Review: The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling

Woah, y’all. I finally finished a book!! It’s been like an entire month and I still have no reading motivation but I did it!! Also my last class of the semester ends in just a few days so fingers crossed I’ll get some reading motivation back once I have a month where I don’t have homework deadlines looming in the background!

So, what book did I read? Well if you didn’t pay attention to the title of this post it was The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling.

The Luminous Dead

Here’s the synopsis:

A thrilling, atmospheric debut with the intensive drive of The Martian and Gravity and the creeping dread of Annihilation, in which a caver on a foreign planet finds herself on a terrifying psychological and emotional journey for survival.

When Gyre Price lied her way into this expedition, she thought she’d be mapping mineral deposits, and that her biggest problems would be cave collapses and gear malfunctions. She also thought that the fat paycheck—enough to get her off-planet and on the trail of her mother—meant she’d get a skilled surface team, monitoring her suit and environment, keeping her safe. Keeping her sane.

Instead, she got Em.

Em sees nothing wrong with controlling Gyre’s body with drugs or withholding critical information to “ensure the smooth operation” of her expedition. Em knows all about Gyre’s falsified credentials, and has no qualms using them as a leash—and a lash. And Em has secrets, too . . .

As Gyre descends, little inconsistencies—missing supplies, unexpected changes in the route, and, worst of all, shifts in Em’s motivations—drive her out of her depths. Lost and disoriented, Gyre finds her sense of control giving way to paranoia and anger. On her own in this mysterious, deadly place, surrounded by darkness and the unknown, Gyre must overcome more than just the dangerous terrain and the Tunneler which calls underground its home if she wants to make it out alive—she must confront the ghosts in her own head.

But how come she can’t shake the feeling she’s being followed?

Caves are one of my biggest fears, the darkness and sickening sense of claustrophobia that come with them send chills down my spine with just a thought. My mom and aunt can’t go a family gathering without talking about the time I said I’d be fine going past the point of no return in a cave tour and then ended up having a breakdown. (Sidenote: I was like 7 at the time and I got my sweatshirt hood caught on a railing so I thought someone was grabbing me, like YOU go through a spooky cave and think someone is grabbing you and come out of the experience unscathed!!!!) So anyways, when I saw this book I knew that if I wanted a horror book that could genuinely terrify me, well this is it.

The writing in this was so good, there was more than one scene in which I was left with goosebumps and the hairs on the back of my neck standing up because I was so spooked. This definitely played into my own fears and I found myself questioning every single thing I read which, to me, adds so much to the horror aspect. I think that if I would have had the attention span to read this in one sitting, I would have, but it ended up taking me about a month and a half to finish this which made it a little bit jarring each time I picked it up again. Despite the gaps between reading, once I did get back into reading it was easy to immerse myself back in the story. I feel like horror is one genre where if I can’t be fully immersed then I’m not going to fully enjoy it so I am happy to report that this is quite an immersive story.

With a cast of two characters I was really interested to see how this would play out and the way the relationship between Gyre and Em would develop from the beginning to the end. My emotions were all over the place and I’m not going to lie when I say that I would greatly enjoy some further addition to this story. There was definitely a conclusion but I feel like there is so much of this world left to explore that I would be down for any sort of epilogue that the author would like to give us. This aspect of the story, with Gyre and Em, was so complex and frustrating and yet I could see so fully the motivations of each character and I loved that. Each was so fully developed and the balance between heartbreaking, tender moments and sheer terror and stress and anger was so well done.

I feel like this book would appeal to those who aren’t normally fans of horror too. It’s thrilling and shocking and left me feeling like I should check over my own shoulder but for horror, I felt it was pretty tame. There isn’t anything overly gory and I feel like it’s more of a psychological horror that just burns nice and slowly until it gets you right at the end.

In the end, I rated it 4 stars because there were parts of this that left me feeling a bit dry. I highly recommend picking this up and I look forward to reading whatever Caitlin Starling comes up with next!

You can pick up your own copy of The Luminous Dead at these links:

Amazon (Affiliate Link) // Barnes & Noble // Book Depository

Halloween Song Book Tag

Y’all, I am struggling to get through anything, my concentration is absolutely shot. I have so many books piling up and homework and AHHHH it’s bad. I just want to hibernate and stop doing anything and everything and it’s taking everything in me to not drop off the face of the earth for months.

So because I still have absolutely nothing to review and all the posts that I wanted to write are definitely not getting written, I have decided to do a book tag. I saw this on Heather‘s (Bookables) Youtube channel and the original tag can be found here (it was done by a beautiful chaos of books). She also made a playlist of all the songs from the tag which I thought was awesome! Here’s that link.

My goal with this is to try and keep everything within the thriller/horror (maybe also fantasy, yeah no definitely also some fantasy) genre if I can manage it!

Thriller

A book that was an absolute page turner

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

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I stayed up way past my bedtime to finish reading this book. Couldn’t stop reading it once I started!!

Somebody’s Watching Me

A book that gave you serious creeps

The Possession of Cassie Quinn by Kathryn Knutson

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The first time I ever read this book I was so creeped out. Possession is a no go for me. One of my biggest fears to be quite honest. I’m rereading this book this weekend to see if it still creeps me out as much as it did back in the day.

Vampire

A book you hated so much it was soul sucking (i.e. incredibly tedious to get through)

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl

I know that everyone thought this was amazing and that I am definitely in the minority but I remember dragging myself through this book. It was not shocking or thrilling in the slightest.

And The Girl on the Train… And The Death of Mrs. Westaway. Y’all I need more thriller recommendations that aren’t boring as hell.

I Put A Spell On You

A book featuring witchcraft or magic

Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker

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Definitely not a spooky one, but I really enjoyed this graphic novel. It’s the perfect witchy fall read!

This Halloween

Your favorite treat/snack to eat while reading

Right now it’s cheez-its. Also coffee or tea is always great.

MorningReading-AWASOE

Time Warp

What book or books do you like to return to at this time of year?

For many, many years I would reread Harry Potter yearly starting right around the start of the school year. I like to reread series in the winter, not sure why but maybe it’s because I wouldn’t buy books over the summer and then would get books for my birthday and holidays and I used to read a LOT of series so that’s when I’d get that series flow going.

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Hungry Like The Wolf

A book you loved so much, you devoured

Foul Is Fair by Hannah Capin

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I got an ARC from Netgalley for this book and read it in one day (almost in one sitting). It was absolutely amazing. Dark, devious, and engrossing and you guys should preorder it because it comes out in February and you all need to read it.

The Adams Family

A book featuring a dysfunctional family

Resurrection Girls by Ava Morgyn

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I just hope their dysfunction heals at some point. Very sad dysfunctional family.

Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)

A book genre that you are scared or intimidated to pick up

I want to say that I’m really adventurous in my reading. I’m interested in reading a wide variety of books and I don’t think that I’m scared or intimidated to pick up any one genre. I will say that I struggle the most to read classics and I also tend to steer away from high fantasy or science/historical fiction because a lot of times those are really dense and heavy and take more brain power than I have to give at the time.

The Twilight Zone

A book with a completely different and unique premise

The Skeleton Creek series by Patrick Carman

Skeleton Creek (Skeleton Creek, #1)

I guess it’s not super different? But it’s really unique because you can go to links while you read the books to watch clips of the events in these books! I’m going to talk about these on Monday after I reread them this weekend!

So that’s the Halloween Song Book Tag… It’s brand new so definitely participate if you want to answer these questions!

Review: Mother Knows Best by Kira Peikoff

PSA: If you can’t write a book without using a character’s mental illness to advance the plot (when that isn’t the central theme of the book) then maybe that isn’t the book you should be writing 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Mother Knows Best by Kira Peikoff is categorized as a medical suspense/thriller about “a mother’s worst nightmare, a chance at redemption, and a deadly secret that haunts a family across the generations.” I was provided a digital review copy of this by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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First off, this really isn’t a thriller. The entire plot is laid out in the synopsis and nothing was incredibly shocking or thrilling. It was definitely suspenseful at times but wasn’t that gripping in that sense. The book started off really strong and I was greatly enjoying my reading. I love it when people decide to fuck with Mother Nature and then ultimately get screwed (probably why Jurassic Park is one of my favorite movies). The ethical aspects of this and the medical stuff was interesting enough but I definitely felt like I had to suspend my disbelief for a lot of what happened. I felt like the characters were all stereotypes and while it definitely wasn’t the worst thing, it just made it even more predictable and a little boring. The ending wrapped everything up with a nice tight bow and I just felt like it was rushed to make it to the conclusion.

This book was short (288 pages) and read really quickly and I would have probably rated it 4 stars had the choice not been made to use Claire’s (the main character) mental illness in order to advance the plot. Like I already wasn’t a fan of it in the beginning but I was going to chalk it up to her just being anxious and still grieving the loss of her first child. But then she got “bad” again and the whole thing culminated in her ending up in a mental health facility which I think had absolutely no relevance to the plot. Literally anything else could have been written for her to be doing in order for her to be away from the house long enough for Jillian to infiltrate and do her dirty work. But no… Also if authors can’t learn the difference between “delusions” and “hallucinations” I’m going to file a complaint and start a riot. These are not the same things. A delusion is a thought, it’s a very strong and unshakeable belief in something that is not true or is completely impossible. A hallucination, in very brief description, is experiencing something that isn’t there and can affect any of the senses. I feel like I should start an entire series on mental health representation in books because I’ve encountered some really, really bad takes recently.

Anyways, I just wanted to share a few quotes from the portion of the book where Claire was in the hospital:

“The schizophrenics are the noisiest; they jabber the most, in different tones. The psychotics are the quietest, but the scariest.”

I notice she’s backed up two steps, in case I try to grab the pen and stab her. The staff never get too close to a wild animal in a cage.”

Pretty soon after that, she’s also apprehended by “guards” and then injected with medication in order to knock her out. Like way to just bring all the mental hospital stereotypes into play right here! This is so unrealistic, like in all my times in hospitals I’ve only ever seen one person get a shot and that’s because they needed a stronger dose than a pill could provide. As is the fact that she was released from the hospital that she was “voluntarily” staying at after her episode in which she was taken down by the guards. That’s not how that works. That’s not how any of that works. Shit, I get that Claire didn’t think she was “crazy” but don’t take down everyone else. Patients are people too. We’re people too. And the fact that the author wrote this section like this was incredibly insensitive and it really hurt me. This is why I don’t share my own mental health and hospital history with people because that’s the kind of representation we get in books.

Please, authors, I beg of you, stop writing mentally ill characters as a means of driving your plot. Stop writing us as crazy. Stop making us the villains. Just stop. It hurts. It makes me sad. It’s not fair. You can do better.

So after reading that part of the book I felt really disheartened. I finished the book because it was easy reading but it never redeemed itself. I ultimately rated it 2 stars and will not be recommending this.

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