Book Reviews

#BlogTour My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward by Mark Lukach #TLCBookTours

My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward cover

 

My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward gives readers an intimate and often heartbreaking look into the lives of author Mark Lukach and his wife, Giulia. In their third year of marriage, Giulia suffered a psychotic break. Delusional and suicidal, she was confined to a psych ward for twenty three days before she was allowed to return home. In time, she recovered, and they welcomed their son, Jonah, into the world. Sadly, Giulia would suffer two more psychotic episodes over the next few years, and had to be confined to the psych ward, again, each time.

Giulia’s journey is often distressing to read about, as is the way it affected all those who loved her. Lukach tells how he felt as a husband—and later, as a father—as he watched his beloved wife slide into episodes of delusional thinking, and the terror he felt when Giulia became suicidal. He also writes about how the role of caretaker took a toll on him physically and emotionally, and is brutally honest about the anger he sometimes felt toward his wife, and how overwhelmed he became in trying to care for both his wife and son during these times.

It feels weird to say I enjoyed a book about so serious a topic as mental illness, but I did. It’s beautifully written, and I know I’ll be thinking about this book for quite some time.

Highly recommended for readers who enjoy memoirs, and books dealing with mental health issues!

 

Author: Mark Lukach

Title: My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward

Genre: Memoir

Published: May 2nd, 2017 by Harper Wave

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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About the Book

A heart-wrenching, yet hopeful, memoir of a young marriage that is redefined by mental illness and affirms the power of love.

Mark and Giulia’s life together began as a storybook romance. They fell in love at eighteen, married at twenty-four, and were living their dream life in San Francisco. When Giulia was twenty-seven, she suffered a terrifying and unexpected psychotic break that landed her in the psych ward for nearly a month. One day she was vibrant and well-adjusted; the next she was delusional and suicidal, convinced that her loved ones were not safe.

Eventually, Giulia fully recovered, and the couple had a son. But, soon after Jonas was born, Giulia had another breakdown, and then a third a few years after that. Pushed to the edge of the abyss, everything the couple had once taken for granted was upended.

A story of the fragility of the mind, and the tenacity of the human spirit, My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward is, above all, a love story that raises profound questions: How do we care for the people we love? What and who do we live for? Breathtaking in its candor, radiant with compassion, and written with dazzling lyricism, Lukach’s is an intensely personal odyssey through the harrowing years of his wife’s mental illness, anchored by an abiding devotion to family that will affirm readers’ faith in the power of love.

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About the Author

Mark Lukach is a teacher and freelance writer. His work has been published in the New York Times, the Atlantic, Pacific Standard, Wired, and other publications. He is currently the ninth-grade dean at the Athenian School, where he also teaches history. He lives with his wife, Giulia, and their son, Jonas, in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Find out more about Mark at his website, and connect with him on Facebook and Instagram.

TLC Book Tours The Sky's The LimitTour Schedule

Tuesday, May 2nd: A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, May 3rd: bookchickdi
Friday, May 5th: Tina Says…
Tuesday, May 9th: StephTheBookworm
Wednesday, May 10th: Back Porchervations
Thursday, May 11th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Monday, May 15th: Stranded in Chaos
Tuesday, May 16th: Dreams, Etc.
Wednesday, May 17th: Wining Wife
Thursday, May 18th: Jathan & Heather
Monday, May 22nd: Book Hooked Blog
Tuesday, May 23rd: Thoughts On This ‘n That
Wednesday, May 24th: The Geeky Bibliophile

 

Book Reviews

The Scribe of Siena by Melodie Winawer #Review @melodiewinawer @TouchstoneBooks

The Scribe of Sienna cover

Back in November, I received an email from Simon & Schuster offering a free ebook if I was willing to take part in a study to help them learn more about how readers engaged with their books. All I had to do was create a Jellybooks account, pick my freebie, and start reading. At the end of every chapter, I would click on a button that said ‘sync reading stream’… easy-peasy.  Of the five book choices, I had already read one of them, and had my request on Netgalley declined for another. Thinking I would choose the latter, I signed up. I had to read the blurbs for the other books—no self-respecting bibliophile would skip doing that, right?—and my mind was changed as soon as I read the blurb for The Scribe of Siena.

I’ll own up to the fact that it was the Outlander mention/comparison that made my choice an easy one. (If you know me, you know I am totally obsessed with love the story of Outlander, so you aren’t surprised in the least.) I think I would have chosen this book regardless, because the plot greatly appealed to me. I went into reading it a bit warily, though, because the last book I read that compared itself to Outlander—despite being a very good book—felt like false advertising, in that regard. After giving it some serious thought, I’ve come to decide that the The Scribe of Siena is worthy of the comparison. The stories, settings, and plots aren’t mirror images, of course. It is exactly like Outlander, however, in that it can’t be boxed into one single genre, but to a group of genres—specifically time travel, historical fiction, suspense, and romance. They are close enough in the ways that count to make it an acceptable comparison to me.

When books have historical settings, it’s important that everything fits the time and place;  dress, language, societal hierarchies… all of it has to be right, to feel right. Lovers of historical fiction are sophisticated enough to hone in on little details that don’t belong, and it can’t ruin the entire book for them when it happens. Thankfully, that didn’t happen with this book. Winawer clearly did the necessary historical research to bring this fourteenth-century medieval Italian setting to life, and it paid off beautifully in vivid characters, settings, and dialogue.

The conspiracy at the heart of the story was gripping, and my breath caught more than once as the conspirators set about committing their dastardly deeds. I enjoyed how it tied in to the research Beatrice’s brother did prior to his death, and why a particular person in the present day was so motivated to get his hands on that research.

As much as I loved the historical portions of the story, the present day story was equally enjoyable to read.  Most of the action understandably takes place in 14th century Siena, but Beatrice’s life in modern-day Siena had memorable moments, as well.

The love story between Beatrice and Gabriele was sweet. As is typical concerning lovers from different centuries, Beatrice ultimately has to decide whether to stay in his time, or go back to hers. The catalyst for this decision wasn’t something I’d foreseen, and that was a welcome surprise.

I absolutely adored this book, and I highly recommend it. I think fans of the Outlander series would really enjoy it, as well as readers who enjoy a good time travel story lush with historical detail, a healthy dose of romance, and a good batch of suspense added to the mix. The Scribe of Siena is a brilliant debut, and I’m fervently hoping to see more novels from this author in the future!

I received an advance reader copy of this book courtesy of Touchstone and Jellybooks.

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Author: Melodie Winawer

Title: The Scribe of Sienna

Genre: Historical Fiction, Time Travel, Romance

Publication Date: May 16, 2017 by Touchstone

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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About the Book

Equal parts transporting love story and gripping historical conspiracy—think The Girl with a Pearl Earring meets Outlander—debut author Melodie Winawer takes readers deep into medieval Italy, where the past and present blur and a twenty-first century woman will discover a plot to destroy Siena.

Accomplished neurosurgeon Beatrice Trovato knows that her deep empathy for her patients is starting to impede her work. So when her beloved brother passes away, she welcomes the unexpected trip to the Tuscan city of Siena to resolve his estate, even as she wrestles with grief. But as she delves deeper into her brother’s affairs, she discovers intrigue she never imagined—a 700-year-old conspiracy to decimate the city.

After uncovering the journal and paintings of Gabriele Accorsi, the fourteenth-century artist at the heart of the plot, Beatrice finds a startling image of her own face and is suddenly transported to the year 1347. She awakens in a Siena unfamiliar to her, one that will soon be hit by the Plague.

Yet when Beatrice meets Accorsi, something unexpected happens: she falls in love—not only with Gabriele, but also with the beauty and cadence of medieval life. As the Plague and the ruthless hands behind its trajectory threaten not only her survival but also Siena’s very existence, Beatrice must decide in which century she belongs.

The Scribe of Siena is the captivating story of a brilliant woman’s passionate affair with a time and a place that captures her in an impossibly romantic and dangerous trap—testing the strength of fate and the bonds of love.

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About the Author

Melodie Winawer
Melodie Winawer (Photo © Dana Maxon)

Melodie Winawer is a physician-scientist and Associate Professor of Neurology at Columbia University. A graduate of Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Columbia University with degrees in biological psychology, medicine, and epidemiology, she has published forty-seven nonfiction articles and book chapters. She is fluent in Spanish and French, literate in Latin, and has a passable knowledge of Italian. Dr. Winawer lives with her spouse and their three young children in Brooklyn, New York. The Scribe of Siena is her first novel.

Author photo and bio via Simon & Schuster.

Book Reviews

#Review: The Final Trade by Joe Hart @AuthorJoeHart

The Final Trade cover

At the end of The Last Girl,  Zoe and her friends helped her attack the ARC and rescue some of the girls who remained there… but not all of them. Her friends Lily and Terra were killed, as well as Lee’s father, Simon—Zoe’s Cleric when she was imprisoned in the ARC. Zoe nearly died after being shot, and was left temporarily paralyzed from her injury. Worst of all, Lee abandoned her because she was a constant reminder of his father’s death.

In The Final Trade, Zoe has regained the use of her legs and life goes on as usual. While interrogating a NOA spy, she discovers the location of copies of records on all the women formerly held in the ARC. In the pursuit of this precious knowledge, the terrible truth about NOA’s association with the “Fae Trade” comes to light, and Zoe sets her sights on a new mission… to destroy the Fae Trade.

The Final Trade is book two in The Dominion Trilogy series, and there’s never a dull moment in this action-packed sequel. The story is told from the perspective of Zoe, as well as that of a mysterious woman called Wen, who travels with the Fae Trade as a cook. While Zoe plots the destruction of the Trade, Wen and her friend are planning their escape. Both sides of the story were equally compelling, and when the two merged, it set the stage for an explosive reveal that slowly built from the beginning of the book.

The evil specter of NOA takes a backseat to the Fae Trade this time around. Ingloriously repulsive and chilling in its purpose, Hart does an excellent job of portraying the depravity of the Trade without going too far.

With intense situations and thrilling action sequences alongside moments of raw emotion,  The Final Trade makes for a powerful read that will have you clamoring for the final book of the trilogy. Highly recommended for readers of dystopian/post-apocalyptic novels.

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Netgalley and Thomas and Mercer.

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Author: Joe Hart

Title: The Final Trade

Series: The Dominion Trilogy #2

Genre: Dystopian, Post-Apocalyptic

Published: September 13th 2016 by Thomas & Mercer

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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About the Book

The thrilling sequel to the runaway bestseller The Last Girl.

Zoey is not the woman she once was. She’s watched her friends die at the hands of their captors, been hunted, and returned from the brink of death. Now she must find the truth about who she is.

In search of the family she never knew, Zoey learns of personal records stored in an Idaho missile silo that may contain the information she and the other women seek. With the help of her group of newfound friends, Zoey travels to the missile facility, but among the records, they uncover information that leads to an insidious and horrific new foe: the Fae Trade, a macabre carnival of slavery and pain.

Zoey’s journey into the darkest parts of the human psyche brings her perilously close to the ever-thinning line between good and evil, and the final cost in her quest for justice might be her own humanity.

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About the Author

Author Joe Hart
Author Joe Hart

Joe Hart was born and raised in northern Minnesota. Having dedicated himself to writing horror and thriller fiction since the tender age of nine, he is now the author of nine novels, including The River Is Dark, Lineage, EverFall, and the first two books in the Dominion Trilogy, on which this graphic novel is based. When not writing, he enjoys reading, exercising, exploring the great outdoors, and watching movies with his family. For more information on his upcoming novels and access to his blog, visit http://www.joehartbooks.com.

Author photo and bio via Amazon.

 

Book Reviews

#Review: The Idea of You by Amanda Prowse @MrsAmandaProwse

The Idea of You cover

Lucy Carpenter and her husband, Jonah, are happily married and planning to have a baby. When she becomes pregnant, Lucy spends her evenings knitting baby clothes. She has a pregnancy book she reads to discover how her baby is developing week by week, and imagines how happy their lives will be once their baby is born.  Her heart is broken when she has an miscarriage, but they are determined to try again. Sorrow strikes a second time when she has another miscarriage. As Lucy struggles to deal with the pain of her losses, she must also adjust to the arrival of her teenaged step-daughter, Camille. Lucy hopes to build a relationship with her, but instead finds herself feeling like an outsider in her home. Envious of the relationship Jonah has with his daughter and fearful that she will never be able to have the baby she desperately longs for, Lucy begins to resent Camille’s presence. The rocky relationship she has with Camille causes a rift to form between Lucy and Jonah, and Lucy is less than thrilled when Camille announces she’s staying. A shocking turn of events brings about a situation that will either bring them together, finally, as a family… or tear them apart.

The Idea of You is a beautifully written novel you won’t soon be able to forget. Intensely emotional and painfully realistic, this is a book guaranteed to wring every ounce of empathy from you, and then some. Lucy’s dream of motherhood are especially poignant when she writes of what she imagines it would be like to have a child… dreaming of the possibilities, of the things she would do with her child at different ages. You’ll definitely want to have a box (or two) of tissues handy when you read this book, because I don’t think it’s possible to read this one all the way through with dry eyes!

Simply put, this is a book worth reading.

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Netgalley and Lake Union Publishers.

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Author: Amanda Prowse

Title: The Idea of You

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Published: March 21st, 2017 by Lake Union Publishing

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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About the Book

With her fortieth birthday approaching, Lucy Carpenter thinks she finally has it all: a wonderful new husband, Jonah, a successful career and the chance of a precious baby of her own. Life couldn’t be more perfect.

But becoming parents proves much harder to achieve than Lucy and Jonah imagined, and when Jonah’s teenage daughter Camille comes to stay with them, she becomes a constant reminder of what Lucy doesn’t have. Jonah’s love and support are unquestioning, but Lucy’s struggles with work and her own failing dreams begin to take their toll. With Camille’s presence straining the bonds of Lucy’s marriage even further, Lucy suddenly feels herself close to losing everything…

This heart-wrenchingly poignant family drama from bestselling author Amanda Prowse asks the question: in today’s hectic world, what does it mean to be a mother?

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About the Author

Author Amanda Prowse
Author Amanda Prowse

Amanda Prowse was a management consultant for ten years before realising that she was born to write. Amanda lives in the West Country with her husband and their two teenage sons.

Author photo and bio via Goodreads.

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Book Reviews

#Review: No Apparent Distress by Rachel Pearson, MD @HumanitiesMD @wwnorton

No Apparent Distress cover

If you are deeply concerned about the plight of the poor in America—and, in particular, the roadblocks they face in getting even the smallest health care need met—then this is going to be an extremely difficult book for you to read.

As I write this review,the date is currently January 23, 2017. Three days ago, Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States of America. The House of Representatives and the Senate is in Republican control and it’s just a matter of time before a new Supreme Court Justice is appointed—who will most certainly be a Conservative—which means all three branches of the Federal government will be under Republican control. By the time this review is published in late April, it is very likely that under this Republican majority, the Affordable Care Act will have been repealed, which will be particularly devastating to the most vulnerable in our society who gained coverage through the medicaid expansion (if they were fortunate enough to live in a state that expanded medicaid).

Which makes this a most timely read, indeed.

No Apparent Distress recounts the author’s days as a medical student in Galveston, Texas, detailing some of her experiences working in St. Vincent’s Student-Run Free Clinic. Staffed by volunteer students and physicians from University of Texas Medical Branch, St. Vincent’s offered health services for the uninsured poor. Financial limitations restricted the care patients received, sometimes with deadly results.

Pearson doesn’t shy away from admitting her own mistakes and shortcomings as a medical student; she shares those stories with regret and the 20/20 hindsight that wisdom brings. Nor does she hide her frustration about the disparity of care available to the insured vs. the uninsured, given examples of the inequalities she noticed while working/learning at the office of another doctor whose patients were insured and had considerable financial means, as well.

The Haves… and the Have-Nots.

If ever there was a book that inspired compassion for those less fortunate, it’s this one. If you’re seeking understanding about what it’s like to be poor and uninsured in America, I urge you to read this book. It’s definitely an eye-opener.

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Netgalley and W. W. Norton & Company.

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Author: Rachel Pearson, MD

Title: No Apparent Distress: A Doctor’s Coming-of-Age on the Front Lines of American Medicine

Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir

Publication Date: May 9th, 2017 by W. W. Norton & Company

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Purchase Links

W. W. Norton & Company | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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About the Book

In medical charts, the term “N.A.D.” (No Apparent Distress) is used for patients who appear stable. The phrase also aptly describes America’s medical system when it comes to treating the underprivileged. Medical students learn on the bodies of the poor—and the poor suffer from their mistakes.

Rachel Pearson confronted these harsh realities when she started medical school in Galveston, Texas. Pearson, herself from a working-class background, remains haunted by the suicide of a close friend, experiences firsthand the heartbreak of her own errors in a patient’s care, and witnesses the ruinous effects of a hurricane on a Texas town’s medical system. In a free clinic where the motto is “All Are Welcome Here,” she learns how to practice medicine with love and tenacity amidst the raging injustices of a system that favors the rich and the white. No Apparent Distress is at once an indictment of American health care and a deeply moving tale of one doctor’s coming-of-age.

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About the Author

Author Rachel Pearson
Author Rachel Pearson (Photo © Danielle Barnum)

Rachel Pearson, MD PhD, is a resident physician who also holds a PhD from the Institute for the Medical Humanities. Her writing has appeared in Scientific American, the Guardian, and the Texas Observer. She is a fifth-generation Texan, currently training as a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Author photo and bio via publisher’s website.