Review: The Girl with the Wrong Name by Barnabas Miller

51E6IyEo21L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Want an intriguing book with more twists and turns than you can keep track of? Before you’re even halfway through? This latest offering from Barnabas Miller is that and more.

Theo has secrets, and some of them even she doesn’t know. It all goes back to “The Night in Question.” She has a scar, but not much else to pull her memories from. And to make things more difficult, she finds herself pulling away from those she’s always been closest to. So she loses herself in her documentaries as she becomes immersed in the lives of strangers, traveling the streets of New York.

And this is where the story becomes really confusing. You’ll second guess yourself and wonder if it’s all going to make sense at some point. And it will. But not easily.

If you like your stories neatly mapped out for you, then this one isn’t for you. It’s not logical, it’s not sequential, it doesn’t even make sense sometimes. But still, it’s mysterious and compelling enough to keep you reading if for no other reason than to find out just how exactly that scar came to be?!?

~Thalia

Buy It Now: The Girl with the Wrong Name

Review: Behind the Falls by Brenda Z

25400942This book starts out with Noah in a car traveling halfway across the country with his parents to go live in his grandmother’s house. Because I kinda know this author and because I did not ask what this book was about (remember I try not to know anything about the book I am about to read)….I half way expected old granny to be kept in the shed in the back garden feeding on live chickens. Yes….a zombie book wouldn’t have surprised me at all…..however, once Noah gets to school and sees all the *pretty* people in the lunch room, I thought I might be wrong and it would have been some posh vampires that were feeding on grandma….

However, I couldn’t have been farther from the truth….

Although…..this book is full of *real-life* monsters….

I must admit, at times I did feel that the author was long-winded. That the stuff going on inside Noah’s mind was just so bogged down with details….however, after reading it….well I have to wonder….If I felt overwhelmed at times and over sensitized….well just imagine how Noah felt….

This book brings more than a few very important issues to light….and it’s a hard read….not because it’s hard to understand….it’s just a tough subject….and the ripples this book leaves you with….well they are far reaching…it’s blatantly obvious after reading a book like this that we are all so often look at just the one person in life. We often isolate them in our minds and we neglect to see the ripple effects that issues cause with not just one person, but all of those around them.

If someone has cancer….or is killed in an accident….or hurts another person…..well that doesn’t just effect them….Mrs. Z does an outstanding job displaying this throughout the entire novel (ALL 698 PAGES OF IT!!!)

Now there’s just no way for me to continue this review without providing spoilers….so I am asking you now…if you haven’t read this book, please stop reading now and go try to find a copy….This book isn’t a subject matter I would ever imagine myself reading….let alone giving top ratings to. I almost hesitated to give 5 stars because I almost feel guilty….I don’t want anyone to think I did so because I know the author….I do so because this novel deserves it….although as I said, I felt it was too many words at sometimes….however the subject matter and the way it was handled, the way I felt at the end….the way I stayed up late and woke early to finish it….well, I would be dishonest if I gave it anything less….

But again….spoilers now! so if you haven’t read it….piss off and go do so….please don’t let my need to voice all of my feelings ruin this great book for you!!!

First the ending…..uffda….again….ripples….this book is full of them, innit? I realise some people will hate the ending….fuck it…..I hate the ending…..but I would have hated an ending that wrapped it all up and created a stopping point even more…..again…..ripples! Key word here…..RIPPLES…..I just can’t stop thinking about all the ripples that closing scene is going to make in the hours after the reader finishes….

How can you not love a book that the characters feel so real that you finish the last page and you still are concerned for ALL of those involved. How can you not love a book where you physically hurt for what they have to go through?

Another thing I want to point out to anyone that has read the book….I am sure many think of the father behind the closed-door at the end….and they are disappointed perhaps….Me? I know 100% that he has closed that door because he is disappointed in himself….that he is blaming himself for not being there as he thinks he should have been….even though I know 100% that Noah feels it is shut because of his father’s disappointment in Noah…..

Again, this whole book….just wow….it’s so complex…and the more you think about it….well the more confused you become….

Mental illness….sexual identity….these are such tough issues….why do we feel such a need to label everything in life? Perhaps not the labels themselves, but the stigma that goes with them…I’ve always been a strong proponent of letting people live their lives as they see the need to. I try very hard to not pass judgement….

This novel points out that not only is it very important to not put stigmas on labels….but it’s also now blatantly obvious that the stigma we put on our own labels used to define us….well they can be the most cutting of all..I’ve always tried to remember that we never know what people are going through in their daily lives…so we should never judge…..this novel pushes me belief system even further….I now realise that it’s not just what’s going on in their lives…it’s also sometimes more important about what is going on in their heads….and those are things that sometimes we are *never* made aware of….

At times this novel is so tough to read….the implications of what mental illness does to a person….well when you pile it on top of the worries of the mental illness…and how you will be perceived by others….well at some point you have to stop and ask….which is which….which one does the most damage…and which one causes which….are they all interchangeable? Can you have one without the other? If one did not exist would the other cease as well?

The second major issue of the novel….sexual identification…..that is all so….well…..it does come down to labels here….and this is the thing I struggle with the most….I always have….but now it makes me angry….it seems that more society opens up….the more it shuts down….if Noah wants to kiss boys or girls…why should he have to announce it? Why should it matter? I realise that identity is very important to teenagers…however….I really wish society would change how we define ourselves….it’s tough I know….but I just wish in my heart that Noah had given a few less fucks how people defined him….the only opinions that should guide and define us are those of people who truly love and know us….but most importantly…our own….we should all be allowed to be happy with whom we are….

again…ripples….the beautiful person that Noah is….it’s so easy to see and define the ripples that brings to others around him….even if he is, sadly, unable to see those ripples himself….however, the lack of Noah sharing what’s really going on in his life? Those ripples? They are far more outreaching and long-lasting then he will ever realise….

Those ripples will be residing in me for a very long time to come….x

Until next time…

Urania xx

ARC provided by the author for an honest review

Buy it now Behind the Falls by Brenda Zalegowski

Review: Elephant in the Sky by Heather A. Clark

20131229-111656.jpgThe subject of mental illness is very much at the forefront of our thoughts these days. Unless you or someone you know is personally affected by it, it’s easy enough to push the idea to the back of your mind. However, with every mass shooting or unspeakable tragedy that makes the evening news, we are once again reminded of the often unimaginable consequences of living day to day with mental illness. We don’t often think of very young children as being stricken, but it does happen.

Nine-year-old Nate has always been a unique, if somewhat difficult child. Although his mom, Ashley, has always felt that something about her son was a bit off, she and her husband Pete have just chalked it up to Nate being a bright, energetic boy. But as Nate gets older, his differences become more obvious. And, the results of his unusual behavior become more serious and eventually dangerous. At the same time, Ashley must deal with the pressure of her high-powered job and the demands placed on her from it. The story alternates between two perspectives. Although most of the story is told through Ashley’s eyes, we are given glimpses into Nate’s mind and his thought process as he tries to deal with his demons. The author skillfully weaves an intriguing story of a family trying to pull together under the pressure of an enemy not yet fully identified.

This book touched my heart in so many different ways. As a parent, I felt the pain, embarrassment, and grief that Ashley and Pete experienced as they came to grips with their son’s mental illness. Nate’s story was entirely believable and broke my heart as I read of his inner struggle. And of course there’s Grace, the older sister who is also affected by her brother’s turmoil. The story pulled me in immediately, and I wasn’t able to put it down. As I get older, it’s becoming harder and harder for me to stay up past midnight. When a book keeps me reading until the wee hours of the morning like this one did, it’s definitely a five-star read for me.

~Thalia

Buy it Now: Elephant in the Sky: A Novel

Joint Review of “The Shock of The Fall” by Nathan Filer

shockof the fallUrania: **This book is marketed under the name “Where The Moon Isn’t” in the United States**….I read the UK edition and think the UK title is much better suited for the novel….

Pegasus: Yes, I agree, the US title should have remained the same as the UK title. There are a couple of references throughout the novel that allows the US title to make sense, but really, the UK title is more suited in more ways than one.

Urania: Okay, we’ve all read books that were kinda sad….No big deal, right?

Pegasus: Call me what you will, but I actually consider it a challenge to find a “sad” book that won’t have my eyes rolling.

Urania: *Snort* I would have never thought eye rolling and Pegasus ever went together….just saying….

Urania: Well, this was a book that killed you slowly. You’re halfway through with it and put it down and shake your head….you suddenly feel like a heavy cloud is over your head…it was a slow build up of sadness….there are times you are laughing out loud…and whilst you’re reading it, you don’t really feel like it’s terribly sad… but Filer has a true gift of laying very thin layers of sadness upon you until finally you’re completely bogged down under an extremely heavy blanket of depression. By the time I got to 2/3rds of this book, I found it difficult to read more than a dozen pages at a time before having to lay the book down….the weight of it was so great….

Pegasus: I also felt the paradoxical mix of comedy and melancholy; Filer presents his story in an ultra-realistic way, and so the reader gets to experience the true form of emotions – the wave- the crest, the trough, and the in between. I read this book in one sitting, and it definitely felt that someone had sucked all the air and energy out from you, but at the same time, it wasn’t just a 1 dimensional feeling of depression – you (or at least I did) felt layers of emotion that peel away slowly as you digest what you just read.

Urania: When I started this book, I wasn’t at all sure about it. It was the Costa Book of The Year and it wasn’t that famous of a book. I wanted to read it before it became totally famous. I wanted to be one of the first to read it before it just took off and all the talk biased me against it.

Pegasus: I read about this book in an article, and was drawn to it as it got a lot of praise. I immediately purchased it and began to read. Then, what I like to call, the Million Little Pieces effect, came through. For those of you that remember, A Million Little Pieces was published around 10 years ago. It was touted as a genuine and raw memoir of addiction. It turned out to be not as genuine as it was let on to be. I felt cheated and it put me off reading memoirs or stories about addiction, mental illness etc… Anyway, I returned the book. A few weeks later, Urania told me that she picked up this book and wanted to do a joint review. So I decided to give it another chance, before it became a huge hit. Best decision of my life.

Urania: See….you should listen to me more often….no really….you should….I keep telling you this, Pegasus….

Urania: As I started this book, I found it a difficult book to get into. It’s written in the main character’s voice. It’s difficult to follow at first because the main character, Matt, is mentally ill. He starts his story at the age of 9. His current age is 19. The book mainly focuses on flashbacks to, of course, 9, when a family tragedy occurs. Most of the other story takes place when he is 17-18. It’s hard to follow because….well…..Matt is slowly spiraling down the staircase of mental illness.

Pegasus: A good adverb to describe the reading of this novel is exhausting. I use this word in a good way. When reading, we, like Matt, are all over the place, and the pace, and indeed sometimes the font, reflects this. There was no real transition points – in one page you’ll be reading about a memory he had when he was 9 and the next he’ll be waking up from a drug induced sleep ten years later. It’s hard to discern what truth is, what is clear and what we should believe… Much like how Matt feels. Again though, this is a true credit to Filer’s writing.

Urania: When the writing finally *clicked* for me, well…that’s when I realised that I was enveloped in this massive cloud of sadness. But it wasn’t just depression. It wasn’t all doom and gloom…..it was so depressing because Matt is so utterly, heartbreaking beautiful. His love is so pure. Even though he can’t express everything he is feeling….well, his actions and what he does say….well, it just fucking broke my heart.

Pegasus: That’s the thing – Matt wasn’t just this crazy schizophrenic that many stories portray, nor was he totally unaware of his actions and what effect they have on people. Throughout, Matt constantly struggles with what is expected of him, what he thinks he is to do, and what other people interpret his actions as. Don’t get me wrong, Matt certainly has issues and he would not be an easy person to live with – in fact, some of the things he does are downright horrible, but where there is hell, there is beauty.

Urania: This….this is a book that just moved me. I loved it. I loved Matt. I felt his hopelessness but, at the same time, I felt nothing but hope. I understood his frustration. I understood his reasoning. Even though we all know that the things he came to believe…well, they are impossible….but damn it all…..who doesn’t want to believe in something such as that? I understood why he both loved and hated his illness. I understand why he fought it…and why he didn’t. This book carved a chunk of my heart out. I like to think that Filer replaced the missing chunk with hope and understanding….but I’m just not sure….I’m just not sure that I’m a better person now that I finished this book….I just hope I am….

Pegasus: I really don’t think there was a flat character in this story. They were ordinary, yes, but certainly no “filler” characters. I think that’s what I loved most about this novel – its ordinariness. It is so ordinary, that it feels real, and you can definitely imagine it happening somewhere near you. Just the little details, like the ritual watching of Eastenders (I even remember the story line that he references) is completely familiar to me, that it made the situation more acceptable, and actually more scary because it was transcending the boundaries that so many of us familiar with.
This book really does take a lot out of you, but perhaps that is a good thing. Maybe we need to go back to basics and understand that mental illness can and does happen to anyone, no matter how “ordinary” you are. I think that Filer has left us with hope. I used the wave analogy earlier on, but it is true when they say you have to get worse in order to get better. Life is wave, we have to go down in order to go up, and vice versa.

Urania: I am so glad I read this one….I hope our readers will too…..

Pegasus: Really cannot recommend this enough… 5 Stars.

Urania: Thanks for doing a joint review with me, Pegasus….next time I might even let you pick out the book…xxx
Pegasus: It wasn’t too painful I suppose! I get to pick next time? This could be fun!

Until next time…..

Pegasus and Urania

Buy it now Where the Moon Isn’t/The Shock of The Fall

Review: Crazy by Han Nolan

20131230-191409.jpgYoung adult book about teen drama-check. Mental illness as the main focus-check. Been there, done that, right? Except this one is insanely (bad choice of words, I know) different. In this refreshingly unique novel the tables are turned and this time it’s a child who has to cope with his parent’s mental illness.

Jason can’t remember a time when his life wasn’t overshadowed by his dad’s odd behavior. Going as far back as age six when his dad tried to bury him alive “to protect him”, it’s always been a part of their lives. However, when Jason’s mom dies unexpectedly things begin to rapidly deteriorate. She was the one who always held things together, and without her their lives start to spin out of control. Money is tight, food is scarce, and their house is falling apart. Despite his best efforts to hold things together and keep their way of life a secret, his grades and behavior at school are being affected. When he’s sent to group therapy, he finds comfort in an unlikely group of friends who are living with family issues of their own. In a short span of time he’s forced to confront his own feelings of grief at his mother’s death, guilt at not being able to protect his dad, and fear that he, too, is losing his mind. He has to learn to accept help from others and to be a kid again after being the adult in his family for so long. There’s a hospitalization and a confrontation with social services before everything is finally resolved. Along the way, Jason is kept company by running commentary from a cast of characters he has created in his mind to help him cope with his dysfunctional life.

This was an amazing story from beginning to end. It could have been another run-of-the-mill story of teen angst and drama but Han Nolan inserts humor and emotion into every page. The ever-present conversation going on in Jason’s head has the potential to be annoying and distracting but instead is entirely believable, and you can see how that’s his one little lifeline to sanity. He’s never really confronted his grief at losing his mother, and he eventually realizes he harbors a lot of anger as well for being forced into the position he’s in. The author skillfully captures the voice of a young teenage boy in the reversed role of being the parent. It’s also a safe read for teenagers without speaking down to them, which is hard to come by these days. Five stars for me!

~Thalia

Buy it Now: Crazy