World Mental Health Awareness – I Don’t Want Awareness (I Want Acceptance)

Fabulous blog piece on autism.

Anonymously Autistic

I have written my entire blog around the theme of being “Anonymous” because many Autistic people are invisible, unseen and anonymous in the world. Autism is an “invisible disability” meaning you can’t tell someone is Autistic unless you ask them (or know Autism VERY well and are paying close attention).

People have awareness of Autism – they know exists, they know that Autism is a popular conversation, and it’s prevalence seems to be increasing. In 2014 it was estimated that 1 in 68 children (1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls) are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

People know that Autistic children can have trouble in school and may be prone to meltdowns, but they don’t understand what causes a meltdown. Being aware that Autism exists and having acceptance of Autistic people are two very different things.

Today is World Mental Health Awareness day – but today I am NOT…

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Book Review – The Devil’s Prayer by Luke Gracias…

In search of answers, Siobhan travels to the isolated convent where her mother once lived. Here she discovers Denise’s final confession, a book that details a heinous betrayal that left her crippled and mute, and Denise’s subsequent deal with the Devil to take revenge. In the desperate bargain Denise made with the Prince of Darkness, she wagered Siobhan’s soul. 
As Siobhan discovers the fate of her soul, she learns that hidden within the pages of her mother’s confession is part of The Devil’s Prayer, an ancient text with the power to unleash apocalyptic horrors. 
And now her mother’s enemies know Siobhan has it. 
Can Siobhan escape an order of extremist monks determined to get the Prayer back? Can she save the world from its own destruction? 

I was given an ARC by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Enough with the loving on this book already. This book started off a little woodenly I’m afraid. It was slow moving, and nothing in the first two chapters grabbed me at all. That continued on through the whole story.
There was, for me, no flow in the text at all. The story was clunky and jerky and every time I thought that it was going to take off and go somewhere, it sputtered to a halt again.
The ending of the story was frustrating and left way more questions than it answered. I wanted to like this book, I really did, but it just didn’t happen. Sorry.
A two out of five star read.
I am profoundly grateful to NatGalley and Australian ebook publisher for my copy.

Book Review – The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr…

“I look at my hands. One of them says ‘Flora, be brave’. I am Flora.”
Flora has anterograde amnesia. She can’t remember anything day-to-day: the joke her friend made, the instructions her parents gave her, how old she is.
Then she kisses someone she shouldn’t have kissed – and the next day she remembers it. The first time she’s remembered anything since she was ten.
But the boy is gone.
Desperate to hold onto the memory, she sets off to the Arctic to find him.
Why can she remember Drake? Could he be the key to everything else she’s forgotten?
I have been given an ARC by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review…
The book introduces us to 17 year old Flora at a party. She has things written on her arms. That’s how she remembers them. The writer illustrates Flora and her world so cleverly. You are there in the moment with her as she takes her first sip of wine at a party and then as she has her first kiss with the boy who just happens to be her best friend’s ex boyfriend…
This book cleverly details what grief can do to people and what untreated grief can make people do to others. It’s beautifully poignant.
It’s inspiring, it’s beautiful, it gives you hope.
A five out of five star read.
I am profoundly grateful to NetGalley and Penguin for my copy of this book.

Book Review – Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land…

‘NEW N A M E . NEW F A M I LY. S H I N Y. NEW. ME . ‘ Annie’s mother is a serial killer. The only way she can make it stop is to hand her in to the police. But out of sight is not out of mind. As her mother’s trial looms, the secrets of her past won’t let Annie sleep, even with a new foster family and name – Milly. A fresh start. Now, surely, she can be whoever she wants to be. But Milly’s mother is a serial killer. And blood is thicker than water. Good me, bad me. She is, after all, her mother’s daughter… Translated into over 20 languages, Good Me Bad Me is a tour de force. In its narrator, Milly Barnes, we have a voice to be reckoned with.
I was given my ARC by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Wow. Just wow. This is my kind of book, and when a new writer pops up on the scene, I am always keen to absorb the story and see what the new author’s style is like.
Land’s writing style is masterful and full of suspense. I got frustrated two thirds of the way from the simple point that no matter how many pages I turned, I couldn’t get to the end. I was so caught up in the threads of the storyline.
Milly’s character you really do find yourself feeling sorry for. She’s only 15 and already her life has been more than most people can take. She is struggling to come to terms with her life and the actions of her serial killer mother.
The book has only one weak spot as far as I am concerned and that is the way the end is constructed. Other than that, this is a brilliant book! Really well written.
A four out of five star read.
I am profoundly grateful to NetGalley and Penguin UK for my copy.

Things those of us with anxiety wish you knew…

Mental illnesses like general anxiety disorder (GAD) don’t discriminate, no matter what your race, background, or socioeconomic status is. That said, women are 60 percent more likely than men to have an anxiety disorder, so chances are, you or someone close to you is dealing with it. It could be anyone — even that gorgeous, friendly woman you sometimes commute to work with. When it comes the “type” of person wrestling with this illness, don’t get sucked into what the media portrays — there isn’t one type.
People with anxiety disorders are struggling behind closed doors more than they are in public, and just because they seem put together when you meet them for weeknight cocktails doesn’t mean they’ve got it all figured out. Having suffered from acute anxiety — it was tied up with my binge eating disorder (BED) — since I was a teenager, I have learned a few things about getting people to understand the struggles I go through. The best gifts I ever received from friends were space and understanding. The more you hover over somebody with anxiety, the quicker you will push them away, the faster you will make them feel like they’re abnormal.
The assistance we do need isn’t always what you think it is though, like taking us to the doctor. We might just need a pair of ears to hear us out — or some alone time. The most important thing is to love us unconditionally and never make assumptions about our condition.
Here are 11 things people with anxiety want you to know.
1. Social Gatherings Are Hard
Parties are no fun. Neither are baby showers. We would rather watch paint dry than go to a big wedding where everyone is dolled up — and chatty. With anxiety disorders comes stress in large social situations, particularly when it’s an event where everybody is smiling and celebrating a happy life event. If we turn down an invite, it’s not because we don’t love you — the party might just be genuinely overwhelming to us.

2. Sometimes We Just Don’t Feel Like Laughing

People who see us on edge automatically assume that the best thing to do is tell a joke, or do something silly to make us smile.
There’s a difference between forcing us into laughter and lightening the mood; the former always comes off as inauthentic — because it usually is — while the latter can be done naturally, without making us feel like we’re being treated in a loony bin. Don’t force us to laugh, please.

3. This Doesn’t Define Us

Please don’t whisper about us behind our backs and label us according to what kind of anxiety disorder we harbor (I swear, I was once dubbed Nervous Nancy). This disease doesn’t make up our entire identity; that’s a fact we lose sight of at times, which just makes us feel worse about ourselves, so try to steer clear of insensitive comments and nicknames. Instead, remind us of all the reasons we are wonderful — no harm can come out of that.

4. Things That Don’t Affect You Bother Us

I’m talking about those little, tiny, minute occurrences that you probably don’t even give a second thought to, like having you come over to our apartment for the very first time. Our brains are wired differently, and we might even be dealing with some chemical imbalances, so those small things make our minds run wild while you can merely shrug them off and continue on with your life. If we seem a little nervous, please don’t make fun of us, or make us feel guilty.

5. We’re Physically Exhausted

In case you haven’t heard, the mind and body are intricately connected, so if one is facing difficulties, the other will visibly suffer. People with anxiety disorders tend to live in a hyper-tense state, especially when they’re not getting the treatment they need. This causes the heart rate and blood pressure to rise, and our digestive system might not be working properly. Be gentle with us if you see that we’re tired and cranky, because we probably didn’t sleep at all last night.

6. We’d Appreciate The Space To Vent

It’s hard to find a good enough friend or family member out there who can listen to our troubles without passing any judgment whatsoever. If you could be that person for us, we’d love you forever. The more we bottle stuff up, the more likely we are to have a panic attack or end up locked up in our bedroom, surrounded by Ben & Jerry’s. Plus, nothing is worse than being honest, only to see the person across from us with a disgusted look on their face. Try not to be supportive and non-judgmental — and remember, you don’t have to fix it.

7. We’re Trying Our Hardest

Just because you don’t see us running to a therapy session every Wednesday doesn’t mean we’re not doing our absolute best to work on this mental illness. It’s really, really hard being trapped in this head constantly and not fully understanding all the emotional phases that pass by. Please don’t assume that we aren’t aware of our troubles. We. So. Are. And we’re doing our best to heal ourselves, in our own ways.

8. We Appreciate You

Yeah, it’s hard to say out loud, but we love all the support and encouragement you give us. We might not show it, and that’s only because we get so caught up in trying to make sense of the chaotic, demanding world around us. So, thanks for late-night chats and the text messages that are meant to bring us out of hiding on a weekend night. We’re trying to get better at saying thank you more often.

9. We’ll Never Be Just Like You

There might be a “normal” mold out there that you and many other people fit into — and we may never be granted citizenship on that land. There’s nothing wrong with that, so don’t make us feel like there is. We might never be interested in Halloween parties or Saturday morning yoga classes, no matter how rad you think they are. Let us be our own people, and, I promise, we’ll have a much better shot at getting along.

10. We Don’t All Need Medication

It far too common: people struggling with a mental illness are told that we should think about a certain kind of medication. But what works for your younger, manic depressive cousin may not necessarily work for us. Some respond well to anti-anxiety prescriptions, while it exacerbates the symptoms of others. Instead of telling us we need to take pills, ask us openly if we’ve ever considered it. We’ll tell you where we stand.

11. You May Never Know The Whole Story

Countless parts of illnesses like GAD are suffered behind closed doors. We don’t like being the center of attention, so we do everything we can to hide all the awful things we’re going through; this could mean that we aren’t going to tell you everything when you ask us to share our personal stories. Don’t take it personally — we’re either not ready yet to reveal corners of ourselves, or we’ve decided that there are some things we’d prefer to keep private.

Book Review – Holding by Graham Norton…

The remote Irish village of Duneen has known little drama; and yet its inhabitants are troubled. Sergeant PJ Collins hasn’t always been this overweight; mother-of-two Brid Riordan hasn’t always been an alcoholic; and elegant Evelyn Ross hasn’t always felt that her life was a total waste.
So when human remains are discovered on an old farm, suspected to be that of Tommy Burke – a former love of both Brid and Evelyn – the village’s dark past begins to unravel. As the frustrated PJ struggles to solve a genuine case for the first time in his life, he unearths a community’s worth of anger and resentments, secrets and regret.
I was given an ARC by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
I was really looking forward to this book. I adore Graham Norton.
The story paints a really vivid image of life in a quiet Irish town. The quiet images that Norton’s words create are vividly embedded in my mind. The words are so powerful that the pictures spring to life. You feel like you know each one of the characters personally.
The story unfurls slowly and gently and gives you a sense of actually being there and seeing it all happen. I loved it. Well done Mr Norton!
A four out five star read.
I am profoundly grateful to NetGalley and to Hodder and Stoughton for my copy.

Book Review – Miss Treadway and the Field of Stars by Miranda Emmerson…

Soho, 1965.
In a tiny two-bed flat above a Turkish café on Neal Street lives Anna Treadway, a young dresser at the Galaxy Theatre.
When the American actress Iolanthe Green disappears after an evening’s performance at the Galaxy, the newspapers are wild with speculation about her fate.
But as the news grows old and the case grows colder, it seems Anna is the only person left determined to find out the truth.
Her search for the missing actress will take her into an England she did not know existed: an England of jazz clubs and prison cells, backstreet doctors and seaside ghost towns, where her carefully calibrated existence will be upended by violence but also, perhaps, by love.
For in order to uncover Iolanthe’s secrets, Anna is going to have to face up to a few of her own…
I was given an ARC by NetGalley in return for a fair and honest opinion.
Anna is a strong protagonist. She is feisty and intelligent and she loves what she does.
Iolanthe’s disappearance has her so concerned that when the police fail to produce any leads, she becomes determined to find out what has happened to the fragile starlet. The police however are less than happy with her amateur detective efforts and tell her to stop.
The story jerks along and none of the chapters really inspire my thirst to know more.
The ending is also a little disjointed and doesn’t really answer half the questions you have.
A two out of five star read.
I am profoundly grateful to NetGalley and Harper Collins UK for my copy.

Book Review – Swing Time by Zadie Smith…

Two brown girls dream of being dancers – but only one, Tracey, has talent. The other has ideas: about rhythm and time, about black bodies and black music, what constitutes a tribe, or makes a person truly free. It’s a close but complicated childhood friendship that ends abruptly in their early twenties, never to be revisited, but never quite forgotten, either… Dazzlingly energetic and deeply human, Swing Time is a story about friendship and music and stubborn roots, about how we are shaped by these things and how we can survive them. Moving from north-west London to West Africa, it is an exuberant dance to the music of time.
I was given an ARC by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
This is my first Zadie Smith book. Never having read her work before, I was really looking forward to reading it as I love discovering new authors. It really gives me a thrill.
I honestly didn’t know what to make of it at the start. One of my bookish friends asked me and I honestly couldn’t tell her. Other than it started off with a woman in an apartment with a dancer. *shrug* The beginning of this book does not inspire me at all, I’m sorry.
I’m finding this book so boring and difficult to read. *sigh*
That sadly did not change. The story was boring and the characters wooden and uninteresting. I honestly don’t know what else to say about this book. Sorry. 
A one out of five star read.
I am profoundly grateful to NetGalley for my copy.

Book Review – The Dark Circle by Linda Grant…

The Second World War is over, a new decade is beginning but for an East End teenage brother and sister living on the edge of the law, life has been suspended. Sent away to a tuberculosis sanatorium in Kent to learn the way of the patient, they find themselves in the company of army and air force officers, a car salesman, a young university graduate, a mysterious German woman, a member of the aristocracy and an American merchant seaman. They discover that a cure is tantalisingly just out of reach and only by inciting wholesale rebellion can freedom be snatched.
I was given an ARC by NetGalley in return for a fair and honest review.
The book starts out in post war London and we meet Lenny and Miriam. They are Jewish 18 year old twins working in London. There is a wave of growing anti-semetism that they have to face. Lenny is a brash character who likes the ladies and he loves his twin sister fiercely.
What we learn at the start is that there is a huge amount out ignorance surrounding TB. The treatments that were given at the time were on the verge of cruelty.
There is a strict regime at the sanatorium and for years it was never threatened. With the arrival of the new patients, things slowly start to change. You see that even in the face of strict control, there are those proud and brave enough to stand against it and fight for what is right for them.
The story has been reasonably well researched and the characters very well crafted. Definitely worth a read it really is.
A four out of five star read.
I am profoundly grateful to NetGalley and the Little Brown Book Group for my copy.

Book Review – Rather Be The Devil by Ian Rankine…

Some cases never leave you.For John Rebus, forty years may have passed, but the death of beautiful, promiscuous Maria Turquand still preys on his mind. Murdered in her hotel room on the night a famous rock star and his entourage were staying there, Maria’s killer has never been found.
Meanwhile, the dark heart of Edinburgh remains up for grabs. A young pretender, Darryl Christie, may have staked his claim, but a vicious attack leaves him weakened and vulnerable, and an inquiry into a major money laundering scheme threatens his position. Has old-time crime boss Big Ger Cafferty really given up the ghost, or is he biding his time until Edinburgh is once more ripe for the picking?
I was given an ARC by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
I’ve heard of Rebus and watched the TV show, but have never before read one of the books.
He is a gritty character who seems unable to let go of his life as a policeman. He is gruff but he cares a great deal about the people in his life. He is a strong protagonist who definitely gives the book a strong sense of realism.
As the story progresses, I feel like I have known Rebus and the other characters as well for much longer than I have. That is testament to the descriptive skills of the author. Everything is so alive.
The cases that are the backbone of this story are so cleverly woven together that they seem to become just one. As a newbie to Ian Rankine’s writing, I’m pretty impressed.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading his other work.
A five out of five star read.
I’m profoundly grateful to NetGalley and Orion for my copy.