There aren’t many books that I’ve read that I would have a difficult time placing within a specific genre, or at least spanned across a couple of distinct styles. The Fantastic Inner Life of an American Teenager, however, is a work that is in a class of its own, and that’s a good thing.
Part fiction, part reality, and pretty much all intensely inventive and imaginative, this real-life diary written by a teenage girl about some of the hopes and dreams that she had reveals multiple levels of the author’s reality. In fact, this book is the work of a girl named Desiree, AKA YAEL, who experienced a childhood and adolescence worlds apart from what many view as ‘normal’.
According to the editor, Regine Dubono (The author’s mother), YAEL suffered from mental illness from a young age and found family life to be a challenge. Due to those difficulties in coping with everyday events, the author was quickly labelled and placed within a mental hospital where she would be medicated to the point of losing much of her happiness and contentment that she had known before. What’s more is that due to the reaction of the medical staff charged with caring for Desiree, that same medication severely hampered her natural skill and talent as a playwright.
This book opens a window into the heart of the author and shows us just how incredibly talented she was. Her clarity in purpose while creating the scenes of her play are engaging and honest, and each line seems like a well-thought-out continuation of thoughts nurtured over time.
That said, it does take a bit of work to follow the trains of thought through to the end as there are several threads which are interwoven throughout the screenplay. There are references and concepts that jump in from out of the blue but once the writer’s mind and process is better understood, taking in this work becomes much smoother. It is different for sure, and it is eye-opening in many ways. If you are one to relish taking in the personality of the authors you read, The Fantastic Inner Life of an American Teenager will provide a full serving.
I would have appreciated footnotes and information from the editor that would have helped provide more background for certain times throughout the authors life while this diary was being written. I couldn’t help but think that I was missing pieces of vital information while reading. Other than that, this is an impressive work from an even more impressive teenage author.
Pages: 120 | ISBN: 9781312599161
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The Mom and Her Autistic Daughter by Regine Dubono is a fitting title for this book. Dubono explains the life and turmoil of Desiree, an adult with autism, and her mother. Desiree’s medicines’ effects and side effects are explored. The struggle to find Desiree a long term living arrangement becomes a source of contention between Desiree, Desiree’s mother, and her caregivers. Her mother finds it difficult to find balance for herself and her daughter while playing a deck that seems stacked against them.
The author delves into Desiree’s everyday life which feels tumultuous at best. Desiree has parts of her life she enjoys such as shopping and manicures, but everything apart from that feels tense. In working in Special Education I have found in the past that this is pretty typical of autistic children. I assume that would generally carry over into adulthood as it has with Desiree. My students have had areas they excel in and become almost obsessive about their particular interests. Anything else feels boring or daunting. Any deviation from their schedule can also cause a tailspin or meltdown. These are things that readers who have not worked with people with autism may not know and may learn from the book.
I’ve also had a bit of experience in dealing with drugs and their side effects while caring for my father. Dubono explores how drugs may “fix” one issue, but cause many more. One drug may also cause further symptoms that need to be controlled, thus producing the need for more drugs. These are frustrating waters to navigate. Readers may get more of a grasp of how many pharmaceutical companies and drug-pushing doctors work in this aspect. This part of the book is especially pertinent in today’s social climate.
Dubono’s explanation of the struggles in finding Desiree a permanent and sufficient placement especially hit home for me. Many readers who have dealt with this kind of thing will be able to sympathize with the accounts she gives. It is extremely hard to find caregivers for adults. It would be exponentially harder to find care for those who are prone to have outbursts and labelled as “difficult.” Clean and suitable facilities and genuinely caring and qualified caregivers aren’t always readily available. My family knows that from experience. Anyone who has dealt with this will find her accounts relatable.
The structure of the book feels somewhat lacking and feels repetitive at times. One letter in particular that is written by the mother is repeated almost verbatim in another part of the book. I had to flip back to make sure I hadn’t lost my place. There are quite a few grammatical and spelling errors throughout the book. There are also many abbreviations that are left unexplained. There is substance in the experiences and relationship of the mother and daughter, but the book doesn’t flow as well as I would have liked it to. I think the book would benefit greatly from an editor and proofreader.
There are important lessons to be learned here. This is a story that should be told as a cautionary tale and to help parents or guardians not feel alone in this situation. Desiree’s voice should be heard, I just think the book could use some revision and restructuring.
Pages: 123 | ASIN: B07H5RCYB5
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Antebellum Struggles is told through the eyes of multiple characters whose lives intertwine as a result of slavery in the deep south. We see their varying opinions, experiences and their individual backgrounds that influence their perceptions of the world at present.
Young Amana, from Martinique, a Caribbean island, was born into slavery and was later shipped to a plantation in Louisiana. Colonel Winters, the plantation owner, struggles in his relationship to his wife, Collette, and seeks to fulfill his lust in an affair. Simultaneously, a doctor takes advantage of being admitted to Colonel Winters’ home under dire circumstances.
Throughout the story good intentions are tested and morals are in constant conflict. There is love against lust, an abolitionist receiving money from a slave owner, and deception for personal gain throughout. The book thus serves as an incredibly graphic detailing of society at a time when power and violence ruled by the crack of a whip.
The author, Dickie Erman, is successful at portraying depth to the actions of a distinct variety of characters. The stylistic choices made by the author allows the reader to glimpse a character’s true intentions. For example, the doctor who tries to turn every situation to his advantage despite it being to the detriment of others; where the reader sees the doctor’s thoughts as he tries to manipulate the Colonel.
Dickie Erman delves into the role of power and hierarchy as a means of controlling others, exploring how different characters use their stature to get what they want. Power and stature play large roles in the story, especially in the carrying out of violence. The array of infringements upon victims in the book are often viewed and justified by the characters causing violence or imposing their power. The reader thus watches the mental gymnastics that the perpetrators use with anguish.
Moreover, with such violence presented in the book it is worth noting that the descriptions are gut-churningly graphic, though appropriate in their realism. Due to the nature of the topic, it is difficult to read, however this is not a negative. This author does not hold back on the details of the conditions on a slave ship, nor haphazard medical procedures. The word choice is bold when referring to people as property and mere flesh, as such it is harrowing to read. It is a disturbingly realistic display of slavery at that time.
For some readers who are not used to the style of narrative that Dickie Erman employs, the switching between character viewpoints may make the story difficult to follow. This is especially true for the flashbacks to various characters’ background stories. However, as the reader follows each account of a character’s experiences, the story never loses its natural flow. The technique is appropriately used in the portrayal of each of the characters’ very distinct viewpoints.
Antebellum Struggles is an engaging book that follows a variety of character arcs all intertwined by a plantation in the deep south. Dickie Erman masterfully switches view point and projects distinct character voices. The events of the novel draw the reader into a disturbingly realistic rendition of life in Louisiana at a time when segregation and slavery were common place. The author manages to disclose the gruesome details of what life was really like at such a difficult time.
Pages: 255 | ASIN: B07DFQLL8Q
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Once upon time, women struggled to gain notoriety capable of any feat besides household responsibility. The struggle was life and death in the resistance of recognizing the inevitable rise of women. Starting life in Italy with a wealthy protestant family. Sylvie idolizes her father Dr. Fiore. Sylvie has her hopes set on being one of the first female doctors known to the area. But when Sylvie is married off to a wealthy craftsman named Leon, in France, she quickly realizes that this dream may be out of her reach and possibly run the risk of death. Is Sylvie’s dreams worth dying for? This book starts our journey in a small town of Eze in Southern France in the late 1600’s and tells a fictional story based from real time events in our history. This is book one of a new short story series.
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Energy Medicine – A Collective Approach: This book provides a consolidated approach to healing the body on a mental, emotional and physical level. It includes five healing systems: Neo-light healing, Reiki, Chakra healing, Color healing, Crystal healing. When combining all five systems, one is opened up to a powerful energy force and healing occurs in the metaphysical, spiritual and physical dimensions. This book is set out in a way that allows one to also access a collective healing approach to specific weaknesses or disorders in the body. It contain an A-Z list of diseases/ailments, giving a collective healing approach for each. This book provides the metaphysical benefits of crystals, listed in alphabetical order for easy reference. Neo-light is a new healing system and, to date, information on this energy healing technique can only be found in this book. It describes how to use the healing technique, the Neo-light symbols and how to create a Neo-light healing box. Reiki is usually passed on from teacher to student, which hampers those who are unable to reach out to a Reiki master. Whilst not discrediting Master to Student attunements, this book offers the gift of self-attunement to all. ‘Hon Sha Ze Sho Nen’ removes time and distance, and the attunement has been channeled into the script. It describes how to perform Reiki, and has pictures of the hand positions. Learn how to create healing boxes for healing, manifestation, weight loss, fertility, abundance and much more.
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Have you ever wondered what Chakras are and how they can impact your well-being? Teresa McCallum has written a book that is the culmination of years of research, personal experiences, and learning from experts. McCallum is a registered nurse that has spent many years working in the mental health field and has the educational background to back up her findings using these non-traditional methods. In Finding Balance and Forgiveness Through Chakras and Art you will discover what the seven Chakras are, where they are located, how to determine if it is blocked, deficient or in excess of energy and how to correct it so you can bring your body into balance. In addition to providing readers with information on the Chakras and how to balance them, she gives readers real life examples and stories. Many from her own life as a nurse, and her own personal experiences.
Walk through any book store or brows online and you will find thousands of self-help books.
One of the different aspects of this book over others on Chakras is the incorporation of art in all stages. Teresa McCallum offers up methods to incorporate specific forms of art for each Chakras to help you find balance. From working with clay to dance and performing arts, there are an abundance of suggestions on how to use art forms to focus your mind and body to heal your Chakras. There are examples of art, and there are diagrams and instructions for the recommended yoga poses. It is all organized with plenty of quick reference charts to refer back to. I particularly love the silhouettes drawings of the yoga poses, they are simple and uncomplicated and make it easy for me to see how the pose is done. For more complicated one there are instructions as well as recommended breathing techniques to go with them. I found most of the stories helpful in understanding the purpose of each of the Chakras, though a few felt drawn out longer than needed. You can tell the author has a great passion for helping others and the people she chooses to include in this book mean a great deal to her. Sharing of her personal struggles, especially her cardiac arrest, make her relatable because she shows how her life took such a drastic downfall and what she needed to do to heal.
Finding Balance and Forgiveness Through Chakras and Art is a great reference for those new or old to the study of Chakras and self-healing. It is inspiring to learn to detect all the symptoms in your body and trace them back to an origin. What I appreciate the most in this book, is that Teresa McCallum doesn’t promote ignoring traditional medicine and the advice of doctors. She encourages the use of Chakra balancing in addition to getting medical treatment when needed. It is refreshing to see that the two worlds can be combined. I recommend this book for anyone curious about Chakras and how this can improve their day to day life.
Pages: 160 | ASIN: B079P9B6Y6
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Same Inside, Different Outside is a wonderful children’s book that teaches biology and promotes diversity. Why do you think this is an important message to teach children?
I’m a nursing professor and one of the courses I teach is on Culture and Cultural Concepts which has certainly changed my worldview. I thought I had a good understanding of the various cultures and their beliefs and practices, however, one of the big lessons I learned was that becoming culturally competent is a journey that can take a lifetime. This made me realize that we need to teach children at a very young age to celebrate their uniqueness yet understand how in many ways we are all very similar. As a nurse, I also believe that children need to learn about the inside and outside of their bodies and although some of the concepts may be difficult for a younger child it is never too early to start introducing concepts that can be built upon as they complete their educational journeys.
I loved the pictures in this book. What was the art direction like?
Thanks, I loved the pictures, too. I worked very closely with my illustrator. Initially, I placed notations throughout the manuscript detailing my ideas for the illustrations and where they should be placed. Xavier, of course, used his creative and artistic abilities to bring the illustrations to life. It was fun to collaborate with him on this project and we really worked well together. Final edits were completed based on the input of the Waldorf Publishing team which certainly strengthened the book.
What do you hope young readers take away from your story?
First, and foremost I hope the readers enjoy the story and want to read it over and over again. Secondly, I hope they begin to understand that although we are unique and look different on the outside we are also very similar, especially on the inside. Lastly, I hope they begin to understand how some of the major parts of their bodies work. And that skeletons are really not scary and are somewhat like superheroes because they protect all of our insides.
Will you be writing more kids books that tackle other social issues?
Yes, although I’m currently working on the second pug book I’m also in the early developmental stages of inviting the readers back to Emma’s kindergarten class where I will address other social issues that help children to understand that although in some ways we are very similar it’s okay to be different.
Today is a very exciting day for Emma’s kindergarten class. Emma, Robert, and the rest of the student’s don t understand how they can all look so different on the outside, but look very similar on the inside. So Dr. Shaw is coming to visit, and she’s bringing Mr. Bones, who is a real life-size skeleton. Mr. Bones is going to help Dr. Shaw teach her lesson about the human body. Dr. Shaw has also brought a cool body screening machine with her so the children can see what their insides look like.
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In order to eliminate discrimination and promote inclusion, we need to start with our children. They are the future of this world and if they can learn to love and accept each other regardless of what they look like or act like, then the world will be richer for it. Deborah Hunt takes this idea and uses it in her children’s book Same Inside Different Outside. It’s a lovely short story accompanied by equally wonderful pictures to help bring the message home. The colors are bright and the lines are soft. The story takes place in a school setting which readers should be able to connect with. This makes the message more relevant and easy to understand. It’s a clever way to deliver a sometimes difficult message to such a young audience.
The representation of a medical professional as a woman and the teacher as a man is a nice and subtle way of breaking down gendered stereotypes when it comes to careers. In traditional books teachers are women and any medical or science-related job is played by a man. In a book about acceptance, this is a key idea to get across. The children in the book are aware of their differences from each other, which is a normal discovery at their age. The doctor who is presenting to the children in the book is kind and patient with them as she goes over the parts of our bodies under our skin. As they move through the lesson the children voice their concerns and are answered honestly. This is key for the story because it also teaches readers that it is okay to ask questions and you will receive an appropriate response.
I felt like the children had a vocabulary and an understanding of body parts that were a little beyond kindergarten. But this is a minor concern that does not impact the integrity of the message.
Deborah Hunt is able to deliver a sometimes difficult message with ease in Same Inside Different Outside. The illustrations are very nice and pleasing to look at. The content isn’t difficult to understand and the message is clear and easy to digest without being muddled. Children and adults alike will find that the message this book sends is one we have been trying to share for a long time.
Pages: 32 | ISBN: 1945175702
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Birth to the Stilldead tells the story of a young doctor, Tel, and a necromancer, Aarne, who fight off increasingly disturbing supernatural occurrences while working in a cancer ward at a hospital. Why did you choose a hospital for the setting of the story?
I spend lots of time wandering around a particular hospital as a Literacy Program volunteer, so this cavernous and labyrinthine layout is something I’m familiar with. Also, there’s lots of strange rooms and hallways that I’m not allowed access to, which sets my mind wandering with story possibilities.
Aarne is both a mysterious and perplexing character. He listens to the dead and knows what they want. What was your inspiration for building his character?
The idea of being a modern day wizard is very appealing. Having access to forces that aren’t recognized by science and using them to run gung-ho over the world. However, it would be tough to remain a good person with that kind of power. Aarne makes no moral calculations whatsoever and pursues the work for the sake of knowledge and power. In reality, people like that cause tremendous damage, but in fiction they’re endlessly fascinating.
Many of the children that Tel is treating have cancer. I thought you did a great job capturing the emotional turmoil and pain that families go through in these situations. What kind of research did you do for this novel to ensure you captured the essence of what it meant to be diagnosed with cancer?
Thanks. The atmosphere of an Inpatient Pediatrics unit is one I’ve spent some time in. However, not being privy to personal conversations between doctors and patients/parents, I sought out personal stories and training information.
Are you a fan of the supernatural horror genre? What books do you think most influenced your work?
Supernatural horror is my favorite genre. I love the worldview it espouses. Not only is the universe amoral and indifferent at best, but also, laws of physics are merely accidental conveniences and in reality, anything can happen. Thomas Ligotti is a huge influence along these ideological lines, although I don’t try to write like him. His stories are more philosophical fables on the nature of horror rather than plot-driven. Clive Barker’s supernatural horror is one of my earliest and all encompassing influences. He marrys a cinematic scene-style of writing along with deep ideas and poetic descriptions which is exactly how novels are supposed to work.
What is the next book you are working on?
It’s called BirdTorn Tapestry and is about a man adjusting to his new office job, which starts to resemble a mystical initiation into a group he cannot escape from. Another novella, a bit surreal but still a horror story. My goal is to publish a new work every six weeks or so, and I’ve got quite a few lined up, so keep your eyes peeled.
Struggling young doctor Tel Hunniset becomes the interest of rogue necromancer Aarne Soars, who is able to blend seemlessly in with hospital personnel. Together, they save the lives of many children dying of an epidemic, with Tel getting all the credit. As supernatural events increasingly intrude upon Tel’s life, he is forced to confront the terrible cost of his actions upon the dead.
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The Children of Fi is the exciting follow up to your other novel, The Mage Sister. Arinda has a plan to start a magicker school for girls. Why was it important for Arinda to create this school, alongside the one for boys at Vespith academy, against Jahx’s wishes.
Actually, Jahx is all for the program – he just gets frustrated with Arinda’s headstrong ‘I’ll-do-it-my-way’ sort of approach. His protests are meant to slow her down and get her to understand that she must follow the proper structure like everyone else, that there are consequences if she doesn’t. For Arinda, the magicker school for girls means so much to her because as a child, she was powerful and very smart. However, since there were no programs for girls, and being a girl magicker was such a shameful thing to be, she had to hide it and was not allowed to learn about her power. If she had never been sent to Vespith Academy and Jahx’s magic hadn’t chosen her, she faced a life of nothing but drudgery. She wants to stop that happening to other girls because it made her life so miserable and hopeless.
In this story you bring back some old friends and enemies, as well as introduce some new ones. Did you choose which characters to bring back, because you like writing for them, or did the story dictate who came back?
While I do really enjoy writing for some of them, such as Nathan and Cullen, the story did have a lot to do with who needed to return. Most of them had become such an integral part of Arinda’s life in The Mage Sister, they couldn’t just disappear in the second book. Also, Miles Dunforth, the main antagonist in The Children of Fi, is just as lazy as he is evil and I knew he couldn’t pull it off by himself. He’d have to find a really good henchman, and who better than someone that already had a reason to want revenge on the Kingdom of Rowan and the Circle of Mages.
The Children of Fi gives a lot more history of Kynllaria and Fiaryn. Was this backstory something you always had, even when writing the first book, or did it come after the first was finished?
Part of it, like the history of Fiaryn and Fiaryn’s Gate, I had developed long ago when I started writing The Mage Sister and building the world they live in. Other parts, such as the story of the Sun Dynasty of Naria Valley and the specific details of Jahx’s history, needed to be added and pretty much evolved as I wrote it.
Cullen, the Master Healer of Rowan, is a defender of Arinda’s plan to educate girls in magic. I found his character to be intriguing. What was your inspiration for his character?
Cullen seems to be everyone’s favorite character. For the most part I just let him be himself, but I’ve also known and worked with many doctors over the years (I’ve worked in the medical industry since 1999). As a healer, Cullen has many of the characteristics I observe in the doctors I work with every day – self-assurance, compassion, occasional impatience, frustration with patients who don’t listen – mixed with a person dealing with a troubled past and an unpleasant personal life that few know about. These are all elements that are a part of Cullen, yet Cullen isn’t based on a specific person I’ve ever known. I just borrowed some of the traits I’ve observed to add authenticity to what he does and allowed him to speak in his own voice.
Is there going to be another book after The Children of Fi? If so, what will that book be about?
I am currently working on the third book in the series, telling the story of what happens after The Children of Fi. It’s hard to tell much about it without including spoilers for The Children of Fi, so I’ll just say that there will be a lot about a certain event at the end of The Children of Fi, which must involve quite a bit of conflict, and I’m not entirely certain how that’s going to be resolved just yet. Also, a new conflict arises surrounding the location Fiaryn’s Gate and the gate itself. Now that Fiaryn’s is gone, quite a few people have plans for it and some are willing to do anything to claim it. And finally, a whole new group of characters comes out to play, and we will learn more about the ancient and mysterious Coubirigh, the scary baddies that turn magickers into mages… if they survive the encounter.
A great accomplishment, a dire mistake, and secrets buried long ago set into motion a volatile chain of events that lead the Kingdom of Rowan straight into an unexpected war. When Arinda’s school for female magickers becomes more successful than she could have hoped for, she and King Nathan are invited to other countries to advise them on setting up their own programs. But not everyone is interested in the education of their girls, and not everyone is who they seem to be. In this sequel to ‘The Mage Sister’, long kept secrets are brought to light, and the truths they reveal will change the world of Kynllaria forever.
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