Matchmaking for Beginners – Book Review

By: Maddie Dawson

Matchmaking for Beginners by Maddie Dawson is a fun spin on the traditional romance novel. It includes magic, witchery and elements of serendipity. Dawson creates interesting characters that provide enjoyable additions to the story’s main plot.  One of the main characters, Aunt Blix, feels she has a special gift that helps her see and touch people’s emotions.  She believes in some forms of witchcraft, mainly focusing her craft on assisting others in finding love.  She has an unconventional view on life, love and death. 

“…it’s in the broken places where the light gets in.”

Marnie, the other main character in this story, seems completely different from Blix.  Marnie fantasizes about her future life as a wife and mother.  Despite this, when Blix meets Marnie for the first time, she feels instantly connected to her, like they are kindred spirits. These two women meet at Blix’s niece’s home when Marnie is introduced to Blix’s family.  Marnie is engaged to Blix’s grandnephew Noah.   This meeting will shape the final moments of Blix’s life and Marnie’s entire future. 

As the book continues, Marnie’s life takes an unexpected turn leaving her alone and single again.  She eventually tries to pick up the pieces of her life with a new man she thinks she loves.  I could see that this new love interest brought Marnie the comfort she so desperately needed after her heartbreak.  However, it became increasingly apparent that she wasn’t in love with this man, and she was just hoping to find herself back on track with the life she had always dreamed of.  However, in the back of Marnie’s mind she keeps remembering Blix’s inspiring words.   Blix wanted a different life for Marnie, and you can see Marnie struggling to understand which life she truly wants.   Blix, from afar, never stops thinking about Marnie.  Blix tries to influence Marnie to choose bigger and more exciting paths in life. 

“I think she’s kind of enjoying being furious with her ex for now, if you want to know the truth. It’s hard to make room for love when anger still feels so good.”

This story includes love, loss, happiness and humour.  Although Marnie wasn’t the most exciting character, you can’t help but feel connected to her.  Some of the situations she found herself in, especially with Jeremy, were a bit frustrating, but I can understand her desperate need to heal her heart.  Blix brought humour and excitement into this story, and when she passes, I felt like her presence was desperately missed.  I really enjoyed learning about the other characters in Blix’s life.  Her neighbours were all exciting people, and seeing how their lives were affected by love added a layer of intrigue to the story.  I was not fond of the negative connotations implied towards a more conventional life; everyone should choose the path that makes them the happiest.  I can’t say this is my favourite book of all time, but it was definitely a fun read.  I have already purchased Maddie Dawson’s sequel to this book, A Happy Catastrophe.

“My own heart, given away to Noah, now stirs somewhere deep down, stretches, yawns, looks at its watch and rolls over, tries to go back to sleep. But it has one eye open, I notice.”

Have you read any of Maddie Dawson’s work?


Float Plan- Book Review

By: Trish Doller

Float Plan by Trish Doller was a deeper story than I originally anticipated.  The main character, Anna, loses her fiancé, Ben, to suicide.  It was shocking to read and heartbreaking for both Anna and Ben.  Due to this topic’s seriousness, Doller includes a warning at the beginning of her book letting her readers know that suicide will be a focal point in this story. 

“…but kind is one of the easiest things to be.”

We are introduced to Anna months after her fiancé has died.  Since his passing, her life has been tough; she has really struggled to find her footing without Ben.

Before Ben died, he bought a sailboat and planned a sailing trip around the Caribbean.  Ben and Anna were going to embark on this trip together and get married on one of the islands they planned on visiting.   Even though Ben is no longer alive, Anna makes a last-minute decision to go on this sailing trip alone.  She feels this trip will help her cope with Ben’s loss while also keeping him close to her heart.  Anna plans to follow the exact route laid out by Ben, stopping at every island he dreamed of visiting.   With little knowledge in sailing, she departs off Florida’s coast, heading towards her first stop, Bimini.

Her first couple of days of sailing pose many difficulties, and she quickly realizes she cannot continue this trip alone.  She needs to find someone with more experience to take this journey with her.  Therefore she decides to put out an ad for an experienced sailor.  This is when we meet Keane, an enthusiastic sailor originally from Ireland.  He agrees to the terms laid out by Anna, and they begin their voyage, following Ben’s map.

They visit so many incredible places along the way.  I researched some of the destinations they mentioned and was immediately struck by the beauty of each spot. Doller’s vivid detail describing these islands makes the reader want to drop everything and visit these beautiful locations.

“Carla once told me the best way to make a decision is to flip a coin. She said that when the coin is in the air, you’ll usually figure our what you truly want.”

Float Plan is a heartbreaking story of grief and loss.  It was difficult reading about Anna’s inner struggle to enjoy her surroundings without Ben by her side.  She felt guilty enjoying herself, always feeling like Ben should be the there happily sailing across the Caribbean.   Anna initially embarked on this sailing adventure to get closer to Ben but, as time progressed, she found herself becoming more independent and empowered by all the challenges she was overcoming.  She met many incredible people along the way that helped her accept her grief while also teaching her to enjoy life again.  Although I found the book a bit slow and it never really captivated my attention, I still appreciate the importance of reading this story. 

“Eventually – and I say this from experience – you’ll start building a new house beside the ruins of the old. When you’re ready, you’ll know.”


A Spanish Love Deception – Book Review

By Elena Armas

A Spanish Love Deception by Elena Armas is your typical enemies turn lovers romance novel. It was also very funny; therefore, I would categorize it as a rom-com as well.  The main characters, Catalina and Aaron, are both engineers who work at the same company in New York City.  They do not have a friendly relationship until Aaron offers Catalina his help with a work event and with her family.  Catalina is desperate for help and, despite her worries, decides to take Aaron up on his offer.  As they spend more time together, Catalina begins to see Aaron differently.

What I loved…

I don’t think I have ever loved a main character as much as I loved Catalina. She was intelligent, funny, intense and exciting. The way she interacts with other people and the way she starts babbling in awkward situations was hysterical. The thoughts that went through her head are even more entertaining than the things she ends up saying out loud.  Throughout the book, we see her begin to understand her true worth by accepting her shortcomings, acknowledging her successes and loving herself. 

We are introduced to even more hilarious characters when meeting Catalina’s family in Spain. Her family was loud, intense and funny. I could have read a whole book just on Catalina and her family. All the chapters involving the Spain trip I read in one sitting, it was just too funny, I couldn’t put the book down!

The love story between Catalina and Aaron was predictable, but I still really enjoyed it. They are pretty different, so reading about their interactions at work and their slow progression to falling for one another was amusing. However, I feel that they fell “in love” a bit too quickly, but it made for a good story.

I also liked how Armas included some real-world connections to this story. She wrote of the difficulties a successful female engineer would have in a predominantly male industry. Catalina’s career obstacles would have been different from Aaron’s or any of the other male engineers. The sexist comments she receives from one of the male co-workers show the difficulties that some women may face in their work environment. I think the inclusion of these subplots added some realness to this story that I thought was important.

Minor things I didn’t like…

The book was way too long. The beginning sections that showed the hatred Aaron and Catalina had for one another lasted forever.  I found myself skimming through some of these initial interactions.  I would have preferred the beginning section to be shorter and the parts where they’re in Spain to have been longer. There was so much build-up to their trip to Spain, and then I felt like the Spain trip came and went too quickly!

Final remarks…

In the end, despite its length, I could not put this book down. I enjoyed reading it, and I was sad when it ended.  I would highly recommend reading this book.

Where to find the Author…

https://www.authorelenaarmas.com/


With Warm Weather Comes Bright Books! My Spring Reading List

It is the first week of Spring, and I am so excited! I absolutely love this time of year. Snow is melting (even though Switzerland barely gets snow apparently), flowers and trees are blooming, and the temperature rises. The winter is behind us, and the day is getting longer! All I want to do is be outside enjoying this beautiful weather. With this excitement, I thought it was only fitting to create a list of the books I want to read to keep me in my happy spring mood. Here is the list I came up with:

The Spanish Love Deception By: Elena Armas

Armas has an absolutely beautiful bookstagram page that features all the books she has read and loved. She mostly reads romance novels and is a self-proclaimed hopeless romantic. Some books she has recommended have become my absolute favourites. Therefore, when she completed her first romance novel in early 2021, I knew I had to get my hands on it. The reviews on this book have been great; I can’t wait to get started! 

Dominicana By: Angie Cruz 

This book is set in multiple seasons; it follows a woman from the Dominican who moves to New York City. However, much of the book’s beginning is set in the Dominican Republic’s countryside (which satisfies my need for a warm setting). The main character has always dreamed of a better life in America, and when the opportunity arises, it’s not exactly as she pictured it. This is a more serious book than the rest on this list, but I am really intrigued by the storyline. As well, in 2020, this book was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and has received many other numerous awards. The reviews for this book are incredible.

Float Plan By: Trish Doller

This book is set in the summertime on a sailboat, so I am already hooked! The plot centers around a woman who has just experienced deep grief and is now supposed to be going on a previously booked sailing trip; realizing she can’t make the trip alone, she hires a professional sailer to come on the trip with her. This book is exactly the kind of book that will excite me for the summer months ahead.  

Matchmaking for Beginners By: Maddie Dawson 

This book was written a few years ago and was (and is) very popular. It has been on my TBR list for quite a while, so I thought it was time to take it off the shelf and finally give it a read.  

What is on your spring reading list?


A Promised Land – Book Review

By: Barack Obama

A Promised Land is part 1 of Barack Obama’s autobiography. I chose to read his book to learn more about him and how he worked to become the president of the United States.

“The truth is, I’ve never been a big believer in destiny. I worry that it encourages resignation in the down-and-out and complacency among the powerful.”

My review:

The writing style of this book really impressed me; it was very easy to read and understand.  Obama managed to make the most complicated topics seem straightforward.  I appreciated the seriousness of everything he wrote about but, I was glad to see him include humorous anecdotes from time to time. 

I enjoyed reading his perspective on the actions he took during his presidency, especially the actions his supporters questioned.  From the American people feeling like he “bailed out the rich CEOs and banks” to the ridiculous media attention on the birther conspiracy, he focused on trying to explain how he handled those situations to the best of his ability.

“When things are bad,” Axe said, walking next to me as we left the December meeting, “no one cares that ‘things could have been worse.”

Some things I didn’t like:

In his explanation of certain events, he included far too many details.  I felt like I was reading about the 2008 economic crisis for days, and while I understand its importance, I also think it could have been summarized.  At times I found myself skimming through some topics because he had already given me a basic understanding of the situation.  I felt this way in many other chapters as well; it just seemed like it could have been shortened and still conveyed the same message.

I was really disappointed that this book was only part 1 of his autobiography; it seemed like a little less detail would have easily allowed this book to cover his entire presidency. However, I do really like where and how he chose to end this book. The event he chose brought back a time where Americans could finally unite under a significant triumph and not focus on disagreements between party lines.

“I recalled a sermon by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., called “The Drum Major Instinct.” In it, he talks about how, deep down, we all want to be first, celebrated for our greatness; we all want “to lead the parade.” He goes on to point out that such selfish impulses can be reconciled by aligning that quest for greatness with more selfless aims. You can strive to be first in service, first in love.”

Final thoughts:

Overall, I liked this book; I feel like I got to know Barack and his family on a more intimate level. However, it was very long and detailed, so if you haven’t read autobiographies before, this may not be the best place to start.  This book has also made me much more interested in learning more about Michelle Obama, and I have definitely added her book Becoming to my list of books I want to read.


The Tattooist of Aschwitz – Book Review

By: Heather Morris

“Something off the tracks catches his eye, a flash of color. A flower, a single flower, waving in the breeze. Bloodred petals around a jet black middle. He looks for others but there are none.”

The same author writes the Tattooist of Auschwitz as Cilka’s Journey, Heather Morris. She wrote The Tattooist of Auschwitz first. Since I had already read Cilka’s Journey, I was vaguely familiar with the main characters of The Tattooist of Auschwitz. Cilka’s Journey didn’t fully give away the story but, I knew how it would end for the two main characters.

This book is inspired by the story of Lale Sokolov, a survivor of Auschwitz. However, this is a work of fiction. Heather Morris brings together Lale’s accounts and her creative storytelling skills for this book.

“How can a race spread out among multiple countries be considered a threat?”

My summary of the book:

Lale Eisenberg (Sokolov) is the main character, the tattooer of Auschwitz. We follow his journey from Slovakia to Auschwitz. In Slovakia, the Germans told all Jewish families to send one child over eighteen to work for the German government. Lale volunteers for his family, says his goodbyes and heads to Prague for deportation. It is still unclear what the Germans are doing with these Jewish workers, and there is still hope that if they work hard, they can return to their families. Therefore, Lale believes that he is saving his family by volunteering for the Germans; he believes he has spared his family from the atrocities that await him. He shows up for duty dressed in fine clothes to be presented respectably to the Germans. What he encounters is nothing he could have prepared for. Lale is forced onto a train with many other men, unaware of what awaits them on this journey. Many men hope and pray this train ride will be the worst part of their work assignment; when they arrive at Auschwitz, they cannot believe what they are witnessing or what they are being forced into.

After some lucky turn of events, Lale finds himself being taken out of hard labour and asked to train to become the camp tattooer. At first, he is horrified by the idea; he cannot imagine tattooing other people the way he was. However, he quickly understands that by becoming the tattooer of Auschwitz, he can get out of hard labour, his new value could also save his life, and he knows with his new status at the camp, he can help his fellow prisoners. Therefore, he accepts the position. Almost immediately, he receives extra food, which he hides for his old block mates, and is given a new single bedroom. He feels very guilty receiving these perks and promises himself to help other prisoners with his new status in the camp.

One day while Lale is keeping his head down and tattooing the new prisoners, he catches a glimpse of a woman. This woman catches his attention immediately. He is struck by her beauty, a beauty that is somehow radiating in this horrific place. After she leaves, he makes it his goal to find out who she is and which block she lives in. Lale eventually finds this woman and learns her name is Gita. This is the beginning of a beautiful romance that somehow manages to grow under horrifying conditions. This love also gives them another reason to survive the camps and gain their freedom.

“…you will honour them by staying alive, surviving this place and telling the world what happened here.”

My review of the book:

Although this story is not an exact re-telling of Lale’s life, the reader is very aware that everything happening at these camps did occur to someone. Thankfully some prisoners did survive this camp and were able to tell the story of their experiences. I don’t know what parts Morris creates and what parts are true, but the fact that Lale could survive the camp seems unimaginable. How anyone manages to go on each day under those types of circumstances shows the type of courage and strength humans can have.

“But how do you say goodbye to your mother? The person who gave you breath, who taught you how to live?

This is an incredible story of survival, love and courage. No matter what awful event occurs in the camp, Lale still chooses to go on, to fight to live, to fight for freedom. Morris does a great job at connecting her readers to the characters, making them feel emotionally attached to what happens.

Many Holocaust books, fiction and non-fiction, have been written over the years. Each one adding a different perspective to these horrible events. This was definitely a unique perspective, following the life of the man that is responsible for the lifelong tattoos that Holocaust survivors are now known for. I also really liked that Morris continued the story after the evacuation of Auschwitz. The reader could learn how these prisoners were eventually freed and understand the lack of help they were given in finding their way home. Most Holocaust books don’t go into the details of how these Jewish people, now freed, found their way home. For some, home was a long way away, and it wouldn’t have been an easy journey to complete. Overall I think this is a good book that shows a new perspective on how prisoners lived in Auschwitz.

“To save one is to save the world.”

What historical fiction books have you read recently?


What Alice Forgot – Book Review

By: Liane Moriarty

“That was the day Alice Mary Love went to the gym and carelessly misplaced a decade of her life.” 

Book Summary:

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty starts with the main character, Alice Love, waking up after hitting her head and becoming unconscious.  Due to this fall, Alice has forgotten the last 10 years of her life.   She wakes up believing she is 29, happily married and pregnant with her first child.  However, she is actually 39, separated from her husband and a mother of three. 

Alice spends a couple of days in the hospital as doctors try to understand why she has lost her memory.  While Alice is there, she tries to piece together the last ten years of her life and the relationships with friends and family that have grown or fizzled out. When she returns home, she still doesn’t recognize her fully renovated home or her three children.  She also longs for her husband to come home and be with her, despite the constant reminders that they are separated.  As she explores her new life, she comes across familiar scents or locations that would trigger parts of her memory.  These moments were often short and broken up, making it very hard for Alice to make sense of what she saw or felt.   This continues for Alice for a week as she tries to grapple with her failed marriage and her three unknown children. 

After a week, there is a Mother’s day brunch event that Alice is running at her children’s school.  It is here where things all come together, and after a brief fainting episode, Alice awakens with her memory back. 

Once she has gotten her memory back, she grapples with the life she now remembers and the life she hoped for herself as a young soon-to-be mother.  How she decides to merge these two lives forms the ending of this book.

“But maybe every life looked wonderful if all you saw was the photo albums.”

My Review:

What Alice Forgot was incredibly thought-provoking and emotional.  It brings into focus the complexities of marriage and raising children.  It also reminds the reader not to lose who they are and what they stand for as they get older. Alice could hardly recognize who she was at 39 and that saddened her. It had me wondering what I envisioned of my life when I was 20 and how happy I would be with the person I have become today. 

“I’d be at work where people respected my opinions, said Nick. And then, I’d come home, and it was like I was the village idiot.”

This story totally consumed me; I wanted to know what would happen with her marriage, her relationship with her sister and the new friendships she formed within the last 10 years of her life.  Despite this story’s seriousness, Moriarty also includes some humor, especially with 29-year-old Alice navigating life with three young children.  These interactions were hilarious.  I also really liked the way this story ended; it perfectly concluded the story of Alice Love.

“The medication, the hormones and the relentless frustrations of our lives make us bitchy, and you’re not allowed to be bitchy in public, or people won’t like you.”

I do, however, have one small criticism of the book.  I found some parts of this story were a bit redundant.  I think Elizabeth’s story adds a layer of seriousness and complexity to the story that is definitely important.  However, I found her journal entries felt repeated and too detailed.  Sometimes I found myself skimming over those sections because I knew what the premise was, and the lengthy details weren’t necessary.  Moriarty also includes love letters by Alice’s grandmother, Frannie.  I enjoyed these letters, but I still found them to be more of a distraction from the main story. 

Overall, this was an excellent read, and I will definitely be reading more of Liane Moriarty’s books in the future.

More books by Liane Moriarty:

*Big Little Lies (This book was made into an HBO series)

*The Husband’s Secret

*Truly Madly Guilty


The Beekeeper of Aleppo – Book Review

By: Christy Lefteri

“Where there are bees there are flowers, and wherever there are flowers there is new life and hope.”

My synopsis of the book:

The Beekeeper of Aleppo is centred around a Syrian family affected by the civil war that is spreading around them.  The first few chapters show the reader how ordinary life was in Syria before the war. Nuri and his cousin Mustafa owned and ran a bee farm where they made honey.  Nuri is the novel’s main character; he is married to a woman named Afra and has a son, Sami. There are many other important characters, like Mustafa, that play a role in shaping this story.  The reader travels with Nuri as he escapes Aleppo with his family and tries to reach England, where his cousin Mustafa lives.  Nuri travels across the Syrian border into Turkey, where he then begins his trek to the Mediterranean Sea to get to Greece. Once in Greece, his troubles only worsen as he tries to find ways to leave and continue to his final destination, England.  Christy Lefteri shows the reader the difficulties refugees face in their journey to safety and the personal struggles refugees carry as they leave their homes, friends and families.  Nuri and his family’s story of freedom are filled with heartache and sadness that will follow them for the rest of their lives. 

“Money gets you everywhere. This is what I always say. Without it, you live your entire life travelling trying to get to where you think you need to go.”

My review:

I’m finding it very difficult to write a review on this book because I don’t want to take away from the importance of the Syrian refugee crisis.  The Beekeeper of Aleppo gives a voice to the Syrian people who lost their homes to the civil war.  Unfortunately, I must admit, the book itself struggled to captivate me. 

In the beginning, it was difficult to follow along with the different periods presented in the chapters. I usually have no problem with books not written in chronological order, but this story did not flow from one period to another well. It eventually became much clearer but, the first impression of the book weren’t great.

Also, I never found myself connecting with the main characters. There needed to be a bit more character development in the beginning to draw me into their story.  I found myself hoping I would become more attached to the characters as the chapters continued but, it never really happened. I was heartbroken when each horrible event happened to them but, mainly because I knew somewhere in this world, these events happened to real people. 

Although I found this book to be pretty average, I would still recommend it because of the importance of understanding the Syrian refugee crisis.

The most important message to get from this story is that Syria was a developed, established nation that was struck by a civil war that tore the entire country apart.  Unfortunately, because of the multiple middle eastern conflicts that we are accustomed to now, we assume that all of the middle east is continuously at war, this was not the case for Syria.  Syria had been living peacefully for many years.  This is what made the civil war even more difficult for Syrians.  Lefteri does a good job at making this message clear.

About the author:

Christy Lefteri has a close connection to the story.  She spent two summers volunteering at the refugee camps in Athens, getting to meet many Syrian families.  Writing this story was also important to her because she is also the daughter of Cypriot refugees. 


Hidden Valley Road – Book Review

By: Robert Kolker

“…for almost as long, Donald has consistently and unwaveringly maintained that he is, in fact, the offspring of an octopus.”

Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker is a true story of a post-world war II family, the Galvin’s, living in Colorado, USA. Through the Galvin family, the reader sees the advancement of mental health research in America’s medical community, beginning in the 1950s and progressing to modern-day. Six of the twelve children in the Galvin family get diagnosed with varying levels of schizophrenia. This number of diagnoses within one family is extremely rare, and therefore they become the primary test family for mental health research in America. 

“As she walked through the door of the house at Hidden Valley Road, she couldn’t help but recognize a perfect sample. This could be the most mentally ill family in America.”

Kolker dives into the story of the Galvin family, hearing first-hand accounts of what life was like growing up as a Galvin, watching members of your family “lose their minds.” Diary entries, first-hand interviews, medical records and community research are used to piece together who the Galvin’s were. He explores the children’s childhood, Mimi and Don’s marriage, and even the paternal and maternal family history. By the end of the book, you have a clear understanding of who the Galvin family were and how they live their lives today. Kolker writes this book with such vivid detail that it is sometimes hard to believe that this isn’t a work of fiction.  

“At the heart of Jung’s objection was the question of the nature of delusional mental illness: Is schizophrenia something you’re born with, a physical affliction of the brain? Or is it acquired in life, after one has become scarred somehow by the world?”

I was a bit worried about how difficult it would be to read and comprehend the scientific medical information that Kolker would inevitably include in his book about mental health. This is where I believe Kolker deserves the most praise. He includes detailed and complex information about mental health research written in such a simplistic way to allow everyone to understand the information regardless of scientific background. In each of those chapters, I learned something new about mental health and understood the medical advancements he discusses. These sections are very well done, leaving the reader feeling enthusiastic with the scientific progression and, at times, disappointed with the research results. I hope that there will be a follow-up book after twenty years showing more advancements in mental health.

“One of the consequences of surviving schizophrenia for fifty years is that sooner or later, the cure becomes as damaging as the disease.”

At the beginning of the book, when the Galvin’s first son was diagnosed with schizophrenia in the late 1960s, the medical community had few answers for them. To make matters worse, it seemed that the doctors were blaming mental illness solely on mothers. As a mother myself, I know what it feels like to continuously wonder if I am making the right decisions for my child. This is a feeling I think most mothers feel. I believe mothers from the 1960s would have also had these same thoughts. Now, after doing the best they can, these mothers were being told by a room full of mostly men (if not all men) that they have concluded that there is a correlation between mothers and their children who develop a mental illness. Mimi, the mother in the Galvin family, was devastated by this accusation and challenged it relentlessly whenever doctors would discuss it with her. As far as she was concerned, she did everything in her power to raise her children right, committing no different acts than other mothers. My heart broke for Mimi thinking about how she felt during this time.

This type of “mom blaming” continues later on when a woman in the medical community chooses to continue her studies after having children; Lynn DeLisi is told by her medical peers that this choice could cause her children to develop mental health problems. DeLisi challenges those conclusions, asking for proof. However, the researchers could give no evidence; these conclusions were, in fact, unresearched and anecdotal. The doctors were merely stating opinions, not researched facts. What mothers like Mimi and DeLisi would have experienced during this time is unimaginable but women like DeLisi challenged the medical community and eventually debunked these theories. I think mothers everywhere owe her a debt of gratitude.  

“And so I was crushed,” Mimi said. “Because I thought I was such a good mother. I baked a cake and a pie every night. Or at least had Jell-O with whipped cream.”

Unfortunately, this was not the only time I felt disappointed by the medical community. There were many examples in the book where companies were more interested in the monetary benefits of the medical research than the positive results. Time and time again, we see funding for mental health diminishing; we see private for-profit organizations choosing to shelf necessary research because the monetary benefits were not high enough. There were some medical advancements made that needed to be halted because of these reasons, and that is truly devastating for families who are in desperate need of support for their mentally ill family members. 

“The National Institute of Mental Health spends only $4.3 million on fetal prevention research, all of it for studies in mice, from its yearly $1.4 billion budget,” Freedman noted recently. “Yet half of young school shooters have symptoms of developing schizophrenia.”

Lastly, the repercussions of the stigma on mental health are shown clearly in the “healthy” children’s accounts. Since Mimi and Don tried to hide what their family was experiencing in fear of what people would say, the children who were not affected by mental illness underwent many challenging times. Often these children did not understand or could not comprehend what was happening to their siblings. These same children couldn’t separate appropriate behaviours from inappropriate ones, and unfortunately, their parents were providing little insight into what was happening. Although I initially wanted to blame Mimi and Don for these experiences, I cannot imagine what it would be like to lose everyone around you, even your closest family members, at your most vulnerable time. This reaffirms the importance of breaking the stigma towards mental illness.

“When you don’t find a sense of love and belonging where you are, you go searching for it somewhere else.”

I believe this book is one of the most essential reads of our generation. Hidden Valley Road teaches the reader about mental health, early detection methods, the effects on families and how to treat and care for the mentally ill. For years people with mental health were stigmatized and ostracized, which isolated the most vulnerable people in our society. Kolker shows his reader the importance of supporting families who experience these illnesses. This book has impacted me in many ways, and I highly recommend it. 

“Our relationships can destroy us, but they can change us, too, and restore us, and without us ever seeing it happen, they define us. We are human because the people around us make us human.”


My COVID Lockdown Booklist

As a new year begins, the hopes of a new beginning away from COVID are slowly diminishing. In Switzerland, where I live, we enter into our 3rd week of lockdown, with three more weeks to go. One way I plan on passing the time is by reading some of the unopened books I still have on my shelf. I decided to make a list of all the books I want to read during this time. I’m hoping it will give me something to look forward to each week and help get me through this lockdown!

The Beekeeper of Aleppo by: Christy Lefteri

This book caught my attention because of its connection to current events, specifically the refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe. Over the last couple of years, we have been watching heartbreaking scenes of refugees fleeing war-torn Syria for Europe. This book tries to put a face to this crisis by writing about a fictional Syrian family and their refugee story. The family decides to leave Syria after the war has already begun; they embark on a dangerous journey to freedom, trekking through many of the same escape routes Syrian families are all too familiar with. I’m sure this will be a very captivating story and shed light on the struggles refugees worldwide experience.

What Alice Forgot by: Liane Moriarty

Many friends and family have continuously recommended this book, so I have finally decided to add it to my list. This story is about the effects of memory loss and piecing together a life that is unrecognizable. It is slightly different from the type of books I usually read, but lockdown is a great time to explore some new genres!

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by: Heather Morris

This book has been on my book list for many years, but every time I think about opening it, I wonder if I am truly ready for the emotional roller coaster I know this book will embark on. However, recently I read another book by Heather Morris, called Cilka’s Journey, and I loved it. It was definitely emotionally tormenting but, I am very glad I read it. So I decided I needed to give The Tattooist of Auschwitz a read.

A Promised Land by: Barack Obama

I haven’t read a biography in a long time, and I find myself craving to read one. Since American politics has been a focal point in world news recently, I found it only fitting to add A Promised Land by Barack Obama to my book list. Whether you agree with his politics or not, you cannot argue his presidency’s historical significance and wonder how he got there.

What does your lockdown booklist look like?