Bookworm Bloggin’: Little Deaths by Emma Flint

Synopsis

27845924It’s 1965 in a tight-knit working-class neighborhood in Queens, New York, and Ruth Malone–a single mother who works long hours as a cocktail waitress–wakes to discover her two small children, Frankie Jr. and Cindy, have gone missing. Later that day, Cindy’s body is found in a derelict lot a half mile from her home, strangled. Ten days later, Frankie Jr.’s decomposing body is found. Immediately, all fingers point to Ruth.

As police investigate the murders, the detritus of Ruth’s life is exposed. Seen through the eyes of the cops, the empty bourbon bottles and provocative clothing which litter her apartment, the piles of letters from countless men and Ruth’s little black book of phone numbers, make her a drunk, a loose woman–and therefore a bad mother. The lead detective, a strict Catholic who believes women belong in the home, leaps to the obvious conclusion: facing divorce and a custody battle, Malone took her children’s lives.

Pete Wonicke is a rookie tabloid reporter who finagles an assignment to cover the murders. Determined to make his name in the paper, he begins digging into the case. Pete’s interest in the story develops into an obsession with Ruth, and he comes to believe there’s something more to the woman whom prosecutors, the press, and the public have painted as a promiscuous femme fatale. Did Ruth Malone violently kill her own children, is she a victim of circumstance–or is there something more sinister at play?

Inspired by a true story, Little Deaths, like celebrated novels by Sarah Waters and Megan Abbott, is compelling literary crime fiction that explores the capacity for good and evil in us all.

Review

IF YOU LIKE SUSPENSEFUL PAGE-TURNING BOOKS, YOU MUST READ LITTLE DEATHS.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I want to start off by saying that I loved this book. I was a bit hesitant at first when I was trying to decide if I wanted to read it because I wasn’t sure if I would like the classic crime noir feel. With that being said, I’m so happy that I decided to give Little Deaths a shot!

When I initially started to read this book I did not realize that the story is based on details from a real case. For me, this added a whole new level of excitement to the book and it caused me to spend entirely too much time looking up details of the case. The story is just that compelling!

One reaction that I was not anticipating when I initially picked up this book was the pure rage that I experienced as a result of the prejudice and scrutiny that the main character experienced from the police and the media. As a feminist, I became enraged with the idiocy of the way that Ruth was treated and the unfairness of it all. I am aware that women were often subjected to harsh judgments, prejudice, and inequality in the 60s; however, this book brought these issues to the forefront of my awareness in a way that I had never experienced before and the anger that I felt as a result was extremely overwhelming at times.

In terms of the story itself, I found the character development to be superb and while the plot was a bit slow it still achieved the suspenseful purpose of shocking me entirely with the unexpected ending. Seriously, I did NOT see that coming… So, if you’re in the mood for a good suspense novel with an old classics feel, look no further.

Happy reading!

Ayla

Note: I received an advanced reader copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest reader review. The opinions expressed herein are entirely my own.

Advertisements

Detached by Christina Kilbourne Review

Deatched-BlogTourHeader-v1
Synopsis

Anna has always been so level-headed, so easy-going, so talented and funny. How could anyone have guessed she wanted to die?

Anna is not like other people. For one thing, she’s been an accomplished artist since she was a preschooler. For another, she’s always felt like she didn’t belong: not with other kids, not with her family, not in her body. It isn’t until her grandparents are killed in a tragic accident, however, that Anna starts to feel untethered. She begins to wonder what it would be like if she didn’t exist and the thought of escaping the aimless drifting is the only thing that brings her comfort.

When Anna overdoses on prescription pain killers the doctors realize she has been suffering from depression and start looking for a way to help her out of the desperate black hole she never thought she would escape. It’s then that rock bottom comes into sight and the journey back to normal begins.

Review

I want to begin this review by first recognizing the author’s dedication to writing a book of hope rather than writing for the purpose of glamorizing mental illness. While I believe that there can be tremendous value and inspiration found in the pages of books about mental illness, I also believe that if authors are not careful, their work can do more harm than good. Christina Kilbourne not only recognizes this fact, but she does a wonderful job of harnessing the power of written words in a way that inspires the reader to seek help or empathize with the character rather than triggering copycat behavior.

While I was in the initial stages of researching this book, I came across a quote from the author which states, “I wanted a story that would be sensitive, but not suggestive. I wanted a story that would appeal to teens, yet not scare off parents, teachers or librarians. I wanted a story that would show the despair suicide brings to family and friends without being preachy […] I wanted to write a book about suicide that would bring hope, understanding and perhaps a measure of comfort to anyone who might be reading and want to end their life. At the same time, I wanted those who had lost a loved one to suicide to realize it wasn’t their fault”.

My reader’s note to the author (if she ever happens to read this…) is that Detached absolutely 100% without a doubt achieves each and every one of these goals. I did not find the book to be the least bit suggestive or preachy and as a mid-twenties reader I could definitely see myself referring Detached to teenagers and older adults alike. The story is written with such finesse and the reader truly gets to experience an inside look at depression, suicide, and the debilitating reality of mental health conditions. If you are someone who has personally experienced depression, suicidal ideation, or suicidal behaviors, you might just find yourself feeling incredibly understood  and inspired by the pages of Detached. Alternatively, if you are someone who has not personally struggled but has a loved one who does, you might begin to better understand what your loved one is feeling by reading Kilbourne’s novel.

Detached is both deeply saddening and yet somehow powerfully inspiring. I felt such a strong connection to the main character, Anna, due to my own experiences with mental illness and I can honestly say that Kilbourne did an excellent job of depicting Anna’s struggles realistically rather than glamorizing it for a more dramatic storyline. But don’t let that statement convince you that the story is not dramatic; on the contrary, I found Detached to be an entirely gripping novel to read. I could NOT put this book down! In fact, when my alarm woke me up at 9am the morning after I finished Detached I mentally scolded myself for staying up until 3am reading, but it was definitely well worth staying up to finish!

One unique element to this book which I have not previously found in any young adult fiction about mental illness is the inclusion of an adult point of view. The story is told from the rotating perspectives of Anna, her best friend, and her mother. This aspect of the book is both intriguing and functional because it allows the reader to approach the story from their own perspective whether they are the person who is struggling or the person who is looking in trying to help. In my opinion, this element of the novel makes it more appealing to a wider audience because adults might actually find it easier to relate to the story from the adult perspective. Of course, this is just a theory as I am not a parent nor an “adult” (I refuse to embrace that title until I’m at least 25) but I might test this theory by referring the book to a few of the more “adultier” adults in my life to see what they think!

On another note, I also wanted to take a moment to appreciate the applicability of the title of Detached. When I think of my own experiences with depression, the first thing that comes to mind is the overwhelming feeling of being detached and isolated from the world around me. While no two people will experience mental illness in the same way, I know many people who have expressed a similar feeling of detachment from both themselves and those around them. I can think of absolutely no better word to describe Anna’s story in this novel and if I’m being completely honest, it was the title which initially drew me to this book and inspired my decision to contact the publisher for an advanced reader copy. So in this respect, I suppose you might say that I began empathizing with this book before I even turned the first page.

Overall, Detached is an incredibly remarkable story about grief, suicide, substance abuse, and learning to rebuild a shattered life. Upon further reflection I realized that this book is reminiscent of one of my favorite quotes by J. K. Rowling which states, “rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life”.  This quote has been something of a mantra that I have adopted into my own life when I am struggling and I found myself relating to Detached in the same way that I relate to the quote. The story allowed me to feel as though my struggles are valid while still recognizing the fact that it is possible to overcome even the darkest of depressive episodes.

I honestly believe that this story has the potential to save lives. If you or someone you know is struggling, perhaps you might consider reading this novel. It might just help you shine a light on all the darkness in your life.

Lastly, I would also like to point out that the Detached blog tour is perfectly timed to align with the approaching World Suicide Prevention Day which occurs on September 10, 2016. I can think of no other book which would be better suited to raising awareness about suicide so it seems especially fitting that Dundern Press has arranged for this book tour to take place in alignment with such an important day. I am so thankful for the opportunity to be part of this book tour and I would like to encourage all of my readers to not only read Detached which was recently released, but also to raise awareness and start conversations on World Suicide Prevention Day. Every voice counts in the fight to end mental health stigma!

xo
Ayla

Note: I received a complementary copy of this book from Dundurn press in exchange for an honest reader review and participation in the Detached Book Tour. The opinions expressed herein are entirely my own. 

Bookworm Bloggin’: Frayed by Kara Terzis

29057066Synopsis

Dear Kesley,

My therapist tells me I should write you a letter. Like flushing all my thoughts and feelings out of my system and onto paper. I tell her it’s a stupid idea.

But here I am, writing a letter to a dead girl. Where do I start? Where did our story begin? From the moment you were born…or died?

I’ll start with the moment I found out the truth about you. Your lies and my pain. Because it always begins and ends with you.
And that end began when Rafe Lawrence came back to town…

Ava Hale will do anything to find her sister’s killer…although she’ll wish she hadn’t. Because the harder Ava looks, the more secrets she uncovers about Kesley, and the more she begins to think that the girl she called sister was a liar. A sneak. A stranger.

And Kesley’s murderer could be much closer than she thought…

A debut novel from Wattpad award-winner Kara Terzis, Frayed is a psychological whodunit that will keep you guessing!

Review

Last week I received a copy of FRAYED in the mail and I was beyond excited because I was not expecting to receive a physical copy of the book from the publisher. I had originally requested a copy of Kara Terzis’ debut novel because I was looking for a good young adult suspense-filled read to spice up my summer reading list. FRAYED certainly did not disappoint in this regard. Over the past few weeks I’ve been going through a bit of a reading slump and I really needed a good page-turner to get me back into my reading challenge. Thankfully, FRAYED contained just the right combination of teenage tragedy and suspenseful mystery to grab my attention and keep me interested right up until the last page.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. I found the author’s writing style to be engaging and suspenseful without losing the reader in unnecessary details. Terzis did an excellent job of laying down a trail of breadcrumbs that lead the reader to a total plot twist towards the end of the book. I definitely did not see that ending coming! In fact, I had this book pegged as one with a predictable ending because I was so sure that I knew who was responsible for Kesley’s death. Evidently, I could not have been more wrong. For this, I have to commend the author. It is not often that I find a good book that keeps me guessing right up until the very end!

With all of that being said, the one criticism that I have of this book is that an extremely important detail of the plot is based on the common misconception that mental illness leads to violence. While I appreciate the fact that the book was full of suspense, I’m hesitant to wholeheartedly support something which is in direct opposition to my passion for ending the stigmatization of mental illness. While depicting psychiatric illnesses in a criminalized way might make for a thrilling story, I think it’s important to recognize that it is completely fictionalized and not based on facts at all. As a mental health advocate and social work graduate student, I have done a tremendous amount of research regarding the damaging effect of such misrepresentation in media content. Therefore, while I appreciate the fact that the author did not likely intend to perpetuate stigma, I think it is imperative that we recognize the misrepresentation of mental illness in order to prevent the propagation of a misinformed society.

Despite this downfall, I appreciate the author’s attempt to emphasize the ability of sufferers to gain control over mental health conditions as demonstrated by Margo/Ava’s improvement in the final pages of the book. So while there were certainly aspects of the book that I didn’t completely agree with, I don’t think the book was entirely misguided or misinformed when it comes to recovering from mental illness.

I could easily see this book becoming extremely successful and I will certainly be keeping an eye out for future works by Kara Terzis. The author clearly has a talent for writing and an incredible knack for storytelling. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a young adult novel with a gripping story line. FRAYED would go great paired with a warm cup of coffee and a rainy day.

Let me know in the comments below if you have read or are planning to read FRAYED by Kara Terzis. I would love to hear your thoughts on the book!

Thanks for reading,

Ayla

Note: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest reader review. The opinions expressed herein are my own.

Bookworm Bloggin’: The Dog Who Dared To Dream

9780349142104Synopsis

This is the story of a dog named Scraggly. Born an outsider because of her distinctive appearance, she spends most of her days in the sun-filled yard of her owner’s house. Scraggly has dreams and aspirations just like the rest of us. But each winter, dark clouds descend and Scraggly is faced with challenges that she must overcome. Through the clouds and even beyond the gates of her owner’s yard lies the possibility of friendship, motherhood and happiness – they are for the taking if Scraggly can just hold on to them, bring them home and build the life she so desperately desires.

The Dog Who Dared to Dream is a wise tale of the relationship between dog and man, as well as a celebration of a life lived with courage. Translated into English for the first time, it is a classic from Sun-mi Hwang, an international bestselling author.

Review

I received a copy of this book in the mail yesterday and I was so excited when I got home from work and found the package waiting for me on the table! I’d never heard of the book before but I was immediately intrigued when I read the synopsis so I decided to kick back after a long shift at the bookstore and enjoy an evening of reading (because after a day spent selling books to others who wouldn’t want to indulge in the pleasure of reading!?!)

My first impression of the book based on the synopsis was that the book is intended for a young audience. However, after reading the novel I would say that while the book would be appropriate for kids, you will appreciate the morals of the story and the themes of love, loss, grief, and friendship more so as an adult reader than you would as a child. In fact, I could easily see this book being popular among book clubs due to the latter themes and the deeper meaning that can be found within the book. After finishing the book I had a compulsion to talk to someone about it because I wanted to reflect on and interpret the life of Scraggly and her experiences so it would be perfect for anyone looking for book club book recommendations!

If I had to make a comparison, I would say that this book is most reminiscent of Charlotte’s Web (and that is a huge praise considering that Charlotte’s Web is my favorite book of all time). The reason I make this comparison is because the writing is not overly complex nor does the story seem extremely mature; however, the overarching themes in the book are extraordinarily deep and powerful.

It’s strange to conceptualize a book about the life of a dog as being relatable; however, The Dog Who Dared To Dream  brought about a strong sense of empathy and compassion within me while I was reading it. While I obviously cannot relate to the specific experiences of Scraggly, I could relate to the emotions that those experiences evoked. Oddly enough, the perspective of Scraggly and how she reacted and coped with various life events had me reflecting on my own experiences and how I overcame various challenges throughout my life. In this sense, I think that the author does an amazing job of highlighting the downfalls and triumphs of the human experience while writing from the perspective of Scraggly the dog.

I rated this book 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads and I will definitely be recommending it to my friends and family, as well as my customers at the bookstore. I read the book in a mere three hours because I absolutely could not put it down. It’s a perfect summer read if you’re looking to purchase a copy in September upon it’s release! I hope you’ll consider buying and reading The Dog Who Dared To Dream and I would love it if you would let me know what you think in the comments below if/when you do!

Note: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest reader review. The opinions expressed herein are my own.

Bookworm Bloggin’: I’m Still Here

51-2b1tmh8tlSynopsis

Elsa has been in a coma for five months. With all hope of reviving her gone, her family and doctors are having to face the devastating fact that it might be time to turn off her life support… They don’t realise that in the past few weeks Elsa has regained partial consciousness; she knows where she is and can hear everyone talking around her bed, but she has no way of telling them she’s there.

Thibault is in the same hospital visiting his brother, a drunk driver responsible for the deaths of two teenage girls. Thibault’s emotions are in turmoil and, needing a retreat, he finds his way into Elsa’s room. Seeing her lying there so peacefully, he finds it hard to believe she is not just sleeping.

Thibault begins to visit Elsa regularly. As he learns more about her through her family and friends, he begins to realise that he is developing feelings for her. And when he talks to her, he can’t help feeling that she can hear his every word…

For Elsa, his visits are like a breath of fresh air. Here is finally someone who speaks to her as if she is a real life person. Who makes her laugh. And who gives her something to fight for…

And so begins a love story that might just save both their lives…

Review

I’M STILL HERE by Clilie Avit is a heart wrenching story of illness, family dysfunction, grief, love and loss. The story follows the lives of Elsa and Thibault by alternating between the two characters’ narratives which allows the reader to experience their feelings for one another from more than one perspective.

What I really enjoyed about this book is that it’s more than just a typical love story. This book is unique in it’s ability to weave so many elements of the characters’ lives into one seamless yet complex tale. The story deals with difficult subject matter such as traumatic injuries, suicide, and grief while also managing to inspire a sense of hope and romance. In short, the story has a tremendous amount of depth for such a short novel.

Additionally, I’M STILL HERE left me feeling an extraordinary amount of suspense. With each new chapter I was left with more and more questions about Elsa’s fate. Just when I thought I had figured out the ending there would be a new detail revealed which would completely throw my hypothesis off course. The unpredictability of the book left me feeling hopeful for a happy ending between Elsa and Thibault while also planting enough seeds of doubt that I really had no idea what to expect. I can honestly say that the last 3-4 chapters of the book completely took me by surprise–I did NOT see that plot twist coming.

Overall, I have to say that I absolutely loved this book. It’s a quick read (4-5 hours for me) and I consider it to be appropriate for anyone fourteen years of age and up. Due to the subject matter pertaining to suicide I would recommend parental guidance for anyone under the age of fourteen. I’M STILL HERE is the perfect blend of tear inducing heartbreak mixed with a sprinkling of laugh-out-loud funny moments. If you’re looking for a light summer read that will hook you in from start to finish then I would recommend you stop by your local bookstore in August when this book is released! It will definitely be worth the wait!

As always, thanks for reading!
Ayla

Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest reader review. The edition reviewed above is the English translation of the book which will be available for purchase in August 2016. The thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own.

Bookworm Bloggin’: I Crawl Through It

Synopsis

23203744

Four teenagers are on the verge of exploding. The anxieties they face at every turn have nearly pushed them to the point of surrender: senseless high-stakes testing, the lingering damage of past trauma, the buried grief and guilt of tragic loss. They are desperate to cope, but no one is listening.

So they will lie. They will split in two. They will turn inside out. They will even build an invisible helicopter to fly themselves far away…but nothing releases the pressure. Because, as they discover, the only way to truly escape their world is to fly right into it.

The genius of acclaimed author A.S. King reaches new heights in this groundbreaking work of surrealist fiction; it will mesmerize readers with its deeply affecting exploration of how we crawl through traumatic experience-and find the way out.

Review

If I had to choose one word to describe this book it would be “unique”. As is the case with all of the books that I have read by A. S. King, the writing in I CRAWL THROUGH IT was beautifully phrased, very engaging for the reader, and the story itself demonstrates surrealism at it’s finest.

I was drawn to this book initially based on the synopsis which describes four teenage characters who have been faced with various traumatic experiences, grief, and anxiety. As a mental health advocate, I love a good book that deals with themes of mental health and emotional turbulence. I CRAWL THROUGH IT was no exception to this rule as it puts a surrealist spin on the classic YA mental health fiction.

While I was reading this book, I felt as though the author did an excellent job with character development which allows the reader to really get to know the characters in all of their bizarre glory. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with quite so many strange and quirky elements to each character and I absolutely loved that about I CRAWL THROUGH IT! Each character is an individual in seemingly outlandish ways that remind the reader of the individuality of each and every person in the world. For example, one of the four characters, China, has swallowed herself which leaves her body inside-out while another character, Lansdale, is a pathological liar whose hair grows each time that she lies (very pinocchio-esque). While these character traits seemed quite odd at the beginning of the novel, I found them to be very symbolic in their representations of the characters’ traumatic experiences by the end. For example, I interpreted China’s state of being physically inside-out to be a representation of her attempt to escape her mental trauma by turning in on herself.

Furthermore, I really enjoyed the way that this book represents the vast differences between how each individual copes with trauma. I felt as though the author had an appreciation for the fact that no two people cope with trauma in the same way and this really shines through in the novel. While the story itself is very surreal, the underlying messages are extraordinarily realistic and important to understanding trauma and the process of overcoming traumatic experiences. Despite these individual experiences of trauma, the author also did a wonderful job of succinctly demonstrating that the key to overcoming trauma is to face it head on rather than trying to escape it. In this regard, I think the author did an excellent job of recognizing the individuality of the experience while also acknowledging the overarching key to recovery.

With all of that being said, the one potential downfall to the book is that it was a bit tricky to follow. As is the case for many of the surrealist books which I have read in the past, I CRAWL THROUGH IT was a bit confusing at times; however, I really enjoyed this aspect of the book. While some people may not enjoy a book which leaves them feeling confused, I embrace this confusion because it encourages a deeper level of thinking. When everything in the book seems symbolic, there is an opening for metaphorical thinking and interpretation. If there is one thing that I do well, it’s overthinking even the smallest of details. For this reason, I think the confusing plot and structure of the book made me love it even more because it gave me the opportunity to interpret the story in my own way rather than having the author spell it out for me in a simple linear path as other books often do. I CRAWL THROUGH IT leaves so many things up to the imagination and while some readers may not like this, I absolutely LOVED it about the book.

If you’re looking for a fast paced book that will delve into deep subject matter while leaving you confused and searching for meaning in every aspect of the story, I CRAWL THROUGH IT is the book for you.

Thanks for reading!
Ayla

Note: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest reader review. The opinions expressed herein are mine alone. 

Bookworm Bloggin’: The life changing magic of not giving a f*ck: How to stop spending time you don’t have with people you don’t like doing things you don’t want to do

life-changing-magic-not-giving-a-fuck

A few days ago I finished reading The life changing magic of not giving a f*ck: How to stop spending time you don’t have with people you don’t like doing things you don’t want to do by Sarah Knight and I have to say, it wasn’t quite what I was expecting.

I decided to read this book after seeing a review on YouTube by Hannah Witton who raved about the humor and valuable lessons that the book has to offer. After hearing such good things about the book, I stopped by my local bookstore (where I was recently hired!!!) to pick up my own copy.

As the title suggests, the self-proclaimed parody of Marie Kondo’s The life changing magic of tidying up is a how-to guide of sorts which details the steps one must take to reclaim their joy and eliminate things that annoy. What’s more is that the author presents this information in such a way that teaches you how to do this in such a way that you do not become a total asshole. While the title of the book might suggest a F***-the-world-esque approach to finding happiness, this is not the case. Instead, Sarah Knight demonstrates how readers can respectfully decline experiences and opportunities that annoy them rather than bringing joy. She highlights the importance of respecting others and reclaiming your happiness without risking the total demise of your relationships with others. Basically, you get to learn how to set boundaries without becoming a jerk; you get to have your cake and eat it too!

Personally, I would classify this book as one which should be read in small doses. The book is hilarious and packed with information, but I found that I had to take breaks and read only 15-20 pages at a time because there was just so much information that makes you want to stop and reflect on your own life. The book really makes you stop and think about how to spend your time and how much enjoyment you are currently getting out of your life. In order to facilitate this deep thought process, the author included interactive pages which encourage you to complete activities (i.e. making lists of things that bring joy versus annoy) in order to get a better grip on how the book applies to you specifically.

I think that this book is something that everyone could learn something from, but I don’t think the book will be everyone’s cup of tea. The reason I say this is because the writing style and humorous nature of the book may come across as offensive to some individuals. More specifically, as the title of the book suggests, the author uses the F-word A LOT. And when I say A LOT I mean that some pages use the work 20+ times on a single page. With that being said, if you’re not offended by the title of the book, I would make an informed guess that you won’t be offended by the use of explicit language within the book either. Therefore, if you’re someone who is offended or annoyed by the over-use of cuss words then I would suggest that perhaps you not read this book because you will most likely not enjoy the book; thus, reading the book would be the exact opposite of learning the art of not giving a f*** about things that annoy you.

With that being said, I am someone who is not offended by course language in books and other media content, yet, I found that the frequency with which the author used the f-bomb was a bit over the top and unnecessary. At times I found it a bit annoying while I was reading the book which is also one of the reasons which I had to read the book in short bursts rather than reading it in only a few sittings. Granted, I’m not usually a huge fan of humorous books (I prefer the more serious books that pull at your heart strings) so this is not necessarily a poor reflection on the book itself, but rather a personal preference for non-humorous literature.

Overall, I would recommend this book to people who are not offended by the abundant use of potentially offensive language. While the book annoyed me when I tried reading a lot all at once, I found it much more enjoyable when I read fewer pages spread out over the course of 2 months. The book will almost certainly make you think about your own life and how you can improve your own happiness.

If you find yourself spending the majority of your time doing things that you would rather not be doing, this book is going to be great for you!

As always, thanks for stopping by and reading! Sound off in the comments below!

Ayla

 

 

My Top 6 Books about Mental Illness

As May is the annual Mental Health Awareness Month, I thought it would be fitting to combine my love of reading with my desire to raise awareness for mental health. So here we have it! A list of my favorite mental health themed books!

Believarexic by J.J. Johnson

Believearexic_drawn maze concepts_final.indd

Believarexic follows the life of fifteen year old Jennifer after she discloses to her parents that she has an eating disorder. The story begins with her admission into the Samuel Tuke Centre, a treatment facility, and from there the book follows her through the ups and downs of recovery.

This books is my #1 book of 2016 so far! I absolutely LOVED it and I would recommend it to anyone, especially those who have struggled with an eating disorder as well as individuals who are interested in learning more about the disorders.

 

The Disappearing Girl by Heather Topham Wood

17609789

The Disappearing Girl begins in the aftermath of the tragic death of Kayla’s father. In the year that follows his death, Kayla develops an obsession with losing weight which quickly spirals out of control and she develops anorexia and bulimia.

This book does an excellent job of demonstrating just how difficult it can be for a sufferer to come to terms with their illness and how such disorders can impact both the sufferer and their loved ones.

This book was among my top 3 books of 2015!

 

Cut by Patricia McCormick

9551752

Cut follows the story of Callie who is admitted into Sea Pines, a residential facility for young women who struggle with various mental health challenges. As the title suggests, Callie struggles with self-harm in the form of cutting.

Honestly, when I was reading this book I 100% thought it was coming from a place of personal experience on the author’s part. However, after reading the book I did some research and discovered that the author has never personally struggled with self-harm. I was shocked! She does such an amazing job of describing the suffering and the addictive nature of self-harm that I couldn’t believe she had never personally experienced self-harm. I commend Patricia McCormick on a realistic and empathetic portrayal of what it is like to struggle with self-harm and what it takes to recover.

Clean by Amy Reed

clean-cover-10_10

Clean is the story of five young people facing the same challenge: addiction. The books follows the lives of Olivia, Kelly, Christopher, Jason, and Eva as they face their addictions in rehab and come to terms with their actions and their secrets about the past.

I personally have never struggled with addiction, yet, I found myself able to empathize with the characters and really get inside their heads and feel what they were feeling. I read this book in one sitting because it was so engaging and entrancing. I’d definitely recommend this to anyone interested in mental health books!

Zoe Letting Go by Nora Price

12926813

Zoe Letting Go was another one of my top 3 books of 2015. This books is an incredible story and I absolutely did not see that ending coming!

This book is another which deals with anorexia within the setting of a treatment facility, but what sets this book apart is that much of the story unfolds in the form of letters which Zoe writes to her friend Elise. Except Elise never writes back…

This is a page-turner with a twist that you will NOT see coming. I 100% recommend that you pick up a copy of this books AS SOON AS POSSIBLE and then comment below letting me know what you think!

Stolen- A letter to my captor by Lucy Christopher

6408862Stolen delves into the life of sixteen year old Gemma after she is kidnapped from a Bangkok airport and brought to the Australian Outback by her captor, Ty.

As the book progresses, Gemma begins to demonstrate telltale signs of Stockholm Syndrome, feelings of affection or love that a victim has for their captor.

This is another book which I read in the space of one day because I just could not put it down! Every chapter is packed with excitement and suspense right up until the very end.

 

♥♥♥

These are only a few of the books that I’ve read about mental health (I’ve probably read close to 100 in total) but they’re the ones that have stood out to me as being compelling, interesting, and accurate in their depictions of mental illness.

Do you have a passion for reading mental health books? Let me know what your favorites are in the comments below!

xo

Ayla

Bookworm Bloggin’: milk and honey by Rupi Kaur

IMG_20160430_181754This image really says it all: this book was absolutely amazing. So amazing, in fact, that I had to break out my page markers and go a little crazy to make sure that I could easily find my favorite pages. As you can see, there were quite a few noteworthy passages…

milk and honey is a story written in poetry which is broken down into four sections: the hurting, the loving, the breaking, and the healing. The book explores concepts which some might consider to be ‘taboo’ such as sexual abuse, rape, familial issues, and domestic abuse. Despite the fact that the book delves into issues which traditionally connote trauma and suffering, I perceived the overall message of the book to be empowering and inspiring in the sense that it begins in a place of pain and suffering but ends in a place of healing and strength. I really liked this about the book because it emphasizes the fact that healing is possible even in the face of terrible pain and adversity. Overall, I would say that the key message in this book is one of profound hope. If you don’t believe me, check out the passage on page 168.

While the book can be read fairly quickly (I would say 1-2 hours depending on how quickly you read) I found myself reading certain pages over and over and over again because the meaning was just so overwhelmingly insightful. For example, the following excerpt can be found on page 19 of the book and is just one example of the breathtaking and deeply moving poetry works:

“every time you
tell your daughter
you yell at her
out of love
you teach her to confuse
anger with kindness
which seems like a good idea
till she grows up to
trust men who hurt her
cause they look so much
like you”
~to fathers with daughters, milk and honey by Rupi Kaur

This passage was the very first one that I flagged with a page marker because it stood out to me so definitively. The truth of this poem really speaks to me. So often parents tell their children that they are angry because they care about them and while I can appreciate that this may be the case, I also believe that the underlying message being spoken is one which confuses anger with love, the results of which could be devastating to a child’s developing mind.

I first came across this book a few months ago when a colleague shared a photo of the book on her Instagram account. The title caught my attention so I looked it up on Goodreads and later ordered it from Chapters. Personally, I love books which are written in verse and I especially love books that deal with issues relating to mental health. This book combines these two interests into one beautifully intellectual masterpiece.

In addition to the beautiful poems, the book also features various illustrations which help with the visualization of the story. In my experience of the book, I found the language to be easy to understand so I didn’t really have any trouble following the story; however, some people have a bit of trouble interpreting poetry so the images could be helpful for enhancing readers’ understanding of the poems.

In all honesty, I would recommend this book to anyone who is over the age of sixteen. It is beautifully written and I think the messages in this book are important on an individual level, but also on a societal level. With that being said, I would caution anyone who has experienced rape or abuse of some kind or another to be aware of the potential for this book to trigger negative emotions or traumatic memories. Part of the reason why I found this book to be so profound and meaningful is due to the raw pain which is expressed in many of the passages. As a result, if you have experienced trauma, this book could potentially cause you significantly more distress than it would cause a reader who has no personal traumatic history. Therefore, if you have experienced trauma at some point in your life, please exercise caution while reading this book and be aware of your own boundaries for what you can and cannot tolerate.

Trigger warnings aside, I think this book is a literary masterpiece and I would encourage you to check it out! Let me know what you think in the comments below if you have read it or plan to read it in the future!

Thanks for reading!

Ayla

 

30 Ways to de-stress and combat anxiety

This week everything is about stress and depression and anxiety. What can I say, I write about the things that I’m personally experiencing. So with that being said, here is a list of some of the ways that I cope with stress and relieve anxiety when I’m having a really hard day/week/month…(you get the picture).

  1. READ READ READ READ READ READ READ READ READ READ (I can’t highlight this one enough. Reading is the best way to escape from stress and worries and anxiety. You get to immerse yourself in someone else’s world for however long you choose AND it’s a socially acceptable escape method!!)
  2. Make some tea/coffee/hot chocolate (best when paired with #1)
  3. Spend some time in bed with Netflix (maybe add some pizza if you’re feelin’ it)
  4. Increase your intake of magnesium, it’s a natural anti-depressant (in other words: eat more bananas)
  5. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep (perhaps consider taking a non-habit forming sleep aid every once in a while if you’re really anxious. The extra sleep could help you in the long run. Just don’t make it a habit)
  6. Go for a walk
  7. Go for a run
  8. Go shopping
  9. Watch a movie
  10. Go for lunch with a close friend (or invite a friend over to your place if you are too anxious to go out)
  11. Treat yourself to your favorite meal; sometimes it’s the simple things that can make all the difference
  12. Bake yourself a special treat (apple crisp, anyone?)
  13. Take a nap
  14. Write down everything that is stressing you out and then give yourself a specific amount of time (a few hours, the rest of the day, etc.) where you are absolutely NOT allowed to think about any of those things
  15. Draw, colour, paint, do something artsy
  16. Dance
  17. Listen to music (but not the kind that will make you feel worse)
  18. Exercise
  19. Start a blog
  20. Make a list of achievable goals that you want to work toward (this can be really good for motivation and hopefulness when you find yourself struggling to feel happy about the future)
  21. Call a friend, sibling, parent, or someone else who you find comfort in
  22. Play a musical instrument
  23. Write a motivational letter to yourself that you will open in 5 years
  24. Talk to someone on 7 Cups of Tea
  25. Watch YouTube videos
  26. Read articles online (or blogs!)
  27. Play video games
  28. Clean your room/apartment/ house (this may not be fun, but it will keep you busy!)
  29. Volunteer in your community
  30. Do more of your favorite hobby (for me this means referring back to #1 again…)

♥♥♥

These are some of the things that I find myself turning to as a means of coping when I’m anxious or feeling a lot of stress. I know that not everyone will like all of the things on my list, but I hope this inspires you to think of your own anti-stress activities. I keep a list of my personal favorites on my phone so that I can assign myself a task when I’m feeling extremely anxious. It’s not easy to force yourself to snap out of anxiety and worrying so I find that keeping a list on my phone helps me by giving me a starting point.

I hope that some of these ideas help you! Let me know in the comments what your favorite coping techniques/methods are!

xo
Ayla