Tag: non fiction

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

Another Look at Santa Claus is for Real

Kim recently reviewed Santa Claus is for Real and it piqued my interest so much that I had to read it! I listened to the short audiobook that is also narrated by the author. I also loved this one. It’s a perfect read at Christmas!

Santa Claus Is for Real: A True Christmas Fable About the Magic of Believing
Author: Charles Edward Hall
AUDIOBOOK
Published: October 14, 2014

Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: December 16-18, 2017
Jessica’s Rating: 5 Stars

Description from Amazon:

A heartwarming true-life fable from the Radio City Christmas Spectacular Santa—including his personal journey of discovering the magic of Christmas. Every year, over a million people attend the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, where they have the pleasure of seeing Charles Edward Hall don a traditional red suit and become the world’s most famous Santa Claus—a role he has played for twenty-seven straight years. But Hall wasn’t always such a jolly old soul. Believe it or not, this Santa was once a Scrooge. For the first time, Charles tells the inspiring story of his own transformation, from a wide-eyed child who once caught a glimpse of Santa through a frosty windowpane, to a young man who lost his faith in jolly old Saint Nick. It wasn’t until fate intervened, in the form of an unexpected role, a stage malfunction, and hundreds of letters from children, that Charles rediscovered his Christmas spirit. Ultimately, he realized Radio City was his life’s work, and that Santa isn’t just a role. He lives in the hearts of the millions who attend the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, and everyone who embraces the Christmas spirit. Santa Claus, in other words, is real. When Charles needed him most, Santa was there, with kind words and a special gift. As this delightful true-life fable proves, he is there for everyone. All it takes is a good heart, an honest joy, and a belief in the magic of Christmas.

Jessica’s Review:

Santa Claus is for Real is a truly magical journey that Charles Edward Hall takes us on. This is also his journey as he narrates the audiobook and it was perfect!  Hall has been Santa at the Radio City Christmas Spectacular since 1987. As children, we see the magic of Christmas which includes Santa.  There is just something about that man with the long white beard and red outfit that fascinates children.  As adults we become busy in our everyday lives and we can forget how special this time of year can be.  This has been a difficult year and it just did not feel like Christmastime for me. Then I listened to this audiobook and it changed everything!  It was the perfect read for me and I found the Christmas spirit. Everyone needs to read this book or listen to the audio version. We all need to believe in Santa Claus.

Thank you Charles Edward Hall for your story and I would love to one day be able to go to NYC at Christmas time.

Santa Claus is for Real is recommended.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

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Santa Claus is for Real


Santa Claus Is for Real: A True Christmas Fable About the Magic of Believing
Author: Charles Edward Hall
209 Pages
Published: October 14, 2014

Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 5 Stars

Description from Amazon:

A heartwarming true-life fable from the Radio City Christmas Spectacular Santa—including his personal journey of discovering the magic of Christmas. Every year, over a million people attend the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, where they have the pleasure of seeing Charles Edward Hall don a traditional red suit and become the world’s most famous Santa Claus—a role he has played for twenty-seven straight years. But Hall wasn’t always such a jolly old soul. Believe it or not, this Santa was once a Scrooge. For the first time, Charles tells the inspiring story of his own transformation, from a wide-eyed child who once caught a glimpse of Santa through a frosty windowpane, to a young man who lost his faith in jolly old Saint Nick. It wasn’t until fate intervened, in the form of an unexpected role, a stage malfunction, and hundreds of letters from children, that Charles rediscovered his Christmas spirit. Ultimately, he realized Radio City was his life’s work, and that Santa isn’t just a role. He lives in the hearts of the millions who attend the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, and everyone who embraces the Christmas spirit. Santa Claus, in other words, is real. When Charles needed him most, Santa was there, with kind words and a special gift. As this delightful true-life fable proves, he is there for everyone. All it takes is a good heart, an honest joy, and a belief in the magic of Christmas.

Kim’s Review:

This has become one of my all-time favorite books. It has become tradition for me to listen to the audiobook every November. If you don’t believe in Santa Claus, then I guarantee you will by the end of this book. I still believe in Santa and Christmas is my very favorite time of year. Mr. Hall managed to capture all those amazing, warm, tender feelings that Christmas always seems to elicit.

My original Goodreads review was, “I have nothing to say! Everything wonderful, magical, unexplainable, awesome, compassionate, loving, everything about Santa is in this book! I laughed, I cried, I believed! A truly amazing book!!” This is the third year that I’ve listened to this book and that review has not changed at all. And to make it even more special, I decided to write a letter to Mr. Hall last year, thanking him for this book. I wrote the letter while sitting in my Grandmama’s hospital room. She had been put on comfort measures and it was only a matter of time. I had been taking the 10pm-2am slot at the hospital that was an hour away from my house, so I was struggling with exhaustion and grief, and I thought pouring my heart out in a letter would be comforting. And it was! As I was writing, I felt like Mr. Hall was actually listening to me. I thanked him for writing a book that touched me so deeply. I told him about coming from a background where Santa was not allowed because he took the place of Jesus. I told him that having faith in something not seen, is never a bad thing. I told him all about marrying someone who had never believed in Santa, but who I was slowly bringing around. (So far we’ve reached a compromise on Father Christmas.) I felt happy and relieved after I finished the letter and sent it out along with letters to Santa from my nephews. I wasn’t expecting an answer.

Unfortunately, very few authors and celebrities live up to the standards that we, their readers and fans, set for them. Mr. Hall exceeded my expectations. Less than a week went by, and I received a package in the mail. I opened it to find a physical copy of the book, with a beautiful note from Mr. Hall inside. I have no problem admitting that I broke down in tears. The man who played Santa in the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular, who knows Santa personally, who wrote the book that embodies the Spirit of Christmas in such a perfect way, took the time to not only answer my letter, but to send me a gift! I plan to add a letter to Mr. Hall to my annual tradition.

I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone. This is a perfect book for believers and nonbelievers, alike. Even Ivan, a proud nonbeliever, admitted that this book is awesome. If you haven’t managed to get into the Christmas Spirit, read this book. If you want an early start on Christmas, read this book. If you are struggling with faith, read this book. If you need someone to believe in you, read this book. “Santa isn’t an answer, he’s a friend.”

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

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