Sunday, September 28, 2008

Book Review: Manic by Terri Cheney

BIG THANKS to HarperCollins (Sharyn and Eryn) for sending me this book!

“Manic” by Terri Cheney
Published by William Morrow, a division of HarperCollins

Rating: 4 stars

“Manic” takes its readers on a journey through the treacherous bouts of mania and the bleak depths of depression. Terri Cheney is a prime example of how mental illness and tragedy can afflict even the brightest, most educated, wealthy and above all pristine looking individuals. As a powerful and respected entertainment lawyer, she represented high profile clients and mingled with A-list celebrities, all while keeping up the illusion of normalcy.

For most people, there is no such thing as too much happiness. However, for Cheney, surges of happiness tend to foreshadow danger because they signify a descent into mania. The manic episodes become charged by bursts of unlimited energy which spurn sexual impropriety and complete lack of self control. Her portrayal of her experience with depression reveals her vulnerability and loneliness, leading to a number of suicide attempts, both spontaneous and planned.

There is no chronological order to the book, as Cheney explains, because “life for me is not defined by time, but by mood”. While this disjointed style takes some getting used to, it is also effective in mirroring the chaotic nature of manic depression, just as Cheney had wanted.

Cheney’s writing style is personal and inviting, as though she is recounting her tragic tales to a close friend. Many events in her life are quite shocking and the vivid descriptions of her suffering are sometimes hard to digest. Nonetheless, these stories are an important part of her past and a reality of those who must cope with manic depression. They remind us of how fragile human beings can be and that appearances are not always as they seem.

Cheney’s pain is clearly manifested throughout the novel but the humor intertwined in her narration shows a sense of acceptance and maturity. Her ability to look back upon the most excruciating years in her life with insight and understanding is remarkable. Terri Cheney should be applauded for her courage to open up to the world about her struggle with bipolar disorder. I know I am grateful to her for letting me in.

For more information visit:

Book Review: Driving Sideways by Jess Riley

"Driving Sideways" by Jess Riley
Published by Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc.

Rating: 5 stars

After a long awaited kidney transplant, Leigh Fielding cannot wait to take charge of her life. It has been six years since she was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease (PKD) and she has been living under the watchful eye of her overprotective brother and his wife for far too long. Since her illness, Leigh has let her insecurities and fears rule her life but she is hoping that her new kidney will inspire more excitement and spontaneity. Leigh finally summons up the courage to take a road trip from Wisconsin to California where she will confront her past, learn more about her present and unknowingly meet her future. The road ahead holds more surprises and passengers than Leigh had bargained for but as she soon learns, life’s most precious moments are often the unexpected ones. Riley does an excellent job of crafting the intricate plotline and leaves much room for secrets and deception to unfold. Not everything and everyone are as they seem as Leigh sets off to find her estranged mother, a former flame and the family of her kidney donor.

The story is told solely through Leigh’s perspective but it does not take long to feel connected to the other characters and their personal struggles. Even the most mundane of events will arouse laughter because of the characters’ detailed idiosyncrasies and amusing interaction. However, it is ultimately their flaws that make them real and even more endearing to the reader. The friendships and relationships that grow throughout the novel are complex and yet incredibly heartwarming. There are aspects of each character that are relatable and therefore it is easy to get caught up in the storyline and to feel like a part of all the drama and excitement.

While the serious subject matter of the book has the potential to be depressing, Riley has created an uplifting novel through the use of tasteful humor and respect for those with PKD and their loved ones. You can feel the pain but at the same time, the hope, that Leigh manages to inspire. There are many humorous and touching moments throughout the book, but it is the lovable and neurotic Leigh, that will keep readers wanting more. Her self-deprecating humor and hilarious pop culture references woven throughout the book add a nice touch to the story.

"Driving Sideways" is a promising debut from author Jess Riley about life, love and hope in the face of hardship. It has just the right blend of adventure, wit, and charm.

For more info visit: (hilarious blog, I assure you!)

Welcome to Bookopolis!

After lurking in the shadows of many wonderful blogs, I have finally decided to jump on the book blog bandwagon! With the rising costs of printing and the consequent decrease of book coverage in many newspapers (including that of my own Montreal Gazette), book bloggers have become more important than ever to further literary discourse. Especially with the advent of modern technology, people are increasingly turning to the web in search of answers and ideas. That is why it is so important to initiate discussion and promote our love of literature. In this blog I plan on sharing my opinions about upcoming books as well as book-related news, and hopefully inspire people to keep on reading because there are so many FANTASTIC books out there just waiting to be read!