Posts Categorized: Psychological

Jun 30

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

Contemporary Fiction, Psychological 9

Bonjour Bookworms!

You know how deep down everyone wants to own a bookstore on a river barge? I didn’t know that was a thing I wished for either, until I read The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. *I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. I pinky promise this review will be honest in spite of the freebie.*

littleparisbookshopMonsieur Perdu runs a little bookshop. In Paris. (Clever title, no?) It’s located on a river barge and he fancies himself a “literary apothecary.” He has the uncanny ability to match people with the books they emotionally need to read. Pretty cool gift, if I do say so myself. The problem with Perdu is that he’s shut himself off emotionally from the world for the past twenty years thanks to a heartbreak from which he never recovered. He never could bring himself to read his “Dear Jean” letter in all that time. Once he’s finally tempted to read the parting words of his lover, Perdu pulls up his anchor and sets off on a quest to put his tortured soul to rest.

I have mixed feelings on this book, you guys. It reminded me of a cross between The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry (review) which I loved, and The Alchemist (review) which I did not. Perdu’s business and neighbors and family were delightful. I absolutely adored the idea of literature’s healing properties and Perdu’s gift for connecting people with books. However. There was a lot of introspective soul searching, which is great, if you like that sort of thing. Unfortunately, I’m a big pragmatic cranky pants who thinks people are, in general, better off dealing with their problems with the help of therapists and/or pharmeceuticals than uprooting their lives and seeking their fortunes with half baked ideas and no preparation. I am, apparently, one thousand years old and devoid of sentiment. My apologies. If your heartstrings are less jaded than mine, The Little Paris Bookshop might be a huge win for you.

Talk to me Bookworms! Do you think subscribe to the belief that literature has healing properties?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Jun 04

Whiskey and Charlie by Annabel Smith

Family, Psychological 9

G’Day Bookworms!

I know there are a number of book bloggers out there who have struck up virtual friendships with authors, but I’m not really one of them. Of course, there’s always an exception to the rule, isn’t there? Annabel Smith runs a super fun blogging meme called Six Degrees of Separation (with fellow author Emma Chapman) and she’s always been such a peach. A few months back, I purchased (with my very own money) a copy of her novel Whiskey and Charlie. (Technically, I bought a copy of the Australian release of her novel which was known down under as Whisky Charlie Foxtrot because it hadn’t been released in the US yet. Hence, I got to enjoy my novel with Australian spelling. Why DID we add an “e” to whiskey?) I put off reading it for way too long, as I am wont to do. Recently, my Mother in Law and I were chatting about books and she brought up Whiskey and Charlie. I was all “OMG, that’s Annabel’s book! I know her! She’s my internet friend!” And my MIL was all impressed that I knew an author and I was like, “Self, it is time. Read this book!”

whiskeyandcharlieWhiskey and Charlie are twins. They’ve had a complicated relationship to say the least, but it all comes to a head when Whiskey is in an accident and lands in a prolonged coma. Charlie is forced to address the difficulties in their relationship and his own identity. All that juicy family stuff, you know?

I was kind of nervous to read this book because I think Annabel is awesome and I wanted so badly to love it that I was worried I wouldn’t. These are the things I worry about. Luckily, this book was fabulous. I mean, whoa. The relationship between Whiskey and Charlie will ring true to anybody who has ever had a rocky moment with a sibling. It’s got complex emotional layers that tackle not only familial strife, but also the way people react when a family member is in a life or death situation. You’ve got siblings, you’ve got lovers, you’ve got parents, you’ve got doctors, and (thank heaven) you’ve got therapists. If you’re in the mood for a well developed family drama, Whiskey and Charlie can’t be beat.

There were times while reading this novel where the character I was really rooting for acted like a complete and utter douchebag, but I still liked the guy. Have y’all run into that? Characters behaving badly but you still hope they’ll get themselves sorted out?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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May 26

The Girl With All the Gifts by MR Carey

Post-Apocalyptic Fiction, Psychological, Zombies 12

Holy Macaroni, Bookworms.

I’m not sure how coherent this post is going to be, because I’m still trying to figure out how to get my jaw off the floor. I recently decided to put my Audible subscription on hold because Scribd is a better deal for my voracious audio book appetite at this time. However, before pulling the proverbial plug, I needed to use up one last credit. I checked my “I Want To Read This” list and hunted for something I could get on Audible that I couldn’t get on Scribd and VOILA! The Girl With All the Gifts by MR Carey seemed like a fabulous option.

thegirlwithallthegiftsRemember a while back when I was talking about Zone One (review) and praising the fact that Colson Whitehead took a different approach to the zombie genre? The Girl With All the Gifts did that. Times a zillion.

Melanie is a little girl. She lives in a cell and each day she’s brought to school after being thoroughly strapped into a wheelchair while being held at gunpoint. All the other children in her class are given subject to the same living conditions and restraints. Despite the odd treatment, Melanie is at the top of her class and adores one of her teachers, Miss Justineau. Miss Justineau treats the children kindly, despite the fact that they’re restrained. I don’t know how to discuss this book without getting spoilery, though I don’t suppose it’s much of a leap to guess why the military personnel don’t laugh when Melanie jokes that she “won’t bite.”

This book was SO GOOD, you guys. I was expecting to enjoy it, but egads it was amazing. Elements of the book reminded me at times of The Passage by Justin Cronin (review) and I Am Legend by Richard Matheson (review) but it still maintained a level of originality that blew me away. Just pick up the book, dagnabit, words are failing me.

Talk to me Bookworms! What was the last book you read that left you awestruck? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

 

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May 04

Zone One by Colson Whitehead

Post-Apocalyptic Fiction, Psychological, Zombies 20

Happy Monday, Bookworms!

Got a case of the Mondays? Perhaps you’re feeling a bit… zombie-like? You’re in luck, because today we’re going to talk about Colson Whitehead’s novel Zone One (yes, there are zombies!) As with any number of the books I read, I was recommended this book by the brilliant Sarah Says Read. That girl never steers me wrong.

zoneoneZone One is set in the post zombie-apocalyptic world. The US government is a bit rag tag at this point, but the remaining population is pulling themselves up by the bootstraps and trying to take back some of their cities. Mark Spitz is on a team of sweepers tasked with clearing the zombiefied remnants out of Manhattan.

In a rather novel approach to zombie trope, Whitehead focuses on the aftermath of the event rather than the gory horror of the apocalypse itself. (There still is some gore, though, so it will satisfy your blood lust.) What is more interesting to me is the psychological cost of survival. A MASSIVE portion of the remaining population suffers from a condition known as PASD (Post Apocalyptic Stress Disorder, natch.) How can your brain possibly reconcile having watched your zombified mother feast upon your father’s entrails? That’ll leave a scar, yo!

I’ll admit that Whitehead’s prose was a little stodgy for my taste. It felt a little like he was trying to overcompensate for the subject matter of the novel by burying it in elaborate turns of phrase. Of course, I’m desperately plebeian when it comes to language, so take the criticism for what it’s worth. All in all, though, Zone One is definitely a book zombie fans should check out.

Talk to me, Bookworms! When reading genre fiction, do you prefer authors stick to an established mythology or do you like it when they step outside the box (or coffin, or re-animated corpse. Whatever.)

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Apr 13

Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova

Family, Psychological, Science 17

Hey Bookworms,

How’s it going? Read any good books about devastating neurological disorders lately? No? Well, you’re in luck! Lisa Genova is at it again and Inside the O’Briens is pretty fab. And not JUST because one of the main characters is named Katie. She’s actually named Kathryn (with a “y”) because apparently her parents and mine were both illogical enough to pair Kathryn with a “y” with Katie with an “ie.” Doesn’t it seem like Katie should go with Katherine and Katy should go with Kathryn? Am I the only person troubled by this? I should have considered this when I was getting married. I mean, if Princess Consuela Banana Hammock could happen I could have changed my Kathryn to Katherine. Sigh. Live and learn. (And no, changing to Katy with a “y” simply is not an option for me. It. Just. Isn’t.)

princessconsuela

Inside the O’Briens follows an Irish Catholic family living in Boston. Joe O’Brien is a hardworking police officer and father of four children now in their twenties. He married his high school sweetheart and they’ve lived their entire lives in an insular Boston neighborhood. When Joe begins to have odd symptoms like muscle ticks, difficulty concentrating, and flashes of temper, he attributes it to his stressful job. I mean, he’s a cop for heaven’s sake. As the symptoms become more difficult to ignore, he finally agrees to see a doctor and is diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease. It’s a rare degenerative neurological disorder with no treatment, no cure, and a 100% fatality rate. What’s worse is that Huntington’s Disease is genetic, and there’s a 50/50 chance that each of Joe’s four children will inherit the gene and suffer Joe’s fate. Katie O’Brien and her siblings are faced with the decision to find out whether or not they carry this genetic mutation and live with the knowledge.

insidetheobriens

Talk about your impossible situations, right? Sure, it would be a great relief to find out you were gene negative, but if you were gene positive, how would you live your life knowing exactly how it would end? Or, even if you weren’t a genetic carrier, how would you feel knowing that your siblings might not be so lucky? Would it affect your decisions on having your own family? Would you wallow in despair? Become reckless and self destructive? Genova rose to fame with Still Alice (review) in large part because Alzheimer’s Disease is so prevalent, but Huntington’s Disease is every bit as heartbreaking. (Okay, in fairness, Still Alice is an amazing book, so the fact that Alzheimer’s is prevalent isn’t the only reason Genova is famous.) Still though, the journey of the O’Brien family packs a serious emotional punch. I’m not going to tell you that you should read this book, but… You should read this book. If you want to learn more about Huntington’s and perhaps make a donation to help fund research into treatments, visit Lisa Genova’s Readers in Action page.

It’s time for you to sound off, Bookworms. If you found out that you might be a carrier for a disease like Huntington’s, would you want to know for sure, or would you rather not find out?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. Of course, I will also be making a donation to help fund Huntington’s research, because I’d feel like a total douche if I didn’t.*

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Feb 05

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Contemporary Fiction, Mystery, Psychological 21

Greetings Bookworms,

There’s little that drives me as crazy as when EVERYONE is raving about a book and I haven’t read it yet. Right now, that book is The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, and heck yes I read it! How could I not? I mean, everyone is calling it the next Gone Girl (review). I wouldn’t necessarily go there, but it’s still a good book, so let’s get to it!

thegirlonthetrainSo there’s this gal named Rachel. She commutes into London on the same train every day. She’s a bit of a sad sack, mourning the loss of her marriage and drowning her sorrows in booze. (Uh, side note. Since when are pre-mixed gin and tonics in a can a thing? Is this only available in England? I love G&T but I don’t drink often so my seltzer always goes flat before I use it up. I need these in my life.) She spends her commute fantasizing about a couple she often sees out on their terrace, as one does. One day, she sees something that shatters her view of the perfect couple and a whole lot of crazy goes down.

You know thrillers aren’t normally my thing so I don’t have a much in the way of grounds for comparison, but I thought The Girl on the Train was pretty great. I wasn’t wouldn’t say I was fully gobsmacked at any point during the book, but I certainly didn’t see where things were going until Hawkins was good and ready for me to know where things were going. It really irks me when I figure things out way ahead of time, so this was a HUGE factor in me digging this book. Well played, Ms. Hawkins! If you’ve got a hankering for a little psychological thriller goodness, you need to check out The Girl on the Train

Talk to me, Bookworms! Do you ever make up stories for people you regularly pass? Perhaps people watch and make up lives for folks? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. Which I will spend in my quest to find canned Gin and Tonics stateside!*

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Oct 13

Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson

Coming of Age, Psychological 7

Greetings Bookworms!

You may have noticed over the past month or so that I’ve been on a little bit of a Native American author kick. Since it’s been such an awesome ride so far, when I was contacted by Open Road Media to check out Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson, I jumped at the offer. *I received a complimentary copy of this book for review consideration. This in no way reflects opinions expressed on the novel.*

monkeybeachMonkey Beach centers on a Native American family in British Columbia. (I can still say Native American when referring to native peoples who reside in what is now Canada, right? I mean, the US kind of bogarted the term “American” despite the fact that there are TWO FULL CONTINENTS who have a claim on it.)

20 year old Lisamarie Hill had a crazy childhood. She finds herself reliving her life’s journey in a speedboat while she travels to meet her parents in the place her brother Jimmy went missing (and is presumed drowned.) The Haisla community Lisa hails from has seen its own share of trials including alcoholism, poverty, domestic violence. and untimely deaths. Lisa’s own predicament is complicated by the fact that she deals not only in the physical world, but the spiritual world as well. She doesn’t understand her “gift” and struggles to reconcile Haisla traditions with contemporary Canadian life.

This book was pretty intense. I mean, what IS IT with the Native American authors bringing the pain? Travelling back and forth between Lisa’s past and present was a bit jarring, but I think it stylistically served to demonstrate how scattered Lisa is feeling while reeling from yet another potential loss. Robinson also has some mad skills with describing scenery. I felt like I could see the beaches and channels and forests described in this novel. Plus the cuisine? I mean, I can’t say that I’m aching to try oolichan grease, but you’ve got to respect a writer who can describe fish grease, soapberry foam, and the intricacies of blueberry picking and make it INTERESTING. Respect.

If you’re looking for a book to break your heart and teach you more than you ever really wanted to know about fish grease, Monkey Beach is where it’s at!

Talk to me Bookworms! What’s the last gut-wrenching book you tackled?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Sep 22

Banned Books Week & Diversiverse: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Banned Books, Diversiverse, Psychological 20

Hey there, Bookworms!

It’s one of my FAVORITE weeks of the whole year. That’s right kiddos, it’s BANNED BOOKS WEEK! This week I’m going to be basking in the glory of books that have been banned and challenged. I’m planning to, as my friend Shelli is fond of saying, “feed two birds with one scone” (because why would you want to kill the birds?) and chose banned books by authors of color. It’s a Banned Books Week/Diversiverse hootenanny up in here!

BBWDiversiverse

I’m going to start this party with The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. It is challenged ALL THE TIME. A few pages into the novel and it’s clear why. You’ve got naughty language, sex, booze, alcoholism, incest, child molestation, rape, domestic violence, bullying, poverty, and basically every other horrible thing people do to break each other. Why you gotta bruise my soul, Toni?!  The Bluest Eye is a book designed to make you uncomfortable. How could it not? The fact that it makes people uncomfortable doesn’t mean it’s without value though. Not by a long shot!
thbluesteyeThe vast majority of book banning and challenging takes place with regard to school curriculum. This book is not an easy read, and I wouldn’t recommend reading it aloud to a 4th grade class. (I do have some common sense, I promise.) I would, however, defend The Bluest Eye as a choice for an advanced high school English class.I know, I know. I don’t have kids. I was, however, a teenager, and I remember that whole experience keenly.

As far as profanity goes, I heard more casual swearing in my high school hallways than I have anywhere in my adult life. I knew kids who would drop F-bombs to punctuate phrases the way I’d say “like.” I know what you’re thinking! “I don’t mind the profanity, Katie, but what about all the sex and incest and violence and general horribleness?” To which I respond, “Why, this book is chock full of cautionary tales!” All the things you should NOT do in order to be a decent human being are represented. It’s also got a hefty dose of what I like to call getting-inside-other-people’s-crazy-heads. For every broken psyche, you find out what happened to the character that contributed to their particular problems. Empathy! Teenagers need it!

My teenage self would have eaten this up. You know what was not at all interesting to my teenage self? A ginormous book about a freaking whale. Kids get burned out with all the classics. That doesn’t mean they’re without value either, but changing it up every now and again with something that’ll make a teenager’s jaw drop? That’s amazing. Take your pitchforks elsewhere, book banners, The Bluest Eye is here to stay! On the off chance you know nothing (Jon Snow), here’s a little about Toni Morrison:

Toni Morrison (born Chloe Anthony Wofford), is an American author, editor, and professor who won the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature for being an author “who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.” Her novels are known for their epic themes, vivid dialogue, and richly detailed African American characters; among the best known are her novels The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, and Beloved, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988. In 2001 she was named one of “The 30 Most Powerful Women in America” by Ladies’ Home Journal.

Talk to me, Bookworms! Are there any books you wish you’d been assigned to read in school? Is there a classic you’ll hate forever on principle because you were forced to read it? Inquiring minds and all that…

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Sep 05

The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

Audio Books, Contemporary Fiction, Psychological 34

Greetings Bookworms!

Today we’re going to talk more about my new found obsession with audio books, and a book turned Oscar-winning-movie (which OF COURSE I haven’t seen, because I am the WORST at being relevant when it comes to cinema.) You guessed right. It’s time for The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick!

silverliningsplaybookAudio books typically begin with a short musical interlude. I rarely take notes while I’m reading/listening to something, but when Kenny G was chosen as the introduction, I had a rather visceral reaction. My notes: “What is WITH the Kenny G at the beginning? There’d better be a contextual reason for this. Harumph.” A little while later… “Oh there’s a reason. Thank God. My reaction isn’t as intense as Pat’s, but sheesh. I can’t handle the Kenny G.”

Okay. So. Pat Peoples is our protagonist. He’s recently been sprung from a long term care facility for people with brain injuries and/or intense psychological problems. He comes home with his eye on a single goal- to reunite with his estranged wife Nikki. Only, things are weird. Whenever he brings up Nikki, people change the subject. His relationship with his father is strained to say the least, with the only subject they can broach being the Philadelphia Eagles. To add to the weird, he’s being relentlessly pursued by the enigmatic Tiffany (who has her own cartload of baggage) and his therapist seems to think spending time with this other woman is a good idea. Oh yeah. Kenny G is a demon specter who tortures Pat. You know. As he does.

I really enjoyed this book! I went into it with tempered expectations because the movie had gotten so much hype and everyone loved it so much. I found the book charming, tender, and real. I’ve got a soft spot for broken psyches and I couldn’t help but love Pat and Tiffany.

Talk to me Bookworms! Have you read The Silver Linings PlaybookSeen the movie? How do they compare? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Mar 26

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

Book Club, Coming of Age, Psychological 24

Hidey Ho, Bookworms!

Remember last month when I got all philosophical about choosing a book for book club because last month’s selection in my neighborhood book club (cleverly named My Neighbors Are Better Than Your Neighbors) hit a sour note? You can click HERE if you’re interested. But you’ll be happy to know that this month’s selection worked out infinitely better for me. This month we read Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight, and WHOA.

ReconstructingAmelia hc c.JPGKate is a high powered lawyer living with her teenage daughter Amelia in Brooklyn. Kate has raised Amelia on her own since unexpectedly finding herself pregnant in law school. Kate has done her best to balance her career and single motherhood, though she feels guilty much of the time that her career has won out. When she’s called to Amelia’s hoity toity private school in the middle of an important meeting, she is frustrated. The situation that awaits her is more tragic than she ever imagined. Amelia fell to her death from the school’s roof.

Because dealing with the death of your child isn’t horrifying enough, Kate begins to get mysterious text messages saying that her daughter didn’t commit suicide. Kate embarks on a journey into investigating what was going on in her daughter’s life leading up to her untimely demise and what she uncovers is a whole lot more than she bargained for.

The hoity toity private school is a hotbed of elitism, secret societies, bullying, and all kinds of psychological warfare. Reading about this school, I have never been so grateful to have been raised thoroughly middle class. I went to high school where nobody gave a crap. Seriously. Heck, my school could barely even muster the energy for a traditional social hierarchy, never mind an elaborate set of secret social clubs.

As you probably know, psychological thrillers and murder mysteries aren’t typically my jam, but the addition of the scandalous school elements, really sucked me in. Two thumbs up, kiddos!

Alright Bookworms, I’ve got to know. Was your high school experience ANYTHING like what you’ve seen in pop culture?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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