Tunesday – Shrill

What better to pair with Lindy West’s new humorous memoir, Shrill, than one of my favorite pop punk songs of the mid 90s? I present Libel by the band Tilt:

I think that some of my feelings about internet trolls can be summed up in the lyric, “You just want the chance to show. How little you really know.”

Shrill.jpgI was lucky enough to get a signed copy of Shrill at BookCon from the Hachette Publishing booth. It was pretty awesome that Lindy came out to do a signing right before the book’s release date, and we were given finished copies. While waiting in line one of the awesome Hachette representatives gave us some lovely Shrill branded megaphones.

It took me about a week to read Shrill, not because it was a difficult read, but rather because I wanted to savor and think about each essay.  There was so much thought packed into such a small book. From dealing with internet harassment, how the comedy scene can be toxic to women, to fat body acceptance, and dealing with the death of a parent. I related to much of what Lindy put out there, and what I couldn’t exactly relate to, I took  as an opportunity to be educated by an extremely smart woman. I laughed out loud multiple times, I growled in anger and I shed tears of empathy. A memoir that touches all of those emotions is so worth reading. I highly suggest picking up Shrill as soon as you can. If you ever have the chance of seeing Lindy West speak, do that as well. I saw her at the Women In Secularism 3 conference and she was spectacular. Her unapologetic voice is one that all should listen to.

A recap of BEA 2016

I’ve been home from Chicago for a week now.  Long enough to get all of my thoughts together about BEA and BookCon. Also, I was waiting to get my books I shipped back home, roughly 40 total from the trip.


Welcome to Chicago


I flew out of Richmond to Chicago on Wednesday.  I figured by the time my flight got in, I would get to BEA about an hour after the bloggers conference started.  Turns out that fog had descended upon Chicago and they weren’t allowing flights to land at O’Hare so we got delayed a bit. I ended up arriving at McCormick Place right around noon. It was relatively easy to get to by  train, and thankfully they had a bag check so I didn’t have to stop at the hotel first.

Studying maps is kinda my thing, a feature of my anxiety. I knew I’d need to go up to the 3rd floor to check in and then back to the 1st for the second half of the bloggers conference. By the time I made it back to the 1st floor no one was there. I supposed they went to get their lunches, and soon they began to trickle back in the room with food. I found someone who appeared to be in charge and they kept promising they’d get me my meal voucher in “a minute.” This happened repeatedly until I gave up.  Thankfully a kind blogger shared her curly fries and I had some snacks in my backpack. It was then time to break into table talks, where folks had a 30 minute stint at their choice of tables with a specific topic, repeated two more times.

This didn’t go as smoothly as I had hoped. But we still had really good conversation. I found some of the moderators to stray completely off topic or just chat with those near them and not conduct a group discussion. Some did really well in keeping everyone on topic. Not everyone’s strong suit is leading conversation, and I suppose the choice gets slimmer as we boil common interest down to bookish people who write blogs.  Overall, it was okay but I do not think it was close to $65 okay. BEA should think about getting rid of this fee or up the quality. But I am happy to have met many of the bloggers that I did. It’s good to make those connections, and it’d be harder to out on the show floor.

The show floor opened in the afternoon and I browsed around there, mostly to figure out the layout and my schedule for Thursday.  I flitted into the ABA lounge and ran into Sarah from The Book Jawn Podcast (and the whole reason I was able to go to BEA!) We gave tired hugs (yes, tired from only a half day of BEA) and browsed through the galley room. This is where I picked up Mara Wilson’s upcoming memoir, Where Am I Now?

I went back to my hotel and basically crashed (after a quick jaunt down the block to Shake Shack.) After looking through the books collected on day one, I am the most excited to read the aforementioned Where Am I Now?, Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven (she did a signing for just the bloggers con which was a nice surprise. Plus, I am interested to see if this books ends up as offensive as folks expect), and Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow.


Don’t you wish someone looked at you the way I look at Ann M. Martin?

On Thursday I rose early to ensure I’d get an autograph ticket to get Ann M. Martin’s new middle grade book, a retelling of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, called Missy Piggle Wiggle and the Whatever Cure. A Baby-Sitters Club fan like myself couldn’t contain my feelings in meeting her. I got a little teary eyed and blurted out, “I’m here because of you.” It’s true. That series hooked me on reading. It taught me that you can use your imagination to create a whole world.

I was also able to stop by the ABA lounge for their autographing session and was really happy to get a signed copy of The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. Also, Alex Gino signed a copy of George as a blog giveaway so stay tuned for that! I stood in line at the Penguin Random House booth in order to get a signed copy of Emma Cline’s The Girls. While that was going on a large line was forming for Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s upcoming look at race in, Writings on the Walls which I hadn’t planned on standing in. By the time I was done at the PRH booth, they were still allowing folks to jump in the Time, Inc line and I snagged a copy signed to my dad (don’t tell him, he can’t have it until I read it.) Meanwhile I walked all around over and over again, getting lost in the aisles of publishers.

Even as an introvert, I sometimes enjoy crowds because I can blend in and disappear. BEA was good for this. It helped that BEA crowds were book professionals and for the most part acted like it. (I didn’t witness some of the grabby hands others saw during ARC drops.) I was able to stop at some of the smaller publisher booths, where I didn’t feel like I was getting in the way of any important meetings. I had a great conversation with the fellow at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy booth about some hikes near to me but aren’t super busy trails. The folks at Housing Works were really great. They are a charity helping people effected by AIDS who obtain funding through thrift and used book shops. I plan on writing about them in the future. I ended up getting my hands on one more ARC that I absolutely cannot wait to read and that is Being Jazz by Jazz Jennings.
13217283_10154190183854803_6597462140659365806_oThis is getting rather long, so I am going to save a BookCon post for another day.  You may wonder what happened to Friday at BEA? I skipped it. As a lifelong baseball fan, and a girl who was born in Peoria it would be silly of me to not visit Wrigley Field when I was in Chicago. I took myself on a date to see a fantastic Cubs game… and they won!

Overall BEA was a blast. I would love to go again. If a trip to NYC is in my budget for next year I will be there. I know to wear comfortable shoes, take breaks, bring a refillable water bottle and eat! I never ever thought that I would be one who would forget to eat, but it happened. It was important to only have a loose plan going into the day. There is no such thing as FOMO (fear of missing out) when at BEA. You are going to miss some things, but the experiences  you do have will balance it all out. Plus, if you have pals who were there, you can exchange ARCs if you missed a drop! BookCon was a whole different animal. I’ll get to that soon.

Tunesday – Divergent

It was the fall of 2012 when Green Day’s album, Uno, was released. As soon as I heard the opening track, Nuclear Family, I felt as if I related to it. The thing was I wasn’t relating like I normally do with Green Day songs. They’ve been my favorite band since 1993. When I relate to a Green Day song strongly I am generally in a heap on the floor crying inconsolable tears. This was different. Like I was relating to some other part of me. A past life? A dream?

It quickly hit me. Tris Prior. Back in July of 2012 I had read Divergent by Veronica Roth and absolutely loved it. It filled the void that finishing the Hunger Games trilogy had left in me. A girl faced with saving her world from a corrupt system.

In the world of Divergent, one must pick what faction they are to become a part of and serve for the rest of their life. Will they stay with the faction they were born into or will they take their place in the world elsewhere? This is where the “death of the nuclear family” lyric comes in. This mother and father raised you, but you can break out from that family and essentially choose a family. No more mother, father, sister, brother. And can you not just see the obvious parallels of “riding the world like a merry-go-round/ like a ferris wheel like it’s breaking down.” Not to mention riding that Dauntless train through Chicago, “Can you hear the sound coming over the hill? Gotta move my feet, it’s coming in for the kill.”

If I had any skills in video editing, I’d definitely be making a music video of scenes from the Divergent film. No one likes a montage better than a kid born in the 80s!

Anxiety and Me (and BEA)


Coming from a Polish family, I am excited that Poland is the focus of the Global Market Forum at BEA. Plus, I can get real pierogi in Chicago.

I’m nervous. As Book Expo America approaches in just two days, I am not sleeping as well. This is usual for any big event that I am excited about. However, this is the first time I have ever attended a conference of this magnitude. I am well versed in conferences and conventions, but I’ve never been to this type of event. Mostly I’ve been to atheist/feminist/social justice conferences and seminars where I know lots of folks and have built in friends from all over the country and overseas. I am traveling alone to Chicago, but I do have my friend Sarah of the amazing Book Jawn Podcast who I will be meeting up with. I may need to warn her that if she sees me rubbing my legs that I’m on the verge of an anxiety attack and she should tell me to breathe and take an Ativan.

The thing I am most nervous about is keeping my anxiety in check during BEA. I tend to try to plan out my days and stick to a schedule to keep control of my anxiety. I am going into BEA knowing that my schedule will be changed, potentially at the very last minute. Saying that I have no expectations sounds harsh, like I think I’ll have a bad time. But for me, having no expectations simply means that I cannot count on obtaining certain galleys or getting a book signed by a specific author. It’s cool if it happens, but if it doesn’t that’s fine and it does not mean I wasted my time. I am so thankful to all of the book bloggers who have written excellent posts about their experiences at BEA. In particular, this one at Feed Your Fiction Addiction has been a lifesaver.

What I hope is that between utilizing Insight Timer and the information I’ve learned in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness For Beginners I can keep anxiety at bay or at least treat it as it bubbles up. If anyone has any ideas on decompressing after a day full of people in Chicago please comment or Tweet at me.

With all of that said, I’m still super excited. I see this as a challenge and something that will hopefully be a way to gather knowledge not just on the publishing industry and bookternet but also myself. If you see me around at BEA (and the bloggers conference) or BookCon please say hi! Small talk, when about books, is always welcome!

Men Read Books?

According to the New York Times men read books. Let it be noted that this appeared in the Fashion section under “Men’s Style.” Also, I feel I must warn you that if you click the link you will be met with a photo of a group of middle aged white men sitting around a table. The focal point of the room is a very large and gaudy curtain that would look much better as von Trapp family frocks (the REAL fashion here). The cardinal rule of the book club featured is “No books by women about women.”

The website Fast Company was clued into this manly trend. And as the name of the featured book club is the very creative Man Book Club, they took to Twitter to come up with some better ideas. I suppose you can’t expect much imagination after the tiresome struggle these fellows must face every day. Of course bookish Twitter delivered with a plethora of new and exciting book club names. Below I have listed some of my favorites.

Mic drop.

Tunesday – A Little Life


Yes, I read this in a pub accompanied by whiskey. Dangerous.

Welcome to Tunesday! A weekly pairing of book and song.

Today we have the most gutwrenching pairing in existence. I noted while reading Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life that the only thing that could be more depressing would be if REM’s Everybody Hurts played on loop as you read. So with all the thoughts of the life of Jude St. Francis go ahead… have a listen. I’m not crying. You’re crying!


Reading Young Adult as an… Adult

GloryOBrienIn celebration of I Read YA week:

I don’t feel old in my mid-30s, but I have aged out of being able to call myself the target audience of young and also new adult. During my time as a teen in the 90s, the young adult genre was only an inkling of what it has become in recent years. In the past, I read a lot of coming of age novels, which were mostly male authored with male lead characters. A few of my favorites as a teen were Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, Skipped Parts by Tim Sandlin and Youth in Revolt by C.D. Payne. I was desperate to grasp onto any fictional character who could validate the  mess happening in my brain in my fight to deal with generalized anxiety disorder and depression. I was dealing with thoughts and feelings that I didn’t feel safe divulging to judgemental and gossipy friends, so I turned to fictional friends as an alternative.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve obtained a more trustworthy circle and learned more about the best ways to keep my mental illness in check, some of my old fictional friends aren’t the best to go back to. Just like most toxic relationships, it’s best to cut the cord. So long Holden Caulfield. You have a spot in my heart for holding my hand through junior year, but we’re over. The genre of young adult fiction has exploded in recent years. With that, we’ve seen a slow but growing uptick in diverse authors and thus characters. Where I had to settle for literary friends at one time, I can now seek out heroines and heroes for which I don’t have to compromise. If a character is a misogynist, I can toss them aside and not fret that I may not find someone in another novel with values closer to my own.

To this day, I have to focus on recovery from the traumas and mental illness symptoms I had in my younger years. In addition, my mental illnesses are those that require constant work and treatment in order to live a happy and fulfilling life. What I have found in many current YA titles are characters who are dealing with these same symptoms. These characters are facing traumas that I faced. Not realizing others shared these experiences, I have taken to voraciously reading these novels in adulthood. I have hurts from that time in my life which still need to heal. Recently I read The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork and was absolutely blown away by the way in which he crafted the experience of depression through the main character, Vicky Cruz. Her depression had an air of guilt engulfing it. She questioned why she had suicidal ideations when she came from an upper middle class background. She could see other people had a more marginalized position in society and didn’t understand why depression could exist in her. This was something I struggled with from external sources in my teens. I was thus able to let go of the hurt I still carried from people who asked me why I was depressed when I had what appeared to be a comfortable life.

I find that the gap in my mental health treatment is slowly being closed by meeting new characters in YA fiction. Whether it’s the inspiration to continue working for the betterment of society despite PTSD from Katniss Everdeen, or persevering to fight the bad in our world when having trouble fitting in to a certain societal mold from Tris Prior. When given a fictional character that mirrors our own struggles, we can take cues in how we might heal from the past or conquer the future.

April Book Brief

Reading stats for April 2016:

Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America by Jill Leovy
People I Want to Punch in the Throat: Competitive Crafters, Drop-Off Despots, and Other Suburban Scourges by Jen Mann
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
No Mud No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering by Thich Nhat Hanh
The Widow by Fiona Barton

Total: 5
Already owned: 2
Library books: 3
Audiobooks: 2
Women authors: 4
POC authors: 2
Books with subtitles: 3
Fiction: 3
Non-Fiction: 2

Favorite: I will be coming back to No Mud No Lotus for years to come.

Review: Seed by Lisa Heathfield

I received a copy of the ebook Seed by Lisa Heathfield from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


The family living at a farm called Seed worships Nature (yes, capital N Nature) as an entity capable of bringing both joy and punishment. Pearl is fifteen and is baffled by the fact that her stomach is bleeding. She rushes to find an elder woman family member who can help save her from certain death. No, of course Pearl isn’t dying. She got her period. But the menstrual cycle is something that has been left out of the education Pearl has received within this cult.

Education is just one of several things that cult-leader Papa S has been negligent with among his flock of family members. There is also a lack of medicine, no experience with modernity, and strange punishments given as requested by Nature directly through her prophet, Papa S.  Seed is home to couple of other men, a handful of women who seem to be in their 20s, three teenagers and two younger children. When not listening to the teachings of Papa S, the people of Seed farm, fix car engines and make skirts to sell at a local market.

Soon a new family shows up; the first new folks in Pearl’s memory.  She is drawn to the teenage boy, Ellis, and what his knowledge of “Outside” brings. As the teens begin to question the purpose of Seed and whether or not they are truly happy there, Nature seems to be doling out more severe punishments. The group of teens must weigh what they may gain by leaving, against what may happen to who they leave behind.

I enjoyed this book.  Though, I felt I didn’t get to know many of the secondary characters too well.  It was a great glimpse into how Pearl views her family and Seed, but I would have liked to gotten to know more of a history. How was Seed founded?  Who are these women and why are they subservient?  What are these men doing when they lead a woman or girl away by the hand? Where did these rituals come from? There is a lot you must infer, which makes it so I am not entirely sure Seed was as horrible as I made it out to be; as I assume the worst in most cases. But perhaps that is the point, to have us assume our worst nightmare is happening behind the closed doors.

I’d love to read a sequel or even better, a prequel. A solid YA series could be built around Seed. This premise of cults/communes is one I love and I want to know more about all of the characters.

February Book Brief

My reading stats for February 2016:

Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt
Citizen by Claudia Rankine
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa
Brother by Ania Ahlborn

Total finished: 5
Already owned: 2
Bought to read immediately: 1
Audiobooks: 1
Women authors: 3
POC authors: 2

Favorite: Tough this month… it’s a strong tie between Mr. Splitfoot and Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist.