what I’m reading: brain on fire: my month of madness by susannah cahalan.

This book is scary. Scary because it’s a true story and could happen to anyone. Scary because it took doctors too many weeks and months before they finally figured out what was wrong with Susannah. Scary because one doctor brushed off her concerns with the diagnosis that she just drank too much and partied too hard.

When Susannah wakes up in the hospital she discovers she has no memory of the past month. What happened and how did she wind up in the hospital? As the days and months pass, Susannah recovers and struggles to piece together what happened.

This is a great memoir. The author does a fantastic job of being real and honest. She chronicles how she was diagnosed as bipolar and schizophrenic and tested for a number of diseases before the doctors diagnosed Susannah as having an inflammation in her brain. She sifts through hours of video footage and interviews friends and family to try to reconstruct events that she doesn’t remember.

For me, this book highlighted the fact that there are so many things about our bodies and health that we don’t understand. There are so many areas of the human brain that we don’t know about. I’m glad that the doctors were finally able to figure out what was wrong with Susannah and that while Susannah had a long road to recovery, this book had a happy ending.


what I’m reading: the orphan’s tale by pam jenoff.

I have to confess – I’ve never been a huge fan of the circus. Maybe the animals or the clowns scared me or maybe I didn’t like being enclosed in a huge tent. I don’t know. But despite my dislike of the circus, I really enjoyed this book and reading about a traveling circus during World War II.

Sixteen year old Noa is kicked out after she becomes pregnant by a Nazi soldier and is forced to give up her baby. She ends up living and working at a small railroad station. One night she discovers a boxcar full of Jewish infants on their way to a concentration camp. Noa takes one of the babies and flees into the night. She is rescued by a German circus where she proceeds to hide out. In order to stay with the circus, she pretends to be one of the performers and learns the flying trapeze from the lead aerialist Astrid. The two initially hate each other but soon learn to get along.

This is an engaging book about friendship and survival. Noa and Astrid are both damaged by the war and have secrets. Each one is scared to let their guard down thinking the other could find out and tell everyone their secret. But the two come to trust each other and forge a strong friendship.

I found it fascinating to read about the circus and the way that townspeople tried to go on with their lives during World War II. The circus was a major event, one that all the townspeople would show up for to watch as the train come into town. People would put on their best clothes and make a day of going to the circus. The circus was a way for many people to escape all the horrific things that were happening, as well as a way to remind everyone that the show goes on.

The circus is almost another character in the story, in that it was a place of safety and solace for both Noa and Astrid. In the Author’s Note, Pam Jenoff states the novel is inspired by real circuses that hid some Jewish people to keep them safe during the Holocaust and that the boxcar full of babies is based on a true story.

what I’m reading: the dark days club by alison goodman.

It is 1812 and Lady Helen is concentrating on nailing her presentation to the Queen while living down rumors of her mother’s traitorous past. What she didn’t expect was to be told that she is next in line to become one of the few people that can stop the demons.

I really enjoyed this book and thought it was a new take on the paranormal. The Dark Days Club is a group of people known as Reclaimers, who get rid of Deceivers, demons who disguise themselves as humans.

The author really did her homework. This book takes place in London in 1812 and there is plenty of description about the clothing of that time period and food and dances and balls and many things that I’ve never heard of. It is so well researched and full of historical facts that it is easy to imagine yourself living in that world.

This book is not heavy on romance. In fact the romance mainly comes from the fact that Helen is expected to make a good match and marry well and she just wants to find someone to marry that she likes. There is a hint at a future love triangle but it definitely was not prominent, which I liked.

This is the first book in the series so we are just learning about the characters. Helen is not bad ass or kicking butt here. In fact, she is dealing with her life changing from what it was supposed to be to what it could be. When the book begins Helen thought she was on the path to get married and become a society wife, but she is soon dealing with choices and deciding if she will choose another path to become a Reclaimer.

Again, this book is part of a series. It doesn’t end on a cliff hanger but there were a lot of questions left unanswered. I am definitely curious and will be picking up the next book in the series.

do you do these weird things while reading?

I came across this article on Bustle titled 15 Weird Things You Do While Reading That Are Actually Totally Normal and it made me laugh so much. I am guilty of so many things on this list!

Crying in public. Yes, I’ve definitely cried in public while reading a book. You try to surreptitiously wipe your eyes so people can’t see while trying to control your facial expressions so it doesn’t look like you’re blubbering all over your Chipotle burrito…

Flipping through the pages before you start reading. The first thing I do when I start reading a book is I always look at the last page to see how many pages are in the book. This is mainly so I know what to expect and how many pages I get to read. Of course, sometimes I’ll flip through a book just to hear the pages as they flutter by.

Using anything as a bookmark. I’ve used many different things for bookmarks – old receipts, luggage tags, plane tickets, a sock, the tv remote, napkins, another book, my phone. Basically anything that is lying around when I need to mark my place can and will be used.

Forgetting to eat because the book is so, so good. I’ve skipped just about every meal at least once because I’ve been so caught up in my books.

Sleeping with the book beside you. This is mainly because I have a big bed and sometimes I am too lazy to roll over and reach to put my book on the nightstand. Also, when I wake up I know my book will be right there next to me in case I want to pick up where I left off.

Drinking in the bathtub with a book. Who doesn’t do this?

Sitting and reflecting silently on a book after you’ve finished reading. I have to digest all my feelings about the book before I can move on to something else.

Posing over and over and over again for the perfect Bookstagram photos. I have so many deleted photos of books where the light wasn’t right or you could see my arm in the picture or something weird is going on .

Anticipating “mail-day” even though you’re already reading three books at once. I don’t have “mail-day” so for me this is “library-holds day”, i.e. the day when a book becomes available at the library after I’ve put it on hold (which usually ends up being all the books at once).

Getting one hour of sleep because you were up all night reading. The ultimate indulgence at the time until you’re trying to stay awake at work the next day.

The one thing I would add to this list is Reading Everywhere. I’ve read in the cafeteria, many fast food places, and restaurants. I’ve read at sporting events and at meetings (but don’t tell my boss or nonprofit affiliates). I’ve read while walking down the street and waiting for the light to change. I read at the gym, on the bus, on the train, and when I’m riding in the backseat of a car. Completely normal, right?

How many weird things on the list have you done?

i watched beauty and the beast and have thoughts.

I finally broke down and saw Beauty and the Beast. Mainly because my friend wanted to go and the theater the movie was at serves chocolate popcorn. I never turn down chocolate popcorn.

I have a lot of thoughts about this movie.

First, let me say that Belle is not my favorite Disney princess. I know that she likes to read and for some people that one thing makes her the best princess ever, but in my opinion that’s just one characteristic. Plenty of people like to read – that does not make them good people.

Second, I get that Belle wants adventure but, especially in the opening song, she is really rude to the people in her town. It’s like she looks down on the townspeople because they are content to live in the town and don’t want to leave. I mean, the first thing you hear Belle say is “Little town, it’s a quiet village, every day like the one before, little town full of little people.”

Third, Belle’s whole refrain is that she wants adventure in the great wide somewhere and something more than this provincial life, which I guess means marrying a prince? Because she doesn’t really go on any adventures, unless you count going to a magical castle, and she doesn’t travel anywhere considering the castle is right next to the town.

And I’m not even going to discuss that she basically trespasses in the Beast’s castle in the beginning and again after she is told not to go to the west wing.

That being said, I do have to say that I love the music in Beauty and the Beast. I think the songs are amazing and I fully understand why it won Academy Awards for Best Original Score and Best Original Song. Before you think that I completely hate Belle, I love the relationship between Belle and her father and I like that Belle was willing to sacrifice herself for her him and take his place in the Beast’s castle.

The movie:

I thought the movie was okay.

I know this is another unpopular opinion, but I am not a huge fan of Emma Watson and I think she’s a bit overrated. I think again, people look at her and think she’s pretty and she reads! And that’s why they love her. But I don’t. I just don’t see a range in her acting and her acting choices and I feel like she always plays the same character.

In this movie, I felt like she was basically playing herself or what people think she is. Again, not a lot of range here. Plus, in every scene, she looked like she was thinking really hard – it was mostly her only facial expression. Also I felt that she was lacking some of the feistiness of the animated Belle character.

I thought Watson’s singing was fine. She can carry a tune but she won’t be appearing in any Broadway musicals soon. However, even her singing was kind of one note. I never really heard her change register or belt out a note.

Other thoughts on the movie:

I was extremely disappointed because some of my favorite lines were missing:

Gaston: Lefou, I’m afraid I’ve been thinking.
Lefou: A dangerous pastime.
Gaston: I know!

I laugh at those lines every time and quote them often! While Luke Evans did a great job, I thought that Gaston was meaner in this movie. I felt in the animated movie he was more comical and arrogant and narcissistic, just more cartoonish all around so you didn’t take him very seriously. Additionally the Gaston song didn’t work as well here because they weren’t able to replicate the over the top things where Gaston busts the belt with his neck or lifts the three girls up at once.

I honestly could have done without the backstory of Belle’s mom. I’m not sure why that was added in as I never wondered what happened to her. I know that the people in charge changed some things and tried to fill in backstory to fix some of the errors from the cartoon. There were also some new songs – I don’t really know that they added much to the movie. I thought the Beast’s ballad was kind of out of place and it just really didn’t fit in the movie.

When I first heard that a live action Beauty and the Beast was being made, I was a little curious as to how all of the magical objects would look. Let me tell you, the CGI was not convincing. The Beast’s face never looked real and the human girl/Beast was way more creepier as a live action. There’s a lot you can get away with in cartoons that just do not translate into live action. Here it was as if the CGI people couldn’t come to a decision on how human-like to make the household objects. Mrs. Potts looked literally like a teapot with a poorly drawn on face, but Lumiere looked like a man with flames on his hands.

One more thing I found odd: After the infamous gold dress dance where the Beast lets Belle go because her father is in danger, Belle leaves the castle and gets on her horse still wearing the gold ball gown! How do you ride a horse in that dress? Then later she just takes the dress off to ride back to the castle, so presumably she is riding in her undergarments?

Like I said, I thought the movie was okay. I do have a pretty low bar when it comes to movies – I am only looking to be entertained and Beauty and the Beast entertained me for 2 hours on a Sunday afternoon.

what I’m reading: the lake house by kate morton.

I’ve told multiple people about this book and recommended it to friends and every time I tell them the title, people think this book is based off of that Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves movie. Full disclosure – it is not.

The Lake House takes place in two time periods – in the 1930s when Alice Edevane’s little brother Theo disappears after the family’s midsummer’s party, and in 2003 when a detective named Sadie Sparrow stumbles across the Edevane’s abandoned home and hears the tragic story of Theo’s disappearance and becomes determined to crack the unsolved case.

This is the first novel by Kate Morton that I’ve read. It did take me a while to get into it and to figure out who all the characters are but once I was in it, I was hooked and couldn’t stop turning the pages.

I loved the descriptions of the big country estate in Cornwall. I thought all the characters were well-developed which each one having their own quirks and secrets. The author was able to weave together the past and the present and made you feel like you were experiencing everything along with the characters.

The ending completed surprised me. Every time I thought I had figured out what happened, the author would throw something else in to make me change my mind. I must have had about 10 different guesses about what really happened to Theo. Although some of the reviews I read online thought the ending was too perfect, I really liked it and I thought the ending wrapped the book up quite nicely.

what I’m reading: behind closed doors by b.a. paris.

Grace seems to have it all – a great husband, perfect house. She eats all she wants and never gains weight and can cook the most perfect meals. But why does she never go out alone without her husband? Why does she never talk on the phone or answer the door? The truth may be more shocking than you realize.

The only word I can use to describe this novel is chilling. This is an excellent psychological thriller, complete with a psychopath at the center of the story. At times I felt like I was reading the way I watch horror movies – with one hand covering my eyes. I didn’t want to read on, but I had to know what happened.

This book isn’t necessarily a suspenseful book like The Girl on the Train or Gone Girl because you figure out what’s going on fairly soon. It’s more of a book where every time you think it can’t get any worse, you turn the page and it does. This book is centered very much on the action and what’s going to happen next.

This is a great first novel and I look forward to see what else this author comes up with.