The Medea Complex By Rachel Florence Roberts

Title: The Medea Complex

Author: Rachel Florence Roberts

First Published: 31st October 2013

Publisher: CreateSpace

Blurb:

1885. Anne Stanbury – Committed to a lunatic asylum, having been deemed insane and therefore unfit to stand trial for the crime of which she is indicted. But is all as it seems?

Edgar Stanbury – the grieving husband and father who is torn between helping his confined wife recover her sanity, and seeking revenge on the woman who ruined his life.

Dr George Savage – the well respected psychiatrist, and chief medical officer of Bethlem Royal Hospital. Ultimately, he holds Anne’s future wholly in his hands.

The Medea Complex tells the story of a misunderstood woman suffering from insanity in an era when mental illnesses’ were all too often misdiagnosed and mistreated. A deep and riveting psychological thriller set within an historical context, packed full of twists and turns, The Medea Complex explores the nature of the human psyche: what possesses us, drives us, and how love, passion, and hope for the future can drive us to insanity. (From Goodreads, 12th May 2014)

Review:

A novel based on true events within Bethlem Royal Hospital in the 17th century, sounds really interesting in my opinion and therefore I was really happy to see this book on the Amazon Prime Kindle Lending Library. And for that I am grateful, because I would have been disappointed if I had paid to read this  novel. Harsh? Maybe. Maybe not.

We are flung in right at the beginning with Anne waking up unaware of where she is and quickly we are taken into her world within the psychiatric ward, or solitary confinement in which she begins her stay at Bethlem Royal Hospital. Anne is confined because she killed her own son, however she cannot remember this or the fact that she had a son. The narrator switches to include Anne’s husband, father, her psychiatrist and others. I personally enjoy novels with changing narrators however I felt this novel would have benefited from only two or three maximum narrators, this is a personal opinion. Further, the novel started off intriguing to me then quickly just fell apart, with the story losing focus and flow.

There is very little I can say without giving away the story line, but there is so much more that could have been done with this novel in my opinion and it feel short of my expectations.

This is not a novel that I recommend unfortunately. I say unfortunately because I saw so much potential, especially near the beginning, the beginning was excellent, but as I said above it just lost focus and drive for me by the second half.

2.5 out of 5

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Saving Max By Antoinette van Heugton

Title: Saving Max

Author: Antoinette Van Heugten

First Published: 28th September 2010

Publisher: Harlequin

Blurb:

Max Parkman – —autistic and whip-smart, emotionally fragile and aggressive— – is perfect in his mother’s eyes. Until he’s accused of murder.

Attorney Danielle Parkman knows her teenage son Max’s behavior has been getting worse—using drugs and lashing out. But she can’t accept the diagnosis she receives at a top-notch adolescent psychiatric facility that her son is deeply disturbed. Dangerous.

Until she finds Max, unconscious and bloodied, beside a patient who has been brutally stabbed to death.

Trapped in a world of doubt and fear, barred from contacting Max, Danielle clings to the belief that her son is innocent. But has she, too, lost touch with reality? Is her son really a killer?

With the justice system bearing down on them, Danielle steels herself to discover the truth, no matter what it is. She’ll do whatever it takes to find the killer and to save her son from being destroyed by a system that’s all too eager to convict him.

Review:

I really enjoyed ‘Saving Max’ much more than I thought I would. This was a book I came about by accident really, hadn’t heard anything about, had not read any reviews, and had not seen anyone talking about it. I had never heard of the author, or any of her other books, books that I will now be checking out!

The primary aspect which attracted me to ‘Saving Max’ was that it was a book about a boy with Autism. I find Autism a fascinating disorder, and mixed with murder, well that is not something you come across so often. If you are worried that this is a book that reflects negatively on people with Autism and associates their behaviour with violence please don’t. The author has dealt with this issue in a sensitive yet realistic way. People with Autism can be violent, but more often can be violent to themselves, rather than others and this is captured well.

Max is a teenager who is struggling with life and when his mother finds out he is planning to commit suicide their psychiatrist sends them to a specialist hospital. Here Max’s behaviour begins to dramatically change and the son Danielle once knew is gone. When Max is found next to another patient, both covered in blood and Max the only one still alive, we witness the frantic love of a mother attempting to save her son and prove his innocence. But has her son changed so far beyond the boy she once knew?

Once we get to the murder trial we are thrown about in all directions, and completely gripped. The novel becomes so bizarrely dramatic that it is just hard to believe but so fascinating! I absolutely loved it. It just had so many twists and turns and moments where you really don’t know what has happened.

If you are wanting a light read, do not read this. If you are wanting a gripping, hard hitting, drama filled, crime novel with a mental health aspect this is perfect!

Antoinette van Heugten is a skilled writer and story teller. An author everyone must add to their collection!

5 out of 5

The Silver Linings Playbook By Mathew Quick

Title: The Silver Linings Playbook

Author: Mathew Quick

Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books

First Published: 2nd September 2008

Blurb:

Meet Pat. Pat has a theory: his life is a movie produced by God. And his God-given mission is to become physically fit and emotionally literate, whereupon God will ensure a happy ending for him — the return of his estranged wife Nikki. (It might not come as a surprise to learn that Pat has spent time in a mental health facility.) The problem is, Pat’s now home, and everything feels off. No one will talk to him about Nikki; his beloved Philadelphia Eagles keep losing; he’s being pursued by the deeply odd Tiffany; his new therapist seems to recommend adultery as a form of therapy. Plus, he’s being hunted by Kenny G! (From Goodreads, 1st December 2013)

Review:

I initially saw ‘The Silver Linings Playbook’ film adaption, and thus the film will have barged it’s way into my reading experience, despite my attempts to avoid this happening. So I will say my review is slightly contaminated with the film adaption, and please keep that in mind!

When Pat returns to his parents home he must begin to deal with his time in a mental health facility, what instigated his stay and how to move forward in his life. The problem is, Pat’s main focus is in trying to win back his ex wife. He starts reading all the novels she teaches her school kids, has become athletic and has attempted to make himself the husband he thinks will bring his wife back.

I really enjoyed ‘The Silver Linings Playbook’ due to the fantastic characters. Firstly, Pat and his true determination to improve himself, despite the slightly misguided intentions. Tiffany, as damaged as Pat, with an abrupt personality that continues to shock. Pat’s therapist is a man who entertains and is an avid Eagles fan just like Pat. It is these characters that make the book. If it wasn’t for them I don’t think I would have enjoyed it.

The book is written in quite a simplistic style, with Pat as the narrator, and sometimes it is slightly monotonous as it sometimes appears to be lists of activities. However, I think this is Mathew Quick (the author) trying to emulate the childish nature of Pat, in which case it is a good narrative tool. My other issue was the constant talk about the Eagles matches. Being female, with little interest in sport, this just causes frustration. But, it is Pat’s character and is integral to the culture in which Pat belongs.

A book that deals with multiple issues, brings humor into some dark situations, shows determination, and strength of character.

Again I must reiterate that I saw the film first, and that has affected my reading of this novel. However, I really enjoyed this novel, despite the film taking away my ability to use my imagination.

A book that many will enjoy.

4 out of 5

There are Reasons Noah Packed No Clothes By Robert Jacoby

Title: There are Reasons Noah Packed No Clothes

Author: Robert Jacoby

First Published: 1st October 2012

Publisher: Cloud Books

Blurb:

You need your eyes, don’t you?

So does Richard Issych. Two weeks ago he overdosed. Now he’s fighting for his life, finding threatening notes like that one on his nightstand.

“There are Reasons Noah Packed No Clothes” is the story of 19-year-old Richard Issych, who wakes to a harsh new reality inside an inpatient unit. Now Richard’s journey turns into one of revelations and struggling through his own reasons for being as he discovers new meanings for redemption, sacrifice, hope, love-and the will to live.

In the end, what are the reasons Noah packed no clothes? Richard can only imagine. But it has something to do with a size 3XL bowling shirt with the name “Noah” stitched over the pocket.

There are reasons . . . everyone uses his own dictionary.

There are reasons . . . some new heavens come from some new hells.

There are Reasons Noah Packed No Clothes. (From Goodreads, 19th November 2013)

Review:

Richard Issych wakes up in a psychiatric hospital after a failed suicide attempt. He is disoriented and unable to function. But soon he begins to learn about ward life, develop ‘friendships’ with the other patients, and learn about himself and his depressive illness.

This is a novel written from Richards view in which Robert Jacoby captures through his writing style the true confusion and altered mental state Richard is experiencing. However, this writing style is confusing and can be difficult to follow at times, but it allows the reader to get a better understanding of what it can be like for some people suffering with acute mental illness.

I have read many novels about mental illness and this is one of the few that captures the mental state of the protagonist well with the structure of the prose. But, I just felt there was a lack of conclusion, a lack of real journey. Yes, we do see Richard improve and develop an understanding of mental illness. We see some reflection and development of relationships, but on the other hand I found there to be very little plot to keep me interested in the novel.

A novel to gain an insight into the mind of a psychiatric patient, with lyrical prose. However, the lack of real plot made this a rather circular novel with no real conclusion in my opinion.

3 out of 5

One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest By Ken Kesey

Title: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Author: Ken Kesey

Publisher: Penguin

First Published: 1962

Blurb:

Tyrannical Nurse Ratched rules her ward in an Oregon State mental hospital with a strict and unbending routine, unopposed by her patients, who remain cowed by mind-numbing medication and the threat of electric shock therapy. But her regime is disrupted by the arrival of McMurphy – the swaggering, fun-loving trickster with a devilish grin who resolves to oppose her rules on behalf of his fellow inmates. His struggle is seen through the eyes of Chief Bromden, a seemingly mute half-Indian patient who understands McMurphy’s heroic attempt to do battle with the powers that keep them imprisoned. (From Goodreads, 21st August 2013)

Review:

‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ is the first modern classic I have read in the last two years, and I wish I had picked it up earlier! I had seen the film with Jack Nicholson a few times before I picked the book up, and like many book lovers I felt the book was much better – though the film is still fantastic!

As you can tell from the blurb, this is a novel set in a psychiatric hospital in America. We see the arrival of R. P. McMurphy onto the ward and the destruction he brings to Nurse Ratched’s ward. Nurse Ratched has control, she has always had control. She controls the patients, the staff, the doctors, everything. McMurphy however fights against her regime. Narrated by the Chief, a long-term, half-indian patient, we see the changes McMurphy brings to the ward, and the twisted response of Nurse Ratchet. I found that the novel presented Nurse Ratched in a more sinister way than the film, and felt a real hate for her whilst also recognising the patients fear.

This is a novel where the narration is fantastic. We see a troubled mind and the way the Chief see’s the world, the fog that controls time on the ward is fantastic imagery and way to present the heavy sedating drugs. There is humor, there is fear, there is power play, there is tragedy,  there is imagery, there is everything. This is a novel where I copied down so many quotes, where I just fell in love with the writing style, and a novel that I will read again and find new aspects, and new view points.

A novel that everyone should read. A novel I wish I studied at school. A novel that I will read again and again and again. A novel which I can’t give a proper review of because there is so many things to talk about, so much to take account of, and just so much packed into the pages.

Go out and buy this book if you have not got it. If you have, read it now. If you have read it before, read it again.

5 out of 5

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

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

The Program By Suzanne Young

Title: The Program

Author: Suzanne Young

Publisher: Simon Pulse

First Published: 30th April 2013

Blurb:

In Sloane’s world, true feelings are forbidden, teen suicide is an epidemic, and the only solution is The Program.

Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in The Program, the only proven course of treatment. Sloane’s parents have already lost one child; Sloane knows they’ll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who’s been through The Program returns as a blank slate. Because their depression is gone—but so are their memories.

Under constant surveillance at home and at school, Sloane puts on a brave face and keeps her feelings buried as deep as she can. The only person Sloane can be herself with is James. He’s promised to keep them both safe and out of treatment, and Sloane knows their love is strong enough to withstand anything. But despite the promises they made to each other, it’s getting harder to hide the truth. They are both growing weaker. Depression is setting in. And The Program is coming for them. (From Goodreads, 23rd May 2013)

Review:

For some reason I am struggling to write a review for this book. I really don’t know why. I loved the premise, I want to read the next book when it comes out, and I was very excited for this novel coming out.

So many good things about this but I disliked the amount of dialogue in the book. It really has reduced my enjoyment of the book. I wanted  love this book. But something is holding me back. I don’t know what, I really can’t work it out!

This is a book set in the future where suicide among teens is an epidemic. But the ‘cure’ (the program) can be feared by teens. Would you rather die with your memories? Or be happy without them? Do your memories make you who you are? Does love go past just memories?

There is a lot in this novel that I wanted to be explored further, but may this will happen in the second book in the series. I didn’t realise it was going to be a series.

Something about this book frustrated me, I can’t say I don’t like it, but can’t stay I love it! I don’t know how to review this.

I felt there was so many good ideas but nothing tackled in depth enough for me. It is a daring subject and one I am highly interested in. It is one I wish was seen more in the public eye. I am hoping so much that this series as a whole beings to settle my confusion.

The plot is good and exciting keeping you flicking through the pages, wanting to know what happens. If you want a story with a gritty side and a focus on love this is a book for you.

I can only give a 3 out of 5 because I really don’t know how I feel about this.

The Asylum By Johan Theorin

Title: The Asylum

Author: Johan Theorin

Publisher: Doubleday

Publication Date: 13th March 2013 (UK Paperback)

Blurb:

‘We don’t talk about sick or healthy people at St Patricia’s. Words such as hysteric, lunatic and psychopath… They are no longer used. Because who amongst us can say that we are always healthy?’

An underground passage leads from the Dell nursery to Saint Patricia’s asylum. Only the children enter, leaving their minders behind. On the other side are their parents – some of the most dangerous psychopaths in the country.

Jan has just started working at the nursery. He is a loner with many secrets and one goal. He must get inside the asylum . . .

What is his connection with one of the inmates, a famous singer?

What really happened when a boy in his care went missing nine years ago?

Who can we trust when everyone has something to hide?

Review:

Okay so it is difficult for me to give reviews of psychological thrillers like this without giving too much away so I think this review may be quite short! But will give it a try!

So I love things to do with asylums, psychiatric hospitals and mental illness therefore the title had me hooked, then I noticed the quote on the cover ‘If you like Stieg Larsson, try a much better Swedish writer’ (The Observer). I love Stieg Larssons Millennium trilogy and thought that this seemed a perfect book for me. But I will say this now – I preferred Stieg Larssons books to The Asylum.

Jan is the protagonist in this novel and initially appears to be a sensible adult who has a good career as a play group/nursery teacher/worker, with only one incident pertaining to a job several years ago. That is the first hook in the story, and soon we learn that Jan is not as perfect as his CV made out.

I found the novel a little slow to begin with but quickly built up pace making you want to keep reading to find out what happened in the past and what was going to happen next. You were anxious as Jan tried to sneak into the Asylum and worried for him in case he got caught. Why is he so desperate to sneak in? What is his connection to the inmate he wishes to contact?

The chapters were quite short so if you are reading at night you might be up rather late as you think ‘just one more chapter’ and this happened to me – was rather tired the next day at work!

This is a very well written novel with some surprise twists and turns to keep you hooked. Definitely pick up if you are a fan of psychological thrillers and keep with it at the beginning because soon you won’t be able to put it down!

4 out of 5!