Not a bad start …
The world Gennifer Albin creates in Crewel is a complex one. Arras is ruled by the Guild, which is run by men; but the world itself is controlled and held together by Spinsters - women who, quite literally, weave the world. The world is so intricate that it takes the entire novel to completely understand the kind of world that Adelice, the protagonist, lives in.
Adelice is gifted with seeing the raw weave of the world she lives in and has the rare talent of manipulating the weave without a loom. Her parents, recognizing this talent tried to teach her to hide it, but failed to tell their daughter why they wanted her to hide it in the first place which leads to her being chosen as a Spinster in the beginning of the story.
There is extensive world building in Crewel; a very ambitious attempt. However, to convey the inner workings of the world, Albin had to make Adelice ignorant of the world she grew up in. At first, I was able to accept this, but it struck me as very odd that her parents trained her for years to hide her gift, but did not educate her on the reasons. The more Adelice’s character was revealed the more unbelievable this became. She is a very headstrong protagonist, willful and curious, but she shows none of this towards her parents and blindly accepts their attempts to hide her gift. Given her character, I would assume that she would want to know why her parents did not want her to become a Spinster - the only women who are respected and honoured in their society. The reason they gave her - being taken away from home - seemed very flat.
This isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy her as a main character. I enjoyed her spunk and all the times she stood against the society, I just wished that she wasn’t so ignorant of the world she lived in or the potential of her talent. Of course, without her ignorance the world building would have been an extremely difficult task.
It took almost the entire story to set the world and its history, and even after the end there were still some question as to what exactly Arras was and how large it was. Even so, there was enough there to keep me reading.
If there was one downfall to the story it would be the love triangle. I’m not saying this only because I think most love triangles in YA novels are unbelievable; the main reason for this was that the two love interests could have been one person and nothing would have been lost in the story.
I’m definitely interested to see where Gennifer takes this world and its characters and am looking forward to reading more in the second installment.
[Review of ARC from BEA]
Release Date: 16th October, 2012 || Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux|| Details →
A curious beginning
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started, The Selection. I was more interested in the pretty cover than the story and I expected something light and ﬂuffy. Mostly, my expectations were met but there was a little surprise layer to the plot that left me wanting more and in a way caused some disappointments in how the story ended. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
The Selection is much like, The Bachelor, in a post-war society. A prince, holds a contest called “The Selection” where one girl from each province is chosen to live in the palace. Once there, the Prince interacts with the girls, narrowing his choices until he makes one his wife.
The society has a numbered caste system- one being royalty and eight the homeless beggars. America Singer, the protagonist, is a ﬁve whose especially gifted in music. Even though I felt the writing was very simplistic, I appreciated the way Kiera Cass handled the world building. We are given a bit of history in a way that was relevant to the stony. We were gradually introduced to the system and not given info dumps that can sometimes be boring.
She did a great job in the handling of the love triangle - yes, there is one - a feat that I rarely see; so I applaud the realistic handling of the relationships. I didn’t expect the political conﬂict, but once it was presented I wanted more and was disappointed with the little focus that it had.
I’m curious to see where the second book will take us as I expected the prince to have chosen a winner by the end, and The Selection to be over - this was not the case. I suppose I should have expected this as the trilogy is called The Selection, but I’m afraid that the future books might turn out to be melodramatic if this is the case.
On its own, the Selection was a fun read and the story has great potential, so I’m looking forward to where the next book will take us.¤
[review of ARC via Aroundtheworldarctours]
Publisher: HarperTeen || Details →
Brilliant? Or just silly?
I’m not sure whether I should praise Bumped for being a funny commentary on society or cringe at its silliness, so with these thoughts in mind, I write this review.
Megan McCafferty created a sort of utopian future where adults are infertile and teenagers try to get bumped (impregnated) for fame (if they go “pro”) and fortune. Melody and Harmony are twin sisters who were separated at birth, they grew up under vastly different circumstances - Harmony in an overly strict and religious society called Goodside and Melody to well-off parents who are trying to sell her babies to the highest bidder. They managed to find each other after being separated for sixteen years and Harmony ventures out of her community to seek Melody, a decision that ends a bit comically.
The slang in Bumped is initially hard to follow, but after a few chapters I got use to it. The story switches back and forth form Melody to Harmony and I found Melody’s voice a better read than Harmony, who, for the majority of the book, was very flat and uninteresting.
While Melody was a complex character, who was going through her own struggles about her life and its direction, Harmony just seemed a little two dimensional, and her disregard for her sister’s life made her a disagreeable character in my mind. Her reaction to the situations that she found herself in were a bit unbelievable. Towards the end, Harmony finally becomes a character with a complex background and was somewhat interesting, however, because it took most of the book to get there I just didn’t find myself caring much about her.
To be frank, I’m not sure whether this story had an agenda or was commentary on society. Is it talking about how easily we can disregard our bodies? Or how society can sometimes stress on perfection? Or how, following blindly in a religion can do more harm than good? If it was, then that was overwhelmed by the overall silliness of the situations. I ended up writing this off as a fluff read, neither loving nor disliking it, yet, I’m curious enough to see it’s conclusion.
Publisher: Balzer + Bray || Details →
Watch this space for a Hunger Games themed giveaway tomorrow!
A page turner from Reaping to Closing
The story begins just before the reaping. One male and one female - between the ages of 13 and 18 - are chosen at random to represent their district in the Hunger Games - a brutal fight to death between 24 tributes from the 12 districts, where there can only be one champion. Katniss and Peeta (who she refers to as the boy with the bread) are the tributes for District 12 and are shuttled off to the Capitol to be prepped for the arena. The Hunger Games began years ago when the districts (13 of them at the time) revolted against the Capitol. The Capitol implemented the games as a reminder of that revolt and as a way to control the remaining 12 districts. The teens are first paraded in costumes that represent their districts in an opening ceremony. They are trained and graded on their skill and then they are interviewed, all for the sake of gaining sponsorship (help) in the arena. The twisted and voyeuristic nature of the games is not without genius. The citizens of Panem watch their children prepare for their deaths, and they are helpless to change.
When I first picked up the Hunger Games, it took me a few chapters to get into the narrative. The story is told from Katniss’s point of view, however, it is written in first person present, so getting into the rhythm of the story took longer for me than most other styles. Overtime I grew to appreciate this style, especially since as a reader; I was experiencing everything as Katniss was and learning only what she knew.
Susanne Collins did a wonderful job of describing the dreary and dismal District 12, the hopelessness of its residents and the conflicting feelings that Katniss experiences. After losing her father to a mine accident, Katniss practically raised her kid sister since her mother was useless after her husband’s death. Katniss had to grow up quickly, fend for herself and take care of her family; this makes her a fearless heroine, single-minded with only thoughts for survival. This also makes Katniss a very emotionally underdeveloped character. She hasn’t had time to mourn her loss, she had to keep going in order to keep her family alive and this comes out as she enters the games.
Even though there is a lot of violence in the story, there is still a lot of character growth. Minor characters are given rich back stories and major characters full and by the end of the story, familiar. The plot twists were not immediately expected, there were a lot of times that I found myself wondering what really will happen next and was rewarded with an answer that left me wide eyed and open mouthed. As the reader leaves the arena and view the victory party, there is a feeling of impending doom – President Snow is not happy with the outcome, what will he do to our characters next?
While the Hunger Games is written for an older teen audience, I all can enjoy this and there is something in it for everyone.
Publisher: Scholastic || Learn More
A thrilling beginning
In my opinion, writing a good dystopian novel can be tricky. First you’re building a world on something that already exists - our world. Next, you have to take a part of our world, skew it, then write about it, but in a way that makes the reader think that this could happen, especially given the current state of the world. This is usually what I look for in my dystopian novels and I found it in Birthmarked by Caragh O’Brien.
Birthmarked opens up with a birthing scene - a very gutsy move. Gaia, a young midwife, delivers her first baby; significant because it’s the first time she’s doing it on her own and because it lays the path for the reader to learn about the Enclave, the baby quota and the world that will be explored in Birthmarked.
After delivering the baby to the Enclave, Gaia heads home to find her parents have been taken to the Enclave for questioning. The mystery builds as Gaia questions why her parents were taken, what record the guards were interrogating her about and why her mother hid a ribbon with strange symbols on them.
Caragh does a great job at describing Gaia’s world and situation. Gaia’s home and all the places she travels to are carefully described, giving the reader a three dimensional view of the world. Once Gaia makes it into the walls of the Enclave the action is almost non-stop, like a wild ride with just enough pause for you to catch your breath and the right amount of twists and turns to keep you intrigued.
There is a splattering of biology in the narrative, but it is so well-weaved into the plot that it does not read like a science book. For the shipping enthusiasts there is a bit of romance which, while not necessary to the plot advancement, does a good job at adding layer of charm.
What I liked best about this book was the questions that it raised. It’s a great book to open discussions on prejudices in society, hierarchy and class. It also opens questions about the way we use our limited resources and what might happen if we aren’t careful to care for the world we have. While these are great questions, I appreciated the way that they were subtly intertwined in the narrative. There was no blaring agenda, the questions rose organically from the story and I appreciated this greatly.
For another point of view about Birthmarked, check out my bookish friend, and fellow book blogger, Anna’s review.
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press || Details →
A sequel that did not disappoint
In a society that dictates every aspect of a person’s life - what they eat, where they work, who they should marry, even when they die - Cassia, made her first non-society choice between a boy that society has chosen for her (her best childhood friend) and the boy that society deems an aberration; untouchable, but suddenly desirable to Cassia.
Ally Condie’s Crossed, written from the point of view of Cassia and Ky, follows soon after Matched. Setting-wise we are introduced to different districts and lands outside of Society’s rule. Ally isn’t very descriptive in her writing so it’s a little hard to imagine the setting unless you’re filling in the space on your own. This isn’t usually a problem for my imagination, but some readers might be put off by this.
The narrative, from Ky’s point of view, illuminates aspects of his personality that we didn’t necessarily get to see though Cassia’s rose-tinted glasses in Matched. It makes him more three dimensional and highlights flaws that were easily overlooked in the first book.
Xander hardly makes an appearance, however, more is revealed about his personality and background through the other characters. I enjoyed the layer of complexity this brought to the story.
The story was well-paced; I was hoping that Cassia and Ky’s paths would intersect early in the narrative and found the timing for this to be just right. Still, I wished there was more Xander, I’ve always found his character to be more interesting than Ky’s - from his introduction in Matched, Xander has always been the one I viewed as the bad-boy/risk-taker due to his citizen status.
While Crossed did a good job in setting up the final book of the trilogy, there are still a lot of unanswered questions. I’m curious to see how Ally Condie will tie them all up and am looking forward to the conclusion of Cassia’s story.
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile || Details →
Similar books I’ve read→ Matched
Statistics or the unmeasurable?
Cassia has a choice. In a culture where the decisions are made for you and doing as you are told leads to happiness, choices are a rarity. However, the choice Cassia has to make happened accidentally and is practically improbable.
Somehow Cassia gets matched with two boys who are from the same province as she is, both of whom she knows personally. This is a mistake that the society never makes. So what’s going on?
The most fascinating thing about this book is the Society. Ally Condie builds a dystopian society that has full control over the decisions of its citizens. The Society tells them what to eat, where to live, where to work and who they should marry. It’s important that they regulate the lives of their citizens so that they could live a healthy life in harmony with each other. Cassia, after being given two matches, begins to see the hold that the society has on her and the citizens. She begins to experience the dangers and excitement of making her own decisions and doing things the way she wants to - she wants to take control of her own life.
Matched focuses a lot on Cassia and Ky, and though I understand that this seems to be a Ky arc, I wanted to see more of Xander. Xander seemed to be the down to earth and sensible choice, however, Cassia is a teenager caught up in the danger that is being with Ky (now I’m sounding a bit like the society). In focusing on Ky and Cassia’s relationship, it left the world building and Xander’s character - though seemingly nice - a little flat. Putting these things aside though, it was quite enjoyable. I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens to Cassia and Xander as well as the Society. This might be the first dystopian book in which I’m rooting for the government’s choice as opposed to the protagonist’s.
Released: 1st January, 2011
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Description (via Amazon.com): Hundreds of millions of people have already died, and millions more will soon fall-victims of disease, hunger, and dehydration. It is a time of drought and war. The rivers have dried up, the polar caps have melted, and drinkable water is now in the hands of the powerful few. There are fines for wasting it and prison sentences for exceeding the quotas.
But Kai didn’t seem to care about any of this. He stood in the open road drinking water from a plastic cup, then spilled the remaining drops into the dirt. He didn’t go to school, and he traveled with armed guards. Kai claimed he knew a secret-something the government is keeping from us…
And then he was gone. Vanished in the middle of the night. Was he kidnapped? Did he flee? Is he alive or dead? There are no clues, only questions. And no one can guess the lengths to which they will go to keep him silent. We have to find him-and the truth-before it is too late for all of us.
The Beginning: The lead into the story was gripping, a dystopian society where the people who controlled the water were the ones who ruled. We were introduced to three characters, The narrator, Vera, Will, her brother and Kia.
The Middle: Things got a bit muddled for me along the way. Quite a few new characters were introduced in quick succession and it seemed as though everything that could go wrong did go wrong. There was little time to breath and get acquainted with the new characters and little time to feel invested in their future in the book.
The Ending: While a bit more breathing space was allowed, the ending seemed to rush towards me like a raging river. See what I did there, ok, fine, I’ll stop.
Overall: I think a lot of the relationships in this book could have been developed more, the neck breaking pace did not allow for this and that was one of the main things lacking. It’s an nod to the future of a world that misuses it’s resources, something that we can all relate to in some way.
I’d loan this book to my sister, but I’m not convinced that she would enjoy its topic. Though, if that causes her to take shorter baths, this book is all hers! =)