What’s Going On? How Can We Help? takes readers on a deep dive into the political, social, and economic challenges we face on a recurring basis. Why was this an important book for you to write?
I felt that our politicians and commentators often focus on the symptoms to our current challenges, I wanted to dive deeper and uncover root causes. I also felt that a lot of discussions around these topics seldom end with a single action item. I wanted to know what’s really going on, and more importantly, how could I help.
This book was well researched as well as expertly written. What is your experience in this field and how has that helped you write this book?
This is an area that I have studied all throughout my education and continued long after university. I read every book that I can get my hands on when it comes to social and environmental challenges. I also read a lot of history books in an attempt to identify our recurring mistakes.
What do you find is one common misconception people have about their role as a citizen and how can we overcome it?
I feel that many of what I would deem as poor citizen choices come from a disconnect. In my opinion this is a fundamental factor to unsustainable and unethical decisions.
I don’t think that the majority of people would eat unsustainable products if they saw the acres of rain forest that had to be cleared every second. I don’t think the majority of people would buy palm oil if they personally had to set fire to the trees, inhabited by the last family of orangutans. I don’t think the majority of people would buy designer clothing if they could see the textile factories poisoning the rivers in Bangladesh and subsequently poisoning the local communities and wildlife. Nor would we buy smartphones if we saw the four-year-old children working in the harmful and unregulated cobalt mines in southern Africa, nor coffee if we saw the child slave workers of the Ivory Coast, plastic bottles if we saw them inside a dying turtle’s stomach, the list goes on and on. The unpleasant truth is that the clothes we are wearing, the food we are about to eat, and the items that fill our homes, are likely to carry some form of suffering. I think one of the worst things we can do is to hide from the facts and bury emotions. I believe that the excuse of ignorance is no longer justifiable. Becoming connected again, seems to me, to be crucial – reconnecting with each other and reconnecting to the consequences of our actions. We may have to leave behind ‘comforts’ and re-design our lifestyles, but it is, to say the least, very worthwhile.
It can often be incredibly overwhelming to try to be a good citizen. Something that I find helpful is to focus on the present moment and to try and be as conscious as possible by asking myself questions. I often ask myself, am I helping this person, is this purchase sustainable, am I contributing to a better world? And, at the very least, am I not causing harm?
Am I acting in a certain way because I think it’s the right thing to do or am I doing it just to earn money, or because it’s comfortable?
Being conscious and compassionate in the present moment is a powerful antidote. Much like someone on a recovery program can achieve sobriety one day at a time, I believe that we can greatly improve our environments one action at a time, if we try to make the next decision a conscious and compassionate one. It’s also important to note that this isn’t about preaching nor judging others, but instead researching and taking ownership of our shared challenges, and as a result, inspiring others through positive direct action.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
There are a couple of really exciting projects in the pipeline at the moment. To keep up-to-date it’s best to check our Facebook page.
FREEQUILL dives deep to uncover the origins of our re-occurring challenges; exploring the murky waters of capitalism, consumerism, and our ancient monetary system. Key topics are carefully broken down along an approachable and entertaining journey, packed with fresh perspectives and real-world examples. The highly considered solutions range from a whole new political system to simple tricks and tips that you can implement today.
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Tiffany Brooks’s book, Reality Gold, is an excellent read for young adults and beyond. Readers follow a large group of teenage survival show competitors who are whittled down as the show progresses. The story is told from the perspective of protagonist, Riley. Riley sees the show as a shot for redemption. She had gotten into some trouble at her high school, and ultimately had become both a viral meme and the butt end of seemingly everyone’s jokes. She wants to shake her reputation as a spoiled brat with a silver spoon. It doesn’t hurt her shot at winning that she has first-hand knowledge of the show’s backdrop, Black Rock Island, and the treasure it holds.
Brooks has constructed a very interesting, very well-written story with Reality Gold. The characters represent several demographics across the board. The plot and pace flow well. Bits of backstory of the island and Miles, Riley’s godfather with gold-fever, come out as the story progresses. The story sometimes feels like it does a cha-cha with it’s one step forward, two steps back rhythm. The kids are steadily moving toward their goal with some obstacles and setbacks in their path. Some plot twists at the end took me by surprise. The story kept my interest piqued until the very last page.
I particularly liked the character, Maren. Maren had dyed black and purple hair, and was always in a t-shirt with a sarcastic word or one-liner printed across the front. She was instantly labelled as harsh, mean, and weird. Some of those things came to her rightfully. Some of those things were likely just defense mechanisms. Either way, we get to see a few jagged edges soften at times. She lets some redeeming qualities peek out from underneath the dark makeup at times. She became a lesson in “don’t judge a book by its cover.”
I also liked brainy, sometimes aloof, A.J. who was interested in one thing and one thing only, the gold. He was more interested in the gold than the actual payout, because he saw the discovery itself as a foot into Harvard’s door. He was smart and driven and between him and Riley, had all the answers.
Riley was a rich kid, but wasn’t “just a rich kid.” That is the reputation she was fighting hard to shake. She wanted people to know her. Really know her. She thought the show would give her the chance to show the skewed world who the real Riley was. She also had a bit of the taste for the hunt passed down to her from her godfather. She plays a pivotal part in the story, both as a friend to her coeds and as an experienced treasure hunter.
There is a bit of a budding romance or two within the story, but nothing gets graphic whatsoever. There is also an important cautionary tale. There is an “almost romance” between an underage player and a crew member of the show. The characters struggle a little with how to handle that situation, but in the end, they keep their friend’s best interest and safety at heart.
Watching the clues, maps, markers, and cryptic symbols all fit together to form a completed puzzle was reminiscent of watching National Treasure and movies like it. The brainy kids all hashing and rehashing possible meanings and directions was exciting. The island served as a scary backdrop. Throwing in the “reality” factor kept both me and the characters trying to figure out what was fake and what wasn’t until the very end. They had to second guess everything they thought they knew since some things were manufactured specifically for the anticipated TV audience and ratings. Are their friends real or actors? Are the clues for the treasure real or planted?
I loved the characters and the story. It was well-written, and the characters and plot were well-developed. It was an exciting, sometimes “edge-of-your-seat” kind of story. I’d love to see more from this author.
Pages: 398 | ASIN: B07C5B7RFY
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Sam’s Theory follows a young teen named Sam as she escapes from an abusive home and finds a caring old lady in the woods. What was the initial inspiration behind this story and how did that develop as you were writing?
Sam’s Theory came from a blend of my own experiences and the experiences of the children I have worked with in a mental health setting. Children are, hands down, the most resilient creatures in existence. They are starving for knowledge, attention, and coping tools. Unfortunately, for various reasons, many of them are lacking the healthy adults to provide them with such. Children want to heal after they are hurt, but it is rare they are met with the care and competency to do so. I worked with too many foster youth, children in Protective Services, and runaways that didn’t have access to substantial, supportive advice. They ended up hurting themselves to be heard, and that is inexcusable to me. My mission became clear in that I needed to create a resource that was safe, immediate, magical, easy to access, and compassionate for these kiddos and young people to grow through. This is also why I have evolved into offering free “book clubs”/”empowerment groups” for at-risk youth near me. This book assures that kids and adults know that they are cared for, if even by only these characters or the author that created them.
Sam has a tragic story and the book does a great job of conveying her emotions. What were some obstacles you felt were important in defining her character?
It was important to me that Sam be relatable and experience the emotions that I believe we all, as humans, feel, but rarely discuss out loud with one another. There is something about the desperation and gravity of loneliness, sadness, and shame that can make us isolate from one other. I needed Sam to be all of these things, but without being a victim. Victims struggle to genuinely recover, while survivors summon the grit to find a way out of themselves. It’s difficult to do that on your own, so Theory offers an opportunity to do so. Recovery from scary experiences isn’t the survivor’s fault, but it does become their responsibility (as annoying as that might be). Sam needed to have just enough perspective, self-awareness, and hope in her environment to rise to the call of change when it finally beckoned. The reader hurts with Sam, risks with Sam, and eventually heals with Sam. It is a realistic portrait of what it is to grow as a human through adversity.
The relationship that develops between Sam and Theory is something I admired. What was your inspiration for their relationship?
Thank for the kind words and recognition of how special their relationship is. Sam and Theory’s relationship was loosely based on both my relationship with my own therapist, and the relationship I developed with the kiddos on the inpatient psychiatric unit I used to work on. What astounded me when I first met my therapist is how firm and intentional her boundaries were. She took her time in allowing me to emerge from my shell, then nurtured each step without judgement. I then modeled the same compassion and safety for the kiddos I worked with and watched them blossom because of the same type of competent care. I think the therapeutic relationship is so deeply vital to our journeys towards authenticity and potential. Mental health still has, unfortunately, a stigma against it that needs to be eradicated in order for people, generations, and the world to become a healthier whole. Now more than ever,mental health is critical. Finding the right therapist takes time and sometimes several tries. Once that connection happens though, it can be so magical it becomes worthy of a novel. I hope more people can find sanctuary in Theory’s character, and then have the courage to find her in their own lives.
What do you hope readers take away from your story?
It is my deepest wish for readers that they close this book and feel as if they have a connection to something more meaningful than what they’ve been experiencing in their normal everyday. One of the most common responses I’ve received to this book is that it’s made someone cry. Every account of that type of movement is a gift to me, because it means this book is achieving exactly what I set out to do- to create a safe space where people could be vulnerable just long enough to consider an empowered “what if.” I wanted readers to have a sense of family in these characters and have their deepest, darkest emotions normalized. This story is meant to be a visceral experience, and I hope that people walk away from it with just enough hope in their heart to consider what a healthier, happier existence could look like. Everything can be okay, they just need to stay forward-facing and a little bit brave.
After a final act of horrendous abuse threatens her life, fifteen-year-old Sam runs away from home and into the Olympic Mountains of Washington State. Physically and emotionally exhausted, she happens upon a mysterious tree house in the woods which shelters an old woman named Theory. Through elements of magic and sage advice, Theory takes Sam on an unforgettable healing journey. Sam begins to discover that she, too, has powers. But her process is interrupted by the nervous reality that her abusers will soon go after her younger sister, Nova, unless she can get to her first.
With the help of Sam’s friend, Dodger, and two other spirited kids from foster care, the group sets up a hidden camp in the wilderness and forms “The Orphan’s Collective.” While struggling to create their own concept of “family,” Dodger and Sam also work to navigate their budding feelings for one another. As the group formulates a plan to reach the masses of kids left behind by adults who never wanted them, they naturally begin to rewrite the fate that has seemingly already been decided for them.
Sam’s Theory is a story of immeasurable grit and re-empowerment after trauma. With embedded real-world advice, it is the recognition of our tremendous capacity as human beings to withstand darkness and summon resiliency, simply by learning how to use our voices and reconnect with those around us.
Posted in Interviews
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Sam’s Theory by Sarah Mendivel is a magical realism novel hitting major elements of mental health. We follow a teenage girl named Sam through her heartbreaking and triumphant journey to escapes tragic abuse. When she runs away she stumbles upon a tree house in the forest where a magical old woman lives who is compassionate and kind. It is here where Sam’s journey takes her through healing, acceptance, becomes a healer herself, and learns family can also consist of the people we choose.
This book is a fantastic magical, heartfelt, and heartbreaking journey. Sam endures many challenges in her life that lead to her feeling broken and betrayed. She no longer feels as if she is worthy of anyone’s love, she no longer feels safe, and does not trust anyone. I could really feel the hurt and the story does a great job of creating deep feelings of empathy and sympathy. There are many dark themes to this book and is riddled with stories of abuse of all kinds. One of the aspects I appreciate about this book is that it does not go into gritty detail of the abuse and instead focuses on the emotional impact and subsequent journey. The author treats these events as they are, terrifying and ugly, but also shows how the abuse is not the fault of those who are abused. The story also made me feel like those who have been abused are still worthy of love, can find love, and can heal. That they do not have to go through anything alone.
The book is incredibly relatable to anyone who has faced abuse. It is heartwarming to be reassured that what happened was not the fault of abused, and that they can turn the situation around and become a stronger person through the bravery of sharing their stories. From a mental health perspective, I think this book can be a great way to learn about the impacts of violence, neglect, and other forms of abuse. And also teach those who have been in those situations that they are worthy and loved. This is an incredibly important message to send to people.
While the book dealt with heavy topics and made me cry on numerous occasions, it is written beautifully. I love this book and highly recommend it to everyone who wants to learn more about abuse and see a persons value. Even though it can be a heart-wrenching read at times, I think it is powerful story with a lovely message.
Pages: 352 | ASIN: B078TQMRRQ
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High school, a time for learning who you are, what your values are, and what matters in life. Gavin is the popular, most liked guy in his school. He is the trend setter and his hand-picked friends are at the top of the social pecking order. When they start planning their last summer bash before becoming seniors; he is quickly ripped out of his comfort zone when his dad decides he needs to spend his last vacation giving back to the community. Gavin is going to spend his summer working as a volunteer for camp Lift Me Up, it is a camp for kids with life threatening illnesses, a chance for them to feel normal. Here Gavin reconnects with an old friend Jacob, and they befriend Marissa, a girl with a lot of emotional baggage. Together the three of them bond and look to make their senior year one to remember not just for them, but for the whole school.
Gavin is your typical self-absorbed teenager, he’s on the football team, one of the popular kids, and comes from a family of money. Everyone knew that kid in high school, if you were not part of that crowd chances are you despised him, if you were in the crowd you looked up to him, or at least followed so not to lose your standing. When Jacob stopped following the cool crowd Gavin abandoned him. He never looked into why his best friend suddenly changed over the course of a summer. Gavin soon learned with his service at Lift Me Up what brought about the change in Jacob. Following the back and forth between Gavin and Jacob is exciting, you are never quite sure what their feelings for each other really are. Seeing Gavin grow is emotional, he learns that there is a lot more to the world than his little bubble, and he learns to really care for other people. This awakening is uplifting, it gives you hope that society is not doomed.
One of the most predominate themes in this novel is that love has no boundaries or appearances. High school romances are often flirty and based on who is who and what social class you fall into. While this novel starts out following those trends and is easily relatable to readers, it soon twists and becomes so much more. The story of Caleb, the boy with leukemia, that latches onto a resentful Gavin is a catalyst for the change in Gavin. His memory is a constant reminder of how fragile life is and that you can’t live your life trying to live up to everyone else’s standards. I was really touched by Caleb and how his short time impacted so many lives. It is a reminder that it doesn’t matter how long we are here on earth, but what we do with the time we are given. Caleb melted the heart of Gavin and reminded him there is more to life than his little social circle. Gavin and Jacob’s relationship is touching and so fluid you just can’t help but want to see how life goes for them both. Everyone should have a friendship like that in life, someone that loves you unconditionally and is there for you no questions ask. Life Sliding by S.L. Mauldin is a touching novel, thought provoking and full of compassion and hope.
Pages: 169 | ASIN: B01BBCY5RO
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I Spy With My Little Eye: A journey through the moral landscape of Britain, written by Linnea Mills, is a novel written in an attempt to understand the morals, norms and values held by Britain’s current society. It is based around the seven deadly sins and seven heavenly virtues and uses these ideas as metaphors for the current issues present in society. There is a combination of statistics, quotes and recent topics to illustrate the consequences of economic divides, celebrity status, money, power and greed. It will leave you wondering- what is your interpretation of wealth, happiness and success?
I Spy With My Little Eye is a masterpiece that analyses and discusses our changing behaviours as a society. Prepare to reconsider your personal views and be confronted with statistics and studies that prove just how much of our lives are shaped by media, “celebrities” and power.
It challenges the norms held by today’s social standards and instead encourages the reader to consider whether the behaviour we partake in is a reflection of our true intentions and beliefs or are we just following the crowd mentality. It also pushes you to contemplate whether your behaviours actually contribute to any form of personal or societal gain. At times I felt as though I could see the world in a new light, especially reading alarming studies about what children aspire to be or the implications of the celebrity phenomenon on our culture and identity.
Even though the chapter titles are based around Christian values, the author stresses that this is not a religious book and instead uses these sins and virtues to simply reference problems in Britain’s society- with a cheeky nod to our internal moral compasses. At what point does wealth become an addiction as opposed to a simple goal? And is it moulded by society or what truly makes you happy?
One of my favourite chapters was one that discussed Envy. With social media being such an integral part of most people’s lives, it was interesting to see the comparative statistics of happiness between those who continued to use the social media platforms or compared to those who gave them up. It also discusses trolls, consequences of online abuse and the implementations of social media on politics.
I was impressed at the depth of knowledge presented in the book as well as the sourced quotes and studies. The staggering statistics are mind-boggling and emphasise the manipulation of greed in positions of power. Linnea Mills also uses current events and trends to strengthen her arguments further and increase the validity of her ideas.
I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone! It a perfect balance of social issues, philosophy and facts, combined to create a piece of literature that challenges your belief on what makes you innately happy.
Pages: 145 | ASIN: B077PLR3FK
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We all face various trials and tribulations through life, learning lessons along the way. We face a good majority of these during adolescence, especially in that gray transitionary age between teen and young adult. Sam – A Girl Undercover is a story of just that, the decisions, insecurities, and questions we face when learning our place in the world. We follow Sam as she struggles to accept herself and her flaws while trying to figure out her emerging feelings for boys. It circles around the various hurdles of social responsibility and the comfort we take in our friends and family, even when they cause us some exasperation.
This story is one that many will find them selves relating to, though is definitely more female oriented. Eva Beaty gives words to a lot of the issues so many of us face growing up, representing such through Samantha, or Sam as she prefers. She carries a birthmark that fields a lot of insecurity and self doubt, something that is very common among young women. We all have that flaw we constantly try to hide. That quirk we spend so much energy trying to not show. Through the various relationships Sam navigates, it’s easy to place ourselves in her shoes – changing our image for fear of judgement of others and yet seeking acceptance and love for who we are naturally.
Yes, Beaty does a good job of sharing a story that is easy to relate to; it could easily be a relative, a friend, or even ourselves in not just the part of Sam, but other characters as well.
The story is as I said relatable, but hard to read. The writing style is short, clipped, and jumpy, making it hard to really immerse yourself. I felt that the characters lacked depth which makes this book relatable but it’s also a draw back – the characters could be anybody, and I wanted something to make these characters stand out as unique in my mind. The story was also fairly predictable, I kept expecting some dramatic twist, but it was all fairly straight forward. It almost reads like a script versus a book, focusing on a lot of action and reaction, spending a lot of time in Sams perspective but with little supporting material. It has the potential to be a solid coming of age tale, geared toward female youth.
This is a story that shows just how complicated interpersonal relationships can become when we jump to conclusions without all of the facts, or omit the truth due to timing or fear of the reactions it could receive.
Pages: 395 | ASIN: B071GV3T92
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Project Bodi: Awaken the Power of Insight by Hosein Kouros-Mehr is a sci-fi fiction book that goes into an alternate world of Google and its reign in 2030 and beyond. Although it’s a fictitious book, there are so many parts of it that relate to the world that we currently live in so reading this book was like looking into the future. A scary and not so distant future. The book focuses on Google Health and the impact that artificial intelligence has on the future of work.
This book took a bit for me to get my head around, but once I did, I devoured it. I love reading about alternate worlds and dystopian futures and although this book was a somewhat dystopian future, the similarities between what’s happening in our world are obvious. Artificial Intelligence is scary because we don’t know much about it as a species and yet continue to use it with reckless abandon and for me, messing with things that we don’t fully understand can only lead to trouble.
How much of a role should artificial intelligence have within society? This book suggests that the way things are going, artificial intelligence should not only be expected but welcomed with open arms. However, as the story goes on, I felt more linked with Austin than I did with Beth. As much as I want to be hardworking and driven, my smartphone and social media is a constant and easy to access distraction from my work. Although I might have talent, it’s surely being squandered by my lack of dedication and focus to the task. It was refreshing to see this written in a non-condescending way as that is so often the case when people write about younger generations.
I found myself reading this book with ease. Although the book switches between three different characters, including the CEO of Google, the language is easy to understand and easy to follow. As we are dealing with some interesting concepts throughout this book, it’s a huge bonus that the perspectives that are shown in the book are easy to understand and easy to read and are delivered with relaxed and concise language.
I really liked the different perspectives that were shown throughout the book. It varies from the younger guy whose distracted yet shows promise, the senior worker whose given a mountain of a task with little room to fail and the CEO of the company that’s taking over the world. Despite these differences, the perspectives between them all show that there’s similarities there as well. The pressure to stay on top of your game in a world of never ending challenges and pressures. I liked the passages about subconscious. We often forget that our strongest tool is our mind and once we sharpen it, we can be unstoppable.
I really enjoyed this book. It was an easy and eye opening read that showed me what the future will possibly look like.
Pages: 219 | ASIN: B072QX9YZX
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