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Confessions of a Bibliophile

An aspiring writer and bookstore employee with an incredibly bad book-buying habit... I'll read just about anything (so long as it will appeal to my interests in some way), but my main loves are YA and sci-fi/fantasy. I also like quirky history and science books and will book nerd. A lot. Currently in the process of weeding out my personal library. Find me on Twitter @princess_starr or check out my YA book, Snowfall, on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/240027
Rebel Spirits - Lois Ruby I really try not to judge books by their cover, caption, blurbs or jacket copy. I’ve found books that sound interesting but were terrible, and I’ve found books with beautiful covers but terrible insides, but then again I have a lot of books I’ve picked up on a whim and absolutely loved, even if the cover looked generic or the blurb wasn’t the greatest thing ever. When my boss handed me the latest crop of YA ARCs at work, I looked at Rebel Spirits’ cover blurb…and immediately rolled my eyes. “What if you fell in love with a ghost?” Yes because that concept has never been explored, ever.But, as I said, I was willing to give a fair shot. And then I started reading it. And about ten pages in, I knew that this was not going to be a fun read for me. Because not only is this book an unresearched mess but everything else about it is just terrible. Let’s be fair here: this is nothing new. This is another slot of “Let’s try to get the next Twilight! Has anyone done ghosts yet?” (Yes. Yes they have; it started six years before that whole thing and IT WAS BETTER.) The plot is not only nonexistent, but in the end it’s proven to be futile seeing as the love interest is able to move on AND it wasn’t a murder anyway so…why?! The characters. Ye gods. Lorelei is allegedly “sixteen—almost seventeen!” and going into her senior year of high school. She acts like a thirteen year old, throwing temper tantrums whenever she’s grounded and the way she acts around Nathaniel. Btw, I think this is a new record for insta-love—Lorelei falls in love with Nathaniel after the second time he appears to her, and she goes into depression after he disappears at the end. FIVE DAYS. YOU’VE TALKED TO THIS GUY FOR LESS THAN A WEEK. The Disney version of The Little Mermaid had a stronger relationship build-up than this. Also, Nathanial and Lorelei’s ‘witty banter’ is a treat too:“February second. The whole country waits for the famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, to poke his head out of the ground. If he sees his shadow, we’re in for six more weeks of winter. “ Which sounds appealing now, because we’re sweltering up in the attic.Nathaniel raises his eyebrows. “Well, I’ll be. Punxsutawney Phil, eh? And if the famous groundhog doesn’t see his shadow, we’re in for roughly six more weeks of winter, right?” We both laugh at the absurdity of a rodent predicting weather. (pg 78-79)“You’re quite the bossy girl, aren’t you?”“Of course. I’m a Scorpio!”“You don’t look a bit like a scorpion, for which I’m immensely grateful.” (pg. 97)“You look magical in the fading light of day, like a fairy princess,” Nathaniel says, materializing by my side.I wish I could stop blushing. I’m not sure what to do with all these compliments.“A princess in a Phillies T-shirt and cutoff jeans,” I say. He has no idea what the Phillies are, or even what jeans are, but I wonder if his otherworldly eyes see something different in me. (pg. 153)Also, all of the other characters are completely stupid. The only one I liked was Charlotte, basically because the one page she gets an establishing character moment was halfway decent and then she wisely disappears for the majority of the book. Lorelei’s parents are complete idiots, because you know, taking over an inn the week before the Gettysburg anniversary should probably be indicative of how they run a hotel. Also, at the end, when Lorelei reveals the fact that she’s been running around with a ghost for the past week, they actually believe her. Even though that it’s been established that they’ve never had any supernatural dealings and called Lorelei’s previous sightings when she was little “cute” and a way to cope. (I don’t want to sit and harp that “OMG Mediator is the best thing ever” but you know what? It’s acknowledged that Suze went through therapy and that not everyone believes her about the ghost thing—it takes five books for her best friend to figure it out and accept it.) The other characters are a collection of stereotypes and one-note appearances who barely make any impact on the plot.Speaking of the plot…there was a plot? Nathaniel spends half the time info-dumping about what happened to him and Lorelei makes half-assed connections based on that. There’s this whole plot about a MacGuffin ring that allegedly belonged to William Lincoln and fell into the hands of an Army doctor that Nathaniel stole for good luck. And then apparently the nonexistent housekeeper and her creepy husband (both of who just started right before Lorelei’s family moved in, and no one mentions this in the business emails?) are trying to find it for…reasons. But then it turns out that Charlotte hid the ring and put on a chain, so that Lorelei will have something to remember Nathaniel by forever! Gag me.And all of this is more than qualification for me to rate this one star. But here’s how I know Lois Ruby didn’t do any research aside from Wiki-searching the Battle of Gettysburg:“Lorelei, you know about Abraham Lincoln’s famous ‘four score and seven years ago’ address that he delivered at Gettysburg, don’t you?”“Yes, Dad. We had to memorize it in eighth grade.”….I wonder about this…If it was such a horrible battle, why would they want to keep reliving it? “But it’s been about a hundred and fifty years,” I say, calculating. “Isn’t it time they got over it?”Things to note about Lorelei: She claims that she’s going to be a high school senior. And that she’s lived in the Philadelphia her entire life. HOW IN THE FUCK DOES SHE KNOW JACKSHIT ABOUT GETTYSBURG.*I* live in Pittsburgh, I’m about four and a half hours away to the west from the Gettysburg area. I went to college a half hour away from there; I have friends who grew up in the area. If Lorelei actually lived in Philadelphia for a good chunk of her schooling, not only would she have gone to the battleground multiple times, but she would have also known a good chunk of the history around it. Not to mention, IT’S FUCKING GETTYSBURG. It’s not some random skirmish that’s only famous for having a lot of soldiers die and Lincoln making a speech on the battlegrounds. This is not something that’s so impossible to research or not know next to nothing about it. And yet, here’s how it’s treated in the book:“Those loonies, they take vacation days…Every boss man in Adams County gives ‘em off. But look at ‘em. There’s thousands…“Those diehards, they take their uniforms out of mothballs and pour in from all over the U.S. of A. They’d bawl like babies if they had to miss these first few days in July. The crazies want it the way it was back when, so folks gussy up in Civil-War blues and grays and red britches, shooting at each. Used to be a battleground, you know…” (pg. 51)Excuse me. *bashes head against wall*Here’s some info about Gettysburg: they service a million people A YEAR. According to this article, 200,000 people are expected for the anniversary reenactment next month. (Hence, why the fact Lorelei’s family is moving in the week before is not only laughable, but they probably have the worst inn in the area. No wonder they only have one guest family without ulterior motives.) And guess what! I know that compared to Philly, Gettysburg is a small town. It’s NOT a Podunk town in the middle of nowhere with three historical houses and that’s it. There’s a local college nearby. It’s actually got a really nice downtown area. I would really like to know the reason why Lois Ruby couldn’t be bothered to take a trip, because going to Gettysburg, even in the off months, is fairly inexpensive, even when you take in the airline tickets. Did Point not want to foot the bill for her? I know she did some tourism research, because she mentions a ghost tour and that the town is obsessed with spirits. Unfortunately, the only place this tour goes to is the citizens’ cemetery and that’s it. Try that there’s eight different ghost tours, many running at the same time, and they’re a massive draw as well. Gettysburg is repeatedly described as “the boonies”—nope, try again. (I believe the county you’re looking for is Lancaster County, aka Amish Country. It's the reason my best friend is desperately trying to move out towards me. Gettysburg is a big city to her.) (All right, I have to mention this: I’ve taken one of these ghost tours, when my mom and I went to visit my college. We got the most narmastic tour guide ever, he was trying to be mysterious but it was so boring to hear him talk. At the end of the tour, he related stories of tourists would encounter “reenactors” only to turn around and find the reenactor disappearing in thin air. He ended the tour by saying, “So remember…if you see someone in period clothing, it may be a reenactor…OR IT MAY BE A GHOST!”Hence why I burst out laughing whenever Lorelei meets Nathaniel for the first time and she thinks he’s a reenactor.) This isn’t even touching on how the history’s handled. This is what Lorelei actually says about the Civil War:I know that most soldiers in the Army of the Potomac were fighting to preserve the Union after the Southern states pulled out. Most in General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia fought to preserve the Confederacy, to keep slavery as their way of life. That much I learned in US history last year, even though I read that Lee wasn’t all that keen on slavery. But the rest, on both sides? Some were pure abolitionists, totally against slavery, and others were fighting on any which side, just for the adrenaline rush of war. (pg 124)Aside from the horrible editing in that sentence (the editing job could be worse, but it’s still bad), that’s an explanation of the Civil War I expect from a third grader. By the time you’ve hit junior year of high school, you really ought to have a better grasp on the politics surrounding the split—it’s not just about the slavery, and even Lincoln was extremely reluctant at the onset to including freeing slaves. I read that above passage to my sister—a US history major whose specialization is the Civil War—and I can’t begin to describe the look of horror and depression on her face. This isn’t just bad research, this is an insult to history. Is this what the standards for junior high/high school are nowadays? Because this isn’t only insulting, it’s embarrassing to assume that your target audience isn’t going to know anything about the history involved. My current WIP is a alternate history/steampunk-fantasy YA novel that centers on the Homestead Strike, which is a very well-known event in the area and to historians. To everyone else, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t know names like Andrew Carnegie and Henry Frick automatically, so I do spend some time explaining things about the history of the steel mills and the unionization of workers. Because I know people won’t know these things. And even though the name Gettysburg ought to be instantly recognizable to anyone of school age, there’s still a lot of details that you can add in—talk about the fields and the forests, all the monuments that litter the battlefield. Oh, wait, that requires research, doesn’t it. (OH AND BTW the weak-ass Lincoln connection? This is how Lorelei describes it: “[William] was eleven when he died. I know it for a fact.” If Wikipedia is factual. YES IT’S THE TRUTH YOU IDIOTIC BINT. The Lincolns losing three sons is not an exaggeration, it’s fact, and while it’s a tragic story you sure as hell don’t get to use it to justify your fucking “omgsotragic and deeeep romance.”)As I said towards the beginning, I was more than willing to give this a fair shot. The plot and characters were enough to drive the rating down, but add on the sheer carelessness to the research and the history, and I’m ready to cause physical harm to my copy. (And did. Multiple times.) This is a book not only to be thrown at a wall with great force, but to be avoided at great cost. And, just because I’m curious, if anyone living in Gettysburg actually finds this book, I really wanna know your thoughts on it, because I think you all should sue for misrepresentation.