Archive

Posts Tagged ‘ptsd’

Book Review: Still Missing by Chevy Stevens

September 19, 2014 5 comments

A woman's jawline and neck are viewed through a shattered glass.Summary:
Annie O’Sullivan extremely forcefully declares in her first therapy session that she doesn’t want her therapist to talk back to her; she just wants her to listen.  And so, through multiple sessions, she slowly finds a safe space to recount her horrible abduction from an open house she was running as an up-and-rising realtor, her year spent as the prisoner of her abductor, and of her struggles both to deal with her PTSD now that she’s free again and to deal with the investigation into her abduction.

Review:
I was intrigued by the concept of this book.  Yes, it’s another abduction story, but wrapping it in the therapy sessions after she escapes was an idea I had not seen before.  So when I saw this on sale for the kindle, I snatched it up.  I’m glad I did, because this is a surprisingly edge-of-your-seat thriller.

Stevens deals with the potential issue of back-and-forth with the therapist by having Annie say in her first session that in order to feel safe talking about what happened to her, she needs the therapist to say very little back to her.  It is acknowledged that the therapist says some things to Annie, but it appears that she waits to talk until the end of the session when Annie is done talking.  What the therapist says isn’t recorded but Annie does sometimes respond to what she suggested in later sessions.  This set-up has the potential to be clunky, but Stevens handled it quite eloquently.  It always reads smoothly.

The plot itself starts out as a basic abducted/escaped one, with most of the thriller aspects of the first half of the book coming from slowly finding out everything that happened to Annie when she was abducted.  The second half is where the plot really blew me away, though.  The investigation into her kidnapping turns extremely exciting and terrifying.  I don’t want to give too much away.  Suffice to say that I wasn’t expecting most of the thrills to come from the investigation after the kidnapping and yet they did.

Annie is well-developed. Her PTSD is written with a deep understanding of it.  For instance, she both needs human connection and is (understandably) terrified of it, so she pushes people away.  Stevens shows Annie’s PTSD in every way, from how she talks to her therapist to how she behaves now to subtle comparisons to how she used to be before she was traumatized.

Other characters are well-rounded enough to seem like real people, including her abductor, yet it also never seems like Annie is describing them with more information than she would logically have.

I do want to take just a moment to let potential readers know that there are graphic, realistic descriptions of rape.  Similarly, the end of the book may be triggering for some.  I cannot say why without revealing what happens but suffice to say that if triggers are an issue for you in your recovery from trauma, you may want to wait until you are further along in your recovery and feel strong enough to handle potentially upsetting realistic descriptions of trauma.

Overall, this is a strong thriller with a creative story-telling structure.  Those who enjoy abduction themed thrillers will find this one unique enough to keep them on the edge of their seat.  Those with an interest in PTSD depicted in literature will find this one quite realistic and appreciate the inclusion of therapy sessions in the presentation.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

Buy It

Counts For:
Banner for the RIP IX challenge.
mia2014badge

 

Reading Challenge Wrap-up: Mental Illness Advocacy Reading Challenge 2012

December 24, 2012 2 comments

mia2012badgeAs you all know, the one reading challenge I host is the Mental Illlness Advocacy (MIA) Reading Challenge.  Since we’re into the last week of the year, I’d like to post the 2012 wrap-up.

This year, I read 8 books that count for the challenge, successfully achieving the Aware level.

The books I read and reviewed for the challenge, along with what mental illness they covered, in 2012 were:

  1. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
    PTSD
    4 out of 5 stars
  2. The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon
    Mental Retardation
    4 out of 5 stars
  3. Barefoot Season by Susan Mallery
    PTSD
    4 out of 5 stars
  4. Abject Relations: Everyday Worlds of Anorexia by Megan Warin
    Anorexia
    4 out of 5 stars
  5. A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
    Depression
    4 out of 5 stars
  6. Haunted by Glen Cadigan
    PTSD
    3 out of 5 stars
  7. January First: A Child’s Descent into Madness and Her Father’s Struggle to Save Her by Michael Schofield
    Schizophrenia
    4 out of 5 stars
  8. Germline by T. C. McCarthy
    Addictive Disorders
    4 out of 5 stars

The books I read covered genres from scifi to thriller to memoir to academic nonfiction to historic fiction.  I’m also a bit surprised to note in retrospect that all but one of these books received four stars from me.  Clearly the books I chose to read for the challenge were almost entirely a good match for me.  It’s no surprise to me that I enjoy running this challenge so much then. :-)

The most unique book for the challenge was The Sparrow.  The scifi plot of first contact with aliens was a very unique wrapping for a book dealing so strongly with mental illness.  Most challenging was Abject Relations: Everyday Worlds of Anorexia, which was my first foray into university-level Anthropology.  Something I’d like to see more of is more memoirs by parents of children with a mental illness, like January First: A Child’s Descent into Madness and Her Father’s Struggle to Save Her.  That was an interesting, new perspective for me.  I think I’d also like to read more schizophrenia books next year, as well as books that challenge the gender norms perceived of in certain mental illnesses, such as the idea that eating disorders are female or that alcoholism is male.

If you participated in the challenge this year, please feel free to either comment with your list of reads or a link to a wrap-up post.  I’d love to see what we all successfully read this year!

And if the MIA Reading Challenge sounds like a good match for you, head on over to the challenge’s main page to sign up for the 2013 iteration!

Book Review: Haunted by Glen Cadigan

June 11, 2012 4 comments

Spooky black and white picture.Summary:
Mark is an Iraq War vet with PTSD, so he counts himself lucky when a Gulf War vet gives him the chance to be a security guard at an office tower.  Unfortunately, he’s the night watchman, and he doesn’t seem to be alone in the tower.

Review:
This is a unique, sympathetic story idea that is not as well-executed as it deserves.

Mark is ultimately a well-rounded character, but it takes too long to get to know him in this novella.  Since it is in first-person narrative, he has the option of holding off on telling us about his PTSD symptoms and how they affect him.  While a soldier would certainly most likely be more stoic in a traditionally masculine way, it gets in the way of the reader understanding where Mark is coming from and empathizing with him.  He *tells* us that his PTSD makes his life difficult, but we don’t really ever see it.

Because this is a first person novella, this problem with the characterization gets in the way of the strengths of the scifi/fantasy plot, which is honestly fairly unique.  I was glad I got to the end and saw the surprise reveal, but I certainly wasn’t expecting such a good twist from the rest of the book.

Essentially, the scifi/fantasy element of the book is strong, but the characterization at the center of the first person narrative is weak.  Although Mark is a soldier, Cadigan shouldn’t be afraid to let us see the vulnerability of his PTSD.  Recommended to fans of a unique ghost story looking for a quick read.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Kindle copy from author in exchange for my honest review

Buy It

Counts For:

Book Review: Barefoot Season by Susan Mallery (Series, #1)

April 10, 2012 2 comments

Chairs on a deck near the ocean.Summary:
Michelle ran away from mistakes made at home to the army, and now she’s coming home from three tours of duty to Blackberry Island in the Pacific Northwest.  Her father abandoned the family when she was a teenager, but left his historic inn in trust to her.  Her mother was running it until she died, and now Michelle is back to reclaim her inheritance.  Only it seems that her mother may have not so much been running the inn as running it into the ground.  Meanwhile, Michelle’s once best friend, Carly, thought she was working toward owning part of the inn only to be side-swiped by the fact that Michelle’s mother lied to her….not to mention the bad blood between her and Michelle.  It’s a lot for anyone to deal with, but toss in Michelle’s PTSD and Carly’s single motherhood, and it seems impossible for either of them to ever truly get their lives in order.

Review:
I am not usually a chick lit person, but this one slipped in under my radar thanks to Harlequin’s new MIRA line (which is chick lit with some sex scenes).  I’m glad it did, because I found the story relatable, heart-warming, and a welcome escape.

The plot is complex, which I think is evident from my plot summary.  There is a lot going on.  But it never feels forced or like too much.  It simply feels like real life.  Michelle and Carly both have a *lot* of shit to deal with and watching them deal with it imperfectly but understandably is an enjoyable experience.

Although both Michelle and Carly have their own romance plot lines, the story is really about healing their broken friendship, as well as their wounds from their individual painful pasts.  I enjoyed this because the story shows healing happening alongside real life.  Too often books either ignore the tough things or focus on them to the exclusion of real life.

Of course, being the mental illness advocate that I am, I was incredibly pleased to see Michelle’s PTSD come up and be dealt with in such a true to life manner.  Michelle at first is mentally wounded and won’t truly admit it.

While she wasn’t a big believer in PTSD, she’d been told she suffered from it. So she’d listened to the counselors when they’d talked about avoiding stress and staying rested and eating well. (location 207)

Perhaps the most true-to-life part of the whole book is that Michelle takes a while to admit that she is not ok, even while those around her who love her are expressing their concerns to her.  A lot of people have difficulty acknowledging a problem, particularly if they view themselves as strong and independent.  Seeing Michelle realize that reaching out for help is stronger than suffering alone is honestly the best part of the whole book.

Although we do have a couple of sex scenes, I did feel that the romance was a bit….quick and forced for both women.  However, this is the first book in a series, so perhaps their romantic relationships will be explored more in future books.

I also have to say that the title makes zero sense to me.  It brings to mind summer, but that’s about all the relation I can see between it and the story.

Overall, this is a piece of chick lit with an intelligent perspective on PTSD in female soldiers and a dash of romance.  Recommended to fans of the genre as well as those who enjoy a contemporary tale and want to dip their toe into the chick lit world.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: NetGalley

Buy It

Counts For:

Book Review: The Walking Dead, Book Six by Robert Kirkman (Series, #6) (Graphic Novel)

February 13, 2012 2 comments

Carl in orange against a pile of zombies.Summary:
The group continues to slowly lose their collective minds, although it is quickly made evident that they haven’t gone as crazy as some groups when they find themselves stalked by living cannibals.  Toss in a preacher who failed to protect his flock and what turned out to be a pack of lies from the scientist, and it’s no wonder the group is suspicious when a couple of men approach and offer them refuge in an idyllic community just outside of DC.  They in their state of PTSD can’t stop seeing danger around every corner and don’t even realize the dangerous ones just might be themselves.

Review:
You know how they say you can always find someone in the world worse off than you?  Well, the first part of book 6 seems to be all about proving that’s true, perhaps in a way to humanize the group prior to how abundantly evident their loss of humanity is in contrast to the DC compound.  That isn’t to say I particularly enjoyed the cannibalism plot-line.  I can see its value, yes, but I also feel like we’d already seen how bad humanity can go in Woodbury, and if people are going to be eating people, that’s what you have zombies for.  So the first half of the book is kind of meh to me.

On the other hand, seeing our group in the DC compound is delicious.  I think one of the pieces of artwork in the appendix at the back explores the contrast eloquently.  Michonne is dressed up talking to a group of women at a party, but she’s hiding a sword behind her back.  The group has become so used to constantly being turned on and at war with the zombies and other survivors that they cannot relax.  Classic PTSD.  It’s fascinating to see how even Carl can recognize that they are no longer like these people who’ve been able to have downtime in the zombie war.  Anybody who understands war and trauma at all would know that these people need special care.  Even just the way they clump up and sleep all together in spite of being offered separate quarters is a symptom of PTSD, and yet the DC group makes Rick a cop.  Um….ok.  A seriously questionable choice there, but then again, the mayor of DC did used to be in politics.  And we all know how smart those types can be.  *eye-roll*

In any case, it’s obvious that this book is setting things up for a show-down between our traumatized group and the DC folks.  I’m enjoying seeing our main guys turn slowly evil, and I’m curious to see how far Kirkman is willing to take it.  That said, the first half of the book with the cannibals seemed kind of unnecessary to me.  I’d rather have seen more zombies.  Overall, it moves the plot forward, but that plot momentum is left mostly to the second half of the book.  Worthy of the series and hopefully book 7 will live up to the build-up.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Public Library

Buy It

Previous Books in Series:
The Walking Dead, Book One (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Two (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Three (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Four (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Five (review)

Book Review: The Walking Dead, Book Five by Robert Kirkman (Series, #5) (Graphic Novel)

January 23, 2012 2 comments

Zombies surrounding a purple person.Summary:
After the slaughter at the prison, Carl and Rick are alone in the open, keeping a constant vigil against the walking dead.  They are not alone for long, though, quickly finding Michonne and the other survivors.  Soon yet another group of strangers stumbles upon them.  These ones, though, claim that one among them is a scientist who knows how the whole plague started, and they’re heading to DC to put a stop to it.

Review:
This entry in the series could easily be called, “The survivors start losing their damn minds.”  Not that you can blame them, what with the constant deaths, being surrounded by zombies, and disturbingly frequent loss of limbs.  (Seriously. If I’m ever in a zombie apocalypse, I’m wearing chain mail. The amount of limbs lost is starting to freak me out).

Basically, almost everyone in the group is starting to show symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, in spite of still being in the middle of trauma.  I applaud Kirkman for being realistic and including the whole going crazy bit in the storyline.  Too often in these sort of post-apocalyptic stories the people all show this unrealistic super-human strength.  Having people talking to their dead relatives, people trying to commit suicide, people pretending like some of the dead never existed, and kids becoming surprisingly cool-headed about killing are all realistic outcomes of a hypothetical scenario.  The character development at this point is basically the kids are turning cold and the adults are losing their shit.

Meanwhile, the plot has the much needed addition, finally, of a scientist.  We are being teased by a possible reason for the zombies, after finally accepting there isn’t one, and it’s awesome.

Speaking of the zombies, this book finally delivers what we haven’t really seen since book one–a zombie herd.  A horde of hundreds and hundreds of flesh-eating zombies. So much gore to look at. And each one is unique in its own way.  This is why zombie graphic novels are *fun*.

In spite of the character development and propelling of the plot forward, this entry does not have the power of the last one.  It’s hard to compete against The Governor and the loss of key characters, of course.  This book felt like the classic setting the stage for the next big event syndrome often found in series.  It’s fun, not mind-blowing, but necessary.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Public Library

Buy It

Previous Books in Series:
The Walking Dead, Book One (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Two (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Three (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Four (review)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 922 other followers