Tag: mental-health

Book Review: Rosie Colored Glasses, by Brianna Wolfson

rosie colored glasses
Image belongs to MIRA.

Title:  Rosie Colored Glasses
Author:  Brianna Wolfson
Genre:  Fiction (not quite YA).
Rating:  3/5

Eleven-year-old Willow hates that her parents are divorced. She hates that she and her brother have two separate lives:  one filled with rules and sternness when they’re with their father, Rex; and one filled with laughter and crazy rituals when they’re with their mother, Rosie.

Willow knows how much her mother loves her. Every Spaghetti Sunday, late-night room-painting endeavor, or costumed reenactment of Rocky Horror Picture Show proves it. Her father just yells or gives her more lists to follow. Why can’t she live with her mother all the time?

Then her mother’s behavior changes, and Willow finds herself waking up at her father’s house when she’d fallen asleep at her mother’s. Her mother no longer wants to paint or sing or dance. Her father grows sterner. Willow has no idea what’s wrong, she just wants her old life back.

I wanted to love this book. It takes a heavy topic and explores it from the viewpoint of child who doesn’t know what’s going on. Rosie is a vibrant character, full of music and color and life, while Rex is rigid and rule-bound. The characters are very black-and-white, and the moments when they act out-of-character aren’t explained, just glossed-over. Perhaps the child’s viewpoint made this hard to relate to, but I kept stumbling over the wording and how everyone left Willow so clueless as to what was really going on.

Brianna Wolfson lives in San Francisco. Rosie Colored Glasses is her debut novel.

(Galley provided by MIRA in exchange for an honest review.)

 

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Book Review: In Sight of Stars, by Gae Polisner

In Sight of Stars
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  In Sight of Stars
Author:  Gae Polisner
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4.5/5

Seventeen-year-old Klee’s life has changed immensely in the past year. He’s living in the suburbs. He’s in love with the volatile and free-spirited Sarah. And his beloved father, who taught him about art and explored New York City with him, is dead.

When life with his ice queen mother gets to be too much and an unexpected betrayal sends him over the edge, Klee ends up in the “Ape Can,” a psychiatric hospital for teens.

Klee must deal with his past if he’s ever to get back to his real life, but that means exploring the darkness and the secrets he doesn’t even know are there. Pushing people away has always been the easy way out, but Klee will have to learn to trust if he’s ever to heal.

In Sight of Stars alternates between the present, when Klee is hospitalized, and the past, events leading up to his breakdown. Klee is a fascinating character:  he’s broken, but he longs for wholeness and belonging, despite the blows the world keeps raining on him. This is a look at mental illness from the inside, gazing at the hurt and confusion that ripped one boy’s life to shreds, and how he learns to knit those shreds back into something whole.

I enjoyed reading this, and loved learning the truth right along with Klee, as he searches for the meaning in his past, his present, and his future. There’s a little bit of Klee’s brokenness in all of us. And, hopefully, his strength as well.

Gae Polisner is a family law attorney. She writes women’s fiction and young adult fiction. In Sight of Stars is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: This is Not a Love Letter, by Kim Purcell

thisisnotaloveletter_comps
Image belongs to Disney Book Group.

Jessie and Chris were on a break. Just one week, so Jessie could get some perspective, then they could make all the big decisions looming with graduation. Jessie just needed a little bit of time to think.

Then Chris disappears on a run by the river, on the same path where, a few weeks before, he was beaten up by some guys from a rival high school. Chris is popular. He’s good looking. And he’s black, a rarity in their small, paper mill town.

When the police decide Chris ran away, Jessie speaks up, and voices her fears that Chris’s disappearance is race-related. She’s terrified of what might have happened to Chris, but she’s not prepared for the threats she receives.

Chris has written Jessie a love letter every Friday since they started dating, now it’s her turn to write him, telling him everything that’s happening while he’s gone, what she’s afraid of, and some truths she’s kept hidden.

I’m just going to say it straight out:  this book almost broke me. I’m not sure if it was the situation, or if I just identified with Jessie that strongly, but I was in tears (sobs) by the time I finished reading this. Straight through, in one sitting, I might add. Jessie, while not always rational or sensible, made sense to me. She seemed real. Her relationship with Chris, which she remembers in detail while he’s missing, was charming and inspiring. Their town has problems, and sometimes the issues were ugly and hurtful, but they were always truthful. I cannot recommend this book highly enough!

Kim Purcell is from Canada, but now lives in New York. This is Not a Love Letter is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Disney Book Group in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Before I Let Go, by Marieke Naijkamp

 

before i let go
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Corey and Kyra grew up as best friends in tiny Lost Creek, Alaska. Kyra was vibrant and artistic—and manic/depressive, so the town ostracized her for being different. But Corey was always there for her. Until Corey’s mom got a new job and Corey had to move away, promising Kyra she’d be back in exchange for Kyra’s promise to stay strong.

Days before Corey’s visit home, Kyra dies, and Corey is devastated. Her grief turns to confusion when she returns to Lost, and discovers the town has changed in her absence. Everyone grieves for Kyra, but whispers that her death was meant to be.

Corey doesn’t know what to think. The town that shut Kyra out seems to have embraced her in the past months, but the more Corey asks questions, the more she’s treated as an outsider herself. As she tries to learn more about what happened to Kyra, the more her suspicions grow. Lost is hiding a secret—and Corey can’t get through the darkness to the truth.

I’m just going to say it:  this was a weird book. It’s a mix of YA, magical realism, and death investigation—kind of. Lost comes to vivid, haunting life on the pages, and the characters are both compelling and strange.  Kyra and Corey’s friendship was heartwarming and sad, and I enjoyed Corey’s attempts to find out the truth about her friend. In the end, though, I still wasn’t quite sure what happened. An interesting, unpredictable read.

Marieke Naijkamp was born and raised in the Netherlands. She is the New York Times bestselling author of This is Where It Ends. Her newest novel is Before I Let Go.

(Galley provided by Sourcebooks Fire via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

 

Book Review: Part of the Silence, by Debbie Howells

Part ofthe Silence
Image belongs to Kensington Books.

The Cornwall coast is a quiet place of haunting beauty. Not much happens there. Evie Sherman is found battered and almost dead in a field, with no memory of who she is.  When flickers of her memory return, the community comes together to search for her missing daughter, Angel. The only thing Evie knows for sure is that Angel is in terrible danger.

But the police can find no trace that Angel exists and soon start to wonder if Evie’s having a mental breakdown as scenes from the past exert their pull on the present. And as the darkness around Evie deepens, her internal warning—Trust no one—grows stronger, as she searches for the daughter she remembers when no one else believes.

Debbie Howells is a former flight instructor with an expertise in wedding flowers. Her newest novel, Part of the Silence, hits stores on June 27th.

The setting in Part of the Silence is as much a character as Evie is, and now I really want to visit Cornwall. Not by myself, since the novel is a bit creepy, though. I enjoyed the mystery of the novel, both the present-day one, and the linked one in the past, although I did not feel a connection to the characters—possibly because Evie did not trust any of them.

(Galley provided by Kensington Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Review: The Rules of Half, by Jenna Patrick

the rules of half
Image belongs to SparkPress.

Jenna Patrick writes fiction from North Carolina. The Rules of Half is her debut novel.

Half Moon Hollow is your typical small town:  high school football on Friday nights, everybody knows everybody else, and the town crazy to torment just because. Will Fletcher used to be married, a father, and a veterinarian. Now he is none of those things. Instead, his severe bipolar disorder has him living with his sister and trying to forget the trauma of his past. But when a fifteen-year-old orphan shows up, claiming she’s his daughter, Will’s world is turned upside down.

Regan Whitmer is running away from her abusive stepfather and her mother’s suicide, looking for family. Will wasn’t quite what she had in mind, but Regan wants to put the shame of her past behind her, and forge a new life and a new family. Can Regan and Will overcome his mental illness as they learn what family truly is?

The Rules of Half deals with a tough topic—mental illness—in a way that makes it understandable and sympathetic, instead of eliciting judgment and disbelief, reactions that are far too common. The stigma of mental illness is alive and well in Half Moon Hollow, but Regan and Will move past that as they learn how to love themselves and those around them. This book is truly eye-opening, an up-close look at the experience of mental illness, that will draw sympathy from the reader, as well as more awareness. I highly recommend it!

(Galley provided by SparkPress.)

The Weight of Him, by Ethel Rohan

the-weight-of-him-by-ethel-rohan
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Ethel Rohan was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, but now lives in San Francisco. She is an award-winning author of short stories, chapbooks, and memoirs. The Weight of Him is her first novel.

At four hundred pounds, Billy Brennan has always turned to food for comfort. He’s obsessed with food:  not just the taste, but the textures and everything about it. Especially the way it makes his mind go quiet. But in the wake of his son Michael’s suicide, not even food will help him.

Embracing the concept of “go big or go home,” Billy decides to lose half his body weight to raise money for suicide prevention…and to save his family from falling apart. But Billy’s family just wants to go on, and Billy struggles alone. As word of Billy’s efforts spreads, he gains unexpected allies as he learns to deal with his emotions and his regrets while he strives to find meaning in Michael’s death.

I wanted to read this novel because it’s set in Ireland—which is at the top of my bucket list—and because it deals with suicide—because a couple of people close to me struggle with debilitating depression and suicide is a real problem that people don’t like to talk about. (Mental illness is real, people, and if we don’t talk about it, how can we help those who struggle with it? Depression is HARD.)

But this book…it’s powerful. Not only does it talk about suicide, but about eating disorders and disordered eating. With the stigma attached to those who are overweight. Billy has emotional wounds he’s never dealt with, and Michael’s death just ripped the scab off them. Now, when he’s actually trying to deal with and heal his issues, his family wants to keep pretending they don’t exist. This is a very moving book that deals with difficult subjects.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley.)

Unnatural Deeds, by Cyn Balog

unnatural-deeds
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Cyn Balog is a young adult author. Her newest novel is Unnatural Deeds.

Victoria Zell has never fit in. Not that she cares. She and her homeschooled boyfriend, Andrew, are inseparable, so Victoria doesn’t care about anyone else. Until Zachary Zimmerman shows up in her homeroom:  he’s gorgeous and popular, everything Victoria is not. Within the first hour, he convinces her to cut class, and now Victoria can’t get enough of that rush.

Even though Vic is loyal to Andrew, she is drawn to Z. But Z has secrets, and soon Vic is lying to everyone as she tries to unravel those secrets. Except Z isn’t the only one with secrets, and Vic’s past will come back to haunt her in its destructive rampage.

This book…I thought I knew where it was going. Seriously. All the signs pointed one way, and then we ended up completely off the map. I never saw the ending coming. Like, at all. Z and Vic are both great characters, and you’ll find yourself drawn into their mystery as they struggle to untangle it. You should definitely read this book!

(Galley provided by Sourcebooks Fire.)

Cutter Boy, by Cristy Watson

cutter-boy
I do not own this image. Image used courtesy of James Lorimer & Company.)

 

Cristy Watson is a teacher who writes poetry and YA. Her newest story is Cutter Boy.

Travis is bullied at school and ignored at home. He has no one to talk to. The only thing that gives him peace is cutting himself with a razor blade. When he meets new girl Chyvonne at school, he wants to get to know her better, but he’s afraid she’ll find out his secret.

As Travis grows closer to Chyvonne, he wonders what causes his mother to hate him so much. Then he finds the art of paper cutting, which seems to be the only other option to make himself feel better. Will Travis ever win his struggle with self-harm?

Cutter Boy is a difficult and dark short novel that delves into an area seldom explored in literature:  self-harm among guys. Travis’ journey is wrenching and emotionally gripping.

(Galley courtesy of James Lorimer & Company.)

Happiness Is…Words on Paper

You know what’s awesome?  Writing.

Do you know how long it’s been since I wrote anything besides random emails and interminable school papers?  At least three months.

Do you know how happy writing again makes me?  Extremely.

Granted, I didn’t write much.  But school started again this week, and I decided that, in addition to my piles of school work ( I feel like a fifth year at Hogwarts), I would make time for writing.  And blogging.  No exceptions.  No more procrastinating.  Just me and my characters and heaps of trouble.

And you know what?  Once I made myself start, it felt fantastic!  I’ve missed writing so much.  I can never not write this long again.  It’s unacceptable.

How else am I going to capture the magic around me, if I don’t write?  Besides, I have to keep my characters safe from the zombies.