Showing posts with label schizophrenia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label schizophrenia. Show all posts

Monday, November 7, 2016

[Review] Unnatural Deeds - Cyn Balog: Secrets and Murder Told in Retrospective





In UNNATURAL DEEDS, Victoria meets drop-dead gorgeous Z, who is too cool and beautiful to be interested in her - but he is. The problem is that Victoria has a boyfriend. 

What intrigued me: I've liked other books by Cyn Balog and the cover is insanely beautiful.

Unique concept

UNNATURAL DEEDS is the illegitimate child of DON'T LOOK BACK and WINK POPPY MIDNIGHT. It's just as dreamy and keeps you on the edge of your seat at all times. UNNATURAL DEEDS is a story about obsession and love, and the fine line between the two.

Told in retrospective and with little interview snippets and coroner reports, it's based on an undoubtedly very creative idea. The writing is unique as well, and might not be for everyone. 

Balog tells the story in second person singular, Victoria narrates it to her boyfriend Andrew, whom she feels she betrays by befriending Z. I'm not a fan of second person in general and feared that this would ruin the experience for me. I struggled with the first couple of chapters but quickly got the hang of it. Balog is an incredibly gifted writer, she effortlessly pulls it off, which I salute her for, that really isn't easy.

The Charmer vs. The ... what's his name again?

The main conflict of UNNATURAL DEEDS is the love triangle. And I have to say, I really did like it. I fell absolutely and utterly for the love interest Z, a charming snake with tons of secrets whom you can't help but be fascinated with. Their romance is absolutely epic, twisted, and fascinating. Memorable.

Boyfriend Andrew on the other hand remains rather bleak, I felt like their relationship wasn't explored sufficiently to even give the reader the opportunity to have an opinion about them. Balog does tell the story to him, but most of the information we're given is via telling, not showing, which I'm personally not a fan of.

UNNATURAL DEEDS is built upon mountains of secrets and it's so, so fun. I love trying to figure out the story as I go along and I have to say, I didn't expect that ending. It's certainly a strange twist that nobody will see coming, and I wasn't really satisfied.
Highlight for a light spoiler. I can't tell you about the ableism without being a bit spoilery.
Mental illness is used as a plot twist in this which is incredibly ableist and also really just bad writing. It's not even specified which makes it even worse.

I found it too easy of a solution concept-wise because the rest of the story really doesn't make sense anymore after that ending. With a different ending, this would have been a solid five star read, because I genuinely frantically turned pages and didn't want to stop reading.

I'm a firm believer in giving the reader an opportunity to guess the ending, a hint, anything, even if it's very small. Balog really just did a 360 and left me confused and upset. If you like a drastic plot twist, this is absolutely, positively a book you don't want to skip.


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

The ending really spoiled this book for me. I was expecting more, a more satisfying conclusion. Yet this in no way negates the fact that I had a lot of fun reading this and enjoyed trying to unravel the mystery. It's surely worth the read if you like guessing games.



Additional Info

Published: November 1st 2016
Pages: 288
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: YA / Thriller
ISBN: 9781492635796

Synopsis:
"Secrets. Obsession. Murder. Victoria is about to discover just how dangerous it can be to lose yourself.

Victoria Zell doesn’t fit in, but she’s okay with that. All she needs is the company of her equally oddball boyfriend, Andrew. She doesn’t care what anyone else thinks…until magnetic, charming, mysterious Z comes into her life, and she starts lying to everyone she knows in an effort to unravel his secrets.

And then something terrible happens. Someone is dead and it’s time for Victoria to come clean. Interspersed with news clippings and police interviews, Victoria tells her story to Andrew, revealing her dark, horrible secrets…secrets that have finally come back to haunt her."

(Source: Goodreads)



Do you like books told in retrospective?

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

[Review] Angelfall (Penryn & The End of Days #1) - Susan Ee: Angels and the Apocalypse




In ANGELFALL, the world has been destroyed by angels and people are forced to hide in the ruins of their cities. 

What intrigued me: Angels. I missed the angel hype a couple of years ago and am now in full obsession mode.


A typical post-apocalyptic dystopia

The setting of ANGELFALL isn't much different from what you'd expect from a dystopia, and the only thing that makes this world differ from the usual apocalyptic wasteland in YA, is the occasional angel flying above their heads.

It's a survival story at the core, a lot of walking, a lot of stalling time. Naturally, this isn't always easy to read, I caught myself skimming the generic descriptions of building ruins and empty streets and litter. The scenery is so generic that it almost doesn't need any descriptions at all if you've ever seen a post-apocalyptic movie in your life.

I longed for every little bit of explanation about the angels that didn't quite come. With novels with supernatural elements that are out there in the open in the real world, it's very important to me to understand how this happened. The only glimpse we get is that Penryn mentions that the messenger of God Gabriel came down to Earth and was immediately shot. That's it. Very frustrating, generally the book just throws things that happen at you and doesn't explain a lot, probably a technique to make people buy the second book. And yeah, I shamefully have to admit, it works.

Thank the heavens (or not?) for a realistic romance plot

Ee absolutely had me hooked through the character of the angel Raffe. Penryn's and his dynamics are hilariously wonderful and his dry humor and arrogance incredibly entertaining. Of course we have some obligatory side romance, but it's very subtle. 

The first time in a long time that I actually thought to myself that this story could really happen. It's very realistic, they actually take time to even just not be awkward in conversation. No premature declarations of love here. They don't even really care about the other one surviving this whole ordeal until 60% in. It's refreshing to see a relationship and friendship(!) develop at a realistic pace.

Another thing that absolutely needs to be mentioned is the ableism in this one. I was so happy to see a wheelchair user in the form of Penryn's little sister. This is a magical cure narrative. If you're a wheelchair user looking for representation, this isn't the book to pick. I'm extremely disappointed with Ee making that decision and it severely impacts my rating and opinion of this book.


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

ANGELFALL is easily one of the better dystopias out there, however it could use some more world building and is ableist. Leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.



Additional Info

Published: August 28th 2012
Pages: 288
Publisher: Skyscape 
Genre: YA / Dystopia
ISBN: 9781444778519

Synopsis:
"It's been six weeks since angels of the apocalypse descended to demolish the modern world. Street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. When warrior angels fly away with a helpless little girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back.

Anything, including making a deal with an enemy angel.

Raffe is a warrior who lies broken and wingless on the street. After eons of fighting his own battles, he finds himself being rescued from a desperate situation by a half-starved teenage girl.

Traveling through a dark and twisted Northern California, they have only each other to rely on for survival. Together, they journey toward the angels' stronghold in San Francisco where she'll risk everything to rescue her sister and he'll put himself at the mercy of his greatest enemies for the chance to be made whole again."(Source: Goodreads)


What's your favorite book about angels?

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Monday, September 12, 2016

[Review] The Form of Things Unknown - Robin Bridges: Hallucinations, Schizophrenia, and Ghosts





In THE FORM OF THINGS UNKNOWN, Natalie struggles with hallucinations and suddenly starts seeing ghosts when she's chosen to play Titania in her schools rendition of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

What intrigued me: I've read the first companion novel DREAMING OF ANTIGONE and was curious to see more of Bridges.



Character-driven coming-of-age story

THE FORM OF THINGS UNKNOWN is a companion to DREAMING OF ANTIGONE, featuring some characters you might recognize, but it's by no means necessary to have read the latter. Both novels are coming-of-age stories that feature chronically/mentally ill protagonists and are essentially retellings of Antigone and A Midsummer Night's Dream respectively. 

THE FORM OF THINGS UNKNOWN surprised me by being a lot more hands on and to-the-point than DREAMING OF ANTIGONE. I quickly grew very invested in Natalie's story and was very intrigued by the paranormal (? or not ?) sub plot. Brigdes cleverly intertwines Natalie's mental illness with the past-tense story though I found the novel a little too slow at times. The plot doesn't advance as quickly as I would've liked and aside from the premise, there is sadly not much to THE FORM OF THINGS UNKNOWN. It's purely a character-driven coming-of-age story and you certainly do have to have a soft spot for that to enjoy this. Personally, I'm not a fan.

Belittling mental illness?

I loved Natalie dearly and grew fond of almost all the supporting characters, which ultimately warrants my interest in this story and had me stick around until the end. Without Natalie's entertaining voice and narration I wouldn't have finished this. The truth is, there are a couple things that are problematic about THE FORM OF THINGS UNKNOWN. Love interest Luke is/was suicidal and depressed and has been at rehabilitation facility with protagonist Natalie (who`s been treated there for her hallucinations). 

At no point do both these illnesses feel genuine, realistic, or even just well-researched. Luke is one of those generic mysterious love interests whose depression is belittled, paraphrased: "he doesn't look like he's depressed". Natalie's hallucinations are shrugged off and merely a gimmick to give this novel at least some kind of plot with them searching for ghosts in the theatre. 

It just irked me, though I love that Bridges tries to tackle mental illness in many forms (Natalie's grandmother also suffers from schizophrenia), the lack of research is blatantly obvious. THE FORM OF THINGS UNKNOWN is spiked with microaggressions and slurs that may not be as obvious to a neurotypical reader. Despite all that, there's no story to begin with. 

Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

I certainly liked THE FORM OF THINGS UNKNOWN more than DREAMING OF ANTIGONE, but because mental illness isn't handled very respectfully and the novel overall lacks direction and plot, I wasn't really a fan. The high rating is mostly warranted by the great voice and characters, and trying to include neurodivergent characters.



Additional Info

Published: August 30th 2016
Pages: 240
Publisher: Kensington
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 9781496703569

Synopsis:
"Natalie Roman isn’t much for the spotlight. But performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a stately old theatre in Savannah, Georgia, beats sitting alone replaying mistakes made in Athens. Fairy queens and magic on stage, maybe a few scary stories backstage. And no one in the cast knows her backstory.

Except for Lucas—he was in the psych ward, too. He won’t even meet her eye. But Nat doesn’t need him. She’s making friends with girls, girls who like horror movies and Ouija boards, who can hide their liquor in Coke bottles and laugh at the theater’s ghosts. Natalie can keep up. She can adapt. And if she skips her meds once or twice so they don’t interfere with her partying, it won’t be a problem. She just needs to keep her wits about her."(Source: Goodreads)



Have you read novels that portray mental illness accurately?

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Friday, September 12, 2014

[Review] The Rattler - Jason McNamara: Hearing Voices, Kidnapping, and a lot of Blood





In THE RATTLER, writer Stephen has been searching for his supposedly kidnapped fiancée for years, when he suddenly starts hearing her voice coming out of dead people's mouths.

What intrigued me: I'm in a comic mood and the premise sounds very GONE GIRL.

Grotesque and bloody

THE RATTLER tells a downright grotesque story in such a fast-paced and fun way that I couldn't help but binge-read it all at once. The premise about a writer-turned-victims-rights-advocate hearing his missing fiancée's voice out of corpses' mouths isn't only very imaginative, but also well-done. The comic throws you right into the story and I didn't have any issued with the narrative, maybe that I would have preferred to have it all told from Stephen's perspective. However, having his girlfriend Chantal and her partner Kaizu have their own series of panels surely benefits to making everything seem more real. 

THE RATTLER is definitely a gore-y horror story that is not for the highly sensitive. There are many, many graphic and bloody scenes in this that almost made me squeamish because of their grotesqueness. Still, it never feels like it's overdone and the premise definitely demands the degree of death and chaos and havoc that Stephen wreaks.

Why no color?

The sketchy illustration style is a little hard to get to get used to in the beginning, but I quickly grew very fond of it. What I must criticize though is that the novel is completely in black and grey, the only color you'll find is blood red. 
I do understand why this choice was made and it does accentuate the gore-y, bloody scenes quite beautifully. I must insist thought that his beautiful and very detailed drawing style would probably look even better if the comic was in full color. There are just too many details that deserve being showcased and it probably would have made me want to read this even faster than already. 

The black and grey style demands a certain degree of alertness and creates the illusion that this isn't easy to read. It is. The story is incredibly easy to follow, the characters are established enough, it really hits all the basic points quite beautifully.




Rating:

★★★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend

THE RATTLER is fantastic horror story, very reminiscent of Stephen King's DOLAN'S CADILLAC, with a side of surrealism meets slasher movie. I thoroughly enjoyed it and was absolutely caught off guard with the fantastic plot twist!



Additional Info

Author: Jason McNamara
Illustrations: Greg Hinkel
Published: March 29th 2016
Pages: 104
Publisher: Image Comics
Genre: Adult / Thriller
ISBN: 9781632156556

Synopsis:
"10 years have passed since Stephen Thorn's fiancee vanished without a trace, and he has grown into a prominent, if bitter, victim s rights crusader. Despite the cold trail and lack of leads, he stubbornly refuses to give up the search. 

And then he begins to hear her voice in the strangest of places. Pursued by his own organization and questioning his sanity, Stephen embarks on a grisly journey to save his long-lost love. As he unravels the truth of her disappearance, the body count rises and Stephen finds himself ensnared in a trap that has been set for him long ago"(Source: Goodreads)

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