Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker- a 5/5 Star (Life Changing) Review!

Cass and Emma Tanner are the famous sisters that mysteriously disappeared three years ago. Now, only Cass has returned. What happened to Emma? That’s exactly what Dr. Abby Winter is going to find out. What she has discovered in the last three years since the girls vanished and her investigation begun is one thing: nothing is what it seems. Dr. Abby Winter knows firsthand how traumatizing it can be to have a childhood ruled by a narcissistic mother. That is what got her into this line of work in the first place. But can she keep her past from clouding her judgement in the present?

I loved this book and found it masterfully created. Each chapter ended with a cliffhanger that made me as a reader want to read “just one more chapter” for several chapters. It was told in alternating perspectives between Cass and Abby (Dr. Winter) which I thought enhanced the story as it gave deeper perspective into both characters as well as gave different views on the supporting characters.

To be more personal than I have been in any of my previous reviews, I cannot explain well enough to give it justice just how immensely tied to this book I was. I had to put it down some chapters because it related too well to my childhood with a narcissistic mother that too much of it in one sitting could be overwhelming. Fortunately, I were raised mostly by my (selfless, hilarious, and dedicated) father so I did not have the damages quite as bad as these girls, but the scars are still there. Time does not actually heal all wounds. Some scars will always remain, even if they are hidden just under the surface.

There are variances with every family and experience with any personality disorder. Yet there were pages and pages that I kept highlighting and excitedly screaming out “YES! Exactly!”. It was fascinating to see what I experienced play out in a fictional tale. The quote that I had to read over and over because it was accurate, relatable, and glaringly honest was:

“Mrs. Martin had never been punished for anything she had ever done. She was a master illusionist. Even people trained to see, even people looking for exactly what was there to be seen, could still not see”.

I am immensely pleased that Wendy Walker had the courage and skill to take this topic of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and create a story that is masterful regardless of if a reader has had an experience with it. There has only been one other book that I have read on this topic several years ago, Dr. Karyl McBride’s Will I Ever Be Good Enough?. This book was nonfiction and absolutely changed my life because it put the facts of Narcissistic Mothers in my face and helped me learn how to cope and live my own life. If you are someone who has gone through an experience with someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, particularly with a Narcissistic mother, I highly recommend both Will I Ever Be Good Enough? and Emma in the Night. You should also know that you are not alone!

I would also recommend this book for those readers who are fans of surprise twists as there are several. Furthermore, the ending is unexpected, twisted, and genius.

For those who may be offended: there was foul language, sexually explicit scenarios, drug use, alcohol use, infidelity, incest, and child abuse.

Please note: an electronic copy of this book was generously provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

How to Change a Life by Stacey Ballis- a 3/5 Star Review!

Eloise is devastated by the news of her favorite teacher passing. The event becomes bittersweet as it is at this beloved teacher’s funeral that she is reunited with her old friends Teresa and Lynne. Can their newly regained friendship survive the first major hurdle that comes their way or has time eroded away at their trust?

Eloise, Teresa, and Lynne met in grade school and bonded over their birthdays being right around the same time. Their reunion inspired them to make a bucket list before their upcoming fortieth birthday. It was fun to see the three of them create and execute their own personal bucket lists as well as have an incentive with the donation to their late teacher’s charity tied into it. Furthermore, it was interesting to see how each of them accomplished their tasks.

However, this book was a quick read-because I skimmed most of it. It relied heavily on adjectives and every detail about every dish that was thrown into the book. The adjective “amazing” was overused to the point of irritation. Additionally, the author seemed to rely heavily on dialogue between characters for character development. Yet the main character still came off as juvenile and shallow to me despite the other characters repeatedly inflating her ego.

I would recommend this book for those approaching forty or already over forty as the fortieth birthday was a central theme. Furthermore, I would also recommend this book for those foodie readers out there as the author went into great detail about every meal prepared in the book. There are even recipes in the back of the book.

On the other hand, I would not recommend this book for readers who may have shared the same feelings I had about adjective abuse and extreme detail. I also would not recommend this book for those who may be sensitive: there were sexually suggestive scenarios as well as foul language.

Please note: I was generously provided with a copy of this book electronically for free through Penguin’s First To Read program.

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman-a 1/5 Review!

Irene was born into the Librarian life. Her parents were librarians and she strives to rise in the ranks despite not being able to see her parents often. Kai is an apprentice of The Library, and has been involved for 5 years but has yet become an official Librarian. A former petty criminal, he fell into the Library and has since decided to dedicate his life. On one special mission Kai is assigned to train under Irene. Two different personalities from two very different backgrounds, can they work together to complete the mission?

DNF at 34%. I did not care for this book because it would be somewhat engaging then it would snap back into something boring. An example of this is the whole section where Kai is explained the workings of The Library and it felt like the book stalled just to explain everything instead of throwing in bits and pieces as they go along. There was a lot of detail defining chaos although I did not feel like I fully understood it.

Another reason why I did not finish the book is because I felt like it threw too many concepts into one plot. For example: there is a scene where Irene and Kai are one-upping each other on how many sexual partners they have had as they debate whether or not the two of them should have sex. It felt flat and shallow as it was just something to add to exist in the story and not something of importance.

It seemed pretty obvious from the beginning that there was something off about a “helpful” character. Since I have not read the rest of the book, I will leave it at that as I do not want to accidentally spoil anything.

I did not enjoy this book, however, I could see fans who love time travel and steampunk liking it. It did not stir any emotions in me and felt like a chore to read so I am putting it down. This was a selection for a book club that I am in and I picked it up from the library. I hope whoever gets it next has a better experience with it than I did!

The Marriage Pact: A Novel by Michelle Richmond-a 1/5 Star Review

Jake and Alice are a recently married couple who receive a unique gift from a new friend. This gift was an invitation to The Pact. An exclusive society that values marriage and strives to maintain the sanctity of it. It is not to be discussed with people outside of The Pact and the rules get more outrageous from there. Basically, it’s Stepford Wives meets Fight Club. Obnoxious.

For the record, I only managed to get 18% into the book before crying out “Oh for the LOVE of GOD I DON’T CAAAAAARE”, which may also be considered obnoxious to some.

Each percent was a chapter so I did get 18 chapters in, however, when it is 18 out of 100ish chapters, it’s not that big of a feat. It was told from Jake’s perspective up until that point which made it seem like Jake was obsessed with his wife, Alice. But Alice’s responses tended to be passive in terms of big events. For example, when he proposed, she simply said “Ok”. Another example is when they decided to join The Pact, her response was “why not?”. Because it’s obviously a cult, that’s why not.

Alice is an overworked lawyer and Jake is a therapist, yet their communication seemed to be lacking and a lawyer read the terms and conditions of The Pact and decided to go through with it because “Why not?” just did not seem realistic to me. Furthermore, Jake’s thoughts on things relied on what Alice thought of them. Which caused flat sentences such as “Alice does not like ___” and “Alice likes ____”. It made him seem like a doormat. It reached a breaking point for me when they were at a work social for Alice and there was a co-worker that went up to Jake (allegedly unaware that he was the husband of Alice) and they talked about the bet that went on at the office that she wouldn’t marry ‘the therapist'”. It seemed immature and pointless.

Last rant: I could not stand Vivian. She reminded me of Dolores Umbridge and I am sure she is supposed to be the villain so I am not supposed to like her. However, she was irritating at best.

Clearly, I was not a fan of this book and I would only recommend it to readers who are fans of cults.

However, many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for giving me free access to the book in exchange for an honest review.

 

Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown-A 5/5 Star Review!

Billy is a wife, a mom, a hiker, a free spirit, and missing, presumed dead. Her husband, Jonathan, and her daughter, Olive, have struggled over the past year since she went missing both emotionally and financially. Jonathan could not focus on work and resigned in order to work on a memoir on his missing, potentially late, wife. As he works on additional research for the memoir he begins to discover the secrets and lies that hid beneath the surface. Their daughter, Olive, wants to get the search party back on to find her mother as she begins to have visions of her that become frequent yet are cryptic. This causes her grades and her relationships with friends and family to decline. Will it all be worth it to find Billy?

At first, I thought this book would be just another rendition of Gone Girl. I was pleasantly mistaken! It has a unique portrayal of both family dynamics and growing up. The story is told in alternating perspectives, mostly from Olive and Jonathan’s. Which I did not find it confusing and found it to be helpful in strengthening character development. I also liked the fairly fast pace of the book as well as the many red herrings that had me pausing to think. It is sweet at times and twisted at others, but made for a fun read overall. Lastly, I also liked the twist and how it was an imperfect ending.

I would recommend this book for those who enjoy an adventurous mystery. I would also recommend it for those who like to read how the past comes back to haunt a character.

For those who may be offended: there is foul language, sexually suggestive scenarios, visions, negativity towards religion, drug abuse, and alcohol abuse.

Please note: I got a physical copy of this book for free from LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review.

Plus One by Elizabeth Fama- a 3/5 Star Review

Sol is a Smudge, part of the Night sector of the population that had been divided into half. She is a lowly factory worker struggling to juggle school, work, her brother’s abandonment, and being the sole caretaker for her dying grandfather. After finding out that her brother, Ciele, has gotten married and is expecting a baby soon with his new wife, she sets on a mission to make sure that her grandfather can hold his great-granddaughter before he dies. Even if it is just once, she would sacrifice everything for this one dying wish. She knows the consequences, a long jail sentence and probably miss out on her grandfather’s death, but she is bullheaded and fiercely loyal. This mission takes far longer than expected and goes way off course, but it is a journey filled with revealing secrets and unexpected friendships.

I am really torn on how to feel about this book. On the one hand, the idea of the population being separated by Day and Night and the Night people’s brains being affected by it felt very similar to Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies. Especially when two doctors are the ones who let the secret out to the protagonist who then uses it to their advantage later. But on the other hand, it is a different concept than the popular dystopian concept that this was forced because the world is in destruction and one population must save themselves from the other population who is ruining the world. Yet, it is in response to a flu epidemic that threatened to wipe out society. However, after the epidemic seemed to resolve, no action was taken to try to combine the two populations again.

Another thing that I am torn about with this book is that I felt that the romance was sweet at times yet forced at other times. I liked that she and D’Arcy (although I mentally kept calling him Mr. Darcy) had met each other in the past over a shared interest without realizing it until later. But I did not like how frequently Sol tried to sacrifice herself for him, often behind his back, as it came across as more of a dramatic need to be tragic rather than smart. It did not really feel like they worked together throughout the book but that he was a forced sidekick so that there could be an element of romance. Their love story just did not ever feel cohesive.

Another issue I had was the amount of kidnapping that happened. It was not just one baby that got kidnapped, but two babies and a dying elderly person. There were too many things that were far too convenient to make the action sequences seem like tangible concepts. The scene that annoyed me the most was when she had to carry a baby, zipped up under her hoodie, on a hot and bumpy subway that did not cry or make any noises at all. Then she got off the subway and took off and there was not any mention of the infant. What hoodie is designed to mask a live baby simply by zipping up?

Aside from these negatives of the book, it was not so terrible that I could not finish. Actually, I wanted to finish the book. It was an adventure when I was not stumbling through the literary obstacles. I must also admit that the cover of the book is lovely and perfectly fits this novel.

The narrator, Julia Whelan, did well in the sense that Sol’s “voice” would have had that pessimistic angst that seems to be a part of the stereotypical teenage character. However, the main woe-is-me voice got on my nerves after awhile. Conversely, the parts where she had to speak French and even sing made the book more interesting.

I would recommend this book for readers who are really interested in technology as that was a major factor. I would also recommend this book for readers who may be fluent in or familiar with French as that was also a large part of the book.

I would not recommend this book for those who may be offended by foul language, sexually suggestive scenarios, betrayal, kidnapping, bullying, gang activity, and death.

Please note: I was able to download an audiobook copy of this file for free through Audiofile magazine’s Sync’s weekly (this was one of Week 7’s book options) free summer audiobook program via using the Overdrive app (the link is here).

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott-a 1/5 Star Review

Devon Knox had an accident as a young child that resulted in the amputation of a few toes on her foot. But that has not stopped her from being the rising star in gymnastics. She trains for hours every day on top of keeping up good grades. She is determined to be in the elite, then on to the Olympics. Her parents are buried in debt but they are taking the risk for the chance of their daughter to be an Olympian. They fear the puberty that could come any day, the high risk that everything could be ruined by one tiny mistake in a routine, and that one small mistake could cause an injury that can’t be bounced back from. But they face it all to make Devon a household name.

But one night, something goes terribly wrong in their small gymnastics community and it is another name that is spoken in every household.

It took me over 2 weeks to read this book because I dreaded picking it back up. The characters lacked depth and I could not establish any kind of connection with any of them. The parents, Eric and Katie, were immature, narcissistic, and oblivious. They consistently ignored their son, Drew, in order to focus on themselves or mostly on their oldest daughter, Devon. Drew, however, was written to not mind being ignored and to be very laid back. He “understood” the attention that had to go to Devon and “never had a problem with it”. Not only did it come across as very unrealistic but it also came across as useless. Devon did not demand attention outside of the gymnastics gym, rather she kept to herself and kept secrets. Devon clearly favored her father and (in somewhat of a juvenile retaliation) her mother, Katie, stuck to Drew. Poor Drew developed Scarlet Fever and still received little attention from his family.  His mother even left him alone in the car and then revealed that it was not the first time she had done that.  She had left him in the car because she had forgotten he was even in there when he was much younger.  They put Devon into a fellow gymnast’s home (read: mansion) so she wouldn’t catch what Drew had.  The fellow gymnast whose mother footed the bill for the renovations to the gymnastics training center. This mother, Gwen, footed the bill after much wining and dining with Devon’s father, Eric, so that his daughter could improve with better equipment. Oh, and Gwen’s daughter, Lacey, could also improve. But no one would ever be as good as Devon!

Not only were the characters a disappointment but the writing was also hard to appreciate, in my opinion. The plot did not flow well, neither did the chapters. There were snippets of paragraphs that seemed to be copied and pasted to piece together a chapter rather than being more fluid. There were even paragraphs that could have been “pasted” together and it would have flowed better. It was jagged and frustrating to read. Furthermore, there was a lot of repetition for minor details that came across as redundant to me. Katie’s ringtone being the same song that Devon has a floor routine to, saying “I love him so much!”, are just two examples. I have heard many great things about Megan Abbott and, as a result, had looked forward to receiving an ARC of this book. I cannot say that I would have that same excitement in the future.

I would not recommend this book. I think I have made that very clear. Furthermore, I would certainly not recommend this book for those who may be sensitive to foul language, violence, tumultuous relationships, murder, manipulation, parental neglect, and sexually suggestive scenarios.

Please note: an advance reader copy of this book was generously provided electronically by the publisher via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.