Tag Archives: depression

Discovery Challenge 2017 and Tackling My TBR – January Roundup

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I know… it’s too far into February – but I got a tad carried away with my Netgalley requests so it’s been difficult to fit this post in. After reading Jo Hall’s post on the problems women authors have with getting discovered, I’ve been taking part in the challenge to read and review at least 24 books by female authors previously unknown to me during the last two years. So how did I do in January? I read four books towards the 2017 Discovery Challenge. They were:-

The Falconer – Book 1 of The Falconer Trilogy by Elizabeth May
She’s a stunner. Edinburgh, 1844. Eighteen-year-old Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the thefalconerMarquess of Douglas, has everything a girl could dream of: brains, charm, wealth, a title—and drop-dead beauty.
She’s a liar. But Aileana only looks the part of an aristocratic young lady. she’s leading a double life: She has a rare ability to sense the sìthíchean—the faery race obsessed with slaughtering humans—and, with the aid of a mysterious mentor, has spent the year since her mother died learning how to kill them.
She’s a murderer. Now Aileana is dedicated to slaying the fae before they take innocent lives. With her knack for inventing ingenious tools and weapons—from flying machines to detonators to lightning pistols—ruthless Aileana has one goal: Destroy the faery who destroyed her mother.
She’s a Falconer. The last in a line of female warriors born with a gift for hunting and killing the fae, Aileana is the sole hope of preventing a powerful faery population from massacring all of humanity. Suddenly, her quest is a lot more complicated. She still longs to avenge her mother’s murder—but she’ll have to save the world first.

Yes… the blurb does go on a bit, but it does effectively set the scene for this interesting foot-to-the floor adventure. I’ve loved the first two books in this edgy, apocalyptic fantasy – and each book takes the plot off in twisty directions I didn’t see coming. I can’t wait to see how May will end the series this summer…

Strangers by Rosie Thomas

strangersSometimes the victims of tragedy are the ones who survive. Annie and Steve are from different worlds. She is a wife and mother, he is a wealthy executive with a stream of broken relationships in his wake. They do not know each other exists until one morning, on a shopping expedition, they becomes victims of a bomb blast, thrown together in the debris to fight for their lives.

The beginning of the book where the two of them are buried in the bomb blast is amazing. I loved the description – so visceral. Thomas absolutely nailed it. However, I decided in the end not to review this one.

 

Terminal Regression by Mallory Hill

Laura Baily’s life is meaningless. In a world where purpose and passion are everything, Laura feels as terminalregressionthough she has no place and no business even existing. Her life is forfeit, and it would be better for everyone if she simply ended it, if she simply got a ticket for a train to oblivion and faded from memory. But what awaits her at the end of the line isn’t death…

Once more, I’ve edited the rather chatty blurb, but Hill has taken on depression and suicide in this gutsy YA read. I am very impressed at how she approached the subject and managed to make this a readable, thought provoking story. Definitely One to Watch.

 

Old Bones – A Detective Inspector Slider Mystery by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

oldbonesA young couple discover human remains buried in the garden of their new house: could this be the resting place of 14-year-old Amanda Knight, who disappeared from the same garden two decades before, and was never seen again? The problem comes almost as a relief to DCI Slider, still suffering from the fallout of his previous case. He is not popular with the Powers That Be, and his immediate boss, Detective Superintendent Porson, reckons that at least this little puzzle will keep Slider out of trouble. After all, with a murder twenty years in the past, this is the coldest of cold cases. Most of the suspects and principal players are now dead too, and all passion is long spent … Or is it?

This is a gem if you like your police procedurals twisty, with a protagonist whose narrative voice is blessed with desert-dry humour that regularly had me sniggering aloud. Mum was right – this lady can certainly write…

 

Tackling my TBR pile – this month I only managed to read one book towards this Challenge:-

A Symphony of Echoes – Book 2 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s by Jodi Taylor

Follow the adventures of those tea-sodden historians at St Mary’s as once again they dance on the edge asymphonyofechoesof disaster.

And there you have it – the blurb certainly doesn’t venture anywhere near spoiler territory, does it? Once again, Taylor’s punchy prose scoops the reader up into Max’s world and catapults us into the middle of St Mary’s, where Max feels she belongs for the first time in her life. If she didn’t have such a strong sense of humour, this could be a very grim read as plenty goes wrong. I keep thinking, as I read all the sudden reverses and nasty surprises that constantly assail our adventurers, that this series would transfer very well to TV.

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*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Terminal Regression by Mallory Hill

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I loved the look of the futuristic cover, so requested it from NetGalley…

Laura Baily’s life is meaningless. In a world where purpose and passion are everything, Laura feels as terminalregressionthough she has no place and no business even existing. Her life is forfeit, and it would be better for everyone if she simply ended it, if she simply got a ticket for a train to oblivion and faded from memory. But what awaits her at the end of the line isn’t death…

I’m reluctant to add the rest of the rather chatty blurb, because while you can gather Laura doesn’t die from the fact that this is at the start of the book and we have another two hundred or so pages to get through, I don’t like how many spoilers it contains. This YA offering has a really interesting protagonist. She is numb. Life washes around her and while her artistic, talented mother is endlessly encouraging and positive, Laura’s efforts to try and find her own enthusiasm and passion have all ended in failure. Wretched and discouraged, she decides to volunteer for the train to oblivion. Everyone knows about the train – it ships out criminals, misfits and those who can’t cope with living anymore and they never come back. There are also a handful of talented, effective people who are commandeered to board the train – like Laura’s dad eight years earlier – and they are never seen again, either.

It’s a tricky business writing a protagonist with severe depression. The classic symptoms – such as an inability to get out of bed, inability to communicate and prolonged fits of crying to name but a few – don’t generally make for the sort of character readers are going to warm to. But Hill manages to pull it off, which is a major achievement in this debut novel. She also tackles the issue of suicide head-on to the extent that it was causing me some concern, given the target audience are teens. I was uneasy with a protagonist who declared she’d rather be dead – and then acts on that impulse. However, by the end of the book I was far happier with her overall stance and felt that she handles the subject with sympathy and insight.

This is a brave book that wears its heart on its sleeve. The inevitable romantic element is very sweet, to the extent that this particular reader who is a dyed-in-the-wool cynic about such matters was won over by the love interest, who I initially was convinced would turn out to be some psychotic murderer. The sequence of events near the end of the book also had me wondering whether it was realistic to have such a seismic shift without any deaths, but then recalled the bloodless revolutions that have occurred throughout history. Overall, I think Hill has pulled off this one – an impressively ambitious book that marks Hill as One to Watch in the future. Receiving a copy of Terminal Regression from the publisher via NetGalley has in no way affected my honest opinion of this book.
8/10

Staring at the Answer

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A fascinating article in the New Scientist (Issue no. 2753) by Anil Ananthaswamy discussed the findings of several scientists. They have discovered that how we move directly impacts on our approach to abstract thought and the conclusions we reach. Traditionally, our ability to reason – one of the defining traits of our humanity – is considered to be completely closed off from our physical responses. However, these recent findings are increasingly linking our physical states and movements with higher order thinking skills.

A series of experiments in 2008 by Chen-bo Zhong and Geoffrey Leonardelli showed that people obviously excluded in a social setting felt physically colder than everyone else in the room.

Tobias Loestscher and his colleagues at the University of Melbourne conducted an experiment where they asked a dozen right-handed men to think of a string of 40 numbers, between 1 and 30, in a random sequence. As the men listed their sequence aloud to a metronome beat, researchers recorded their eye movements. A pattern quickly emerged.

If they looked left and downwards, the number was typically smaller than the previous one, while if they looked up and right the number was larger. And this correlation was so precise, the researchers could predict the differences in the numbers just by studying the exact direction where volunteers’ eyes focused.
What this experiment didn’t clarify, was whether the eye movements were influencing the number selection, or if the size of the numbers were affecting the eye movements.

However, this is what Daniel Casasanto of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguists has been exploring in his experiments with 24 students. He asked them to move marbles between two shelves, while talking about either positive or negative events in their lives. The students were measurably faster at telling anecdotes reflecting their movements – moving the marbles upwards onto the higher shelf while recounting a positive story, and vice versa.

The next step was to ask the students neutral questions, such as, ‘tell me what happened yesterday,’ when they were engaged in moving the marbles. They were more likely to discuss a positive occurrence while moving the marbles up to the next shelf and recount something negative when moving the marbles downwards.

So… how you move can affect your mood and what you are thinking. On one level, we always knew this, didn’t we? Think of metaphors for moods and mental states that we’ve used all our lives – ‘on a high’… ‘given the cold shoulder’… ‘down in the dumps’… ‘the answer staring you in the face’… George Lakoff, linguist and philosopher, claims that this close relationship with metaphors is no accident, in his metaphor theory. As children, we absorb the physical world in relation to our bodies – and when we have to try and make sense of more abstract ideas and problems, we naturally relate them back to what we actually know and are intimate with – our own physical states.

When suffering with depression some years ago, I was instructed to move briskly, keep my eye level up to meet the gaze of oncoming pedestrians and make sure I smiled at someone every fifteen minutes – whether I wanted to or not. Apparently, when we are miserable, we instinctively look down at the ground, reinforcing our depressed state by isolating us and keeping our mood blue. And using my ‘smile’ muscles, even when I wasn’t feeling like it, would automatically lighten my mood. I was assured that if I went for a walk every day for at least 45 minutes, following these rules, when I got back I would feel happier. I did. It helped that most people I smiled at, responded by smiling back. And within a few days, I was able to start climbing out of my black hole.

I hasten to add – I am not one of those poor souls who suffers from recurring depressive illness, I just happened to be going through a particularly awful patch in my life, which overwhelmed me… I don’t know whether such basic advice could assist someone with major clinical depression – or even if it is generally handed out. But it certainly helped me.

Maybe, these results might lessen the divide between artists, principally concerned with emotional, physical responses; and scientists, more concerned with abstract, higher order problems. I surely hope so. In common with many others, I can’t rid myself of the niggling, nasty feeling that in so thoroughly dividing these two major branches of human endeavour, we are halving our innate abilities and subsequent capacity to respond to the major challenges facing our species.