For me, Anomaly was true to its name, in that its sheer level of terrible landed it on my extremely rarely used "too-awful-to-finish" shelf.
A YA dysto...moreFor me, Anomaly was true to its name, in that its sheer level of terrible landed it on my extremely rarely used "too-awful-to-finish" shelf.
A YA dystopian? Sure, I'll give it a whirl. A YA dystopian that beats me over the head with the author's particular brand of religion and is more than a little short on character development, believable worldbuilding, and plot? Pardon me while I Hail Mary the book like there's five seconds left in the Super Bowl and I'm Tom Brady trying to finish off a dramatic comeback.
I ran across this book in July while perusing my library's new YA ebook purchases. There were already quite a few people on the hold list, which piqued my interest, and the blurb looked okay at first glance, so I signed up for it. I waited nearly three months for my turn to arrive. Today I was notified that the book was finally available to me. Excited, I downloaded it. And that's when I discovered that this book treats people like they're heathen tent pegs that can be forced into the desired position on religion if hit hard and often enough with a Christian hammer.
Now, I'd like to point out that I'm not knee-jerk hating on this book. In the past, I've enjoyed certain stories that included or were based on religious themes and elements, Cynthia Hand's Unearthly series being a prime example. However, Anomaly contains a ton of evangelical Christian messages and biblical quotes and not a whole lot else - like characters that are sufficiently developed for the reader to give a rat's ass about them, or a coherent plot. To me, the MC, Thalli (yes, the kids in this book are named after elements from the periodic table, because Evil Scientists), was about as interesting and appealing as a bowl of cold oatmeal. She's supposed to be this huge danger to the Pod where she lives BECAUSE SHE HAS EMOTIONS AND NO ONE ELSE DOES, OH NOES! But she doesn't do much of anything, so it was hard for me to take that portrayal at all seriously. Now, I will freely admit that I couldn't make myself finish this book (an extremely rare event for me), so it's possible Thalli becomes a dynamic and fascinating character by the end. It could have happened. For all I know, it did happen. I'm just going to say I doubt it.
What's more, the contemptuous portrayal of science and scientists is extremely disturbing. Yeah, scientists, those evil jerks. What have they ever done for the world? It gets even worse when Thalli encounters a plot device man named John who tells her about the almighty Designer. And of course, we're talking about a very evangelical-friendly Christian version of said Designer. From that point on, we're on our way into Preachytown by way of the Science Is Bad line, and it's one hell of a fast ride.
To be fair, I shouldn't have assumed the book would be an entertaining read on the basis of a generic blurb and a long waiting list at my local library. That was stupid on my part, especially considering that I live in an area that's home to a large evangelical college. However, there are plenty of ways to include religious ideas and elements in a story effectively. Unfortunately, this book uses none of those options. Instead, it shifts quickly from storytelling into preaching and stays there, with an occasional jump into proselytizing for variety. But the true deal-breaker for me was the overwhelming impression I received that it was a vehicle for evangelical Christian messages first and an actual story a sad and distant second. If you want to preach, fine, but be up front about it. Don't encapsulate your message in a hollow shell of a YA dystopian in a ham-fisted attempt to make it more palatable to teens and to attract more readers. Just be honest about your true purpose. (less)
I'm going to need to read this a couple of times before I'll feel confident about reviewing it, so for now I'm giving it with a middle-of-the-road rat...moreI'm going to need to read this a couple of times before I'll feel confident about reviewing it, so for now I'm giving it with a middle-of-the-road rating. However, I will say that I'm not really looking forward to rereading it. (less)
Note: I read this book for free through the Simon PulseIt program and in exchange I am contributing a fair and honest review.
I honestly didn't expect...moreNote: I read this book for free through the Simon PulseIt program and in exchange I am contributing a fair and honest review.
I honestly didn't expect much from The Program - the blurb sounded pretty generic people-over-30-are-evil to me. However, I must admit that this book surprised me. The Program's typical fight-against-the-adults YA-dystopian aspects weren't terribly original, but they were decently plotted and well written. What made this book stand out for me were the surprisingly accurate and nuanced portrayals of depression, suicide, and the overwhelming sense of pressure that comes from knowing that everyone around you is watching you for signs of a breakdown. If you're into contemporary YA and like dystopian lit, there's a good chance you'll enjoy The Program. My thanks to Simon Pulse for the chance to read this! (less)
I decided to read Insignia after I ran across its sequel on the HarperTeen site, then realized my library had the first installment. My initial expect...moreI decided to read Insignia after I ran across its sequel on the HarperTeen site, then realized my library had the first installment. My initial expectations were low, especially when I realized the MC was a 14-year-old, as I haven't had a lot of luck with young-YA books in the last few years. I'm not going to say Insignia is a great work of literature, but it's entertaining, funny, and plays on two of my favorite themes: evil corporations taking over the world and life after your brain is augmented/replaced by an ultracomputer. While there are echoes of Ender's Game and even original Star Trek episodes (does anyone else remember "A Taste of Armageddon", in which Kirk & Co. encounter the society embroiled in a simulated "war" that nonetheless kills people by requiring them to report to suicide booths within 24 hours of being "killed"?), the plot is interesting and fast-moving and the characters were clearly drawn by someone who knows this age group well.
Now, there are times when you really have to will yourself into keeping that disbelief suspended. For example, the military and a bunch of (evil) corporate suits give a bunch of 14-year-olds super-abilities and tens of millions of dollars' worth of wetware, without much in the way of limitations or safeguards. Okay, everyone over the age of 16: does that sound like a good idea to you? I mean, at the age of 14, I was a certified Good Girl who got straight A's without trying and never broke the rules, and even knowing all that, I wouldn't trust the 14YO version of myself with that kind of power. However, if you don't expect too much in the way of realism, is a quick read with an engaging plot and a sizable vein of humor. (less)
*THE FOLLOWING IS A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT REGARDING "THE ELITE"*
For a while there I honestly thought that I hadn't given the first book in this...more*THE FOLLOWING IS A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT REGARDING "THE ELITE"*
For a while there I honestly thought that I hadn't given the first book in this series a fair shake, because I was so disgusted by Kiera Cass's unprofessional antics last year. So against my better judgment, I decided I would buy this book and give it a read.
Here's the truth: It's worse than The Selection. Seriously, it is. Don't waste your money, don't waste your time, don't waste the skill of the ophthalmologist who will have to work his or her fingers to the bone in a desperate attempt to save your sight after your eyeballs are seared by the scorching stupidity of this story.
Now if you're a Kiera Cass fangirl and you loved loved loved The Selection, then perhaps you'll enjoy this too. Or perhaps there's some sort of anti-stupidity eyeball varnish product available on the market that makes you feel like you're watching adorable little kittens frolicking about whenever you read something that would otherwise be painfully inane, in which case I hope someone will contact me with a link for said product right away.
However, if you didn't like the first book, or you were on the fence about it, or you refused to read the first one for whatever reason, I urge you to avoid this piece of dreck unless you're checking it out of the library and have a huge stockpile of that eyeball varnish close to hand.
After some internal debate, I'm giving Ready Player One three stars as a compromise. The book's overall plot and ideas were in four-star territory for...moreAfter some internal debate, I'm giving Ready Player One three stars as a compromise. The book's overall plot and ideas were in four-star territory for me, but the writing was clumsy and unpolished enough that I often felt as though I were reading the first draft of a self-published novel.
The story itself is entertaining enough - the death of a billionaire who was basically a combination of Bill Gates and Howard Hughes sets off an enormous contest in which gamers of all stripes compete to win the billionaire's fortune and control of the corporation that owns and operates the world-dominating OASIS system. They have to use their knowledge of the billionaire, who was apparently obsessed with music, television, movies, and gaming from the late 1970's through the mid-1990's, to decipher his clues and complete the trials he set for each level. I genuinely enjoyed many of the details about the world Cline created. The ad-hoc transformation of trailer parks into violence-ridden "stacks" where poor Americans live 15 to a double-wide was extremely disturbing, while the description of mega-corporation IOI as an entity with its own police force and the power to force those who fall behind on their bills into a lifetime of involuntary indentured servitude was believable enough to make me shudder.
However, it appears Cline either never heard the dictum "show, don't tell" or was too lazy to care about it. His protagonist, Wade Watts, spends much of the book telling us virtually EVERYTHING. And the sheer amount of infodumping, particularly in the first half of the book, is unbelievable and really takes away from the story.
Cline definitely had the seeds of a great book in Ready Player One, but all too frequently lapsed into lazy storytelling. For his next book, I hope he finds an editor who can help him work through his weaknesses. (less)
Crewel reminds me of one of my early experiments in cooking - a mix of many different good ingredients that ultimately did not combine well.
Gennifer A...moreCrewel reminds me of one of my early experiments in cooking - a mix of many different good ingredients that ultimately did not combine well.
Gennifer Albin has on the surface created a unique world - one in which the only unmarried women of the society are the Spinsters. These women use looms to weave the threads of this reality and thereby create and maintain every feature of said society, every so cutely named Arras (as in, the assassin hiding behind the arras), under the minute control of male politicians. They have power over everything: they can change or create new geographic features, direct the weather on a minute-to-minute basis, and even rip "threads" (read: people) out of the tapestry, thereby supposedly killing them. Herein lies a giant plot hole: if the Spinsters literally have control over every aspect of this reality, including people's existence, why haven't they revolted and taken over? The author works to resolve this with the common dystopian trope of women being stuck in subservient roles (in this case, forced to marry by 18 and work as teachers, nurses, secretaries, stewardesses, etc.), but to me the scenario didn't really make sense for this book. With so much power, it makes no sense that the Spinsters would remain subservient. I can certainly understand why men would want to push women into lower-caste roles - fear of power leads many groups of people to do all sorts of awful things - but without more information, this doesn't hold water for me.
At any rate, our heroine, Adelice, is chosen to become a Spinster because she has a pronounced ability to weave the threads of Arras - and ability her parents have tried to hide. Good little Adelice, who has never questioned her parents' understated resistance to typical Arras social values nor resisted their attempts to train her into an appearance of clumsiness, rather jarringly becomes rebellious Adelice. She quickly makes enemies out of nearly every powerful figure she encounters, from a fellow talented new Spinster to a top male political figure.
She also attracts two love interests - Erik, who is the (underdeveloped and largely uninteresting) boy toy of a cartoonishly mean villainess, and Jost, whom she first hates and then quickly loves, in true current YA fashion. Yes, it's the dreaded love triangle - only it's the kind of love triangle in which you can tell very quickly which two of the three points are going to get together but the author still tries to keep up the romantic "tension".
Eventually Adelice discovers she's a special snowflake among special snowflakes, in that she has the power to weave the threads of Arras without using a loom. She ends up apprenticed to the Creweler (the only other person in Arras who can do such a thing), a position of great power, though still supposedly subservient to men. Varying twists and turns ensue, and by the end, Adelice discovers a long-hidden secret about Arras and leaves us at a breathless cliffhanger ending, two love interests at her sides.
There were aspects of Crewel I genuinely liked, but a lot of it left me feeling confused, irritated, or both. The weaving and the mutable-reality aspects of the story were interesting (though the former reminded me of the Fionavar Tapestry trilogy in some ways), but I found the world-building somewhat lacking. There was an explanation of Arras' history (which I won't mention, for fear of being too spoilery), but it was limited and didn't really explain how women came to be subjugated nonentities. The conflict between the idea that women held such enormous power over Arras reality and the notion that they held no power within their society bothered me quite a bit. And while I liked the development of one of the love interests, Jost, the other one remained flat as a handsome paper doll to me.
Overall, I'm giving Crewel the benefit of the doubt and rating it three stars. There's the potential for the story to become more coherent and the world-building more clear in future installments. I'm interested to see where the author goes from the cliffhanger (though I hope she won't take the typical post-apocalyptic route) and what she does with the situations Jost faces at the end of the book. There were just enough original elements and interesting touches to make the series worth following into the future.