Jockey Girl – Shelley Peterson

Many thanks to Dundurn, via NetGalley, for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review!

4.5/5 stars.

I won’t lie – I love horses, and always have. This book appealed to me because at one point, I wished I could be a jockey.

I did have a hard time remembering where this book takes place (Canada) because for some reason my brain wanted to keep placing the story elsewhere. And there were some unrealistic parts of the story (the ease at which Evie got through all of the hurdles she faced, mostly).

That being said, I really enjoyed this story. It’s not just the story of a girl who is beginning her career as a jockey facing incredible odds (although she always comes out on top), but it’s also the story of a girl who never knew her mother and who lived in her father’s world, wherein power and control were the most important attributes – attributes that Evie didn’t care about, and as a result, her father didn’t care for her.

I loved the grittiness and honesty about Evie’s mother. She’s an addict, and is honest about that. Honest enough to tell Evie that she may never “get better,” that she may never be able to be there for Evie.

And I loved the bond between Evie and Kazzam. Some people might wonder at that – how can an untrained horsewoman (girl) get through to a horse when the most trained/skilled people can’t? – but it doesn’t seem unrealistic to me at all. I’ve seen many animal-human relationships like that, both in my own life and in the lives of others around me, so I know it’s 100% possible.

Do definitely recommend – a very good book for any horse-lover out there.

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A Place We Knew Well — Susan Carol McCarthy.

Many thanks to Random House Publishing Group – Bantam Dell, via NetGalley, for an opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review!

4.5

I really enjoyed this book. I didn’t live through the Cuban Missile Crisis — obviously — but it’s also not a period of history that is really talked much about. That’s one of the reasons I really enjoyed A Place We Knew Well — because the family crises in this book combined with the actual Missile Crisis was very realistic and very sad, in some ways.

I feel that McCarthy brought the era back to life, in some ways, yet made the characters relatable to people who were born long after that era. For example — Wes Avery, the father, is a WWII vet. But the issues he faces as a vet and the issues that vets face now aren’t terribly different. And Charlotte (aka Kitty), his daughter, is 16 years old and is dealing with all of the “typical” 16-year-old stuff (prom, homecoming, etc.), that 16- and 17-year-olds still deal with today. The only person I didn’t really relate to in the family was Wes’ wife, Sarah, but although I couldn’t really relate, her situation was also something that occurs now.

I definitely want to read more books by McCarthy, and I’d recommend this book to anyone who either has an avid interest in the period of time in which the Missile Crisis occurred, or who wants to learn more about it

Sanctuary Bay — Laura Burns & Melinda Metz.

Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press, via NetGalley, for an opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review!

4.5/5

So I was invited to read Sanctuary Bay based on the review I’d posted of The Lost Girl by R.L. Stine. For those of you who don’t remember, I DNF’d it because it was too gory for my liking, although I did state that I liked the plot. Anyway, because of the connection between this book and The Lost Girl, I was worried that Sanctuary Bay would be way too gory for me to finish.

But nope! I zipped through it and thoroughly enjoyed it. I found the protagonist, Sarah, to be fairly likable, and while I suspected a few things in the book, I had absolutely no idea what was actually going on at Sanctuary Bay. Clearly it was something creepy, but what it turned out to be was something that I didn’t foresee at all.

**Spoiler alert!**

So 4.5/5 stars because:
* There were a few things mentioned in the book that had no bearing on the actual plot and just seemed to be thrown in for added horror (like the room with people missing limbs, eyes, ears, etc.).
* Apparently this is the start of a series(?) because there was a pretty crucial part of the storyline that was proved false at the end — that Sarah is not, in fact, an orphan, and that her dad may or may not be in on the bad stuff happening in the book.
* There are other storylines that need to be concluded and they totally weren’t. Such as — what is Sarah going to do to the man with the silver bird ring? and why were her parents’ deaths faked? or did her mom actually die and her dad survive?

Definitely loved the writing style though. I will most certainly be keeping these authors on my radar, and I’d recommend this book to anyone who likes suspense and conspiracy type theories. And also, keep in mind that squeamish ol’ me would not put this in a horror category, so that’s a plus for people who don’t like gore and lots of blood and guts. 🙂

State of Grace — Hilary Badger.

Many thanks to Capstone Publishing, via NetGalley, for an opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review!

3.5/5

This was a unique book. Not in a bad way, but I’m still not entirely sure what to think of it. I will say that I got thoroughly irritated about halfway through it at the constant repetition of phrases that include the word “Dot.” (This, if it were to be compared to phrases in English, would be stuff like “Praise be to God” or “God’s blessing upon you,” etc. Which I’m okay with, as long as it’s not every other phrase that people utter… and that’s how it was with the “Dot phrases.”)

I didn’t really like Wren as a character. She seemed way too… okay with her idyllic existence and taken in with the whole “well I don’t remember my life prior to living in Dot’s paradise but that’s okay because I guess I didn’t have a life before here.” There was very little curiosity exhibited until about 45% through the book.

I would recommend this, but if you’re like me, you have to be in a particular mood to be able to read this novel and not get too irritated with it.

However, I enjoyed it enough that I would be willing to read other books by Hilary Badger, for sure. I loved the unique take on “Utopia” and the twists that occurred later on in the story.

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. 🙂