Thursday, January 29, 2015

Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel

Prozac Nation is a confessional memoir published in the late 90s by former Harvard and Yale student Elizabeth Wurtzel, a brave woman who has battled mental illness and addiction, a co-occurring disorder. In her book, Wurtzel accurately and painfully recalls her struggle with depression and drug addiction while at Harvard. I found her story appealing and resonating. Her description of major depressive disorder and her journey while being treated for it is one that has set the bar for many writers and publishers of memoirs. Ms. Wurtzel's tumultuous years of young adulthood are remarkably familiar to so many young adults today, stressing in her memoir that we all live in what has become a true Prozac Nation. 

I recommend this novel for my readers, and rate "Prozac Nation" 5/5 stars. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Manic: A Memoir by Terri Cheney


Title: Manic: A Memoir
Author: Terri Cheney
Publisher: William Morrow & Company
Pages: 245
Release Date: February 5, 2008
Source: Library
Format: Paperback
Rating: 5/5

"I didn't tell anyone that I was going to Santa Fe to kill myself."
On the outside, Terri Cheney was a highly successful, attractive Beverly Hills entertainment lawyer. But behind her seemingly flawless fa├žade lay a dangerous secret—for the better part of her life Cheney had been battling debilitating bipolar disorder and concealing a pharmacy's worth of prescriptions meant to stabilize her moods and make her "normal."

In bursts of prose that mirror the devastating highs and extreme lows of her illness, Cheney describes her roller-coaster life with shocking honesty—from glamorous parties to a night in jail; from flying fourteen kites off the edge of a cliff in a thunderstorm to crying beneath her office desk; from electroshock therapy to a suicide attempt fueled by tequila and prescription painkillers.

With Manic, Cheney gives voice to the unarticulated madness she endured. The clinical terms used to describe her illness were so inadequate that she chose to focus instead on her own experience, in her words, "on what bipolar disorder felt like inside my own body." Here the events unfold episodically, from mood to mood, the way she lived and remembers life. In this way the reader is able to viscerally experience the incredible speeding highs of mania and the crushing blows of depression, just as Cheney did. Manic does not simply explain bipolar disorder—it takes us in its grasp and does not let go.

In the tradition of Darkness Visible and An Unquiet Mind, Manic is Girl, Interrupted with the girl all grown up. This harrowing yet hopeful book is more than just a searing insider's account of what it's really like to live with bipolar disorder. It is a testament to the sharp beauty of a life lived in extremes.

I've wanted to read Manic for a long time, so when I discovered it in my local library, I was ecstatic.  I checked out and devoured the book within a few hours.  I absolutely adored this book and its raw, poignant honesty.  Cheney introduces her readers to the startling truth of mental illness and the social stigmas surrounding depression and other disorders.  As a person living with bipolar disorder, Cheney's story resonated truthfully and honestly.

Cheney bravely and courageously invites readers into the privacy of her life and reveals the ultimate truth of her existence with intimacy.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading Cheney's story, although I felt as though I were walking with her along the course of her journey.  I was absorbed into this charming, witty memoir and highly recommend the rest of you to add it to your "to read" list.

10:41 am

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Darkness (Brookehaven Vampires, #2) by Joann I. Martin Sowles

Title: Darkness
Author: Joann I. Martin Sowles
Publisher: Brookehaven Publishing
Pages: 295
Release Date: October 30, 2012
Source: Author
Format: Paperback
Rating: 4/5

Not long ago, Laney Alexander was living a carefree life, that is, until she was thrown into a world full of creatures only the imagination thought possible. Now, after surviving a terrifying night, Laney and Oliver are lying low at Julz's place, relieved to be in each other's arms once again. But fate seems to have other plans...

Julz is not happy to have visitors in her home and emotions run high. Laney is pushed to her limits as she watches Carter fight for his life and her relationship with Oliver becomes strained as she discovers secrets about Julz that could tear them apart.

As she reaches her boiling point, disaster strikes and her life is shattered. Laney must come to terms with what has unfolded. Will she lose her way and let the darkness consume her or will she find her light in Oliver?

Secrets will be revealed. Hearts will be broken. Lives will be lost. Darkness will fall.

Darkness is the second installment of the Brookehaven Vampires series by Joann I. Martin Sowles.  The first installment, Laney, got me hooked on this series and Darkness definitely fed my addiction!  Darkness picks up where Laney left off (on a cliffhanger, of course!) and dives right into the story.

In Darkness, Sowles offers the reader a lot of background information that helps make the Brookehaven world much more detailed and defined.  Throughout the course of the book, we learn more about Oliver and his family: Issac, Hayden, Julz, and Felix.  Oliver is gorgeous (as always!) and brooding, and cares so much for Laney, his love, that he keeps secrets from her that makes the reader feel the urge to continue reading, so more secrets can be discovered.  Laney is naturally smart, witty, and funny in her narration which provides relief when things get too serious.  Oliver is charming and caring, which makes him totally swoon-worthy! I really enjoyed the character development in Darkness, as well as the development in Laney and Oliver's relationship.  The one question that was constantly in my mind was: Will Laney become a vampire?  I don't think I could take it if anything ever happened to my favorite literary couple.  I hope you're reading this, Ms. Sowles!  *cough*

I really enjoyed Darkness--it seems as if the books get better as they're written, and I hope this pattern continues!

I highly recommend the Brookehaven Vampires series if you're a fan of paranormal romance!

Buy Laney (Brookehaven Vampires, #1):
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Buy Darkness (Brookehaven Vampires, #2):
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Torn (Trylle, #2) by Amanda Hocking, Book Review

Title: Torn
Author: Amanda Hocking
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Pages: 324
Release Date: February 28, 2012
Source: Publisher
Format: Paperback
Rating: 4.5/5

When Wendy Everly first discovers the truth about herself—that she’s a changeling switched at birth—she knows her life will never be the same. Now she’s about to learn that there’s more to the story…

She shares a closer connection to her Vittra rivals than she ever imagined—and they’ll stop at nothing to lure her to their side. With the threat of war looming, her only hope of saving the Trylle is to master her magical powers—and marry an equally powerful royal. But that means walking away from Finn, her handsome bodyguard who’s strictly off limits…and Loki, a Vittra prince with whom she shares a growing attraction.

Torn between her heart and her people, between love and duty, Wendy must decide her fate. If she makes the wrong choice, she could lose everything, and everybody, she’s ever wanted…in both worlds.

Torn is the second book in the Trylle trilogy by Amanda Hocking.  Check out my review of Switched (Trylle, #1) here.

Torn picks up shortly after where Switched left off, with Wendy and Rhys escaping from the Trylle compound of Forening.  Shortly after, a lot of action and drama ensue!

I really enjoyed Torn significantly more than the first installment in the trilogy because I felt Torn exhibited much more character development and delved deeper into the world of the Trylle.  I was really displeased the protagonist, Wendy, in the first book because I felt she complained much too often and kind of acted like a spoiled brat; however, Wendy really matured over the course of the second book, which I really appreciated.  The one thing that I really enjoyed about Wendy was her classic sense of humor--she's so cynical and full of snarky retorts, which I really like in my protagonists. There's a lot of action, adventure, and drama in this trilogy which really grabs the reader's attention and doesn't really let go.  I'll admit, there were a few parts in the middle of the book where I felt a tad bit restless, but I was propelled forward by the pace of the plot and my investment in the lives of the characters.

I like most of the characters in the Trylle trilogy, especially Wendy, Rhys, Matt, Finn, Rhiannon, and Loki, a new addition to the trilogy who makes his debut in Torn.

If you're a fan of action, adventure, and fantasy, I highly recommend these books for you!

                                                         *      *      *

"Prepare to be enchanted…Switched by Amanda Hocking is a fast-paced read thoroughly laced with action, adventure, fantasy, and romance. Hocking has created a magickal world that I am excited to return to and will definitely be following Wendy and her gang of friends throughout their spectacular journey into the world of Trylle."
--Casey's Crew, on Switched

Buy Switched (Trylle, #1):
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Buy Torn (Trylle, #2):
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The Summoning (Darkest Powers, #1) by Kelley Armstrong, Book Review

Title: The Summoning
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 390
Release Date: March 31, 2009
Source: Bought
Format: Paperback
Rating: 5/5

After years of frequent moves following her mother’s death, Chloe Saunders’s life is finally settling down. She is attending art school, pursuing her dreams of becoming a director, making friends, and meeting boys. Her biggest concern is that she’s not developing as fast as her friends are. But when puberty does hit, it brings more than hormone surges. Chloe starts seeing ghosts–everywhere, demanding her attention. After she suffers a breakdown, her devoted aunt Lauren gets her into a highly recommended group home.

At first, Lyle House seems a pretty okay place, except for Chloe’s small problem of fearing she might be facing a lifetime of mental illness. But as she gradually gets to know the other kids at the home–charming Simon and his ominous, unsmiling brother Derek, obnoxious Tori, and Rae, who has a “thing” for fire–Chloe begins to realize that there is something that binds them all together, and it isn’t your usual “problem kid” behaviour. And together they discover that Lyle House is not your usual group home either…

The Summoning tells the story of a teenage girl named Chloe Saunders who has always felt different and out-of-place until she moves to Buffalo, New York and starts attending an art school. Just when she thinks she's found a place where she belongs, supernatural occurrences occur and Chloe begins to see ghosts, although her paranormal gift is branded as mental illness and she is shipped off to Lyle House, a group home for troubled teens. Upon arriving at Lyle House, Chloe knows something isn't quite right and she sets off to discover the truth behind Lyle House...

I absolutely loved The Summoning!  I really enjoyed the protagonist, Chloe, and her narration felt very relatable and accessible.  The characters were great because they seemed like real people, and I pictured them so clearly in my head.  As the story progresses, the characters develop and I really enjoyed seeing them grow and evolve into stronger characters.  The Summoning is driven by its fast-paced plot; there is literally something constantly happening!  I never once felt bored or restless while reading The Summoning

While I do enjoy romance in books, The Summoning doesn't revolve around love and romance (i.e., Twilight).  The Summoning is filled with action, adventure, with a hint of romance, and I highly recommend it!

Buy the book:
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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Infinite Days (Vampire Queen, #1) by Rebecca Maizel, Book Review

Title: Infinite Days
Author: Rebecca Maizel
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Pages: 336
Release Date: August 3, 2010
Source: Publisher
Format: Paperback
Rating: 5/5

“Throughout all my histories, I found no one I loved more than you... no one.”

Those were some of Rhode’s last words to me. The last time he would pronounce his love. The last time I would see his face.

It was the first time in 592 years I could take a breath. Lay in the sun. Taste.

Rhode sacrificed himself so I, Lenah Beaudonte, could be human again. So I could stop the blood lust.

I never expected to fall in love with someone else that wasn’t Rhode.

But Justin was... daring. Exciting. More beautiful than I could dream.

I never expected to be sixteen again... then again, I never expected my past to come back and haunt me...

I know what you're thinking: Great, another vampire book--so predictable.  Well, no.  Infinite Days is different than any other vampire book I've ever read, and I loved it!  The book chronicles the life of a 592-year-old vampire named Lenah Beaudonte who, through an ancient ritual, is changed back into a human after centuries of living as an evil, bloodsucking immortal.  Lenah then relocates from her home in England to a fancy boarding school in New England where she meets a human named Justin and falls in love with him.  Justin awakens something in Lena that she never knew she possessed and she begins to learn how to live and love again.

I found Infinite Days to be very original while sticking to traditional vampire lore.  Maizel exhibits dark, macabre imagery in her novel reminiscent of Anne Rice's beautiful, seductive immortals which I found very appealing.  The protagonist, Lenah, was very relatable (even though she was a human turned vampire turned human...again.)  Lenah was a very strong narrator, and I really enjoyed seeing this beautifully twisted world that Maizel created through her eyes.  I also loved the characters of Rhode, Lenah's vampire soul mate; Justin, Lenah's human lover; and Tony, Lenah's human best friend.  I felt very strong character development throughout the novel, which is always appreciated, and I admired Lenah's strong-willed personality and her tiny quirks and idiosyncrasies.

As I read Infinite Days, I felt constantly encouraged to read by the interactions between the characters, lovely narration, and fast-paced plot.

I highly suggest that you read Infinite Days if you haven't already--there's not one single thing I didn't like about this book.  The sequel, Stolen Nights, is available now and the third and final book in the trilogy is expected to be released in 2014.

Buy Infinite Days (Vampire Queen, #1):
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Buy Stolen Nights (Vampire Queen, #2):
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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Interview with L.B. Schulman, author of LEAGUE OF STRAYS

1. Tell me about League of Strays. How did you come up with that story angle or idea?

Answer: I was fascinated by how Columbine came about and what motivated those two boys to do something so horrific. As it turns out, one of them has since been declared a sociopath. It seemed like that one boy influenced the other, which also intrigued me. I also wanted to write something that highlighted revenge as being its own form of bullying.

2. How did you get interested in writing this particular genre (YA-lit)?

Answer: I have always loved to read YA. I don’t even read adult fiction anymore. I just enjoy the quirky, exciting, adventurous lives of YA characters. As a writer, I’ve never wanted to go anywhere else. (Except for middle-grade, of course, but that's YA's sibling.)

3. What kind of research did you do for this series?

Answer: I spoke to police officers and lawyers, to make sure the ending was as realistic as possible. I also researched the viola so I could capture Charlotte's feelings about music. But I also drew from my own experience playing violin as a teenager.

4. What's a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?

Answer: I am inconsistent, though I wish I could say otherwise. Some days I don't write at all, and others, I write for eight hours straight. I live a busy life with kids and other responsibilities and sometimes, I can't squeeze in the hours to write. That is why this book took me so long to write...two to three years to get the first draft done and more to revise. I write in my living room on the couch with my laptop.

5. What is the hardest/easiest part of writing for you?

Answer: It’s hard to begin my writing day when I don't feel inspired. But I know from experience that I need to motor through that lethargy and just start. Soon, I will be on a roll. The easiest part is when my characters seem to write the book for me. My fingers just dictate what they tell me.

6. What’s the best thing about being an author?

Answer: For me, it's being able to pass along my world views through writing. If I have an important thought that I want to share, my characters can help me. As an author, I get to choose the theme and so writing the book is pure fun. I love what I do.

7. What are you working on now?

Answer: Another contemporary YA with a very cool hook. But I don't like to talk about my books until I've written them, because I am always changing my mind about the plot until it's done.

8. What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Answer: For most of us, it takes a really long time to be published. Don't give up. Read, read, read. My writing really improved when I started reading a YA every week. And get a critique group. Their reactions have really helped me refine my writing.

9. Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books?

Answer: I like so many books, it's impossible to say. I find wonderful qualities in almost all of them. I could never pick just a few.

10. What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question?

Answer: What is the number one quality that a person needs to succeed in anything he or she attempts? Perseverance. If you keep knocking, they will answer eventually, even if they are only doing it because they are annoyed with you! 

11. If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?

Answer: Keep on Knocking: The L.B. Schulman Story (title inspired by previous question.)

12. Is League of Strays being made into a movie/TV series? If you got the opportunity to cast the characters, whom would you choose and why?

Answer: Well, the book would have to be hugely popular for that to happen, I think. I’d take either of the Fanning sisters, or Drew Barrymore as a teenager, for the role of Charlotte. For Kade, I’d have to say Robert Pattinson. Yes, I know: he’s Edward Cullen, and Kade on my cover even resembles him. But still, those eyes and that intensity. Yeah, he’d be good. Real good.

Flash Questions:

1. If you could trade places with a person for a single day, who would it be and why?

Answer: I think it’s hard to be a celebrity, so I really don’t want to be one, even for a day. Everyone has his or her struggles, and no one lives a perfect existence, so I will stay in my own body for now.

2. What was the last movie you saw?

Answer: Oh, you would have to ask this. I am so embarrassed. Gulp. WAYNE’S WORLD TWO. But hey, it was Inappropriate Movie Night at my house. That title came from my constant admonition that such and such movie was “inappropriate” for my children, but I was seriously outvoted so many times that we now make a night of it.

3. What is your biggest TV addiction?

Answer: The Biggest Loser (inspiring while I do my elliptical) and American Idol. I also like any paranormal show, like Touched or reruns of The Ghost Whisperer. I don’t watch much TV though, because I get easily addicted to junk, and it’s a huge time waster.

4. Guilty pleasure?

Answer: Lattes, all day long. And chocolate bits: milk chocolate, not dark.

5. Fruits or veggies?

Answer: Mangoes and avocados….the ones with the most calories possible.

6. Favorite childhood toy?

Answer: My counting jump rope. I liked trying to beat my own records.

7. What did you have for breakfast this morning?

Answer: A hard-boiled egg, a latte, and then an hour later, a bowl of Cheerios. I eat all day long. Hard for me to write without food nearby. Bad habit, I know.