Book Reviews, Lists, Discussions, and Displays

Tag: Mental health (Page 1 of 5)

Book Review: This is My Brain In Love

This is My Brain in Love – I.W. Gregorio – Little, Brown Books for Young Readers – Published 14 April 2020

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Synopsis

Jocelyn Wu has just three wishes for her junior year: To make it through without dying of boredom, to direct a short film with her BFF Priya Venkatram, and to get at least two months into the year without being compared to or confused with Peggy Chang, the only other Chinese girl in her grade.

Will Domenici has two goals: to find a paying summer internship, and to prove he has what it takes to become an editor on his school paper.

Then Jocelyn’s father tells her their family restaurant may be going under, and all wishes are off. Because her dad has the marketing skills of a dumpling, it’s up to Jocelyn and her unlikely new employee, Will, to bring A-Plus Chinese Garden into the 21st century (or, at least, to Facebook).What starts off as a rocky partnership soon grows into something more. But family prejudices and the uncertain future of A-Plus threaten to keep Will and Jocelyn apart. It will take everything they have and more, to save the family restaurant and their budding romance.

My thoughts

This is My Brain in Love celebrates family and is a wonderful representation of mental health in YA. From everything from a positive experience of therapy to overcoming the stigma of a diagnosis, cultural and family expectations and denial, this is a positive and inclusive portrayal of anxiety and depression. It’s also a wonderful mix of cultures and the wonderful food that comes with those cultures. If you enjoyed The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling, this is the perfect book for you.

Jocelyn Wu is surprised to learn her family’s restaurant is facing closure. Sure, it’s old and kind of rumpled around the edges, but it’s home. To prevent having to move away from her best friend, she sets out to improve the restaurant, including adding social media pages, new features and employing someone to help out and build them a website. Enter Will Domenici. They click and working together is fun, but both Will and Jocelyn are hiding secrets and saving the family restaurant might not be enough to save their budding romance.

Whoa. That prologue kind of threw me, giving this book a sort-of trigger warning for suicide. And while the narrator tries to reassure the reader, it kind of did the opposite. It certainly had me intrigued and ready to jump straight into the book to find out more.

And, actually, things never get as serious as hinted at at the start and a few times foreshadowed in the book. It’s a light book, despite the overtones of mental health and depression, financial difficulties and the possible failure of a family business.

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Book Review: The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling

The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling – Wai Chim – Allen and Unwin – Published 5 August 2019

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Synopsis

Anna Chiu has her hands pretty full looking after her brother and sister and helping out at her dad’s restaurant, all while her mum stays in bed. Dad’s new delivery boy, Rory, is a welcome distraction and even though she knows that things aren’t right at home, she’s starting to feel like she could just be a normal teen.

But when Mum finally gets out of bed, things go from bad to worse. And as Mum’s condition worsens, Anna and her family question everything they understand about themselves and each other.

A nourishing tale about the crevices of culture, mental wellness and family, and the surprising power of a good dumpling.

My thoughts

This book caught my eye (seriously, how could I ignore that gorgeous cover), but I rushed to read it after learning I had the opportunity to meet the author. The Surprising Power of A Good Dumpling celebrates the harsh complexity of family relationships, the love and hurt shared and the determination it takes to carry on. It celebrates community and friendship, the bond between sisters, and food. This book will have you hungry, so I highly recommend you have snacks on hand. It’s a bittersweet read, and one that is as authentic as it is honest and caring.

Anna Chiu cares for her family while her mother can’t bring herself to get out of bed and her father never comes home from working at their family restaurant. It is up to Anna to make sure her little brother gets to school and her sister knows to keep quiet about what happens at home. But the chance to work with her father at the restaurant means she can finally share the cooking skills and ideas she has and gives her the opportunity to get to know the new delivery boy, Rory. But when her mother does get out of bed, things spiral into manic midnight cleaning and angry tirades that Anna feels powerless to control.

This book doesn’t shy away from the authentic, messy details of real life, mental illness or it’s effect on families. It is honest and hopeful. It’s also not an easy book to read, despite it being so readable. It is challenging in parts, confronting and sad in others. But it doesn’t judge. It leaves room for understanding and acceptance.

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Book Review: Collateral Damage

Collateral Damage – Lynette Eason – Danger Never Sleeps #1 – Revell – Published 7 January 2020

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Synopsis

Honorably discharged from the Army after an explosion nearly killed her, former military psychiatrist Brooke Adams has set up shop to help others–but her days of helping military personnel are over. She’s got her own battles to fight from her time overseas, and she’s not equipped to take on more. Former Army Special Ops Sergeant First Class Asher James could handle anything that war sent his way–terrorists, bombs, bullets. The only thing that scares him now is sleep. As the shadows close in, the nightmares begin.

Finally convinced that he needs help, Asher makes an appointment with a counselor, and Brooke is pressed by her boss to take him on. When he arrives at her office she isn’t there–but a dead body is. Brooke is devastated when she walks in, and Asher is a conveniently strong shoulder to cry on. But she can’t take him on as a client after sharing such an intimate and unprofessional moment, can she? And he’s not sure he can handle sharing his deepest fears with such a beautiful woman.

When it becomes clear that Brooke was the real target of the attack–and that her secrets go even deeper than his own–Asher vows to protect her no matter what.

My thoughts

There is so much to love about this suspense novel. Multiple storylines come together to reveal a complex plot that has a devastating impact. A team of highly trained professionals, from detectives and medical examiners and investigative journalists, to military men and women and psychiatrist, work together to uncover the threads of this international case. With two main characters that have a great chemistry as well as a heartbreaking connection via shared trauma, this romantic suspense novel is the perfect start to a new series.

Military psychiatrist Brooke Adams left the army after giving her all—and nearly her life—in Afghanistan. Now she is back on American soil and working again as a psychiatrist, she just no longer works with service men or women and struggles with her own traumatic memories and nightmares of the explosion she survived. So when she is assigned a session with former Army Special Ops Sergeant First Class Asher James, she is not sure how she is going to face the memories or the man who helped save her life. When Asher intercepts an attempt on Brooke’s life, the two team up to stay alive and discover how the current attacks fit in with their pasts.

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Book Review: Six Goodbyes We Never Said

Six Goodbyes We Never Said – Candace Ganger – Wednesday Books – Published 24 September 2019

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Synopsis

Naima Rodriguez doesn’t want your patronizing sympathy as she grieves her father, her hero—a fallen Marine. She’ll hate you forever if you ask her to open up and remember him “as he was,” though that’s all her loving family wants her to do in order to manage her complex OCD and GAD. She’d rather everyone back the-eff off while she separates her Lucky Charms marshmallows into six, always six, Ziploc bags, while she avoids friends and people and living the life her father so desperately wanted for her. 

Dew respectfully requests a little more time to process the sudden loss of his parents. It’s causing an avalanche of secret anxieties, so he counts on his trusty voice recorder to convey the things he can’t otherwise say aloud. He could really use a friend to navigate a life swimming with pain and loss and all the lovely moments in between. And then he meets Naima and everything’s changed—just not in the way he, or she, expects.

My thoughts

Six Goodbyes We Never Said is an honest reflection of the complications and messiness of grief, an upfront and realistic portrayal of mental health and an ode to friendship and family, which can sometimes be as weird and tangled as it can be necessary and life saving. This book unfurls the journey of grief in a compelling and frank way, at times moving while other times delightfully amusing. It’s the perfect book for reflective readers or those who need something or someone to relate to when the world around them doesn’t reflect back what they see in the mirror.

Naima and Dew are what mainstream society would wrongly label as outsiders. Those who are different or who behave differently from society’s perception of acceptable or normalised behaviour. Both are struggling, not only under the heavy burden of grief so complex they can hardly speak of it, but with social anxiety (Dew) and the rituals and counting patterns (Naima) that has become a part of their every day existences. In each other they find someone who is facing the same complex emotional roller coaster.

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Book Review: Objects in Mirror

Objects in Mirror – Tudor Robins – Stonegate #1 – Published 18 April 2017

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Synopsis

Starving, starving … Grace is always starving these days. 

But Grace is also strong, and determined, and skinny. For the first time ever Grace is as thin as she wants to be – nearly – and there’s no way she’s giving that up. 

Except, what if she has to give up other things to be able to keep wearing her new “skinny” breeches? 

What if it comes down to a choice between all the horses she loves – Sprite, the ferocious jumper, and Iowa, the sweet greenie, and Whinny, the abused but tough mare – and the numbers on the scale, the numbers on food labels, the numbers always running through her head? 

Grace knows what her stepmother, Annabelle, wants her to decide. She knows what Matt – gorgeous, amazing Matt – wants her to do. She knows what the doctors think. 

But she also knows nobody else can make this decision for her. And sometimes she’s not even sure if she’s got the strength to do it. 

My thoughts

Need a horse book for older teen readers? The number one author I always turn to is Tudor Robins. In Objects in Mirror, as in all her books, she expertly combines stunning horse knowledge and the precious bond between rider and horse with the every day challenges of being a young adult, growing up, and falling in love. Objects in Mirror also incorporates themes of mental health and anorexia. It is a beautiful, easy-to-love story that is sure to delight readers.

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Book Review: Your Mind Is Like The Sky

Your Mind Is Like The Sky: A First Book of Mindfulness – Bronwen Ballard, Illustrated by Laura Carlin – Lincoln Children’s Books – Published 5 February 2019

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Synopsis

Your mind is like the sky. Sometimes it’s clear and blue – but sometimes a raincloud thought comes along and makes everything seem dark. So what can we do about rainclouds?

My thoughts

Mindfulness is a hot topic and this book is a wonderful way to introduce the concept to young readers. The story is simple and very clear in its descriptions of mindfulness techniques, using a metaphor of the sky, with both cloudy and clear sunny days, to illustrate the concept, and yet also clearly explaining the process of controlling your thoughts. The illustrations, a mix of watercolours and coloured pencil outlines contribute to the dreamy state of the book and give it a child-like air. The main character is consistently done in full colour while many of the background characters and objects remain as simple outlines.

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Book Review: Waiting For Fitz

Waiting For Fitz – Spencer Hyde – Shadow Mountain – Published 5 March 2019

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Synopsis

Addie loves nothing more than curling up on the couch with her dog, Duck, and watching The Great British Baking Show with her mom. It’s one of the few things that can help her relax when her OCD kicks into overdrive. She counts everything. All the time. She can’t stop. Rituals and rhythms. It’s exhausting.

When Fitz was diagnosed with schizophrenia, he named the voices in his head after famous country singers. He loves puns, foreign films, and T-shirts with witty sayings. The adolescent psychiatric ward at Seattle Regional Hospital isn’t exactly the ideal place to meet your soul mate, but when Addie meets Fitz, they immediately connect over their shared love of words, appreciate each other’s quick wit, and wish they could both make more sense of their lives.

Fitz is haunted by his past, and he’s often not sure what’s real. One memory weighs heavily on his mind—a tragic death he fears he may have caused—but he knows if he can just get to San Juan Island, everything will be okay. If not, he risks falling into a downward spiral that may keep him in the hospital indefinitely.

Escaping the hospital becomes the first step of a journey for Fitz and Addie as they learn about life and love, forgiveness and courage, and what’s necessary to let go and what’s worth waiting for.

My thoughts

Waiting For Fitz is author Spencer Hyde’s debut novel. Drawing from his own experience, Hyde has created a one-of-a-kind story about friendship, mental health and the value of waiting for the things you find are the most important.

Addie counts everything. Heartbeats, blinks, the number of times she washes her hands. When Addie’s mother suggests moving to a psychiatric ward to help control her OCD, Addie didn’t expect to make friends or to meet someone as special at Fitz. Fitz has schizophrenia and has spent the last two years on the ward. When he and Addie connect over their shared love of grammar and dry humour, he convinces Addie to help him break out of the ward to complete a special task.

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Book Review: That Night

That Night – Amy Giles – HarperTeen – Published 23 October 2018

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Synopsis

One night in March, a terrible tragedy shakes the Queens neighborhood where Jessica Nolan and Lucas Rossi live.

The year since the shooting has played out differently for Jess and Lucas, both of whom were affected by that night in eerily similar, and deeply personal, ways. Lucas has taken up boxing and lives under the ever-watchful eye of his overprotective parents, while trying to put good into the world through random acts of kindness — to pay back a debt he feels he owes the universe for taking the wrong brother.

Jess struggles to take care of her depressed mother, with the help of her elderly next-door neighbor, and tries to make ends meet. Without her best friend, who’s across the country at a special post-trauma boarding school, and her brother, who died that night, Jess feels totally alone in the world.

When Jess and Lucas’s paths cross at their shared after-school job, they start to become friends… and then more.

Their community — and their families — were irrevocably changed by a senseless act of violence. But as Jess and Lucas fall in love, they’ll learn to help each other heal and move forward — together.

My thoughts

What happens when you survived but your brother didn’t? What do you do when your family is falling apart or panic grips you by the throat, when you are not sure why you were the one who survived? That Night by Amy Giles presents a unique perspective on gun violence, focusing entirely on the survivors and the emotional fallout from the loss. That Night is romantic and a powerful, emotional story of surviving and learning to live again.

Everything changed that night. Families. The way people looked at and treated you. You. A year ago Jess lost her brother in a shooting that shattered her world. Now her mother hardly gets out of bed and Jess needs to find a job to pay the bills. Lucas took up boxing after his brother sacrificed himself to save Lucas. But the boxing sometimes can’t control his panic attacks that seem to be increasing in frequency or the consuming guilt. Lucas and Jess are now tied together by tragedy, but when they start working together they find that shared memories might make for a wonderful friendship and even romance.

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Book Review: When Elephants Fly

When Elephants Fly – Nancy Richardson Fischer – Harlequin Teen – Published 4 September 2018

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Synopsis

T. Lily Decker is a high school senior with a twelve-year plan: avoid stress, drugs, alcohol and boyfriends, and take regular psych quizzes administered by her best friend, Sawyer, to make sure she’s not developing schizophrenia.Genetics are not on Lily’s side.

When she was seven, her mother, who had paranoid schizophrenia, tried to kill her. And a secret has revealed that Lily’s odds are even worse than she thought. Still, there’s a chance to avoid triggering the mental health condition, if Lily can live a careful life from ages eighteen to thirty, when schizophrenia most commonly manifests.

But when a newspaper internship results in Lily witnessing a mother elephant try to kill her three-week-old calf, Swifty, Lily can’t abandon the story or the calf. With Swifty in danger of dying from grief, Lily must choose whether to risk everything, including her sanity and a first love, on a desperate road trip to save the calf’s life, perhaps finding her own version of freedom along the way.

My thoughts

An incredible story of survival and finding something to believe in and fight for, When Elephants Fly will have you laughing, crying buckets and wildly cheering for Lily and her battle to save elephant calf, Swifty.

Lily is working off a tight plan to control the likelihood of her developing schizophrenia. The genetic odds are not in her favour but by living carefully she hopes to avoid following the same journey her mother took. But, when on assignment for her journalism internship, she witnesses an elephant reject her calf and Lily can’t help but see the parallels between their stories. Lily must decide if it is worth risking everything she has worked so hard to control to try and save the life of the elephant she is quickly coming to love.

Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautifully written, beautiful message, beautiful characters (and yes, that includes elephant calf, Swifty). Alone, Lily’s story or Swifty’s story would be enough in themselves to be both moving and motivational, enough for any book. Yet together they become phenomenal. The compassion between humans and animals, the loss Swifty and Lily both share, and they ways in which they help each other is stunningly conceived and written.

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Book Review: All That I Can Fix

All That I Can Fix – Crystal Chan – Simon Pulse – Published 12 June 2018

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Synopsis

In Makersville, Indiana, people know all about Ronney—he’s from that mixed-race family with the dad who tried to kill himself, the pill-popping mom, and the genius kid sister. If having a family like that wasn’t bad enough, the local eccentric at the edge of town decided one night to open up all the cages of his exotic zoo—lions, cheetahs, tigers—and then shoot himself dead. Go figure. Even more proof that you can’t trust adults to do the right thing.

Overnight, news crews, gun control supporters, and gun rights advocates descend on Makersville, bringing around-the-clock news coverage, rallies, and anti-rallies with them. With his parents checked out, Ronney is left tending to his sister’s mounting fears of roaming lions, stopping his best friend from going on a suburban safari, and shaking loose a lonely boy who follows Ronney wherever he goes. Can Ronney figure out a way to hold it together as all his worlds fall apart?

My thoughts

What to say about a book that is one part humorous, two parts ridiculous, and the rest a bundle of important messages, from mental health, stigma, and racism, to gun control and animal cruelty? All That I Can Fix is a novel that faces difficult topics straight on, with an abruptness that is both disconcerting and refreshing.

When the local exotic zoo owner shoots himself and lets loose his animals, Ronney isn’t fazed. What’s a camel on the loose compared to a father who might be continually physically present but never mentally, a mother who doesn’t know how to cope anymore, a sister on the verge of a meltdown, and a list of things he must do to keep the whole family from falling apart?

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