Spinning Starlight — R.C. Lewis

Many thanks to Disney Book Group, via NetGalley, for an opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review!

4.5/5.

Warning: this review contains spoilers.  Some.

Wow. Okay, so this book is a retelling of a Hans Christian Anderson fairytale (“The Wild Swans”) but I wasn’t aware of this. Actually, that’s a lie, I probably was but I have such a huge number of books on my Kindle right now that I don’t remember the blurbs of every one.

Anyway, Spinning Starlight blew me away. I don’t even know how to express what about this book made me so happy. It’s YA sci-fi with the twist of being a fairytale retelling, but the fairytale element is really not that obvious, which is something I like — and it’s also not a super well-known fairy tale (as compared with ones like Cinderella, or Sleeping Beauty, or Bluebeard).

I really liked Liddi. Yes, there clearly were the “good” people and “bad” people. The good ones were mainly Liddi, her brothers, and then once the really interesting section of the book starts, there was Tiav and a few others on Ferrine, although there is some question about his loyalty at one point. The “bad” person was clearly Minali, so there was that black-and-white, good-or-bad aspect that’s very fairytale-ish. And the fact that Minali was the main bad guy instead of there being more than one is also fairly stand fairytale fare.

Spinning Starlight also had some plot twists that I didn’t anticipate, such as the introduction of the device implanted in Liddi’s throat that meant she couldn’t talk. Obviously this meant finding help from people on Ferrine was much more difficult — even more so because writing had disappeared from Liddi’s planet — replaced with communication tablets (think AI that are almost sentient). But obviously without the use of comm tablets and without Liddi being able to speak, she can’t explain her predicament — Minali wanting to kill all 8 of her brothers for “the betterment of technology” — and this gets her in a lot of trouble on Ferrine.

And the Khua. ♥ They reminded me SO MUCH of the Naaru in World of Warcraft (yes, self-admission, I am a gamer and love WoW, haha). Not to the extent that I feel it was copied directly from WoW or anything, but enough to make me be able to visualize them as Liddi describes them.
And the ending, oh, my heart!! I finished this book in a McDonald’s while waiting for my husband to pick me up, and I almost started crying. It was a good ending, but sad, obviously.

Anyway. Definitely definitely recommend, and R.C. Lewis is most certainly going to be on my “look up more books by this author” list. Well done, Ms. Lewis!!

The Dead House – Dawn Kurtagich.

Many thanks to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, via NetGalley, for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!!

3/5.


Okay, so this book has a really interesting premise. I loved the execution — via transcripts of video footage, excerpts from diaries, transcripts of police interviews, transcripts of therapy sessions. It’s something that is not often done in the books I tend to read, but it’s a style that I’ve always loved.

So that made me really love Kurtagich’s style.

But seriously… cramming all that she did into one novel? It lost plausibility (and yes, there are elements in other books that involve the paranormal/supernatural that keep it at least plausible in some sense). Does Kaitlyn have dissociative identity disorder (formerly known as multiple personality disorder)? Is she “actually insane”? Does she have a psychotic disorder? OR… IS SHE POSSESSED BY A DEMONIC ENTITY?

I don’t know why I keep running into books like this where mental health aspects are pulled into the story but the research that the author did is wildly inaccurate. Granted, this is the stuff I deal with in my career, so there’s that extra “level” of knowledge there that your average Joe wouldn’t have, but still.

My problems with this book:

* DID is not a personality disorder. Yes, it was called “multiple personality disorder” but the actual reason that the name was changed from MPD to dissociative identity disorder is because it’s not a personality disorder. Personality disorders as defined in the DSM cannot be treated with medication; are not a result of trauma; and are life-long. You don’t outgrow personality disorders, and you don’t really “heal” from them either. Some of the personality disorders that are more commonly cited are narcissistic personality disorder (where people only care about themselves and don’t give a shit about changing because they’re AWESOME already, it’s everyone else that sucks) and borderline personality disorder (and I know people with this, and the best they can do is become self-aware and work on changing their behaviors — but that is not going to ever mean that BPD goes “into remission” — it just means that they can cope better with the issues that BPD throws at them).

So yes, the fact that the name was changed from MPD to DID is because this is a disorder that is on the dissociative spectrum, IS a result of trauma, and CAN be treated (although not cured, and medications don’t work for dissociative disorders). And with DID, unlike personality disorders, there are very different alternate personalities (i.e., someone who has DID may be physically a female and be chronologically 30 years old… but there may be alters who are 3 year old boys and 50 year old women and 15 year old girls and 20 year old guys, and if the 3 year old alter is out, the woman who is chronologically 30 will be acting like a 3 year old and won’t be faking it).

TL;DR: the reason I bring this up is because Kurtagich confused DID with being a personality disorder. And that pissed me off.

* DID is not psychosis. I’m actually not sure if psychotic delusions can exist at the same time as DID. I think so… but I did read somewhere that DID and schizophrenia can’t be diagnosed in the same person, that they’re mutually exclusive. So while there could be bouts of psychosis, it’s not going to be an actual diagnosis for someone with DID.

* The fact that DID was mixed up with “oh hey is Kait/Carly possessed by a demonic force?” People — and we’re talking professionals here, who are therapists or psychologists or psychiatrists — already have a hard time accepting DID as a valid diagnosis. And I daresay that many (if not most) churches would denounce someone who has DID as being possessed, when it couldn’t be further from the truth. So the fact that this was something that was never really answered in the book irritates me because it further invalidates the fact that DID is a very real diagnosis.

* We never really learned what Carly/Kait’s trauma was (since significant trauma — generally abuse of some type — causes DID). There was like, one sentence at the very end of the book that brought up the question of her having gone through sexual and physical abuse when she lived with her biological parents… but… that was it.

* WAY too much stuff thrown in there. There’s a ton of information about a “branch” of Scottish witchcraft, referred to in the book as Mala, but in googling it, there is absolutely nothing about that being an actual branch of witchcraft. If you’re going to throw in some culturally-bound witchcraft, at least make it real, or recognizable as something else, or… ugh. I don’t know. The fact that it’s not real irritates me, but I don’t really know how to articulate why.

There’s probably way more that I didn’t like, but I’m just going to leave this as it is for now. I did enjoy this book and I’m definitely not going to say no to reading another book by Kurtagich, but for the love of God, authors, learn to do your damn research!! I can’t stress this enough. Because if you just do shittily passable research, even on what you feel is an obscure topic, there’s going to be someone out there who knows a hell of a lot more about that topic than you. And for me — nothing irritates me more than poorly done research — especially when the book sounds like it has a lot of promise.

That being said, I give Kurtagich a 5/5 in terms of imagination and creating an interesting world, and a 5/5 regarding the execution of the story. I did feel as though the characters were fairly flat, but not terribly so — so a 3/5 for that. And the creepiness factor, well, for me that was about a 4/5 — I hate horror stories but at the same time I love Gothic creepiness and this was kind of halfway between, trying to be both, and it was a weird combination.

Am glad I read this, but am also glad I finished it. I think that two separate books could’ve been written from all of the ideas crammed into this book, which made reading it kind of exhausting because so much stuff was being thrown at the reader.

Also? I’m SO GLAD that Dr Lansing (Kait/Carly’s psychologist) lost her license and that we as readers found this out in the body of the book. I HATED THAT WOMAN. Ugh. If she were my therapist I’d have punched her. (Especially when she told Carly/Kait that when they integrate [which is something that used to be pushed as “the ONLY solution” for people with DID], one of them would die, when in reality, integration just means that alters blend together and you kinda get the best of both. This is already a terrifying enough prospect to someone who has lived almost his/her entire life being a multiple, and there is already such a huge sense of loss, that therapists do not need — and indeed, should NOT — agree that integration = alters dying.)

*climbs off soapbox*

These Shallow Graves — Jennifer Donnelly.

Many thanks to Random House Childrens, via NetGalley, for letting me read this book in exchange for an honest review!

4/5 stars.

Whew. Okay, so this book was one of those that seems to have somewhat polarized reviews — loved it or hated it, but not much in between. I didn’t absolutely love it, but I really, really enjoyed it. However, I can understand why there would be such differences between reviews.

What I Liked:
– Jo was curious and didn’t let her status in society hold her back from investigating her father’s death.
– Some of the writing, especially about her social status compared to Eddie’s, was absolutely beautiful.
– There were a lot of elements of historical mysteries combined in this book that I loved (namely, a murder mystery combined with a conspiracy theory combined with missing people and a mysterious shipping cargo).
– I found myself getting caught up in the Eddie-Jo push-and-pull and thought it was pretty realistic.
– I liked the slightly fanciful touch of adding a Fagin-type person.
– I loved Fay. Probably hands-down my favorite character in the book.
– The ending. Oh my goodness the ending.

What I Didn’t Like
– Totally saw the last part of the ending coming — where Jo was labeled as insane and taken to Darkbriar Insane Asylum as a patient.
– The part of the plot that revolved around Jo’s love-and-love-not dilemma. (“Do I marry Bram and be unhappy or do I break it off with him and ruin myself and my family’s hopes for me by marrying Eddie?”)
– Jo’s naivete and the poverty/crime that she had no idea about (a bit overdone).
– Along with the point above, the complete and utter disregard that Jo’s high society class had for the poor (which I know is realistically part of the time period when the book takes place; I just got tired of it).
– I got tired of Anna, Jo’s mom, catering to Bram’s grandmama’s wishes. Along with that, I was confused regarding how Jo and Bram were related (or if they were) since it seemed as though Phillip was an uncle to both of them…? but that doesn’t really make sense.
– The discussions about marriage being all about “breeding and having the best blood.” Again, this view very much fits the time the book takes place, but is also — in my mind — more crude than an elderly woman in high society would speak (or perhaps not…).

I think what I liked outweighed what I didn’t, but that’s for me. Whether or not you’re willing to try this book is up to you. I would recommend it to pretty much anyone, though. It wasn’t terribly gory, and the mystery was really pretty solid. 🙂

The Scorpion Rules — Erin Bow

Many thanks to Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, via NetGalley, for an opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review!

4.5/5

Really, really enjoyed The Scorpion Rules. I’ve never read anything by Erin Bow before, but I definitely want to read her other books ASAP!

This book is dystopic with a unique twist — to try and prevent nations from declaring war on each other, the ruling/royal families of each country have to give up one of their royal children as a hostage. If war is declared, then the children of both of the warring countries die. Obviously, the hostage situation — which is really more similar to a boarding school for children of all ages, except there’s constant fear of wars starting (and the knowledge that classmates have been killed on the premises due to war declarations). The children who live and work at the “boarding school” are known as Children of Peace.

Enter Greta and her cohort of fellow hostages. I won’t rehash the entire plot since you can read that in the blurb, but I found Greta to be fairly likable, a little aloof, and pretty believable, especially given the changes that have taken place in this world, so far in our future.

Would definitely recommend to pretty much anyone, even (and perhaps especially) to people who don’t normally enjoy sci-fi/dystopic novels. However, I agree with one of my friends here on GR and would not recommend for younger teens, since there is some violence as well as gay and straight sexual references/scenes (neither terribly graphic).

The ending though!!! AHHH….. so bittersweet…

Top 10 Tuesday!~

Okay, so here’s the Top 10 Tuesday post, as sponsored by the wonderful folks at the Broke & Bookish blog.  I’m going to be pulling these from the books that I’ve read this year, since my memory is bad otherwise!

The Top 10 (or so) Characters that you didn’t click with

  1. I’d have to say any of the characters from Jodi Picoult’s House Rules.  I disliked all of the characters in that book, except for Jacob’s brother, Theo.  Sadly, Theo did not play a large part of the story, but I did find him the most interesting.  The book overall made me angry though — very poor representation of a teenage boy with Asperger’s.  How someone can confuse Asperger’s (now known as high-functioning autism, since the DSM-5 no longer has Asperger’s as a diagnosis) with low-functioning autism is beyond me.
  2. Edna from The Awakening by Kate Chopin.  I get that it was a groundbreaking book when it was published in 1899, but to me, Edna had no reason for the infidelity aside from boredom.  If she had been being abused by her husband or something similar, it would’ve made more sense to me and Edna would’ve been a little more likable.  But as it stands, I really couldn’t wait to finish the book so there would be no more Edna for me to read about.
  3. Agnes from The Cleaner of Chartres by Sally Vicker.  I didn’t dislike her, but I never felt like I got to know her well at all, and I don’t like not feeling as though I have had a glimpse into a protagonist’s mind when I’ve read almost 200 pages about her.  The story itself was a bit odd, honestly, and I’m not entirely sure what the point of the book was.  It was interesting enough if you like psychological analysis stuff (which I do enjoy) — Sally Vicker was a psychoanalyst prior to starting writing, so it makes sense I guess.
  4. Renee and Flo from Goose by Dawn O’Porter (review of Goose can be found here).  They didn’t make sense to me, but the review will explain more than I can in just a bullet point in this top 10 post.
  5. Kate Fante from Dirty Blonde by Lisa Scottoline.  Although the book got 3/5 stars from me, I still didn’t enjoy it very much, and I think it’s because I never felt like I understood what “made Kate tick.”  There were some personal glimpses of Kate in Dirty Blonde but I felt like more personal life bits would’ve been helpful to make her feel more like a person rather than a one-dimensional character.
  6. Eleanor Burden from The Lost Prince by Seldon Edwards.  I read this one without realizing it was the sequel to another book, and although I enjoyed the book, Eleanor always felt too distant and aloof for me to feel as though I understood her.  This is similar to #5 — except the readers did get glimpses of Eleanor in her personal life, but that still did not really tell us who she was as a person (or so I felt).
  7. Colin Singleton from An Abundance of Katherines by John Green.  He irritated me more than anything else, so I finished the book fast and now I don’t even really remember any of it except that his “genius” status kept being pounded into the readers’ heads (as well as Colin’s dialogue about whether he really is a genius or not).  It got old.  And I really didn’t like Colin.
  8. Herschel Walker from Breaking Free (which is his autobiography about life with DID [DID = dissociative identity disorder, formerly known as multiple personality disorder]).  I really didn’t understand how he developed DID from being teased at school — sure, you can learn to dissociate from that, but it takes severe abuse early in life to cause DID to happen — not “merely” bullying.  Walker’s writing style was okay, and made me feel like I understood him a little, but again, he just annoyed me.  Sadly, this is a real person, rather than fictional… blah.
  9. Richard Baer from Switching Time (which is his true-life story of being a psychologist, with no prior experience with trauma or dissociation, treating a woman with DID and “fixing” her).  This is a despicable book for more reasons than I can say, and honestly I wonder if Baer wrote this book in an attempt to save his practice from going bankrupt, since the entire book makes him out to be a hero who “saved” Karen from herself… when he had NO experience treating someone with DID prior to this yet somehow seamlessly helped her integrate.  Plus, the fact that he calls it a “harrowing story of a doctor treating a woman with 17 personalities” pisses me off.  How does “harrowing” describe being the therapist who treats a multiple patient who exhibits no violent tendencies?!  I can guarantee you — IF this story is true — that the work Karen did herself was much, much more harrowing than anything Baer could comprehend with his limited knowledge of anything to do with dissociation.

I guess top 9 is just going to have to do!  Are there any characters that you couldn’t click with, that you would like to share?