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review 2018-03-26 19:57
Wing walking feminist during Prohibition
Nothing But Sky - Amy Trueblood

Disclaimer: reviewing advance uncorrected proof via NetGalley

 

This is a solid historical fiction debut with an interesting and unique premise. An orphaned teen is determined to win a contract with a film studio to keep her found-family together and hold onto her dangerously exhilarating job as a wing walker - an acrobatic who performs stunts on (and off of) flying ex-WWI planes.

 

I thought there was a good balance between period-accurate tone and characterization, and of-the-moment attitudes and values. Language use wasn't totally jarring, and especially at the beginning, there was a noticeable effort to avoid anachronism. Based on true-to-life examples, the wing-walking girl's fierceness and her (and her friends') push back against traditional expectations for women weren't totally out of left field. The structure of the story is not unlike a sports story - the big game coming up, the secret early morning training, the big snag etc. There is a fairly significant romance subplot that didn't really hold my attention, but that's just the way it goes sometimes. Very good twist at the end - some excellent slight of hand helps it land effectively, and if the wrap-up was a little pat, that's just the way of engaging storytelling. Generally an enjoyable read.

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text 2018-02-02 21:19
PART I: Telltale Signs of Untreated Childhood Trauma

 Adapted from the new inspirational self-help book entitled, ‘From Broken to Blest: Embracing the Healing that Awaits You’ by Adele M. Gill and Dr. Verna Benner Carson.

_____________________________________________________________

 

Clinical depression is on the rise in the US, with over 21 million Americans diagnosed with depression each year. Most people are able to get treatment that is readily available, including medication and/or psychotherapy. Many come to understand the origin of their depression over time, however, sometimes they only have a vague idea as to why they are experiencing persistent clinical depression, sometimes combined with what I call ‘the trifecta: ’Depression, PTSD, and a neuro-autoimmune condition, such as MS or MG or fibromyalgia, which often go hand-in-hand.

 

 

For those individuals who don’t know the origin of their depression, looking back on their childhood may be extremely helpful, even life-giving. Understanding the negative effects of untreated childhood trauma can be life-giving, even life-saving, especially when depression affects ones physical health. Here is my story involving the telltale signs of childhood trauma in my own life:

 

 

Having endured physical, sexual, and mental abuse in my youth, I came to doubt my own existence, and self-worth. Though resolved, the truth is that my self-esteem was always an issue as I grew up in poverty with my abusive schizophrenic mother, and my father who was involved in the Mafia, who took me with him while doing ‘business.’

 

 

In my youth, and later into adulthood, I felt depressed, anxious, and ‘less than’ more often than I care to admit, which colored the way I looked at myself, others, and the world at-large—but I did not understand why I felt that way. I was diagnosed with depression in early adulthood, but chose not to treat it, in part, due to the stigma associated with psychiatric illness and care, and I did not want to take depression meds. At that time, I was unsure as to why I had depression in the first place, as my life was going well and I was living my dream of becoming a wife, mother and registered nurse. But eventually I learned that it was repressed and suppressed memories related to my childhood that were making me sick.

 

 

Looking back, the mind-body illnesses I experienced could have been anticipated given my unusual, traumatic upbringing, but I was initially not yet in touch with the untreated childhood trauma I had endured. My memories were blocked until I started having flashbacks and nightmares about 10 years ago, and the root of the problem became crystal clear. It was not one event that caused the trauma and stress. It was my early family life itself, and a series of traumatic life events that made me sick physically and emotionally later in adulthood.

 

 

The enduring effects of untreated childhood trauma became so intense that I frequently felt overwhelmed, lost, and alone much of the time, having lived in daily turmoil and poverty through my youth, with little encouragement or emotional support. And that carried over into my adulthood years, as my own ‘trifecta,’ the tell-tale signs of untreated childhood trauma, rolled in over time: Unrelenting depression, childhood associated PTSD, and a serious neuro-autoimmune disorder, which often go hand in hand.

 

 

The latter is what forced me to look closely at my traumatic childhood for what it was—something I had avoided at all costs. In truth, I had little choice but to seek the truth, as my physical and emotional health depended on it. Eventually, I learned from my medical team that my autoimmune system had been damaged by the early childhood trauma, and that, in turn, was damaging my central nervous system.  I finally got to the point where I could no longer deny things that had happened to me. What had transpired in my youth was making me chronically and acutely ill, both physically and emotionally, and I could no longer function in my daily life. I had met the proverbial wall, so to speak. I could not work, could not walk even short distances without long arm crutches, then a walker, then it progressed, and I was bedridden and in a wheelchair for twelve years, had blurred vision, and garbled speech much of the time. Mind-body illnesses had taken over my life and I no longer had the privilege of pushing aside the memories of the trauma that had occurred. I found myself very sick with depression, PTSD, mobility impairment, and exacerbations of respiratory muscle weakness and generalized weakness requiring a home bipap ventilator 14-16 hours per twenty four hour day.

 

 

Once my medical team and I made the connection between untreated childhood trauma and the mind-body illnesses, there was no turning back. I had to heal, and to do so, I had to face where I had been and what I had experienced in my youth, painful as it was. Though I still have neuro-autoimmune exacerbations and remissions, and frequently receive IV steroids and IVIG treatments to quell symptoms when in acute need of medical care, I now have a new life since dealing with the untreated childhood trauma.

 

 

Most of all, I have hope now. For it is only with Jesus’ help that I was able to heal from the depression and PTSD, begin to flourish, and get on with my life. I believe it was faith that healed me through the prayers of many people who prayed fervently for me and continue to this day. What a tremendous blessing…the gift of faith!

 

© Copyright 2018   |   Adele M. Gill   |   Distributed by News Consortium

To be continued… See PART II:

'Telltale Signs of Untreated Childhood Trauma: Secret Weapons for Healing’

____________________________________________

 

Adele M. Gill resides in Maryland, is a retired RN/BSN, a board certified Disability Analyst (ABDA), a Chaplain, and co-author of the new inspirational self-help book entitled, ‘From Broken to Blest: Embracing the Healing that Awaits You.' She is a tireless mental health advocate living in Maryland.

Source: www.silverliningcommunications.net
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review 2018-01-17 11:53
A poignant and lovingly written ode to an unsung hero. Beautiful and heart-wrenching.
Fred's Funeral - Sandy Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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review 2017-08-07 18:14
Gothic psychological horror, with haunted house and ghosts for art and lovers of antiques.
PAINTED: A Horror Novel - Kirsten McKenzie

Thanks to Rosie Amber (from Rosie’s Book Review Team, check here if you would like to have your book reviewed) and to the author for providing me with an ARC copy of this novel, that I freely chose to review.

When I read the description of Painted I knew I had to read it, as it was a horror novel (and despite how much I like the genre, I don’t seem to read many of them), and it had to do with art. When I read that the author had worked in the antiques family business; that sealed the deal for me.  I had not read any work by this author before (and I understand this is the first time she writes horror) but I am pleased to have discovered her.

I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but let’s say we have a dead painter who left very specific instructions in his will as to how to deal with the artwork he left behind. Unfortunately, there had been changes at his lawyer’s and his instructions were ignored. And we all know what happens when we ignore warnings, don’t we?

There are authors who are better at building characters than at creating a plot, and there are also authors who excel at describing places and objects but are not so good at providing psychological insights. McKenzie manages to create a great gothic atmosphere (some reviewers have said that the novel is more gothic than pure horror, but both things do not exclude each other), with a fantastically eerie and creepy house, full of even creepier portraits, and a variety of objects, furniture, and even plants that all combine to create a fabulous setting for the novel. In fact, the house becomes another character, one that hides many secrets, and of course, many ghosts.

But the author also creates fully-fledged characters, with their passions, foibles, secrets (some darker than others), and stories. Even when we do not get to share much time with them, we get flashes of their personality (be it because of their fastidiousness about their personal appearance, or because of the way they hang on to mementos from the past, or the way they present a false and harmless persona to the world when they are anything but). She manages to do this by using a variety of techniques, especially by her particular use of point of view. The story is written in the third person, but it shares the points of views of different characters. There is a certain degree of head-hopping, although I did not find it confusing and it is very smoothly done. We do see things from the perspective of all the characters. We mostly follow Anita, the young woman sent by the auctioneer’s to catalogue the paintings, because she is the first one to arrive and she spends the most time at the house, but we even get an insight into the thoughts of the lawyer’s secretary and of the farmer’s dog. And of course, the baddies (although it is not easy to decide who is good and bad in the story). There are also moments when we are told something that none of the characters could know (a great way of creating suspense and forecasting future events), like references to shadows, sounds nobody has heard yet, and things that happen behind character’s back or when they are asleep.

The character easiest to empathise and later sympathise with is Anita. It is clear from the beginning that she is battling with something that happened to her in the past and is bravely trying to get on with her life (despite still experiencing symptoms of PTSD). Her story is terrible in its own right, and it makes her reactions to what happens more justified. Some characters are nasty and difficult to like (like the lawyer), but most of them are given interesting backgrounds and scenes that make them memorable, and some are much more twisted than we realise.

I loved the details of the process of cataloguing the house contents (as I love antiques and TV programmes about antiques. Yes, I could watch The Antiques Roadshow forever and never get bored), the descriptions of the painting process, and the pace of the novel. The atmosphere is created slowly and we follow the characters’ commonsensical approach to the events to begin with and share with them their descent into paranoia and utter horror. The step-by-step reveal, the twists and turns, and the ghosts (it reminded me of The Turn of the Screw by Henry James) are also masterly rendered. And the ending… No, I did not see it coming, and as a fan of unhappy endings in horror books, this manages to satisfy, to surprise and to leave us wondering.

This is psychological horror, with ghosts and haunted house, at its best, and it does not contain gore or extreme violence (there is more menace and imagining than there is anything explicit), so I would recommend it to lovers of the genre, and to those who love atmospheric readings and don’t mind a scare or two. I cannot comment on the author’s previous writing, but she definitely has a talent for this genre, and based on the quality of her writing, I’m sure we’ll hear more from her.

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review 2017-07-12 00:22
Caliban's War - James S.A. Corey 
Caliban's War - James S.A. Corey

Better than the first. It's got most of the same elements, but instead of the noir mystery aspect this one has hardcore politics. And a non-stereotypical female main character who has agency to spare. And another non-stereotypical female main character who has nothing in common with the other one. A diverse cast and while intimate relationships aren't the focus, they are used to good effect to make the characters and the culture well-rounded.

 

I can't hardly wait to read the third one.

 

Library copy

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