Invisible Illness Week: Book Recommendations

Invisible Illness Week

Invisible Illness Week

This week is National Chronic Invisible Illness Awareness Week – a week dedicated to raising the visibility for the countless people who suffer from illnesses that can’t be seen.   Chances are, you or someone you know is directly affected by an illness that can’t be seen; they shape our lives in ways that are hard to imagine for people that  can’t “see” the illness.  CNN shared a great article today, on how to talk to someone with a Chronic Illness – it is definitely worth a read!

I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder Type II in 2009.  Being a reader who is married to a fellow book-lover, my husband and I read everything we could get our hands on.  We also recommended a few books to family members, to help them understand what we were dealing with.  I wanted to share a few of those today.

One of my favorites is an older book, by Kay Redfield Jamison.  An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness details Dr. Jamison’s struggle with Bipolar Disorder (manic-depression), and her climb out of it. William Safire, in a review for the New York Times, said. “The most emotionally moving book I’ve ever read about emotions.”, and I wholeheartedly agree.  Dr. Jamison speaks with firsthand knowledge as well as professional experience, in a language that is relatable and honest.  She has authored several other books, all equally readable, but for me personally this one stands out.

Madness by Marya Hornbacher

Madness: A Bipolar Life by Marya Hornbacher was a New York Times bestseller when it was published in 2008.  Ms. Hornbacher offered a no holds barred, intimate look at her battle with Bipolar Disorder.  Although she suffers from Type I, reading about her struggle still gave normalcy to mine, as I fought to regulate medications and regain a grip on my life.

She wrote a book before Madness – Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia (P.S.), which details another Invisible Illness.  I have not read it, but based on my experience with Madness I am sure it is phenomenal.

Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder by Julie A. Fast & John D. Preston, MD


The book that my husband got the most out of was Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder.  Described as  “… a first of its kind book—written specifically for the partner of a person with bipolar disorder. If you have a loved one with bipolar, you know how disruptive and straining this disorder can be to your relationship. You may experience feelings of fear, loss, and anxiety as well as a constant uncertainly about your loved one’s ever-changing moods.

This book is designed to help you overcome the unique challenges of loving someone with bipolar disorder. With the supportive and helpful information, strategies, and real-life examples contained here, you’ll have all the tools you need to create a loving, healthy, and close relationship.”

It is something both he and I refer back to on a regular basis.

There are other books I’d say are worth browsing, especially if the diagnosis affects you.  Get Me Out of Here: My Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder by Racehl Reiland (I too found those words on a piece of paper upon discharge, with not much explanation) is one.  Manic: A Memoir by Teri Cheney is another that immediately comes to mind.

Whatever your Invisible Illness is, it is important to educate yourself about it, so you can educate others.  Read everything you can get your hands on, ask questions of your treatment team and caregivers, and talk to others who have been down the path you’re on.  YOU are your best advocate, and your best chance at conquering your illness.

Do you or someone you know suffer from an Invisible Illness?  Have you read any books that helped you through it, or that you’d recommend to others?  Feel free to share here!

Book Review: Charlotte Markham & the House of Darkling

Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling by Michael Boccacino

Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling by Michael Boccacino

Another book I am thankful to have received for review  this summer from William Morrow Paperbacks was Michael Boccacino’s Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling.  I am a sucker for a great title and book cover, and this one really came through on both of those.  A rusty gate as the background of an intriguing title…yes please!  I’m always ready for a bit of Victorian Gothic suspense and fantasy.  Katherine Webb, author of The Unseen (which I reviewed recently) said this book was “A lyrical and visceral adventure into a realm beyond time and death.”  That is a perfect description!
From the back cover:

When the nanny to the young Darrow boys is found murdered on the outskirts of Blackfield, Charlotte Markham, the recently hired governess, steps in to take over their care.  During an outing in the forest, they find themselves crossing over into The Ending, the place for the Things That Cannot Die, where Lily Darrow, the late mistress of Everton, has been waiting.  She invites them into the ominous House of Darkling, a wondrous, dangerous place filled with enchantment, mystery and strange creatures that appear to be, but are not quite, human.

However, everything comes with a price, and as Charlotte begins to understand the unspeakable bargain Mrs. Darrow has made for a second chance at motherhood, she uncovers a connection to the sinister occurrences in Blackfield and enters into a deadly game with the master of Darkling, one whose outcome will determine not just the fate of the Darrows, but of the world itself.

Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling is a Victorian gothic tale about family ties, the realm beyond the living, and the price you pay to save those you love.

There is quite a bit of craft involved when choosing names for characters, I think.  And Michael Boccacino nails his choices like a seasoned expert, despite this being his first novel.   The entire concept of this novel, with its themes of loss and love and life and death, is executed perfectly.  I was pulled in from the beginning, and did not want to put it down.

The feel of this book reminded me a bit of my beloved Jane Eyre, with a dose of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (both books I recommend heartily, if you’ve never read them) thrown in.  And I am not the only person to make those comparisons – I encountered several reviews after reading the book that drew the same conclusions.  Charlotte Markham, and really all of the characters, are fully realized – they have flaws, and Boccacino takes the time to let the reader know how others in the book interact and respond to those flaws.  This style of of writing allows for a very intimate portrait of each character.  It is easy to see and feel Lily Darrow’s devotion to her children (even in death), Charlotte’s concerns of the constraints of society versus the growing feelings for her employer, and even the indifference of the inhabitants of the House of Darkling.

The book is dark, yet there is humor and intense caring to be found.  The concepts of how Death works in both “real life” and  for the “Things Above Death” is fascinating.  I loved every page of the book, and was particularly touched by the P.S. (Insights, Interviews, and More) section at the back.  Boccacino laid himself bare in that section, and it makes the novel he wrote all the more interesting.

This is a book I will re-read, and recommend to everyone.  I loved it!  Pick a dark and stormy night (ok, any rainy day will do), grab a blanket and a cup of hot tea, and settle in for a fantastic read.

Quick Facts:
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Original edition (July 24, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0062122614
ISBN-13: 978-0062122612
Author’s Website: Michael Boccacino
Facebook: Michael Boccacino
Twitter: @mboccacino

Book Review: The Girl Below by Bianca Zander


The Girl Below by Bianca Zander

I am so grateful for all of the books I received this summer to review!  One of the novels I received from the nice folks over at William Morrow was Bianca Zander’s  The Girl Below.  Once again, this one seemed pretty much right up my alley – time travel, a bit of Britain, and a little bit of the surreal/fantasy/suspense thrown in for good measure.

Here is the official synopsis:

Suki Piper is a stranger in her hometown. . . .

After ten years in New Zealand, Suki returns to London, to a city that won’t let her in. However, a chance visit with Peggy—an old family friend who still lives in the building where she grew up—convinces Suki that there is a way to reconnect with the life she left behind a decade earlier. But the more involved she becomes with Peggy’s dysfunctional family, including Peggy’s wayward sixteen-year-old grandson, the more Suki finds herself mysteriously slipping back in time—to the night of a party her parents threw in their garden more than twenty years ago, when something happened in an old, long-unused air-raid shelter. . . .

A breathtaking whirlwind of mystery, transgression, and self-discovery, Bianca Zander’s The Girl Below is a haunting tale of secrets, human frailty, and dark memory that heralds the arrival of an extraordinary new literary talent.

I read the book in a weekend…it was a compelling and quick read.  I’m not sure that I loved it, though.  In my opinion, the main character was hard to connect to; I found Suki to be selfish, aimless, and a complete narcissist.  She didn’t really seem to want to do anything to help herself (or her situation), and for me that was a profound turnoff.  The pace of the book swung from quick to meandering, and there were portions I just didn’t care about (does that ever happen to you when you read?).

Despite my dislike of the main character, I was unwilling to break up with the book.  The book was written in first-person voice, so I had to get past my irritation with Suki and focus on the story…and it was a great story.  I was absolutely pulled in to the “what possibly could have happened down there” aspect, and there were a few moments where I was genuinely nervous (I am always worried about what could be lurking in a wardrobe).

I’m still not sure I’m satisfied with the resolution at the end, and I felt overall as though something was missing.  But it was a decent read – I didn’t love it or hate it.  I will absolutely read more from this author, as I think she has a great flair for writing.  She utilizes fantastic imagery and descriptive writing, and can absolutely set a scene.  I’m just hoping the next main character is more likable.

Quick Facts:
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Original edition (June 19, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0062108166
ISBN-13: 978-0062108166
Twitter: @BiancaZander

I received a complimentary copy of the book to review – no other compensation was given and all opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review: Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

I have been waiting for Deborah Harkness’s second novel, Shadow of Night: A Novel (All Souls Trilogy), since the second I put down the first book in this trilogy (A Discovery of Witches).  I read that book from cover to cover in one sitting, and then reread it again.  And then checked it back out of the library a couple weeks later!  It recently popped up a the Nook Daily Find, and I snapped it up for my Nook at a bargain price – talk about making my day!  I was on vacation in the Outer Banks when  my Advanced Reader’s Copy of the newest book arrived.  I could hear it calling to me, all the way from home.  I could not wait to dive into this engrossing story.  Shadow of Night hits shelves today, so you can go pick it up right now!

If you’ve not heard of these books, here is a brief synopsis of Shadow of Night:

Deborah Harkness exploded onto the literary scene with her debut novel, A Discovery of Witches, Book One of the magical All Souls Trilogy and an international publishing phenomenon. The novel introduced Diana Bishop, Oxford scholar and reluctant witch, and the handsome geneticist and vampire Matthew Clairmont; together they found themselves at the center of a supernatural battle over an enchanted manuscript known as Ashmole 782.

Now, picking up from A Discovery of Witches’ cliffhanger ending, Shadow of Night plunges Diana and Matthew into Elizabethan London, a world of spies, subterfuge, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the mysterious School of Night that includes Christopher Marlowe and Walter Raleigh. Here, Diana must locate a witch to tutor her in magic, Matthew is forced to confront a past he thought he had put to rest, and the mystery of Ashmole 782 deepens.

Deborah Harkness has crafted a gripping journey through a world of alchemy, time travel, and magical discoveries, delivering one of the most hotly anticipated novels of the season.

This book in no way disappoints!  Harkness has some serious skill as a historian; I am mildly obsessed with all things related to Elizabethan England (and Europe), so her attention to detail was something I found refreshing.  I am always a little nervous that subsequent books in a series will not live up to the debut – this book actually surpasses it!  Matthew and Diana’s love story goes to a whole new level, and is tested in ways neither could have imagined.  The historical characters peppered throughout the book are wonderful additions, and seeing how the Matthew of that era interacts with them is almost like seeing a whole new character.  Harkness expertly crafted a historical world that is honest and real, and won’t allow you to walk away from it.

This book ends with a cliffhanger, as its predecessor did.  I don’t ever like to share spoilers, so I am literally sitting on my hands to keep from sharing too much of the story.  Suffice it to say, if you at all like history, science, art, literature, vampires, and witches, this book should be at the TOP of your list!! (I do recommend that you read Discovery of Witches first – the second book will make more sense them) .

If you’ve read Discovery of Witches, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it!  Are you looking forward to Shadow of Night?

Quick Facts:
Hardcover: 592 pages
Publisher: Viking Adult (July 10, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0670023485
ISBN-13: 978-0670023486

More Summer Reading

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I’ve been remiss in actually writing down my summer reading list for this year.  Kim shared part of her list recently; I thought I’d share mine today!

I consider the “summer reading” season to be from Memorial Day to Labor Day each year; last year I squeezed in about 15 books.  Summer is busy, but I’m hoping this year with my kids a year older (and more independent) I’ll have more time to spend curled up with books.  Plus, my daughter has a fantastic reward waiting for her at the end of the summer – if she meets her summer reading goal, she earns herself a Nook Color.  I suspect she’ll be buried in books more often than not.

So, in no special order, here’s what I’m planning to read this summer.  Some books have been sent to me by the publishers for review, a few have been on our home bookshelves for quite some time (and my husband has heartily recommended them to me), and a few are by favorite authors I am excited to read more from.  Take a look:

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (completed)
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (completed)
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness (completed)
Heart Sick by Chelsea Cain
Iron Council by China Mieville
Embassytown by China Mieville
The City and the City by China Mieville
The Kraken by China Mieville
Arranged by Catherine McKenzie*
Picture This by Jacqueline Sheehan*
Walking Into the Ocean by David Whellams*
Woman Chased By Crows by Marc Strange*
Nemesis by Jo Nesbo
The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo
The Devil’s Star by Jo Nesbo
The Unseen by Katherine Webb*
Summer of Night by Dan Simmons
The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi
That’s twenty-three books on my list, in fifteen weeks.  Books with an asterisk next to them are the publisher-requested reviews.   Plus, I’m planning to re-read the Sookie Stackhouse series (but really….that might take a couple of days, max, lol!).  I also am revisiting my library of  Thich Nhat Hanh books, to do a little re-centering.  Enough writing about the books – I’m off to read!
Do you do “summer reading”?  What’s on your list this year?  Leave me a comment – I’d love to hear about it!

Book Review: Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris

Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris

Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris

I could not wait to get my hands on Deadlocked (Sookie Stackhouse, Book 12), the newest installment of Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series.  I confess, I have an emotional attachment to these books, which are completely different from the HBO series based on them.   Although I’d read them all previously, two years ago my wonderful husband purchased what was then the newest book (Dead Reckoning (Book 11) for me to read while I was in the hospital awaiting the birth of our son.  He was a very testy sleeper, so I re-read all ten of the preceding books in the wee hours of the night, while I sat up with him for weeks.  These books are just pure fun!

Here is a brief overview of Deadlocked:

It’s vampire politics as usual around the town of Bon Temps, but never before have they hit so close to Sookie’s heart…

Growing up with telepathic abilities, Sookie Stackhouse realized early on there were things she’d rather not know. And now that she’s an adult, she also realizes that some things she knows about, she’d rather not see—like Eric Northman feeding off another woman. A younger one.

There’s a thing or two she’d like to say about that, but she has to keep quiet—Felipe de Castro, the Vampire King of Louisiana (and Arkansas and Nevada), is in town. It’s the worst possible time for a human body to show up in Eric’s front yard—especially the body of the woman whose blood he just drank.

Now, it’s up to Sookie and Bill, the official Area Five investigator, to solve the murder. Sookie thinks that, at least this time, the dead girl’s fate has nothing to do with her. But she is wrong. She has an enemy, one far more devious than she would ever suspect, who’s set out to make Sookie’s world come crashing down.

Sounds entertaining, right?  Well, as with all of her Sookie novels, Harris does not totally disappoint.  There were more than a few points in the book when I found myself wishing things were progressing a bit faster.  Similarly to Dead Reckoning, I felt like Harrris was tired of writing Sookie adventures and was ready to be finished  with the series (I can almost understand that, but this is a beloved set of characters and I am of the opinion that she owes her fans more).  Personalities of characters are markedly different that in other novels (Eric doesn’t seem himself,  and not in a “spelled by a witch” sort of way).  She redeemed the novel in the last two chapters.  I was literally on the edge of my seat (and talking out loud, randomly saying things like “No way!”).  Admittedly, I’m a little sad that this is the penultimate book in the series; I don’t want my little vacations to Bon Temps to end.  At the same time, Harris ended this book in such a way that I absolutely cannot wait to read the next one!   It seems like readers can see where Harris is pushing Sookie, and although I’m not a fan of that choice, I’m holding out hope that the final novel will be packed full of twists and turns and bombshells.

I’m not one for spoilers of any kind in a book review, so I’m trying very hard to not give anything away.  I won’t comment on what happens with Sookie and Eric.  You just have to go and read it for yourself!  I’m struggling with whether or not I truly liked this book, as a stand alone novel, or if I’m just biased because of my attachment to the Sookie series.  I think the latter opinion clouds my judgment; Harris is letting her fans down and needs to step it up for the finale.

Quick Facts:
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Ace; 1 edition (May 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1937007448
ISBN-13: 978-1937007447
Author’s Website: Charlaine Harris

*I own a copy of this book, and was not compensated in any way for this review*