Memoir Mondays: BRAIN ON FIRE

Imagine waking up strapped to a strange hospital bed. You are alone, and you cannot move or speak. You’re wearing a wristband that says you are a flight risk, and you are told you are violent, dangerously unstable, and prone to hallucinations. No one knows what’s wrong with you—least of all yourself.

This terrifying experience marked the beginning of Susannah Cahalan’s real life “month of madness,” during which she would become a shell of her former self, spiraling downward into acute psychosis and a state of near-catatonia. A team of doctors spent a million of dollars worth of tests in a desperate search for a diagnosis–all of which came back negative. The medical field was baffled by her case, and ultimately came to the (wrong) conclusion that she was schizophrenic and needed to be institutionalized in a psychiatric ward.

It took one doctor (nicknamed Dr. House for his uncanny diagnostic skills) to save Susannah. Using a brilliant (and shockingly simple) diagnostic technique, Dr. Souhel Najar proved that Calahan’s psychotic behaviour was caused by an inflammation of the brain: her body was attacking her brain in a rare and often fatal form of autoimmune disease, called Anti-NDMA Autoimmune Encephilitis.

In Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness, Susannah Cahalan provides the reader with far more than a simply riveting read and a crackling medical mystery. This is a powerful account of one woman’s struggle to recapture her identity and to rediscover herself among the fragments left behind. Using all her considerable journalistic skills, and building from hospital records and surveillance video, interviews with family and friends, and excerpts from the deeply moving journal her father kept during her illness, Susannah pieces together the story of her “lost month” to write an unforgettable memoir about memory and identity, faith and love. It is an important, profoundly compelling tale of survival and perseverance that is destined to become a classic.

Learn more about Brain on Fire.

Visit Susannah’s website.

Watch her discuss Brain on Fire below:

Book Blogger Spotlight: Purple Jelly Bean Reviews

We’re excited to bring you our November Book Blogger Spotlight! This is where we chat with one of our bloggers, ask them to share some of their favorite authors, the books they can’t live without, and find out how they came to book blogging.

This month, we bring you our chat with the delightful Natalie from Purple Jelly Bean Reviews. You can follow her on Twitter @nattiejean1969.

What made you want to start a book blog?

I have always been a very passionate reader, it wasn’t until I had been given an ereader that I discoverd reviews for books, I followed the trail to the Goodreads website and started checking out everyone’s book blogs, I asked a few questions to friends who added me and as they say “Bob’s your Uncle” my blog was born!

What’s your favourite reading spot?

My favorite color is purple (like I’m not obvious about that lol) and I found a huge purple leather chair that just happened to look like a jelly bean. Curled up in that reading is where you will most of the time find me.

Your favourite book in the last year?

My favorite in the last year is a series by Patti Roberts called Paradox The Angels Are Here. It is so far a 3 book series and I think 1-2 more coming out. I am on #3 right now. It is a must read series, Patti is from Australia and she is an indie author published through Smaswords.com and Amazon.

Favourite book of all time?

Oh wow that is a tough question, with all of the books I read it is really hard to narrow down which has become my favorite of all time. I think I will answer this question with a favorite book/series I have read many times if that’s ok lol. V.C. Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic I would say is one of my favorites to date, I’ve read that series probably 20 times now.

Favourite author?

I have a few of those, Stephen King, Sandra Brown, Christine Feehan, Beatrice Small and Philippa Gregory are my favorites that I just have to have their new books, incredible authors.

Favourite movie adaptation of a book?

The Green Mile, I have to say is my favorite adaptation of a book, I think I have watched that as many times as I have read V.C. Andrews!

What do you do when you’re not working on your blog?

I work in Health Care, I am a secretary for Seniors Mental Health and also for Borderline Personality Disorder Treatment Program in Nova Scotia. I have 2 children 17 & 21 but they still keep me very busy lol an amazing boyfriend and 2 cats Bubba and Missy and 1 dog, a Boston Terrier named Jack who I think has been sent to drive us all crazy lol, he is very entertaining though and a joy to be with (espically when he’s sleeping)!! The rest of my time is spent reading, and I love chatting with all my blogger/author friends on facebook or through email.

Bubba and Missy

Jack

Do you seek reader engagement on your blog? If so, how does this affect your ideas about books and authors?

Oh yes, I love getting others opinions of what I have read, my opinion is only 1 of many and it is nice to see how everyone elses perspective is different from my own, it lets you see things in many different ways wether I agree or not. It is a big part of why I blog I love the interaction with those who follow me.

Do you read other blogs? Which ones?

I have over 400 that I try to follow as best as I can, I always start with Simon & Schuster I review a lot for them, Cambria Hebert, Jason McIntyre, Patti Roberts, Rachel Firasek, Christine Feehan, simonreads.ca, harpercollinscanada, Dani Harper oh her blog is so awesome, they all are but there is so many to list.

How has your blog developed or changed since you first started?

Oh when I first started lol it was a mess, I had no idea what I was doing, I didn’t know HTML coding, trying to figure out what a gadget and a widget was almost gave me a nervous breakdown lol, but slowly and with the help of some amazing bloggers I had made friends with my blog has developed better than I had thought it would, which to me is amazing, I love blogging and reviewing for authors if I hadn’t of gotten an ereader for christmas one year I wouldn’t be talking with you today which I am so grateful that I am!

Indie Bookstore Spotlight: Woozles Bookstore

The independent bookstore is a cultural and community hub – authors are introduced, works read aloud to an audience and ideas are shared.

Each month, we will be featuring an independent bookstore from across Canada, proving what a special role these shops play in fostering authors, community and a love of reading. For November, we are featuring Woozles bookstore in Halifax, Nova Scotia. You can follow them on Twitter and Facebook!

Tell us a little bit about the history of Woozle.

In the spring of 1978, three people agreed they couldn’t find the children’s books they wanted in Halifax – Liz & Brian Crocker and Ann Connor Brimer – and so the idea of a children’s bookstore was conceived.  And then they noticed that an old house on Birmingham Street was for sale.  It seemed the fates were aligned, the building was bought (along with a manual on bookselling and how to do accounting for small businesses), renovations were made books were ordered, a fabulous manager was hired, and Woozles opened its doors on Saturday, October 14, 1978.  Opening day was overcast but people came by the hundreds (600 the first day) and Woozles has never looked back!

There have been so many milestones along the way…ranging from Woozles graduating from writing sales on pieces of paper to getting a cash register in 1986 and then a computer in the late 90’s…to the untimely death of Ann Connor Brimer in 1988…the two expansions of the building so that Woozles has now grown from its initial 600 sq. ft. to approximately 1500 sq. ft….the numerous authors and children’s performers who have crossed our threshold to delight young people (and adults too!)…to the retirement, after 30 years, of our first Manager, Trudy Carey, in 2009…to our newsletter which was first issued in October, 1978 and still is published 3 times a year, on-line and on paper!  (I could go on and on here but hopefully that’s a bit of a flavour)

What made you want to open a bookstore?

This is somewhat answered above…it really was because three of us couldn’t find the books we wanted for children in Halifax – there were other bookstores but no one had a very extensive children’s section…and children’s books were our passion.  We also strongly believed in the idea of a community resource for children and the line underneath “Woozles” is “A Place For and About Children”….our community bulletin board, our workshops, our support of various children’s organizations, our Battle of the Books program and our writing competition (which both support the love of writing and reading) give testimony to the fact that we believe we are more than a store…

What does the book-buying public understand least about independent bookstores?

Most people are familiar with a traditional retail model that marks everything up a certain amount to make profit and are not necessarily aware that things work differently with books.  The fact that the publisher sets the price of each book and then gives bookstores a discount on that price makes things different in the sense that it limits the percentage which a bookstore is able to mark down a book without then actually losing money on the sale.  This makes it look like we are deliberately refusing to discount our books the way that grocery stores or big box stores do but doesn’t allow customers to see the full story.

What is the hardest part about being a bookstore owner in 2012?

In one way, it’s not hard because we continue to love what we do and see the positive responses, every day, from children and parents when good books are discovered and shared.  The media would like us all to believe that independent booksellers are on their way to being things of the past and, in this climate, we believe it is important to pay attention to actual trends rather than broad-stroke gloomy predictions.  We believe the trends are saying that more people are reading than ever before – in paper format and on-line – even though there is tremendous competition for children’s time and attention.  It would be great if authors, booksellers and publishers could come together and think creatively to ensure that good books continue to be written and published and sold by people who know them and love them.

What types of books does your store stock and/or specialize in?

As a specialty bookseller, we focus on books ‘for and about children’.  We pride ourselves in having fabulous books for readers aged 0-18.

What are some of your favorite titles? Titles coming out this year?

Phewf.  How long have you got?  We are enormous fans of Oliver Jeffers, of Sandra Boynton, of Kenneth Oppel, of Sarah Dessen…the list goes on and on and on.

What are you reading right now?

Suzy is reading The Casual Vacancy for her adult bookclub (but she did just finish Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot!), and Lisa is reading Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes and the Friday Society by Adrienne Kress.

What is your most current best seller? Classic?

Where is the Green Sheep by Mem Fox, Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell and Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown are consistently at the top of our bestseller lists.

Right now, due to the recent release of Shauntay Grant’s new book, Apple and Butterflies, that is the #1 seller.

What have been some of your favorite (or most memorable) author events?

Barbara Cooney, Tamora Pierce, Robert Munsch.

Any strange, wild or crazy-but-true stories?

There was a period of time when we found handwritten notes on pieces of paper left in several books over several months.  We dubbed the author of these notes the ‘caper of Woozles’.  Incidentally, all of the notes were loosely about the end of the world.

We get a bit of a kick out of kids who come into the store and promptly take their coat and shoes off…because Woozles is situated in what was once a house (and still feels like a cozy house)

We were approached recently by a local ghosthunter who wanted to stay overnight and do an infrared recording of the potential bookstore ghost…but for security reasons one of the staff or owners would have had to sleep overnight in the store with the team, so it didn’t end up happening.

We once got a call from a gentleman who asked to see our books about taxidermy for an 8 year old.  Not, do you have any, but where are the multitude of?  We’ve also been asked about the location of our ‘Octopus section’.

What book are you, or will you, hand-sell with a vengeance?

What’s neat about this store, and about independent bookstores in general, is that our staff are knowledgeable, generous and helpful.  And tastes vary all over the map.  So depending on the day, you could encounter Mollie, who will no doubt sell you In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak or Suzy who will insist you take home Visitor for Bear.  But if you meet Lisa, you’ll likely walk out with an armload of YA fiction, whereas Nadine might show you her favourite illustrated classic.  We are passionate about what we do, and it is not formulaic in any way.

Is there anything else you would like to tell our blog readers?

We are deeply honoured to have the opportunity to do what we do every single day.  Thanks for making the independent bookstore experience so special.

Signed,
Lisa, Suzy and Liz

Win a meet & greet with Buddy!

We are super excited to welcome TLC’s beloved Cake Boss,  Buddy Valastro, back to Toronto for a special signing! Not only is he a master baker, he’s also a great cook—the boss of his home kitchen as well as of his famous bakery, Carlo’s Bake Shop. Buddy’s new cookbook, Cooking Italian with the Cake Boss is packed with 100 delicious Italian- American recipes from Spaghetti Marinara to Veal Saltimbocca.

Are you a Cake Boss superfan? Dying to meet Buddy in the flesh? Enter to win our Cake Boss sweepstakes and be one of 3 lucky winners to get a personal meet & greet with Buddy before his signing on Nov 10th, 2012 in Toronto. You’ll get a copy of his new book and can even bring a friend! Contest ends November 8th.

365 days of Rachael Ray

You’ve watched her for years on television, but have you ever wondered what Rachael Ray cooks when the cameras aren’t rolling? In her new cookbook, My Year in Meals, Rachael gives you an inside look into her kitchen for one full year. My Year in Meals offers intimate access to tasty dishes that will take you from breakfast to dinner. From the meals she whips up at a moment’s notice to family feasts, and dishes inspired by her travels around the world, you can now enjoy twelve incredible months of Rachael’s homemade favorites.

Need something to get you out of bed in the morning? Try the Almond Custard Brioche Toast or Eastern Egg Sandwiches with Bacon. Looking to fire up that backyard barbecue? Try the Baby Back Ribs with Bourbon BBQ sauce. For something simple that will knock your guests’ socks off, try Rachael’s Egg Tagliatelle with Truffle Butter and Butternut Squash Risotto. Rachael even shares her husband John Cusimano’s amazing cocktail recipes, guaranteeing that you’ll never reach for store-bought Margarita mix again. To top it off, Rachael includes personal stories behind many of the dishes and her own never-before-seen photos of these culinary creations. In no time at all, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into her home for a change!

A year of delicious food is only enhanced by a selection of equally tasty cocktails, and Rachael’s husband, John Cusimano, is no stranger to the cocktail shaker. Now he’s sharing his secrets with you. Whether shaken or stirred, straight up or on the rocks, with a cherry or a twist, John’s creations—like his Strawberry Velvet featuring honey liqueur, strawberries, and lime—are always fresh, fun, and certain to make any gathering more memorable. With plenty of options for every occasion and season, such as the Pomegranate Margarita, the Halloween Fizz, and the Nod to Nog, these fabulous concoctions are the perfect complement to Rachael’s year of great eating.

Enter our sweeps to win 1 of 5 signed copies of My Year in Meals

Rachael talks about her new cookbook

Check out these excerpts from the book





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