REVIEW: Funny, You Don’t Look Autistic

Thank you Annick Press for sending me an ARC in return for my honest review


I normally don’t read much non-fiction, but on the rare occasion a title jumps out at me. This time, a book jumped out at me because of the author.

Michael McCreary and I became friends several years ago as I have always been a film geek (and was in film school at the time) and he was dressed as Patrick Bateman. We hit it off right away and I’ve never felt better about things than I do when spending time with someone as bright and funny as Michael. When I saw in a Facebook ad that one of my favourite people had written a book about his life and experiences with having Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) while being a comedian, I just knew I had to get my hands on it.

The way this book is written is exactly the way Michael talks. He has a very specific way of speaking that just wraps you up in whatever story he is telling you and is more than capable of making you laugh. The chapters are episodic glimpses of his life and experiences regarding solving the puzzle that is telling the difference when someone is being mean or actually telling a joke, or even dealing with being a performer in general. Broken up by colourful “soundbite” quotes and little charts or descriptions about stereotypes or helpful tips for others who have ASD, the book almost feels like a magazine article/interview rather than a book which not only feels like the better way to visualize the narrative, but is also very much Michael.

You may be thinking I am biased given that Michael is a very dear friend of mine, and I probably am. That being said, I was not just approaching this as Michael’s friend but also as someone who – although not neurotypical – does not have Autism, I found this to be rather insightful about something I am not ashamed to admit I don’t know very much about.

This book will be available in early 2019 and I really hope that people, whether autistic or not, pick up this book. I feel it could be a very useful tool for parents, teachers, or even children to understand ASD whether they have been diagnosed themselves or have friends/family/classmates who have been diagnosed.

I am so proud of Michael’s hard work and am so thankful I was able to get my hands on the ARC.


eARCs are also now available through NetGalley! Click here to request it!

A Gift From Anansi

A few weeks ago I plucked up the courage to reach out to House of Anansi Press about reviewing some of their books and was thrilled to get a response back from them! I’ve always enjoyed the incredible range of books that come from this company and was so excited when I received a package from them only a few days later. In said package were two incredibly different novels from some authors I wasn’t previously familiar with. The first was Clifford by Canadian author, Harold R. Johnson, and the second was the German thriller by Melanie Raabe (translated into English by Imogen Taylor), The Stranger Upstairs.

I very much enjoyed both of these novels and can’t thank Anansi Press enough. And now for the reviews!!


CLIFFORD

Clifford is the fictional biography Harold R. Johnson has written in memory of his deceased brother, Clifford. After the events of his brother’s funeral, Harold returns to his derelict childhood home to spend the night on the land and revisit the memories shared with his family and – more importantly – his brother.

The story is a simple on to follow and is full of not only quirky stories about science and the meaning of reality, but also the hardships of Native children in a time of cultural genocide and Residential Schools, although those aren’t the primary focus of the book. To be honest, it wasn’t the story itself that had me captivated with this book, but it was the way it was told.

The narration that Johnson provides is like having coffee with a dear friend after a tragedy. The dear friend in question being the kind of person who will respond with “I’m not ready to talk about it” or something similar when prompted about the tragedy, but is content to talk about it at their own pace. Having recently lost a family member myself, I found that tone to be very comforting and it was quite honesty a book that just felt safe – for lack of a better word.

I will definitely be keeping my eyes open for more of Johnson’s work, regardless of it being fiction or non-fiction. He has an incredible writing voice and that alone makes this a novel worth checking out.

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Author: Harold R. Johnson
Published: August 28, 2018
Pages: 264
Publisher: House of Anansi Press
ISBN: 9781487004101

Synopsis: When Harold Johnson returns to his childhood home in a northern Saskatchewan Indigenous community for his brother Clifford’s funeral, the first thing his eyes fall on is a chair. It stands on three legs, the fourth broken off and missing. So begins a journey through the past, a retrieval of recollections that have too long sat dormant. Moving from the old family home to the log cabin, the garden, and finally settling deep in the forest surrounding the property, his mind circles back, shifting in time and space, weaving in and out of memories of his silent, powerful Swedish father; his formidable Cree mother, an expert trapper and a source of great strength; and his brother Clifford, a precocious young boy who is drawn to the mysterious workings of the universe.


THE STRANGER UPSTAIRS

Melanie Raabe’s latest thriller, The Stranger Upstairs, is a terrifying novel of threats, lies, and uncertainty that had me physically anxious while reading. Sarah Petersen has been a single mother to her 8-year-old son, Leo, since her husband’s disappearance seven years ago. After so long, she is shocked to receive a call informing her that her husband has been found and is on his way back to Hamberg as they speak. Nervous and excited to see Phillip again, Sarah’s world is turned entirely upside-down when it’s a stranger that meets her at the airport rather than her husband.

Imogen Taylor did a wonderful job in translating the novel into English as this is probably the single most stressful novel I’ve ever read in my entire life. The pacing is rather slow – something that usually annoys me in a book like this – but it entirely works with the plot as things unwind and become more and more complicated, building tension even in the quietest of scenes. The twists are wild and unpredictable and having the narrative switch between Sarah and The Stranger adds that extra layer of “What in the hell is going on?!?!” that really sucks you into the story entirely.

The ending wasn’t what I was expecting at all, and even as I write this review I don’t know exactly how I feel about it, but either way this is the strongest thriller I have read in a long time. I would highly recommend reading this if you want a scary – but non-horror – read for the October season.

39094018Author: Melanie Raabe
Published: September 11, 2018
Pages: 360
Publisher: Spiderline (House of Anansi Press)
ISBN: 9781487004224

Synopsis: Several years ago, your husband, and the father of your young son, disappeared. Since then, you’ve dreamt of his return; railed against him for leaving you alone; grieved for your marriage; and, finally, vowed to move on. One morning, the phone rings. When you answer, a voice at the other end tells you your husband’s on a plane bound for home, and that you’ll see him tomorrow. You’ve imagined this reunion countless times. Of course you have. But nothing has prepared you for the reality. For the moment you realize you don’t know this man. Because he isn’t your husband; he’s a complete stranger — and he’s coming home with you. Even worse, he seems to know about something very bad you once did — something no one else could possibly know about . . . Could they?


Thank you again to House of Anansi Press for sending me copies of these books in exchange for my honest reviews.

REVIEW: Brain on Fire

I don’t normally read biographies of any kind (with the incredibly rare exception of Carrie Fisher’s books), but I especially don’t ever read autobiographies about illness. Given my own various mental illness diagnoses, non-fiction books about illnesses tend to trigger a certain kind of anxious paranoia in me that I just can’t shake.

However, if you know anything about me, it’s that for a very long time the Hannibal films have been an obsession of mine, and for a shorter length of time, the television series as well. Through my enjoyment of the show, I have a curiosity about the real-life effects of encephalitis based on Will Graham’s experiences in Bryan Fuller’s adaptation. That curiosity placed this book on my TBR but never pushed me far enough to read it. With the release of the movie adaptation on Netflix (starring Chloe Grace Moretz), I figured it was time to dive in.

Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan is a more detailed look at an article she wrote for the New York Post and gives a true idea of just how horrifying it can be to lose control of yourself without reason. Very quickly this book terrified me. The initial symptoms Susannah encounters are things that I, myself, and friends of mine as well, have dealt with as – as I mentioned before – I did find myself getting paranoid despite the rational part of my brain knowing full well that I did not have nor probably will ever develop encephalitis.

I won’t get into the details of the symptoms or even Susannah’s patch-work of what she endured while in the hospital, but I do want to talk about the structure and the writing.

Clearly, Susannah Cahalan is okay. Otherwise we wouldn’t have this book. Her writing style is tight and she doesn’t ramble to fill the page. Her narrative has been put together by the vague memories she has, anecdotes from those who were with her, and video footage from the hospital. Given the extensive medical terminology used, Cahalan never ones writes to look down on people. She gives explanations for everything while still not getting overly descriptive and therefore boring the story. You can feel the fear that comes out of early chapters, and the helpless yearning of those close to her in later ones. Even with every diagnosis or misdiagnosis, the hope that the suffering will be over radiates off the page, even more so when it is at last discovered what Cahalan is truly dealing with.

Those who have seen the Hannibal tv show may believe that they have a basic understanding of encephalitis – as I did myself. But the reality is far more terrifying than black outs and spatial neglect.

I learned a lot from this book and am truly pleased to have read it. As a narrative, it is compelling and suspenseful even with the lack of a “countdown” shall we say as is with cancer or other fatal illnesses. As a book about the connection between physical and mental illnesses, it was as fascinating as it was tragic given that, more often than not, patients with encephalitis of any kind can go undiagnosed.

Definitely worth the read.


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Author: Susannah Cahalan
Published: November 13, 2012
Pages: 266
Publisher: Simon & Shuster Paperbacks
ISBN: 9781451621389

Synopsis: When twenty-four-year-old Susannah Cahalan woke up alone in a hospital room, strapped to her bed and unable to move or speak, she had no memory of how she’d gotten there. Days earlier, she had been on the threshold of a new, adult life: at the beginning of her first serious relationship and a promising career at a major New York newspaper. Now she was labeled violent, psychotic, a flight risk. What happened?

In a swift and breathtaking narrative, Cahalan tells the astonishing true story of her descent into madness, her family’s inspiring faith in her, and the lifesaving diagnosis that nearly didn’t happen.

REVIEW: BRAVE

I’m going to start off this review by saying I have turned the comments off. Everything I am about to say regarding Rose Mcgowan’s book, BRAVE, is incredibly personal and given the immensely triggering content, consider this also a trigger warning for abuse (mental, physical, and sexual), eating disorders, self-harm, and general upsetting nastiness.

So here we go.

Continue reading “REVIEW: BRAVE”