The Neuroscientist Who Lost Her Mind: My Tale of Madness and Recovery by Barbara K. Lipska;Elaine McArdle


Despite all my years of studying brain disorders, for the first time in my life I realize how profoundly unsettling it is to have a mind that does not function.

The doctor becomes the patient in this fascinating memoir. Exhibiting symptoms of dementia and schizophrenia, much to the horror of those who knew and loved her best, Barbara Lipska’s doctors do everything possible to figure out what is going on.  Why was her frontal lobe failing her? From where was her madness coming from?  It is melanoma, brain cancer. Amazingly, when immunotherapy began to heal her, she remembered everything that happened during her descent into madness, bringing with her firsthand knowledge about what happens in the mind (brain), aiding science in better understanding.

Mental illness today is still a mystery, there is so much we just don’t comprehend. How does a brain injury alter behavior? What about traumatic events? Are the answers only in the brain? Is schizophrenia a disease, something going haywire in the brain, what about anxiety? Depression? How do such conditions relate to Lipska’s brain tumors and the effect they had on her mental state? Thirty years of studying mental illness couldn’t teach her as much as her own experience. More than anything, this memoir is eye-opening, humbling in relating what those with mental health difficulties and brain disorders live with.  It is frightening to think no one is immune. At any time, an injury, an illness, a mental disturbance could plunge our fragile mind in a state of madness. It’s easy to dismiss this brain we don’t think too much about, that does so much for us our entire lives, never imagining it could fail or trick us. We all will age, studying the brain is crucial to our health, to our very being.

I remember a law class I took in high school, meeting a lawyer who warned us against riding motorcycles because he had a client that was in a horrific wreck and suffered a brain injury. He told us, his entire personality changed, this once kind man became violent, believing he was being persecuted by everyone. What can understanding cancer, brain injuries do to help with treating dementia? Other mental illnesses? It’s important to understand the science behind the mind, what a vast universe that demands exploration. Could it help, I wonder, understand how our environment, our experiences change our brains? The mind is a mystery, as Lipska’s unraveled she was able to find the right treatment and return to herself, mind intact and with first hand knowledge to add to her years of study.

I’ve always wondered, what is it that causes the individual with mental illness to lose their grip on reality, why does a certain treatment work for one person and yet not another. Is it all the brain? How do experiences in life alter the mind, why? Is mental illness a curable disease? Is it something bigger than science? I have an uncle who has schizophrenia, it is somewhat known he used LSD during his time in Vietnam (in the army).  He also had something traumatic happen, either witnessed or was involved in. He was never the same. We always wondered, was it genetic, caused by drug use, trauma? A combination of all three? I don’t know the answers. I hope in the near future we understand mental health far better than we do today, and more that we can have compassion. Truth is, it terrifies people, it makes them uncomfortable and it’s a shame because instead of understanding what is happening in the mind, people are shunned. My son has an austism spectrum disorder, so understanding the science behind the mind has been important to me. How does it happen? When? Thinking on Autism alone, there there are so many variations, different ways stimulating the mind can help with higher functioning. As much as we know, there is still far more we don’t.

It is vital to every human being to understand the workings of the brain, we all have one, despite evidence to the contrary we sometimes see. All kidding aside, this is a fascinating memoir. Also, anyone dealing with mystery illness can relate to the struggle of trying to get the proper diagnosis.  Dr. Barbara Lipska  is highly educated, she has the means, and even for her it’s a fight to understand what is happening. Imagine the obstacles for those with little to no money and poor access to the best doctors. It’s vital we understand our own health, our needs. Demand doctors who are knowledgable in whatever disease, or mysterious illness that we suffer from. Easier  said then done, though.

A memoir about a woman who is both patient, and doctor. Interesting read.

Publication Date: April 3, 2018

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt


Baby Teeth: A Novel by Zoje Stage


Hannah kept the words to herself because they gave her power. Inside her, they retained their purity.  She scrutinized mommy and other adults, studied them. Their words fell like dead bugs from their mouths.

First it has to be said do not go into this lightly thinking you are going to be uplifted or that it’s a champion for those with mental disorders. Go back, turn around, this isn’t that type of novel. Baby Teeth cuts deep, leaves all the adults and other children who come in contact with Hanna wounded, bleeding, in fear for their lives. We Have To Talk About Kevin just tore me apart, it is one of my favorite novels, this is something else entirely. It’s a hard book compare with. With that said, it’s disturbing and dark. There is nothing darling here, and the mother isn’t without fault. I cannot imagine…

Suzette ‘rallies’ behind her girl, hoping to figure out what is wrong while Alex is adamant it’s nothing. I’m supposed to feel for her, but is she the problem? Does she need control, has this messed up her kid? There are small moments when it seems Hanna truly feels cast out by her mother, and we’re never really sure if it’s so. There is a tug of war going on to win Alex over, Hanna wants him all to herself, the only thing right with the world is her magnificent Daddy who sees nothing sinister about her. It’s clear he wants to believe the best about his child, but there is something broken within her. Suzette cannot muster enough love, not when the child she knows is not the same Hanna who appears before her husband. She pretends to be a good girl, she makes her mother into a liar. Or does she? For a while there, I wandered if there was going to be some mind bending twist. Maybe it’s good old mommy imagining things?

If only she could siphon the love her husband feels in buckets for their girl, but it’s so hard when it seems Hanna wants to annhilate her. When she poses an idea to send Hanna to school, all hell breaks loose.

I struggle with these sort of stories. I have a sensitivity to anything written about mental health issues, mind you this is s thriller, it’s fiction and it certainly grabs you by the throat. It is engaging, horrifying and a sprial into a nightmare. I took issue with Suzette, I know she’s the ‘victim’ but she is a little too quick to want to forget her child. I don’t know, maybe it’s a mother thing, maybe I love blindly but I cannot imagine pushing my kid off somewhere and brushing off my hands with a ‘well that’s taken care of, where was I, let’s make love honey.’ But that is why I tend to read more literary fiction. I knew what I was getting into, and for that- this is a hell of a disturbing novel.

This is the story of a born psychopath, what’s scarier than a child harboring such violence, hatred, a twisted mind? It’s terrible, the paths her mind takes, particualrly the fascination with a witch. The reader sees what’s coming, while mommy and daddy are oblivious, thinking maybe things will calm down now that they are both aware. Suzette is terrified of her little girl, for good reason. It’s a novel that will make a lot of people uncomfortable but it is well written. There will be many different reactions, and it depends on your reading ‘fix’. Why do I imagine this as a horror film, that comes out on Christmas, because it would rattle people?

If murderous children are your thing, this is right up your alley!

Publication Date: July 17, 2018

St. Martin’s Press

Social Creature: A Novel by Tara Isabella Burton


Louise doesn’t know whether she’s terrified or terrible or triumphant, whether she is in love or just surviving. All she knows is that the world has ended but that it is also so turning.

As her mind is turning, whirling… said to be a Talented Mr. Ripley for the digital age, it started off slow for me until… until… the downward spiral began. Manipulation, lies, stealing (not just money either) this is a disturbed mind. Greedy for a better life, desperate to conquer her small-town past, Louise Wilson meets glamorous, wealthy  Lavinia Williams and wants everything she has, and to become everything she is. Is it possible to re-invent oneself, to smooth and polish every rough edge of your being? Is going to the right places, exposing yourself to culture, attending the right parties, surrounding yourself with the ‘best’ people and dressing the part a way to obtain all that the ‘haves’ come by naturally? Louise is going to change her luck, she will do anything! She emerges from her cocoon and begins to take on similarities to Lavinia, yet there is an elusive ‘something’ she can’t quite mimic.  She will take any abuses slung her way just to be close to Lavinia’s essence. But what is Louise but a hanger-on? Disposable? What will she do if Lavinia tires of her, as she is prone to do with her ‘projects’, her ‘pets’? Maybe Louise is getting too comfortable!

Louise cannot wrap her mind around the why of it all. Why does Lavinia deserve every blessing in life, none that has been earned? She is unflinchingly cruel on a whim, selfish, entitled and coldly beautiful and yet this is what makes every man and woman want her. What is wrong with wanting to remain in the world Lavinia has dangled before her? Louise cannot return to nothing, not after nesting in Lavinia’s home but her acts, her lies are an avalanche she can’t outrun. With every deception, more follow until she doesn’t know what’s real anymore. How much of herself will she have to shed to remain afloat? Just who will she become in the end? Will it all be for nothing?

The reader can’t stop what’s happening, anymore than Louise seems to be able to stop herself. How easily Louise turns chameleon. There were similarities to The Talented Mr. Ripley, but more of a YA feel. It’s good once it begins to sink into horror but the beginning didn’t grab me. I think twenty somethings will devour it and those of us that enjoyed Highsmith’s novel will weigh this against it. It has its appeal!

Publication Date: June 5 ,2018




Laura & Emma: A Novel by Kate Greathead


Laura was envious of others’ accounts of struggle, which were recalled with a certain fondness. It had been an adventure, the thrill of the hustle;  they’d chased a dream against the odds, and now they were living it.  She could only imagine the pride of being personally responsbile for everything one had- professional success,  friends, apartment- and being able to trace all this back to hard work. Knowing that everything in their lives wasn’t a given, that it all could have gone a different way.

Laura comes from money, she never thought she’d have a child but a one night stand changes everything. Laura isn’t the most passionate of women, sex seems more like a thing to just get through. It certainly isn’t the center of her life. She can just get rid of the problem. Reading a magazine an idea strikes her, she can be a Supermother, one who doesn’t need a man! Raising a child without a father, it’s just what she does with her eccentric family and the guidance of Dr. Brown. For a woman who choses to be ‘progressive’, Laura is uptight. Emma is the light in the novel, constantly at odds with her mother. Laura knows her daughter isn’t the right fit for the “Winthrop Way”, her ‘inappropriate’ daughter, creating a drawing of a man fully in the nude. Emma’s actions always seem to get under her mother’s skin, a proper woman.

The fun of the novel comes from Emma, her untamed spirit, her funny comments and actions. She doesn’t know  the truth of how her mother got pregnant, and her Bibs (grandma) assures her she was conceived with Swedish seed, because isn’t that more exciting? Laura wanted to raise her daughter as the Supermother she imagined that day, so long ago when she decided to not abort her. Beyond being a single mother, she isn’t exactly living an overly liberal life and certainly not one of struggle. She is a wealthy woman who wants to be normal, like the rest of us, but there is something annoying rather than nobel about it, considering Emma ends up in the same world. Emma is born more progressive and free anyway, compared to the stuffy world she grows up in, as she says her mother often tells her ‘less is more’ about the way she navigates life, but Emma really can never be ‘less’.  Once she hits junior high, anger is born and aimed at her mother. The reader rushes through each year, towards the end Emma finally goes to a boarding school aimed more towards the ‘individual’ and Laura is on her own again. They have discussions on the phone and like many mothers she realizes all Emma wanted was a normal family, maybe… whatever that entails.

I never warmed to Laura, for someone so focused on living a life completely different from how she was raised, it seems it was already too ingrained in her. Bibs was fun, and a bit obnoxious. The storyline with Dr. Brown was interesting considering the times, but he is gone too soon. I feel the way the years are presented is a little too rushed for me to get as involved in the characters as I wanted. Emma drives the story on, I just wish Laura was half as interesting as her daughter. The ending… is it an ending?

I’m curious of what other readers will think of this novel, there were funny moments, I laughed when Emma asks if her mom is glad she doesn’t have brown hair like hers as she is blonde instead, because it’s better.  ‘Maybe it’s Maybelline’, it takes you back to the 80s. The novel feels more like hanging out with a single mother and her daughter for a while, nothing big happens, it’s all just small quiet moments. I’ve grown up with friends of single mothers and their lives were nothing like this, but they didn’t come from wealth and comfort.


Publication Date: March 13, 2018

Simon & Schuster


White Houses: A Novel by Amy Bloom


I never envied a wife or a husband, until I met Eleanor. Then, I would have traded everything I ever had, every limo ride, every skinny-dip, every byline and carefree stroll for what Franklin had, polio and all. 

I never thought I would find a fictional novel about Eleanor Roosevelt and her “scandalous love” for her friend Lorena Hickok ( Hick) to be so romantic. It’s not Eleanor though, it’s Hick’s life that I couldn’t get enough of. By turns horrifying and exciting, I wanted to save her from her disturbingly abusive, poverty-stricken upbringing and celebrate every success and thrill she worked so hard for later in life. Hick’s musings about Eleanor’s children rang true, mothers aren’t real people in the eyes of their kids, even as they grow into adulthood. Mothers take care of things, and certainly weren’t expected to be sexual beings with needs, more so back in the day. Women were meant to be proper, Eleanor seems to be forgiven nothing yet Franklin certainly was indulged by his children, for his passions be they women or anything else. Eleanor seemed to belong to a different time, how different things could have played out in our modern times. One thing that was certain then, her children were needy, it was she who carried them and who was betrayed by their loyalties. Hick’s life has made her perceptive, and she is the eye into the marriage of the Roosevelt’s. Hick tells the story of Eleanor’s motherhood too, and the resentment she feels in the treatment she often witnessed that Eleanor received as the children aged.

Eleanor’s desire to know ‘once upon a time’ tales from Lorena’s childhood was crushing, and the differences in their suffering vast. Eleanor may have been a disappointment to her mother, for lack of beauty but Lorena’s life is a nightmare by comparison, one that makes any tale of woe in Eleanor’s memory seem golden. Though similar loses are shared between the ‘companions’ the differences are extreme. Suffering is a strange best, but it’s hard to feel sorry for the wounds that seem so miniscule when held up against what Lorena has survived. There is a part in the novel where Eleanor is doing the proper thing of a first lady, dining as only those during the depression should, bland food, nothing of pleasure that her grand status can certainly afford and Lorena’s thought “…Eleanor, you have never eaten food like this in your life, except when you wanted to,” expresses perfectly how those with nothing would feel. Eleanor means well, she wants to relate to the people, to be deserving of her place in history, and yet there is something so funny, a little condescending about it. It comes off as ridiculous and yet there is something tender and delicate about Eleanor, who looked like a bruiser, how deceiving our bodies are.

This is a beautiful love story, Hick’s is there when Eleanor loses Franklin, and even grieves herself with the country for the loss of a great man. She is there to feel the wounds Eleanor suffers when her children are disloyal, as she tells it “Eleanor’s body is the landscape of my true home.”  It’s fascinating someone who came from dirt was able to make her way into the household of the White House, and into the heart of Eleanor. That Franklin tolerated it seems very progressive considering the times, and of course he had his freedom to devour the ladies, which he did with gusto but one wonders what sort of man he must have been, to allow this affair to flourish under his roof. Yes, theirs was a marriage of convenience, nothing shocking there really, but someone with his power, particularly in those days, could easily deny his wife her romantic freedoms.

What a read! I adored Hick. I don’t always devour fictional novels about real people, in fact the idea often horrifies me because the liberty fiction gives the author seems to rob people of their truth. Yet I’ve read a few that have really moved me and I add this one to that list of favorites. This is one to add to your TBR pile in 2018!

Publication Date: February 13, 2018

Random House



Pantry and Palate Remembering and Rediscovering Acadian Food by Simon Thibault


“I like to think that all reasons to cook are of equal value and are equally important to transmit. 

That’s why this book is in your hands.”

I don’t often review cookbooks, but this one grabbed my attention. Mind you, I own plenty of cookbooks and family recipes, having lived overseas and being a shameless gourmand, many of my memories of each place begins with a favorite meal. I think this cookbook is fabulous. I learned about Acadian food but more importantly, I enjoyed recipes from Thibault’s own family and friends. I think fondly of recipes in my own family that has exchanged hands over the years, (mine is Hungarian) but it’s as important to our history as anything else. My husband’s family is of French-Canadian descent, and the Meat Pie recipe in this cookbook is similar to the one my father-in-law passed down to me. Potato Pancakes always makes my mouth water, my family has their version too, just made some last month. Did I mention the photos in this cookbook are beautiful? I’m starving right now, never review a cookbook when you’re hungry.

His stories are lovely, particularly the one about how he called his mom with cooking questions. I consider myself a decent cook, and I still asks my mother questions too. Mothers are the source, I guess. The recipes are written so that anyone can give it a go. Certainly comfort food, my favorite! I’ve started a garden this past year, so the canning section is a plus for me. Though I received this as an ARC, I intend on buying the book for my cookbook collection. The section about rendering pork fat takes me back to discussions with my own grandmother about lard and it’s importance in many recipes. Trust me, I’ve heard how our flour in America is just terrible compared to the flour she cooked with in Europe and how much of a difference in makes in the lightness of her pastries (cooking with our flour it’s too heavy for her liking).

Old recipes sometimes seem simple, but I have cooked complicated meals as much as the ‘easy ones’. Fancy doesn’t always win.

I enjoyed the stories Simon Thibault shared, food is an important bond in most cultures, and it’s funny to think you can get misty eyed over a cook book but there you go. Folklore, family history, delicious dishes from the Arcadian pantry. Darn I am craving meat pies now.

Available Now

Nimbus Publishing


Where the Sun Shines Out: A Novel By Kevin Catalano


But there was nothing. No amount of summoning or pleading or weeping or shouting brought him back. His brother was absolutely stricken from existence. 

Two brothers are abducted from an Oz festival, among munchkins and hordes of people. Their father simply stepped away, can he be faulted for that? They are taken to a cabin by the woods, but only one returns alive, the eldest (Dean) spotted swimming with his dead  little brother Jason’s body.  Something dark and twisted intoxicates him, never healing from the trauma. He is the wrong brother, the one without promise or hope. The weaker of the two, the failure. The brother who never spoke up, the one cursed to survive, unwanted. He hasn’t really come back, and won’t for decades.

Brutality pulses inside of him, violence, deviance, warped sexuality that disgusts his mother and the searing memory of a ‘different’ mother’s milk. A mother who is still out there, probably hunting other children. Strange, twisted friendships cemented in blood and power struggles. What is it about damaged people that draw goodness towards it, as Brett is drawn into Dean’s dark history? Brett sees in Dean that little boy who came home, broken. Dean is shattered, how do you truly go back to who you were, to the untouched innocence stolen? Who would understand it, something most will never know? Fractured families, drug addictions, a lust for violence- this book is brutal. Dean is filled with self-loathing, unable to defend his kid brother against bigger bullies just before his death, a father who hated him before and more so after the tragedy. No one saves Dean. No visits from the dead to ease his loss, only haunting memories. A mother that cannot save her son and is terrified of him, spiraling through the years until she meets a ‘confetti of feathers’.

I realize my review is disjointed, but the novel is everywhere and Dean’s terrible life in the aftermath of abduction just goes deeper into darkness, even when he tries. Will he find his tormentor? Will there ever be punishment? Certainly Dean’s entire life seems like a sentence, and maybe his father damaged his sweet boy before those sick people got to him! Why does his father get a new start? Erasure of sorts, an obliteration of his kid brother, his memory, his dad’s ‘original’ family- where is Dean’s fresh start? Somewhere over the rainbow sure as hell doesn’t exist in this dark tale. If you are ready to be disturbed, read away. I’m still trying to recover from the image of Dean’s escape in the water. Sad!

Publication Date: October 3, 2017

Skyhorse Publishing