Thursday, April 17, 2014

Book Review: Confessions of a Sociopath by M.E. Thomas

Book Review: Confessions of a Sociopath by M.E. Thomas

Goodreads Description: The first memoir of its kind, Confessions of a Sociopath is an engrossing, highly captivating narrative of the author's life as a diagnosed sociopath.

She is a charismatic charmer, an ambitious self-promoter, and a cunning and calculating liar. She can induce you to invest in her financial schemes, vote for her causes, and even join her in bed. Like a real-life Lisbeth Salander, she has her own system of ethics, and like Dexter, she thrives on bending and occasionally breaking the rules. She is a diagnosed, high-functioning, noncriminal sociopath, and this is her world from her point of view.

Drawn from the author's own experiences; her popular blog,; and scientific literature, Confessions of a Sociopath is part confessional memoir, part primer for the curious. Written from the point of view of a diagnosed sociopath, it unveils for the very first time these people who are hiding in plain sight. The book confirms suspicions and debunks myths about sociopathy, providing a road map for dealing with the sociopath in your life.

My Review: To start here, I believe the issue most people have when reading this book is a dislike of the author and her voice as she goes through her narrative, and I think it really highlights the differences between sociopaths and what M.E. Thomas refers to as "empaths." There is nothing in this book that will make you like M.E., and I don't think that's purposeful, simply a result of her laying out how she views herself and the world in the plainest terms possible. She is very cutthroat about a lot of social situations, and at times I was disturbed by the flippancy in which she cared for the others around her. There is no "soft blow" language here, and what I mean by that is when most people talk about something bad they've done, they will justify it, soften the blow, lower the risk or lessen the severity of their own actions to seem more "human" or sympathetic to those listening to their story, but M.E. doesn't bother with such fluff. She doesn't try to endear her to you, doesn't justify her actions beyond the straight "I did it because I enjoyed it" or "I did it to get X result." Because of this, I can see many readers being put-off by her and shutting down anything she has to say on the subject, which is a big mistake, in my opinion.

If you intend to read Confessions of a Sociopath, you must do so with an open mind and the understanding that everything M.E. writes is through a warped view. She has some great arguments, but everything must be taken with a grain of salt. However, if you go in with the right mindset, this book is absolutely eye-opening.

Confessions of a Sociopath is part memoir, part psychological research. M.E. looks at the history of study done on sociopaths way back into the 1800s and presents it in a very wonderful and informative way. She illustrates the faults in our tools for finding sociopaths, showing that most research and testing is done on the prison population. While many sociopaths do end up in prison, this only highlights one thread of sociopathy, and neglects to look at successful sociopaths who manage to immerse themselves in an empathetic culture and stay above the law. Looking at sociopaths as all murderers or serial killers is no different than looking at all Mexicans as lazy or all black people as criminals-- it is just not reality. She goes on to show the study of the brain and that sociopaths have been proven to have a different brain make-up, and explains the theories and research behind why sociopaths are so unempathetic, looking at something such as inattention to be the cause of this lack of empathy.

M.E. builds a wonderful case for how a sociopath may be a "successful" member of society. She insists that sociopathy is not as much of a "mental illness" as a different brain structure or personality type. Her description of sociopathic thought processes certainly brought the 4% statistic into reality for me, took away the stereotype of the "serial killer" and illustrated a very real person, whose personality traits I could see in people around me. But the thing that made this book so wonderful was the argument she raised on what should be done with sociopaths. All books and journals and readings about sociopaths indicate a need to find them, expose them, and avoid them. But if we come to a place where we can identify sociopaths, what would we do with them? Would we ship them off to camps to be put to death, because they are "beyond saving" or "monsters"? How is this any different from the way Jews were treated in WW2?

Confessions of a Sociopath is a fascinating read, and really opens up this topic to another perspective. Are sociopaths really monsters, or are we the monsters for thinking of them in such a way? Are they not just another structure of the human form, like autistics or geniuses? Sociopaths, much of the time, thrive in our world. They are our CEOs, our lawyers, friends and coworkers. They are people who are doomed to repeat the same destructive cycles time and time again because they lack the ability for self-reflection and introspection, and would have to work to obtain any level of self-improvement. But when autistics need this outside help, does anyone say they should be "avoided" because of their differences? Do we toss them to the curb because of the way they were born?

If you are at all interested in sociopathy, mental illness and psychology, I highly suggest the read. However, I'd advise readers to calm that emotional knee-jerk response when reading, and reserve judgement. The experience will be so worth it. 

TL;DR: 4/5 Stars. If you can put aside your own judgements, it is such a fascinating ride. 

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Meet Soman Chainani and win a copy of School of Good and Evil!

I cannot express my love enough for this book. If you want to check out my review of School of Good and Evil, you can find it here. From page one it was a wild ride and I'm so happy to be able to host the author, Soman Chainani today on my blog! I could talk up this book all day, so in anticipation of the sequel, A WORLD WITHOUT PRINCES, which comes out April 15, I'm doing a fantabulous giveaway!! I can't thank Soman enough for agreeing to chat with me.

1) What or who inspired you to become a writer?

Writing is a truly meditative activity, in the sense that it feels like you're breathing thoughts onto a page. Growing up, I always felt like I had to write. If I didn't, I'd either explode, go mental, or stagnate. Even now, if I go more than a few days without writing, I feel myself slipping into a sad fugue. It just is at the core of who I am. Perhaps, for that reason, it's impossible to say what exactly inspired me to be a writer. Because I was a writer long before inspiration ever arrived.

2) You've had a lot of success with film over the years. What kind of challenges did you face when writing SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL?

The publishing process happened with alarming speed. I had been adapting the novel The Pushcart War into a film for legendary producer, Jane Startz, who has adapted practically every major kids’ book of our time – Tuck Everlasting, The Indian in the Cupboard, The Babysitter’s Club, etc. I told her the idea for SGE and she immediately loved the idea of growing a series from the ground up as both novels and films. Once I had the proposal for the series ready and a few sample chapters, she sent it out to 16 publishers, but Harper preempted it and bought worldwide rights within 48 hours. The challenges all came after I sold it, rather than before, which is highly unusual. That said, you can imagine the pressure I felt to deliver once the series was sold. I wasn’t a particularly pleasant person for the better part of a year and a half. God bless Jane and my phenomenal editor, Phoebe Yeh, for their wisdom and calm. Now that I’m on Book 2, I’m more relaxed and secure in just spreading my wings.

3) What was your favorite part of writing SGE?

I love writing Sophie's scenes with Agatha. They're the ultimate odd couple, so they usually end up churning into high comedy -- even camp at times. Sophie, in particular, can be ludicrous, so I'm always pushing the boundaries of what even I find appropriate for a children's novel. Agatha's certainly the heart of the series -- but Sophie, perhaps, is the fun.

4) Since you do come from a background of film, did you ever see SGE becoming a movie, or did you intend to leave it as a novel?

Hollywood is a different world. If you ever have ANY presumed expectations of success there or having your book turned into a movie, you're an absolute fool. You can only navigate the rocky waters as best you can and hope it works out for the best. To that end, I wrote SGE purely as a novel, but knew it would make a fantastic movie if anyone had the courage for it. Right now, it's slated to be a film for Universal (I just delivered the script). So here's hoping the tide stays in our favor...

5) We all have personal challenges when it comes to writing. Do you have any bad habits as a writer you've had to shake?

I tend to want to control the story as much as I can and come at it consciously. But I think that's probably the worst habit of all, because if you can plot something ahead of time and just execute a linear outline for a novel, chances are the reader will predict what's going to happen as well. If I'm not surprised, then the audience won't be either. So it means I've had to write more from a place of the unconscious, just letting the story unfold on its own.

6) When do you take the time to write? Do you have any routines or rituals?

My routine is pretty simple – I get up at about 7am, then either go to yoga or spinning or play tennis until 9. I start writing by 9:30 and write until 3:30 or 4, with a lunch break in there (during which I watch a bad episode of reality TV to calm down). Then I run errands before I teach at nights. There are two keys to my writing process, I’d say. One, that I stay super fit, because the stamina required to write, edit, and promote SGE, where I’m doing both the books and movies at the same time, is absolutely inhuman. And two, that I don’t work too late. I need time for my brain to solve the problems of the day so I can move forward the next morning clear-headed.

7) What kind of responses have you gotten from kids about SGE? Have any stories?

The tour for Book 1 was beyond belief. I spoke to over 8000 kids, got to perform on massive stages, and had moments where I felt like a member of One Direction, simply because of the nature of school presentations. You have an hour, a captive audience of anywhere from 200-400 kids, and you have to bring it or the kids will either go to sleep or boo you off the stage. So instead of a traditional reading, I try to put on a full-scale theatrical 'show', with videos and slides and interactive games, and all kinds of little surprises that will help kids get access to what it's like to go to the School for Good and Evil.

Every school I went to, something absurd happened. But my favorite was one school where the boys had all read the book and were totally into it -- but had all taken the jacket covers off so no one would see the 'girls' on the cover. God forbid anyone know there were girl characters in their book!

8) Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

I think worrying about the end goals -- when a book will be published, how much money you might make, a sliver of hope for fame -- will only destroy you as a writer. Write because you love it. Live your story only for yourself. The audience will come when it and you are truly ready.

9) Can you share anything about the upcoming A WORLD WITHOUT PRINCES?

It's a darker, more emotional and more ferocious experience than Book 1. But that isn't surprising, since instead of the schools warring as Good versus Evil, this time its Boys versus Girls. Only as we learned in Book 1, sides are never all that clear in this world... It's a battle of the sexes like you've never imagined.

10) If you had been dropped into either the School of Evil or the School of Good as a kid, would you have tried to escape or would you have worked for your fairy tale?

Wow. Brilliant question. I'd like to say that I'd have missed my family so much that I would have tried to escape… But truth is, I'd likely stay and try to find as happy ending as I could. I'm a sucker for adventure.

I know what you guys are waiting for now. No doubt you're all pumped up for the book now, and I know I'll be first in line for the sequel. So, to make sure that you're right up there with me, I'll be giving away a copy of SCHOOL OF GOOD AND EVIL.

free glitter text and family website at 


1) Comment on this post with your email address and you will be given one entry.
2) Follow me on Twitter here for another entry.
3) Every tweet you send out about this contest (preferably with link) that is @katieEcarson will earn you an extra entry. Tweet 50 times? Get 50 entries. 
4) On April 15, I will be drawing a winner and will email that person for their mailing address. Not only can you celebrate the release date of A WORLD WITHOUT PRINCES, but you'll end up with a free copy of the first book, which ain't a bad deal if you ask me.

Ready, steady, GO!!