#BookReview The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry #Fridayreads #literaryfiction

​This Victorian literary novel set between London and Essex follows the life of widowed Cora Seaborne, her young son and companion, Martha. Freed from the bondage of marriage to a cruel man Cora rediscover her passions and interest whilst side-stepping the quicksand that may lead her back to the tilted cage of marriage. When she moves to Colchester she is regaled by tales of a huge sea creature with wings rumoured to be haunting a small village. She decides to make her own investigations out of her avid interest in natural history and finds much to unsettle her, as well as friendship and acceptance.

Beyond any doubt this is probably one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read and although I found it a little difficult to get into in the first fifth of the book, I was engrossed by the time I got to halfway through. I loved the characters in the book and their complex intersection I was totally blown away with the science verses religion argument of the day and the hypothesising that science and faith need not be mutually exclusive.

This is not a work of fiction that can be easily pulled off by many authors and I am in awe of the author’s understanding of human nature and the fears of the time, which may not be all that different to our fears of today. A worthwhile read that I wholeheartedly recommend.

Links To Book:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Goodreads

#BookReview The Book of Mirrors by E.O. Chirovici

​I absolutely loved this literary thriller which starts with an unsolved murder from 1987 of eminent professor or psychology, Joseph Wieder, who was found murdered in his home on the outskirts of Princeton. When one of the suspect’s questioned, Richard Flynn, sends the first part of a manuscript recalling what he remembers of events leading up to the murder, literary agent, Peter Katz, he is enthralled and wants to get on board with the rest of the manuscript, however before he can do so tragedy strikes leading to him engaging investigative journalist, John Keller. Keller’s investigation leads him to a previous detective, who worked on the case and others who knew the professor. As he tries to unravel the story of this murder, he also ruffles a few feathers.

The story is told in three parts, the first from the point of view of Peter Katz who receives part of the manuscript written by Richard Flynn, the second is from the point of view of journalist, John Keller and the third from retired police detective, Roy Freeman point of view as he is informed of a breakthrough years after the murder and soon after John Keller’s investigation. I loved the way the story unravelled as a series of recollections from the various characters involved.

At every turn when you think the answers will never be forthcoming the story progresses despite the flawed memories of witnesses and the reluctance to divulge by those who were there. The pages turned very quickly for me in this thriller and I was sorry when I’d finished it.

Links To Book:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Goodreads

Emotional Bait and Switch #weekendblogshare

Whilst undertaking a couple of days of mindfulness, I battled away a few thoughts that persistently came to mind. The ones that stick out the most and stayed with me though were the fleeting memories I have of emotional bait and switch. 

Let me explain; as most of us know bait and switch is a term used to describe the situation where a merchant/seller gets your interest with a product but then when you purchase you get something of inferior quality or one which is more expensive. 

What I consider emotional bait and switch is when a group of trusted loved ones say, “if you want to smoke go ahead, we’re really relaxed about it.” However, after you take your first puff they tell you off for being disrespectful and smoking in front of your elders. So you were lured in with the promise of understanding and acceptance and then humiliated for faith and trust in what those you’ve known all your life were saying, rather than deciphering what they were thinking. Believe me it ruins the memory of your first ever puff irreparably.

Bait and switch is ultimate emotional betrayal. You think you’re getting acceptance, unconditional understanding/love/support, but the cold reality hits when you realise the ropes attached and perceived underlying love, understanding or whatever it is, was an illusion. 

Of course I didn’t see these situations at the time for what they were, I thought and was allowed to believe the fault lay with me for being unacceptably imperfect in the way I trust people, understand the world around me, was curious about smoking and my shocking inability to have children. 

Yes, even my endometriosis/infertility wasn’t spared the bait and switch but I don’t want to lower my mood further by going into the specifics of that exchange. 

There’s a huge gulf between what those I have trusted in my formative years have led me to believe and what I actually got, but I think most of us have complaints of this nature. I’m just glad I understand it for the cold emotional betrayal it was and maybe in a decade or so I will understand why anyone would bait and switch those they allegedly love. 

#Mindfulness February #mentalhealth

Every now and then I suffer from mental fatigue. The bouts of mental fatigue are more regular at the moment, largely due to averaging a few hours of sleep daily for the past few months. 

Some days I don’t like dealing with words so I colour to ground myself and clear my mind. The following is the result of one of such day. 

Physically I am enduring frequent hot flushes and headaches, although these do not affect my daily activities as much as they affect my sleep. 

Maybe I need more mindfulness days? 


#BookReview Money For Love (Tales from the Robbery Homicide Division Book 3) by Peter S Berman #thriller

​This US crime thriller set in California sees homicide detectives Donahue and Thompson, long time work partners and best friends, thrown into the mix when Donahue receives a call for help from a Russian woman, Nika, who had previously been trafficked into the US. Unfortunately, before Donahue could meet her, Nika is killed, her body found by Donahue. Shaken by the loss of someone she had previously helped out of a life of vice and despite warnings to stay out of the investigation, Donahue and Thompson cannot help initially pursue leads, but a car bombing in the carpark of a Hollywood night club allows them to investigate legitimately whether both killings are linked.

I found the plot and technicality of this police procedural compelling and got drawn easily into the story. I found it refreshing to have female lead detectives and support investigators, but I found this read somewhat spoiled by stilted dialogue, which didn’t do the characterisation justice. The book was definitely in need of an editor who could sharpen up the narrative and enforce the compelling pace the story demanded.

I have not read any of the previous books in the series and did not find that a draw back in picking this book up, but there is much potential waiting to be realised in this thriller and I will be interested in seeing if the next book in the series evolves to give the reader the promising thriller waiting to emerge from this author’s work.

Links To Book:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Goodreads

#MentalHealth Review #OCD 

Despite being seen three times a year by a psychiatrist to review the nuts and bolts of my OCD, depression and anxiety and the effect prescribed fluoxetine and anxiolytics are having on my general health, I now have another sort of review in my psychodynamic group therapy. Every six months we take stock of our goals, risks and achievements. I volunteered to go first in this new uncharted territory of therapy as it gave me less time to dwell on it and arouse the many critical thoughts that may have disabled me from benefiting from this event.

Reviewing myself or letting myself be reviewed, as a group activity, was odd, firstly because it is the only time, unless you want to have the spotlight in group, you are thrust into the group’s crosshairs. I was grateful for only having a week to ruminate over what initially felt like a bureaucratic hoop, but in all fairness I think I forgot about it by the weekend and only brought it back to mind the morning of my next session. 

Refusing to be cowed and rendered defeated by my thoughts I considered the individual points of the review in my allotted fifteen minutes at the start of the session and found that, without being completely aware I was doing so, I do actually keep a mental ledger of where I was at the start of my therapy and where I am now. With so much food for thought from each session over the weeks months and now years my mind has mulled over the problems presented to me, not just about my own psyche, but those reflected to me by others around me. I consider it one of my greatest achievements to take into account the way others might see me differently to my perceived view of myself and find I am able, albeit in an analytical fashion, to accept these observations to reflect and think about without drowning in a sea of my self-made negativity. 

I have never formally looked at what therapy is doing for me in such depth verbally or mentally, so viewing myself, my thoughts, emotions, goals and progress in this way clarified what my goals are from here on out. It was encouraging to see the positive work my ever chattering mind can do, even when I don’t feel in focus of the sessions I have weekly. It appears, as I have always suspected you don’t need a therapist to be with you daily but a mental voice that represents a therapist does exist in my cognitive choir. This maybe why I don’t feel defensive about the way I feel or come across and am altogether willing to consider the effect my behaviour has on others and on myself. 

To date I am grateful for the increased self-awareness I have developed in therapy. I am glad I appear to cope with the depression and anxiety I have more constructively whilst being more aware of their origins. Each session seems to increase my arsenal of tools to augment or mute my analytic thinking and self-reflection leading to a neuroplastic change that benefits me a little at a time. I am burdened with fleeting dark thoughts on a daily basis but I am finding more balance with the lighter thoughts I seem to be able to generate. 

I may have a few chronic illnesses, but my OCD and whatever else keeps it company, has to date affected me the most in my life and I have tools I am getting better at handling to cope with the condition. I know what my next step is in my self-development, and here’s hoping I generate the impetous to take it before the next review. 

#Non-Fiction #BookReview Sane New World: Taming of the Mind by Ruby Wax #Fridayreads #self-help 

​I found this book immensely helpful in understanding my depression and anxiety and piecing together the physiology and psychology of living with mental illness. Ruby Wax goes from the evolutionary viewpoint of why we are anxious to exercises helping us to retrain our minds to focus on the here and now. 

If you aren’t a Ruby Wax fan you may not get on with the style in which the book is written but as a sufferer of mental illness and cynic I found Sane New World filled in blanks for me and gave me a level of understanding of my illness that I had previously struggled with. By no means is this book a replacement for medical therapy and as lightheartedly it is presented it is actually on my shelf of go-to manuals, which I refer back to for exercises and reference when the need arises.

I was heartened to find myself already doing some of the things Ruby mentions in the book when it comes to dealing with negative thoughts and am delighted to have pages of exercises to try to master to help with my anxiety, depression and OCD. 

I found this to be a good book to begin building my personal mindfulness arsenal and am sold on the technique as Ruby cites a number of studies and references to back up her endorsement of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy. A definite must-read for those suffering mental health issues, provided you like the humour Ruby Wax. 

Links To Book:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Goodreads

When Change is a Good Thing

I have always considered myself not someone who adapts well to change, to the point I consider any change the enemy, but recently I have been compelled to consider that change is very much what I needed in order to progress on a personal level. 

Although the thought of change inspires much insecurity as I contemplate all the things that could possibly go wrong or the worst case scenario, I am also denying myself the opportunity for many positive events when I resist change. 

The same I feel applies when I dismiss others opinions and ideas out of hand without considering them seriously and if I didn’t take a chance and trust people by letting them into my life. Not everyone is going to leave a positive effect on me, but by closing myself off I’m definitely locking out all he potentially positive experiences that may be heading my way. 

I firmly believe a lack of any sense of responsibility for the choices we make, in other words, blaming others for my problems is not in anyway helping me to attain peace of mind, improvement of my mental health or happiness. Likewise complaining about everything and having no gratitude for anything is a sure way to let yourself down. I’m glad and grateful to experience change to rectify these negative habits which had been festering over the last couple of years. 

Currently, although I’m not completely comfortable with change, I do not dread it and am open to new experiences and models of thinking, which may work better for me. I am looking forward to making my own changes on my own terms.

#BookReview The Sister by Louise Jensen #thriller #Tuesdaybookblog 

​After the death of her bestfriend Charlie, Grace falls apart, but she decides to trace Charlie’s father, whom Charlie had never known and in doing so finds Anna, who is Charlie’s half-sister. However, things start getting strange after Anna arrives and Grace finds herself becoming more distant from those she cares about.

A gripping psychological read that kept me enthralled throughout. Told from two points of view in time: the present and from the past when Grace and Charlie first met, The Sister tells the tale of two best friends who had challenging childhoods and secrets kept from them leading to much heartache.

Links To Book:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Goodreads

Is it self-promotion when you don’t make a penny? #Sundayblogshare #bookbloggers

Recently I removed myself from a FB book lovers group. It is a big group and I had contributed now and then commenting on posts if I had read a book and quite a few of my fellow bibliophiles were on there. Overall it was a friendly book group and I had been a member for over a year at least. 

Every once in a while when I think I have written something of interest on this blog I post the link on a book group. I don’t post a link to my blog on book groups every time I blog a book, nor do I regularly post links in certain groups even when it’s welcome, simply because as much as I enjoy increasing my readership I don’t want to feel mercenary whilst doing it. 

However, posting my top ten books of the year is a special post and I have never had any financial interest in the books I read/review or rank on my top ten. So I was a bit taken aback when a moderator, whom I had ironically never seen post before, reprimanded me for posting a link to my top ten books of the year. 

The gist of his reprimand was I needed to post and get involved more in the group before I could post about my blog. Honestly, I felt, and still do feel, stung by this rebuke. What abritary hoop did I need to jump through for this book group fascist to justify posting about the top ten books I have loved last year? 

Why would it be self-interest or promotion when I don’t make a penny from this blog? Why is sharing a link to my top ten books of 2016 any different to posting that list directly on a book group? Allegedly, as someone on Twitter pointed out, it’s because I’m increasing my status and glory. If this is the case I have no knowledge of my status and couldn’t recognise glory even if I tripped over it.

I never have had any financial interest in the books I review. I’m simply a reader who keeps a catalogue of books I’ve read on a blog rather than typing it out numerous times on book groups. 

When my blog stats increase my bank balance remains the same. This is not a job for financial gain, this blog is a record of books I read and various life experiences I like to keep track of, it does not afford me any income. Even using the tracked Amazon links to date has brought me no income. I put the links there mainly so my fellow bibliophiles can access the book online easily to add it to their wishlist/reading list. 

It’s hard to be slapped down incorrectly as an opportunist when you do something out of passion for no financial gain. Perhaps I should let this slight go, but I feel very strongly still about being scolded online period, but being scolded by a stranger for posting my top ten favourite reads of the year, because of some perceived financial gain, really sticks in my craw. 

Maybe I’m wrong and the fame I get from being the writer of this blog has gone to my head, either way folks, what do you think? Is it self-promotion when there’s no financial gain involved?