Gunslinger Girl – Review

“She should have seen it coming. Six months and she’d be lawfully released from his control. But he couldn’t let that happen easy, not him.”

From the very first moment I saw photos of this gorgeous book being released at BookCon, I knew I had to have this book. A dystopian with a Western twist? For fans of Westworld?! Katniss Everdeen meets Annie Oakley??? Um, YES PLEASE!!!

I was thrilled when I opened a package and saw that my request had been approved and have been hugging this book EVER SINCE!

Serendipity Jones is a sharp shooter. She’s the best in her commune, but that doesn’t matter. She was born the wrong gender. A woman with the potential to be fertile is more valuable than a woman who can shoot. But she has plans. Plans to leave, plans to escape to the Capital. Unfortunately, her father also has plans. And they don’t involve her freedom.

When her best friend offers her the chance to escape before her father can sell her, Pity jumps at the chance. But the world outside of the gates of the communes is deadly, and Pity quickly finds herself a prisoner headed to the lawless city of Cessation, the last bastion of freedom standing against the oppressive forces of CONA, the Confederacy of North America.

“Is this a city, she thought, or an asylum?”

Now she has something resembling freedom being offered to her by the city’s leader, the beautiful and lethal Selene, but there is a price. With little options in front of her, Pity accepts and tries to navigate the treacherous path that she finds herself on.

This book is incredible! Pity is such a delightful protagonist. This is YA that sucks you in from the very beginning and doesn’t let go. I love when characters are so real you feel like you could know them. Pity is strong and determined, but she is also a little unsure of the path before her. She makes mistakes, some with horrific consequences that haunt her and make her doubt herself. I enjoyed reading her journey on that path to self-discovery.

“The low burn of anger that had been coursing through her exploded suddenly, fury hot and vicious cold at the same time, and tinged with guilt.”

This guilt and sureness over who she wants to be, combined with the battle of hesitation and unsurety over whether she actually could be that person made Pity so heart-achingly good. I like a character who has to face the idea versus the reality of their inner selves, especially when outside forces raise the bar on the consequences of that struggle.

Beyond Pity, we get introduced to an array of diverse characters. Duchess, Luster, and Max are a few of my favorites, but even Selene and Halycon add to the complicated deliciousness of the world Pity finds herself in.

Clean was the first for that popped into Pity’s mind as his raptor’s gaze tracked them. Dangerous was the second.”

The vast cast of characters all give the world in Cessation a rich texture, with each character highlighting a distinct piece of that world. We get to see through the eyes of security and performers. People escaping lives in communes that are unthinkable. Each accepting their role with varying degrees of success and hiding from a past that haunts each one of them in it’s own way.

Each characters gives you the sense of what a real oasis this city can be, while simultaneously being a gilded prison. This dichotomy really drives home the idea that everything has a price. Especially freedom.

“What others did to secure themselves wasn’t for her to judge – not when their situations were dire enough to make her wonder what she might do in the same place.”

It isn’t just the world of Cessation or the colonies that we get to see, although the bigger world of CONA is something I suspect we’ll begin to see more of in future books. We know that this world is what we are left with after a Second Civil War. We know the rumors of the Capital, and then we learn the reality. At least, some of the reality. But the history of the War, and the reality of other communes are things only hinted at in this book.

I tend to like my dystopian worlds to be revealed to me slowly. The horror of the future our characters find themselves in showing itself in unexpected and surprising ways. Gunslinger Girl did not disappoint in this way. Just as we accept the world as it is, new details emerge that really stab you in the gut with the terrible reality of what the world really can be. And I love when authors give us a slow road into hell, bringing us deeper into the world with more revealed in each new book. It gives the world a rich texture that just can’t be accomplished all at once.

Gunslinger Girl is a unique new dystopian and I adored every moment of it. The characters are complex and fun. The world is intoxicating and horrifying. The writing is beautiful and brutal.

“When someone brought her a cup of ice water, she took it without a word. It slid down her throat and into her stomach like a blade.”

Lyndsay Ely has created something incredible with this book and has quickly made me a fan rabid for more. Her voice and imagination are both stunning and I cannot wait to see what she has in store for us next!

Thank you Little, Brown & Jimmy Patterson Books for sending me a copy to read and review!

Emma In The Night – Review

“We believe what we want to believe. We believe what we need to believe.”

Emma In The Night blew me away! I read this book in a morning. Devoured would be a more appropriate description because I could not put it down.

Emma and her sister Cass go missing on the same night. Three years later, we open the novel with Cass returning. She doesn’t tell us in that opening chapter where she had been, only giving us a glimpse of her mother and her family and the deeply disturbing childhood she had in that house. She tells us she had to return to that house though, to tell her story, to make them believe her so that they could find Emma.

“A story is more than the recounting of events. The events are the sketch, the outline, but it is the colors and the landscape and the medium and the artist’s hand that make it what it is in the end.”

Cass tells her story, unfolding the events from the night of their disappearance to Dr. Abigail Winters, the FBI forensic psychologist, first assigned to the case. We get the alternating narration, offering the thoughts and viewpoints of both Abby and Cass, which play off of each other brilliantly.

Abby knows there’s more the story, but in the greater effort of finding Emma, she doesn’t push Cass the way she wants to. She doesn’t force her questions in the directions her gut tells her, until the end when she begins to realize what Cass’s motives truly are.

Psychological thrillers are one of my favorite types of thrillers. There’s something messy and deviant going into the mind of someone else. It’s even creepier and more exhilarating when that someone else is unstable, violent or even crazy. I am also fascinated with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

We hear narcissism thrown around fairly casually anymore. Articles telling us how people who take mostly selfies are narcissistic. Are you sensitive or a narcissist in disguise: take the quiz now. CEO’s: powerful type A’s or narcissistic sociopaths?¬†We get snippets of these disorders, given to us in bite sized pieces that can’t possibly hope to do justice to these enormously complex issues.

So to have Walker dive into this disorder, and really give us a glimpse of what it is like, not only through Cass’s eyes, but Abby’s as well, was fascinating. The disorder is real and has very real ramifications for children living in these environments. The most enthralling part of this novel was the way Walker made me wonder whether Cass has truly escaped the cycle at all.

“It was the aspect of her research that had most fascinated her–the cycle of the illness and how children escaped it. It was as if the human soul within them was fighting to the bitter end, to survive, to find a way to hold on to this instinct to love and be loved–because that was the very thing that got lost with this illness.”

All the characters were twisted in a pattern of lies and manipulations. We knew from the beginning Cass had a motive, she had a reason for every single thing she said, everything she did. The strength in Walker’s writing is that she doesn’t give us any outright clues. In fact, the clues are so subtle, that by the end, when it is revealed I found myself going back and rereading certain parts. Only in the light of knowing can you truly appreciate the tapestry Walker weaves. Her ability to tell this story is amazing and the result is captivating.

I wasn’t hit with a stunning fact or shocking twist, even though in the end you feel both stunned and shocked. It’s a slow revelation, an unfolding of events. Walker takes us down a trail littered with bread crumbs. We follow that trail, greedily devouring the crumbs, not caring where they lead, only wanting more. In the end, I was left surprised and satisfied.

The sign of a good novel for me is one where I want more. And with Emma, I wanted more. I wanted to know more about the personality disorder. I wanted to know more about the characters. And more than anything, I want to discuss this novel with anyone and everyone.

Psychological thrillers aren’t for everyone. They often include a plethora of characters that are unlikeable, unrelatable and unreliable. Personally, I like that in a novel. Because it’s true in real life. Very rarely in life, at least my life, are there people who are always likable, or relatable, or reliable. They aren’t always anything. They are always a mix. Sometimes likable, sometimes not. Sometimes reliable, sometimes not. So I appreciate an author who gives me real characters who are a mix. Ironically, I find that relatable.

I didn’t read Walker’s first book, but you can bet it’s now on my TBR. Any book I can read in less than five hours is a winner for me. If you’re ready to be taken down a twisted path, with an uncertain outcome, this is the book for you.

Thank you to BookSparks and St. Martin’s Press for sending me this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review!