The Girl in the Maze

The Girl in the Maze

25733063 “The Girl in the Maze” by R.K. Jackson
Synopsis: Perfect for fans of Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins, and Tana French, R. K. Jackson’s lyrical, twisty psychological thriller debut follows an aspiring journalist as she uncovers dark truths in a seaswept Southern town—aided by a mysterious outcast and pursued by a ruthless killer.
When Martha Covington moves to Amberleen, Georgia, after her release from a psychiatric ward, she thinks her breakdown is behind her. A small town with a rich history, Amberleen feels like a fresh start. Taking a summer internship with the local historical society, Martha is tasked with gathering the stories of the Geechee residents of nearby Shell Heap Island, the descendants of slaves who have lived by their own traditions for the last three hundred years.
As Martha delves into her work, the voices she thought she left behind start whispering again, and she begins to doubt her recovery. When a grisly murder occurs, Martha finds herself at the center of a perfect storm—and she’s the perfect suspect. Without a soul to vouch for her innocence or her sanity, Martha disappears into the wilderness, battling the pull of madness and struggling to piece together a supernatural puzzle of age-old resentments, broken promises, and cold-blooded murder. She finds an unexpected ally in a handsome young man fighting his own battles. With his help, Martha journeys through a terrifying labyrinth—to find the truth and clear her name, if she can survive to tell the tale.

*******

4 out of 5 stars

The Girl in the Maze is a fast paced psychological thriller that keeps you engaged from beginning to end. The story begins with Martha, our protagonist, moving to a small Georgia town called Amberleen in order to pursue an internship with a historical society. Martha has just recently been released from psychiatric care after having a psychotic breakdown in her college dorm room. Her doctor has diagnosed her as schizophrenic, but assures her that as long as she takes her meds, she will be fine. Martha has always heard voices and usually sees someone she calls Lenny who is as real to her as anyone is. He whispers dark things to her and the medicine keeps him away.

She is so excited to begin recording the oral history of the Geechee people and has the opportunity to write a book about that history. She enjoys the people she works with and is settling in to her work when she starts hearing voices again. The woman who sponsored Martha’s internship is brutally killed and it seems that Martha is the killer. Not knowing who to trust, not knowing if she is innocent, she disappears into the swamp.

What I liked: This is such a great example of a Southern Gothic mystery, and was so much fun to read. The amount of research that went into the Geechee history is apparent and I appreciated that. The fight to keep their island is something relatable as it seems so much is being taken over by big business every day.

With many cultures, mental illness is not viewed with the stigma it’s viewed in the Western world. Many prophets and seers have been thought to have some sort of mental illness and such is the case with the Geechee people. The ability to see what’s not there and to talk with the spirit world is something prized, not something shunned and labeled. It was nice to see that side.

What I didn’t like: I would have liked to have known more about Martha before she came to Amberleen and what lead to her breakdown. We know very little about her family and her family’s history.

This really is a great book and a throughly enjoyable mystery.

ARC provided by NetGalley

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Suicide Notes

Suicide Notes

3097601 “Suicide Notes” by Michael Thomas Ford
Publisher’s Synopsis: I’m not crazy. I don’t see what the big deal is about what happened. But apparently someone does think it’s a big deal because here I am. I bet it was my mother. She always overreacts.

Fifteen-year-old Jeff wakes up on New Year’s Day to find himself in the hospital. Make that the psychiatric ward. With the nutjobs. Clearly, this is all a huge mistake. Forget about the bandages on his wrists and the notes on his chart. Forget about his problems with his best friend, Allie, and her boyfriend, Burke. Jeff’s perfectly fine, perfectly normal, not like the other kids in the hospital with him. Now they’ve got problems. But a funny thing happens as his forty-five-day sentence drags on: the crazies start to seem less crazy.
Compelling, witty, and refreshingly real, Suicide Notes is a darkly humorous novel from award-winning author Michael Thomas Ford that examines that fuzzy line between “normal” and the rest of us.

*****

5 out of 5 stars

(Warning – could be triggering. i.e. self harm, suicide)

Suicide Notes is a wickedly funny, sarcastic, and heartbreaking sad story about a 15 year old boy who attempts suicide on New Year’s Eve. He is found unconscious by his parents and admitted to a 45 day inpatient program in a psyche ward.

The book is 45 chapters long, each chapter representing one day of Jeff’s treatment. He’s not sure why he is there as there is absolutely nothing wrong with him. He was bored is the answer when asked about the bandages on his wrists, nothing else. Jeff spends much of his day in therapy with the other kids in the ward, and hates doing all the forced stuff with the “crazies”. His therapy sessions with Dr. Cat Poop are useless as there is nothing wrong with him.

Jeff’s sarcasm and humor are his defense mechanism and his safety net. He doesn’t let anyone get too close and in that respect is the average 15 year old boy. As his time passes in the ward, he is forced to look at himself and his truths and why he tried to kill himself.

There are some graphic sex scenes and details about the other characters that I feel move this book out of the YA category. My favorite passage in the book is, “And just because your life isn’t as awful as someone else’s, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck. You can’t compare how you feel to the way other people feel. It just doesn’t work. What might look like the perfect life – or even an okay life – to you might not be so okay for the person living it.”

I love this book. Love, love, love this book. The writing is so believable and real. The pain is just as real and left me in tears at the end of the book. I also love the fact that is book supports the Trevor Project, an organization that provides crisis intervention to LGBTQ youth.

Go.  Read this. Right now.

Best Weekend

Best Weekend

I had the best weekend, despite the increasingly bad weather and the fact that the city’s snow plows all seem to be broken. As one of K’s Christmas presents I got us tickets to see Louis Black – her favorite comedian. If you aren’t familiar with his work, he is known as “The King of the Rant”.

The show was incredible! His opening act, John something-or-other (I never did catch it even though he said it 27 times) was great as well but Black was tremendous. He touched on the lack of mental health care in this country, politics (of course) and sexism in plastic surgery. Black strongly suggests that Americans leave this country as least once, preferably to go to a non-English speaking country just for the experience … and to learn how not to be an asshole.

If you have delicate sensibilities and are easily offended by swearing, then he is not the comedian for you. Nothing is off limits and he has very strong opinions about everything.

I was particularly impressed by the mental health bit. Black talked a bit about the Sandy Hook incident and how the lack of proper mental health treatment and treatment centers in this country may have contributed to that. It hit home for me as I struggle with an illness myself – bipolar.

While I come out, over and over and over, as lesbian and as a femme, I rarely come out as bipolar. To be honest, I’m afraid. I’m afraid that I will be looked at differently, be judged, and be treated differently once people know. Those are the exact same feelings I had when I was struggling with coming out for the first time.

Very few people know. My family knows, K’s family knows, and one friend. That’s it. I’m very guarded with much of myself, with my past and with my bipolar diagnosis.

Maybe by having more public figures, including comedians, talking about mental health issues, I will feel safer coming out with this. Until then, I will keep my guard up and continue to flinch every time someone says someone is bipolar or mentally ill as a joke.