Review: Notes on a Nervous Planet – Matt Haig

Notes on a Nervous Planet

Notes on a Nervous Planet

Matt Haig

Allen & Unwin Australia

Cannongate

ISBN:  SBN13: 9781786892676

RRP $ 27.99

 

Description:

The world is messing with our minds.

 

Rates of stress and anxiety are rising. A fast, nervous planet is creating fast and nervous lives. We are more connected, yet feel more alone. And we are encouraged to worry about everything from world politics to our body mass index.

 

– How can we stay sane on a planet that makes us mad?

– How do we stay human in a technological world?

– How do we feel happy when we are encouraged to be anxious?

 

After experiencing years of anxiety and panic attacks, these questions became urgent matters of life and death for Matt Haig. And he began to look for the link between what he felt and the world around him.

 

Notes on a Nervous Planet is a personal and vital look at how to feel happy, human and whole in the 21st century.

 

 

My View:

This is a very raw, honest and insightful book and I commend the writer and the publishers for continuing to print narratives that open up discussions regarding mental health.

 

Haig has successfully distilled the source of a widespread epidemic of stress and nervousness; you may not have thought about it before

(Or maybe you have) how the constant barrage of information and misinformation affects our thinking and increases nervous tension. I will put up my hand and admit that I have been seriously influenced by the information/news of the world that has appeared and made itself so personal in my social media feeds.

 

Perhaps it is timely that I address this review today, September 11, an anniversary that will affect most people on this planet. Perhaps this is the first “major event” that sent waves of nervous energy around the globe? We (Australia) woke to an atrocity that became very personal; live streaming, “on the ground reporting”, fear and anxiety, despair and grief stared us in the eyes and we responded to a tragedy that felt personal to us.  And while we had a right to know about this shocking event, did we need to be so “involved” in someone else’s grief? It is a complex situation but I can’t help but feel, like Matt Haig that we are creating/being exposed to /manipulated into being a very nervous planet; too much information or mis information is almost as bad as too little in these sorts of circumstances.  Empathy is one thing…but we do not need to take on board someone else’s grief, fear, anger. You can listen, understand, sympathise with the problems around you but you do not need to “experience” the negative vibes yourself. A little distance can be good for the collective mental health of the globe.

 

Do as Matt Haig suggests, take a moment, breathe deep, walk in the sun, walk in nature…switch off the phone, the laptop for a while…accept that technology and social media is a part of our life but not the only part. Engage with the real world more often, the benefits will be life changing.

 

 

 

 

Post Script: Frame – AK Alliss

Amor Vincit Omnia!

frame

 

Frame

AK Alliss

Atlas Productions Pty Ltd

ISBN: 9780995377615

 

Description:

How far would you go to save someone who was already dead?

 

Hidden in the frame of a single photo, a content producer for social media sensation, Mathew Albrecht, discovers his possible ties to a global terrorist organisation. Could her client’s involvement also be linked to the death of her husband years earlier or is it something entirely more sinister in nature?

 

What is revealed may eclipse everything that she thought she knew, forcing her to confront the ghosts of her past in her pursuit of the truth.

 

Frame is a genre-bending thriller, set in a world poised on the brink of insanity.

 

 

My View:

I first read this remarkable narrative as a manuscript – I knew nothing of the author, or his style of writing or his track record but I was hooked from the moment I read these couple of sentences in synopsis; “Hidden in the frame of a single photo, a content producer for social media sensation, Mathew Albrecht, discovers his possible ties to a global terrorist organisation. Could her client’s involvement also be linked to the death of her husband years earlier or is it something entirely more sinister in nature?

 

Synchronicity was at work! In a previous life (as most of you will already know) I worked in the film and television industry, looking at images frame by frame…content producing… these terms/actions immediately connected and intrigued me. I had to read this and find out more.

 

And am I glad I took this opportunity? YES! This is an amazing read.  A thriller that is set in the future – but not too far in the future, in the foreseeable future – I can “see” the landscapes, the settings and the technology.

 

And technology is power – holders of this power can influence, control; domestically the power of social media dictates trends, projects individuals to celebrity status and a culture of hero worship by keyboard is encouraged. Politically, wars are won or lost based on control of information and technical fighting power. The landscapes created here are so real they make you feel uncomfortable.

 

The characters are vivid and realistic – I feel for the protagonist, Hannah – melancholy, trapped by a web of grief wound so tight she can hardly breathe…yet strong and resourceful and smart – a great female protagonist.

 

Love, grief, the importance of family, of emotional connections, ties that bind, are themes that are explored in depth in the novel. The words  love and family usually connatates positive emotions and responses but loss of love or the void death creates can also restrict, hold our emotional health to ransom and have the potential to destroy. Hope can empower and create change.  Ultimately  (no spoilers here) the lesson here is: Love Conquers All.

 

A meaningful and captivating read!

 

 

Post Script: Tell The Truth Shame The Devil – Melina Marchetta

This is one book that you can believe all the hype about it!

tell-the-truth-shame-the-devil

Tell the Truth Shame the Devil

Melina Marchetta

Viking

Penguin Random House Australia

ISBN: 9780670079100

 

Description:

Chief Inspector Bish Ortley of the London Met, divorced and still grieving the death of his son, has been drowning his anger in Scotch. Something has to give, and he’s no sooner suspended from the force than a busload of British students is subject to a deadly bomb attack across the Channel. Bish’s daughter is one of those on board.

 

Also on the bus is Violette LeBrac. Raised in Australia, Violette has a troubled background. Thirteen years ago her grandfather bombed a London supermarket, killing dozens of people. Her mother, Noor, is serving a life sentence in connection with the incident. But before Violette’s part in the French tragedy can be established, she disappears.

 

Bish, who was involved in Noor LeBrac’s arrest, is now compelled to question everything that happened back then. And the more he delves into the lives of the family he helped put away, the more he realises that truth wears many colours.

 

 

My View:

This is one book that you can believe all the hype about it!

Deftly created empathetic characters; a strong female cast, women supporting women, family – in all shapes and sizes is a major element in this mystery. Complex – so many contemporary issues are addressed in this novel yet it is not verbose or pretentious or patronising. Heart felt scenarios – I dare you not to have a tear in your eye as you encounter the last few pages of the book – not tears of sadness but of relief, thankfulness, gratitude…tears for the potential you can visualise.

 

Don’t mistake my commendations as a sign this is a “chick lit” style book – it isn’t! This is an incredibly well written contemporary mystery/thriller with such well-developed characters you feel like you know them! Redemption, forgiveness, hope…its all here. I can’t praise this read highly enough. Add this to your book buying list now!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post Script: All That Is Lost Between Us – Sara Foster

Fabulous West Australian author Sara Foster: 

All That Is Lost Between Us

Sara Foster

All That Is Lost Between Us

Simon & Schuster

ISBN: 9781925184785

 

Description:

Seventeen-year-old Georgia has a secret – one that is isolating her from everyone she loves. She is desperate to tell her best friend, but Sophia is ignoring her, and she doesn’t know why. And before she can find out, Sophia is left fighting for her life after a hit and run, with Georgia a traumatised witness.

 

As a school psychologist, Georgia’s mother Anya should be used to dealing with scared adolescents. However, it’s very different when the girl who needs help is your own child. Meanwhile, Georgia’s father is wracked with a guilt he can’t share; and when Zac, Georgia’s younger brother, stumbles on an unlikely truth, the family relationships really begin to unravel.

 

Georgia’s secret is about to go viral. And yet, it will be the stranger heading for the family home who will leave her running through the countryside into terrible danger. Can the Turner family rise above the lies they have told to betray or protect one another, in order to fight for what matters most of all?

 

Set against the stark, rugged beauty of England’s Lake District, All That is Lost Between Us is a timeless thriller with a modern twist. – See more at: http://books.simonandschuster.com.au/

 

 

My View:

Sara Foster draws us into a chillingly tense narrative of secrets and lies with an explosive prologue that has her protagonist Georgia in a very dire situation (no spoilers here). The stage is now set, the scenery and back drops in place, and the principal characters ready – the excitement is building!

 

Sara Foster has produced a domestic narrative that is tension packed and full of surprises. Georgia’s secret is devastating and tantalising, slowly, ever so slowly we are given hints as to the nature of this secret, and it is one that will shatter the innocence of youth and test the multiple relationships discussed in this book.

 

Tension is just one element that Sara Foster excels in, she also captures that difficult relationship between parents (particularly mothers) and their teenage children – the dialogue or lack of it, the mood swings, the umbilical cord of protection almost severed by the child’s growing independence …the child like almost adult exposed for the world to see. A great accounting of these difficult times.

 

“Georgia has a secret…it is about to go viral….”   Get your copy now and find yourself enmeshed in this family’s troubled life. It could easily be yours.

 

 

A sneak peak of chapter one here: :http://issuu.com/simonschusteraustralia/docs/all_that_is_lost_between_us_sampler

 

 

All-that-is-lost-Blog-Tour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best Audio Book Of 2015

In the light of recent wins it is only fitting that I announce what I feel to be the best audio book of 2015. I know I haven’t listened to many this year – but this one stands out – the narrative is excellent and the narration brings the story to life.  I highly recommend this for all parents, grandparents, teenagers to read or listen to. This will change your awareness of the power/influence of social media.

 

The best audio book of 2015 is Risk – Fleur Ferris

Cover - Risk

Post Script: Here We Lie – Sophie McKenzie

Cover - Here We Lie

Here We Lie

Sophie McKenzie

Simon & Schuster

ISBN: 9781471133183

 

Description:

On holiday with family and her adoring fiancé, Jed, Emily couldn’t be happier. But overnight, the idyllic trip turns into a waking nightmare when one of the group is found dead in what appears to be a terrible accident.

 

The devastated party returns to London to cope with their loss while trying to resume their normal lives. But new revelations shed a shocking light on the holiday tragedy and set Emily on a perilous journey to discover the truth about what happened.

 

Soon a terrifying series of threats and lies bring her face to face with the dark truths at the heart of her family – and into life-threatening danger…

 

 

My View:

If you are prepared to hang you suspension of disbelief on the coat rail in the hall way then proceed and enjoy. This is a narrative chock full of drama, paranoia and surprises and a good dose of heartbreak with an underlying useful social commentary on the power of social media and its role in bullying.

 

Of all the characters in this book I found the voice of Dee Dee the most intriguing and deserving of empathy; a child entering the teenage years, her body and hormones at odds with one another, her naivety and her sadness, a pawn in her parents efforts to hurt each other, Dee Dee is a character to make you think. Her story told through the watching of her privately made videos recorded on her phone are revealing and heartbreaking.

 

Sophie McKenzie is a writer who is the master of the surprise and unexpected reveal and she uses this skill masterfully here. I bet that you will not expect the ending – it is totally surprising.

 

 

 

Post Script: Reconstructing Amelia – Kimberly McCreight

Reconstructing Amelia, Kimberly McCreight

Reconstructing Amelia

Kimberly McCreight

Simon & Schuster

ISBN: 9781471111297

Description:

In Reconstructing Amelia, the stunning debut novel from Kimberly McCreight, Kate’s in the middle of the biggest meeting of her career when she gets the telephone call from Grace Hall, her daughter’s exclusive private school in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Amelia has been suspended, effective immediately, and Kate must come get her daughter–now. But Kate’s stress over leaving work quickly turns to panic when she arrives at the school and finds it surrounded by police officers, fire trucks, and an ambulance. By then it’s already too late for Amelia. And for Kate.

An academic overachiever despondent over getting caught cheating has jumped to her death. At least that’s the story Grace Hall tells Kate. And clouded as she is by her guilt and grief, it is the one she forces herself to believe. Until she gets an anonymous text: She didn’t jump.

Reconstructing Amelia is about secret first loves, old friendships, and an all-girls club steeped in tradition. But, most of all, it’s the story of how far a mother will go to vindicate the memory of a daughter whose life she couldn’t save.

 

My View:

A moving and engaging story that both teenagers and parents can relate to and one I feel sure will be picked up by book clubs across the world with it universal story of school yard bullying, manipulation, teenage suicide and sexual awakenings.

I enjoyed this modern mystery, I was engaged in the story and really wanted to find out what really did happen to Amelia on that roof. The more knowledge I was given about Amelia’s private life through her texts, emails and face book posts, the more concerned I felt. McCreight builds the tension perfectly, providing the reader with several perspectives – through alternative chapters of narration – Amelia’s recounting episodes of the immediate past as it happened to her and Kate’s looking back with the additional reference points provided by reading her daughters private social media and text messages.

This novel asks many questions including do we really know our own children? Any parent will tell you it is a scary world we bring our children into – there are so many evil’s out there we want to protect our children from but we really can’t protect them from the faceless beings that prowl the electronic social media seeking innocents. We cannot protect our children all the time, we have to let them grow and make decisions for themselves but sometimes they are not equipped to make those decisions wisely.  Sometimes growing up and make decisions for themselves comes at a cost. For Amelia it cost her life.

I was very impressed at the way this novel tackled bullying, it is a subject that needs to aired and openly discussed. Electronic media make bullying so much more insidious and so much harder to control; messages, images, photos can be sent anytime, anywhere and to mass audiences with little or no costs. And the content of this messages is cannot be simply eradicated…the messages are forever.

Enough of my ranting….a great fast paced read. Plenty of issues are raised that will bring forth much needed discussion. This is an issues based book and a mystery in one. This book does not apologise for being such, it rejoices in challenging you, the reader to open your eyes and see the modern world and social media for what it can be for your children – potentially dangerous and damaging. It doesn’t offer solutions just opens discussions. A great read.