Tag: mental-health

Book Review: Woman 99, by Greer Macallister

woman 99
Image belongs to SOURCEBOOKS Landmark.

Title:  Woman 99
Author:  Greer Macallister
Genre:  historical fiction
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Charlotte Smith’s family is wealthy, and she is expected to marry well and improve the family’s fortunes. She and her sister are to never do anything to embarrass the family. So, when Charlotte’ sister, Phoebe does embarrass the family with her behavior, she’s sent to the notorious Goldengrove Asylum.

Charlotte knows it’s her fault Phoebe was sent away, but she’s determined to make it right, so she disguises herself as a destitute woman with mental health issues and becomes Woman 99 at the asylum.

It’s not what she expected. Some of the women desperately need the help the asylum could provide—if it weren’t twisted by greed and power—but some of the women are there because they are merely inconvenient to their families. As Charlotte searches for Phoebe in the asylum, she realizes there are deeper wrongs to be righted.

I found Woman 99 engrossing from the first page. I love a good historical, and I thought this one was extremely well-done. Charlotte’s growth through the book is wonderful to see:  from a compliant, agreeable young woman to a strong and forthright woman who is not afraid to challenge the status quo. Definitely worth reading!

Greer Macallister is a USA Today-bestselling author. Woman 99 is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of SOURCEBOOKS Landmark via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

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Book Review: A Danger to Herself and Others, by Alyssa Sheinmel

a danger to herself
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire

Title:  A Danger to Herself and Others
Author:  Alyssa B. Sheinmel
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4 out of 5

Hannah should not be institutionalized. Her roommate at an intensive study program, Agnes, fell out a window and was severely injured, but Hannah had nothing to do with it. She and Agnes were friends—best friends—even though Hannah was hooking up with Josh, Agnes’s boyfriend, on the side. But she’d never hurt Agnes.

Her parents are off to Europe, as usual, so Hannah decides to play along with Dr. Lightfoot so she can get out of here and back to her life. School’s about to start, and she can’t afford to be late with her college applications. Hannah is on her best behavior—but nothing seems to make an impact on the doctor until Hannah’s roommate, Lucy, arrives.

With Lucy’s help, Hannah can prove to Dr. Lightfoot that there’s nothing wrong with her, nothing at all, but Lucy will show her truths she never imagined.

Hannah is an unreliable narrator at best, but her story and the way her mind worked drew me in immediately. I knew there was something else going on here, but only started getting glimpses of what that was about halfway through. In the end, the book wasn’t what I expected at all, but I was enthralled.

Alyssa B. Sheinmel was born in California and grew up in New York. A Danger to Herself and Others is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Sourcebooks Fire via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

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Book Review: When Elephants Fly by Nancy Richardson Fischer

when elephants fly
Image belongs to Harlequin Teen.

Title:   When Elephants Fly
Author:   Nancy Richardson Fischer
Genre:   YA
Rating:   5 out of 5

Lily Decker is a senior with a 12-year-plan that includes college, no caffeine, no stress, and no boys, except her best friend Sawyer. Her plan is geared towards fending off the schizophrenia that runs in her family—and that caused her mother to try to kill her when she was seven years old.

Her dad wants her to sit home and do nothing, but Lily can’t forget that he reached for her mother and not her on that fateful day, so she keeps quiet about her internship with a newspaper. Until Lily’s story about naming the zoo’s elephant calf leads to Lily being present when the calf is born—and also there when the mother rejects the baby and attacks her.

With the baby elephant, Swifty, grieving, Lily is desperate to help in whatever way she can. That turns out to be traveling with Swifty to the circus when the zoo loses custody of her. But everything at the circus is not as perfect as the owners pretend, and Lily will risk everything—including her mental health—to keep Swifty safe.

This well-written novel takes a sensitive subject—mental health—and treats it with respect, dignity, and understanding. Lily is desperate to avoid schizophrenia, but she’s also realistic about her chances and her symptoms. The bond between her and Swifty is sweet and heartbreaking, and I flew through the pages to find out what happens.

Nancy Richardson Fischer graduated from Cornell University and used to work for the circus. When Elephants Fly is her new novel.

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

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.)

 

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.)