Category: Review

Ten Days in a Mad-House

Author: Nellie Bly
Published: 1887
92 pages

Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 5 stars

Book Description:

Nellie Bly, posing as “Nellie Brown,” went undercover to investigate the deplorable conditions of insane asylums. Her memoirs of this event form the basis of “Ten Days in a Mad-House,” which forever changed the way the world looks at treatment and housing of the insane.

Kim’s Review:

It’s about time I read a non-fiction book! And I picked a great one! As it says in my bio, I LOVE anything about asylums, mad-houses, or psychiatric hospitals. For some reason, the historian in me geeks out and the little seen horror freak comes out. Don’t ask me why, I’ve tried to explain it, but I can’t, I just love them. In These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly, her main character, Jo Montfort, looks up to Nellie Bly as a journalist and a woman who works for change. That intrigued me, so I found Bly’s account and read it in 24 hours. It was inspiring, maddening, and heart breaking all at once.

Nellie actually faked insanity to be committed to the Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum. That may sound romantic to the rest of us, but during 1887, it was a nightmare. Her assignment was to give an accurate account of the plight of the insane from beginning to end. The thing that annoyed me the most was the commitment process. She saw a couple of doctors who asked her a short list of questions and then declared her a hopeless case of insanity. Though thankfully, they admitted that her pulse and heartbeat didn’t evidence insanity . . . yes that was indeed sarcasm.

Even at Bellevue Hospital, the conditions were primitive, at best. No heat, no extra clothing. The asylum on Blackwell’s Island was even worse. The food was minimum and mostly spoiled. The nurses beat and bullied the patients. But the most surprising thing to me, was the daily activities of the patients. From 6 AM-8 PM, they sat on hard benches, not allowed to talk, to move, to slouch. 14 hours of sitting straight and quiet was their main “treatment”. Anyone would be insane after a couple days of that! Fortunately, Nellie’s story incited a slew of changes in the treatment of the insane in New York State. “The committee of appropriation provides $1,000,000 more than was ever before given, for the benefit of the insane.” So thankfully the most basic of problems were addressed with the publication of this story. But modern day mental health still has way too many problems.

My husband is a Physician Assistant at the Emergency Department so he sees his fair share of insane patients coming through. I always press him about the process that each patient and doctor and policeman have to go through to get someone committed to a psych ward. Sometimes it’s as simple as someone trying to commit suicide or even admitting that they want to. But those people usually only stay for a night. They are then released after consulting psychiatrist. There are other more serious cases that have to go through the court system. As long as one doctor signs off on a commitment order, that patient can be committed to a short term psychiatric facility. When I asked about any long term facilities, Ivan informed me that there are none. The modern mental health system is dependent on pharmaceuticals. When I asked about those patients who won’t take their medication or those for whom medication doesn’t help, he just shrugged. We’ve discussed mental health many times and he always shows such frustration for the current process.

People can still be committed by family members who just can’t be bothered to care for their loved ones or are trying to take advantage of them. There are still people walking the streets who legitimately belong under 24 hour psychiatric supervision. And there are no longer any long term facilities available for those who need them. Sadly, there are still too many changes that need to be made and problems to be fixed. I absolutely recommend this book to anyone in the mental health system and to most medical professionals. Anyone who enjoys history would also enjoy this book.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

The Underachieving Ovary

Author: JT Lawrence
Published: September 29, 2016

Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Listened: April 2-8, 2018
Jessica’s Rating: 5 stars

Book Description:

Will there be light at the end of the birth canal?

Does the word ‘endometriosis’ make you want to stick a fork in your eye? No? Then perhaps this book isn’t for you. It’s funny, and (sometimes alarmingly) frank. It contains an impressive array of synonyms for ‘vagina’ and it’s certainly NSFW.

It’s about having a devil womb and a hot knife lodged in my shoulder. It’s about becoming blackly bitter and twisted in my infertility, and then slowly finding a way to untwist myself.

It’s part memoir, part dark comedy, wrapped up loosely as a journal full of TMI and quirk.

Let me put it this way: If Helen Fielding and Marian Keyes were to go through IVF, and use Caitlin Moran as a surrogate, this book would be their baby.

Jessica’s Review:

This is JT Lawrence’s candid memoir dealing with her infertility journey. Ovary is written as a journal and you take every detailed step with Lawrence. This is one that will not be for everyone as she is very direct with her feelings that involve foul language which are raw, gritty, and also at times funny. Through her writing, Lawrence made me feel like I personally know her as I went down this difficult and frustrating path she went through to try to become a Mommy. I had no idea there were so many letters in the alphabet and acronyms for infertility…

This made me understand more of what some of my friends have gone through in their journeys to become parents. You definitely feel the wide range of emotions Lawrence goes through and you are pulling for her to get her wish of becoming a mommy despite all the hurdles that continually pop up.

I had previously purchased the kindle edition, but I was also sent the audible version from the author to listen to.  It is narrated by Jennifer Swanepoel who did a brilliant job. She put all the frankness and emotion that Lawrence wrote into her narration.

Infertility is a difficult issue and if you are going to write about it, then this is a way to do it. Please note that this is not a faith based journey.  For those who have not experienced infertility: READ THIS BOOK!  You will actually learn about infertility and gain some insight as you read.

Ovary should also make you think twice before you ask a couple if they are going to have children:  it is no one else’s business other than the couple.  You never know what they are going through whether it is infertility or other issues.

Bravo JT Lawrence on a memoir that we all need to read.

The Underachieving Ovary is highly recommended. Thank you JT Lawrence for my audible copy!

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

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The House of Small Shadows


Author: Adam Nevill  
Published: July 21, 2015
384 pages

Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 3 stars

Book Description:

Catherine’s last job ended badly. Corporate bullying at a top TV network saw her fired and forced to leave London, but she was determined to get her life back. A new job and a few therapists later, things look much brighter. Especially when a challenging new project presents itself ― to catalogue the late M. H. Mason’s wildly eccentric cache of antique dolls and puppets. Rarest of all, she’ll get to examine his elaborate displays of posed, costumed and preserved animals, depicting bloody scenes from the Great War. Catherine can’t believe her luck when Mason’s elderly niece invites her to stay at Red House itself, where she maintains the collection until his niece exposes her to the dark message behind her uncle’s “Art.” Catherine tries to concentrate on the job, but Mason’s damaged visions begin to raise dark shadows from her own past. Shadows she’d hoped therapy had finally erased. Soon the barriers between reality, sanity and memory start to merge and some truths seem too terrible to be real… in The House of Small Shadows by Adam Nevill.

Kim’s Review:

The description and cover of this book drew me in. I’m all about some historical houses filled with all kinds of old stuff! My inner history nerd got all worked up! But unfortunately, this book was disappointing. I found Catherine to be weak and whiny. I get that people have traumatizing events in their pasts that can cause some problems later in life, but come on. I didn’t get the sense that her problems matched her past “trauma.” Her friend was taken, but she wasn’t, so . . . that doesn’t seem like as big of a problem as she’s making it. The bullying makes a little more sense, but I’ve been laughed at on the playground, I know many people who were abused by their parents and families and we’ve all come out without letting all that shut our lives down completely.

I know I’m not very sympathetic, but I just didn’t get why Catherine let her past keep her from living her life. She uses everything as an excuse for her life instead of getting over it and becoming successful. And she lost her job because she made the choice to attack a coworker, and she never seems to take responsibility for that. The story itself had so much potential, but it just never came together for me. There was no real connection between the taxidermist and the kidnapper, the puppets and the kids. I just didn’t understand all the details. There were some scary parts that had me turning all the lights in the house on, but other than that, I wasn’t really thrilled with this read. I would only recommend this book to certain people, ones who are incredibly detail oriented AND enjoy a good scare.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

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