Saturday, January 4, 2014

Behind the Times Review: Crewel, by Gina

Edition: eBook (Overdrive/Library)
Author: Gennifer Albin
Goodreads: Crewel
Release Date: October 16, 2012

Incapable. Awkward. Artless.
That’s what the other girls whisper behind her back. But sixteen-year-old Adelice Lewys has a secret: She wants to fail.

Gifted with the ability to weave time with matter, she’s exactly what the Guild is looking for, and in the world of Arras, being chosen to work the looms is everything a girl could want. It means privilege, eternal beauty, and being something other than a secretary. It also means the power to manipulate the very fabric of reality. But if controlling what people eat, where they live, and how many children they have is the price of having it all, Adelice isn’t interested.

Not that her feelings matter, because she slipped and used her hidden talent for a moment. Now she has one hour to eat her mom’s overcooked pot roast. One hour to listen to her sister’s academy gossip and laugh at her dad’s jokes. One hour to pretend everything’s okay. And one hour to escape.

Because tonight, they’ll come for her.

This is an older book, so I'll spare you my version of a summary and jump right into my opinion of the book: I really, really, really disliked it. The writing was inconsistent. The main character is supposed to be a Strong-Willed Strong Female and comes across as an unintelligent brat. And, in all honesty, you could remove her completely from the narrative and just let the story be what it's really about - Ambassador Cormac's rise to power through manipulation of everyone around him. This is not a female-focused book, despite the fact that the main character is a female. Everything plot device in this book further's Cormac's story, not Adelice's - until the last chapter when Adelice grows a spine and a brain and suddenly figures out a way to escape Arras. 

Let's be honest here, when talking about Adelice - mouthy does not equal (!=, for my programmer fans) smart. Adelice is given plenty of advice to shut up and observe the situation she's in before acting out and, instead, she goes about pissing everybody off and acting like it's okay because she just can't help herself. She has no control over herself because, ultimately, Adelice just cares about Adelice. As much as she talks about want to protect her sister and stop Cormac, her actions show that she really just wants to be the center of attention. 

This is not a series I intend to finish. I gave it two stars on Goodreads only because the idea of the world is so damn interesting. In the hands of a better writer, the world could have flourished - instead, it's shallow, like the characters.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Open Discussions: Allegiant, by Veronica Roth

Liz over at Assorted Leafs and I continue to attempt to have discussions about books, while basically having the same (but witty and hilarious) opinions.  Here is our discussion about Allegiant, by Veronica Roth.

My original review is here.
Liz's original review is here.

In the following discussion, Liz is THE GREEN COLOR and I am THE BLUE COLOR.  

What made you want to read it?
B: I only picked this up because I read the first two books and, while I wasn’t super impressed, I at least wanted to see where the story went.

L: I enjoyed Divergent, I was okay with Insurgent, but I was looking for a storyline redemption in Allegiant.

What were your hopes and expectations going into the book and why?
B: I had none. Insurgent had been a real slog for me, so I all I was hoping for was something that was a little more engaging.

L: Storyline redemption all the way. I wanted an explanation for the ruined state that Chicago had become because the first two books built up to made it seem that almost anything could be possible. The second book had more writing hiccups and I was looking to find the vigor of the first book.

At what point did you want to throw the book across the room in aggravation?
B: As soon as they started giving history on the Gene War. I originally wanted to study genetics in college, so I have a slightly-better-than-average understanding of the basics of genes, and, for the love of all that is holy on this Earth, genes DO NOT work like the book wants to make them work.

Now, having thought about it a bit, there may be some wiggle room I’m missing. There’s a lot of talk of propaganda and the like throughout the book, and how the government has covered up past wars, so it’s entirely possible the whole thing is a farce perpetrated by the government to control the… I don’t know what.

L: The same point. If my aim had been a little worse, it would have hit a window. When the blanket explanation was just ‘LOL GENETICS’ I had metaphorical square kittens. I didn’t want to read about a government conspiracy (also the whole “I inherit my job position” is some sort of hat nod to current politics or kingdoms; still dislike it either way). I wanted something atrocious that would at least give a little more meaning to all the deaths that had already occurred in the previous books. If Veronica Roth wanted me to believe in the ‘genetic explanation’ than there should have been more emphasis on the purity wars to make it seem like a more real and relevant point. I would have found it more believable if we had been able to see the other cities, to see the residents of other places, or to even see a different science center. I would have liked a better representation of the government, more of a presence than just the scientists.

Did you think the characters and their problems/decisions/relationships were believable or realistic?
B: I think they came off realistic, although I’m always a little leary of relationships in post-apocalyptic war situations. Sometimes the personalities just don’t seem to mesh right and no one ever asks, “You know, in any other situation where we weren’t about to die at any moment, would we actually be together?” I think the answer, for Tris and Four, would actually be a no. At least not in the long term. They have some serious trust issues that never really get addressed or fixed. Yes, they talk about it, but it just kind of ends up being Scumbag Steve-style, “Of course I’ll never lie to you again. ~lies less than 3 pages later~”

L: I thought that Tris and Caleb were unbelievable for how their relationship had even happened. I don’t care if it’s her brother, the betrayal should not be forgiven so easily nor should he be trusted with important tasks. Based on Tris’ character in the previous two books, I found her character slightly believable yet still greatly dislikable.Tobias/Four seemed to become an angry paperweight. Like, “Here, hold this concept for a few chapters by being angry about it” and he did.

B: I love the phrase, “angry paperweight” - it fits Tobias perfectly. His rage was short lived, misplaced, and distracting. And then Tris would say something that would make it all better, and then go back to lying about everything.

Who was your favorite character and why?
B: I didn’t really have one, except maybe Tris’ Mom. She seemed like a strong-willed, awesome person, and I would probably read a series just about her.

L: ….I kind of liked Amar because he had a smaller role and couldn’t be ruined.

How did the book compare to the other books in the series?
B: Not any worse or any better, over all, except for the Bad Science.

L: I feel that it’s worse just because it was SO DISAPPOINTING. I wanted that redemption but it was not happening anywhere. I wanted to see more characters outside of Tris and Tobias, or even more about Tobias’ parents who were the main leaders of the warring bodies of old chicago! There were so many important people just glossed over.

What else struck you about the book as good or bad?
B: I have a hard time with Roth’s writing style, because it’s choppy and a little disjointed. She’s built a very interesting, possibly believable world (depending on where the propaganda line starts and stops), but some chapters, the writing makes it feel like I’m reading a book written for much, much younger readers.

L: I found it incredibly unnecessary to switch narrations between Tris and Tobias. I agree with Brittany wholeheartedly about the writing style, I would like to take it a step further to say that she really seemed to have lost her way in the book. It just seems like she was digging a very deep hole from the beginning. I think the book just proved that the author didn’t know how to manipulate world mechanics and brushed over any explanation with ‘because’.

However, I enjoyed the dose of reality of how emotionally removed the scientists were from the residents of Chicago whereas Tobias was very invested because he knew them personally. It seemed to be one of the few realistic aspects of human nature that was portrayed well.

Did the book end the way you expected?
B: I wasn’t expecting her to kill the main character, since that doesn’t happen often in YA, but it also felt like a completely pointless death. I’ve never bought into the idea that fiction should be “realistic” and people should die because people die in real life. I know people die in real life, because real life sucks, and I read books to escape real life, damn it.

L: I thought it was inevitable that Tris would get killed, I’m surprised that Tobias wasn’t killed as well. When the narration was split between two characters I immediately prepared for narrator murder and horrible third person perspective ending. Instead I got Tris death, and Tobias repeating the same sentiment that had been happening all book.

Were you glad you read this book?
B: Meh.

L: Eh, yes...I just wish it had been more of a worthy endeavor.