Review Catch-Up! Six Amazing Mini-Reviews in One Cray-mazing Post!

Hello Spinning Jenners!!

In October I started working at Fair's Fair Used Bookstore and it has taken some energy away from my people/ my fans/ my congregation, if you will.

I have read some great books, and briefly alluded to some in my Top 2015 Reads post. But I feel that some of these books deserve, nay DEMAND a better review, so I'll do some mini catch-ups right here, right now. (I'll link each title to www.goodreads.com so you can read the synopsis [synopses?] yo'self, and I can save some space...)

Settle in folks, this is what's been missing in your life:

Read: October 22, 2015

Title: Dark Inside
Author: Jeyn Roberts
Publisher: Macmillon Children's Books
Published September 2011
Genre(s): YA, sci-fi, horror/ zombies

I really liked this! And hey, Canadian author, so double yay!

Wasn't too scary/ disturbing, but I will say that when reading it before bed I had "wicked weird" dreams. Enjoyed reading from all characters' POV's, and thought they were well-rounded. Also, Jeyn (pronounced Jen) Roberts gets double points for mentioning Calgary AND chinooks...

Will read on! But am waiting for the third instalment in the trilogy bf reading the 2nd, as I have the memory of a goldfish. Also, Dark Inside #2 was published in 2012 and there's not even a LISTING for #3. (Why do I do this to myself?!?!)

4 stars

Read November 12, 2015

Title: Illuminae
Authors: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Publisher: Knopf for Young Readers
Published: October 2015
Genres: YA, sci-fi, romance, mystery, horror
 So I gushed a bit (!) about this one in my Top Books of 2015, and let me tell you a little more...

I think one of my favourite book formats lately has been the epistolary/ found documents format. You really feel like you're privy to this huge cover-up, and, let me tell you, there were actual gasps of surprise, people. But even the non-document pages are epic in the way they portray chaos, or silence, just using a written 2D surface. 

Loved the HAL/ 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) references to the ship's AI ["AIDAN"] "meltdown" for lack of a better word. Reading the POV of the AI character and how it's trying to justify certain actions is enthralling and terrifying to say the least. (I share my mother's distrust of technology, I admit...)

Kaufman and Kristoff also excel in using literary allusions (e.g. Shakespeare) and referencing old movies (e.g. Dead Poets Society [1989]) to foreshadow certain evens, which increases the feeling of dread for the reader. Well, the older reader. Most references to anything pre-21st century will most likely be lost on the intended YA audience, or maybe they'll entice the young 'uns to seek out the older movies/ authors...

** Again, I must reiterate,  you have to read this in paper form, not as e-book, as there's apparently a lot lost in translation**

Apparently this book is a LOVE/ HATE thing. I think it's absolutely brilliant, and will be hard to top!
5 stars +++

Before this moment, I have never wished to be something other than what I am.
Never felt so keenly the lack of hands with which to touch, the lack of arms with which to hold.
Why did they give me this sense of self? Why allow me the intellect by which to measure this complete inadequacy? I would rather be numb than stand here in the light of a sun that can never chase the chill away. [p. 417]

Read November 28, 2015
Title: Winter (The Lunar Chronicles, #4)
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Published November 2015
Genres: YA, sci-fi, romance, fantasy, fairy tales
This is a tricky one. I love a good retelling of a fairy tale, especially in The Lunar Chronicles, where Marissa Meyer moulds four traditional heroines (Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Snow White) into multi-ethnic futuristic kick-ass heroes.

Winter, however lacked the same intensity that I felt in the previous books. I even went against my personal rule* of ignoring any books that have a .5 (etc.) beside it, and read the novella Fairest (Lunar Chronicles #3.5) to satiate my hunger for this final installment! Sometimes I lose momentum with a series if it takes a while for the next book to be released...

However, looking back at my notes, I apparently had a good cry with Scarlet and Wolf. But then Meyer would hit you with a line from the queen like, "And all because of that cyborg and her wretched video and stupid speeches" (391) and it kinda felt like she was "phoning it in." Basically the writing isn't as solid as the previous efforts, which is really too bad.

Overall, a great series, and definitely worth the read!
4 stars

*I feel these little interludes between the "actual" books are a cash-grab, and don't really add to the series in general. If a trilogy is a trilogy, than it should be able to stand on it's 3 books, and not have little explainers/ add-ons after the finale. (I'm looking at YOU Scott Westerfeld's Extras and Veronica Roth's Four!!)

Read December 4, 2015

Title: The City of Ember
Author: Jeanne DuPrau
Publisher: Yearling
Published: 2003
Genres: children's (9-12), sci-fi, dystopian

I have a confession to make: I think I mistook this book for a different series that people were raving about. And this won, like, a jillion awards! So perhaps expectations were too high.

While reading Ember I kept having this feeling like something was missing. One reviewer stated that DuPrau made the classic "new author" mistake and over-explained everything, rather than giving the reader a chance to infer. In hindsight, this does make sense. But I think that it just seemed to skim over what could have been a really great plot. (Much like The Giver, by Lois Lowry.)

I'm hoping the characters will develop more over the next 3 books (especially as I bought this series for my nephew and said we'd read them together!). There was a point in Ember where Lina realizes all at once that Doon "was her best friend" (163) and I was all: whaaat?! Where was the build-up to that revelation?! And all Doon could think about was how proud his father would be when he saved the whole city (a sentiment repeated to an annoying degree...).

Another reviewer loved that Ember was possibly a "fantastic allegory for spiritual awakening," which could be cool. Who knows what the rest of the series brings? Maybe it's an out of the frying pan into the fire-type situation? Stay tuned...
3.75 stars  

Read December 5, 2015

Title: In the Shadow of Blackbirds
Author: Cat Winters
Publisher: Amulet Books
Published: April 2013
Genres: YA, historical fiction, fantasy/ paranormal, mystery, romance
This was one of my fave books read in 2015. (To see my Top Books of 2015 click here!) I won't re-gush more about this one, except to say that I'm now on the lookout for ANY Cat Winters books, as I loved her writing style, characters, use of historical fiction to tie-in a ghost story/ mystery, and basically everything.

I love putting little stickies beside good quotes, or with different thoughts certain passages evoked (I know, pretty deep, right?), so here's some of those thoughts:

1. Some of the characters and the mood remind me of the indomitable Agatha Christie.

2. Amazing details about how they kept the Spanish flu/ plague at bay; Aunt Eva instructs Mary Shelley to "make sacks of camphor balls to wear around our necks so the stink can fight off the germs on the ferry" (52). [Also, the awesomeness of the name Mary Shelley.]

3. That in 1918 America (and probably everywhere) they were burning anything written by German poets, philosophers, artists, and spying on neighbours who were not on this crazy-train (hence Mary's father getting arrested [not a spoiler: it happens at the beginning]).

4. Haunting actual pictures from this awful post-war time period

5. A realistic portrayal of the fallout of war and those it leave behind, both living and dead. So really, bringing WWI to the millennial generation. Winters is aces in my books!  

In a letter to Mary Shelley from her father, he writes:
"I know the world seems terrifying right now and the future seems bleak. Just remember human beings have always managed to find the greatest strength within themselves during the darkest hours. When faced with the worst horrors the world has to offer, a person either cracks and succumbs to the ugliness, or they salvage the inner core of who they are and fight to right the wrongs.
     Never let hatred, fear, and ignorance get the best of you. Keep bettering yourself so you can make the world around you better, for nothing can ever improve without the brightest, bravest, kindest, and most imaginative individuals rising above the chaos" (106). 
5 stars

Read: January 6, 2016

Title: Lark Rising
Author: Sandra Waugh
Publisher: Ember
Published: January 2014
Genres: YA, fantasy, romance, adventure
This is a lovely book; Sandra Waugh uses a combination of current and proper (?) vernacular to help you feel like you're transported to another time/ world.                                
The one thing that irked me was Lark's stubborn, unwavering commitment to a promise she made to her cousin, Evie. It became annoyingly cumbersome to our hero's plight, and it was frustrating [as the reader] to not be able to reason with her.

I love the world-building, and am looking forward to the rest of the series!

4 Stars

[As a fellow introvert!] "The villagers accepted my distance, though they could not truly understand why I preferred - nay, needed - my solitude in the fields and gardens, where almost all things hummed sweetly low, and in harmony." [Lark; 22]

"What, did you not know that the story of one's destiny is held between the covers of a book?... We all have tales told of us; each of us has a book - a fate." [Twig; 246]


Ok, Spinning Jenners! I guess this is a 6-in-one blog article. Have you read any of these gems? Feel free to recommend anything you think I NEED TO READ!! Because I do. Need to read, that is... Everything.

Take care! Stay-tuned for more awesome reviews from yours truly! And, as always, thanks for reading!!!

~Spinning Jenny


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