Two Mini Book Reviews {The Supernatural Edition}

Hello, and happy Tuesday!

I return to school today after a pleasant long weekend, although, as I commented on Twitter yesterday, I wouldn’t complain to a few more days off to recover :) Fortunately, my upcoming week looks relatively quiet, so I can take the time to work through a long list of reviews! First up are my thoughts on two thrillers because, as I like to think, there’s no better month to talk about spooky stories than October. What are you currently reading? Has your school had its Homecoming game and/or dance?

The Walls Around UsTitle: The Walls Around Us
Author: Nova Ren Suma
Published: March 24th, 2015 by Algonquin Young Readers
Pages: 336
Genre: Young Adult / Magical Realism / Thriller
Source: Library / Hardcover
Series: N/A

On the outside, there’s Violet, an eighteen-year-old dancer days away from the life of her dreams when something threatens to expose the shocking truth of her achievement.

On the inside, within the walls of the Aurora Hills juvenile detention center, there’s Amber, locked up for so long she can’t imagine freedom.

Tying their two worlds together is Orianna, who holds the key to unlocking all the girls’ darkest mysteries…

What really happened on the night Orianna stepped between Violet and her tormentors? What really happened on two strange nights at Aurora Hills? Will Amber and Violet and Orianna ever get the justice they deserve—in this life or in another one?

In prose that sings from line to line, Nova Ren Suma tells a supernatural tale of guilt and of innocence, and of what happens when one is mistaken for the other. {Goodreads}

While I’d be the first to tell you how much I love organization and routine, when it comes to my library visits, I’m all about grabbing new reads on a whim. Whether a colorful cover catches my eye or an interesting synopsis has me intrigued, I live by the idea that I can take a chance because the books are free {can you tell I visit my local branch a lot?}. This philosophy has led me to many pleasant surprises, including Nova Ren Suma’s novel The Walls Around Us. Juvenile delinquents and prima ballerinas may seem like an unlikely pairing, but it only takes the talent of an expert YA author, such as Suma, to weave the two subjects together in a mesmerizing, supernatural tale.

Magical realism at its finest, the novel is a twist of the reader’s and the characters’ minds. Suma’s lyrical prose lends a chilling tone to each storyline: Amber’s truthful account of her life in a cell, Violet’s guilt-ridden path to her success as a dancer, and Orianna’s role in both of their lives. The link between the three girls is as mysterious as it is important, and the slow reveal of clues heightens the appeal of the mystery; the characters demonstrate the same level of development, although the style is prone to reader disconnect. Finally, alternating between perspectives is an effective way to frame the story, especially with the growing – and lasting – popularity of unreliable narrators.

One reviewer described that reading The Walls Around Us “is like being seduced by a magic spell,” and I’m inclined to agree. It leaves readers with more questions than answers, with the final scene up for interpretation by the book’s audience. As the story pushes the divide between those who are guilty and those who are not, the final message is emphasized: even society’s seemingly “innocent” are subject to the dark side of human nature. Snaps all around – I can’t wait to read another book by Suma.

Lair of DreamsTitle: Lair of Dreams
Author: Libba Bray
Published: August 25th, 2015 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 624 {It’s a long one, friends}
Genre: Young Adult / Historical Fiction / Fantasy
Source: Library / Hardcover
Series: Oh, yes! This is the long-anticipated sequel to Bray’s The Diviners {I reviewed it HERE}.

The longing of dreams draws the dead, and this city holds many dreams.

After a supernatural showdown with a serial killer, Evie O’Neill has outed herself as a Diviner. With her uncanny ability to read people’s secrets, she’s become a media darling, earning the title “America’s Sweetheart Seer.” Everyone’s in love with the city’s newest It Girl… everyone except the other Diviners.

Piano-playing Henry DuBois and Chinatown resident Ling Chan are two Diviners struggling to keep their powers a secret—for they can walk in dreams. And while Evie is living the high life, victims of a mysterious sleeping sickness are turning up across New York City.

As Henry searches for a lost love and Ling strives to succeed in a world that shuns her, a malevolent force infects their dreams. And at the edges of it all lurks a man in a stovepipe hat who has plans that extend farther than anyone can guess… As the sickness spreads, can the Diviners descend into the dreamworld to save the city?

In this heart-stopping sequel to The Diviners, Printz Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Libba Bray takes readers deeper into the mystical underbelly of New York City. {Goodreads}

Of course, for every book I check out of curiosity, there’s typically a complement, a novel I’ve waited weeks, months, or years to read. Lair of Dreams, the sequel to Libba Bray’s widely read and widely popular The Diviners, falls in the latter category; originally slated for publication in 2014, it was finally released this past August. A situation such as this presents itself an interesting dilemma – What if I don’t like the book I waited so long to read? Or worse, what if it doesn’t live up to Book One? – but I needn’t had worried. In six hundred pages, Bray crafts a story that is equal parts compelling and chilling and, more importantly, one that matches the twisted magic of its predecessor.

Fans of The Diviners will be delighted to note that Bray delves deeper into the lives of America’s Diviners, putting the spotlight on characters both old and new: Evie, known by many as the “Sweetheart Seer,” and her fake beau Sam; Theta and Memphis, who are both foreshadows of the future; and Henry and Ling, who, for better or worse, can travel through dreams. As to be expected, Bray’s character development is superb, and she displays similar mastery in creating the setting. Readers are transported to the Roaring Twenties with Bray’s careful application of period details, such as speakeasies and flappers, and thorough research on the Chinese Exclusion and Immigration Act and its consequences. Atmosphere, you could argue, is just as important as the characters.

I could dissect every detail, but a book as strong as this is better discussed in the big picture. I, for one, think it’s interesting to find the contrasts woven throughout the plot. Good versus evil, the Diviners versus the public, fantasy versus reality – these conflicts are essential to the story, even if they do create more questions than they leave answers. It’s been said that Bray plans to write two more installments before the series comes to a close. If they are anywhere near as good as Lair of Dreams, I’ll be happy.

Have a fabulous day!

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7 thoughts on “Two Mini Book Reviews {The Supernatural Edition}

  1. i haven’t finished lair of dreams yet but from what i read i agree with everything you said in your post! it’s actually kinda stressing me out not knowing how it ends because i stopped at 75% before it had to go back to the library because other people had holds on it. i KNEW i should have bought it but i also have this thing where it really bugs me to buy books of a series out of order and at this point i don’t know what would be worse: having to wait maybe 2+ months to get lair of dreams from the library again or buying it, finishing it but then also having to buy the diviners when i’m saving up for a new phone?? decisions, decisions. but YEAH i agree with everything you said in your review. lair of dreams is STUPENDOUS and libba bray is a master storyteller.

    also so happy you liked the walls around us! i’ve been hearing a lot of good praise for it lately (maybe because halloween is coming?) and it sounds really intriguing. i love thrillers so i might have to check it out and pick it up for a seasonal read!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ooh, what a pain! I HATE returning books when I’m in the middle of them, but I understand your buying problem as well – who wants a series out of order? With all that said, though, I’m so glad you’re a Libba Bray fan too. She is an incredible writer, and her work never fails to astound me. I’ve also seen The Walls Around Us quite a bit lately on various blogs, but the spooky factor can be made appropriate year-round :) I hope you’ll grab a copy for yourself, and thank you, as always, for commenting!

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    • Oh, thank you so much! That means a lot :) And the size of The Diviners is intimidating – you definitely need to block out some time to read it! I hope you enjoy it when you buy and read your own copy. Thanks for commenting!

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  2. […] Nova Ren Suma is yet another author whose books I repeatedly passed over, and for no good reason other than my blatant ignorance of the imaginative stories inside! I had little idea of what to expect when I began her most recent novel, The Walls Around Us, over the summer, but that clearly had no impact on my enjoyment; I finished the ballet-prison-thriller {what can I say? It’s an odd tale} in a single afternoon. More please? {review} […]

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