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Max Happiness

MAX HAPPINESS

Schizophrenia is a mental illness that affects thoughts, emotions and even behavior. It’s severity is achieved gradually with symptoms that include hallucinations, altered reality and even disorganized thinking among others. Often when it is believed that the patient will be a danger to his or herself and others, they are institutionalized so the condition can be stabilized.

Max Happiness, written in first person narrative, is a series of thoughts as they run through the character’s mind. This character is schizophrenic and therefore presents many different ideas in quick succession. This presentation of thought provides insight into how people with this condition think and feel if they are misunderstood. As a person looking in from the outside, one would be compelled to quickly dispel any fantasies or notions that do not conform to reality. However, from this text it is clear that the approach used to do this matters quite a bit. The person in this book talks about how his ‘abilities’ albeit imagined have had him committed.

This book by Ali Ismail is enlightening, but not in an informational booklet kind of way. It is enlightening in that it gives the reader first hand experience of a schizophrenic’s train of thought. This is meant as an advocacy exercise for people with this condition. To raise awareness and shine a light on their plight. They really do believe the things they utter so there is need for some sensitivity when interacting with them. From the way the thoughts are structured, it is clear that this character is an otherwise sober individual.

The author has done well to introduce the character first before introducing the condition they suffer from. I think this gives the reader time to endear themselves to the character before they can start to sympathize. The author has also done a good job of making the prose so confusing and discombobulating that one feels like they are reading an anagram. The spontaneity of speech and thought is quite complicated. This provides a truly accurate picture of the patient’s thought process.

This book is a good effort towards advocacy for schizophrenia. However, it does require a bit of an edit. For example, use the right ‘there/their’ and so on. For such a short book, these little mistakes really do stand out.

Otherwise, this is worth taking the twenty minutes or so that you would need to read the contents. It is also worth the one minute it will take to recommend it to someone. It would be nice to expand it a little more to provide a more wholesome picture of the life of the character. This is just one day in the life.

Pages: 6 | ASIN: B07N2RHTW5

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The Weird Consequences of a Bedbug Incident

WEIRD – or Weird Consequences of a Bedbug Incident, by Regine Dubono is intended to help struggling families see things from a fresh perspective.

Desiree, the focal character in the story, suffers from several disabilities and regularly undergoes treatments for many of them, including mental illness, physical disabilities, and many others. Despite her many conditions, however, she was also highly talented in many ways.

Regine Dubono calls into question the modern psychiatric practice of creating within people a sense of weakness which should therefore be treated with any number of serious and life-altering psychiatric drugs.

The author brings a lot of things to focus through her story, but one of the most powerful is the fact that there is serious repercussions that come from taking these types of medications. Most notably, feelings of being helpless and dependent on the prescribed cocktail of pharmaceuticals. Even more, though, how damaging the wrong drugs can be for a person.

In fact, Desiree suffered the unfortunate fate of being experimented on through pharmaceutical trials on more than one occasion, ending up in states that seemed utterly hopeless, prompting ‘professional opinion’ to recommend Desiree to permanent hospitalization. It was only when she was allowed to stay clear from the drugs and given the personal agency to operate certain aspects of her life that she showed any real signs of improvement and comfort.

The moral of the story is clear and a much needed one at that. Parents, as well as anyone else acting as caretaker for a disabled person, should keep a close eye on the treatment programs and medications that are often administered. Are they doing more harm than good? Are they helping at all? Whatever the case may be, the author’s mission in writing this diary of events outlining Desiree’s life and experiences is to provide anecdotal evidence. The evidence suggests, among other things, that entrusting medical professionals to decisions related to the best interests of the patient is not always the best approach.

In terms of accessibility and style, the majority of Weird – or Weird Consequences of a Bedbug Incident is provided in diary form. As such, it reads as more of a collection of personal notes as opposed to being a dramatized novel. The situations are genuine. The times and places are all accurate. And the notes offered for all the various situations the author faced are about as eye opening as anything else in this category. This is certainly a unique work that deserves attention.

Pages: 220 | ASIN: 1329529731

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An Invisible Child

An Invisible Child by [Ossen MSW, Lenore]

An Invisible Child is a story based on the heart wrenching experiences of Lenore Ossen. It tells the tale of her lonely and traumatic childhood, growing up with a mother suffering from mental illness; isolated and trapped away from the real world. Deprived of social interaction, friendships and even family relationships she tells the story of how she endured life living within the restrictive and peculiar rules set by her mother, living in a constant state of fear. She describes how at times she hated her mother, yet was constantly trying to please and make her mother happy.

The book is a chronological recount of her life, as she remembers it, with the help of notes her uncle wrote.  Her experiences range from sad, to strange and almost unbelievable. Some of the more disturbing experiences include her relationship with her father and her lack of life experiences.

Her lack of relationship with her father had an enormous impact on Lenore. She craved physical and emotional contact with him, but rarely received it. When he did show her affection, her mother was quick to put an end to it with cruel comments. Her uncle wrote in his notes that “George was a plain, simple fellow who wanted what all men want: a wife, a home, the love and affection of his wife and child. He had none of this.” Lenore’s chance at a relationship was further compromised when he moved out of the family home. All hopes ended when he died and disappeared from her life altogether -although disturbingly her mother did not tell her for over a year that he had died.

As she became a teenager she gained more self-awareness. Lenore became conscious of all the ‘normal’ life experiences she was missing out on. At 14 she had never been on the subway, never played with other children, never purchased anything in a store, never spoken on the telephone or handled money. She writes of her distress as she contemplated all the experiences she should have been having.

Although this is a shocking and heart-breaking story, it is also a story of hope. As she grows older, she slowly gains confidence. She pushes herself far beyond her comfort zone, and literally steps out of the apartment. Lenore attempts everyday tasks and teaches herself age appropriate skills for living in society. At times she makes mistakes, however she learns from these as any intelligent person does. She gains the courage and confidence to overcome her life of abuse, showing others that no matter what road you have traveled there is hope for your future.

Pages: 628 | ASIN: B01LXCKCE6

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Explore Deeper Themes

J.R. Alcyone Author Interview

J.R. Alcyone Author Interview

Five Fathoms Beneath follows Ambrose as he must deal with the emotional and untimely death of his father. What was the inspiration for the setup to this intriguing novel?

Without giving away too much personal information, I have experience with both cancer and bipolar disorder. That said, an author who chooses to write about mental illness is taking on a great responsibility–how we depict illnesses in fiction impact how people view those illnesses in reality. That led me to do research, and early in that process, I came across an article about the high incidence rate of suicide in the medical profession. There’s relatively little written on the topic, which isn’t surprising when you consider a mental illness diagnosis can adversely impact a doctor’s career. As someone outside the profession, however, I could write freely about the topic, without anyone assuming I was writing about myself or a colleague. And so I came up with the idea of writing a story about a family of medical doctors who deal across the generations with suicide and mental illness, especially depression.

This book deals with mental illness is a passionate and understanding way. Why was this an important topic for you to explore?

At the beginning of, “The Fault in Our Stars,” in his Author’s Note, John Green writes that it’s a fundamental assumption of our species that made-up stories matter. I think Green is absolutely correct because fiction informs how we view the world, and consequently, as writers, we not only have the power to entertain, but we also have the power to explore deeper themes and potentially change the world in a positive way.

We’re almost two decades into the supposedly “progressive” and “woke” twenty-first century, and mental illness is still being used as a pejorative or as a way to fear monger. And that’s even by people who frankly should know better. The stigma attached to mental illness dissuades people from seeking help. Not seeking help costs lives. And that’s something which impacts us all — whether it’s on the personal level when someone in our family is suffering, or on the societal level when we lose our best and brightest. We all should care about mental health because mental health is something which impacts us all.

My hope is Five Fathoms Beneath causes people to pause, rethink what mental illness looks like, and gets them talking about mental illness and suicide prevention.

Ambrose is a unique character that I liked watching change over time. What were some ideas you wanted to capture while creating his character?

I didn’t intend for Ambrose to speak for everyone with depression because depression exists on a spectrum and besides, everyone’s experience is unique and different. That said, with Ambrose’s character, the reader gets some insight into how a depressed person thinks. For example, when he snaps at his patients, it’s not because he’s an inherently bad person, it’s because he’s overwhelmed, exhausted, and struggling with his mental health. Ambrose also accurately depicts why it is difficult for members of certain professions to get help, and the serious impact and far-reaching effects an illness like depression can have on a person’s marriage, family, and life.

Beyond that, much of the novel deals with Ambrose trying to figure out where he fits in the universe and in the grand scheme of life. Ambrose wants to do good and be a hero, and he struggles with who he is and who he wants to be. In the end, he finds his way of being a hero in a way which plays to his own strengths and in a way which is his uniquely his own.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I’m currently in the process of brainstorming a sort of prequel to Five Fathoms Beneath, based around Ambrose’s father.

Author Links: GoodReadsTwitterWebsite

Five Fathoms Beneath by [Alcyone, J.R.]

If Ambrose Serafeim’s life is not quite perfect, then it’s very good–he lives in picturesque Western Australia, he has a lovely fiancée, and he is well on his way to fulfilling his childhood dream of becoming a physician. Brose owes no small part of his station in life to his famous father, Alec, a gentle and idealistic pediatric heart surgeon who lives by a simple moral code–do good and be good. Brose believes in his father and that code the way he believes in absolutes like oxygen or gravity. But when Alec shatters Brose’s perfect world by acting in a way Brose can neither forgive nor understand, Brose is left foundering amidst an existential crisis and clinical depression, unsure not only who he is, but who his father was.

That is until a catastrophic injury in a running race changes everything.

The road from that catastrophic injury leads Brose to the same heart-stopping precipice on which Alec once stood. Facing the possible end of his marriage and having seemingly lost his career, will Brose repeat his father’s terrible mistake, or will Brose blaze a new path forward, one where he finally realizes his potential to help others?

A twist on Loren Eiseley’s famous essay, “The Star Thrower,” Five Fathoms Beneath blends a realistic medical backdrop with a dash of magical realism to tell the heartbreaking yet ultimately life-affirming tale of a man’s quest to find his life’s meaning.

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Five Fathoms Beneath

Five Fathoms Beneath by [Alcyone, J.R.]

From the time he was eight, Ambrose Serafeim planned to follow his father’s career path- that of a celebrated surgeon known for his innovations, abilities, and compassion. Years later, Brose is a doctor but resembles little else about his dad. His father’s cancer, then suicide, the latter spurred on by a secret bipolar disorder, left Brose shattered and bitter. He was also left questioning everything he thought he knew about the man he revered so deeply. After reaching rock bottom in his own mental state, Brose is faced with a different kind of intervention that may finally answer his questions and help him face his demons.

Five Fathoms Beneath, J.R. Alcyone tells a heartbreaking story about the Serafeim family, their history of mental illness, and just how devastating that illness can be when left to its own devices. From the start, Alcyone describes the symptoms, stigma, and progression of bipolar disorder and depression with startling realism and even though the bulk of the story is set in the decades between the 1950’s and 1980’s, many of the issues are still relevant today. Because of this, it’s a book that can be hard to read. However, the subject is always treated with a sensitivity that never demeans or trivializes the issue at hand. The book moves smoothly as it depicts the passing of the years, even as the characters’ lives grow more tumultuous. Brose’s father, Alec, kept his diagnosis a secret because of the societal stigma attached to it, while Brose hides his largely out of denial. Although their reasons differ, both suffer greatly. As is the case in life, Alec’s suicide affected everyone in his life in some way and created ripples that only escalated over the years. After all those years, Brose eventually becomes a typical tragic figure, projecting all the outward appearances of success- high profile career, money, big house, etc.- while everything in his life is actually falling apart. True to life yet again, those around him suffer just as much or more. Even though the ending is formulaic, providing a sense of redemption even, the journey there is anything but as Brose’s path to healing begins in an undefinable place. All in all, it’s an intensely well written book that was hard to put down at any point.

By the author’s own admission, this is a book about mental illness. Although that theme is the brain that allows it to exist and function, family is at the heart of the story. As long as the reader knows him, Brose’s decisions, and his battle with his own depression, are framed within the context of his relationships. He is constantly checking himself against his father’s perceived shortcomings while trying to keep the appearance of normalcy for the sake of his family. Those relationships also provide an anchor.

This book was engaging, well paced, had extremely well written characters, and never patronized or hid from its difficult subject matter.

Pages: 389 | ASIN: B07JPGB8RY

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Let the Chips Fall

Nikki Mays Author Interview

Nikki Mays Author Interview

Surrender to You follows the passionate relationship of Mellie and Morris as someone goes to dangerous ends to keep them apart. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling novel?

I think that my inspiration came from watching too much Criminal Minds. Everytime I watch that show it gives me some many ideas. I feel like it is something that could actually happen since there are so many people with mental illnesses that go untreated.

Mellie and Morris have a fiery relationship and a deep bond. How did you develop their relationship, did any of it happen organically while writing?

I think that a lot of their relationship came organically while I was writing it. I knew that I wanted them to awkward in the beginning but after awhile they took on a life of their own. I don’t like to plan it out in took much detail. I kind of like to let the chips fall where they may.

There is a fantastic mystery at the heart of this romance book. What were some themes you wanted to capture around the stalkers motivations?

I wanted people to realize that this is something that could happen to anyone. Someone can fixate on you for the strangest reason. Half the time it could be a simple look. Mental illness has so many variations and left untreated can be dangerous to the person themselves, as well as those around them. Unfortunately, so many people go undiagnosed for years. I feel like more help should be available and that isn’t always the case.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

The next book that I’m working on will be centralized around Michelle and Damon, titled Addicted to You. I’m hoping to have it out by the end of October.

Author Links: GoodReadsTwitterFacebookWebsite

Surrender to You (SAPD SWAT Series Book 1) by [Mays, Nikki]

Mellie: Mellie has been hypnotized by a pair of gorgeous green eyes, attached to a very yummy package for months now. Unfortunately for her, her brain goes on hiatus anytime Morris Jackson is around. Looking like a bobble head whenever he asks her anything isn’t the best way to go about getting a man like him interested. Not like ruggedly handsome men go for quirky, accident prone introverts like her. Plus, even if she did have a snowballs chance in hell with him, him being her brothers SWAT teammate doesn’t bode well for her. A girl can dream though!

Morris: Those blue eyes sucker punched him the minute he looked into them. It felt like the ground had literally gone out from under him. Mellie is everything that he could ever want and everything that he shouldn’t have. Even if he didn’t know that she’s too good for a guy like him, her brother would never be okay with it. He is over protective and proud of it. But at some point you have to say screw the consequences and go after what you know is meant to be yours.

Too bad someone wasn’t happy for them when the found their way to one another. Someone will make sure they don’t stay together by any means necessary. They’ll even kill to get what they want.

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Along with You

Along with You by [Areaux, Michelle]All Blair wanted was to fit in and find a place where her dark past wouldn’t keep following her and haunting her. After many moves Blair and her parents end up in the small farm town of Shady Oaks Kentucky. Having always moved around from one big city to the next, a small farm town with country side and horses was the last thing Blair expected to find and fall in love with. Here in Shady Oaks, Blair finds real friends and starts to imagine she could have a real life there. Than someone from her past shows up, and everything crumbles. Would she be able to stand her ground and overcome her past here with the new friends she has, or will they turn on her like everyone else has in the past?

Being a teenager is hard these days, the world is hung up on social media presence, how many followers do you have, is your life documented one image after another for all the world to see? No matter how much we may try to delay this, it happens, our children are exposed to the world online and it has permeated even into their education system. Parents can no longer protect their kids from the world online. The increase of social media has made bully’s even more prevalent, no longer is it teasing on the playground, the bullies follow their victims’ home and even when they move to their new homes. Michelle Areaux does an amazing job at showing how this can impact their lives. Written for this age group, they can relate to the characters, the school groups, the feeling of being the new kid. The story is relatable. It is not so far-fetched, even with Blair’s secret, to believe this could be any kid in the school with them. The feelings are real, and the personalities are believable. Hunter is very endearing, and you want to love him from the start, same with Grace. I was drawn to all the characters, I felt like I could have been Blair, or Grace at different points in my life. Now I relate to her parents as I navigate the world of mental illness, bullying, cyber-bullying, and all the other stress that kids these days face with my own children. They thought moving all the time was what was best for Blair, they wanted to do the right thing for her, to make her life easier. It is what all parents want, to give their kids a better life. Moving to Shady Oaks was the best thing they could do for Blair and their love and frustration at helping her find her normal is easy for parents to relate to as well.

Along with You by Michelle Areaux is a young adult novel that is filled with topics we should all be talking to our teens about. This would make a great book club or family reading novel to share with young teens that are facing a world filled with technology and social media. It covers topics of bullying, cyber bullying, and the fact that once things are online they never really go away.

Pages: 232 | ASIN: B079ZPSFJ6

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The Blue Wings of the Dragonfly: Finding Magic in Every Day, Everyone, and Everything

The Blue Wings of the Dragonfly: Finding Magic in Every Day, Everyone, and Everything by [Roggeman, C. Lee]

Cynthia Roggeman’s personal memoir details the events throughout her life. She goes into great detail about her relationships, family and health complications. She does this while offering snippets of advice and wisdom that she has learned along the way. The book is often upsetting and full of events – on a number of occasions it seems as everything is happening at once for our author. She shares her life’s journey with the intention of learning from the process of writing and to divulge the positive aspects that result from a lifetime of hardship.

The sections about her family, mainly her father and her Italian grandmother, Nonni, are bittersweet and filled with memories that she describes in the manner of a child – because at the time she did not understand what was going on. Her childhood was filled with both happy and sad memories and she does not seem to resent any of the negative aspects at all. In her family circle, she experiences alcoholism and mental illness – which she regards as a choice.

Throughout her life, she has various serious health issues and is in the hospital a number of times. She suffers quite badly and even has to learn to self-medicate – something which carries a great responsibility, even if it is towards yourself. However, she does not let these problems set her back and each time she recovers and returns to work and normal life – this is not a woman who gives up easily.

The book is separated into short chapters, each beginning with a date. This makes it easier to place the events in the author’s life as they are not in chronological order. At times it can be difficult to remember at what age things occurred for her but she has ordered it according to her own time frame and reference of events – how she feels events in her past relate to each other. This is reflective of a realistic memory because often things do not go through our minds in order and jump around randomly.

She has written the book for it to be a therapeutic process, it seems to be a place for her grief, hope, and wisdom. She has learned to be imaginative and to really remember her past self. She has also learned to be grateful for the things she has, as well as the things she had. She writes that she has had to mourn her losses and accept them, as well as remember the fond memories.

Cynthia’s novel is a work of remembrance, which will make any reader reflect on their own lives and take heed of her writing. The deeply personal writing is both engaging and emotional, however sometimes it can be hard to keep track of the order things that happened. She urges us to be grateful, flexible and open to new things and changes and to be powerful – just like the blue dragonfly.

Pages: 100 | ASIN: B07DNDWFKN

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Returning Souls

Returning Souls by [Colombo, Ernestine B.]

Where does a soul go after one’s life is over? Does it drift away into nothing while the body returns to dust? Or does it goes on to rest, to be resurrected? Or does it recycle back into the physical plane of existence in yet another form? These questions always come to mind as we see, feel and live the experience called life.

Returning Souls by Ernestine B. Colombo is a unique book that allowed me to connect with the characters and allowed me to visualize not only the descriptions the author presents but also the struggles and emotions the characters go through in the story.

The story starts by presenting our protagonist, Evelyn D’Arico or Evie and takes her point of view. The beginning is captivating as we find the character lying on the floor, incapacitated and on the edge of death. The narrative masterfully captures the emotions you might have if you were to find yourself in the same predicament. The descriptions easily come as they paint some dramatic pictures. The language is fluid and allows you to get lost in the story. I particularly liked the author’s presentation of the behavior of the pets. I always believe that animals are more attuned to the metaphysical plane of souls and spirits.

The story, to me, presents a unique idea that I have not read in any piece of literature, the concept of Pre-incarnation. As the story progresses the reader gets to know a different character, Astara. She is a girl a little over 12, living in the Mesolithic time period. She is a unique complement to Evie’s character. Switching between the two characters points of view is handled expertly and I enjoyed being able to inhabit both of these two fascinating characters.

The story is touching as well as we get to learn of her sister who is suffering from Down syndrome. This for me, was one of the more emotional elements to the story that left the character endearing. The relationship was believable and the condition, I thought, was explained with care.

This book will take you on a reincarnation adventure with a deep look at the beauty, and maybe even the futility, of life. This is a must read for people coming of age or people looking for a metaphysical story that stands out from the rest as different and compelling.

Pages: 292 | ASIN: B079ZZ2M84

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Heartbreaker

Heartbreaker

Heartbreaker, by Thomas Duffy, is a dramatic story about a young woman, Amber Robertson. The book opens in Brooklyn on Amber’s 19th birthday. Her birthday is eventful as it is the first time she is arrested (for stealing). While in jail, she meets Missy, another young woman, who has been arrested for prostitution. As Amber and Missy talk, Amber decides that the life of an escort is as good as any other (and could help her earn some much needed money).

Amber starts her business with some online advertising as an independent escort. Unfortunately, she immediately draws the attention of a pimp, Pete. He starts making promises of protection for a cut of Amber’s money. Soon, her landlord, wants to evict her, so she starts renting motel rooms.

Unfortunately, she soon faces bigger problems. She’s kidnapped by one of her clients and starts a sordid love affair with another that eventually makes a sudden turn into something even more frightening.

As you can imagine, this book is complex and not necessarily a feel-good story. Heartbreaker’s protagonist, Amber, goes on a wild and weird anti-heroic arc right from the beginning of the story and the audience can see how those early misfortunes lead to an increasingly painful and tumultuous life. She initially presents as both hesitant and impulsive; constantly not sure about what she wants to do, but will then make a sudden and foolhardy decision.

As a reader, there is some sympathy for Amber. She ends up in pretty bad situations. Anytime things start to look as though they may improve for her, it only gets worse. Yet, she is also frustrating. Her impulsivity sometimes leads her into her worst outcomes. For example, late in the story she takes bold, rash action. Of course, I am avoiding sharing the ending here to prevent spoilers, so you will have to read for yourself to see how Amber’s story fully unfolds.

This story, in its own way, forces the reader to examine the evil that can hide in people. The evil, within the story is almost infectious, capable of spreading from person to person, evolving and mutating along the way as it collides with new lives, who act it out in their own unique way. Amber’s progression through the story seems to demonstrate her methods for confronting the evil in her past and present. It shows how she, like anyone, is capable of becoming somewhat immune to bad acts, bad people, and a bad life. Like so many people, she acts out what she has seen and experienced by replicating pain onto others.

This book is well-written, but I felt there were some issues with the pacing. At points the story seemed to drag out, such as during Amber’s interactions with Miguel and Jeffrey. I think these could have been shortened up a bit without losing any essential character development. Heartbreaker is written for mature, adult readers, who enjoy dramatic characters in intense and emotional situations.

Pages: 184 | ASIN: B017UZDW02

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