The Valedictorian of Being Dead: The True Story of Dying Ten Times to Live. By: Heather Armstrong

I used this for one of the books in my 20in20 challenge. More accurately, this is my nonfiction dealing with mental illness.

And boy does it deal with mental illness. I will fully admit I didn’t realize this is the same Armstrong who is known as mommy blogger Dooce. And I mention this because I was impressed by all that was being shared, not realizing this is how she makes her living.

Anyway! Heather had crippling depression. The kind where day to day things, like emptying the dishwasher, lead to sobbing because you. just. can’t. Not “Augh. Again.”, but “How can I get out of bed to shower? How do I not break down in tears to empty the dishwasher?”

And she was the third person to go through this trial. A trial that essentially leaves her brain dead for 15 minutes, brings her back, and then rinse and repeat nine more times.

The supporting characters are mostly the medical professionals and her mom. Her mom and step-dad are the ones helping her, driving her, and being there for everything.

I give this book 9/10. There aren’t things I would change. And I love how much we get of Heather before/during/after. I love we see her relationship with her mom and her own daughters. I couldn’t give it a 10, because there were some tough parts to read, which isn’t surprising given the subject matter.

Frying Plantain

I chose Frying Plantain for my Topic 2 fiction (A book set in the country I am residing) from

Frying Plantain is a debut novel, semi-autobiographical, by Zalika Reid-Benta. I actually picked up the book because it was written by a friend of a friend. The main character, Kara, is Jamaican-American, spending most of her life growing up in the Little Jamaican neighbourhood in Toronto (Eglinton West). She’s “soft”, readily agreeing to the rules set by her mother, which…can be a bit much. Like, I grew up an only child with parents who set many rules, mostly focused on my grades, but I could have sleepovers.

Anyway! We meet other characters, namely her mother, grandmother, grandfather and “friends”. They all come in and out of her life as she grows up.

I really loved the format of this book. It’s in a linear timeline, but told in 12 short vignettes, so we get to know everyone through different points in time. We see her visiting Jamaica and being too “soft”. We see her at one point getting ready to go out and all the steps required to be acceptable in her neighbourhood.

I give this book 10/10. I saw some of myself in Kara and hated seeing her hurt. We see her mother’s motivations throughout the stories, and how they affect Kara. The descriptions are wonderful, and although there’s a scene where I want to throttle her “friends”. But there’s nothing I would change or want to see differently.

Throwaway Daughter

This book examines how one extended family’s life was affected by the One Child policy in China. I decided to use Throwaway Daughter for my February book, a book written by a female person of colour, Ting-Xing Ye (although with some help from William Bell).

This book is at once about Grace and growing up Chinese-Canadian in a family of Caucasians. It’s at once about trying to avoid the cultural roots that decided to get rid of you. It’s at once about an adoptive mother trying to keep those roots alive. And it’s about a birth mother grappling with the decisions made for her that forced her to give up her daughter.

But it’s also about growing up, discovering more about yourself, and forcing uncomfortable truths to learn your own history. And it’s about a culture who didn’t give any other options for families who weren’t blessed with a son right away.

I give this book 7/10. I expected more of the book to centre on the Tiananmen Square Massacre, based on the back cover description. And the story was written in first person, but with various characters, so that felt a bit strange. Each chapter focuses on a different character,and some stories were more enjoyable. In fact, at points, Grace’s felt the least flushed out and I was looking forward to learning about other characters’ lives. But! The story itself was beautiful and some of the characters were fascinating. The story was told well and left us with the impression that, for better or worse, this is what the culture in China was like.

The Wives

I can’t give it a good review. This wasn’t a thriller. It read like a super long Am I the A$$hole post. I read it, only because I had put a hold on it at the library. The characters are bland and therefore so much Deus Ex Machina that I barely finished.

2/10. I really enjoyed some of the descriptions. But…meh.


The January theme for is a folktale or mythological retelling. So, since I wanted to read Circe, I decided it would work for this month’s challenge.

I went into this book knowing some of Circe’s mythology. But not all of it. Circe was a witch, daughter of the Titan Helios. I honestly can’t remember her mother’s name, because she’s not a good mother. Circe is exiled and ends up making a home on her island. She turns men into pigs who might attack her. She has courage.

Everyone else takes a second seat to Circe. The book’s flow is wonderful. The descriptions were lyrical and you felt everything. Helios almost blinded you. You felt Lioness’s fur on your chest.

I don’t want to say too much more, in case I spoil something, but if you’re a fan of mythology, we’ll rounded females, and lots of emotions, then pick up this book. You won’t be disappointed.

10/10 I loved everything about this book. It was perfect!

Why Not Me?

20in20challenge topic 8: humour nonfiction

Full disclosure: I read Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling back in 2015? I really enjoyed it and was laughing along with the book the whole time! That’s not what happened with Why Not Me? I decided this would be the perfect nonfiction humour book for my 20in20 challenge. I enjoy MK and figured “let’s do this!”

So, the pros! Her telling me about why she makes a great wedding friend date was perfect. I loved her talking about her very short lived friendship with a “very cool girl”, and how she ruined it by having too much champagne and getting into an argument about vaccines. I enjoy her frankness and outlooks.

The cons. I didn’t find her stories as fun as the ones in her previous book. I wasn’t as involved and didn’t really feel a connection.

7/10 She’s super talented. I still enjoy her. I just wasn’t as big into this book.

Ninth House

My first book for the is topic seven: Book dealing with mental health/mental illness.

So starts a new year, so starts some new book challenges! I am using Ninth House for my 20in20, under the Mental Illness category, due to PTSD and addiction issues. Namely, she sees ghosts, and uses drugs to dull her senses. She’s also treated as being “crazy”.

I wasn’t sure what I would think of this book. When I originally wrote this blog post, I hadn’t finished the book yet. I am finished now. And not thrilled that I have to wait so long for the next in the series! Augh!

Let’s meet Galaxy “Alex”. She sees ghosts. This isn’t a spoiler. She sees them and has seen them her own life. Not all her interactions with them have been neutral. Eventually she’s found as the lone survivor or a murder scene, and, because she sees ghosts, she’s offered a spot at Yale. During the current timeline, she’s struggling to keep up with her classes and learn in her role of Dante (Read the book. It’s explained well.) She’s smart, but because of her past she isn’t easy to get to know.

Darlington (Virgil) isn’t in the current timeline, for reasons that become clear as you read. He is dedicated, talented, smart, and not exactly pleased that his Dante is Alex. Their friendship/working relationship eventually approves. Darlington had a lonely childhood.

There are secret societies and magic, potions and divination, and a Virgil and Dante to ensure the secret societies never do too much harm to keep their power and money.

9/10 would recommend this book. My two issues are the timeline jumps in the first couple chapters (they get easier to follow as you read more) and a few graphic scenes (one including rape/possible rape). But the two main characters are flushed out, the secondary characters are well written, and you feel like you’re with Alex and/or Darlington.

#20in202020 #PTSD #Fantasy