I know that this book has a lot of strong recommendations and reviews. But I honestly wasn’t expecting too much from it. Probably because I don’t often love the books that get such rave reviews. Sometimes I think that people give said reviews because they feel that they SHOULD, not because it was actually enjoyable.
Having said that. I will most definitely rave about this book. It was nothing that I expected and it drew me in from the very first moment. After all, there is a mystery to solve from the very beginning. Combine that with the ways in which Bee is able to structure and tell the story, the larger than life characters… I was completely enmeshed.
I love that this is a story about the love between a mother and daughter. It’s a reminder that real love doesn’t come with conditions, but is about accepting and loving someone for exactly who they are. Or at least, that’s how I took this story. That Bee is able to find out more and more about her mother’s flaws. But still love her.
Underlying all of this is the question of mental health. What makes someone sane? What makes them “normal”? And where is the damn line between the two? I still have no answers, and it seems that Semple doesn’t either. A perfect approach as far as I’m concerned.
As someone who has had a few years of drinking too heavily and experiencing blackouts… this hit a bit too close to home. But in a good way. Because rather than being judgemental and harsh, Hepola talks about her journey with acceptance, honesty and a good dose of humour. Brutally honest and wonderfully open, this book was definitely well worth the read.
Not only does this memoir delve into issues with alcohol, but also talks about what its like to be a woman. We’re in a world where being a drinker as a woman is impressive in your late teens and early twenties. But by the time you start edging towards the thirties? Expectations change. Its a hard reality to walk and Hepola did such justice to highlighting how difficult it is to navigate.
One of the many aspects of this memoir that I loved is that Hepola doesn’t blame her insecurities and reliance on alcohol on anyone or anything. In fact, she mentions friends having concerns about their kids following the same route she did and pointing out that there’s nothing that can be done. There is no blame or fault throughout this, and its… a refreshing way to talk about an issue that affects a lot of people.
Once I opened the first one of Blackput, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. There is something intense and honest about this. And a little too relatable. It’s definitely a journey that I look forward to taking again and again. I reminder of the line that we all need to draw, and how some people have more difficulties with that than others.
Finishing this, my first thought was… WOW. Followed closely by holy crap. And finally by just a fleeting feeling of fear. I mean, we’re talking about a medication with known side effects that changed this man’s life forever. Completely. Totally. And maybe not tragically now, 10 years later, but most definitely at the time. And with our current global climate? Yeah, that is guaranteed to give you a little fear if you’re sane.
At first I, admittedly, struggled a little to get into this. Partly because what was happening just felt so ridiculously outlandish. I mean, I just can’t even fathom the confusion and mental gymnastics that such a rude awakening would leave you with. I have enough trouble dealing with my OWN reality (but don’t we all?) let alone being given realities that aren’t even true. It definitely makes your heart squeeze painfully.
Then, I found the first part difficult because of the jumpiness of the writing. It was incredibly important – without this style and confusion I don’t think MacLean would have been able to impart the horrors and confusion of those first moments in India. But it was incredibly hard to read. Maybe because I work with people who have similar realities at times, and it was honestly confronting and difficult to read.
Yet, I also found this book impossible to put down. For all the moments that made me uncomfortable, I also felt more and more intrigued. After all, if we don’t push our boundaries, particularly in our reading, how are we going to grow? The Answer to the Riddle is Me not only told a pretty damn intense story of hospitalisation, amnesia and mental health. It also bought up issues of identity and self. It highlighted how important our past is to the present and how easy it can be to lose this.
Title: Heart Berries Author: Terese Marie Mailhot Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!) My Bookshelves:Memoirs, Mental health, Race Dates read: 29th August – 4th September 2021 Pace: Slow Format: Novel Publisher: Counterpoint Year: 2018 5th sentence, 74th page: You were still fucking me, though.
Heart Berries is a powerful, poetic memoir of a woman’s coming of age on the Seabird Island Band in the Pacific Northwest. Having survived a profoundly dysfunctional upbringing only to find herself hospitalized and facing a dual diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder, Terse Marie Mailhot is given a notebook and begins to write her way out of trauma. The triumphant result is Heart Berries, a memorial for Mailhot’s mother, a social worker and activist who had a thing for prisoners; a story of reconciliation with her father – an abusive drunk and a brilliant artist – who was murdered under mysterious circumstances; and an elegy on how difficult it is to love someone while dragging the long shadows of shame.
For such a short book, this is incredibly difficult to read through. It took me quite a while. Mostly because the emotions and power of Mailhot’s words were unforgettable. Powerful and filled with such rawness that I frequently had to pause and look at another story.
Mailhot is able to address issues of mental health, abuse and transgenerational trauma in a completely unforgettable way. It is, in places, physically difficult to read about this. But it is also filled with a cautious feeling of optimistic hope.
Under all of the writing and experiences, Mailhot has this overwhelming love for her children. Love for her family. And love, ultimately for herself. There is that cautious optimism throughout, but there is also a great sense of overwhelming love and attachment to those in her life.
This is one of those books that MUST be read. I will probably read this half a dozen times and find something new in it that I just wasn’t expecting. The complexity and power of this writing will most definitely give you new insight with each and every new read.
Title: The Gap Author: Benjamin Gilmour Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again) My Bookshelves:Medical, Memoirs, Mental health Dates read: 22nd – 25th August 2021 Pace: Medium Format: Novel Publisher: Viking Year: 2019 5th sentence, 74th page: I lean down beside our patient and speak in a whisper so no one will hear.
Benjamin Gilmour has been a paramedic for more than twenty years. He has seen his fair share of drama. But the summer of 2008 remains etched in his memory for the very worst reasons.
In this riveting memoir, Gilmour recounts the call-outs that summer: some dangerous, some gruesome, some downright ridiculous. And we meet fellow paramedic John who, they say, can get a laugh out of everyone except the dead. As they city heats up, however, even John begins to lose his sense of humour. People are unravelling – and Benjamin and John are no exception.
The Gap is a vivid portrait of the lead-up to Christmas; an unflinching, no-holds-barred look at what happens after the triple-zero call is made – the drugs, nightclubs, brothels, drunk rich kids, billionaires, domestic disputes, the elderly, emergency births, even a kidnapping. Patients share their innermost feelings, and we witness their loneliness, their despair and their hopes. 88 BB Beautifully written and sharply observed, The Gap exposes the fragility of our lives and the lengths that paramedics will go to try to save us.
I honestly just bought this because I needed a book with an ambulance on the cover. I really didn’t expect this to be such an amazing emotional rollercoaster ride. It was just… words can’t describe. I just don’t have the words to describe what it felt like to read this book. There’s such a potent emotional ride that had me reading this story until late in the night. Bated breath and eyes burning.
I knew that being a paramedic is an incredibly mentally taxing career. I know a few people who work in the field and the mental toll that it can take on a person. But, Gilmour’swords add a whole other layer of context to this reality. It provides faces and personalities to an issue that we all know is there. Provides a face to the trials, tribulations and tragedies of paramedics and those working within the health sector. It also kind of broke my heart throughout as I read about the daily life and experiences of Benjaminand his partners.
The title didn’t really mean much to me at the beginning of this novel. I mean, cool, it’s called The Gap, but that meant literally nothing to my brain. Then I read the opening paragraphs – and the title began to make much more sense. Which wasn’t necessarily a good thing. I mean, you knew some of this was going to be a tough read because it’s about a day in the life of a paramedic. When there is a spot that he is frequently called to that is known for suicides…it’s going to be a whole new kettle of fish and difficulties.
I’ve been on a good run of books lately. Read a few that, once I close the final page, I just lie there, staring at the ceiling. This was most definitely one of them. Although Gilmour deals with the very serious issues of mental health and wellbeing, there is humour and light throughout his words. Some incredibly difficult real world realities are faced up to, but they are paired off with some of the more ridiculous adventures of the paramedics. It shows you that whenever there is dark, you can also find some light.
Title: This Will Only Hurt a Little Author: Busy Philipps Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect) My Bookshelves:Comedy, Memoirs, Mental health, Strong women Dates read: 2nd – 11th May 2021 Pace: Medium Format: Novel Publisher: sphere Year: 2018 5th sentence, 74th page: I promised I would call him as much as I could and write him every single day, and he promised to do the same.
Busy Philipps has always been headstrong, defiant and determined not to miss out on all the fun. These qualities led her to leave Scottsdale, Arizona, at the age of nineteen to pursue her passion for acting in Hollywood. But, much like her painfully funny teenage years, chasing her dreams wasn’t always easy.
In this stunningly candid memoir, Busy opens up about chafing against a sexist system rife with on-set bullying and body shaming, being there when friends face shattering loss, enduring devastating betrayals and struggling with the challenges of motherhood.
But Busy also brings to the page her sly sense of humour and the unshakable sense that disappointment shouldn’t stand in her way. The rough patches in her life are tempered by hilarity and joy: leveraging a flawless impersonation of Cher from Clueless into her first paid acting gig, helping reinvent a genre with cult classic Freaks and Geeks, becoming fast friends with Dawson’s Creek castmate Michelle Williams, conquering natural child breath with the help of a II Mad Man II -themed hallucination and more.
Busy is the rare entertainer whose impressive arsenal of talents as an actress is equally matched by her storytelling ability and sharp observations about life, love and motherhood.
I was expecting this to be kind of funny and very, very light-hearted. That is not the case. The story that Busytells you about her life is kind of confronting and definitely heartbreaking in moments. But it is told with a sense of lightness that makes you feel… less uncomfortable.
I’ve not had much exposure to Busy Philipps beyond Cougar Town. Or at least, I didn’t think that I had. Turns out that she’s been involved in a few things I like, and now I need to go back and watch them. Particularly now that I know her story behind the moments in her acting career that I recognise. That even though I love her acting on screen, there is a whole story behind every moment that I was previously unaware of.
I can’t believe the amount of strength that would be required to deal with some of the crap that Busy has been through. I mean, I recognise some of it in my own life (I mean, we’re both women and there are just some horrors…). But I also don’t work in a field that is so damn focused on how we look and is just, frankly… toxic.
One of the things that really stuck out with me from this book was that Busy Philipps has consistently fought mental health. For her entire life. The different ways she’s tried to deal with it are intriguing and make for a very interesting memoir. It also drives home the fact that regardless of how bright and cheerful someone may appear on screen… there is a lot more going on behind the scenes. All in all, I could not put this novel down. It was brilliant and poignant. Nothing like what I expected and one of those impossible to forget kind of stories. I would definitely read this one again and again.
Title: The Perks of Being a Wallflower Author: Stephen Chbosky Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again) My Bookshelves:Book to Film, Contemporary, Mental health, Young adult Dates read: 16th August 2020 Pace: Slow Format: Novel Publisher: Simon & Schuster Year: 1999 5th sentence, 74th page: She lifted off the pillowcase, and there I was, standing in my old suit, looking at an old typewriter with a fresh ribbon.
Charlies’ not the biggest geek in high school, but he’s by no means popular.
Shy, introspective, intelligent, yet socially awkward, Charlie is a wallflower, standing on the threshold of his life whilst watching everyone else live theirs. As Charlie tries to navigate his way through uncharted territory – the world of first dates and mix tapes, family dramas and new friends – he realises that he can’t stay on the sidelines forever. There comes a time when you have to see what life looks like from the dance floor.
After finishing this novel, I sat staring at the cover for a good five minutes. Just. Staring. And you know… understanding. Understanding why this is a fairly popular book and why it was made into a movie. This is just phenomenal. And gut wrenching. And beautiful and just… I’m really not sure I’m going to half the words to write this review. It is just such a great story and I absolutely adored it.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is kind of a coming of age story. But it’s just so, so, so much more. It is a story that left my heart seriously hurting after turning the final page. But, it also left me with a big smile on my face – one that I tend to get only when I’ve read a particularly amazing novel. One that is well written and insightful. And, in spite of all of the tragedies and horrible, heart rending moments throughout this – there is an overwhelming feeling of hope.
This is a great reminder of living life and finding / embracing those who you love. But more so, finding those who actually love you for you and who you are. It’s a reminder that even if you’re a bit of an “outsider”, there is someone out there who will love you completely and without reservation. Someone who will make you feel like you’re coming home, just by being there in your life. It’s a great idea and something that made me constantly think about my own friends and the ways in which they help to lift me up on the worst of days.
This is a phenomenally written novel. And, I honestly don’t understand how such a tragic and intense story feels so damn beautiful. It doesn’t feel sad and tragic at all. Rather, it feels hopeful and beautiful. And, well, not quite light, but uplifting in the most confusing of ways.
Title: A Lonely Girl is a Dangerous Thing Author: Jessie Tu Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!) My Bookshelves:Australian authors, Mental health, Music Dates read: 11th – 22nd June 2020 Pace: Medium Format: Novel Publisher: Allen & Unwin Year: 2020 5th sentence, 74th page: He smiles and opens it.
Jena Chung plays the violin. She was once a child prodigy and is now addicted to sex. She’s struggling a little. Her professional life comprises rehearsals, concerts, auditions and relentless practice; her personal life is spent managing family demands, those of her creative friends, and lots of sex. Jena is selfish, impulsive and often behaves badly, though mostly only to her own detriment. And then she meets Mark – much older and worldly-wise – who bewitches her. Could this be love?
When Jena wins an internship with the New York Philharmonic, she thinks the life she has dreamed of is about to begin. But when Trump is elected New York changes irrevocably, and Jena along with it. Is the dream over? With echoes of Frances Ha, Jena’s favourite film, truths are gradually revealed to her. Jena comes to learn that there are many different ways to live and love and that no one has the how-to guide for any of it – not even her indomitable mother.
A Lonely Girl is a Dangerous Thing unflinchingly explores the confusion of having expectations upturned, and the awkwardness and pain of being human in our increasingly dislocated world – and how, in spite of all this, we still try to become the person we want to be. It is a dazzling, original and astounding debut from a young writer with a fierce, intelligent and fearless new voice.
I was expecting a bit more of an uplifting journey when I read the blurb for this book. It’s not a happy book. It’s not uplifting and it probably won’t help you find meaning in your life. What this book is – is amazing. It is impossible to forget, impossible to put down and very, very difficult to get out of your mind. Tumanages to take you on a journey that will have you squirming and questioning all of your assumptions. It will make you seriously think about not only our own actions, but the actions of others. And it will make you reflect on your own relationships and childhood, and the scars that have been left behind…
About halfway through this book, I had to pause and take a breath, put it aside for a little while. There were a few emotions that Jen experienced that were just a little too close to home. And a few moments when I was genuinely fearful for her surviving into the future. I was so quickly attached to this character, that eve though she makes multiple bad decisions throughout this story, I really, really couldn’t handle the idea of anything bad actually happening to her. Hence, the having to take a break a few times and pick up a lighter, fluffier book. It’s been a very long time since a book has had the ability to make me feel this strongly. This quickly.
Although I was constantly fearful for Jen throughout this story, it did end in a much better place than I had expected. It wasn’t a happily ever after moment, which I really don’t think would have suited this story in the slightest, but it was a great, optimistic for the future ending. You finish with hope that the future will be better and that Jena would be able to find her own Zen and happily ever after moment. It creates a great coming-of-age story that happens a little later in life and is a little darker than you would normally expect. But that ending… if just gives you so much hope. Even for all of the tragedies that you experience in your own life.
This may not be a happy, chirpy coming of age story. But it is one that we all need to read. It is powerful, intense and fills your head and heart with information and feelings. Feelings that I really wasn’t expecting. Tuhas managed to create a world that we all know on some level, a lead character who is drastically flawed, but impossible not to get attached to. And a narrative that will leave you in awe. Definitely a book that I will be suggesting to others and rereading.
Title: Light Bulb Author: Nevo Zisin In: Kindred (Michael Earp) Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!) My Bookshelves:LGBTQI, Mental health Dates read: 24th May 2020 Pace: Fast Format: Short story Publisher: Walker Books Year: 2019 5th sentence, 74th page: I started holding it in.
Most people are afraid of the dark. But for some, it is the dark that welcomes them. That helps them feel the things that they’ve kept hidden inside.
I’ve never read a story about a gender-fluid person. Or someone who isn’t quite sure of their gender. Except for the Magnus Chase series – that has Alex who changes their gender identity according to their needs and drives. Which, of course, I loved. But, I digress. Alex’s experience is one that feels mostly positive. This story is a much darker and more heart-wrenching version of coming to terms with a gender identity that doesn’t fit into the binary expectations.
Reading a few horror stories lately meant that I was expecting something quite tragic at the beginning of this story. After all, it is a tale which starts with a child loving the dark. Not wanting to be in the light. And this constant imagery of a light bulb switching on and off. It makes for an incredibly dark beginning to the story. And a very symbolic imagery when you realise what is happening in the mind of the narrator.
Aside from the great symbolism, this story somehow really drove home the confusion and feeling of marginalisation that comes with being gender fluid, or not of a gender binary. This whole story had me on an intense and uncontrollable emotional roller coaster ride. One that made me feel so much sympathy for those who are in this situation…
Title: Reaching One Thousand Author: Rachel Robertson Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again) My Bookshelves:Australian authors, Family, Mental health Dates read: 15th – 16th May 2020 Pace: Slow Format: Novel Publisher: Black Inc. Year: 2012 5th sentence, 74th page: We didn’t know why or what he felt, just that he seemed to need constant distractions, constant holding.
When Ben is a baby, Rachel puts his quirks down to eccentricity. He likes to count letterboxes; he hates to get his hands dirty; loud noises make him anxious. But as Ben grows and his behaviour becomes more pronounced, it becomes clear there is something else going on. When he is diagnosed with autism, Rachel must reconsider everything she thought she knew about parenting, about Ben, and about how best to mother him.
Reaching One Thousand charts her quest to understand autism and to build a new kind of relationship with her son. Along the way she explores her own childhood, discovering unexpected links between Ben’s experiences and her own. before she can presume to tell Ben’s story, she realises, she must face difficult questions – questions about intimacy, trust, and what it means for a mother to write about her child.
Exquisitely written, this is a thought-provoking story about family and understanding, and a tender love letter from a mother to her son.
This is one of those books I bought as an impulse because it was on sale. It looked interesting, but I didn’t really think that much more about it. Until I picked it up. It has now moved up to my favourites list. This is a book that I’ll read again and again. A book that had me laughing at points, feeling uncomfortable, sympathetic, enlightened… so many emotions. There is just something amazing not only about Robertson’s writing, but also the story she tells and the way she tells it.
The writing style of this novel is quite unique. There is no real linear narrative, and even the chapters, whilst they have an overarching theme, tend to have multiple little anecdotes throughout. Which all lead to the same conclusion. I loved this different style of writing. It wasn’t something that I come across everyday, and the different way of telling the story highlighted the fact that this is real life. There isn’t a sense of disconnect, and yet connection between the different aspects of life with an autistic son.
What I seriously loved most about this novel is that although Robertson has had issues in the past of facing up to the fact that her son is not neurotypical, she is also so open minded. She finds all of the positives and moments that are uniquely special to her child. She points out that he really doesn’t need to be changed or made into a more neurotypical form… that his very uniqueness is what makes him so precious. And special. And unique. And just plain wonderful.
There aren’t many books that are truly life changing. That make you seriously look at the world and reconfigure what you think about it. This is one of those stories. It makes you stop and look at those who aren’t quite “normal” in a totally different light. Makes you realise that our systems and the way we think about learning and people really isn’t necessarily correct. And that there is beauty in difference. Beauty in what we don’t understand. The fact that I related a little too much to some of Ben’s difficulties just made me love this book all that much more…