Bipolar books; When We Collided, An Unquiet Mind | Book Review

This is basically me doing two reviews in one, with an intro.

Do you every just realize that you don’t know enough about a group of people’s situation? That’s me after bipolar disorder is a thing that has popped up with a question mark among multiple friends more recently. It makes sense; there’s a lot that will show first signs of bipolar in their early twenties, I’ve started at university where people are under a lot of stress, people are separated from their families and more open because they need support. There’s a whole list of causes.

Read a webmd page on what bipolar is on your own, I’m not going to oversimplify it and then obviously get it wrong. I think An Unquiet Mind’s description of it and constantly using manic-depressive instead makes more sense for people unfamiliar, if not for the actual researchers.

I think I knew more about bipolar than most going into this tiny project, but that’s just because the bar is low. I love this podcast especially by sickboy, called My little blue devil and I where a girl Siobhan talks very openly and with humor about her experiences living with bipolar type 2.

As someone who has other illnesses; what I think is most important to keep in mind is that if you’re reading an account of one person’s experience, that’s that one single person. It might give you better insight into what they’re dealing with, but you can’t apply that to everyone else in that category, which makes sense logically, but people seem to completely forget it when it comes to physical and mental illnesses.

When We Collided by Emery Lord

This is a contemporary young adult with a bit of romance. It has such great characters who form a big chosen family type of bond (though many are siblings so … actual family) with their different problems. The main character Vivi is new in town & has bipolar disorder and is definitely the best written of them. It brings all the summer feelings of a romance, along with all the messiness of someone not stable, but naturally so extroverted and fierce that at the beginning it’s hard to tell for those she interacts with. I’m so mad about reviews that call her a manic pixie dream girl because 1) didn’t someone write a long article about never using that description again and we all agreed and 2) she’s literally manic and you can obviously see the switch. Is there anything I’ve learned in the past couple months it’s that a symptom of manic state is that people don’t have the same risk calculation ability.

4/5 stars. I didn’t enjoy every part as I read it, but it’s stuck in my head, especially Vivi, for a month now.

An Unquiet Mind by Kay. R. Jamison

Trigger warning for suicidal and suicide attempt.

This is a memoir from someone who knows what she’s talking about, having bipolar in her family, struggling with it through her university days, eventually researching bipolar disorder and then getting the diagnosis.

I decided early in graduate school that I needed to do something about my moods. It quickly came down to a choice between seeing a psychiatrist or buying a horse. Since almost everyone I knew was seeing a psychiatrist, and since I had an absolute belief that I should be able to handle my own problems, I naturally bought a horse.

That quote sounds about right. Reminds me a lot of;

Anyway, she eventually sells the horse and gets a psychiatrist and Lithium basically saves her life, as she describes it. Along with the amazing descriptions of living with bipolar, the part where she questions her intentions and her career really got to me. She’s got to face the concept that her disorder might make her a bad psychologist, then she goes through all the reasons why that’s wrong. And the checks she has in place if she were to go suddenly into mania (though unlikely). She instead uses that drive and passion to be a better researcher on her own disorder, which was really inspiring.

But I compare myself with my former self, not with others. Not only that, I tend to compare my current self with the best I have been, which is when I have been mildly manic. When I am my present “normal” self, I am far removed from when I have been my liveliest, most productive, most intense, most outgoing and effervescent. In short, for myself, I am a hard act to follow.

They all seemed very related to one another at the time. Not only did they seem related, but they seemed together to contain some essential key to the grandiosely tizzied view of the universe that my mind was beginning to spin.

5/5 stars. It’s beautifully written, so honest and I’m honestly impressed about the courage to publish (in 1995) for someone who is very aware about the risks of having her career as a clinical psychologist questioned afterwards.

Spring TBR!

I didn’t think I would create a TBR because who knows when I’d get time to read because of university. And then it all went to hell and I need more structure in my life so here we gooo – a Spring TBR it is.

  • By grand central station I sat down and wept by Elizabeth Smart
  • The stranger by Albert Camus
  • All the lonely people by David Owen
  • The picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  • On earth we’re briefly gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
  • Permanent record by Edward Snowden
  • To the lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  • Notes from underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • The incendiaries by R. O. Kwon
  • Red, white and royal blue by Casey McQuiston
  • The serpent king by Jeff Zentner
  • Catch and kill by Ronan Farrow
  • So far so good by Ursula Le Guin
  • Hermosa and Tesoro by Yesika Salgado
  • The bell jar by Sylvia Plath

(Pre-corona times) wine trip | Bi-Weekly Update

Hey, this post was created a couple weeks ago actually, and I somehow never posted it. So I’m going to create a newer one, with all this corona stuff really impacting my life as it does many right now, but enjoy this light-hearted one hahha. Also my france/germany trip was before outbreaks happened in the area.

New book posts:

Other books I’ve been reading:

  • The stranger by Albert Camus (currently reading)
  • On earth we’re briefly gorgeous by Ocean Vuong (currently reading)
  • Night sky with exit wounds by Ocean Vuong
  • Felicity by Mary Oliver
  • Soft science by Franny Choi
  • Ordinary beast by Nicole Sealey
  • Corazón by Yesika Salgado
  • When We Collided by Emery Lord

Added to TBR:

  • Loveless by Alice Oseman (ace! character! and fantastic author)
  • Red, white & royal blue by Casey McQuinston (gay royal romance)
  • Akata witch by Nnedi Okorafor (YA fantasy)
  • Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi (magical realism & mental illness; fractured sense of self, set in Nigeria)
  • How to make a wish by Ashley Herring Blake (YA f/f romance)
  • Crier’s war by Nina Varela (queer fantasy; i’m promised f/f romance, bisexual and lesbians and enemies to lover trope)
  • Come to the rocks by Christin Haws (mermaids with f/f romance)
  • Storm in a teacup by Helen Czerski (science! physics! this could be very good or very bad)
  • Tesoro by Yesika Salgado (poetry)

Three things on my mind:

  • I’m still doing this physics first year of university thing, funny enough. Is it crazy that I thought I would fail before now? It’s not going great overall, but I really like the physics and uni and friends part. One reason it’s not going great overall; I’ve been sick. A bit of a physical illness. But mostly, looking back, my productivity has been greatly damaged by mental illness as well, leading to general inconsistency. Ah yes, I was also diagnosed with a mental illness this week. Which I didn’t think would happen? But it made sense and oh well, it’s going to take some time to get used to having a label on my troubles.

  • I was in France!! And Germany!! Drinking wine!! With this physics & maths wine club I’m in. I became a real wine enthusiast on one (1) trip, and two wine tastings. I also might’ve smiled too wide at the table when the last and most fancy wine expert basically GURGLED his wine, like in parodies. AND MY BOYFRIEND, GERMAN-SPEAKING, HAD TO TRANSLATE THIS GUY SAYING IN A STERN VOICE “THIS MIGHT SEEM STRANGE, AS THE YOUNG WOMAN IS LAUGHING, BUT IT HELPS TO -” (insert expand surface and tastebuds and all that explanation). I was too many glasses of wine in and too entertained to be embarassed, but it was embarassing. And beautiful – the whole trip. The most embarassing moment, for who I’m not sure, happened while we were all learning about making wine, from someone who had more humor. My best friend said what I itched to say, but decided not to; “oh we make wine too”, pointing to the leader of the group. And he had to swifly try, and fail, to explain is that our university wine club’s wine is not made from grapes picked carefully and hundreds of year’s of expertise; but y taking basically grape juice, adding yeast and trying to get a high alcohol percentage. I smiled the whole rest of the tour, while the wine expert repeatedly turned to our leader and spoke to him like he knew the process, waiting for the moment we were alone and my best friend to get yelled at. It was all I hoped for. Lesson learned; don’t expect a bunch of physics & math students to take the social cue in any situation.

  • So the trick to read more books again is to take a flight to France/Germany (it was the border, so we were both places), as well as be just sick in general and forced to relax aka read.

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson | Book Review

Pages: 391

Genre: young adult, mental illness – ptsd

Synopsis

For the past five years, Hayley Kincain and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own.

Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over? The Impossible Knife of Memory is Laurie Halse Anderson at her finest: compelling, surprising, and impossible to put down.

My thoughts

Four out of five stars

Rating out of five: two stars

It’s very possible to put down this book. The number of pages should be half of what it is. It had enough interesting moments for me to see if the ending would be as bad, only to find it was the worst part.

This book is aimed at middle graders, even though it’s marketed as young adult. It gives an insight to a girl – seventeen year old Hayley – dealing with her dad’s PTSD from being a war veteran. She never has a normal A4 life and only is to attend school the year before being supposed to go to college. Hayley lacks in maturity, something that gives for a very annoying inner voice narrating the story, while she’s always acting like the adult in her house and good at crises management. Like extremely good, she saves her father again and again, in gradually less realistic ways, until the book loses its suspense of belief on my part. I truly hated the wrapped-up ‘happily ever after’ ending as well, just because it didn’t match anything happening in the story and felt so very unrealistic.

There’s so many ways this book could’ve been better, because it tries to bring awareness to a very bad living situation with a girl under a lot of pressure, and a dad suffering with ptsd, not getting the help he needs. Still, I wouldn’t recommend this book, there has to be better ones out there with similiar topics.

Borderline by Mishell Baker | Review

The Arcardia Project #1 (out of three books)

Pages: 390

Genre: Urban fantasy, fae, mental health & disability, bisexual main character

Synopsis

A year ago Millie lost her legs and her filmmaking career in a failed suicide attempt. Just when she’s sure the credits have rolled on her life story, she gets a second chance with the Arcadia Project: a secret organization that polices the traffic to and from a parallel reality filled with creatures straight out of myth and fairy tales.

For her first assignment, Millie is tasked with tracking down a missing movie star, who also happens to be a nobleman of the Seelie Court. To find him, she’ll have to smooth talk Hollywood power players and uncover the surreal and sometimes terrifying truth behind the glamour of Tinseltown. But stronger forces than just her inner demons are sabotaging her progress, and if she fails to unravel the conspiracy behind the noble’s disappearance, not only will she be out on the streets, but the shattering of a centuries-old peace could spark an all-out war between worlds.

No pressure. 

My thoughts

Four out of five stars

Rating out of five: three

It’s difficult to review this book fairly, because I respect and admire the setup of it, thinking it had so much promise. Then something happened in the middle, I’m still unsure of exactly what, that made it go downhill. And the ending just highlighted those bad choices.

I’ve looked at other reviews enough to realize almost no one have the same issues with this book as me. The writing flows really good, and it made it seem to much shorter than nearly four hundred pages. I can’t say anything about the accuracy of the portrayal of the borderline main character, but I’ve seen others saying it was well done, and the author draws from own experiences. It’s obvious that the main character does certain things because of her mental illness, and the narration makes that very clear in a way I like, referring to borderline people as it happens. But then there’s enough undiscussed things that makes the character unlikable; like Millie casually thinking and saying racist things out of the blue and having a meltdown and yelling at all the people she’s come to known. It’s even mentioned by another character in the story:

“I don’t mind people being crazy,” he said. “I understand rage and depres- sion and saying stuff you regret. But when I do it, I’m just a dumb dog snap- ping his teeth. What I don’t like about you is that even when you’re being nice, even when things are good, you’re checking out people’s weaknesses, storing things up to hurt them with later. You can’t be trusted. Not ever.”

I really liked how “simple” of a urban fantasy plot this book had, because it was done so well and given new dimensions to explore with each character’s background and small elements it brought, like if they were up to do magic or not depending on how in control of their mental state they were. And I didn’t need to like Millie. But when the side characters starts to feel very one-dimensional and stereotypical – through her eyes – you kind of have lost the ability to cheer for anyone in this book, and then lost interest in how it ends. I don’t know if this is purposefully unreliable narration or not, but it doesn’t really matter because it creates the same issue. Maybe if it had happened earlier in this book, I could’ve reconnected with the characters, but I realize it’s not easy to write a book like this.

There were a lot of awesome small things as well; the bonding happening when someone found their soulmate, the setting of the magical bar. I especially love the quirky dialogue, like when a fae asks if Millie would like to come in for “sex and oranges”. How mental health and disability was such a part of the story, but at the same time not defining. Millie’s part of the story made sense, she was someone who was well-equipped and drew the story forward. Caryl, the young leader, was definitely someone who grew on you as you learned the reasons behind her behaviour, and I really felt connected to her. It just bothers me how it all falls together towards the end – I think it would’ve been better if it was just Millie being allowed to create chaos, but instead the story needs her to wrap it up and win, meaning her mental illness gets the best of her and before having any time to regroup she’s back to clean up and take on the bad guys. Which sounds awesome, but really didn’t work for this story that started out so realistic (despite the magical elements).

I will definitely read the next book. And I recommend this one; it’s worth a shot and a lot of people loved it.

a little bit about mental crises

i had a person tell me he wanted to die, last week. that might be an abrupt beginning to this, but he told me very abruptly as well. i was cooking dinner. he was looking to tell someone. and he’d just gotten back for signing up for treatment. he wasn’t the first one who has told me so since i moved here for university, but he was the first one where i had no clue something was wrong. i told him as much, during our hours of conversations since.

but this isn’t about him, it’s some thoughts i’ve had afterwards. on a very personal level i’m glad i feel like a safe person to tell for more than one. on the other hand i’m the absolute worst person to tell because i have no distance or objectivity, having lived with pain and death and pain and death hanging over my head for so long. i tell everyone of them that, scared that i might make things worse by my understanding too much. not that i think i’ve ever really felt the deepest pits of depression.

a big problem with conveying mental health issues is that you need to be a damn good story teller to be able to portray it correctly. this guy’s descriptions and metaphors were vivid and won’t leave my head. whatever i’m feeling i can’t describe as eloquently.

i’m doing great since the move, really. since beginning university. that doesn’t mean i don’t live in a cycle of constant chronic pain because of illness and is tired down to my bones, sometimes. and sometimes lonely. today it’s because i really need someone who understands me and feels safe to hold around me and i haven’t yet found that here. i will, eventually.

Heartstopper by Alice Oseman Review | M/M Romances #PrideLibrary19 🌈

The webcomics are free and regularly updated here!

Genre: graphic novel with lgbt main characters (m/m romance) & mental illness

Pages: 278 (vol. 1)

Synopsis

Charlie, a highly-strung, openly gay over-thinker, and Nick, a cheerful, soft-hearted rugby player, meet at a British all-boys grammar school. Friendship blooms quickly, but could there be something more…? 

Charlie Spring is in Year 10 at Truham Grammar School for Boys. The past year hasn’t been too great, but at least he’s not being bullied anymore, and he’s sort of got a boyfriend, even if he’s kind of mean and only wants to meet up in secret.

Nick Nelson is in Year 11 and on the school rugby team. He’s heard a little about Charlie – the kid who was outed last year and bullied for a few months – but he’s never had the opportunity to talk to him. That is, until the start of January, in which Nick and Charlie are placed in the same form group and made to sit together.

They quickly become friends, and soon Charlie is falling hard for Nick, even though he doesn’t think he has a chance. But love works in surprising ways, and sometimes good things are waiting just around the corner…

My thoughts

Rating out of five: five

Alice Oseman is great at telling stories in general (see “I was born for this” and “Radio silence” for more proof). Solitaire is the only book I didn’t like from her, which made me more wary going into this one since it’s a spin-off. I don’t think you need to read the novel before to fall in love with this one, but it does give more context and might make it even better. Through this novel I even got a better sense of what Oseman was trying to do with the characters of Solitaire, it was apparent that she cares for them deeply and seeing the big sister (protagonist in Solitaire) from the brother’s perspective and in graphic novel format was so endearing and made me like the book more, well no more like the characters, in hindsight.

The illustration style is both extremely cute and just informal enough. The m/m romance starts so innocent, with two teenage boys figuring themselves out and where being friends stop and flirting starts. They’re both so adorably awkward and comfortable throughout it all. Meeting through sports team has become a trope I’m really into all of a sudden this pride month (having read the amazing “Running with lions” by Julian Winters as well).

This volume and the rest of this on-going series is actually a webcomic which you can get for free at tapas here and is regularly updated by Oseman! The story only gets better (if that’s even possible) as I’ve of course read through it all straight after I was done with vol. 1 and I can’t wait to hold vol. 2 in my hands as well. I really need to get more into queer webcomics and graphic novels. Fence by C. S. Pacat is next on my list.

Feelings while reading this book: smiling from ear to ear, making sounds of cuteness overload and me physically freezing in place when someone tries bullying Charlie (like the big sister I am).

The Future by Neil Hilborn | Review

Genre: poetry

Pages: 100

Rating out of five stars:

fire

I’ve long wanted to read Neil Hilborn’s first collection of poems “Our Numbered Days” after first watching his slam poems or spoken word pieces a few years ago. I was taken with how honest and passionate he seemed like, often talking about mental illness, being diagnosed with OCD and bipolar disorder. This second collection of poems contains much of the same subjects, as Neil draws from his everyday life.

From the first poem “How do you sleep with an IV in?” I was completely here for it. I started reading this book while I was in the hospital with a lot of pain, perhaps not on accident as I knew Neil would talk about his own struggles and I needed something to connect with. I’ve read this book again afterwards, to be sure I liked it and was surprised by how much I marked and highlighted passages. Here’s the first sentences of “How do you sleep with an IV in?”:

It’s just for dehydration, the nurse

says. She hangs up this alien bladder

full of fluid so clear that it couldn’t

possibly be from anywhere but space.

The poems are often looking forward, as the title “The Future” might give away. But it looks forward by talking about the past. It wonders what would happen if this one thing was different. It’s about people, about journeys, about love (of course), about being on the road. Overall I find myself really liking Neil’s voice, how he thinks and his phrasing and that’s overall what holds on to me more than the subject of the poems.

Now I tried to pick out a part of a poem, to give examples of how good they are. But my favourites are a couple pages long and you need to read the whole thing to fully get it, so just trust me and get the book, thanks. 

Favourite poems (for now): “How do you sleep with an IV in?”, “LAKE”, “I’m back, not for good”, “Blood in my sock”, “As much wind as possible”, “psalm 12, in which the author alienate his audience”, “The Future” – this one deserves an extra note as I was highlighting whole pages, Neil talks about his brain and suicide, about why he haven’t killed himself yet. He describes killing himself as a “glowing exit sign at a show that’s never been quite bad enough to make me want to leave”. There’s lots of reasons and ways people are suicidal, so many I don’t yet know and of course poems like this doesn’t give you that complete understanding, but they’re an important step in seeing other’s experiences. It feels good to see thoughts like these expressed so well on a page.

Did I forgot to mention I love the poem titles? For those who feel like poems are difficult or lack self-irony, Neil Hilborn’s poems are the oposite of that. I would completely recommend this collection and I wish him all the best. I’m going to read “Our Numbered Days” soon.

 

Thanks for receiving this copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.