Broken by Jenny Lawson

5 stars Nonfiction

Jenny is real.  Jenny’s books remind me that I need to enjoy life, no matter what comes my way.    Everyone faces issues in their life and I like Jenny’s approach to the obstacles that she faces in her own life.  When I read Broken, there were many times that Jenny had me laughing out-loud or snickering, as I couldn’t believe how candid she was.  Yet, there were times where she got serious in her conversations and she got me thinking, seriously thinking.  Yes, life should be like this…… I follow Jenny on social media and I’ve read one of her previous books and her use of humor in dealing with her illness is shown again in this book.  As I read Broken, I felt empowered.  We all can and should apply Jenny’s approach to our own lives.

Jenny talks openly about her mental health issues and I appreciated her upfront approach and her honest opinions and emotions.  Discussing depression and anxiety, she lets her readers know that we all have our own issues and that we all take our own unique path in life.  I liked how Jenny described this in her book.  For it’s all in how you look at it.  You’re here at this specific spot, this right spot at the right second, for a purpose.  It’s all about your perspective: literally and figuratively. 

        “It’s not the same path that everyone else takes, and that can be hard and lonely, but I was reminded that there are amazing things that I would never see with normal eyes and other paths.”

I liked that Jenny was not afraid to be open.  Jenny was sincere and truthful with her readers.   She’ll say what many individuals are thinking but they’re too afraid to say it out loud.  She’s real and she’ll definitely make you feel accepted and normal. I really enjoyed this book. 

I had the pleasure of meeting Jenny at a book reading a few years back and I was thrilled.  I can tell you; she was as personable and friendly, as she is in her books.  A calming atmosphere filled the room as she spoke, it was as if, a good friend had stopped by to chat. I read Broken poolside at a resort, this year on vacation.  I had many people look at me as I laughed away the morning,  so I’d just hold up the book and smile at them.  Sitting next to my husband, I’d have to stop reading many times so I could read him parts of the book.  Her stories were things I could relate it and some were so funny, I just had to share.   I know I will be revisiting this book in the future.   I want to thank Goodreads, Jenny Lawson, and Henry Holt for my copy of this book as I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway.  This review is my own personal opinion of the book

Dancing at the Pity Party by Tyler Feder

3 stars YA

I didn’t know what to expect going into this graphic novel but the cover and the title grabbed me at the library.  This was one of those fantastic finds, that touched my soul and left a deep impression within.  Being both a sad and humorous memoir, the story is one that I feel most individuals will be able to relate to, in some respect, as Tyler is as real as it gets. 

At the age of 19, Tyler’s mom dies from cancer.  When her mother discovers that she’d been misdiagnosed, there were signs of hope but then….  It was now, less than a year since Tyler heard the dreadful news and now……. Tyler’s dad and her two younger siblings had each other but Tyler …………  Tyler had just started college; she was feeling isolated and ……. Tyler needed a shoulder, someone to listen to her, a ……… This book is about loss, it’s about the struggle an individual faces when dealing with the loss of a loved one.  Tyler voice is honest as she combines humor and affection in this story of survival after the death of her mother. 

Tyler’s spoke from the heart and her honesty was appreciated and respected as she says what so many individuals feel but are hesitate to speak out about.  As Tyler shares some Jewish traditions, I enjoyed reading about them and her perspective on them.  I honestly liked the idea of the Shiva.  What a wonderful, 7-day tradition that brings the whole family together celebrating the life of the individual who has passed away.  I really enjoyed this book and it does a fantastic job talking about grieving process yet I thought the book wasn’t heavy or depressing.  5 stars

Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation by Ari Folman

4 stars Graphic Novel

I remember reading the original version of this story many years ago in school so I’m somewhat familiar with the storyline.  It’s a daunting, sad story but one that I feel is important for its historical value and the impression that it leaves behind. When I saw this graphic novel adaptation, I was excited to see exactly what they had done with it.

Graphic novels…….graphic novel adaptations…… this world is just exploding! As a former substitute teacher, I’m all for graphic novels. Whatever you can do to get someone reading, I’m all for it! In one of my classes for my education degree, we had to read a variety of children’s books and discuss them. I remember one hot discussion was about graphic novels and whether they were actually “reading.”  I definitely think they are “reading” now but at the time, the selection in graphic novels was fairly limited, so some individuals thought “reading” comic books wasn’t reading.  So, I wonder what they’d think now, with all the different titles available.  Perhaps they’d see that graphic novels are reading; they have a lot of different subject matter now.  I think of the example: Margie wants to read the graphic novel of a book that was assigned.  She reads the graphic novel, understands it and whether or not, she likes the book, she read it and was able to follow it.  Had you only offered Margie the fiction or nonfiction version of that book, Margie would’ve struggled to read it or she wouldn’t have read it at all, she would have failed. She wouldn’t have gained anything.  Actually, she would’ve lost a bit of herself for she now knows that she doesn’t like that book and she can’t read it.  It’s funny actually but this argument is still an issue today. 

There are some good points and some difficult issues with this adaptation.  Again, this is a sad, depressing story but I liked the flow of this story.  The author did a great job showing the conflicts the characters face and how Anne’s emotions come into play.  As an author, you can’t have too much doom and gloom yet most individuals know that this is part of this important story.  This story also covers a lot of time and there was quite a bit of narrative in the picture boxes but I figured there would be to keep the timeline moving. There were times in which the author devoted a whole page to narrative language but it was creative and wasn’t overwhelming.  I thought the illustrations were wonderfully done, with precise details and colors and they complimented the text wonderfully.

The story begins with a page devoted to a Cast of Characters, which is helpful.  The characters are grouped and I liked that under their illustration, they had their name and who they were in the story.  The story begins on June 12, 1942 when Anne is celebrating her 13th birthday and she receives the important diary, Dear Kitty.  In Dear Kitty, Anne writes down everything important to her: her thoughts and feelings and the events that occurring in her life.  When Anne and her family are forced into hiding, they never imagined they would be hidden for years.

I think after reading this, I need to read the original story again as I feel that I don’t remember everything about this book.  I remember the ending being abrupt in the original and again, the ending left me hanging.  I do remember Anne growing as a character but I was surprised how forthright Anne becomes in this book. She’s almost too blunt and too brass for me.   As Anne becomes a woman, her sexuality becomes important and she’s definitely frank and direct in this area also. I think the wake-up call for me was when Anne sat Peter down at a desk and she got out her pointer stick.  Using her stick, Anne begins to explain to Peter the illustration on the wall. I don’t remember that from the original story and I even asked a few friends if they did. You’d think that as a teen, I’d remember something graphic like that.   So, now I think I need to reread the original to see if my memory is correct or if I actually forgot part of this classic.

With other incidents pertaining to sexual content, I don’t feel this graphic novel is appropriate for younger readers.  Overall, I thought the author did a great job and the illustrations were fantastic. This is one that you’ll definitely need to check into, if you get the chance.  4 stars   

The American Dream?: A Journey on Route 66 Discovering Dinosaur Statues, Muffler Men, and the Perfect Breakfast Burrito by Shing Yin Khor

4 stars Graphic Novel

I’m sure glad that I found this book as I enjoyed traveling with Shing and her dog as she made her journey traveling through parts of the United States and her road trip provided for me, some interesting history.  Shing Yin Khor has lived in Los Angeles for ten years after having grown up in Malaysia.  Although Shing is now an American citizen, Shing feels that she needs to see more of her new country to actually feel like an American and I thought this was an excellent idea.  With some preformed images in her head of America, she now wants to experience America personally, she’s ready to step out of her “Los Angeles bubble” and experience a more historical look at America.

Beginning in California, Shing and her dog Bug, start traveling Route 66 to Illinois.  What a fun and brave adventure!  She gets lost, she talks about sleeping in her car, she meets up with a biker, she explores a variety of attractions and she meets such a wide variety of individuals.  I liked how she provides the brief, interesting facts and commentaries about each of her stops, in the different states that she visits.  Her remarks make me want to visit them.  She does have her moments where she misses parts of being home but she knows that, she needs this journey.  The water-colored illustrations provided just enough color to add to her journey, making this graphic novel an interesting and entertaining read. I read this book as part of the Read for a Better Tomorrow Winter Reading Program Jan 2022.  4 stars

World War C: Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic and How to Prepare for the Next One by Sanjay Gupta

4.5 stars Nonfiction

I wanted to know yet I felt that I’d already had enough of this disaster.  When the cover of this book came across my computer scene, I wanted to read another “expert’s” opinion of this life changing event but yet, I felt I’d really had enough of Covid and what could this doctor really tell me that I hadn’t already heard?  With over a year of restrictions, testing, quarantines, and now vaccinations, did I really want to read 300+ pages of more information and opinions? The synopsis had plenty of interesting topics that sparked my curiosity:  what had led us into our current pandemic, how could we prepare ourselves for a future pandemic (because folks, there will be another one).  Sanjay was also going to comment on whether Covid was going to be a part of our lives forever or whether it would finally die itself out.  I was hoping that his insight and information would provide some interesting information or at least something different than what I have already heard. 

I’ll be honest and say that, a few sections of this book were WAY over my head.  I’m not a doctor or a nurse, nor do I have any medical field experience.  I’m a mother and a Nana which gives me some medical experience but my badges of an accountant, substitute teacher, volunteer, and a devoted book reader don’t give me the background to handle some of the terms and procedures that Sanjay was mentioning in this book.  I did my best trying to decipher these sections of the book which included DNA, RNA, and chemical reactions, but some of it was just tumbling around in my head.  He talked about the origins of infectious diseases which I thought was interesting.  Finding the origins of these illnesses and when they began is important as it can say a lot about the disease.  Previously many infectious diseases began from domestic animals and I remembered that they were linking Covid to bats.  The common cold originally began in a camel and pigs and birds are the sources of the many strains of the flu.  Makes me wonder, if they can give us these diseases, do humans give them any diseases?

Sanjay talks about a Global Health Security Risk which I thought was interesting.  This Security Risk was assembled by “the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) and the John Hopkins Center for Health Security (JHU) and was developed with The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).”  The purpose of this index was “these organizations believe that, over time, the GHS Index will spur measurable changes in national health security and improve international capability to address one of the world’s most omnipresent risks: infectious disease outbreaks that can lead to international epidemics and pandemics.”   This index was created in Oct 2019, this was before the pandemic.   How was the U.S. ranked out the of 195 countries?  Number 1, they scored 83.5 out of 100, the best prepared county to handle a pandemic/epidemic.  The United Kingdom received a 77.9 and New Zealand a 54.  YET, and I say yet, we all know what happened in the U.S.  The U.S., according to the graphs that I saw on the news, they didn’t look like they were the best prepared.  Sanjay makes a point by saying that the United States has 4% of the world’s population but they had 22% of the world’s total infections of this disease by the end of 2020.  That’s like taking “Ten (10) Airbus 320 Jetliners with 150 individuals on board and having them all fall from the sky, every day!  We haven’t even considered the number of lives that were lost in 2021. 

“Had we taken action and carried out control measures, like physical distancing and masking up just one or two weeks earlier, a report created at Columbia University states that more than half of the deaths and illnesses could have been avoided.”  Sanjay gives more details about this topic and like many, he has his data to back it up.

So, what’s the future hold?  I thought what Sanjay said made sense and he used PROOF to organize his points.  Sanjay believes that Covid is here to stay, just like many other professionals.  Learning how to live together, each of us will need to adapt, change and respond to one another.  Using PROOF, Sanjay makes some valuable points about risks, the internet, keeping vigil, and planning.    

Overall, I thought it was a great book for me.  I liked his mindset and the book didn’t feel overloaded with emotions and turmoil.  I thought Sanjay was honest and he shared a variety of different topics in the book. There were some parts of the book that were difficult for me to read terminology, but I managed.   4.5 stars


Every Minute is a Day: A Doctor, An Emergency Room and a City Under Seige by Robert Meyer MD

5 stars Nonfiction

I know, I know, I know.  People are tired of hearing about Covid but I really wanted to hear from someone different.  Someone who actually worked on the front lines, in an area different than my own and I wanted to hear his own words about what he experienced and witnessed with his own eyes.  I really enjoyed this book, in fact, the book exceeded my expectations.  At first, I hesitated on reading it, afraid it might contain difficult medical jargon but the book was very down-to-earth.

This book centers on Montefiore Health System in Harlem which serves about 1.5 million people annually.  With their staff including their medical students, their facilities including their modern equipment, they feel that there’s no better equipped hospital to serve Covid patients than their building.  Within one month of receiving their first Covid patient, the hospital gets control of the situation but there’s no end in sight.  They were able to manage the shortages that came with the demand of this illness while still providing what they could to their patients and staff.  The hospital experienced highs along with the lows while they provided care for their patients, those highs amongst all the chaos and despair provided hope and strength for another day. 

There were many references that I enjoyed in this book, remarks that stood out as I read them.  The first one referred to how the hospital dealt with the crisis.  This state of mind continues today as officials examine the booster vaccine.  The doctors learned as they go. They learned about the illness from others, they learned from doing something different, and they learned from going outside-the-box. This illness is new, it’s something our society has not dealt with before.  This is a new crisis- there are no set rules, there is no handout to follow, no set procedures in place.  We are creating the handout and the rules as the days on the calendar move forward and unfortunately, as people get sick, die, and refused to believe that this illness really exists.  The second comment that stuck with me was how the medical staff put everything on hold while they dealt with Covid. How will that effect our future?  What will happen if we encounter another untreatable illness?  I stop and think about the implications of this time?  What has this done to us as a nation and to us around the world? Has this united us or tore us apart?  According to a few surveys, our children’s education has suffered.  That’s our future.  How long will we continue to argue and battle what is “right?”

There was a wake-up moment in Harlem when other colleagues in other areas of the hospital started to offer their help.  Months earlier they’ve been too scared to help but now, they see how things are not letting up and they feel the need to pitch in but how? They don’t have the training to work in the ER.  The emergency doctors took them, they trained them on something/anything that they thought they could do, they needed another pair of hands, someone to provide some relief.  These newly trained ER staff members thought they were scared before, well working on the front lines now, they’re realizing just how bad Covid really is.

I didn’t expect a happy story and I found myself crying a few times while I read this book, the emotional toil and the personal stories hit me.  You never knew how things would turn out.  An image that stayed with me as I read this book was the person lying in the hospital, just waiting, all alone.  Imagine yourself lying there, alone, isolated, no TV or entertainment, all you hear is the constant beeping of the monitors all around you and the noises of the staff as they scramble to assist the others that are lying nearby.  How do you feel?  Sick, helpless, defeated, worried, deflated…..

It’s a crisis that’s hitting every continent and not everyone is able or willing to stop/control it.  You need to be able to live your life, not just survive but live.  We need to remember all of those who have died, what we have learned through these individuals, and we need to honor those who have helped us along the way. 

It’s a great read and one that I highly recommend.  I appreciate the two cousins getting together and sharing this story with us and although, I haven’t witnessed it firsthand, I have heard enough stories from friends and loved ones that I don’t want to nor do I need to, to understand how serious this crisis is. Emergency medicine is constantly changing and you have to remember that no one has all the answers yet. Stay well everyone.  5 stars

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

4 stars Memoir

This memoir covered a lot of ground but there seemed to be one common thread: Michelle wanted to connect with her heritage. As her mother prepared her traditional Korean dishes, Michelle stood by, trying to comprehend everything that was playing-out before her.  Michelle wanted to please her mother, she wanted her mother to be proud of her and food was going to be her stage.  If only she could please her mother, the pieces would fit together and so she persisted. 

Michelle is Korean-White and we do meet her father in the book.  We hear more about him in the second half of the book whereas the first part of the book, he worked his job and he liked his drink.     

I didn’t know much about this book when I went into it, except that it was a fairly popular book.  I think the driving force about the book for me was how much Michelle, a bi-racial woman, was trying to connect with her mother. Michelle felt a void in her life, her mother would be the one to fill it.   

It was going well and then, they hit a road block.  Mom was diagnosed with a form of cancer and everything, I mean everything changes.  Time, energy, emotions, space, and values have to reevaluated.  What has the highest priority?  It’s not as if anyone’s desires have changed but now: new necessities have become the top priority.   

This was an interesting and honest story and I appreciate Michelle sharing her story.

They Call Us Enemy by George Takei

5 stars Graphic Novel

This book is a true account of George Takei’s experience in internment camps during WWII.  I read a lot of WWII books and it was shocking to read about these camps here in the U.S. 

When Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese in 1941, the President signed a proclamation stating that every adult Japanese citizen in the United States was now an Alien Enemy.  This meant that George’s father, after living 23 years in the U.S., was now an Alien Enemy and under strict rules.  Speaking to Congress, the President declares War not long after that.  California’s Attorney General decides that he’s going to start excluding Japanese individuals around certain areas.  He begins to round them up and house them together.  This made me angry as I read about his agenda, as there was no reason behind his actions, besides his own agenda. Many individuals were stripped of their own possessions and they were left with nothing. How was he able to do this?  The restrictions became tighter and tighter as he pulled on their reigns.

As George’s family was moved around, the illustrations in this graphic novel did an excellent job portraying the author’s attitude at what was happening in his life. Just looking at the illustrations, you can sense how things are with the family as they try to adjust.  Mother carried with her hope, as she made her way to the camps.  Her forbidden item had to be heavy as she lugged it around but she was determined to bring it.  She did, “not want to leave it behind” and she was also looking out for her children.  I liked how his father stepped up and made the best of his situation at the camps also.  His family was definitely a bright spot in the camp.  I found this graphic novel very interesting and educational. It one that you should look into if you like this type of book.  I appreciate George sharing his story with others.  

Everything Sad is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri

5 stars Middle School

This is the story of Daniel; he’s not sitting beside you as you read this book but it’ll seem like he is.  Daniel is telling his classmates about Iran, exactly how he remembers it and what it was like when he left that country, because that’s important.

Twelve-year-old Daniel currently lives in Oklahoma with his family. Residing in Mrs. Miller’s classroom, Daniel knows about inequity and how individuals feel about Persians.  Giving his own personal story, Daniel wants his classmates to know him, to know who he is, as a person.  So, sit back and enjoy his story.  For these are his own memories, his whole personal life (his twelve years) you will be holding securely in your own two hands.

I adored this book, I really did.  I loved how he wrote the book; the way that I felt a part of it and how the style of writing he used, personalized the book.  The stories he wrote were interesting and they felt genuine and vivid.  When the family fled Iran with their hard, gray suitcase and his memories of his extended family, even the smallest of details, felt so important.  What a great treasure!

“If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.” ….. “It’ll be alright in the end, folks.  If it’s not alright, then it’s not the end.” 

(Wow, I really enjoyed this and it made me stop and think, it’s so true. If you want a happy ending to whatever is happening, keep going till you get one.  If you feel you’re getting an unhappy ending, keep going, perhaps you’re not at the end and you can change things.)

When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson

5 stars Graphic Novel

I loved this graphic novel.  I could feel the dedication and love throughout this book.  I still get teary-eyed thinking about this graphic novel and the situations that these young boys went through.  It is such a fantastic book; I cannot say enough about it but I highly recommend that you read it.  Read it yourself, read it to your children, buy a copy for your classroom and even buy a copy and donate it to someone as this story needs to be told.

They used to live in Somalia.  Now, they live in Kenya, in a refugee camp called Dadaab.  Individuals who want to live come here from Sudan, Ethiopia, and other African area, this is home.  Dadaab is a huge camp, so large that they divided it into 3 separate camps.  Omar came here with his little brother, Hassan.  They’ve been there for seven years.  Yes, I said seven years!

Where’s their parents? Good question and one the boys want to know.  Who is taking care of them? Omar is taking care of Hassan as best as he can for a young brother.  He’s been missing out on school to take care of his brother. They’ve also been assigned a woman (like a foster mother) Fatuma, to help them. This woman was amazing too, she truly cared for these boys like they were her own.  Inside the camp, the boys have their own tent across the way from Fatuma.  Many days, the boys were hungry.  Hassan only says one word yet the brothers communicate. 

When Omar finally gets the chance to go to school, he is torn.  Leaving his brother behind, Omar worries for his brother yet he knows this opportunity for him will open doors for their future.  The boys still question their parent’s whereabouts and their village.  They wonder about returning home yet Omar knows the danger that lies outside the camp.

With bright, colorful illustrations and easy-to-read font, I was emerged into the brother’s story.  It was captivating, interesting, and powerful.  Omar fought for a better life, there were wonderful successes and moments of frustration and struggles yet he continued on. 

Fantastic graphic novel.  Definitely read the afterword that is located at the back of the book. I went through many emotions reading this book and I highly recommend it.