Addition By Toni Jordan

Title: Addition

Author: Toni Jordan

Publisher: Sceptre

First Published: 2008

Blurb:

Everything counts . . .

Grace Lisa Vandenburg orders her world with numbers: how many bananas she buys, how many steps she takes to the café, where she chooses to sit, how many poppy seeds are in her daily piece of orange cake. Every morning she uses 100 strokes to brush her hair, 160 strokes to brush her teeth. She remembers the day she started to count, how she used numbers to organize her adolescence, her career, even the men she dated. But something went wrong. Grace used to be a teacher, but now she’s surviving on disability checks. According to the parents of one of her former students, “she’s mad.”

Most people don’t understand that numbers rule, not just the world in a macro way but their world, their own world. Their lives. They don’t really understand that everything and everybody are connected by a mathematical formula. Counting is what defines us . . . the only thing that gives our lives meaning is the knowledge that eventually we all will die. That’s what makes each minute important. Without the ability to count our days, our hours, our loved ones . . . there’s no meaning. Our lives would have no meaning. Without counting, our lives are unexamined. Not valued. Not precious. This consciousness, this ability to rejoice when we gain something and grieve when we lose something—this is what separates us from other animals. Counting, adding, measuring, timing. It’s what makes us human.

Grace’s father is dead and her mother is a mystery to her. Her sister wants to sympathize but she really doesn’t understand. Only Hilary, her favorite niece, connects with her. And Grace can only connect with Nikola Tesla, the turn-of-the-twentieth-century inventor whose portrait sits on her bedside table and who rescues her in her dreams. Then one day all the tables at her regular café are full, and as she hesitates in the doorway a stranger—Seamus Joseph O’Reilly (19 letters in his name, just like Grace’s)—invites her to sit with him. Grace is not the least bit sentimental. But she understands that no matter how organized you are, how many systems you put in place, you can’t plan for people. They are unpredictable and full of possibilities—like life itself, a series of maybes and what-ifs.

And suddenly, Grace may be about to lose count of the number of ways she can fall in love. (From Goodreads, 28th June 2013)

Review:

Well if you have made it to the review after the largest blurb on earth (pause for laughter…). This is a novel that has been living in my bookcase for about 3 or 4 years. It is a fictional account of Grace who has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Grace must count items, actions, everything to ease her anxiety. Her life is structured.But when she meets Seamus her structure begins to disappear. Will this relationship make or break Grace?

I enjoyed this novel. I thought the way OCD was dealt with was good, and accurate. It shows that OCD is not always about cleaning, that it can stop people from living their lives. But this good side was brought down because of the romance focus of the novel. I did not realise that this novel was more of a romance than someone dealing with a mental illness. Maybe if I had looked more into the book and read reviews 4 years ago I would have realised that this was the case.

I think if you want a quirky romance which strays slightly from the usual romance genera this will be for you. If you like the more hard hitting, rough mental health stories which I ‘enjoy’ and find very educational Addition is probably not for you.

3 out of 5

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City of Lost Souls By Cassandra Clare

Title: City of Lost Souls (The Mortal Instruments #5)

Author: Cassandra Care

Publisher: Walker Books

First Published: 8th May 2012

Blurb:

What price is too high to pay, even for love? When Jace and Clary meet again, Clary is horrified to discover that the demon Lilith’s magic has bound her beloved Jace together with her evil brother Sebastian, and that Jace has become a servant of evil. The Clave is out to destroy Sebastian, but there is no way to harm one boy without destroying the other. As Alec, Magnus, Simon, and Isabelle wheedle and bargain with Seelies, demons, and the merciless Iron Sisters to try to save Jace, Clary plays a dangerous game of her own. The price of losing is not just her own life, but Jace’s soul. She’s willing to do anything for Jace, but can she still trust him? Or is he truly lost? (From Goodreads, 26th June 2013)

Review:

Okay so this is a difficult review to write as it is the 5th and last book in The Mortal Instruments series. I don’t want to give things away. So I am going to keep it short and not as detailed as some of my other reviews.

After finding City of Fallen Angels (The Mortal Instruments #4) not on par with the first three books in the series. City of Lost Souls makes up for that. Loved it. It was fantastic and set me up for getting started on the prequel series The Infernal Devices.

This is an exciting novel that keeps you turning to the next page. But if you have got to this novel you obviously enjoy the series!

4 out of 5

The Boy Who Could See Demons By Carolyn Jess-Cooke

Title: The Boy Who Could See Demons

Author: Carolyn Jess-Cooke

Publisher: Piatkus

First Published: 10th May 2012

Blurb:

“I first met my demon the morning that Mum said Dad had gone.”

Alex Broccoli is ten years old, likes onions on toast, and can balance on the back legs of his chair for fourteen minutes. His best friend is a 9000-year-old demon called Ruen. When his depressive mother attempts suicide yet again, Alex meets child psychiatrist Anya. Still bearing the scars of her own daughter’s battle with schizophrenia, Anya fears for Alex’s mental health and attempts to convince him that Ruen doesn’t exist. But as she runs out of medical proof for many of Alex’s claims, she is faced with a question: does Alex suffer from schizophrenia, or can he really see demons? (From Goodreads, 24th June 2013)

Review:

I saw this book when I was shopping and had never heard of it but the title interested me straight away. Then I read the blurb, and thought this is a novel I will love!

Childhood psychiatry is a interest of mine and this book has both sides – the child and the therapist. Alex is a 10 year old boy who sees demons. Ruen is his best friend and is a demon. But is Ruen good for Alex? Is he real? Is Ruen just a symptom of an illness? Is Ruen a way of dealing with the loss of his father? Or is it the way he deals with his mothers depression and repeated suicide attempts? Or is Ruen real? These are some of the many questions that go through psychiatrist Anya’s head when she meets Alex. Anya desperately wants to help Alex and feels hospitalisation would be best for him. However, Anya’s daughter battled with Schizophrenia and this complicates matters.

I love this concept. A young boy who see’s demons with a mother who has attempted suicide and is currently in hospital. A psychiatrist who is dealing with the scars of her own child’s illness. The constant question ‘does Alex see demons or is he ill?’ Some romance is thrown in. Some traumas. Some mystery. Some fantasy. Some drama. Basically everything is in this book. But I think that’s where it falls down. There is a bit too much that not everything is fully developed and leaves you with just a few too many questions.

Lovely novel. Exciting. But just too many questions left unanswered.

4 out of 5.

Henry’s Demons By Patrick and Henry Cockburn

Title: Henry’s Demons: A Father and Sons Journey Out of Madness

Author: Patrick and Henry Cockburn

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

First Published: February 1st 2011

Blurb:

On a cold February day two months after his twentieth birthday, Henry Cockburn waded into the Newhaven estuary outside Brighton, England, and nearly drowned. Voices, he said, had urged him to do it. Nearly halfway around the world in Afghanistan, journalist Patrick Cockburn learned from his wife, Jan, that his son had suffered a breakdown and had been admitted to a hospital. Ten days later, Henry was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Narrated by both Patrick and Henry, this is the extraordinary story of the eight years since Henry’s descent into schizophrenia–years he has spent almost entirely in hospitals–and his family’s struggle to help him recover. (From Goodreads, 7th June 2013)

Review:

Amazing. Breathtaking. Frank. Emotional. Frightening. Facinating. Informative. Exciting. Everything really.

I loved this book and I have read a lot of non-fiction books about people’s experiences of mental illness and frankly this is the best in the long long list that I have read!

This novel is written by both Henry and his father Patrick, starting with Patrick receiving that life changing phone call from his wife telling him that their eldest son was in a psychiatric ward. Here Patrick takes us through the journey of a parent entering the unknown world of mental illness. The wish for a quick fix, the realisation that mental illness does not go away just because you are given a drug.

Henry gives us a glimpse of his world, what happened to him. Although you may think isn’t Patrick telling us that too? Yes he is telling us what happened to Henry, but he knows he cannot explain the experience Henry had. This is one example of the uniqueness of this novel. What Henry experiences is real to him, despite the fact that they are symptoms of Schizophrenia they are as real to him as computer screen in front of you is to you.

Henry writes with a frankness that leads you through his journey. You feel for what he and his family have been through and are still going through but you also learn the side of Schizophrenia that many do not know about or fail to appreciate, some times people enjoy their hallucinations, and this is the case for some of Henry’s hallucinations, they made him feel part of nature, free…

Patrick writes with the eloquency that a journalist should have. He does not sugar coat, and cites research and talks in a balanced way about the mental health system and the pros and cons of the system. Looks at the history of mental health care without sounding like an intro to clinical psychology book! But also is the father who has watched his family deal with the unpredictability of mental illness and the steep learning curve in understanding the ‘disorder’/’illness’ – whatever you want to call it – along with the complexities of the system. Patrick also takes account of the different perceptions of Henry’s Schizophrenia – Henry’s, his, his wife, his younger son, the nurses, Henry’s friends, Doctors, Psychiatrists, the Police etc.

This is a well balanced novel that shows a family’s continuing journey into previously unknown land.

5 out of 5

Speak By Laurie Halse Anderson

Title: Speak

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Publisher: Puffin

First Published: 22nd October 1999

Blurb:

Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won’t talk to her, and people she doesn’t even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that’s not safe. Because there’s something she’s trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth. This extraordinary first novel has captured the imaginations of teenagers and adults across the country. (From Goodreads, 6th June 2013)

Review:

I have wanted to read this book ever since I watched the film a few years ago. I finally managed to swap a book for Speak on ReaditSwapit – a fantastic book swapping site! But it has been sitting on my shelf for quite a while. So part of my own ‘Dust that Book off Challenge‘ in which I picked a few books that have been on my shelf for a bit too long without being read and they must be read this year! Speak was one of these books.
To be honest, I was disappointed. This is not the first Laurie Halse Anderson book that I have read, but I just didn’t think it was great. I love that Laurie Halse Anderson tackles the issues that many shy away from. But I just found that this was a bit bland. She captured the feeling of isolation that Melinda felt. The difficulties she is dealing with are well thought out and expressed but there was something empty about this novel.

Maybe because this novel is aimed at younger readers I felt this void. But so many others love this book. I just can’t.

I wouldn’t say it is a must read. But is is a book that libraries and schools should have on their shelves to give that possible first line of support for others whom have gone through such difficulties.

3 out of 5

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer By Michelle Hodkin

Title: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

Author: Michelle Hodkin

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

First Published: 27th September 2011

Blurb:

Mara Dyer doesn’t think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.
It can.

She believes there must be more to the accident she can’t remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.
There is.

She doesn’t believe that after everything she’s been through, she can fall in love.
She’s wrong. (From Goodreads, 4th June 2013)

Review:

I was really looking forward to reading The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer after hearing so many positive reviews a while ago, but when looking at Goodreads I saw the reviews were coming in more mixed and was slightly apprehensive. Luckily I thoroughly enjoyed this novel! In fact it is the best I have read so far this year! 

We meet Mara while she is waking up in hospital after an accident that she cannot remember. Her friends are dead. She is experiencing hallucinations caused by ‘post traumatic stress disorder’ (PTSD). Due to her PTSD she convinces her parents to move hoping that it would reduce the reminders of her friends who died in the accident. But no. Mara is hallucinating again and seeing her dead friends in mirrors, along with other dead people.

Is Mara insane? Or is there something more supernatural at work?

This novel is the first in a trilogy and focuses mainly on Mara’s mental health and her growing relationship with a boy at her new school. Despite the idea of something ‘supernatural’ or ‘more’ being involve hinted at in the blurb this does not appear until near the end of the novel. I feel this is where many people were annoyed and why they reviewed more negatively than others. Although I have yet to read the second novel (The Evolution of Mara Dyer) I am presuming that it will bring more of the paranormal side into the story.

I only mentioned the above because it is one of the reasons I feel more mixed reviews were coming out about this novel. I however devour any books that are related to mental illness, and loved that the focus was mainly on Mara’s stress and the associated symptoms. For me it was a set up for the trilogy and allows the reader to understand Mara more intimately before we get into the more obscure story line.

For me I loved it. I loved the slightly slower pace compared to many YA books. The short chapters made it difficult to put the book down as I would say “just another chapter” to myself, but ultimately ended up finishing the book within two days.

I am very excited to get a hold of The Evolution of Mara Dyer as I want to find out what happens next but I am going to hold off for two reasons:

1. I want to wait until The Retribution of Mara Dyer comes out, or nearer to when it comes out, as I can imagine that I will be anxious to get my hands on it!

2. I have a lot of books to get reading so want to get a bit further through the TBR list.

But back to the book! I give it a 5 out of 5 and my favorite book so far of 2013!