Review: Secrets for the Mad by Dodie Clark

“When you can’t find your purpose in a day, make it to look after yourself.”

I went into this book not knowing too much about the author, other than being absolutely in love with her cover of the song Novels with Rusty Clanton. I must’ve replayed it over a hundred times since I found it back in April.

I consider it to be one of my all-time favorite songs, thanks to its visceral lyrics that make my heart skip a beat without fail. So I was bound to read Secrets for the Mad sooner or later. Plus, there’s the fact that I adore reading memoirs.

Nonetheless, I was glad to discover Dodie’s writing style flowing really easily in here, especially with her short tales. I was unexpectedly swept into her life from page one and consequently managed to read the book from cover to cover with little to no breaks.

This wickedly fun and inspiring collection of personal stories, lessons, song lyrics, and photos from the beloved British vlogger Dodie Clark, contains vitally important things on a plethora of topics:

  • From struggles with suicidal thoughts, self harm, dependent personality disorder (DPD), depression and anxiety, to body image, eating disorders, and self-hate.
  • Also notes on crushes, love, heartbreak, manipulative and emotionally abusive relationships. Sex and portraying a realistic depiction of sexual intimacy, not just an overview that you get to read basically everywhere.
  • Bisexuality and coming out, feminism in a world that favours men, family, cooking tips, and so much more on experiencing the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in life.

Plus, the line-drawn illustrations spread throughout the book was something I was always looking forward to.Secrets for the Mad 1-- bookspoilsThough the first half of this book made me spiral a bit, which consequently had me going about it quite delicately, overtime, with the topics changing in for some lighter ones, I sank deeply into Dodie’s world of words and lyrics.

Secrets for the Mad 2-- bookspoils

Her goal shared at the beginning of wanting a place to share the depths behind the music and let the world into my turbulent mind was more than met in my opinion. I also came out of Secrets for the Mad feeling genuinely grateful that I got to connect with Clark over the course of my day through her honesty, wisdom, and wit. The same frankness that I greatly cherished with Arden Rose’s Almost Adulting.

And last but not least, I of course had to listen to a Dodie classic while reading her work:

ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Expected publication: November 7th, 2017

4/5 stars

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Review: A Life of Adventure and Delight by Akhil Sharma

In A Life of Adventure and Delight, Sharma delivers eight masterful stories that focus on Indian protagonists at home and abroad and that plunge the reader into the unpredictable workings of the human heart.

I started this short story collection a bit skeptical, since it took me nearly the whole day to finish reading just the first tale because I wasn’t vibing with the characters, premise, or writing. A retired divorcé taking advice from Cosmopolitan to get into his neighbor’s pants, while chronicling their confusing yet utterly ordinary relationship didn’t grip me at all.

“He wondered if he was sadder than he knew.”

I went on with lowered expectations, thinking this would be a similar let down as Junot Diaz’s This Is How You Lose Her, but the minuted I opened up the second story titled “Surrounded by Sleep,” I was blown away from start to finish. What pulled me in particular was Ajay, the eleven-year-old protagonist at the heart of this tale. With his love for books, superhero comics, extreme superstitions and mind-expanding talks with God, it was as if the author knew exactly what to include to win me over. Also, the mother in the story was a sight to behold, especially when she used her devotion to “shame God into fixing” her oldest son.

“Are you going to tell me the story about Uncle Naveen again?” he asked.
“Why shouldn’t I? When I was sick, as a girl, your uncle walked seven times around the temple and asked God to let him fail his exams just as long as I got better.”
“If I failed the math test and told you that story, you’d slap me and ask what one has to do with the other.”
His mother turned to the altar.
“What sort of sons did you give me, God?” she asked. “One you drown, the other is this selfish fool.”
“I will fast today so that God puts some sense in me,” Ajay said, glancing away from the altar and up at his mother. He liked the drama of fasting.
“No, you are a growing boy.” His mother knelt down beside him and said to the altar, “He is stupid, but he has a good heart.”

Another point I unexpectedly came to cherish was Ajay’s character growth and how immense it seemed over the course of this swift tale, so much so that I nearly forgot that he was still eleven by the end of it all. Truly wise beyond his years.

“He was having difficulty talking. He didn’t know why. The only time he could talk easily was when he was with God. The explanation he gave himself for this was that, just as he couldn’t chew when there was too much in his mouth, he couldn’t talk when there were too many thoughts in his head.”

Needless to say, I was spellbound by how captivating “Surrounded by Sleep” was compared to the impression left by the first one. Consequently, my expectations were raised a tenfold for the remaining collection.

So I was then sad to see that the remaining pieces didn’t live up to what I’d so loved in the second story. Reading A Life of Adventure and Delight is probably the longest it has taken for me to complete a collection of short stories. I got stuck for days on end with a tale here and there, and in the end I just had to skip some pieces altogether to get the momentum back. I think my main problem was the fact that there wasn’t one theme or arc being explored, unlike in my favorite “Surrounded by Sleep”. Usually the tales started of in one way, only to end on a completely unrelated note, which of course led to numerous loose threads that left my mind spinning.

But I will say this: All the mothers in Akhil Sharma’s short story collection were a force to be reckoned with. The author can write dynamic mother figures like no one’s business, and I’m frankly jealous. So I was quite dismayed to see that A Life of Adventure and Delight didn’t live up to my overall expectations in the end. But I am eager to see what Sharma’s future works will entail.

3/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying A Life of Adventure and Delight, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

Review: This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz

Nine interlinked short tales chronicling ruined relationships, cheating, death, family, and more. At the heart of these stories is the irrepressible, irresistible Yunior, a young hardhead whose longing for love is equaled only by his recklessness–and by the extraordinary women he loves and loses: artistic Alma; the aging Miss Lora; Magdalena, who thinks all Dominican men are cheaters; and the love of his life, whose heartbreak ultimately becomes his own.

“And that’s when I know it’s over. As soon as you start thinking about the beginning, it’s the end.”

This being my first read by Junot Diaz, I was in for a pleasant surprise regarding the writing and the tempo of each tale. The author specializes in making his short stories fly by. However, I had a hard time reading most of these tales of cheating and feeling literally zero remorse for it… And even going so far as to say that “it was just a mistake.” I have only one thing in mind for people that use that heinous excuse:

And I just wish the women in this collection could’ve listened to Dua Lipa’s New Rules:

Side note on the above song: I recently discovered this feminist, girl-power bop, and I’m completely digging it. It’s been on repeat for days now. Not only is the aesthetic on point in the music video (those color coordinations!!!), but Dua Lipa’s singing voice is one not to be trifled with.

Circling back to the actual story collection: While the first handful of stories were capturing and different enough to keep me interested, once the narrator became the same one for each coming tale I grew quite over it. Following Yunior from a teen to adulthood didn’t end up working in my favour, since his character wasn’t that intriguing to see developed over the course of a number of stories. And neither his family nor his romantic partners kept me intrigued enough, so I was disappointed with the second half of this collection.

This Is How You Lose Her is, however, a striking introduction to the author’s immaculately curated writing style. I’m not sure, however, if I’ll be eager to check out Junot Diaz’s other books in the near future. Mainly because the short stories left me extremely underwhelmed with the characters as a whole. So only time will tell on this one.

2.5/5 stars 

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying This Is How You Lose Her, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!