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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE LAKE NEVER TELLS by Alex Tully (@alextullywriter) Will leave readers with a smile #RBRT

Hi all:

I bring you a review of another book from Rosie’s Team. Another great find.

 

The Lake Never Tells by Alex Tully

The Lake Never Tells by Alex Tully

Zoe has lived in Sunny Shores Trailer Park her whole life and she knows what the Memorial Day weekend brings—snobby rich kids who serve as a constant reminder of how pathetic her life really is. So when she meets Ethan, the awkward boy from the exclusive community of Crystal Waters, she can’t help being intrigued. He’s different, but in a good way.

Along with her stand-in little brother Parker, and her best friend Meredith, the four of them form an unlikely friendship. But one morning, their idyllic summer is turned upside down when a dead body washes up on the beach…

From the author of the critically acclaimed Hope for Garbage, comes another story of friendship, hope, and the incredible power of the human spirit.

https://www.amazon.com/Lake-Never-Tells-Alex-Tully-ebook/dp/B087GZYVPS/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lake-Never-Tells-Alex-Tully-ebook/dp/B087GZYVPS/

https://www.amazon.es/Lake-Never-Tells-Alex-Tully-ebook/dp/B087GZYVPS/

I found a possible picture, but as the author does not seem to be sharing her picture anywhere these days, I decided to respect that. 

About the author:

Alex Tully lives outside Cleveland with her husband and two teenagers. Almost twenty years ago, her life took a dramatic turn with a diagnosis of MS. She decided to quit her career as a finance professional and try something she truly loved ~ writing.

She is the author of three feel-good YA novels:
Hope for Garbage, Beautiful Chaos, and The Lake Never Tells.

All of her stories feature ordinary characters who overcome extraordinary challenges with friendship, hope, and the incredible power of the human spirit.

Her hope is that readers will smile after turning the last page.

www.alextullywriter.com

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you are looking for reviews, check here), and I freely chose to review an ARC copy of this novel.

This is the first of Tully’s books I’ve read, although it is the third novel she has published, and in the ‘About the author’ section of her page and her books she describes her stories as ‘feel good’ stories, and she states that she hopes ‘readers will smile after turning the last page’. Well, hope accomplished, as far as I’m concerned.

The book description provides enough clues as to the general plot of the story. This is the story of a summer that changed the lives of the young characters at the centre of the story. Two of them, Zoe and Parker, live in a trailer park at the shore of a lake, just a stone’s throw from a posh resort ‘Crystal Waters’. They both have unconventional families (Parker lost his mother in tragic circumstances, never met his father, and lives with his grandmother, who is the strict but fair and wonderful Shirley; while Zoe lives with her single Mom, Debbie, who refuses to take responsibility for anybody, even herself, and acts much younger than her years). Zoe’s best friend, Meredith, the daughter of the local sheriff, can be pushy and harsh at times, but she is also funny and amusing, and always has Zoe’s back. Ethan, a young boy from the posh side of the divide who has come for the summer, somewhat stumbles into their group dragging his own problems with him. Although his life and circumstances might seem charmed from the outside, his parents’ relationship is a sham, and he suffered a traumatic event one year ago that he has not fully recovered from. It has changed him and turned him into somebody quite different. As the novel advances, we come to realise that Ethan’s change might have been for the better, even if that is not so evident for him at the beginning of the story. The novel fits well into the YA genre, and although the characters are put to the test and have to confront some harsh truths about themselves and others, these are not extreme, brutal or too challenging, and I think the book would be suited to fairly young teens as well, although I’d recommend parents to check it out because there are mentions of drugs, mental health difficulties, a suspicious death, a suggestion of sexual harassment, as well as divorce and drinking.

I liked the way the story is told. It starts with a hook, as we follow Parker on the 5th of July when he makes a shocking discovery, and then we go back a few weeks, to learn more about the characters and how they came to this point. The story is told in the third person, but from the points of view of the three main protagonists, Zoe, Parker, and Ethan, and their emotions and thoughts feel suitable to their ages (Parker is only 11, and he behaves appropriately to his age) and to their circumstances. I also liked the way we get and insight into Ethan’s disturbing thoughts and the way he tries to deal with them. We don’t learn what happened to him until quite late in the story, but by that time we’ve got to know him as he is now, and we can empathise with him even more. The way he and Zoe behave with Parker, as if he were their younger brother, is heart-warming.

I liked Zoe, because she is strong and determined, and I liked the way Meredith can be annoying but also amusing and supportive, and she usually helps lighten up the atmosphere. Shirley is a great character, although like all the adult characters, she does not play as big a part in the story as the young people.

The element of mystery is well resolved and integrated into the story, and I particularly enjoyed the fact that this is not a story of amateur detectives that can find answers and clues the police have missed, pushing the suspension of disbelief, but one where the characters are involved in the story because this is a small community and people’s lives become easily entangled. I also enjoyed the red herrings, twists, and revelations, and the resolution of the plot is very satisfying and hopeful.

The writing is simple and straight forward, without unnecessarily lengthy descriptions, but the author still manages to create a good sense of place and, especially, of the feeling of friendship and affection between the protagonists.

I cannot highlight any major negatives for me. Readers who are looking for diverse characters might not find them here (there are major differences in social class, and this is something the book focuses on, and one of the characters suffers from mental health issues, but no issues of genre, or race are discussed), and although I enjoyed the ending, the fact that the author decides to share the same scene from the point of view of the three main characters in succession results in some minor unavoidable repetitions. This slows down the ending a bit, but it wasn’t something that bothered me in particular. Each chapter is told from a single point of view (apart from the final one), and it is clearly labelled, so that does not cause confusion. I also missed some more interaction between Ethan and his twin sister, who hardly makes an appearance during the book. Ethan thinks about her at times, but she does not have a presence, and she is the only one of the younger characters I didn’t feel I had got to know. Even Heather, one of the cabana girls working with Zoe, has a bigger part than her. Other than that, the book flows well and is fairly cohesive, although the action speeds up towards the end, as is usually the case with mysteries.

I recommend this book to people who enjoy YA fiction, especially, as the author says, ‘feel-good’ fiction, where some important subjects are discussed but in a sensitive rather than a challenging manner. It is an ode to friendship and hope, and it feels particularly suited to the times we’re living. And it will leave readers with a smile.

Thanks to the author, to Rosie for her hard work and to her fabulous team, and to all of you for reading. Remember you can like, share, comment, and click if you feel like it, but make sure to keep safe, and always keep smiling!

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Book review Book reviews

#TuesdayBookBlog FRED’S FUNERAL by Sandy Day (@sandeetweets). A poignant and lovingly written ode to an unsung hero. Beautiful and heart-wrenching. #RBRT #WWI

Dear all:

Today I bring you a beautiful (if sad) book, that is a fictionalisation of the story of a young Canadian man who fought in WWI.

Fred's Funeral by Sandy Day
Fred’s Funeral by Sandy Day

Fred’s Funeral by Sandy Day

Fred Sadler has just died of old age. It’s 1986, seventy years after he marched off to WWI, and the ghost of Fred Sadler hovers near the ceiling of the nursing home. To Fred’s dismay, the arrangement of his funeral falls to his prudish sister-in-law, Viola. As she dominates the remembrance of Fred, he agonizes over his inability to set the record straight.

Was old Uncle Fred really suffering from shell shock? Why was he locked up most of his life in the Whitby Hospital for the Insane? Could his family not have done more for him?

Fred’s memories of his life as a child, his family’s hotel, the War, and the mental hospital, clash with Viola’s version of events as the family gathers on a rainy October night to pay their respects.

https://www.amazon.com/Freds-Funeral-Sandy-Day-ebook/dp/B0779Q7LR3/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Freds-Funeral-Sandy-Day-ebook/dp/B0779Q7LR3/

About the author:

Sandy Day is the author of Fred’s Funeral and Poems from the Chatterbox. She graduated from Glendon College, York University, with a degree in English Literature sometime in the last century. Sandy spends her summers in Jackson’s Point, Ontario on the shore of Lake Simcoe. She winters nearby in Sutton by the Black River. Sandy is a trained facilitator for the Toronto Writers Collective’s creative writing workshops. She is a developmental editor and book coach.

https://www.amazon.com/Sandy-Day/e/B005CVGIIA/

My review:

I am writing this review on behalf of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, check here if you are looking for reviews) and thank Rosie and the author for providing me a copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

This is a short book, but it punches well above its weight. The book, written mostly from the point of view of Fred Sadler, a Canadian veteran of WWI who never quite recovered from the war and spent years in and out of mental institutions (such as they were at the time), takes its readers on a journey through Fred’s memories (he has just died, so I guess I should say his ghost’s memories, but, in many ways, Fred had been a ghost of his former self for many years already) and those of the relatives who attend his funeral. We have brief hints at times of what other characters are thinking or feeling (as Fred’s consciousness becomes all-encompassing), but mostly we remain with Fred. We share in his opinions and his own remembrances of the facts his family members (mostly his sister-in-law, Viola, who is the only one left with first-hand-knowledge of his circumstances, at least some of them) are discussing.

Fred’s story — based on the life of a relative of the author and on documents and letters he left behind— will be familiar to readers interested in the history of the period, and in the terrible consequences the war had on the lives and mental health of many of the young men who fought and suffered in the war. Shell-shock (now known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD) was little understood at the time and psychiatry (that is not a hard science at its best) was pretty limited in its resources at the time. Even nowadays, delayed onset PTSD is rarely diagnosed and not well-understood, and the condition results sometimes in permanent changes in the personality of the sufferer, who might end up with all kinds of other diagnoses and are often misunderstood and mistreated.

Sandy Day’s beautifully descriptive and, at times, lyrical writing —the author had previously published a poetry book— captures both strands of the story: the terrible disintegration of the life of such a promising young man, and the changes in his family and the society around him, which he was only a spectator of (and was never allowed to take an active role in). His brother married and had children, his parents died; the family property, so dear to him, was split up and eventually sold, and he was only the weird uncle nobody knew much about.

The novel (as it is a fictionalization of the events) succeeds in giving Fred a voice, in bringing forth the fear, the thrashed hopes, the puzzlement, the resignation, the confusion, of this man who put his life on the line and got only pain in return. It is a poignant and beautiful memorial to the lives of many soldiers whose trauma was misunderstood and whose lives were destroyed. The writing is compelling and gets the readers inside of Fred’s head, making us share in his horrifying experiences. The book can be hard to read at times, not so much because of graphic content (although the few descriptions are vivid), but because it is impossible not to empathise and imagine what he must have gone through. But there is also a hopeful note in the interest of the new generations and the fact of the book itself.

There are time-shifts, and some changes in point of view (because Fred’s ghost can at times become the equivalent of an omniscient narrator), but past events follow a chronological order and are clearly demarcated and easy to follow, and the device of the funeral helps anchor the story and provide a frame and a background that give it a more personal and intimate dimension. The Canadian landscape and setting also add a touch of realism and singularity to the story.

Although the book is very short, I could not resist sharing at least a tiny sample of the beautiful writing with you:

He looks down half-blindly as his old Canadian Expeditionary Force Uniform dissolves into a constellation of colourful snowflakes, twirling away from him in a trail. Beneath the uniform he is nothing. He has no name or age. He is at once as old as a flickering blue base at the wick of a candle and as young as a flame surging into brilliance.

This is a poignant and lovingly written ode to a man who returned from WWI (at least in body) but was as lost as many of the men who never came back. A story about an unsung hero that should be cherished and its lessons learnt. I cannot recommend it enough.

Thanks to the author and to Rosie for coordinating such a great group of reviewers, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click and REVIEW.

[amazon_link asins=’B01K964GTK,0762754427,1937801853,0801478405,0553382403,1944430571,0773531882,1550051466′ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’wwwauthortran-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’56249b1a-fb7e-11e7-a704-7d01cc700654′]

 

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Book review Book reviews

#TuesdayBookBlog #RBRT THE UNRAVELING OF BRENDAN MEEKS by Brian Cohn (@briancohnMD) A good psychological portrayal of a young man suffering from schizophrenia and a mystery that is not all in his mind. #Bookreview

Hi all:

Today I bring you a book that is released TODAY and I had a chance to read before its publication thanks to Rosie’s Book Review Team. I had read another book by the author recently and was very curious….

The Unraveling of Brendan Meeks by Brian Cohn
The Unraveling of Brendan Meeks by Brian Cohn

The Unraveling of Brendan Meeks by Brian Cohn

THE UNRAVELING OF BRENDAN MEEKS is a first-person glimpse into the mind of a young man with schizophrenia as he deals with tragic loss. The result is a unique and unforgettable mystery clouded with hallucinations and fraught by paranoia.

Meeks is a young man born with a silver spoon jammed down his throat, a fact his domineering mother has never let him forget. Although he has nearly everything he could ever want—friends, money, a good education—Brendan’s life falls apart during graduate school when he begins to show signs of schizophrenia. Forced to drop out of school, he watches most of his friends disappear and his parents distance themselves further and further.

The only constant left in Brendan’s life is his loving sister, Wendy. When she turns up dead, he must ignore the insults and threats from the voices in his head to begin his own investigation. With the help of an odd assemblage of his few friends—a drug dealer, a meth addict, and a war veteran with a bad case of agoraphobia—he begins to uncover a conspiracy that may, or may not, be a byproduct of his own delusional mind.

Mystery, crime, murder, suspense, detective, schizophrenia, mental health, mental illness, substance abuse, drug abuse, heroin abuse, overdose, depression, suicide.

https://www.amazon.com/Unraveling-Brendan-Meeks-Brian-Cohn-ebook/dp/B074KPSD6B/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Unraveling-Brendan-Meeks-Brian-Cohn-ebook/dp/B074KPSD6B/

Author Brian Cohn

About the author:

Brian is an ER doctor practicing in St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives with his beautiful wife and their two rambunctious children. He was born in Birmingham, Alabama where he grew up loving to read. His passion for books continued through his college career at the UNC-Chapel Hill, and traveled with him back to Alabama where he attended the University of Alabama School of Medicine. He moved to St. Louis for residency training, met his wife, and fell in love with both her and the city itself. He has been practicing emergency medicine for over a decade and loves helping people every day, but turned to writing as a creative outlet.

A self-professed nerd, Brian has long enjoyed everything science fiction, from books to TV and movies. He is also a huge fan of great mysteries and thrillers, and is a sucker for a surprising plot twist. He writes the kind of books that he would want to read, reflecting a deep-seated curiosity about what motivates people to do the things they do.

When he’s not busy writing and taking care of patients, Brian loves to run, play with his children, and spend quiet time watching TV with his wife. If he can only figure out how to do all three things at once, he’ll finally have it made.

https://www.amazon.com/Brian-Cohn/e/B01MYVF8I0/

My review:

I’m writing this review as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team. If you are an author and are looking for reviews, I recommend you check here, as she manages a great group of reviewers and if they like your book, you’ve made it!

Having read and enjoyed Brian Cohn’s previous novel The Last Detective  (you can check my review here), I was very intrigued by his new novel. Although it also promised a mystery/thriller of sorts, this one was set firmly in the present, well, as firmly as anything can be when told by a character suffering from paranoid schizophrenia who rarely takes his medication. As I am a psychiatrist, and I read many thrillers, the book had a double interest for me.

As the description says, the story is narrated, in the first person, by the main character, the Brendan Meeks of the title. Although he is from a good family and had an affluent (if not the happiest) childhood, his mental illness disrupted his education (he was studying a Masters in Computer Sciences at the time), and his life. He now lives in a rundown apartment in St. Louis, surrounded by other marginal characters (a war veteran suffering from PTSD who never leaves the house, a drug-addict girl whose dealer has become something more personal, an understanding Bosnian landlord…). His main support is his sister Wendy. When she dies, he decides to investigate her death, and things get even more complicated, as his brain starts making connections and seeing coincidences that might or might not be really there.

Brendan is the perfect example of an unreliable narrator. His mental illness makes him misinterpret things, give ominous meanings to random events, and believe that everything that happens relates to him and “the code”. Brendan hears voices, abusive voices, mostly in the second person, that give him orders, insult him, tell him to harm himself and others… He has a complex system of paranoid delusions, all related to a “code” he believes was implanted in his brain, and he is convinced that there is a conspiracy of various agencies (mostly men dressed in dark suits driving black SUVs) that will stop at nothing to try and recover that information. Thanks to his parents’ money (as this is the USA, his access to care would be limited otherwise) he sees a psychiatrist once a week, but he rarely takes medication, as he is convinced that if he does, he won’t be able to escape these agents that are after him. Yes, the medication helps with the voices, but it does not seem to touch his delusions (if it is all a delusion). There are several points in the novel when Brendan ends up in hospital and is given medication, and then he seems to hold it together for a while, enough to go after some clues and make some enquiries, but the longer he goes without medication, the more we doubt anything we read and wonder if any of the connections his brain makes are real or just a part of his illness.

I thought the depiction of Brendan’s mental illness and symptoms was very well done. It brought to my mind conversations with many of my patients, including his use of loud music or the radio to drown the voices, his feelings about the medication, his self-doubt, the attitude of others towards him (most of the characters are very understanding and friendly towards Brendan, although he faces doubt and disbelief a few times, not surprisingly, especially in his dealings with the police and the authorities), and his thought processes. He is a likeable and relatable character, faced with an incredibly difficult situation, but determined to keep going no matter what. His sister’s death motivates him to focus and concentrate on something other than himself and his own worries, and that, ultimately, is what helps him move on and accept the possibility of a more positive future. He also shows at times, flashes of the humour that was in evidence in the author’s previous novel, although here less dark and less often (as it again fluctuates according to the character’s experiences).

The narration is fluid and fast, the pace changing in keeping with the point of view and the mental state of the protagonist. There are clues to the later discoveries from early on (and I did guess a few of the plot points) although the narrator’s mental state creates a good deal of confusion and doubt. The rest of the characters are less well-drawn than Brendan, although that also fits in with the narration style (we only learn as much as he tell us or thinks about them at the time, including his doubts and suspicions when he is not well), and the same goes for his altered perceptions of places and events (sometimes offering plenty of detail about unimportant things, and others paying hardly any attention at all).

Where the book did not work that well for me was when it came to the mystery/thriller part of it. There are inconsistencies and plot holes that I don’t think can be put down to the mental state or the altered perception of the character. There is an important plot point that did not fit in for me and tested my suspension of disbelief (in fact made me wonder if the level of unreliability extended beyond what the novel seemed to suggest up to that point and I became even more suspicious of everything), and I suspect readers who love police procedural stories will also wonder about a few of the things that happen and how they all fit together, but, otherwise, there are plenty of twists, and as I said, the build-up of the character and the depiction of his world and perspective is well achieved. Although the subject matter includes drugs, overdoses, corruption, child neglect, difficult family situations, abuse, adultery, and murder, there is no excessive or graphic use of violence or gore, and everything is filtered through Brendan’s point of view, and he is (despite whatever the voices might say) kind and warm-hearted.

I recommend it to readers interested in unreliable narrators, who love mysteries (but perhaps not sticklers for details or looking for realistic and detailed investigations), and are keen on sympathetic psychological portrayals of the everyday life of a young man suffering from schizophrenia.

Thanks to Rosie and to the author for this opportunity, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click and REVIEW!

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Book review Book reviews

#TuesdayBookBlog #Bookreview THE BLEEDERS (DAEMONS OF LONDON Book 1) by Michaela Haze (@MichaelaHaze) For lovers of paranormal romance with dark touches and a subtext of mental illness

Hi all:

Today I bring you a book that is not in one of my usual genres. This time it wasn’t the book for me.

The Bleeders (Daemons of London. Book 1) by Michaela Haze
The Bleeders (Daemons of London. Book 1) by Michaela Haze

The Bleeders (Daemons of London – Book 1) by Michaela Haze

The Bleeders is a Psychological, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance.
“This is one of the best books I have read in a LONG time” – Casey Ann Books, Goodreads
“Wow this is one of the darkest, sexiest, romantic novels ever” – Cassandra, Reviewer, Goodreads

All I wanted was to kill them. The people that murdered my sister.
Little did I know that the man I hired to do the job, Henry Blaire, was an incubus. A soul-sucking monster that can kill with one touch.
He’s dark, dangerous and addictive. Literally.
There is a word for people like me. People that drink daemon blood to become powerful, beautiful and strong.
They call us The Bleeders.

This story is not a typical HEA and it doesn’t have a cliffhanger ending.
It has themes of self-harm, mental illness, co-dependency, grief and addiction.

The Human Herders – Daemons of London – Book 2 – is now available on Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/Bleeders-Daemons-London-Book-ebook/dp/B01M1MV2LG/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bleeders-Daemons-London-Book-ebook/dp/B01M1MV2LG/

Author Michaela Haze
Author Michaela Haze

About the author:

Michaela Haze is a dog lover, mum of one and a writer of paranormal, urban fantasy romance. She lives in Hertfordshire. Her ‘real life’ job is as a videographer for a well-known retailer. In her spare time, she eats copious amounts of Japanese food.

https://www.amazon.com/Michaela-Haze/e/B007RU1S0C/

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team. Thanks to Rosie (check here if you’re an author seeking reviews) and to the author for sending me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

When the author contacted me, she made a very good case for me to read and review this book. A book where the protagonist self-harmed, had mental health problems and believed she was in love with an incubus and it was mutual, seemed very appropriate for me. I am not a big reader of paranormal books (I love horror, but have found that a lot of paranormal books focus more on romance and erotica, both genres, particularly erotica, that I don’t usually read). Unfortunately for me, the book had a fair amount of paranormal elements, well, the version of paranormal that I’m not so fond of and that outweighed (at least for me) the other aspects.

The story is told in several parts, always in the first person, from the point of view of Sofia (she prefers to be called Fia, and insists on it for much of the book). In the first part, we meet her when she is at a mental health facility and she is introduced to a new doctor that reminds her of a man from her past, Henry. At the insistence of this new doctor (she seems to be experiencing hallucinations, as she sees the Henry from her past and her sister, Melanie, who died some time back, while she is conversing with the doctor), she starts telling the story of how she got there.

Hers seems to be a story of grief and revenge. Sofia’s sister, Melanie, died in suspicious circumstances (of a Heroin overdose but the details are not straightforward), and she blames two men whom she is determined to get revenge on. To that effect, she visits a strange character, Henry. The rest of this part is the story of her obsession (that seems mutual) with this man she knows little about, but the more she learns, the weirder it gets. Sofia is grieving for her sister’s death, and self-harms (this part is graphic and realistic), smokes, drinks, hardly eats and seems to barely function. Her life is on a downward spiral until she meets Henry. And then things get… well, much worse. I know some readers don’t appreciate first person narrations, and although I normally don’t have any issues with them, this one I had difficulty with. Although I empathise with the protagonist’s predicament, her sudden love for a guy who is, at best a contract killer, and at worse… a demon, I did not find it that easy to understand (I know is standard fare in the genre, but perhaps that is one of the reasons why I don’t read it, as I find the suspension of disbelief a bit beyond me). Although we are not told her age, to me she seemed to act younger than the rest of the details of the story indicated she was. Perhaps it is to do with something she herself comments later in the book. She states she cannot remember who she was before all changed and we are not given any indication of the type of person she was, making it difficult to create a clear psychological picture in our minds. Of course, that is not helped by her mental state. Her constant mentions of the way the man looks, how attractive he is, his mahogany hair (I almost stopped reading when I read about it for the umpteenth time), and also the way she always describes herself by contemplating herself in a mirror and never just talks (but mutters, scowls, groans, hisses…), and uses adjectives and adverbs randomly (and some wrongly) made it a hard read for me. (It made me think of much of the advice written about how to improve one’s writing that needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.) I appreciate the author’s note saying that she did the correcting herself and that this was the second edition, but it would benefit from some professional editing. (I have noticed that the book has now a new cover, so it might be that there is a more recent version that has corrected some of these issues).

Part 2 shows us (after a brief interlude in the present day) Sofia a year later when Henry has left her life and she has become a Bleeder. I won’t describe the entire plot in detail, but let’s say that Henry isn’t quite gone and she ends up near Doncaster and…

Part 3. We are back in the mental health institution and Sofia makes some interesting discoveries about the doctor she has been talking to that make her question her insanity.

If you follow my blog and my reviews, you’ll know that I am always intrigued by narrators, especially unreliable narrators, and due to her mental state, Sofia is very unreliable. I have mentioned my difficulties with the writing style (that might have been solved and I know some of the issues are personal, so, do check the book and see what you think). It is difficult to talk about the characters as everything is filtered through Sofia’s disturbed mind. I have already talked about her. Henry, well, due to her adoration it is difficult to get any clear sense of what he is like (a dark hero, I guess). I liked his friend William much better. He is politically incorrect and has a sense of humour, something that gives us a bit of breathing space from the emotionally charged story that dominates most of the book. Some aspects of the plot are intriguing, and the UK locations and the idea of folds in space where our world connects to ‘Hell’ I found interesting, but I felt that the book would be better appreciated by younger readers and those more interested in the romantic and paranormal aspects of the story.

From the point of view of the mental health issues, I think the book might be difficult to read for people who self-harm and who have lost somebody recently. Some of the descriptive writing is well achieved, especially when Sofia finds herself lost in the woods, and the first person writing makes us share in her confusion and fear. As a psychiatrist, I must clarify that some of the events described would never take place in a hospital, but this is a novel.

From reading the reviews I know that many readers love this novel and the series, so don’t let me put you off. I would advise you to check a sample of the book and to try it if you enjoy paranormal novels with a big dose of romance and you don’t mind first-person narrations. Ah, there is some sexual content, although not extremely explicit (and it does not take up much of the book).

Thanks to Rosie and the author for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click and REVIEW!

 

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Book review Book reviews

#TuesdayBookBlog 31 Days of Wonder by Tom Winter A story about ‘normal’ life and human relationships at all levels, with no fancy action, no sex, but a lot of heart. #31DaysofWonder @CorsairBooks @wintrybits @millsreid11

Hi all:

Today I bring you a book I was approached to review. I had (have) quite a long list of books to read, but somehow it seemed quite different to the books I had been reading recently, and I remembered that a change is a good as a rest. So, here it is:

31 Days of Wonder by Tom Winter
31 Days of Wonder by Tom Winter

31 Days of Wonder by Tom Winter

‘And in that instant, he knows in his heart that today is a momentous day; come what may, he and Alice will meet again, and life will never be the same.’

Alice is stuck in an internship she loathes and a body she is forever trying to change.

Ben, also in his early twenties, is still trying to find his place in the world.

By chance they meet one day in a London park.

Day 1
Ben spots Alice sitting on a bench and feels compelled to speak to her. To his surprise, their connection is instant. But before numbers are exchanged, Alice is whisked off by her demanding boss.

20 minutes later
Alone in her office toilets, Alice looks at herself in the mirror and desperately searches for the beauty Ben could see in her.

Meanwhile, having misunderstood a parting remark, Ben is already planning a trip to Glasgow where he believes Alice lives, not realising that they actually live barely ten miles apart.

Over the next 31 days, Alice and Ben will discover that even if they never manage to find each other again, they have sparked a change in each other that will last a lifetime. In 31 Days of Wonder, Tom Winter shows us the magic of chance encounters and how one brief moment on a Thursday afternoon can change the rest of your life.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06X9DNWFS/

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06X9DNWFS/

Author Tom Winter
Author Tom Winter

About the author:

Biography

Tom Winter’s debut novel, Lost & Found, was published in five languages. In August 2013 it was chosen as the Book of the Month by the Mail on Sunday’s You Magazine book club. That summer, the Kindle edition was also a No. 1 bestseller on Amazon UK. In Germany, Apple iBooks called it one of the ten books that everyone should read over the holidays.

Tom’s second book, Arms Wide Open, was published in 2014. Hello! magazine called it ‘a bittersweet joy of a book’, while Saga magazine said it is ‘utterly compelling… Winter has a lethal eye for family tensions.’

His third novel, 31 Days of Wonder, will be released in August 2017.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tom-Winter/e/B00GSPKM1I/

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and Little Brown Book Group, Corsair, for offering me an ARC copy of this book (due for release on the 10th of August 2017) that I freely choose to review.

This is a deceptive book. Written in the third person, from the alternating point of view of the two protagonists, where all the action stems from a casual encounter between the two, it feels familiar and we think we know what we’re going to get and where we’re going.

We have two young protagonists (the title reminded me of 300 Days of Summer, although this is chronologically linear, or almost, as the last entry cycles back to the first, from Alice’s point of view this time), Alice and Ben, both quirky, who are not the most popular and do not fit in well with ‘normal’ life (whatever that might be), for different reasons. Alice is overweight, loves food, and as she is doing an internship in advertising is constantly reminded of how important appearances are. She tries to be cheerful and never be negative but does not always manage. We might think she is a bit like Bridget Jones, and well, perhaps there are similarities, but although she has her crazy moments, she goes out of her way to do the right thing and is neither self-absorbed not careless and clumsy by design. Ben has a mental illness (bipolar), but he is not the typical young man who rebels against his condition, refuses to accept advice, and wants to do his own thing. He takes his medication, he questions his odd experiences, and he is fully aware of his shortcomings (that seem to have little to do with his pretty well-controlled illness).  He can be impulsive and he talks too much, but he tries his best not to upset anybody.

The two protagonists have plenty in common. They both share an apartment with somebody (Ben with David, his best friend; Alice with Mae, a young landlady from hell), have jobs that do not make them happy, have a difficult and cold relationship with their closest relatives (for Alice, her parents, for Ben, his grandparents), and are looking for something, even if they don’t know what.

Their chance encounter sets things in motion. As I said, readers are likely to believe that this is going to be a romance story where the two protagonists will be separated by circumstances and misunderstandings, going through a number of adventures, and will eventually come together at the end, for the happy ever after, Alice losing weight and showing people at work she is a true winner, and Ben overcoming his self-doubts and becoming a new man. If you have read the description carefully, you might have noticed that it hints at things not being that straightforward (or even twisty but getting us to the expected point). This is not a mystery novel, but I will try and avoid spoilers nonetheless. Let’s say that both protagonists discover things about themselves and those around them, especially that we should not always focus on living up to other people’s expectations (that we might internalise and make ours), but instead, we should try and find what makes us happy, whatever unlikely and even uncool that might be.

The two main characters are well-drawn and likeable. The secondary characters are also well-drawn, some more likeable than others (Ben seems to be blessed with better luck in friends and even in relatives, as his grandmother becomes much more lovable by the end. Alice is less lucky, and her parents, friends, flatmates and bosses are fairly horrible, although Chris has some potential and her parents… well, let’s say they change). There are surprising moments, sad moments, beautiful moments, and ‘aha’ moments of realisation. I suspect readers will identify more with one of the characters than with the other. Ben has the more rounded and significant experience (he insists on doing things from the beginning, even if he has to change plans along the way).  Alice seems to be a victim of the circumstances (some self-created). She makes-up things rather than taking action and finds it difficult to say no or give her true opinion. But she does have some memorable scenes and it is difficult not to root for her, although overall I preferred Ben’s character. (And loved the parrot).

A well-written and easy to read story, that flows well, with comedic moments and some sadder ones, that I recommend to people who enjoy stories with quirky characters about ‘normal’ life and human relationships at all levels, with no fancy action, no sex, but a lot of heart.

I will be following the author and will be eager to see what he writes next (and I’m also intrigued by his previous novel).

Thanks to NetGalley, to the publisher and to the author for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click and REVIEW! And remember, the book will be published on the 10th of August. (I have a friend, her son, and her daughter [my goddaughter] coming to stay with me next week, so I thought I’d share this ahead of time. If any of you knows where to find last minute tickets for the Warner Studios Harry Potter experience, let me know!)

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview MEDEA’S CURSE by Anne Buist A forensic psychiatrist in Australia. Mental health, abuse, death and professional boundaries.

Hi all:

Today a book that when I read the description I could not resist.

Review of Medea's Curse by Anne Buist
Medea’s Curse by Anne Buist

Medea’s Curse by Anne Buist

Legend Press

Mystery & ThrillersGeneral Fiction (Adult)

Description

Shortlisted for two Davitt Awards – Best Adult and Best Debut

‘A plot-twisting page-turner… I was completely gripped’ — Emma Healey, author of Elizabeth is Missing

‘A thrilling read that will have you on the edge of your seat’ — BuzzFeed

‘Keeps the reader guessing to the very last page’ — Lisa Hall, author of Between You and Me

Forensic psychiatrist Natalie King works with victims and perpetrators of violent crime. She rides a Ducati a size too big and wears a tank top a size too small. Likes men but doesn’t want to keep one. And really needs to stay on her medication.

Now she’s being stalked. Could it be a hostile former patient? Or someone connected with a current case?

Natalie doesn’t know. And with another missing child case on her desk, the time for answers is running out.

My review:

Thanks to Net Galley and to Legend Press for providing me with a free copy of this book.

When I first read the description of the book, I thought this was the book for me. I do read in a variety of genres, I am a psychiatrist and I worked in forensic psychiatry (although in the UK, not in Australia like the protagonist) for a number of years. I also write and have a psychiatrist as one of my characters, so I was interested in this novel, not only as a reader but also as a writer.

As I read the novel I realised that perhaps I wasn’t the best person to give feedback on it, as although I enjoyed the descriptions and discussions of mental health matters that are one of the pillars of the book, I was not in a position to comment on how somebody who wasn’t familiar with the material, would find it (although from the comments I’ve read, it seems people enjoy it and don’t find it difficult or too detailed).

The novel is told in the third person from the point of view of Nicole, a young female psychiatrist who works in a forensic setting, both in a hospital and also sees outpatients in her own practice. She only works with female patients, and has her own mental health problems (she is bipolar, and regularly sees a therapist, currently only for supervision, Declan, who functions as the voice of reason, although unfortunately he isn’t always given the full information). Nicole identifies herself closely with some of her patients and finds it difficult not to get over-involved (after all, she had also been an inpatient, and had a difficult childhood, like many of the women she works with). That causes quite a few of the complex situations she sees herself in, although perhaps also makes her get ‘results’, albeit at a high personal cost.

Nicole is not a model of professionality or a model patient either. Sometimes she doesn’t take her medication, she mixes it with alcohol, and she struggles with issues of confidentiality. She does not get on well with the Professor who is the star psychiatrist in the department where she works, and she has her own morality that might clash with accepted standards(she does not want long-term romantic relationships, but sex with a married man, even one she knows due to work, is OK). She is also not the wisest and tries to convince herself that she is not scared and does not need anybody when she gets evidence that she’s being stalked. And if you think of psychiatrist as bookish and boring, Nicole is none of that. She plays in a band, rides a big motorbike and favours leather gear.

A couple of warnings: there is sex in the novel, although not explicit and too descriptive, but if you don’t like sexual language, there is some. From the point of view of the plot, it helps demonstrate that Nicole’s impulsivity spreads to many areas of her life, illustrates her high mood at one point, and at the end, it helps us get a better picture of what her true priorities are. The second warning is about the main subject of the book. The author works in postnatal mental health, and the patients Nicole works with and the cases being investigated pertain to infanticides or child murders, and also to paedophilia and sexual abuse, and although not gory, the psychological descriptions ring true and might be difficult to read if you are especially sensitive to those themes. It is not a light or feel-good book, that’s a fact.

The different women Nicole works with and their different families, mirror one another and at times it might be difficult to extricate the smaller characters and differentiate between them even if you’re playing close attention, but the main characters’ psychological makeup rings true, and there are masterful descriptions of symptoms of mental illness, like those Nicole experiences when she’s going high. I could also identify professionally with the issues Nicole has with the difficult interface between being a psychiatrist to her patients, and also having to take into account that they are (or might be) criminals and might represent a risk to others. She struggles with issues of confidentiality and risk, and that is one of the true complexities of forensic psychiatry.

The plot is complex and twists and turns, making the reader share with the protagonist in her doubts about diagnosis, guilty parties, about her stalker, and even about her personal relationships.

I recommend it to readers with a particular interest in mental health and psychological thrillers, who are not unduly concerned about sex or child abuse and murder in their books, and who enjoy complex characterisations and plots.

https://www.amazon.com/Medeas-Curse-Page-Turning-Psychological-Psychiatrist-ebook/dp/B01B4PP7T8/

Thanks to Net Galley, to Legend Press and to the author, thanks to all of you for reading, and do like, share, comment, and CLICK! And Merry Xmas!

 

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