Reviews in a Minute: February Middles

These are some more February books! They’re like that first batch, only they are these particular books that come out in the middle of the month!

Night Spinner by Addie Thorley
Sensational by Jodie Lynn Zdrok
Turtle Under Ice by Juleah del Rosario
Red Hood by Elana K. Arnold



Reviews in a Minute: February Middles Night Spinner by Addie Thorley
Series: Night Spinner #1
Published by Page Street Kids on February 11, 2020
Pages: 400
Format:ARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review

A must-read for fans of Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse, transforming The Hunchback of Notre Dame into a powerful tundra-inspired epic.

Before the massacre at Nariin, Enebish was one of the greatest warriors in the Sky King’s Imperial Army: a rare and dangerous Night Spinner, blessed with the ability to control the threads of darkness. Now, she is known as Enebish the Destroyer―a monster and murderer, banished to a monastery for losing control of her power and annihilating a merchant caravan.

Guilt stricken and scarred, Enebish tries to be grateful for her sanctuary, until her adoptive sister, Imperial Army commander Ghoa, returns from the war front with a tantalizing offer. If Enebish can capture the notorious criminal, Temujin, whose band of rebels has been seizing army supply wagons, not only will her crimes be pardoned, she will be reinstated as a warrior.

Enebish eagerly accepts. But as she hunts Temujin across the tundra, she discovers the tides of war have shifted, and the supplies he’s stealing are the only thing keeping thousands of shepherds from starving. Torn between duty and conscience, Enebish must decide whether to put her trust in the charismatic rebel or her beloved sister. No matter who she chooses, an even greater enemy is advancing, ready to bring the empire to its knees.

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This book ended up being a lovely, pleasant surprise for me, for two notable reasons. First, I have been having kind of the worst time with fantasy lately, so I was wary when I started. I needn’t have been. Second, there are birds. It’s kind of a big deal. And yet, it didn’t turn me off!

What I Liked:

  • Who on earth can be trusted? Heh I like when everyone’s a mess and you’re pretty sure that no one is the least bit trustworthy. I mean, our girl Enebish didn’t always get that memo, but to be fair, I am trusting to a fault too, so I feel her pain.
  • This world is pretty dismal. Yes, I consider that a thing I like, okay? I mean my favorite show contains three apocalypses, so. Yeah so I guess it kind of is par for the course with all the lying, but things are not going great here. People are starving and killing each other and Idk even why completely, but I think it’s just because this is what humans do sometimes. The point is, Enebish would probably rather be hanging out with her bird friends somewhere, but alas. Sometimes you have to try to fix things because god knows they can’t get a whole lot worse.
  • Both Enebish and the side characters are very complex. Like, very much so. They all have reasons for their crappy acts, and while it doesn’t always excuse them, it does make seem more sensical. I really enjoyed watching her relationships with various characters unfold, because with a lot of dreadful actions comes the consequences.
  • On that note, gray morality is clearly a factor here. I mean, what if doing evil things can help do away with evil? I feel like we can almost understand these questions in our current landscape: we may want to take the moral highground, but what if doing so lets the bad guys win? Lots of great questions are asked during this one!

What I Didn’t:

  • Okay so I did kind of predict a lot of the stuff that was going to happen. I mean. This isn’t a dealbreaker or anything, but it happened, so.

Bottom Line: Enjoyable, full of very complex characters, and asking a ton of thought-provoking questions. I will definitely pick up the sequel!


Reviews in a Minute: February Middles Sensational by Jodie Lynn Zdrok
Series: Spectacle #2
Published by Tor Teen on February 11, 2020
Pages: 336
Format:eARC, ARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley, Won

Jodie Lynn Zdrok's Sensational is the thrilling follow-up to Spectacle in which a killer haunts the Paris World's Fair of 1889.

The 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris is full of innovations, cultural displays, and inventions. Millions of visitors attend over the course of several months...so no one would notice if a few were missing, right? Maybe—but someone is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the guillotine with a display of their own: beheaded victims in some of the Exposition's most popular exhibits.

Nathalie Baudin’s ability to see murder scenes should help, but she's suffering the effects of her magic more than ever before. Fortunately she has other Insightfuls to team up with—if they can be trusted.

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I quite enjoyed Spectacle last year, and found Sensational to be a good follow up. It takes place a couple years after book one ended, which I think was a brilliant choice for the sake of realism.

What I Liked:

  • Still wonderfully dark! The funny part is, it’s taking place during the world’s fair, which you’d expect to be an upbeat atmosphere (and it was!) all while trying to find a really messed up serial killer/beheader. Talk about a stunning dichotomy that ended up being played out exactly right! Also I would absolutely time travel to this fair, because it sounds incredible.
  • Nathalie has so many wonderful, meaningful relationships. I feel like she needed these friends in her life, and I am so glad that she has found them. I won’t say more because book one spoilers, but this is just so necessary for her. She also comes into this book with a beau in tow. Again, I can’t say much more than that, but it’s a thing. Also, she’s still close to her parents, which I loved. Especially as she’s a young woman who could feasibly be striking out on her own, she still realizes the importance of a good familial relationship. Love it.
  • The mystery absolutely drew me in. I mean, this was one heck of a well-plotted mystery, meticulously detailed in all its gruesomeness. The littlest details were simply fascinating and horrifying and I wanted to know everything.
  • Nathalie really grows during the book. She’s had to go through so much in these past few years, and really she needs to come to terms with who she is, along with all the terrible stuff that has befallen her. Figure out what she wants, who she wants to be, etc. I love that sort of character journey!!

What I Didn’t:

  • The end felt a little… anticlimactic perhaps? Hard to fully express this without spoilers, but yeah. It ended satisfactorily, in the sense that you won’t be filled with any such rage, and plot is resolved and such. But I just wanted more out of it, perhaps in terms of shock factor, or level of difficulty? 🤷‍♀️ I hope that is helpful, sorry I can’t say more.

Bottom Line: Definitely a solid follow up that will for sure answer your questions, but also give you a batshit mystery in the gorgeous backdrop of the Parisian 1889 Exposition Universelle.


Reviews in a Minute: February Middles Turtle Under Ice by Juleah del Rosario
Published by Simon Pulse on February 11, 2020
Pages: 272
Format:eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

A teen navigates questions of grief, identity, and guilt in the wake of her sister’s mysterious disappearance in this breathtaking novel-in-verse from the author of 500 Words or Less—perfect for fans of Elizabeth Acevedo.

Rowena feels like her family is a frayed string of lights that someone needs to fix with electrical tape. After her mother died a few years ago, she and her sister, Ariana, drifted into their own corners of the world, each figuring out in their own separate ways how to exist in a world in which their mother is no longer alive.

But then Ariana disappears under the cover of night in the middle of a snowstorm, leaving no trace or tracks. When Row wakes up to a world of snow and her sister’s empty bedroom, she is left to piece together the mystery behind where Ariana went and why, realizing along the way that she might be part of the reason Ariana is gone.

Haunting and evocative—and told in dual perspectives—Turtle Under Ice examines two sisters frozen by grief as they search for a way to unthaw.

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I confess that every time I see this cover, I can only see that this girl is stabbing herself in the eye with ice. And then my mind goes to her stabbing herself with a turtle, and honestly none of this tells you anything about the book whatsoever, but I needed to get this off my chest and/or find someone to commiserate.

What I Liked:

  • Obviously family is a huge focus of this book. It isn’t either of the girls’ only focus, mind, which it shouldn’t be. But I think that especially considering the past circumstances of both young women, it was clear that family was their central focus. And the family was just so authentic. They loved each other so fiercely, but were having difficulty coming to terms individually with all the really crappy stuff they’d been dealt. Which is really fair, how many other families find themselves in similar situations, you know? They’re all just doing the best they can, and life is just hard.
  • The writing was positively gorgeous. I could absolutely feel the pain radiating from the pages. The author did an amazing job setting the tone for the story, and it was sad but with specks of hope dotted, which is kind of perfect, considering the subject matter.
  • Packs a big emotional punch in a very quick story. I’d be lying through my teeth if I said I didn’t love reading a super quick book from time to time. I do, I love it. This one somehow makes the reader feel all the emotions during a fairly short time period, which is impressive.

What I Didn’t:

  • This may be a “me” thing, but I have a ton of trouble connecting to characters in verse novels. Seriously, is this just me? Like I said, the writing was lovely and emotionally provocative without a doubt. I just wanted to feel a little more immersed in the characters themselves, but maybe I need to just let go of that expectation in verse books?

Bottom Line: It’s got beautiful writing, and a sister duo who have gone through more than they should have had to. But they go on, as we must, and this story illustrates it brilliantly.


Reviews in a Minute: February Middles Red Hood by Elana K. Arnold
Published by Balzer + Bray on February 25, 2020
Pages: 368
Format:eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Edelweiss

You are alone in the woods, seen only by the unblinking yellow moon. Your hands are empty. You are nearly naked.
And the wolf is angry.

Since her grandmother became her caretaker when she was four years old, Bisou Martel has lived a quiet life in a little house in Seattle. She’s kept mostly to herself. She’s been good. But then comes the night of homecoming, when she finds herself running for her life over roots and between trees, a fury of claws and teeth behind her. A wolf attacks. Bisou fights back. A new moon rises. And with it, questions. About the blood in Bisou’s past and on her hands as she stumbles home. About broken boys and vicious wolves. About girls lost in the woods—frightened, but not alone.

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It must be wild inside the brain of Elana K. Arnold. The sheer uniqueness of every one of her books just blows my mind. How does she come up with this stuff?! I have no idea, but if she’s got any tips, I’m listening! I am going to try to not give much away about this one, because as always with Ms. Arnold’s work, figuring out what exactly you’re reading is half the fun! But I will tell you why you should invest your time in this one, so let’s go!

  • As always, it’s very driven by feminism and a general “screw the patriarchy” approach. I mean this book screams for women to take matters into their own hands, and to fight back at every turn. And frankly, if there was ever a time we needed to hear this, it’s now. It’s not just highlighting atrocities in Bisou’s modern life, it’s going back further to showcase how much crap women have gone through since forever.
  • There’s a huge focus on family and friendships. Gosh, I love when this happens. Especially when it happens in conjunction with a powerfully feminist narrative. Because women need to have each other’s backs, yeah? And this book illustrates all the good things that can come from women garnering strength from one another, and it’s damn lovely.
  • But men aren’t evil- not all of them! The author doesn’t vilify men in general here; she just vilifies the ones who are villains. Which is as it should be. There is discussion about just the general differences between the world as seen through a man’s eyes versus a woman’s, but it isn’t making the (decent) dudes out as bad guys, just saying that they need to stop for a second and take a look at what women are dealing with.
  • It kept me guessing. Oh, I love when books do that! In this one, there are two central mysteries, and I genuinely did not know what direction either would go in. Made the book very readable.

Bottom Line: It’ll make you angry, but it’ll also make you hopeful. And then maybe you’ll chant some versus of “I Am Woman”, especially with all the roaring.

Have you read any of these books? Plan to? Let us chat about them!

Posted February 12, 2020 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in In a Minute, Review / 13 Comments


13 responses to “Reviews in a Minute: February Middles

  1. I was glad to hear Turtle Under Ice was good. I liked the author’s last book, and as you mentioned for this book, the writing is gorgeous. I believe the author is known for poetry, and that probably plays a role in it all

  2. Beth W

    Screw the patriarchy + fairytale influenced + set in Seattle? Winner winner chicken dinner! My TBR list grows….so much. 😀
    Thanks as always for posting your reviews!

  3. I hadn’t heard of Turtle Under Ice, but I’m all about verse novels, so I definitely need to pick that one up. Though, I have to confess that even though I’m writing a verse novel, I actually agree that it’s harder to connect to characters in them. I have to figure out how to make that not happen in mine!!

    I’m about to read Red Hood, so I’m glad to know you liked that one too (and to prepare myself for what I’m getting myself into as far as the feminism goes). 🙂

  4. I’ve seen Night Spinner around more and more lately, and I still absolutely love that cover! It’s gorgeous. I’m really glad to see that you enjoyed it, though. I’ve been on the fence about picking it up, but I’ll have to give it a try. :3

    I’m so glad that you liked Red Hood, too! I’ve got an ARC I’ll be reading soon, and I never quite know what to expect after Damsel (which was not at ALL what I expected, but I still enjoyed). My big complaint with that one was that the guys were all evil or complicit (and therefore evil by extension), so I’m really glad to hear Arnold’s next book took a little detour from that. I really can’t wait to start this one!

  5. I loved Turtle Under Ice! But now I can’t seem to stop seeing a girl stabbing herself in the eye either. What have you dooone 😂 I didn’t know that it was told in verse going into it, so that was a pleasant surprise. I don’t read that many verse books, but they always tend to be good when I do!

    Red Hood sounds so good! It does sound a bit intense, so I’ll have to mentally prepare myself before reading it, but I’m still excited for it!

  6. Both of the first two novels sound really cool, but a shame about them being a bit predictable! Hmm, maybe I feel the same way about novels in verse and connecting to characters actually! Even though you’re often in their head the whole time, which is weird. I am glad you liked Red Blood! It looks so dark but also right up my alley as well…

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