Series Review: Crewel World by Gennifer Albin

Unraveled by Gennifer Albin. Farrar Straus Giroux. 286 pp.

Unraveled by Gennifer Albin. Farrar Straus Giroux. 286 pp.

I won a copy of Crewel, the first book in this series, from a  blog giveaway last year. I’d never heard of it before and wasn’t particularly excited to read it, but I figured I’d give it a shot, and I was glad I did. I enjoyed visiting the world that Gennifer Albin had created, a world in which “spinsters” weave the very fibers of civilization on specially-created looms. However, creating the tapestry of life also grants an inordinate amount of power for destruction, and there are some pretty power-hungry people in Arras.

I finished the first book feeling super-excited that it was the first in a trilogy; I couldn’t wait to see where the story was headed. Last year, I actually exchanged a Christmas gift from a friend (a duplicate of a book I already owned) for a copy of the second book in the series, Altered. Sadly, the second book was a disappointment. It just didn’t live up to the promise of the first book. Still, though, certain events had been set in motion, and I retained a hint of curiosity as to how things would pan out.

As Unraveled’s release date neared, I found myself unwilling to shell out the money to own a copy; not only am I beyond out of room on my shelves, but I didn’t want to be disappointed again. However, I lucked out and won a copy from a First Reads giveaway on Goodreads.

In retrospect? Not so lucky, that win. I am SO GLAD I didn’t waste my money on this book. It was even weaker than book two, in my opinion. The characters were flat, the romance was unconvincing, and the conclusion of the love triangle seemed like a poor attempt to please supporters of both love interests. The only redeeming quality for me was [SPOILER, I guess?] that the good guys won.

I hate it when a series catches my attention and then peters out; I’m always torn between satiating my curiosity and wasting my time. In this case, I feel that my time was wasted. At least they were quick reads…

All in all: Avoid unless you really love dystopian YA and don’t mind that this will be far from the best thing you read this year.

Summer Reading List: Did. Not. Like.

I always feel a little guilty when writing a poor review. But if I raved about everything it wouldn’t be honest, so here we go.

The Little Prince, written & illustrated by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Scholastic. 111 pp.

The Little Prince, written & illustrated by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Scholastic. 111 pp.

I picked this one up at a local book sale. I grabbed it because I was looking at literary tattoos a while back and noticed that a lot of people had tattoos from this book. I figured that if it meant enough to that many people it would be worth checking out. Well…I don’t know if I’m remembering things wrong (maybe there were far fewer tattoos than I recalled) or if this book just wasn’t for me, but I pretty much hated it. It’s just over 100 pages but it took me forever to get through it.

It’s written in a grand storytelling style that makes it seem like it will have something mind-blowing and important to say, but in the end, it’s a series of not-that-deep observations about humanity held loosely together by a character that I didn’t find all that interesting. I’d say skip it.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. Wordsworth Classics. 245 pp.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. Wordsworth Classics. 245 pp.

Maybe I’ll be lambasted for this one, but I thought this book was highly overrated and…well…awful. It’s billed as a classic love story with sweeping descriptions of the moors, but I didn’t get that at all. Catherine and Heathcliff’s love is talked about more than shown, and the one time it is shown, it’s poorly done. I didn’t care about their “relationship” at all, so I didn’t care about whether or not they ended up happy and whether or not Heathcliff got to exact his revenge. And the depiction of nature? Nonexistent, except to say things along the lines of “We walked through the field and there were mountains in the distance.” (Okay, a bit more eloquent than that, but not half as much as you’d think.) Also, there’s not a single likable character in this book (apart from maybe Hareton). I don’t always need to like characters — sometimes I love to hate them — but when I don’t care at all about them, one way or the other, the book falls flat for me. This is one of the worst classics I’ve ever read, and I’d advise you to stay far, far away.

Unraveled by Gennifer Albin. Farrar Straus Giroux. 286 pp.

Unraveled by Gennifer Albin. Farrar Straus Giroux. 286 pp.

In my review of Crewel a while back, I mentioned that the second book, Altered, didn’t hold up to the promise of the first installment. I still wanted to know how the trilogy ended, though, so I was thrilled when I won a copy of this book via a Goodreads First Reads giveaway. However…it’s even worse than the second book. Why do publishers insist on writing up contracts for trilogies in instances when a single, finely-tuned novel would be much better? (I know, I know: Selling three books is far preferable to selling one. But they’re filling the world with crappy books!) There wasn’t much of interest in this book: the predicament wasn’t frightening enough, the characters were all flat and boring, and the ending was laughable. Not worth reading.

That’s it for today, folks. Here’s hoping that I have some good books coming up soon! 🙂

Series Review: What happened when I caved and read the Divergent books

 

Divergent by Veronica Roth. Katherine Tegen Books. 487 pp.

Divergent by Veronica Roth. Katherine Tegen Books. 487 pp.

This review is chock full o’SPOILERS, so stop here if you haven’t read these books yet and plan to. Or, if you want, you could take my recommendation and avoid them like the plague they turned out to be.

I’m always wary of a series that’s deemed the Next Big Thing. Divergent kept popping up, and I kept ignoring it — especially after watching the film trailer — because it seemed like a cheap snack to satisfy readers’ post-Hunger-Games appetites. However, I avoided Twitter the week that Allegiant came out, because I didn’t want to be spoiled. You know, just in case. Then the Kindle edition of the first book went on sale for $4.99, so I bought it and flew through it. And — surprise! — I really enjoyed it. The writing is nothing to rave about; it’s plain and to-the-point and really not very good at all. But the plot grabbed me, and I found that I needed to get my hands on the next two books, so I did.

Sadly, this is one of those situations where I wish I had my fifteen dollars (and fifteen-ish hours of my life — yes, I’m a fairly slow reader) back. Insurgent, the second installation in the series, was a notch or two below its predecessor. The previously-strong (not in writing but in personality) characters of Tris and Four became lying, manipulative sneaks. They made reckless, childish mistakes that put their society in even more danger than it already was. Then, at the end of the book, there was a discovery that gave me hope for Allegiant, the final book: their society was a genetic experiment being run by the U.S. government. Culture shock and a master plan? I was intrigued.

Upon reading Allegiant, however, I was more disappointed than I’ve been by a book in a long time. This is a blockbuster series; how could it be such utter crap? I thought to myself. The characters become even bigger wrecks; Tris and Four’s relationship seemed about to crumble, but they miraculously made up right when they needed to in order to tug at the reader’s heartstrings. I saw this manipulation happening, though, and I wasn’t even sad when the Big Sad Thing happened because I felt like it was thrown in there just to make me cry. And I’d be damned if I was going to give Roth the satisfaction of doing that. Because — SPOILER ALERT, just in case you missed it earlier — Tris dies. Needlessly. When an author kills off a character for a good reason, it’s devastating. I’m still mourning Albus Dumbledore; I actually sobbed when he died. And I flung Deathly Hallows across my hostel bunk bed in London when Fred Weasley died. But Tris’s death? It was so stupid, so obviously thrown in there as a last-ditch effort to make a poorly-constructed book give readers “the feels,” that it made me angry — angrier than I already was because of the shoddy writing and loose plot.

All in all: Divergent is an above-average dystopian YA novel, but these books get progressively worse. Read them if you want to see what all the fuss is about, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Review: Crewel by Gennifer Albin

Crewel

Crewel by Gennifer Albin. Square Fish. 400 pp.

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.


I’m terrible with books sometimes: I’ve fallen in love with some pretty obscure titles (one of my favorite books is The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler; please tell me if you know it), but sometimes I don’t hear of popular ones until they’re everywhere. And, as sheepish as I am to admit it, I hadn’t heard of Crewel before when I won a copy in a giveaway hosted by A.T. O’Connor on her blog, Whispering Minds. As soon as I saw the cover, though, I had a feeling I was going to like this one. I get like that with covers sometimes. It’s like love at first sight. (Of course, there are times when my first impression is terribly, terribly wrong, but usually I’m pretty good about it.)

Here’s my only real complaint about Crewel: the description doesn’t give the book justice. It makes it sound like the entire story revolves around the last hour that Adelice has before the Guild comes to get her, and there’s so much more than that. (Also, it makes it sound like she actually escapes, so I was bewildered when the Guild swoops in and completely upends her life.)

Other than that, no complaints, really. I couldn’t stop reading this book. The idea of a world where environment and events are part of a carefully woven tapestry was new and interesting. (Well, new if you don’t think about the Fates. But this interpretation still struck me as pretty fresh.) The world of Spinsters (girls selected for their above-average ability to work the looms and weave — quite literally —  the fabric of society) is one of glamour, as long as you don’t think too hard about what it is they’re doing…especially when it comes time to rip a thread. (Or, in not-so-subtle terms, end a life.) The amount of power held by these women is envious to some and terrifying to others, and I enjoyed watching the power plays in action. Like so many recent YA titles, there’s a love triangle, but it’s not terribly distracting. The world is well crafted and well explained, and I really enjoyed reading this.

All in all: Worth reading, particularly if you enjoy dystopian novels. However, I recently finished Altered, book two in the series, and I don’t think it held up to the promise of Crewel. So if you’re looking for a consistently strong series, maybe search elsewhere. (Altered isn’t bad, just…it didn’t excite me the way the first installment did.)

Review: Clean Slate Complex by Megan Thomason

CleanSlateComplex

clean slate complex by Megan Thomason. 71 pp.

Here’s the thing about a novella: just as you figure out who’s who and where things are headed, the action stops. Cut off, just like that, right as things were starting to get interesting. Or maybe it’s just the ones I’ve been reading lately. Am I just being impatient because I don’t want to wait to find out what happens next? Perhaps…

Anyway. Clean slate complex is a companion piece to the daynight series (which I haven’t read yet). It’s supposed to take place between the events of daynight and its sequel, arbitrate. It’s about a girl named Alexa Knight whose homeless family is taken in by the Second Chance Institute. At a glance, the SCI is a poverty-stricken family’s dream come true: food and shelter, clean clothes, showers, jobs, health care, education, and any electronic devices you may need to get your homework done. The conditions? Well, you’ll see. Alexa starts to ask questions but is afraid of pushing too far because the SCI is footing the bill for her sick mother’s hospital stay. Without giving too much away, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, the Second Chance Institute is much more terrifying than it initially seems.

This is worth reading if you don’t mind being led right to the brink of the action and then denied access to the rest of the show, so to speak. The pacing is excellent and the storyline is unbelievable in all the right ways. This is a dystopian world that I’d like to see more of; it’s a good combination of the recognizable and the how-the-hell-did-society-get-here. That’s the scariest type of dystopia, isn’t it? One where you could see yourself in, say, twenty years? And clean slate complex portrays that wonderfully. I didn’t feel terribly attached to the characters, but that might be because I only had seventy-one pages to get to know them.

All in all: If you’re more patient than I am and you’re fond of YA dystopia, you’ll probably like this. I enjoyed reading it but did not enjoy the fact that it ended so soon.

Review: Naturals by Tiffany Truitt

Naturals by Tiffany Truitt. 352 pp. Entangled Teen.

Natural-born humans are becoming obsolete due to an unexplained virus that is rendering more women infertile with each passing generation. The dictatorial leaders of the council have created a race of genetically engineered beings called Chosen Ones who supposedly exist to protect the remaining Naturals from harm. But the council’s goals are more sinister than they claim to be. Tess, a young woman found to be fertile, is on the run from the council and staying with a group of Isolationists, Naturals who refuse to be held comfortably captive in the council’s compounds. As Tess struggles to adjust to life in the Isolationists’ camp, she wonders if she has merely been passed to a different group of captors.

Full disclosure: I didn’t know this was part of a series. If I had, I probably would’ve read the first book first. (I hate reading a series out of order.) But since I didn’t figure it out until a few pages in, and by then I was “in the middle” of this one and wanted to keep going, this will have to be one series I don’t read chronologically. Now that I think about it, this may be the only series I haven’t read in the right order. I need to stop thinking about this, ’cause it’s going to bug me.

Anyway. One of the reasons I never read out of order is that I hate piecing together the backstory. Even though the first few pages generally help readers to pick up where the last book left off, and there are some scattered explanations and reminders throughout the book, I always feel like I’m missing something. It’s like the way you feel when your friends have a legendary night the one time you decide to stay home — even though you’re heard about it so many times that you know the details as well as they do, you’re still one degree removed from the action. (Side note: This makes me think of “The Blitz” on How I Met Your Mother. [“The Gentleman!”]) This feeling of being removed from the action is probably why I didn’t like James. (Or maybe it’s because he reminds me of Edward Cullen: no personality of his own, really, just a boring artsy guy with superpowers who struggles with the duality of his nature while being hung up on an ordinary, often-sullen mortal girl. Is it terribly apparent that I am Team Jacob?) Seriously, though: without getting to watch the beginning of Tess and James’s courtship, it (and their love) just wasn’t real to me. I had no desire for them to work things out because I didn’t feel any emotional connection to their relationship. Other than that disconnect, I didn’t feel like I was missing too much by not having read the first book first.

This is all making it sound like I disliked this book, which is not the case at all. I’m a sucker for a decent dystopian novel; characters whose lives are threatened and whose worlds are rocked have the chance to show you what they’re really made of. The characters in Naturals are real people (well, most of them, anyway): they go through tough times, they make mistakes, and sometimes (but not always) they learn from them.

I also enjoyed Tess as a narrator, because there really is nothing special about her other than her fertility, and this makes her immensely relatable (the “everygirl” quality, not the fertility…although I can relate to that, too, come to think of it).

The idea of living in a society where you aren’t guaranteed a family legacy, where family is actually a dying concept, is frightening. And the desperate things that people will do to avoid dying out too soon…well, it’s not surprising, but it’s still a lot to wrap your head around, and this book does a wonderful job of portraying that.

All in all: a good exploration of what it means to truly be a member of the human race. Worth reading.

4/5 stars.