An Fi50 Reminder…and My Oddest Review Yet!

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Here’s a reminder for all you connoisseurs of micro-flash fiction – Fiction in 50 is kicking off for this month on Monday.  The prompt for April is…

the trouble with Fi50 button

You fill in the blank!

For more information on the challenge, just click the big button at the start of this post.  If you want to play along, just compose a piece of fiction or poetry in fewer than 51 words and link to your effort in the comments of my Fi50 post on Monday.  New players are always welcome!

Now onto…

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And my oddest review yet!

If you aren’t aware of the Oddity Odyssey Reading Challenge for 2015, it basically entails choosing a level that suits your time commitments and reading books across a number of odd categories.  The real crux of the challenge is to get participants reading books that are odd FOR THEM.  For more information, just click on the big fancy button.

I’m doing quite well in my challenge so far, having read seven of my Audaciously Odd goal of 16 or more books for the year.  Today’s book certainly qualifies in the category of books with an odd subject matter but I won’t be adding it to my total just yet because…..I haven’t actually finished it.

Yes, you read that correctly.   I am going to attempt to review a book that I haven’t finished reading. Hold onto your hats.

The book is Mindtouch by M. C. A. Hogarth, the first book in the Dreamhealers Duology and I received a copy from the publisher via Netgalley.  It was pitched as a “light, fluffy, asexual sci fi romance”.  A LIGHT, FLUFFY, ASEXUAL, SCI-FI ROMANCE! Honestly, how could I not take up that offer?!  And I have decided to review it now because it is very, very, very long and I’m enjoying it.  Therefore, I don’t want to quash my enjoyment of the novel by rushing through it to fit a review date.  So odd all round, really.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Seersana University is worlds-renowned for its xenopsychology program, producing the Alliance’s finest therapists, psychiatric nurses and alien researchers. When Jahir, one of the rare and reclusive Eldritch espers, arrives on campus, he’s unprepared for the challenges of a vast and multicultural society… but fortunately, second-year student Vasiht’h is willing to take him under his wing. Will the two win past their troubles and doubts and see the potential for a once-in-a-lifetime partnership?  

mindtouch

Now isn’t that cover just delightful? The promise of a light, fluffy, asexual romance between a skunky-centaur thing and a super-tall, mood-leeching empath.  Brilliant.  This is full-on sci-fi with an original, complex world, so I won’t go into too much detail, except to say that Jahir (the tall one) and Vasiht’h (the four-legged one) end up as room mates at an intergalactic medical school for intergalactic psychiatrists.  The two lads form a friendship as Jahir comes to terms with living on a thriving university campus while being a reclusive introvert with the ability to read people’s moods if they get too close; and Vasiht’h tries to figure out where he wants to go in life and what career he should pursue against the high expectations of his large family.  In the meantime, the two friends become the staunch allies of a group of young children confined to the nearby hospital with serious illnesses.

I have been reading (off and on) since the beginning of February and I’m still only 31% of the way through.  At this rate, I won’t be finished til the end of the year, and that’s if I really put a singular focus on this book to the exclusion of my other reviews! But I am really enjoying this book. It has a gentle pace and a focus on exploring the characters.  It has a complex world with a multitude of species (both organic and genetically engineered) and a plethora of social rules to engage with.  Then there’s the philosophical discussions between the two main characters and the possibilities that these give rise to.

Essentially, I think this is a deeply thought-out piece of work and I don’t want to ruin what has been so far a satisfying and unusual reading experience by putting pressure on myself to finish it within a certain timeframe.  If you are looking for something totally different in the sci-fi sphere – something that is character-driven and concept-focused – then I encourage you to give Mindtouch a try.

Until next time,

Bruce

Shouty Doris Interjects about…Madness: A Memoir

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Shouty Doris interjects

Welcome one and all to a new feature here at the shelf – Shouty Doris Interjects! Every so often you come across a book that will arouse strong emotions. When this happens, you may find yourself shouting (in your head, mostly), at the book, the author, the characters – whatever it is that has you all het up. Well around the shelf we have someone who takes this interjection to the next level. She is known as Shouty Doris. She is a denizen of the shelf and often takes it upon herself to loudly interject when happening upon certain emotion-provoking reads. And so we have given her a feature. She is a vocal non-fan of modern technology, so I was forced to create an artist’s impression of her countenance for the feature button. It’s quite a good likeness, I think. So enjoy this new feature – I hope Shouty Doris’s shoutiness will give you some sense of the complex issues behind today’s book.image

I’m also popping this one in for the Non-Fiction Reading Challenge hosted by The Introverted Reader, hence the  comfy armchair.

The book is Madness: A Memoir by Kate Richards and here is the blurb from Goodreads:

Madness is a real world for the many thousands of people who are right now living within it. It never apologises. Sometimes it is a shadow, ever present, without regard for the sun. Sometimes it is a well of dark water with no bottom, or a levitation device to the stars. Madness, a memoir is an insight into what it’s like to live with psychosis over a period of ten years, in which bouts of acute illness are interspersed with periods of sanity. The world is beautiful and terrifying and sometimes magical. The sanctity of life is at times precious and at times precarious and always fragile. It’s a story of learning to manage illness with courage and creativity, of achieving balance and living well. It is for everyone now living within the world of madness, for everyone touched by this world, and for everyone seeking to further his or her understanding of it, whether you think of madness as a biological illness of the brain or an understandable part of the continuum of the human condition.

madness a memoir

Right from the start, I found this to be a harrowing read. I had just picked it out for a bit of pre-naptime reading and was treated to a very graphic and frankly, stomach-churning description of the author’s attempt to amputate her own arm. While this was definitely not what I was expecting as an opening gambit, it was undoubtedly compelling and I knew that this would be an engaging read.

Shouty Doris interjects

It was bloody disgusting, all that talk about fatty tissue and seeping blood. I nearly had to reach for the sick bag. Honestly, books like this should come with a warning. I had to take one of my tablets to calm down.

This was not the first memoir I’ve read from someone diagnosed with Bipolar, but what set this one apart was the fact that it was written by a trained medical doctor and deeply explored the effects of her psychosis on everyday life. An author’s note at the beginning informs the reader that the book has been put together using the author’s notebooks as a basis for describing the periods during which she was unwell, and I found it interesting that while the descriptions were quite harrowing and shocking, we were also dealing with a narrator who, by her own admission, was unreliable. I questioned, for instance, the fact that none of her colleagues (who were all medical doctors, you will recall) picked up on the obvious signs of her psychosis.

Shouty Doris interjects

What you mean is, it beggars belief that she could turn up to work wearing multiple layers of odd clothing, with seeping wounds from a self-inflicted hydrochloric acid burn, after nights spent awake and imbibing large amounts of alcohol and not one of her learned, medical doctor colleagues noticed anything was amiss. And her being in and out and in and out and in and out of hospital and missing work! Surely her boss would have figured out that something strange was going on!

That aside, the book really raised the complexity of mental illness and the services available to people who suffer from its many variations.

Shouty Doris interjects

How did her workmates not notice the smell? The unkempt hair? I mean, how could you not notice the seeping wounds?!! WHY WOULDN’T ANYONE HELP THIS WOMAN??

The author had quite a negative view of psychiatrists in general as well as the specific psychiatrists of whom she was a patient. This was a recurring theme of Richards’ personal narrative, despite the fact that during much of the book she was too unwell to comply with the psychiatrist’s recommendations.

Shouty Doris interjects

Why did she stop taking her medication? She was doing so well! WHY IS THIS WOMAN NOT CHAPERONED DAY AND NIGHT?! She obviously can’t take care of herself. It was just a revolving door – self-harm episode, hospitalisation, out the door with some medication, and start it all again. For Pete’s sake woman, put away the alcohol! Follow the Doctor’s orders! Wait, now she’s going to New York? And Israel?? On her own? WHOSE STUPID IDEA WAS THAT? THIS IS NOT GOING TO END WELL!

Overall, this book was an in-depth look at one woman’s experience with severe mental illness over a period of years and her journey through the public health system. Reading it has stirred up a lot of questions for me about the glaring gaps in provision of mental health services generally, and especially for those who don’t have the money to afford private health care. In essence, while it was a difficult read in places, Madness is an engaging addition to the literature on mental illness in an Australian context.

I’d recommend this one to anyone interested in individuals’ experiences with mental illness, particularly Bipolar, but if this is your first foray into memoirs about mental illness I’d probably start with something a little less “in your face”, lest you be overwhelmed with the enormity of the subject.

Shouty Doris interjects

Thank goodness it did end well. Or well enough. Although that should have been obvious, seeing as she wrote the book. I need a cup of tea and a good lie down after that debacle. It’s enough to give an old woman heart failure.

Non-Fiction Reading Challenge Progress: 4/10

Until next time,

Bruce (and Doris)