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review 2019-02-16 19:56
Great pictures, some amusing and some dark stories
Fallen Idols. A Century of Screen Sex Scandals. (Images of the Past) - Nigel Blundell

Thanks to Rosie and the whole team at Pen & Sword for providing me a paperback copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

A while back I read and reviewed a book in the same series ‘Images of the Past’, called The British Seaside, and I enjoyed the combination of the wonderful images and the informative and humorous text, fairly light on reading but high on entertainment value. In this case, the same is true, even with the serious subject and the unavoidable reflections on how times don’t seem to have changed so much, although know we get to hear about many of the details that in the past would have remained hidden from the general public.

I’ve always been fascinated by the history of cinema, and Hollywood, from its beginnings to now, although times have changed somewhat, and tinsel town is not what used to be (if it ever was). I have watched documentaries and read magazines about the industry, particularly about the era of the big studios, when everything seemed more glamourous and shiny than our everyday lives.

This book looks, mostly at past scandals, from the early history of Hollywood to some more recent ones, but does not include the XXI century, and although some of us, who grew up watching reruns of classics, will remember many of these stars (and some have become icons, like James Dean or Marilyn Monroe), to the youngest generation most of them will sound like ancient history. Only Roman Polanski, Woody Allen, and the TV preachers are still alive, and although their controversy remains alive, it seems to have been dwarfed by most recent scandals.

This is not an in-depth study of any of the cases, but rather a quick survey with a few details of the biographies and circumstances of some of the stars, whose lives became as well-known and exposed to the public attention as that of their characters. Despite that, although I thought I was familiar with the majority of the actors and actresses the book talks about, I discovered I didn’t know many of the details, perhaps because they were not discussed at the time or have been revealed later, and many of the pictures where totally new to me (and I thoroughly enjoyed them, especially those showing the stars when they were young). I am sure, though, that experts or true fans of these actors and actresses will not learn anything new, but I enjoyed the combination of text and pictures (and I particularly relished the introduction, which offers interesting insights into the effects of some of these scandals, like the Hays Code, that went beyond the content of the movies and affected the personal lives of the stars as well), that makes it ideal as a present for people of a certain age who enjoy celebrity magazines of the time, and also for the younger generation who might not have been exposed to these stories and the old-fashioned notion of celebrity and stardom.

It is impossible to read this book without comparing many of these scandals to some of the recent ones. The big studios spent a lot of money on lawyers, on keeping the press at bay, and of course, power has always talked. Thankfully, some of the things that were considered normal practice at the time have now become unacceptable and are the subject of legal procedures. 

To give you a better idea of the content, there are fourteen chapters, each focused on one of these stars: Charlie Chaplin, Fatty Arbuckle, Jean Harlow, Errol Flynn, Grace Kelly, Lana Turner, Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, Elvis Presley, Roman Polanski, Joan Crawford, Rock Hudson, Jim Bakker & Jimmy Swaggart, and Woody Allen.

I thought I’d share a couple of the quotes I’ve highlighted, so you get some idea of what to expect. Here, referring to James Dean:

“The star of East of Eden and Rebel without a Cause was bisexual and had affairs with actresses Pier Angeli and Ursula Andrews but when asked if he was gay his reply was: “Well, I’m certainly not going to go through life with one hand tied behind my back!” (Blundell, 2018, p. 8).

In the chapter about the TV preachers Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart (a fascinating phenomenon that seems pretty unique to the USA), it explains that Swaggart confessed and apologised to his congregation and the viewers of his TV channel the first time he was caught with a prostitute. But the second time, he truly spoke his mind:

“This time, rather confessing to his congregation, Swaggart brazened it out with the rebuff: ‘The Lord told me it’s flat none of your business’ (Blundell, 2018, 143).

In sum, this is a fun book for people who love anecdotes and to peep into the lives of the Hollywood famous, especially those from the era of the Hollywood big studios. If you want a brazen and amusing book, with its dark moments and plenty of pictures to get the conversation going, or are looking for a present for somebody who loves movie memorabilia, I recommend it.

Blundell, N. (2018). Images of the Past. Fallen Idols. A Century of Screen Sex Scandals. Barnsley, UK: Pen & Sword.

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review 2018-12-24 18:33
Recommended to readers and professionals interested in PTSD and to those considering therapy
Trauma Recovery - Sessions With Dr. Matt: Narratives of Hope and Resilience for Victims with PTSD - Beth Fehlbaum,Matt E Jaremko

I thank the authors and the publisher for providing me an ARC copy of this non-fiction book that I freely chose to review.

As some of you might know, I’m a psychiatrist, and although I am not working as a psychiatrist at the moment and have mostly worked in Forensic Psychiatry, there is no specialty of psychiatry where we don’t come across Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, unfortunately. As researchers and practitioners have discovered in recent years, trauma is more widespread than people think, and it can have a bearing even in some of the classic psychiatric diagnosis, like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

You have probably come across many books written by survivors of a variety of traumatic experiences, and this is a very useful trend, as one of the things that people who have experienced trauma share in common is the feeling that they are alone and nobody understands or shares the way they feel. Reading other people’s accounts and sharing in their hope can be a very useful first-step towards seeking specialised help and starting the journey towards recovery.

This book manages to combine two aspects contained in books on the topic that are difficult to get right. On the one hand, there is a solid and clear explanation of the main therapeutic technique he uses and some adjunctive therapies, and the background to the approaches that Dr Jaremko has used in his everyday clinical practice for many years. On the other, and to illustrate the theory, there is a fictionalised account of a series of sessions of group therapy that seven patients engage in throughout the book. These patients, males and females, from different backgrounds, ethnic and social origins, and who had suffered a variety of traumas, meet regularly for a whole year and learn together, through their interactions within the group, how to apply the lessons learned through the therapy, while supporting each other and modelling their behaviours upon those of the others in the group who might be further away in their journey. Some of the patients, like Ashley and Darren, had been attending the group for a long time, while others, like Patty and Felicia, are newcomers. Beth Fehlbaum, the co-author of the book, has her personal experience as a trauma survivor to bring to the book and her years as an author too, and the fictionalised part of the book works very well. The characters are individualised, fully-fledged, and we get to know them, not only through their group sessions, but through some fragments of chapters when we share in what they think and how they feel from their own perspective. There are highs and lows for all the characters, and not a single one of them is always right and well (life is not without its bumps), even those who have come the farthest through the process. Because it is a process and there are no magic bullets, but there is help out there, and that is what the book excels at: giving hope to those who experience PTSD but have never tried therapy, or have tried therapy but it has not worked for them.

As I read the book, I kept wondering about its format. At first, especially as somebody who has read a bit about the subject (although I have never worked exclusively as a therapist, run group therapy, or used Cognitive Processing Therapy, the approach recommended by the book and also by many experts working in PTSD), I found that there was a fair amount of repetition of some of the key elements and theoretical concepts, that would make sense if the book was read more slowly by people interested in becoming familiar with many of the basic therapeutic aspects, perhaps chapter by chapter. Although I felt readers would probably connect more easily with the fictionalized characters and their difficulties and experiences, than with the purely theoretical parts, I realised that the process is somewhat similar to that the characters go through. They have much to learn and to become familiar with at first (you cannot enjoy stories if you don’t know the alphabet and understand the mechanics of reading), but slowly they gain in confidence, start applying what they have learned and can offer insights to others that they might have missed. The book, towards the end, becomes more dynamic and we can follow more directly the group sessions and the events in the characters’ lives, with the therapeutic aspects more seamlessly incorporated.

Dr Matt, the fictionalised version of Dr Jaremko, also shines through the book, and we get to know him, not only as a professional, but also, although less, as a person with his own plans and interests outside of his practice. Although he is well-liked by the patients, there is no hero-worship at play, and the book clearly explains that finding a therapist with whom one can work is not easy, no matter how good a professional the therapist is or how highly recommended s/he comes. The book emphasises the importance of finding a therapist or a mentor expert in the condition and there is never any suggestion that the book itself can cure anybody, but it is meant as a way to explain and exemplify what the therapeutic process might look like, and to offer hope and encouragement to those who have been stuck suffering, unable to decide what to do, or firmly believing there is no solution.

The book also offers great resources, to both professionals and patients. There is a bibliography at the end that includes books, articles that can be downloaded, and websites to check for more information. The appendixes include relaxation techniques, worksheets, advice on how to choose a therapist (and although some aspects of this are very USA based, the general principles would apply anywhere), and one of my favourite aspects of the book was that each chapter contains a playlist including songs and movies relevant to the aspects of trauma and therapy discussed there, and there is much emphasis placed on the importance of reading and of books that inspire the journey to recovery. In the same way that no patient would be cured just by reading this book, but they might feel inspired to seek help, no psychologist or therapist would become an expert on how to treat PTSD just by reading this book, but they might discover new approaches that they might want to explore further and learn more about. Although the book talks about PTSD, as I read it I could not help but think that many of its lessons and the examples of behaviours and erroneous beliefs highlighted through the theory and especially the sessions (there are some individual sessions also illustrated in the book, although they always result from questions or aspects of a patient’s experience that has been discussed in one of the group sessions) would have practical application in many other conditions. Cognitive errors (or “stinking thinking”, as it is known in the sessions) are common in many psychiatric conditions, and we all get stuck with them at some point or other. Much of the advice about how to change behaviour (CPT has its roots in CBT, cognitive behavioural therapy) could be applied to aspects of our lives that we wish to change, and that is one of the beauties of this method and the book, that it feels common-sensical once we get used to analysing the way we think in those terms.

As a writer, I also thought this book would be a great resource to other writers who are interested in understanding their characters’ motivations better, in particular to those who write about characters with a diagnosis of PTSD or severe trauma.

This is not a book for everybody, but it is a book that I am sure will provide useful information to people interested in the subject, and you do not need to be an expert to follow the theoretical basis behind the therapy. It is also very well written, and you will get to care and feel for all the characters in the group, and that is something that as an avid reader I know is not always easy to find, even in fiction. As you can imagine, the book contains descriptions of the traumas that the characters have suffered, as that is necessary to understand the therapy and the way the patients react to it. Those go from sexual and physical abuse to war trauma, natural disasters, hate crimes, and road traffic accidents. So, plenty of trigger warnings. On the other hand, if the book can inspire readers suffering from the condition to seek a therapist and start in the way to recovery, it is well worth a read.

Note that both authors are happy to provide copies of the book to people who cannot afford it but feel might benefit from it.

A great resource for professionals and others interested in the topic, with characters that feel real and we get to understand and care about. Highly recommended.

 

 

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review 2017-05-05 03:01
DOLLS by Matt Shaw
Dolls - Matt Shaw

Synopsis:

“He understood why she did it. She had lost her own baby – one conceived by the unwanted advances of a sexual predator – and hated thinking of them out there in the cemetery, alone and cold. She had to bring them into the warm. She had to give them the life they’d otherwise never live. It was her mission. But with each new doll brought home, her yearning for a living child of her own continued to grow. Yes, he knew why she did it but – even so – he wasn’t able to stand by her and he knew she was going to get a lot worse before she got better. But how do you help someone who doesn’t want to be helped? And how do you turn your back on your own sister?”

 

IDK what stopped me from reading this title earlier, (published 02.02.16), but I’m happy that I finally did! DOLLS feels like one of Matt Shaw‘s older titles – it’s not a black cover, not an extreme extreme horror, and the core story totally sucked me in. I was 100% invested right from Jump Street. Now, as embarrassing as this might be, I gotta tell ya… I didn’t see the ‘oh holy shit’ moment until about 5 words before it was revealed to us! I love that Matt can still do that after all these years, and all these books.


☆☆☆☆☆ /☆☆☆☆☆
Another 5 Stars For THE Matt Shaw


Stop by BBB to see the full review, join the DOLLS book discussion, AND take the Polldaddy Poll re: your favorite Matt Shaw sub-genre at the end of the review!

 

 

 

DOLLS on Amazon
Matt Shaw‘s Amazon Author Page
DOLLS on Goodreads
Matt Shaw on Goodreads
The Sick B*stards Society
Matt Shaw‘s Official Webpage
Matt Shaw on Facebook
@The_Matt_Shaw on Twitter

DOLLS Review/Discussion on BBB

Source: beckisbookblog.wordpress.com/2017/05/04/dolls-by-matt-shaw
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review 2017-05-04 07:55
DOLLS by Matt Shaw

Synopsis:

“He understood why she did it. She had lost her own baby – one conceived by the unwanted advances of a sexual predator – and hated thinking of them out there in the cemetery, alone and cold. She had to bring them into the warm. She had to give them the life they’d otherwise never live. It was her mission. But with each new doll brought home, her yearning for a living child of her own continued to grow. Yes, he knew why she did it but – even so – he wasn’t able to stand by her and he knew she was going to get a lot worse before she got better. But how do you help someone who doesn’t want to be helped? And how do you turn your back on your own sister?”

 

IDK what stopped me from reading this title earlier, (published 02.02.16), but I’m happy that I finally did! DOLLS feels like one of Matt Shaw‘s older titles – it’s not a black cover, not an extreme extreme horror, and the core story totally sucked me in. I was 100% invested right from Jump Street. Now, as embarrassing as this might be, I gotta tell ya… I didn’t see the ‘oh holy shit’ moment until about 5 words before it was revealed to us! I love that Matt can still do that after all these years, and all these books.


☆☆☆☆☆ /☆☆☆☆☆
Another 5 Stars For THE Matt Shaw


Stop by BBB to see the full review, join the DOLLS book discussion, AND take the Polldaddy Poll re: your favorite Matt Shaw sub-genre at the end of the review!

 

 

 

DOLLS on Amazon
Matt Shaw‘s Amazon Author Page
DOLLS on Goodreads
Matt Shaw on Goodreads
The Sick B*stards Society
Matt Shaw‘s Official Webpage
Matt Shaw on Facebook
@The_Matt_Shaw on Twitter

DOLLS Review/Discussion on BBB

Source: beckisbookblog.wordpress.com/2017/05/04/dolls-by-matt-shaw
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review 2017-03-08 15:19
An Adult Version of a Classic that Left me Sleepless
Beauty of the Beast - Rachel L. Demeter

In this remake of this classic tale there is no magic, no curse, not even a singing tea cup. Belle aka Isabelle is a support your family, make sacrifices and do the best you can kind of beauty. The beast is Prince Adam is a horribly scared man emotionally and physically, his best friend is a dog named Stranger who he rescued. Sebastian, is still a servant of sort to his family, more of a friend. Belles’ tormentor is a wicked abusive man with money, power and wants to own her in the worst way. The characters are complex, the relationship is earned, in a slow painful process that I completely enjoyed.
Isabelle runs from her tormentor and home after a horrific series of events and sexual abuse at his hands. Her plan to take her blind, ill father and find a new life for them is thwarted when the weather turns and they are forced to seek shelter at a dank, depressed castle behind rusted gates. When the door opens and she is greeted by a huge man in a dark cloak and a growling giant dog she nearly turns back toward the sure death of the storm. Forcing this dark giant to let them in drawing on her determination to improve their situation she begins a series of events that had me up all night reading while my household slept.
The beast, Adam, lives in his past. He is a living nightmare, swimming with the ghost of his past day and night. Living alone in a decrepit castle with his dog and family relics. He feeds his unhappiness and sorrow with solitude and bitterness. When this woman and her father crash into his solitude he does not adjust easily and become the gentle host. He overreacts to a simple event that will cut a deep wound in Belles heart. He has little to no experience with other people, he is like a lost child acting out. He stole my heart.
Oh Ms. Demeter created a repulsive character in Raphael, Belles tormentor. Deplorable actions and words, a complete piece of rot. I couldn’t have hated him more, so what does she do ? She gives him a background that almost had me feeling sorry for the vermin. That was a tricky little twist of the knife. I was feeling a tug not he old heart strings until he pulled the trigger and killed… well I’m not telling you who. He wasn’t her only wicked man. A most trusted man broke the heart of his friend.
I can’t wait to read more from this author. She twisted me around her finger with her wonderful story telling. The words were beautifully pulled together and created an adult version that does justice to the classic.

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