticus, and I survived a major stomach bug at the beginning of the month.
  • I finished Atticus’s rainbow blanket, crocheted a baby blanket, embroidered two baby bibs, and started a knitted scarf for Sam.
  • All that making stuff meant a HUGE dip in my reading. I only read three books in February: Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl, Frost in May by Antonia White, and Hark! A Vagrant! by Kate Beaton
  • Another factor in my reading dip was inclement weather. Tons of ice and really unimpressive snow. We had six days total of weather that left the kids out of school and cooped up in the apartment. I can stitch and knit while the kids are mucking about, but reading just didn’t happen.
  • I started co-leading an addiction recovery group at church. New territory. Super fun. Kinda intimidating.
  • I hosted my first AND LAST swap. I had planned on hosting a swap every other month, but after chasing down people to send gifts and relaying “yes they sent it” and “no they didn’t get it” messages for four weeks I can honestly say that I’m not doing it again.

I suppose instead of meh swap experience and a wee bit too much family time and that one pukey weekend February rocked. No really, it did. This was my least depressing February in a long time (why does February always seem sucky?)

On to March!

  • I am reclaiming my reading this month. Cedar Station’s March Madness is going to help get me there. I’m behind on posting my TBR picture, but I haven’t picked all my books up from the library yet. My goal is to read seven books this month. My TBR thus far: In Chancery by John Galsworthy, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie, Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, Her Highness, The Traitor by Susan Higginbotham, Mr. Fortune’s Maggot by Sylvia Townsend Warner, Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell, and French Milk by Lucy Knisley.
  • To help reclaim my reading I am bringing back my early morning reading ritual. I was up at 5:30 this morning reading and my goal is to start waking up at 5am to get in a solid reading hour.
  • I don’t have many events scheduled for this month. Sam is busy with school and it is the height of track season for Hope and planning things just isn’t working. The one exception is this weekend. Sam and I are going on a mini-trip to see Gogol Bordello. Hurrah for gypsy punk music!
  • As far as thread goes, I’d like to finish Sam’s scarf and start another embroidery project.

Alright March, let’s get this party started.

2014 End of the Year Book Survey

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Thanks to the Perpetual Page-Turner for creating and sharing this survey!

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Number Of Books You Read: 39
Number of Re-Reads: 3
Genre You Read The Most From: Literary Fiction

 best-YA-books-2014

1. Best Book You Read In 2014?

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (review forthcoming)

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

 3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read in 2014? 

The War of the Worlds by H G Wells (I didn’t think it would be so beautifully written and bad ass at the same time)

 4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did) In 2014?

White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi (but I’m the only one who liked it)

 5. Best series you started in 2014? Best Sequel of 2014? Best Series Ender of 2014?

Best series started — The Game of Thrones by George R R Martin.

Sequel and series ender would be Year of the Flood and Maddaddam by Margaret Atwood

 6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2014?

Anthony Trollope!

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

War of the Worlds by H G Wells (I swear I’m not typically into scifi)

 8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

 9. Book You Read In 2014 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

none. I usually reread every five year. I make myself wait.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2014?

The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane OR White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi

11. Most memorable character of 2014?

Miranda Silver from White is for Witching

 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2014?

The Luminaries  by Eleanor Catton

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2014?

The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

 14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2014 to finally read? 

Quartet in Autumn by Barbara Pym

 15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2014?

“It is harder for women, perhaps to be ‘one-pointed,’ much harder for them to clear space around whatever it is they want to do beyond household chores and family life. Their lives are fragmented… the cry not so much for a ‘a room of one’s own’ as time of one’s own. Conflict become acute, whatever it may be about, when there is no margin left on any day in which to try at least to resolve it.”
― May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2013?

Shortest would be The Night Bookmobile  and longest goes to The Luminaries.

 17. Book That Shocked You The Most

White is for Witching

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)

The Luminaries

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

The four co-worker/sort-of friends from Quartet in Autumn

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2014 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

Maddaddam 

21. Best Book You Read In 2014 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:

The Night Guest 

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2014?

Doctor Thorne from the Chronicles of Barsetshire series

23. Best 2014 debut you read?

Didn’t read one

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

The Luminaries is tied with The Game of Thrones

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2014?

Quartet in Autumn by Barbara Pym

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

The War of the Worlds

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

The Night Guest

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2014?

White is for Witching

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

Daily Rituals:How Artists Work  by Mason Currey (It was a sausage fest)


WINNERS OF 2014 — These are the best books I read in 2014 and I’m not including rereads.

  • The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
  • Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope
  • White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
  • Quartet in Autumn by Barbara Pym
  • Maddadam by Margaret Atwood

looking-ahead-books-2015

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2014 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2015?

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2015 (non-debut)?

I’m really looking forward to reading more Viragos, although I don’t think that is what this question had in mind

3. 2015 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

OMG Hilary Mantel, please tell me the third book in the Wolf Hall series will be out! Please?!

 4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2015?

see above!

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2015?

Read 52 books

6. A 2015 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone:

Ummmm… Hilary Mantel…. yes, pleaseandthankyou

List Love: 2015 Book Goals

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Today’s Top Ten Tuesday is to list our 2015 book goals. I’ve actually been musing my goals for 2015 since November! I’ve divided my goals into sections.

Read, Baby, Read

I get really annoyed by folks who tell me that they wish they had “time” to read. I have a full-time job, three kids, volunteer responsibilities, and a host of other hobbies and yet I still find “time” to read. I’d like more time to read and I find that I’m beginning to struggle with reading classics. I love the classics, but I need at least twenty minutes or more to get immersed in a classic novel. It is easy for me to pick up graphic novels, short stories, and modern fiction and dip in for ten minutes or less, but I don’t like to feel rushed when reading Trollope, Dickens, or Austen. I want to focus on consciously making time to read in 2015. A continual reading goal is to make sure I savor and enjoy my reading and strive to read as much as possible, because a reading Amanda is a happy Amanda.

  • Change my schedule. I find that I’m so exhausted at night that I can only read for 15 minutes before falling asleep. My coworkers cannot seem to leave me alone on my lunch break. The afternoons and early evenings are filled with cooking, kids, and chores. I’ve decided to move my schedule back and wake up at 4 a.m. to read on the weekdays and 5 a.m. on the weekend. I’ve been trying this out for the past few days. I wake, brew a pot of coffee, and read in complete quiet for two hours. To maintain this schedule I will be moving my bed time back to 9:30/10pm. This means no caffeine after 5pm, showering before the kids go to bed, and turning my smart phone off by 9pm to let my brain get in sleep mode. This will also cut down on my habit of snacking at night.
  • Read 52 books. I only hit 40 this year, but I like to be foolishly optimistic.
  • Journal my thoughts. I always say I’m going to blog about each book I read, but that is silly. Talk about zapping the desire out of reading. I worry I won’t write my review well-enough and then I get writer’s block. I do like to write down my impressions and thoughts on what I read in a less formal way. I’ve established that once a week — or more — I’ll journal about what I’m reading and I’ll try to copy down some well-loved passages as well.
  • Reading log. Each year I spend some time reading through all of my old blog posts and my journals. I really love to see what I was reading during each “chapter” of my life. I’m squirreling away some pocket-money for a journal like this and I plan on writing down what I read each day. Just a quick note containing titles, authors, and page ranges. It will be really neat to see reading trends.
  • Complete my TBR reading challenge
  • Complete my Back to the Classics Challenge

Engaging in the Reading Community

Sometimes I forget, or lose sight, of the awesomeness of sharing my love of reading with readers and nonreaders alike. It is very easy for me to bury my nose in a books and become an antisocial hermit. I’m planning on remembering that engaging with other readers is richly rewarding and fuels my passion for books. Likewise, introducing the joy of books to other people gives me purpose and direction.

  • Participate in Readathons. Specifically Dewey’s 24-hour readathon in April and October. I really enjoyed helping in a larger capacity back in October and I look forward to what April will bring.
  • Host a bookish event. I already have some ideas on this and it will be happening in February. Keep your eyes peeled for an announcement in the next few weeks.
  • Participate in three read-alongs. This could be blog read-alongs, a group read in GoodReads, or something, gasp, in real life.
  • Give books as gifts. Because books are awesome.

There we are! My top ten bookish goals. Let me know your goals for 2015 and let’s support our book buds!