Book Review: The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron (4/5)

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Set in Victorian times, The Dark Unwinding opens with a gothic atmosphere. Our main character, Katherine Tulman, is a penniless orphan who must obey the commands of her tyrannous Aunt Alice. So when Aunt Alice sends her to the countryside to proclaim her uncle mentally insane, Katherine resigns herself to do so.

Little does she know, she falls in love with the world her uncle lives in. Her uncle is (I think) a savant. He’s marvelously talented at numbers and inventions, yet mentally a child. At his estate, a whole community of people flourishes – can Katherine really destroy everything they have? Can she commit her childlike uncle to an asylum?

I really liked the gothic, almost steampunk-like feel of the setting and atmosphere. The characters all have very distinct personalities and voices – Davy, the mute little boy with the hare, is particularly lovable. And then, the classic love interest, Lane, is stereotypically tall, moody, dark and annoying (to me).

For some reason, I think I liked the ideas more than the actual book. There is definitely skill, novelty and risk-taking in Sharon Cameron’s writing and plot…but I can’t help but feel like The Dark Unwinding could have been something deeper, something more emotionally entangling.

***book provided by Creative Kids Magazine for review

Read more of my book reviews here on my blog: Remembering Wonderland!

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Book Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer (4/5)

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I bought Cinder from B/N on a book store haul a while ago. I’d been trying to get my hands on a copy of the book for a while, and I knew it was a book I’d have to own. I had been told that a novel I’m working on currently (a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin in a futuristic world) sounded like Cinder — Check out its blurb on my writing blog: Tangled Inkspills.

The premise of Cinder is basically this: Cinder is a 16-year-old mechanic working in the city of New Beijing. She’s talented, hardworking and self-sacrificing — She singlehandedly supports her stepmother and two stepsisters. But Cinder happens to be a cyborg and therefore a second-class citizen. (She’s often reminded of that by her stepmother.)

Pros:

  • The futuristic Eastern setting brings a fresh twist to the timeless Cinderella tale.
  • The house robot, Iko, has a very unique, quirky and girly personality. It’s impossible not to love her. She adds flavor to the dialogue.
  • Cinder is a mechanic and a relatively strong female protagonist.
  • The story is very well-paced.

Cons:

  • Prince Kai is a very stereotypical love interest, and all throughout the novel (evil me) I was screaming, “Don’t fall for him, Cinder! Don’t fall for him!”
  • Cinder is kinda self-deprecating…She doesn’t see her own value and often refuses to believe things…
  • The plot twist is quite predictable.
  • Deep themes are not fully exposed.

Overall, Cinder is a nice action-packed story for teenage boys and girls alike. I can’t imagine this spreading into the adult market since it’s somewhat limited in the scope of “deep themes.” I feel like there are themes/issues that are only briefly touched on…But that’s ok. I liked Cinder anyways. It was a very fun, well-written and well-paced read.

I’m actually extremely happy that this is a quartet of books. I know I will definitely be reading the next 3 just to see how Marissa Meyer works 3 retellings of different fairytales into Cinder’s world.

Update: ALL the books on my list

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Netgalley Titles

  1. Thin Space
  2. The People in the Trees
  3. Peregrine Harker and the Black Death
  4. Parallel Heart
  5. The Boy Who Could See Demons
  6. Aimless Love
  7. For the Good of Mankind
  8. Born to Blog
  9. Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself
  10. The Heart of the Matter
  11. Unexplained Fevers
  12. Gene Keys
  13. Sons of Liberty
  14. Amandine
  15. The Goddess in Every Girl
  16. Eat Move Sleep
  17. The Best of Connie Willis
  18. PS – You’re Invited

Creative Kids

  1. The Books of Elsewhere #1
  2. The Dark Unwinding

Leisure Books (Not Obligated to Review)

  1. Timeless (won from Figment contest)
  2. Timekeeper (won from Figment contest)
  3. Change Anything (library book)
  4. Dragon Slippers (library book)
  5. Leviathan #1 (library book)
  6. How to Find an Agent (library book)
  7. Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning (ordered from Amazon)
  8. Reckless (ordered from Amazon)
  9. another library book…I forgot the title of…
  10. The Tragedy Paper (won from Figment contest)
  11. The Wind in the Willows (recommended by a friend)
  12. Angels and Demons (recommended by a friend)
  13. The Da Vinci Code (recommended by a friend)
  14. The Lost Symbol (recommended by a friend)
  15. Inferno (recommended by a friend)

Update: Last Batch of Books from Creative Kids

As July rounds the corner, my term on the Creative Kids National Magazine editorial staff is coming to an end… Over these four years, as an Advisory Board member (2009-2011) and senior contributor (2011-2013), I have greatly enjoyed the experience of reviewing books, submitting creative works and collaborating with the other advisory board members. If you haven’t heard of CK, look it up! And if you’re a kid, submit something! Creative Kids National Magazine is unique in that it’s the nation’s largest completely by-kids-for-kids magazine.

The end of this experience also correlates to a turning point in my life (turning 18). I hope this is when my writing transitions successfully from children’s/teen’s into adult anthologies.

But before my term ends, I have a batch of MG/YA books to review. They just arrived in the mail today. I’m always so excited to get books in the mail. Yeah, yeah, eBooks are good and economical and all, but…paper…shiny new cover…real ink… I’m devoting a blog post to this!

1. The Books of Elsewhere (MG, fantasy) <– I have great hopes that my little brother will enjoy this

2. The Dark Unwinding (YA, steampunk) <– I’ve only dipped my toes into steampunk and I really, really hope that steampunk will prove awesome and unconventional. Maybe I might try my hand at steampunk!

Thank you, Creative Kids! I have appreciated the extraordinary opportunity and hope Creative Kids will continue inspiring creative kids! Goodbye and best wishes.

Book Review: The Scroll of Years by Chris Willrich (1.5/5)

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Summary: Persimmon Gaunt and Imago Bone are an unconventional couple and partners in crime: a poet and a slow-aging thief. As they wander to the Eastern edge of the world, they are swept onto an adventure that involves magic scrolls, gangs, the mythical dragons and their unborn child.

I really wanted to like this book. I really did. High fantasy with Eastern influence, threads of Chinese culture. A magical scroll. A poet and a thief as the main characters. The names Gaunt and Bone. It sounds like it could be something astounding, something breathtakingly fantastical.

The author’s writing style…Ahhh this tears me apart. On one hand, it’s very gorgeous, scattered with stunning figurative language and a distinct Eastern cultural influence. But, after reading a few pages, I felt like it was stilted in many places. It was not “fitting.” The author either rambled off into details/thought processes or did too much “telling.”

I could not lose myself into the world of this book; the writing style, alternative plotline and voice just weren’t for me. They kept distracting me. And…main point: the characters. I never got to know the true personalities of the characters. Their stories, especially that of Next-One-A-Girl (the name drew me in, nice touch), could have been heartbreakingly emotional. But they weren’t. They were all kind of flat.

The premise of the book seemed very intriguing. But I never got into the actually story. So much of it felt unbalanced. And it’s not because it’s for a younger age group. Apparently it’s marketed to “Mature Young Adult” on Litpick. I don’t know how other readers will find this book.

Remember, this review is just my own opinion.

***eBook provided by Litpick.com in exchange for my honest review

Book Review: Earth Girl by Janet Edwards (3.5/5)

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Earth Girl, set hundreds of years in the future, offers a stunning vision of humanity’s future. We can regrow limbs, we have marvelous technology, and we have colonized many other planets. In a matter of seconds, we can transport between these planets in a matter of seconds through special portals…. All except for the taboo “apes,” humans who were born without the immune system needed to survive on other planets. They are abandoned at birth on Earth.

Confined to Earth and rejected by the majority of humanity, “ape” girl Jarra makes an impulsive and courageous decision upon turning 18. She’s fed up with the feelings of rejection that come with being an “ape.” And she’s going to prove that “apes” are just as human as everyone else.

Going undercover under a covert identity, Jarra begins attending a different school and pretends she’s normal. As she discovers more about herself and her classmates, her search for identity takes twists and turns. Weaving in elements of science fiction, a coming-of-age journey and romance, Edwards tells a compelling story.

Personally, I enjoyed reading Earth Girl. Edwards has built a fascinating vision of the future, perhaps with an undertone of warning about human disposition towards prejudice and judgment. The world building, characterization and action scenes were the strong points of Earth Girl. However, some of the plot turns seem less developed. In addition, there are areas where the author “tells” rather than “shows.” I felt like Earth Girl, being aimed at the teen audience, could have been more technical with regards to the science and technology elements. In many ways, the author simplified emotions, themes, and society. The novel could potentially have been much more than it is, and I can’t help but feel a little disappointed.

Overall, Earth Girl was a action-packed pageturner…with interesting futuristic curse words. But most of all, the message of Earth Girl is something I really appreciate. I recommend this book to the YA audience, even those who may not be solid science fiction readers. Although Earth Girl didn’t make my personal Favorites shelf, I will be on the lookout for Janet Edwards’ future writings! 3.5/5

***eBook courtesy of LitPick.com in exchange for my honest review