We're getting perilously close to Christmas, now, so it's time to knock out a few minis and then, hopefully, finish up the rest of the book reviewing I need to do before going on my annual holiday blog vacation.
The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron is a very unique Young Adult book that takes place in Victorian England. Katharine Tulman has been sent by her aunt to her uncle's massive estate, where she is given the job of committing him to an asylum so that the estate will not be frittered away before her fat cousin comes of age. Katharine feels she has no choice but to handle this unsavory job. Although her aunt has generously taken her in, Katharine is treated like a servant and assumes she'll be cast out into the streets of London if she doesn't follow through.
What she discovers is beyond her imagining. Her uncle is a childlike inventor and the maintenance of his estate supports over 900 people who were plucked from poverty. Katharine opts to take her time getting around to her task, but strange things are happening. Is Katharine in danger? What will happen to her uncle when tragedy strikes?
Recommended for adventure, a truly unusual story and constant twists and turns. If you love a plot-heavy book with a touch of romance, The Dark Unwinding is an excellent choice. The author's first novel is, however, not without problems. If you're a die-hard Anglophile, you'll know right off the bat that the author is not British without even reading her bio. Still, the language and some minor things I disliked about the setting were not enough to convince me to set the book down. I love an action-heavy book and enjoyed The Dark Unwinding for the constant surprises, even if there were little things I didn't love about it. Also, I'm crazy about that cover. I think it's beautiful.
Are You My Friend Today? is a book about children playing, fighting, laughing, eating, dreaming. It's a beautifully illustrated book. But, some of the pages are very "busy" -- the kind in which it's necessary to point at a particular bit while reading the text, so a small child knows exactly which part of the layout you're describing. Not all of the layouts are busy in that way; and, at times, I felt like I was totally swept into the beauty of this picture book, so although I didn't adore the book, I did like it.
Because of those particular page spreads that have a lot going on, I recommend picking up the book and flipping through it before purchasing. I had one child who loved a busy book; he could quietly entertain himself in a corner, just flipping through a book that was heavily illustrated, for a stunning amount of time. My other child couldn't bear clutter. So, Are You My Friend Today? is a book that will likely suit some adult readers and the children they love more than others. It really does have gorgeous illustrations, but is recommended with advice to peruse the book before making your decision.
Outside In by Maria V. Snyder is the sequel to Inside Out (see my review of Inside Out, here), a dystopian Young Adult novel. In Outside In, Trella has become frustrated with her part on the committee set up after the lowly "scrubs" have won their rebellion over the "uppers" with whom they share a cubicle living space.
Please be advised that the following bit may contain some spoilers and should be avoided if you haven't read Inside Out.
In the first book, Trella discovered the secret to her world and that it was far larger than the inhabitants realized. In Outside In, construction to expand into the empty space she discovered has begun. But, the former uppers and scrubs still think within the old terms; those who were accustomed to being crammed into the lower levels think of the uppers as privileged snobs. The uppers, meanwhile, think of the former scrubs as lesser humans. This results in a lot of infighting as well as difficulty to get the two groups to cooperate on the building process.
When they encounter a serious threat from outside their world, Trella has no idea who can be trusted. But, she has to trust someone because she simply cannot deal with the danger on her own. And, boy, that danger is really hairy, toward the end. There comes a point that you simply cannot turn the pages fast enough.
Outside In is every bit as action-packed and exciting as Inside Out -- the kind of book I love so much I know I'll want to reread it. I highly recommend both Inside Out and Outside In to lovers of YA novels -- dystopian with a strong heroine, a bit of romance, a lot of questions and crazy-tense action. Love, love, loved this book, an unusually satisfying follow-up book. There are only two books in this "series", unfortunately.
I bought my copy of Outside In in London and absolutely love the U.K. cover, although I can't tell you why. It's probably a combination of the colors, the look of action (very fitting) and the "sci-fi" feel of the design.
I have to stop to order a Christmas present and do some wrapping but hope to write up a few more reviews, this afternoon. You know how that goes. Sometimes it happens; sometimes it doesn't.
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