[Q&A with the author] In Pain: A Bioethicist’s Personal Struggle with Opioids by Travis Rieder @TNREthx @HarperBooks

I’m very pleased to share a Q&A with Travis Rieder, the author of In Pain: A Bioethicist’s Personal Struggle with Opioids which came out yesterday (18th of June; Harper Books). Let’s get to the Q&A!

Q&A with Travis Rieder

BTP: First of all, thank you so much for taking the time out of your schedule to answer a few questions of mine! As you already know, I’ve very much enjoyed reading In Pain and found it to be well-researched as well as written and engaging. I’ve come up with a few questions that I find to be interesting and may relate to the book as well as some general ones.

Q: Did you always know you were going to write a book (become a writer) or was it something that came spontaneously?

A: That’s a hard question. I’ve loved to write since I was a kid, and I always kind of daydreamed about having something I wrote read by the general public. I idolize good writers, and have longed to publish a trade book for years. As a scholar, though, I’m not exactly trained for that. I spent many (many!) years in graduate school learning precision and rigor in writing, which can often lead to prose that is, well, boring. So I’ve successfully published for years, but I still didn’t consider myself a writer.

After my motorcycle accident, I slowly came around to the idea of writing a popular book. I didn’t go straight there, though. I wrote a well-regarded scholarly article, and eventually pitched the book to an academic press. They told me that I really should find an agent and pitch to a trade press, because my story—which I wanted to use to push along some important lessons about pain and opioids—was compelling enough to warrant wider distribution. So I ended up giving it a try.

To be honest, though, I was totally unsure it would ever happen. It seemed too far and too foreign. I’m completely thrilled that I eventually found my way and am getting to share this book with a bigger audience than academic publishing affords.

Q: How long did it take you to write this book? Did you find anything particularly challenging while writing it?

A: In some sense, I began writing In Pain while still in the hospital. Family and friends told me to record what was happening—maybe for pragmatic reasons (remembering facts that might be necessary when dealing with insurance, for example) and maybe for therapeutic reasons (it would help me to process my trauma). I’m very glad they did, as both were true. I would have forgotten nearly everything if I hadn’t done the writing, as both drugs and trauma are very good for erasing memories. It also did make me feel better to put on paper how I saw the events unfolding; it gave me a sense of control.

So if you date it from the hospital, it took about three years. The most active period, though, after I found an agent and then once we sold the book to HarperCollins, lasted about 15 months.

Q: I’m interesting in the process of writing In Pain, did you write it every day or did you take breaks?

A: Related to my previous answer: there were lots of breaks in the beginning, when I didn’t know who I was writing for (or even whether I would ever be willing to publicly share my story). Once I knew that the book would happen, and then even more when I negotiated deadlines with the publisher, I tended to write on a schedule. During the school year, when I was teaching and mentoring my graduate students, I wrote about 3-4 days per week—always at night, typically after my daughter and partner went to bed. 9pm-12pm was the time slot when the vast majority of the book was drafted. During the summer, I wrote every weekday—still at night, but adding early morning writing if I could carve it out from my other research.

Q: How did you find the research process for In Pain? Was it fun and interesting?

A: I absolutely adored every aspect of writing a book. It’s the most satisfying thing I’ve done in my professional life. The writing of my story was profoundly therapeutic; I feel like I took this pain and suffering, pulled it out of myself, and locked it into the pages. Turning in the final revisions felt like saying goodbye to self-pity. And the research aspect was just delightful fun. I got to think of how best to tell stories about the ideas I wanted to convey, which is not how academic writing happens. I would run drafts past my agent or editor, and they’d constantly say, “Travis, you’re being an academic in this section.” Looking to where they pointed, I’d immediately understand, and go back to the drawing board. I loved this process of finding the best way to communicate a complex idea, and every time I got feedback, I felt like I got closer to really being a writer.

Q: While reading In Pain I stumbled upon something – when you write examples for certain situations you use ‘she’ while generally people use ‘he’ when they write something like the following: If he goes to the clinic to take meds…Was this something that was intentional?

A: Yup. It’s a habit from my feminist intellectual upbringing. There’s absolutely no reason to use ‘he’ exclusively except for an invisible cultural framework that allows ‘man’ to stand in for ‘human’. In the very near future, I expect it will be nearly universally acceptable to use ‘they’ as a non-gendered singular pronoun, and then I won’t have to make a point of using the feminine. But until then, if the rules of writing require picking a gender, I’ll choose to counter the backdrop of patriarchal influence.

Q: I’m sure there are people who will be left with wanting more after reading In Pain, could you recommend some books with a similar topic?

A: Absolutely! In no particular order, and on various themes that my book deals with: Beth Macy’s Dopesick, Sam Quinones’s Dreamland, Maia Szalavitz’s Unbroken Brain, Barry Meier’s Pain Killer, Carl Hart’s High Price, Johann Hari’s Chasing the Scream.

Q: What are some of your favourite books and what are you reading at the moment?

A: Favorite books—what a hard question! I’d have to say Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air, Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal (along with most anything else he writes), everything David Sedaris, and on the fiction side, every single one of Kurt Vonnegut’s books.

At the moment, I’m reading Lloyd I. Sederer’s The Addiction Solution, Jonathan Metzl’s Dying of Whiteness, David Wallace-Wells’s The Uninhabitable Earth, and Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime. All very different books, and all good and interesting.

BTP: Thank you very much, Travis!

Travis: Thanks so much for reading and reviewing the book, and for inviting this Q&A—it’s been a real joy!

As I’ve mentioned at the beginning of this post – Travis’ book came out yesterday and it’s such a fascinating and well-researched one! I will leave a link to my review of his book here.

Add ‘In Pain: A Bioethicist’s Personal Struggle with Opioids‘ to your TBR:  

*Purchase ‘In Pain: A Bioethicist’s Personal Struggle with Opioids‘ here:

*Purchase ‘In Pain: A Bioethicist’s Personal Struggle with Opioids‘ with free international delivery here: 

**I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

Travis Rieder was born and raised in Indiana, after which he has slowly and steadily moved eastward. After completing his BA at Hanover College in southern Indiana, he moved to South Carolina to do an MA in philosophy. He then did a PhD in philosophy at Georgetown University before taking a faculty position at Johns Hopkins, where he currently teaches.

Travis’s writing is wide-ranging, but took a sharp turn in 2015 after a motorcycle accident and a traumatic experience with pain and pain management that resulted. Since that experience, he has worked to turn his intimate struggle with opioid painkillers into a research program and a mission to reduce harm from irresponsible prescribing. IN PAIN, published by HarperCollins in June 2019, combines his personal story with fascinating and disturbing facts about the history of pain and opioid use, the American healthcare system, and suggestions for how the tide can be turned on the interlocking epidemics of pain, opioids, and addiction.

Find him on: Website, Twitter and Goodreads.

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[BOOK REVIEW] In Pain: A Bioethicist’s Personal Struggle with Opioids by Travis Rieder @TNREthx @HarperBooks

If you’ve been following this blog for a while you’ll know that I tend to read non-fiction books on a variety of different topics. I genuinely enjoy reading non-fiction because I learn a lot of new things about e.g. science, biology, personal struggles of memoir writers etc. What first attracted me to In Pain: A Bioethicist’s Personal Struggle with Opioids was the cover – it’s just so powerful and bang on in showing what the book is mainly about. I just love that! Of course, a reader mustn’t judge a book by its cover but…. it helps when a book has a cool cover you can stare at for hours. Now, for all of you who like short reviews…. well…. this won’t be one BUT I’ll try and make it as on-point as possible.

Let’s begin with what the book is about – In Pain: A Bioethicist’s Personal Struggle with Opioids by Travis Rieder is about [you guessed it] Travis Rieder, who winds up getting in a motorcycle accident which lands him in a hospital having to endure a number of surgeries to fix his foot. While staying in hospital he has to take medication to keep his pain away – the medication is a blessing but after several months of being under their influence he realises that something’s not right. Following his doctor’s order he begins to get off the medication – most of us would think ‘Great, now I’m off the meds and I’ll be able to function better’ but that’s not what happened. Rieder went under opioid withdrawal  which caused him a lot of pain and suffering. Rieder and his family try every door to get help but every single one seems to be shut. What most doctors suggest to  him is that he should go back to the medication and try to get off them later but having endured what he has Rieder knows that it’s not a good idea to go back, instead what he does is something that’s very brave and something that made him a stronger person. What this painful and exhausting experience sets off in Rieder is the search for answers and loopholes in the American healthcare system.  What he does in this book is a result of meticulous research on history of opioids, the production of opioids, the effects of opioids, healthcare system and how it’s failing when it comes to prescribing medication and giving needed information to its users and more.

What I loved a lot in this book was that even before writing about his experience and other things the author writes a note to the reader saying that he asks of the reader to go into his book with an open mind because some people won’t like what he states in the following pages and some might even disagree.What’s most important is that you go into In Pain without any prejudice because while reading the book you’ll see in what way Rieder presents the subject matter he discusses in each chapter.

You can find some talks about his book here and Travis’ TED Talk here.

In Pain: A Bioethicist’s Personal Struggle with Opioids will be out on June 18th 2019. I’ve put links where to pre-order it and add it to your TBR below in the Get the book section.

So, this is my review in short for those of you who don’t like long reviews – if you wish to know more in the following I’ll be discussing the chapter structure and what each chapters deals with. Thanks for reading and please let me know your thoughts on whether you think you’ll add this one to your TBR!

My rating:

I’ll be getting into more detail about the book below. Continue reading

[REVIEW] The Real Lolita by Sarah Weinman @EccoBooks @sarahw

Prior to reading The Real Lolita by Sarah Weinman I was familiar with Nabokov’s Lolita but haven’t read it so keep in mind that these thoughts come form someone who hasn’t read Lolita. What initially drew me to The Real Lolita was the true-crime aspect of it and the parallel between the Sally Horner case and Lolita was a big plus as well.

The Real Lolita is a true-crime book focused on the kidnapping of an eleven year old girl named Sally Horner in 1948 by a man who posed as an FBI agent in order to deceive Sally into going with him. The happenings in Lolita as well as the kidnapping are connected and Weinman [the author] within this book explains the connection between the two. From the first few chapters we are introduced to the story of Sally’s kidnapping which is quite chilling and disturbing. It reads like fiction and it’s hard to believe it’s not. When you pass one hundred pages you will notice that a lot of research went into this book and I really appreciated that while reading. The book feels like an essay or a thesis defending the subject matter at hand since we do not have actual proof [in verbal form or written] that the Sally Horner case inspired Lolita. I have seen some reviews complaining that the book mainly focuses on Nabokov and his life but I would disagree and say that fair amount of chapters discuss both subjects presented to the reader. As the book title clearly says ‘The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel That Scandalized the World’ you should expect Nabokov’s origin story and analysis of early influences prior to the writing of Lolita. Weinman discusses many things and focuses on certain characters whose stories I found unnecessary although some were interesting. I want to go back to the book ‘feeling like a thesis’, Weinman discusses and shows [in a form of a handwritten note] that Nabokov knew about the Sally Horner case before the publication of Lolita but there is mystery around what exactly inspired his master novel Lolita. I would also like to discuss the cover of the book which is absolutely brilliant and showcases the book in the most perfect way. The picture is of Sally Horner on the phone with her family after being rescued – you can see the excitement in her eyes because after twenty-one months of being apart from her family she’s talking to them – and the butterflies which are a connection to Nabokov who had a passion for butterflies. In the book, Weinman points that she’s not the first person to discover the connection between Sally and Lolita because before her we had Peter Welding who wrote an article about it in a paper called Nuggets and we have a Nabokovian scholar called Alexander Dolinin who discussed the parallel between the two as well. Weinman also points out where both went wrong and corrects their mistakes by shining light on Sally Horner who, first, was a victim of a lunatic called Frank La Salle and then an inspiration for the well-known novel by Vladimir Nabokov. What particularly fascinated me was the fact that after several decades people didn’t realise that the character Dolores Haze aka Lolita is a victim of abuse and not someone to be blamed for it. I honestly wish I read Lolita before reading this book because I might’ve seen it as something that it’s not. Now, there are many things I didn’t discuss that are in this book because this review would’ve been very long but I tried my best to share key points.

Although I was familiar with Lolita and what it dealt with [a relationship between an older man and an underage girl] I did get spoiled when it came to certain happenings in the book so if you are someone who doesn’t like to get spoiled I suggest you pick up a copy of Lolita and then get The Real Lolita so you can compare both.

I would like to thank the publisher Ecco Books for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and weren’t influenced by anything.

My rating: 

Add ‘The Real Lolita‘ to your TBR:  

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**I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

Sarah Weinman is the editor of Women Crime Writers: Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s & 50s(Library of America) and Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives (Penguin). She covers book publishing for Publishers Marketplace, and has written for the New York Timesthe Washington Postthe New Republicthe Guardian, and Buzzfeed, among other outlets. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Find her on: Website, Twitter and Goodreads.

[BLOG TOUR + GIVEAWAY] #RandomThingsTours Ladders to Heaven by Mike Shanahan @unbounders @annecater

Today is my stop on the Ladders to Heaven blog tour hosted by the amazing Anne Cater. Since today is the paperback publication day for LTD I am hosting a giveaway on Twitter and will also share it on Instagram so more people can enter. How to enter? Click on the link below About the Book.

ABOUT THE BOOK

They are trees of life and trees of knowledge. They are wish-fulfillers … rainforest royalty … more precious than gold. They are the fig trees, and they have affected humanity in profound but little-known ways. Ladders to Heaven tells their amazing story.

Fig trees fed our pre-human ancestors, influenced diverse cultures and played key roles in the dawn of civilisation. They feature in every major religion, starring alongside Adam and Eve, Krishna and Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad. This is no coincidence – fig trees are special. They evolved when giant dinosaurs still roamed and have been shaping our world ever since.

These trees intrigued Aristotle and amazed Alexander the Great. They were instrumental in Kenya’s struggle for independence and helped restore life after Krakatoa’s catastrophic eruption. Egypt’s Pharaohs hoped to meet fig trees in the afterlife and Queen Elizabeth II was asleep in one when she ascended the throne.
And all because 80 million years ago these trees cut a curious deal with some tiny wasps. Thanks to this deal, figs sustain more species of birds and mammals than any other trees, making them vital to rainforests. In a time of falling trees and rising temperatures, their story offers hope.

Ultimately, it’s a story about humanity’s relationship with nature. The story of the fig trees stretches back tens of millions of years, but it is as relevant to our future as it is to our past.

GIVEAWAY [CLOSED]:

The publisher has been kind enough to allow me to host a giveaway for a paperback copy of Ladders to Heaven. It will be UK only and you can enter by RT-ing this tweet.

Add ‘Ladders to Heaven‘ to your TBR:  

*Purchase ‘Ladders to Heaven‘ here:

*Purchase ‘Ladders to Heaven‘ with free international delivery here: 

**I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

Mike Shanahan is a freelance writer with a doctorate in rainforest ecology. He has lived in a national park in Borneo, bred endangered penguins, investigated illegal bear farms, produced award-winning journalism and spent several weeks of his life at the annual United Nations climate change negotiations. He is interested in what people think about nature and our place in it. His writing includes work published by The Economist, Nature, The Ecologist and Ensia, and chapters of Dry: Life without Water (Harvard University Press); Climate Change and the Media (Peter Lang Publishing) and Culture and Climate Change: Narratives (Shed). He is the illustrator of Extraordinary Animals (Greenwood Publishing Group) and maintains a blog called Under the Banyan.

Find him on: BlogFacebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

[REVIEW] The Incurable Romantic and Other Unsettling Revelations by Frank Tallis @LittleBrownUK

It’s no secret that I enjoy reading psychology non-fiction books and that I’m interested in Psychology. Tallis’ book intrigued me because of the subject matter it deals with – love, to be precise: obsessive love. I rarely read and find books on this subject so I was glad I stumbled upon it.

While reading this book I wrote notes on the first half of the book because many chapters were interesting and contained a lot of information I found useful. The Incurable Romantic contains twelve chapters and each of them deal with a different problem and aspect of love. The stories inside this book are based on real life cases the author worked on with the names of people changed in order to protect identities of his patients. I really don’t want to make this review long but I tend to write essays on non-fiction books so I’ll try and be efficient. In the preface of this book Tallis writes about earlier understandings of love and ‘lovesickness’. He uses a philosopher called Lucretius and looks at his definition on both terms. The conclusion he comes to is that both views on love and lovesickness haven’t changed much in nearly two-thousand years – which means that these feelings have been around for a while. The first chapter of this book The Barrister’s Clerk examines love that is very obsessive to the point where our subject can’t get the person she has feelings for out of her mind. We are talking about stalking here – where the person she likes doesn’t share the same feelings, the person is married but still our subject can’t get these facts into her mind. Tallis explains that the subject suffers from de Clerambault’s syndrome which is a form of a delusional disorder where the person believes that another person is infatuated with them. We see how this obsession ruins her life because she can’t accept that the other person doesn’t share the same feelings. In the second chapter called The Haunted Bedroom we meet our subject, an old woman who lost her husband and who feels very depressed and lonely. When Tallis interviews her what she says is very peculiar, he asks her ‘What do you miss most about your husband?’ and she replies ‘The sex.’. She begins to see her husband everywhere, in the house, in the park. Here Tallis explains something called PBHE or Post Bereavement Hallucinatory Experience. Furthermore, Tallis explains that people we loved [who passed away] have a subconscious place in our mind which can cause us to see or feel the persons presence because we were with them for a long period of time. Seeing the people we were close to makes us more comfortable and helps us grieve better. In the third chapter called The Woman Who Wasn’t There we see how the Delusional disorder: Jealous type takes effect on a woman who becomes obsessed with her boyfriend to a very extreme point. She becomes very jealous because her boyfriend doesn’t text her (even though he texts her every chance he gets), doesn’t tell her where he’s going etc. What we see is how a relationship can be ruined because of jealousy that consumes our subject. This chapter is very relatable to me because I find myself to be the same but not to that extreme. I found Anita’s concerns to be something I would be asking myself too but there were certain parts where her actions couldn’t be justified. There are many interesting stories in this book but sadly I can’t share them because this review would be long. Even though this book doesn’t offer solutions to problems each subject has it gives a fresh perspective on things like obsession, delusion, addiction, love.

I would complain about the lack of resolution to this problem because I really wanted to know more about each person I encountered in this book but psychoanalysis and therapy, as Tallis says, often fail when it comes to resolving certain problems but what they do is offer new insight into problem they try to cure.

It is safe to say that The Incurable Romantic is a book that offers an insight into obsessive love as well as historical background on psychological and biological factors that influence love and how people perceive and express it.

To anyone who enjoys reading books about psychology and is interested in human nature and how we perceive love should read The Incurable Romantic.

I would like to thank the publisher Little Brown UK for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions written here are my own and weren’t influenced by anything.

My rating: 

Add ‘The Incurable Romantic‘ to your TBR:  

*Purchase ‘The Incurable Romantic‘ here:

*Purchase ‘The Incurable Romantic‘ with free international delivery here: 

**I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

Dr. Frank Tallis is a writer and clinical psychologist. He has held lecturing posts in clinical psychology and neuroscience at the Institute of Psychiatry and King’s College, London. He has written self help manuals (How to Stop Worrying, Understanding Obsessions and Compulsions) non-fiction for the general reader (Changing Minds, Hidden Minds, Love Sick), academic text books and over thirty academic papers in international journals. Frank Tallis’ novels are: KILLING TIME (Penguin), SENSING OTHERS (Penguin), MORTAL MISCHIEF (Arrow), VIENNA BLOOD (Arrow), FATAL LIES (Arrow), and DARKNESS RISING (Arrow). The fifth volume of the Liebermann Papers, DEADLY COMMUNION, will be published in 2010. In 1999 he received a Writers’ Award from the Arts Council of Great Britain and in 2000 he won the New London Writers’ Award (London Arts Board). In 2005 MORTAL MISCHIEF was shortlisted for the Ellis Peters Historical Dagger Award.

Find him on: Website, Goodreads and Twitter.

[REVIEW] I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara @FaberBooks

I came across this book a while ago and I sadly can’t remember when but I just felt attracted to it because of it being a true crime book, who doesn’t love a true crime book? Also the title I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is so chilling and so mysterious that it makes you dive into the book and find out more about it.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is a story about a serial killer/rapist, active around 1975-1984. who during that time left a mark on every place he terrorized and made people sleep with one eye open. Michelle McNamara, the author, paints a chilling picture of GSK’s crimes and takes us on an investigative journey spanning many decades. What’s interesting about this case is that GSK was never caught but his crimes are still remembered. McNamara was a journalist/true crime writer and she had a true crime blog called True Crime Diary which is still up on the internet. She dedicated her time to catching GSK and finding more about him. Since McNamara was a child she became obsessed with all things crime and she describes one particular incident that sparked the fire inside of her: A crime happened near her home where a woman was murdered but there was no one to blame for the crime. In I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, McNamara goes into detail about almost every attack that was performed by The Golden State Killer and shares her findings as well as clues which might be linked to the GSK himself.

McNamara is an excellent writer, with every word she writes you are taken to i.e. 2 am, a house in a quiet neighbourhood where everyone’s  asleep except for one person. Someone is entering a house through the window with a flashlight and a knife, threatening a couple that he’ll kill them if they don’t cooperate. There are many more chilling true crimes which were commited by The Golden State Killer. The way the subject matter was presented to the reader was concise and easy to follow as you will see if you pick this book up. McNamara takes us through every scene and even reconstructs crimes so you can get a better picture. I loved the letter in the end from McNamara where she tells the facts that with the rise of technology and it advancing GSK will not go unpunished for his crimes (provided that he is still alive).

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is a fascinating exploration of The Golden State Killer’s psyche as well as a well-researched true crime book worth reading.

I would like to thank the publisher Faber&Faber for sending this book my way in exchange for an honest review. All opinions written above are my own and weren’t influenced by anything.

My rating: 

Add ‘I’ll Be Gone in the Dark ‘ to your TBR: 

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Michelle McNamara Born Michelle Eileen McNamara April 14, 1970 Died April 21, 2016 (aged 46) Los Angeles, California U.S. Nationality American Alma mater University of Notre Dame University of Minnesota Occupation Writer Years active 2006–2016 Spouse(s) Patton Oswalt (m. 2005–2016) (her death) Children 1 Website Official website Michelle Eileen McNamara (April 14, 1970 – April 21, 2016) was an American writer and crime blogger. She was the wife of comedian Patton Oswalt. She was the author of I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer, a true crime book about the Golden State Killer. The book was released posthumously in February 2018 and is being adapted as an HBO documentary series.

If you wish to visit her true crime blog click here.

[REVIEW] Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover @PRHGlobal

Where do I begin? What a memoir. This is one of the most interesting and disturbing true stories you’ll read this year. With its title Educated you already get a sense on what this memoir is about: an education, but it’s also a lot more.

Tara Westover has been raised in a very unconventional way [this might not be unconventional to everyone but it is to me and I’m sure most people reading this]: she didn’t go to school until later in her adolescence, her family raised her with such ludicrous beliefs and ideas. I usually write the synopsis of the book in my words but if you’re interested in it you can go to the books Goodreads page.

Educated is a very strong memoir in every sense of that word – from the bravery of our heroine, Tara, to the will and emotional strength it took for her to be where she is now. I mentioned that her childhood was very unconventional and it truly is because no child is supposed to do the things her father makes her do, his ideas of the end of the world and preparing for it signaled something in me. After getting a little deeper into the book I could assume that her father wasn’t a mentally healthy person – I presumed he was schizophrenic or had bipolar disorder. One of my guesses was right and it was bipolar disorder because even as Westover mentions exactly this it can be caught early on because of his behaviour. What I salute the author for is showing her struggles with academia. Yes, you read the synopsis and it says ‘She earned a PhD at Cambridge.’ but what I am thankful for is the author showing that it’s not that easy to earn one. The struggles she faced were real and might happen to other people which made her very relatable to me and I’m sure it will to other readers.There is so much more I didn’t say about this book from because I feel like you should read it and experience it as it is not someone’s retelling of it.

This book left a bitter-sweet taste in me even though I craved finding out more about her upbringing and education I felt that she as a person hasn’t dealt with certain things in healthy ways. If I were put in her shoes I believe that I would deal with it differently but who knows? It depends on the effects that life has left on the person.

Educated: A Memoir is truly a special work of literature which I’m sure many people will enjoy. I felt empathy, got enraged and felt the positives and negatives of Westovers life and I must say that it was a darn good ride.

I would like to thank PRH Global for sending this free book my way in exchange for an honest review. The opinions written here are my own.

My rating: 

Add ‘Educated: A Memoir‘ to your TBR: 

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**I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

Tara Westover is an American author living in the UK. Born in Idaho to a father opposed to public education, she never attended school. She spent her days working in her father’s junkyard or stewing herbs for her mother, a self-taught herbalist and midwife. She was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom, and after that first taste, she pursued learning for the next decade. She received a BA from Brigham Young University in 2008 and was subsequently awarded a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. She earned an MPhil from Trinity College, Cambridge in 2009, and in 2010 was a visiting fellow at Harvard University. She returned to Cambridge, where she was awarded a PhD in history in 2014.

Find her on: Website, Facebook, Twitter and GoodReads.

[REVIEW] Mental: Lithium, Love, and Losing My Mind by Jaime Lowe

Whenever I stumble upon a mental health book I make sure to read it because to me mental health is the most important thing in one’s life. I try and read mental health books as often as I can and I hope this year will be filled with great mental health books. Mental: Lithium, Love, and Losing my Mind is a very interesting and thoroughly researched book on bipolar disorder and the drug Lithium.

In Mental we are introduced to Jaime Lowe, a woman who suffers from bipolar disorder (bipolar I) and who as you can tell by the title takes lithium (a commonly used drug to treat bipolar disorder). In her memoir she tells us the story of her life with and without Lithium – her younger days filled with manic episodes which weren’t yet diagnosed and her post-adolesence life filled with therapy and taking medication in order to control her bipolar disorder. Even though this is a memoir it is also a well-researched exploration of the drug, Lithium – its effects, good and bad sides.

As I mentioned Lithium is widely known in treating bipolar disorder and the Lowe’s decision to include her research of the drug into her memoir works pretty well because it makes the novel in its way much more enjoyable. Mental does have some downsides because of its repetitiveness and switching from one story to the other in a chapter. Lowe provides us with a lot of historical information about Lithium, its components and how it was used in the past. While researching she has interviewed many psychiatrists, psychologists and scientists who gave her more insight on the drug as well as us, the reader. I have learned where the first mental institution was built and how mentally ill people were treated back then. I have highlighted a few quotes and interesting information from this book which I’ll share below:

‘’One of the first examples of hysteria was observed by Thomas Sydenham in 1681.’’

**

‘‘[talking about mania] There’s a magnetism to that kind of high, and I knew I could draw people to me.’’

**

‘’I turned into a comet or a supernova, bursting but going in no particular direction, aimed at nothing but intensely moving forward on a trajectory to nowhere and everywhere at the same time. Everything was eclipsed by me. I was the sun, the moon, the solar system, the beginning of time and the end.”

**

’’When you are depressed you want to be a time traveler, going back, going forward, being anywhere but in the here and now.’’

**

‘‘One night when H was away, the sky shook and lit up like war.’’

To anyone who loves learning about mental disorders or bipolar disorder in particular I would recommend this book because it contains plenty of interesting information and the work Lowe put in it shines through the pages.

I would like to thank the publisher (Blue Riders Press) and Netgalley for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

My rating: 

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Jaime Lowe is a writer living in Brooklyn. She is a frequent contributor to The New York Times Magazine and her work has appeared in New York magazine, EsquireSports Illustrated, Maxim, Gawker, The Village Voice,  LA Weekly, and on ESPN.com. Lowe is the author of Digging for Dirt: The Life and Death of ODB, a biography of Ol’ Dirty Bastard, a founding member of the Wu-Tang Clan.

Find her on: Twitter

[REVIEW] The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

While scrolling through Twitter I stumbled upon a picture of a proof copy that had an interesting cover, it had no text but only a photograph of a house which made me very curious and immediately interested in it. I went on GoodReads to read the synopsis and I was SOLD. I sadly wasn’t able to get the proof with the house on the cover but managed to get a digital copy of the book with the amazing US cover. This is a really special memoir which still haunted me even after I finished reading it.

courtesy of panmacmillan

UK proof copy of ‘The Fact of a Body’

You’re out of Law school, you have decided to take on a summer job at a law firm to help defend men accused of murder, you have made this decision with a clear mind but upon reviewing the case video tapes of the man you’re supposed to help defend you freeze and something inside you changes and what comes to your mind now is hate and instantly you want this man to die – this is exactly what happened to the author of this book, Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich. At that moment she begins questioning everything that happened in her life, focusing on her past and how it has shaped her as a person as well as reviewing the case more and more and trying to find out the reason why this crime happened. That is basically all you need to know before getting into this book.

‘Grief takes root inside people.’

The story alternates from the past and the present as the author tries to paint a character study of Ricky Langley, his childhood, his adolescence and what drove him to commit this heinous crime. We also get the authors story as she revisists her past and focuses on the things that have left an impact on her today life. I have to say that the way Marzano-Lesnevich makes you feel somewhat empathetic towards Ricky, particularly the way his mind works, is very well done because she doesn’t make him a monster but a human being whose mind and emotional stability are fragile (but still twisted). The authors struggles and the trigger that Ricky Langley pulled into her mind which made her question her past were very raw and honest and they made this story even more gripping. A lot of themes are discussed in this story which I feel like I’ll ruin if I reveal them so go get this book and read it. After I finished reading the book I googled Ricky Langley and seeing a video of him describing his crime made me realise that this story is very real and has made an impact on many lives.

‘I have come to believe that every family has its defining action, its defining belief. From childhood, I understood that my parents’ was this: Never look back.’

This is a haunting story which in a way is very personal and that’s what makes it a compelling read and a book which any true crime/mystery/thriller lover should read.

***Warning: This memoir features child abuse and child molestation which may be a heavy/hard read for some readers. 

I would like to thank the publisher (Flatiron Books), NetGalley and the author (Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich) for allowing me to read an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

My rating: 

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Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich is the author of THE FACT OF A BODY: A Murder and a Memoir, which will be published by Flatiron Books (Macmillan) in May 2017. It is also forthcoming from publishers internationally. A National Endowment for the Arts fellow and Rona Jaffe Award recipient, she has twice been a fellow at both MacDowell and Yaddo. Her essays appear in The New York Times, Oxford American, Iowa Review, and many other publications, and were recognized “notable” in Best American Essays 2013, 2015, and 2016. She earned her JD at Harvard and now teaches at Grub Street and in the graduate public policy program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Find her on: Website, Goodreads and Twitter.

[REVIEW] On Edge: A Journey Through Anxiety by Andrea Petersen

As always I’ll start the review by saying how I came upon this book: I was looking for more mental health memoirs/non-fiction to read and stumbled upon this book in the publishers catalogue. The very first thing that attracted me towards this book is the subject matter it deals with: anxiety. The reason why that interested me is because I, myself am an anxious person and have always been one. Anxiety before a test, check, Anxiety whilst going to the supermarket, check, Anxiety while talking to people face to face, check. I still haven’t learned how to control my anxiety and I often avoid social situations but I guess that in time I’ll learn how to better cope with anxiety and anxious thoughts.

The author of this book is a journalist who has been suffering from anxiety disorders since she was a child but has been officially diagnosed in her twenties. We enter the mind of Petersen and experience her life filled with anxiety, panic attacks and more anxiety. This book is half memoir half psychology/science book combined together. It is divided into nine chapters with each one concentrating on different aspects of anxiety which is really fascinating. Example:

  1. THE ANTICIPATION OF PAIN: DEFINING ANXIETY
  2. SCARY CLOWNS AND THE END OF DAYS: ANXIETY IN CHILDHOOD
  3. MY GRANDMOTHER’S MADNESS: THE GENETICS OF ANXIETY
  4. and more..

In On Edge: A Journey Through Anxiety the author offers insight into new research, history, effects of anxiety, drugs, treatment as well as her experience with it. While reading this book I’ve learned a lot more about anxiety in general but also the correlation between anxiety, depression and suicide:

Depression is the mental illness most strongly associated with suicidal thoughts, but it doesn’t often lead to suicidal acts. Recent research has found that it is anxiety disorders and other illnesses, like problems with impulse control or addiction, that are more likely to lead to suicide attempts.’

I have also learned the origin of the post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which Jacob Da Costa, an American physician discovered during the Civil War – an American soldier was complaining about ‘lancinating pains in the cardiac region, so tense that he was obliged to throw himself upon the ground’ which were resurfacing every so often. As a result of this he has named the soldiers condition ‘irritable heart syndrome’. Freud has called anxiety disorders ‘The Anxiety-Neurosis’ and he paved the way for better understanding of anxieties and panic attacks (even though his approaches always had a connection with the unconscious and repressed urges).

I very much enjoyed reading about Petersen’s experience with anxiety and panic attacks – we also got insight into her life, family anamnesis with mental illness. The author compares gender roles – focusing on women’s and how having an anxiety disorder and its treatment was handled in the past.

‘The writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman has described her experience with the rest cure in the autobiographical short story The Yellow Wallpaper…

Deprived of distraction and any intellectual life, the heroine [of the short story spends hours staring at the yellow wallpaper in her room, gradually descending into madness

...The rest cure was primarily prescribed to women. When Theodore Roosevelt was diagnosed with neurasthenia, his doctor sent him to a dude ranch in the Dakotas for a spell of riding and hunting.’

There were also harrowing facts that show how more and more people in the US suffer from anxiety disorders and other mental illnesses. Nowadays there are many focus groups, group therapies and other resources that can help prevent and manage many disorders. Petersen describes her experience with therapies such as CBT, ACT and many other but what mainly helped her was yoga with its calming effects on the mind of the one who’s doing it. What stayed with me when I finished this book is that nowadays scientists are trying to find better ways to control/ease anxiety in people and that is done by doing MRI scans on the brain while the brain is exposed to the source of the phobia/anxiety (e.g. arachnophobia: people are shown pictures of spiders, moving spiders are shown in virtual reality..) and they are trying to find ways to make people more comfortable with their phobia/anxiety.

In one particular chapter of the book we learn about medications which are used in order to treat disorders and their origins. Petersen compares drugs and therapy and gives us the ups and downs of both. She also shares her worries about her pregnancy and the fear of her daughter having  an anxiety disorder. A wide range of studies, research, effects of anxiety on the brain and the body are described in this book and getting further into them would make this review an essay.

The final chapter of the book focuses on her present living and coping with anxiety and also at what is causing anxiety in young people today. The main reason for anxiety in young people is academia and academic achievements also the pressure that young people feel over getting good grades and making their parents proud. What we are left with is the knowledge that there are many sources of anxiety but what we should know is that we shouldn’t shy away from asking for help and support in dealing with something that’s causing us anxiety or mental health problems.

Some (not all) research and information may not be new to readers who study/have studied psychology/psychiatry but a person approaching this book without any knowledge will be left with information which will surely widen their knowledge on this subject.

A very well researched book filled with tons of useful information for anyone interested in anxiety disorders and psychology/psychiatry.

Release date: May 16th 2017 by Crown Publishing

I would like to thank the publisher Crown Publishing (Penguin Random House) and NetGalley for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review of the same.

My rating: 

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Andrea Petersen

ANDREA PETERSEN is a contributing writer at the Wall Street Journal, where she reports on psychology, health, and neuroscience. She is the recipient of a Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism and lives in Brooklyn, NY with  her husband and daughter.

Find her on: Author profile (publisher)  and Twitter.