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Book Reviews Mental Health Neuroscience

Review of the book The Boy Who Could See Demons (3.5*)

The Boy Who Could See DemonsThe Boy Who Could See Demons by Carolyn Jess-Cooke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 stars – Recommended. I found this novel creative, engaging and fast paced. Through the eyes of a 10 year old boy, and a 43 year old psychiatrist analysing him, the author brought about two very contrasting viewpoints of a brain disorder. The story is written against the backdrop of the aftermath of years of chaos in Northern Ireland, which brings to light the long-lasting destructive effects of political instability on the general population. This not only highlights the challenges faced by present day Northern Irish men and women, but it also suggest to the readers how other societies can suffer for generations after enduring war and comparable devastation.

**Warning Spoiler**
When I finished the book I pleased with the novel overall and was prepared to present a 5 star review. However, once I digested the ending, I was reminded of how infrequent it was for a disadvantaged child suffering from a serious mental condition to experience an ending as neat and as optimistic as the one presented in the book. My personal experience of public mental health system is far from the idealistic manner described by the author. In general social workers and doctors are overworked and do not have the luxury of dedicating this much time and energy to one patient. When a child loses their primary caregiver, it would be extremely lucky that he/she could have a guardian as good as the one in this story swooping in and making life all so much better. There is a sense of a ‘Hollywood’ or ‘Disney’ style ‘Happily Ever After’, which is disappointing because aside from the ending the book had presented a very realistic yet lighthearted view of an otherwise dark subject.

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Book Reviews

Book Review: The Lost Pages

The Lost PagesThe Lost Pages by Marija Peričić
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is easy to read, short and sweet with a strong plot and plenty of hooks that kept me going. I finished the book within a day.

I am particularly impressed by Peričić’s description of the thoughts and actions of a jealousy. It is brutally frank and must be relatable for anyone who has ever been envious of their peers. The obsessive thoughts of the protagonists are also powerful and convincing.

The concept of the book is courageous and imaginative but in some ways the bravery of the author may well be her downfall. Peričić uses two notable individuals and modifies their history in an artistic manner, giving her novel an interesting dimension. Should her two main characters be entirely fictitious with no links to Max Brod or Franz Kafka, the idea of this book would be unoriginal at best. Thus the creativity of The Lost Pages relies heavily on the manner in which Peričić interpreted and altered history.

Personally, I am very uncomfortable in her choice in modifying the integrity of Max Brod. Whilst I am not acquainted and can never befriend Brod, from all documented facts he seems to be a man who had made significant contributions to the literary world. Furthermore, he was a Jewish Czech born with a physical defect that must have made him suffered his whole life and he survived an era when his race endured so much hardship. It is difficult to justify a decision by the author to further demonise his personality simply to fuel the marketability of this novel.

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Book Reviews Martial Arts MMA UFC

Review of the book “Beast – Blood, struggle and dreams at the heart of MMA” by Doug Merlino

Beast: Blood, Struggle, and Dreams at the Heart of Mixed Martial ArtsBeast: Blood, Struggle, and Dreams at the Heart of Mixed Martial Arts by Doug Merlino
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

By default, if a writer can describe the sport of MMA in an objective manner and is capable of bringing into light all aspects of MMA, the good, the bad, the misunderstood without the interjection of personal judgements, the book will be a 5 star for me.

This book for me rates a 3.5 star.

Doug Merlino, an established sports journalist presents this book and its several stories in a simple and effective style. He begins by introducing the sport from a layman’s perspective – how cage fighting normally appears like a barbaric activity to an outsider. He then brings in the opposing view of how each fighter are presented as warriors that embodies civilised virtues such as courage, hard work and honour. The book goes on to explore many facets of the sport including the physical and emotional backstories of various athletes, a brief history of the sport, wages and challenges of being a professional fighter onward to how the career can terminate for some of them. Overall I felt that he presented an all rounded view of MMA.

I deducted one star for one very large aspect of MMA he had failed to include in his book – Women’s MMA (WMMA). Aside from a brief mention of Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate, all other women in his book played the clichéd role of girlfriend, wives and mums. HELL NO! WMMA has been around several years prior to the publishing of his book (2015). Why would he not think that WMMA is a vital part of MMA? Does he believe a woman cannot be a BEAST? This is a huge sore point for me.

The other half a point was deducted because the book zig-zags between the lives of 3 athletes and made it rather confusing for me at the start.

Towards the end, Merlino mentions how through the months of his research, he acquired a number of wisdom from the veterans of the sport. I was particularly impressed when he describes how martial arts training helps align the mind, body and spirit, teaches a fighter to manage their emotions and defend themselves from threats. This is a level of wisdom not normally available to many athletes even after years of training. And this is why I round the book up to 4 stars.

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Book Reviews Boxing

Review of book “The Murder of Sonny Liston”

The Murder of Sonny Liston: Las Vegas, Heroin, and HeavyweightsThe Murder of Sonny Liston: Las Vegas, Heroin, and Heavyweights by Shaun Assael
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sonny Liston is a fascinating character. He was born and raised in very difficult circumstances – abused, neglected and was almost invisible to the world – an irony for a child who grew up so large. He somehow managed to become one of the best fighter not simply for his generation but also regarded often as top boxer of all times. As a man he was full of flaws, but not without virtue. Yet most people only saw him as a junkie, womaniser and an illiterate angry black criminal. And so his death was duly ignored and dismissed by the public. His talent for boxing was just astonishing I often wondered what great heights he might have attained if things hadn’t been this rough for him at the start.

Shaun Assael painted a complete picture of his life through the eyes of everyone – those who used him, despised him, those who loved him and believed him, and those who simply understood him and put up with his terrible habits. The book was written in a true journalistic observational style, with little interceding personal opinions. He covered all grounds and explored as much as he could, exhausting every avenue of the mystery surrounding Liston’s death. Every concerns, no matter how sensitive or unsavoury was discussed. Tragically, there was little that can be done today with such an enormous time lapse.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It was an easy read for a non-fiction with such a large cast of colourful characters, each playing a complicated role in that complex world where law enforcement and criminals were divided by a blurred line. It also shed some light on the beginnings of Las Vegas, with a few unexpected personalities such as Frank Sinatra – rather informative.

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