The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Review

Now I get the hype. This really is an absolutely cracking read.

Alicia has remained silent since her conviction and transfer to a locked mental health facility for the brutal murder of her husband. She, or rather her condition, has become an enigma to the professionals treating her. The problem with that is the possibility of her becoming too interesting or a challenge, which then clouds judgement.

From the very beginning Theo shows a lack of ethical judgement. Admittedly he acknowledges this when he takes certain steps in his therapy plan for Alicia, but he crosses the line way before those transgressions.

Theo wants to help Alicia move forward in her treatment and healing. Her silence has become a challenge of sorts, both professionally and psychologically, which of course in itself is quite unprofessional from a therapeutic point of view.

It’s a superbly plotted and executed psychological thriller. The author presents the inadequacy of psychological science. It’s flawed, because of the human factor. There is no such thing as being a blank slate for a patient or client, only the attempt to be blank and not let our own frame of references colour therapeutic treatment.

What really makes it an incredible crime read is the way the author manages to spin the truth and the lies in a way that absolutely leaves the reader thinking they know where the story is headed. Not sure they will though, which ultimately is what makes this a great read.

Buy The Silent Patient at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Orion: Paperback pub date – 12 Dec. 2019. Buy at Amazon comBuy at Hive.co.uk.

Follow @AlexMichaelides on Twitter, on Goodreads, on Instagramon Amazon,

#BlogTour Bird Therapy by Joe Harkness

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour Bird Therapy by Joe Harkness. It’s part memoir, part mental health coping strategy, but most of all it is one man sharing in the hope he will help others with his words and his bird therapy.

About the Author

Joe Harkness has been writing a Bird Therapy blog for the last thress years. In 2017, he had articles published in The Culew and Bidwatch magazine as well as recording three tweets of the day for BBC Radio 4. He is employed as a Special Educational needs teacher and has worked in the youth sector for nine years. He lives in Norfolk.

Follow @BirdTherapy on Twitter, on Goodreads, Visit birdtherapy.blogBuy Bird Therapy

About the book

‘I can’t remember the last book I read that I could say with absolute assurance would save lives. But this one will’ Chris Packham

When Jow Harkness suffered a breakdown in 2013, he tried all the things his doctor recommended: medication helped, counselling was enlightening, and mindfulness grounded him. But nothing came close to nature, particularly birds. How had he never noticed such beauty before? Soon, every avian encounter took him one step closer to accepting who he is.

The positive change in Joe’s wellbeing was so profound that he started a blog to record his experience. three years later he has become a spokesperson for the benefits of birdwatching, spreading the word everywhere from Radio 4 to Downing Street.

In this groundbreaking book filled with practical advice, Joe explains the impact that birdwatching had on his life, and invites the reader to discover these extraordinary effects for themselves.

Review

In a day and age where people struggle to cope with the pressure of life, work and relationships, and mental health illnesses are on the rise, a book like this is a necessity.

The keyword in regards to this book is coping strategy. If you have found a strategy that helps you work through mental health issues, as long as it doesn’t harm yourself or others, then that’s a good thing. If you feel others can benefit from being introduced to a new strategy, then share away.

The most interesting element about this book was the way Harkness opened up completely and examined every single thought and action in connection with the bird therapy and his surroundings. This is especially apparent in the last chapters of the book, where he identifies what is ‘off” or not quite right about the new bird watching environment he has moved to. It’s incredibly introspective and he offers up his vulnerability in an attempt to help himself and others at the same time.

There is the man, a member of one of my local FB groups, he takes nature photographs the majority of which are of wildlife and birds. They are so beautiful, so detailed and fascinating. It’s a stark reminder of what passes us by in life and of the beauty we don’t take time to appreciate. Looking at those pictures of birds, wildlife and nature it isn’t hard to understand what a soothing effect it can have on a person, especially when you experience them in real time.

The illustrations by Jo Brown are an added bonus to the written content. They give the read an air of serenity and peacefulness, and hint at the beauty of the avian world. They also give a indication of what the author is talking about.

It’s part memoir, part mental health coping strategy, but most of all it is one man sharing in the hope he will help others with his words and his bird therapy.

Buy Bird Therapy at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Unbound; pub date 13 Jun. 2019. Buy at Amazon com. Buy at Unbound.

#BlogTour Bad Mommy Stay Mommy by Elisabeth Horan

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour Bad Mommy Stay Mommy by Elisabeth Horan. It’s poetry, a book filled with brutally honest words describing inner torment.

About the Author

Elisabeth Horan is an imperfect creature advocating for animals, children and those suffering alone and in pain – especially those ostracized by disability and mental illness. Elisabeth is honored to serve as Poetry Editor at Anti-Heroin Chic Magazine, and is Co-Owner of Animal Heart Press. She recently earned her MFA from Lindenwood University and received a 2018 Best of the Net Nomination from Midnight Lane Boutique, and a 2018 Pushcart Prize Nomination from Cease Cows.

Elisabeth lives in rural Vermont with her husband and two young sons. When not being poet, she works as a secretary and loves riding horses & dancing the salsa—

Follow @ehoranpoet on Twitter,Visit ehoranpoet.com

Buy Bad Mommy Stay Mommy

About the book

Elisabeth Horan was in the grip of postpartum depression after the birth of her second son, ‘red and writhing a salamander underfoot’. In this collection, Elisabeth finds the courage to survive. Uplifting, guttural: Horan leaves her reader roaring for more.

Review

There is an ongoing attempt to bring the scary misunderstood and taboo topic of mental health into the sunlight. There is a stigma surrounding the topic and it’s time for there to be a better understanding of what comes under the description of mental health illness, how it is treated and how it affects the lives of those living and dealing with it.

It isn’t a solitary diagnosis. Family members, loved ones and sometimes even society become part of the circle surrounding that one person.

It’s graphic, in a sense that she describes emotions and situations that usually stay hidden inside our heads. Not being able to cope is deemed a weakness, as is being overwhelmed and frustrated. I would say this is particularly the case when it comes to women and postpartum depression. There is any extra layer of judgement  reserved for women who appear to society to be unable to fulfil the role of motherhood in the way that is expected of them.

There is this automatic expectation of a maternal bond between mother and child. A switch that is flipped for every woman, but the truth is that it doesn’t happen that way for all women. Our own thought processes, emotions and hormones betray us in the most unexpected way. In a way that makes the woman a social pariah, because not embracing your child and not exhibiting emotions that are expected of us, it’s incomprehensible to many people.

The poetry has a staccato feel to it, almost as if the author is thrusting her words towards us. Towards anyone, in an attempt to make someone pay attention. Hear me, hear my pain and confusion.

It’s poetry, a book filled with brutally honest words describing the inner torment she feels. I’ll leave you with words by Horan, which describe my reading experience of this book quite well: ‘You have been unnerved by me‘.

Buy Bad Mommy Stay Mommy at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Fly on the wall poetry; pub date 10 May 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

woman in the windowThis is an ode to Hitchcock and the classic tale of suspense.

Anna’s story is also indicative of the stigma and discrimination, which is prevalent in our society,  that people with mental health issues have to deal with.

Regardless of your social status, professional background, age or gender, a mental health diagnosis brings an entire busload of baggage with it. Suddenly you are no longer considered competent enough to make decisions and are an unreliable source.

Anna finds herself going from respected professional to the lonely lady who lives in her bathrobe and survives on a few bottles of wine a day. Her perfect family is a thing of the past. Her husband and child no longer live under the same roof, and Anna holds on tightly to every phone call and every conversation she has with them.

Her agoraphobia holds her prisoner in her very large house. The only contact to the outside world is via internet forums, her lodger in the basement and the people she watches through her windows. The neighbours who don’t know that she views them through her camera lens during the night, the day and any time she needs to feel a connection to the outside world.

The Hitchcockian aspect of the story starts when Anne meets one of her neighbours and later witnesses something horrific during one of her spying episodes, thereby starting a cycle of terror and mistrust. Suddenly everyone around her doubts each word she says and every action she takes. Anna becomes the crazy lady, who is scared to leave her own home.

The Woman in the Window is a story of grief, desperation, self-doubt and in the end of self-preservation. It’s also about momentary lapses in judgement and choices that can destroy lives. I can understand why it has been picked up to be developed into a film.

Finn has infused the story with fear of self and the unknown, and given it an air of nostalgia. Fans of classic films will perhaps recognise certain scenarios or films that are mentioned throughout the story.

It’s compelling and full of suspense, and Finn is definitely an author I look forward to hearing more from.

Buy The Woman in the Window at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @AJFinnBooks @HarperCollinsUK @KillerReads

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

flora banksThis book is one of those little gems shining through in a sea of books.

Barr manages to present a rather tragic story with an incredible amount of humour, love and compassion.

The reader meets two versions of Flora, actually make that three, because there is also an in-between grey area. We meet docile Flora, the girl who follows rules and listens to her parents. Then there is Flora the impulsive adventurer. The girl who is off her meds. Third Flora is the girl who exists in the confusion of post-tablets and pre-clarity.

Flora has problems with her short term memory. She relies on post-it notes, written messages on her arms and a handwritten book of memory props to get along every day.

Now at this point I have to wag a finger at any a parent who would leave a vulnerable child, teen or young adult alone based on the assumption that another teen will be looking in on them. Teenagers can be as flighty as birds and as dramatic as a reality TV show character on LSD.

So Flora is left to her own devices and ends up coming off her medication. Even before that she spends an unhealthy amount of time obsessing about being kissed by her best friend’s boyfriend. The kiss becomes a pivotal part of the story, her obsession and a possible recovery.

Her search for Drake is a bold one, but it is also one ridden with dangers. The fact she is lucky enough to encounter people who care, which is perhaps a scenario we all wish for, if one of our children were alone and in trouble. Flora is halfway across the globe searching for love, and the only person who is aware of her exploits is her brother.

Barr makes an important point when it comes to vulnerable people and independence. Are they hindered by their loved ones when it comes to evolving, growing up and being able to make their own decisions? The gut instinct to keep them safe may also be the factor keeping them from moving forwards.

I really enjoyed the read. It is funny without being insulting, it is realistic without bending the boundaries of imagination and it definitely pulls on the heartstrings. I would love to know what Flora gets up to next. At this rate she may end up in a tent on top of Mount Everest.

Buy The One Memory of Flora Banks at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @emily_barr Visit emilybarr.com

Follow @PenguinRHUK

Read The Truth and Lies of Ella Black by Emily Barr

I’m Keeping You by Jane Lark

laekRachel faces an inner battle every day, actually make that two battles. Being bipolar is like riding an emotional roller-coaster. Ups and downs, from manic episodes to deep dark pits of depression.

The other daily fight is choosing between being medicated and feeling like a walking zombie, and not taking the meds and feeling like her normal self.

Her euphoric self nearly kills her son, which triggers concerns about her capabilities as a mother. Her ex raises his ugly egotistical head and threatens the happy family life Rachel has with Jason.

As is often the case Declan the ex is more interested in revenge rather than the welfare of the child.

Jason is an interesting character, he has this strange kind of co-dependant relationship with Rachel. He likes the zany, the crazy and the impetuous side of Rachel, aka her manic episodes. On one hand he wants her on the medication, and on the other he really misses the other non-medicated Rachel. This has got to send out mixed signals to the poor woman.

I’m Keeping You is the fourth in the Starting Out series. It is a mixture of romance, steamy bedroom antics and mental health issues.

Buy I’m Keeping You at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Something Only We Know by Kate Long

Kate Long

I really enjoyed the in-depth view into anorexia. Although the storyline flows into the lives of the characters and melds flawlessly into the other sub-plots, there is still a level of understanding about this eating disorder, which is quite remarkable.

The kind of depth you usually only get when you read a book written specifically about eating disorders.

Kate Long really does have Helen’s character down to a tee. Anorexics are often described in a way that defines them as victims, as attention seeking individuals, who could stop being anorexic if they wanted to.

Those descriptions could not be more wrong. It is a mental illness, a feeding and eating disorder. Girls, boys men or women, who suffer with it need professional medical and psychological help.

Getting back to  the way Long has portrayed Helen. She has pinpointed the manipulative, cunning and deceptive nature of her personality. Anorexics learn to lie, deceive, cheat and manipulate their surroundings and the people around them. Feeding and Eating disorders are about control.

Controlling the one thing no one else can control for you or take away from you. The way you eat, how much you eat or if you eat at all. It takes an incredible amount of inner discipline to control your eating habits that way.Helen describes the anorexia as an entity, a person, someone who lives within her and tells her how useless, fat and ugly she is. Alive to the point of having inner dialogues with her or it. Like an inner demon sitting on your shoulder.

Long also describes the way the anorexia can make and break a family. Everything evolves around the eating disorder, which means everyone suffers, not just the anorexic. In this story we follow the healthy sister Jen on her quest for love and her constant juggle of work-life balance. Even now her sister has recovered there is always this doubt about her honesty. Is she in distress, is she getting skinnier again or is she eating her food?

When Helen asks Jen to find one of the people partly responsible for the initial meltdown, she finds herself in the middle of a moral dilemma. Help her and perhaps watch Helen spiral into her anorexia again or trust that Helen will leave the past alone.

This isn’t just a story about family dynamics when one of the family members suffers from an eating disorders, it is also a story about the relationship between two sisters and how romance can sneak up on you in the strangest situations.
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the author.

To buy at Amazon UK or any other retailer at Goodreads.