I read. Quite a bit. But after a fairly amusing tiff between Larry Correia (voted most likely to be assassinated by the Hugo Award committee) and one of those random bloggers on Huffington Post, I realized that I’ve seriously overlooked Self Published book. This isn’t due to any intentional shunning on my part, just that few Self Pub books pop up on my Scribd subscription.

I’ve decided to correct the error of my ways and, at least for the next few months, steer my content consumption towards the Self Pub realm. That means that for the first time in at least a year I’ve had to turn on Kindle and scour their terrible app (that really, really, really wants me to read Harry Potter again for some reason) for Self Pub books. After going through two pages of Harry Potters, I found one that caught my eye: 4 Years Trapped in My Mind Palace, by Johan Twiss.

First off, apparently “Mind Palace” is not copyright BBC in the latest run of Sherlock. It’s an actual technique developed by some old dude who has a picture of a bust of him on Wikipedia. In my book, if someone not only made a bust of you, but puts a picture of that bust on Wikipedia, which is also the first result if you Google Mind Palace, you’re legit. No more research needed.

So Legit, You Guys

Now onto the book. I’ll probably be tweaking my review categories as I continue in this process, but everyone has to start somewhere:

The Mile High Summary

A kid named Aaron suffers from a crazy rare medical condition which makes him just as conscious as he his paralyzed. Which means very, in both cases. Everyone around him thinks he’s brain dead, until he finally gets an old roommate named Solomon who suffers from dementia and can hear Aaron’s thoughts. The two of them then go on fantastical journeys together through some of Sol’s most important memories.

My Thoughts

It sounds totally weird, right? When I explained it to my wife, she gave me that look that asked why I would choose to read this over staring at a blank wall. The story ends up being less weird in practice. The plot was actually quite tight, hitting all of it’s marks to keep pulling the reader along. After the first chapter, I didn’t once question the author’s ability to make a virtually lifeless kid into a hero worth cheering for.

The book worked well because the characters worked well. Many YA books are from the protagonists point-of-view, often digging into their thoughts without any actual action happening on the page. Those books live and die by how interesting the protagonist’s thoughts are. For example, in the Divergent Series, we get the thoughts of a self-indulgent 16 year old who is so full of herself that she’s on the verge of creating a black hole. In “4 Years Trapped In My Mind Palace” though, Aaron is a thoughtful and caring young man who has every right in the world to focus on his own suffering, but instead pushes out to those around him.

Solomon works well as the foil to Aaron’s suffering. One is young, inexperienced, with a failing body but a vigorous mind. The other is old and road-worn, with a functioning body but a failing mind. The two of them are fun to follow as they grow and help each other through their suffering. It’s that interaction that makes the story, not the external events going on.

Titillating Tropes

Every book has its tropes, and this one is no exception. The trope following the reader around here is the time-traveling winks.

It’s not quite a true time-travel, but close enough, since every time that Aaron follows Solomon into one of the older man’s memories, it’s like Aaron is a character in Solomon’s life. While they’re walking around, they’ll run into things that the reader–as well as Aaron–knows about, but the time piece characters haven’t yet experienced.

For example, in the first flashback, while Aaron and Sol are in New York, they run into Francis Scott Fitzgerald. His wife Zelda says “Oh, he’s an author. . .Perhaps you’ve heard of his last novel, This Side of Paradise. . .” Get it? Because he’s not super famous for Great Gatsby yet? *Eye wink emoji*

There’s several more, but I don’t want to get all spoilery. These eye winks can even be fun–why do you think there’s so many shows set in the eighties these days?–but they are most definitely a trope.

Self Pub Setbacks

The advantage of traditional publishing is that (typically) a book will go through multiple levels of edits. Self Pub books don’t usually have that budget, so they’ll go through an external edit or two, leaving in a few things that probably should have been cut out.

Not to say that’s 100% the case going either way. For a prime example, traditionally published and my still #1 Least Favorite book that I’ve made it all the way through “Beautiful Creatures” was still chock full of stupid editing mistakes. Including the fact that the whole book wasn’t scrapped.

What problems does “4 Years Trapped In My Mind Palace” have on the editing front? Thankfully, not too many. Like I mentioned, the plot is crisp, which helps the reader overlook most of the minor problems.

There’s still a few issues. This book’s flaw of choice was the occasional unnecessary extra line.

My favorite example (which I forgot to mark as I read, so I’m paraphrasing) had Aaron note that a horse was the most beautiful stallion he had ever seen. ‘Not that I have ever seen any stallions before.’ Um. . .okay. If he’s not familiar with horses, wouldn’t he think something else, like it being one of the most beautiful animals he had ever seen?  Or that extra line could have been removed and the reader would have been none the wiser that Aaron hadn’t starred in the Middle School version of Equus before his coma.

There’s a few other examples of that, the kind of minor issue that would have been crossed out on edit three or four. But those kinds of things are so minor that I mention them only because they were a bit odd. And because I’m writing a review and have to mention something wrong.

Recommendation Level

I would rate this book as significantly more enjoyable than staring at a blank wall.

I would put it solidly in second place of the books I’ve read this year (out of three non-picture books read with the kids as of January 17th).

Joking aside, it was rather good. If you’re a fan of good characters in unique situations with a bit of nostalgia thrown in, I’d definitely suggest you give it a go.


I picked this up on my still currently free trial of Kindle Unlimited. I’ve gotten otherwise no payment or proceeds for writing this review (except whatever pennies Google Adsense throws my way). I may at some future point get money if you click on that link and buy it, but as of now that’s not the case, because the last time I tried to become an Amazon affiliate I was told that Colorado and Amazon were having too much of a lover’s quarrel to make that work. That may change in the future, though, and I probably won’t update this disclaimer because I’ll have forgotten all about it by then.