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review 2017-05-07 23:28
Toni FGMAMTC's Reviews > Imagine Me Gone
Imagine Me Gone - Adam Haslett

This is a sad story. It is from different point of views of members of a family. The father is mentally ill and cannot shake it off. He tries over his life but he has to be hospitalized several times and his wife and kids are left to make it through plus take care of him. One of the children inherits mental illness. The reader gets to hear what it's like for the person enduring the mental pain and from those who deal with their lives being turned around repeatedly because of their family member. It's no fun for anyone involved. There's lots of love and tough decisions. This story is well-rounded, adding in everyone's regular issues too. It's a great book for those that want to see how hard life is for people in these situations.

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review 2017-05-02 18:29
All the Best People
All the Best People - Sonja Yoerg

By:  Sonja Yoerg

ISBN: 0399583491

Publisher:  Penguin/Berkley

Publication Date: 5/2/2017

Format: Other

My Rating: 5 Stars


Storyteller Sonja Yoerg returns following The Middle of Somewhere and Housebroken with her most powerful book yet, ALL THE BEST PEOPLE – beautiful, complex, incisive.

Crossing three generations, told with compassion —from water symbolism, class conflicts; love, madness, secrets, and a little magic.

“Mad Hatter: Have I gone mad?
Alice: I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers.
But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”
– Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Set in Vermont 1972, Carole recalls when she was ten-years-old, her mother Solange was committed to Underhill State Hospital. A tragic childhood.

Even though her father said she was going for a much-needed rest, soon the reality hit. Her mother was institutionalized. She had been locked up for thirty-four years. Carol knew she was there; however, she did not anticipate her mother might abandon reality entirely and never return.

Before Solange Gifford had been committed she had been the center of Carole’s world. Carole was left confused and she often overheard other say she was mad, not tired. Carole had promised her mother she would care for her sister and protect her, even though she was a child herself.

Now as a wife and mother, Carole starts experiencing her own alarming incidents. She is determined she will not be locked away, like her own mother. Instead, she hides her schizophrenic symptoms and withdraws from her family.

Presently, her eleven-year-old daughter, Alison takes on the world. Intuitive and perceptive. A desperate search for meaning and power. From tarot cards, in omens from a nearby river and in a mysterious blue glass box belonging to her grandmother. Her great Grandmother had given it to her Grandmother.


Carole’s sister Janine rarely went to see their mother. She is angry. The place made her ill, the spell and the air of hopelessness. There was nothing for Janine there. A woman trapped. She was unlike her sister who had ten good years with their mother. Her mother did not understand her as an adult—thinking of her as a baby. Lies and secrets.

We hear from Janine, Carole, Alison, and Solange. From the 1930s and 1970s- an array of emotions from hatred, revenge, fright, terror, isolation, guilt, betrayal, desperation, madness, and ultimately striving for acceptance, grace, and unconditional love.

Wrenching yet ultimately uplifting, the human capacity to maintain grace under unrelenting fire. A haunting story . . . well-researched, a candid portrayal of mental illness from multiple perspectives.

Throughout the years, we have read the horrors of mental illness, often misunderstood by society. However, in literature, we can appreciate how talented authors such as Yoerg— offering a deeper understanding of the darkness through different eyes. Allowing the light to shine through the cracks.

One-in-eight-chance of developing schizophrenia. There is no remedy for the guilt if passed on. "What is in your blood matters, but not as much as what is in your heart."

Not only the patient but those close to the family and carried down through generations. Each person reacts differently using protecting mechanics, denial, anger, and often worrying about their own reputations or reactions from those outside the family unit.

Heartbreakingly real characters, multi-generational, and dual timelines with lyrical prose, symbolism, metaphors such as bodies of water. Solange and the lake, Alison and the river, Carole and the ocean. Each has special meaning. A fitting title and cover image. An ideal choice for book clubs and further discussions (discussion questions included).

A huge fan of literary fiction, love the author’s writing style, reminding me of T. Greenwood and Chris Bohjalian— two other favorites, often using Vermont as their book settings with stunning metaphors.

On a personal note: Enjoyed the tarot card readings. (intriguing) I have some interesting stories, evolving from readings in New Orleans which ultimately came true, years later.

Highly Recommend! looking forward to what Sonja has in store for her readers next. Always a unique journey.


A special thank you to Berkley and NetGalley for an early reading copy.


Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/book-blog
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review 2017-04-13 17:21
Friday On My Mind - Nicci French 
Friday On My Mind - Nicci French

All of the Nicci French books, standalones and series work very well for me. There's that depressing tone you expect in a story about people who do horrible things, but there is also a strong sense of moral justice, kindness to the outcasts of society which is Christlike without being Christian (immigrants, the homeless, women, the mentally ill standing in for slaves, women, lepers, and the possessed) the importance of intervention, and so much about accepting the kindness of others. Everyone who knows Klein is devoted to her or in opposition to her, but there is no question that she deserves the devotion. Fortunately, she doesn't walk on water, only near it, so much walking, and such happy descriptions of what her little home means to her, and cats, and baths, and wines and tasty food. It's the same sort of mood that made the Richard Jury series a favorite. Because mysteries are involved with the restoration of order they often are very conservative. Not this series, though; Klein is a bomb-thrower at heart.


Klein is surrounded by people in harrowing circumstances and she does her best for others and herself. So the books are quite soothing, despite the dramatic tension.


Can't wait to have a go at the Saturday book.


Library copy


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review 2017-03-14 03:28
Beside Myself | Ann Morgan | Full Review
Beside Myself - Kelli Ann Morgan

I'm going to preface this review by saying that, even after successfully making it all the way through this book, I still don't understand the abundance of 4 and 5 star reviews for this book.


Beside Myself is described as a "literary thriller", literary being shorthand for descriptive (but not quite prose) writing, and thriller.... I'm not sure. The book definitely ramps up toward the end, but it isn't an edge-of-your-seat what-will-happen-next thriller. By the middle I was invested enough to want to know Hellie's fate, but that was about it.


Hellie is Helen. Except she's not, she's Ellie. Helen and Ellie are six year old twins who swap places, a 'prank' of sorts, it's really Helen's idea, but suddenly Ellie begins to enjoy the privileges her twin's life affords her and refuses to finish the game and swap back. Helen is pushed into the "Ellie" box, where she is expected to be less than smart, to have some issues, which only makes it harder for people to listen when she insists that she isn't Ellie, she's Helen. It's an interesting idea for a book, and the idea itself deserves the four and five stars, but other than that it falls short.


I don't like Helen, and as much as she is actually a victim in her story, I couldn't really root for her. Normally unlikeable characters are my thing, but her treatment of Ellie from childhood just couldn't make me like her. It's evident to me that a lot of Ellie's troubles are actually from Helen's treatment of her. Helen constantly belittles her, makes fun of her, and bullies her alongside her friends. Why wouldn't Ellie want to be Helen? Helen's the golden child, the one who follows all the rules, the one who their (admittedly off-kilter) mother loves.


None of this was what prompted my below average review however. 


Reading this book made me annoyed, then frustrated, then angry. How half of this made it through the editing process I have no idea, and I can't find many other reviews that mention it. Beside Myself is written in chapters that alternate between the present and the past. Except that the present chapters are written in third-person past tense, and the past chapters are written in first-person present tense. It doesn't make sense story-telling wise. 


Then, halfway through the book, for no explicable reason, the past chapters switch to second-person present tense (from "I do this" to "You do this"). Needless to say, I was ripped out from my little reading cloud asking "Wait, what?" After some thought I could come up with a reason this might be done, namely to do with Helen's disconnect with her own identity, but if that's what it is it is never explained. I couldn't get past it.


The second thing that bothered me a little that other reviews touched on, was the multiple things characters are referred to. While the main story doesn't have a large cast of characters, each one is often referred to by multiple names. I didn't have trouble in following this, but other reviewers have apparently. Examples include: Helen referred to as Helen, Ellie, and Smudge. Ellie referred to as Ellie, Helen, Hellie (Hellie is a good identifier as it is the Helen version of Ellie), and their step-father being called Horace and Arkela. 


Onto the third (it wasn't until writing this review I realised how many problems I had with this book). As in my preface, the term "literary" here is used for descriptive. Evidently the author has never been told that you can have too much description. I actually quite like prose writing and descriptive writing myself, but the problem with Beside Myself is the needless description of everything in every moment, and the repetitiveness of this description. This description is actually problematic in one instance:

"There was a tray in front of her and a pair of chocolate-coloured hands manouvering it into position ... "There," said the nurse in a sing-song Nigerian accent"

There are problems with describing a person of colour as being "chocolate", not to mention the fact that it's an incredibly overused identifier, but Morgan then goes on to explicitly state that she was Nigerian. Most people, I would think, would be aware that Nigerians are PoC. 


My fourth and final issue with the book is similar, it is the repetitiveness of some descriptions. Nearly every scene that refers to some kind of sex act is described as "(someone) moving above (her, me, you)". There are probably a million ways to describe this, and while this works as a way to tell readers what is happening, it's dull and repetitive by the second or third time. 


Now, some more good words about this book.


While it isn't exactly a thriller it is actually an interesting look into some great themes including Identity, mental illness, suicide, and family. If that is something you are interested in it's probably worth giving this book a shot, despite my less than stellar review. Although I don't think Helen/Smudge's illness is explicitly stated it is clear that she suffers from manic and depressive episodes as well as hallucinations and self-identity problems, and Beside Myself provides an interesting insight into the mental goings on of a character who suffers from this. I would be interested to see the opinions and reviews of someone who may be able to relate to the Helen/Smudge character.


It is important to note though this book should carry some warnings, it does include scenes/mention of: mental illness, suicide, and rape.

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review 2017-02-17 23:56
Politics, drama, and horses...not necessarily in that order
South Riding - Shirley Williams,Marion Shaw,Winifred Holtby

I decided to tackle a rather formidable bit of fiction pretty much on a whim in the form of South Riding by Winifred Holtby. It took me much longer to read than I had anticipated but that's just a good lesson that sometimes you need to take your time with a book. :-) Apparently this book is a literary classic although I had only heard about it recently through a YouTube channel (Mercy's Bookish Musings if you're curious). What drew my interest (besides the gorgeous cover art) was the setting which is a small area of Yorkshire. (As some of you may know, I'm kinda obsessed with the English countryside and I had the very good luck to visit Yorkshire in 2015 and fell a lot in love with it. THE MOORS, YA'LL.) South Riding is a fictional area of Yorkshire where city councilmen (and a councilwoman) pretty much run the show. If you've ever lived in a small town, particularly a rural one, then you'll recognize the intricate balance between government "officials" and their fellow townspeople. This was set in 1933-35 right at the start of WWII when the country was still harboring hope that the war could be avoided. Our main character, Sarah Burton, is a headmistress who is a revolutionary (at least to the people in South Riding) and ready to shake things up. The lone female on the City Council, Mrs. Beddowes, sees in Sarah a chance to improve the reputation of the school but she also feels that she can muster some amount of control over her (spoiler alert: this is doomed to fail). There are quite a few side stories such as that of Lydia Holly who lives in poverty but aspires to be an academic success the likes of which South Riding has never before seen. Not to mention the rather despicable men who like Mrs. Beddowes are on the City Council. One of them really turned my stomach. *shudder* I went into this book thinking that it was likely to be a romantic tale but if anything the romance was between the characters and their town. It's quite plain that Holtby harbors a nostalgic love of the Yorkshire where she grew up and it's palpable on nearly every single page of this book. If for nothing else, I enjoyed South Riding because of this. Otherwise, it wasn't exactly a life changing read (read Dickens for that). I'd give it a solid 6/10.

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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