Month: February 2009

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Date of Publication: 1999, Harper Perennial

Number of Pages: 250

Synopsis (from back cover): Young Tristan Thorn will do anything to win the cold heart of beautiful Victoria – even fetch her the star they watch fall from the night sky. But to do so, he must enter the unexplored lands on the other side of the ancient wall that gives their tiny village its name. Beyond that old stone wall, Tristan learns, lies Faerie – where nothing, not even a fallen star, is what he imagined.

Review: Stardust is a superb story, hearkening back to both ancient fairy tales and to Tolkien’s beloved works. It pulls you in to its magical world and makes you believe in it without question. At the same time, there is a sense of modernism to the story that adds a complex element to the story. Many of the characters, even the magical ones, are recognizable as the heroes and heroines of modern stories, as well as the fairy tales we all heard as children. The love that drives Tristan Thorn to journey through Faerie, looking for his beloved’s star, is at once timeless and innocent. He remains an innocent throughout the story, just like the young adventurers in the old stories.

Everyone pursuing the star does so for a different, but elemental reason. Tristan seeks the star for love. Septimus and Primus, heirs to the throne of Stormhold, pursue the star for power. And the old witch searches for the star to regain her youth. All of these things – love, power, and youth (health) – are sought everyday by all people in their different ways, meaning that the reader is able to connect with this story on many levels.

In terms of simple storytelling, Gaiman once again delivers. The language is flawless, and it is here that I could sense the influence of Tolkien, which is more than appropriate for the story. The characters are engaging, funny, terrifying, and real. The setting comes alive on every page. This book made it into my dreams as I read, and for me, that alone is proof of its magnificence. I would recommend this book to all fans of fantasy and adventure.

Rating: 10/10

Advertisements

Poisoned Love by Melanie Cane

Date of Publication: 2008, Bascom Hill Publishing Group

Number of Pages: 395

Synopsis (from back cover): In 1993, Jimmy Breslin wrote a front page story for New York Newsday, about Melanie Cane, a troubled young psychiatrist who “let love take her too far.” Fifteen years later, Melanie tells her side of the story in Poisoned Love, a heartbreaking and staggering account of her spiral into the depths of mental illness and what she did under the guise of love.

With extraordinary courage, Melanie provides intimate access to the thoughts and feelings leading to her desperate act, as well as an unvarnished account of her subsequent psychiatric treatment and the legal and social consequences of her crime.

Melanie’s steady progress toward recovery involves an emerging understanding of the relationship between her various diagnoses and her attachment to an abusive mentally ill father.

Her story teaches people about survival and success in the face of severe mental illness.

Review: I received this book only a few days ago, courtesy of a very nice woman at Bascom Hill Publishing Group. I had known the gist of the story (woman goes crazy, poisons her ex, gets committed, gets better), but I was unprepared for how intimate and tragic the telling of that story was going to be. Suffering from depression myself, I am unfortunately aware of the difficulties of living with a mental illness, but the heartrending pain that Melanie suffered as her rationality crumbled around her is far beyond anything like a run-of-the-mill mental illness. She had everything stacked against her: a severely mentally ill and abusive father, a resentful and angry mother, and an emotionally immature and abusive boyfriend. The rapidity and the extent of her recovery is staggering. She came out of her experience a better and more well-adjusted person than she had been before her breakdown. To those that would judge her (and have judged her), I would ask this: how would you have coped with the immense betrayal, pain, and abuse that Melanie went through? To retreat from reality seemed to be the only thing her mind would allow her to do.

At times, the writing does seem a bit amateurish, and at times the author’s descriptions of her illness and conversations with her doctors struck me as something from a psychiatry textbook…but then again, how else does a medical doctor explain her illness? The flow of the story also seemed stilted to me. Details were left out and referred to later as something that the reader should have known, and memory flashbacks were sometimes inserted into the story at awkward times. But all in all, this book is an engaging read, as Melanie allows her readers a most intimate glimpse into her pain and crumbling sanity. I would recommend this to everyone, as everyone can benefit from getting to know this highly intelligent and courageous woman.

Rating: 9/10