5 stars · fiction · young adult

Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker: a surprising thriller

33574211

emma in the night

author : wendy walker

pages : [hardcover] 320

favorite character : dr. winter

summary :

From the bestselling author of All Is Not Forgotten comes a thriller about two missing sisters, a twisted family, and what happens when one girl comes back…

One night three years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma. Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn’t add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister’s return might just be the beginning of the crime.

review :

Emma in the Night is everything you want in a thriller, every plot-twist you could ever dream of, every perfectly imperfect characters, rolled into one novel.

It’s like reading a Dateline episode in real time.

Emma in the Night tells the story of a family, but most importantly of two sisters: Emma and Cass. Three years ago, they both disappeared, with no leads, no suspects, and no explanation. One night, Cass arrives at her mother’s house with a story to tell and an iron will to do everything in her power to make sure they find Emma as well.

I didn’t expect to love this book–but I did. I loved how it portrayed Cass’ unhealthy family, from her narcissistic mother to her well-meaning but weak-willed father. I feel like most fictional mysteries like this I’ve read present the family in a golden light before the disappearance, and only show it as falling apart afterward. The home is, generally, presented as a safe space, or at the very least if it was dysfunctional it seems like outsiders knew about it. No one understood Cass and Emma’s childhood apart from the two of them and even they couldn’t form a united front, as their mother constantly pitted them against one another.

That was another aspect of the book I loved, considering narcissism. I don’t think I’ve ever read a work of fiction where ‘narcissist’ isn’t meant in passing, as a descriptor rather than a diagnosis. Dr. Winter, who works on the disappearance case in Emma in the Night, has done extensive research on narcissistic personality disorder, as well as the fact that most people in general do not give it credence or think it could truly affect anyone apart from the narcissist. And as with many layers of the plot in this novel, I love how it is presented with the option for the reader to form their own opinion of events. Dr. Winter isn’t allowed an official diagnosis, so there are no “official” answers.

Because Cass is most certainly not a reliable narrator.

I don’t think I would want it any other way. Emma in the Night is written brilliantly, in a way that immediately makes me want more of Wendy Walker’s writing, and this is exactly the kind of mystery that gets readers excited for more. And because there isn’t, it leaves you thinking, and that’s exactly the kind of book I love.

5/5 stars

 

5 stars · fairy tale · fiction

Stardust by Neil Gaiman: everything I need in life

18280911

Stardust

author : neil gaiman

pages : [paperback] 266

memorable quote :

Have been unavoidably detained by the world. Expect us when you see us.

favorite character : tristran

summary :

Young Tristran 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, Tristran learns, lies Faerie—where nothing, not even a fallen star, is what he imagined.

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman comes a remarkable quest into the dark and miraculous—in pursuit of love and the utterly impossible.

review:

WORDS CANNOT EXPRESS HOW MUCH I LOVED THIS BOOK.

tumblr_lsk2y3rnth1qehyg7o1_500

Not that I can ever underestimate Neil Gaiman anymore. After The Ocean at the End of the Lane and The Graveyard Book (just to name two), I’m ready to devour everything he’s ever written. Luckily for me, Stardust has been on my mental TBR for years. My physical TBR for a pile. Now I’m kicking myself because, after reading it, I realized that this is one of my absolute favorite books for the year–if not of all time.

It’s that amazing.

If you love fairy tales, or retold fairy tales, you’ll love this one. It’s like a fairy tale for adults–but not, you know, those adult themes. It’s the kind of perfect you want to go into knowing almost nothing about, just so you can fall headlong into the story and fall in love with Tristran Thorn.

Apart from the fact that I kept thinking “Tristran” is just a really complicated way of saying “Tristan”, our hero was amazing. Mostly because he isn’t perfect. He’s a little foolish, making promises to people he barely knows about things he hardly knows about. Running off to lands he knows absolutely nothing about and accepting help from people he’s just met. But he has such a kind heart, such good humor, and such a loving soul that you can’t help rooting for him and desperately hoping that the people he meets along the way will root for him, too. Because, of course, he’s entered the land of Faerie, where nothing is ever quite as it seems and most creatures aren’t as nice as you would like them to be.

But it’s oh so magical.

I don’t know why I love stories about Faerie so much when the creatures aren’t so nice. Maybe because it means most of the characters will be inevitably witty or clever. Tristan is kind of accidentally both of those things, which makes him even more endearing.

And then there are the other characters. I can’t delve much into them, because I don’t want to give anything away. I want you to step into this book, into this world, and be sucked in as deeply and immediately as I was. You’ll want to own this book, re-read it immediately, and share it with everyone you know.

I don’t think you’ll be surprised to hear I’d recommend Stardust to literally anyone. So what are you waiting for? Go take a trip to Faerie.

5/5 stars

 

5 stars · reread review · young adult

Reread Review: The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

448873

How do you review a book after you’ve already read it? Review the reread!

Dearest readers, I don’t think that I can rightly explain to you how much I love this book. I mean, I read it for the first time in the eighth grade, and now here I am, twenty-three and still loving it.

Yes, I’m old now, but that’s beside the point.

This is the kind of book that lasts. It’s the kind of book that makes you think, and delve into the mythology, and desperately want more. I didn’t realize for years after reading this that there was a sequel–and do you know how happy I was when I found out there was another book written in this world? And book five was just recently released. Imagine my head exploding. From happiness. From all the good things.

Well, bad things do happen in this book, but at least they’re beautifully written bad things.

The thing that makes The Thief stand out so much for me, even all of these years on, are the characters. The Thief himself, Gen, is kind of a sarcastic asshole, but he’s a criminal, so you shouldn’t expect anything less. The best part is that there are plenty of characters who don’t let him get away with that, which leads to plenty of banter. I don’t think there’s a piece of dialogue in here that seems frivolous. Everything either furthers the plot, or gives something away about the characters, or delves into the myths of this place.

Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that I met the author last month at Book Con, and a small literary piece of me died and went to that great library in the sky. Book conventions are amazing things. Anyway, I’m getting distracted.

Go read this book, if you haven’t already. And if you have–discuss it with me!

 

5 stars · reread review · young adult

Reread Reflection: Unsouled by Neal Shusterman

12792658

How do you review a book after you’ve already read it? Review the reread!

THIS BOOK. Just when you think this series can’t get any more intense, any sadder, any more painfully happy moments hidden in all of the mess that is this world, Neal Shusterman pulls out all of the stops and outdoes himself yet again.

If you haven’t read the previous two books, Unwind and Unwholly, stop right now and get them. This is definitely the series in which you can’t read any books out of order. Not only will you be incredibly confused, you’ll only end up spoiling yourself, and that’s absolutely no fun.

Unsouled is amazing and crazy and fabulous and horrifying. I mean . . . I could basically use all of those words to describe absolutely any novel Neal Shusterman puts out.

There are so many more things at play here that weren’t evident in the first book. Now, in my reread, I feel like I picked up on more in the first two books that came into play in book three. There are so many details thrown into these books, rereading them just makes them more enjoyable. It isn’t that the world or the concept is too complex; there are just so many factors, politically and physically, going on with the plot that it’s so interesting to see how complexly they weave together.

I feel like the more books of this dystology I read, the more invested I become, and the more eager to recommend these books to anyone and everyone I know. Yes, you need to read them. Yes, I’ll probably read these over and over again in the future.

Yes, this book maybe has enough fuel for a few nightmares.

 

 

5 stars · reread review · science fiction

Reread Reflection: Unwholly by Neal Shusterman

13545075

How do you review a book after you’ve already read it? Review the reread!

Gearing up to finally read book four in this dystology, I decided to reread the three books I’ve already known and loved so I can sink my teeth back into this universe. And there’s no way I could forget just how much I’ve loved Unwholly.

I love how this book literally expanded the reach of book one, Unwind, to focus on the issues of unwinding globally. Basically, in these books, it’s been accepted that parents can decide to unwind their children, which is a jazzed up form of organ donation because technology has progressed so much that anything can be donated. Arm crushed? Replace it with a new, fresh, healthy one. Bash in part of your brain? You’ll get hundreds of pieces of brain tissue from hundreds of unwinds. Just feel like you want to try out a different eye color, or get taller legs, or graft on some better hair–there’s a surgery for all of that. Unwinding is as much a vanity as it is a health industry.

Unwholly is intense. I think what’s most insane about it isn’t the actions of the characters from the previous book, but the new kids on the block. (Not the boy band. I don’t think they exist in this AU.) It just raises new questions of unwinding morals. One character is created entirely from the parts of unwound teens. If you thought you had existential crises, then think again. It’s all at once undeniable that he is living and yet impossible to think he is his own person.

That’s what I love about these books. The questions that spring up. I mean, sure, I’m also in it for the characters, the romance, and the inescapable action-packed plot twists. But they leave you thinking, and wondering, and questioning things. One of the most important things learned is to question everything and think for yourself.

And just wait until you get to book three.

5 stars · reread review · young adult

Reread Reflection: Unwind by Neal Shusterman

51o1spvdjwl-_sy344_bo1204203200_

How do you review a book after you’ve already read it? Review the reread!

Neal Shusterman is one of my all-time favorite authors. Unwind is simultaneously one of the most creative and one of the scariest novels I’ve ever read because this could totally happen in the future. I haven’t ever read book four, the last book, so now that I finally have it, that called for a reread of the series so I’m geared up for the conclusion. (Well, kind of. I really don’t want it to end, because I’ve been reading and loving these books for around eight years.)

Unwind is something you kind of have to read before you can really get it. It’s one of those books that sounds horrific when described (and is horrific in execution) but it’s still necessary. It’s still relevant. People today continue to fight over issues that, in this fictional universe, led to the Unwind Accords. That’s what makes these books so terrifying. They make us see what we as a country are totally capable of.

And yeah, I mean, people look at you kind of crazy when you try to describe these books. As in, “You know organ donors? Think doing that, but while you’re still alive, only parents decide to ‘donate’ their kids, and the kids have no choice about it, so they’re cut into a million different parts to help other people who were lucky enough to have parents who didn’t want to chop them into a million different parts.”

And then there are the complex characters, the ones you love, the ones you hate, the ones you hate that you’re beginning to feel empathy today. Shusterman takes societal misconceptions and turns them on their head. Kids who have anger problems, or acted out a lot–instead of getting the help and support they need, they’re being unwound. Even perfect kids, talented kids, are getting unwound because of messed-up reasons.

Unwind makes you think. It makes you cry. Most of all, it makes you want to read more, so it’s a good thing there are three more books after this one.

5 stars · series · young adult

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo; amazing, astounding, astonishing

22299763

Crooked Kingdom

Six of Crows #2

author : leigh bardugo

pages : [hardcover] 536

memorable quote :

I would have come for you. And if I couldn’t walk, I’d crawl to you, and no matter how broken we were, we’d fight our way out together.

favorite character : matthias

summary :

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and left crippled by the kidnapping of a valuable team member, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of magic in the Grisha world.

review :

I’ve avoided reviewing this book, probably because reflecting on it reminds me that it’s one of the most painful stories I’ve read. Beautifully written, wonderfully executed, and the kind of book that makes me cry so much I kind of resent it.

If you haven’t read Six of Crows, you absolutely need to. Not only because it’s book one in this duology, it’ll be one of the best books you’ve ever read. If you’re a fan of fantasy, or inventive new worlds, or great character novels, or heist schemes, you’ll love this book. Then you’ll crave more of it. These books are incredibly hefty–basically, the length of four books compiled into two. I think the duology option was incredibly smart because there’s no room for “middle book syndrome” here. Just nonstop action. And heartbreak.

I still can’t think of Crooked Kingdom without being filled with a curious mixture of happiness and devastation. It worked for me perfectly, and ensured this duology will remain as one of my favorite reads.

But, you know. No spoilers.

Crooked Kingdom picks up just where Six of Crows left off, introducing even more characters (and a few familiar faces for fans of the original Grisha trilogy. I might have squealed). The plot is so intricate. Kaz Brecker, one of the main characters, is truly a master of twisting things toward his will. Often in painful and unexpected ways–painful for his enemies, of course, not always the reader.

Matthias has always been my favorite. But, honestly, all of the main characters are just very adorable–though I think all of them would kill anyone who called them such to their face, apart from maybe Wylan. I loved how this book delves more into everyone’s backstories. It explains so much, not only their actions from the books but their motivations throughout their entire lives.

The book ends, I believe, with a perfect balance. There is room left to expand and create more stories within the Grisha universe, but this particular story arc is complete. Not all ends of it are happy, but . . you’ll just have to read to find out what happens. Honestly, it’s such a wild ride that even a very detailed spoiler review would take pages and pages and pages to write. Leigh Bardugo is exceptionally talented at weaving these intricate plots together and I love it!

Read it. Please. And then you must discuss with me.

5/5 stars