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Tonina Talks Tales

Lifelong reader with the food-smudged and bath-drowned books to prove it. I read YA and SF/F with forays into history, politics, classic lit, and *good* historical fiction. My e-reader is my constant companion.

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The Bone Season
Samantha Shannon
This is W.A.R.
'Lisa Roecker', 'Laura Roecker'

[REBLOG] Fight the Power

Dear Goodreads Admins,


I'm still writing reviews about badly behaving authors.


Source: http://litchick.booklikes.com
Reblogged from Litchick's Hit List

Anomaly, by Krista McGee: Heavy Christian fiction with some sheer YA window-dressing

Anomaly - Krista McGee

For this reader, Anomaly was true to its name, in that its sheer level of terrible landed it on my 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 crazy 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 and finally today I received a message saying the book was available. Excited, I downloaded Anomaly, plopped down in my favorite chair, and settled in with my Kindle to read it.


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.


I'm not knee-jerk hating on this book simply because it involves religion. In the past, I've enjoyed a variety of stories that included or were based on religious themes and elements, with Cynthia Hand's Unearthly series being a prime example. Anomaly contains a ton of evangelical Christian messages and biblical quotes; however, things like characters that are sufficiently developed for the reader to give a rat's ass about them and a coherent plot are notably absent. 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 a 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 (a 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 saying I doubt it.


The contemptuous portrayal of science and scientists is another extremely disturbing aspect of Anomaly. 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.


I shouldn't have assumed the book would be an entertaining read for me 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; I know my tastes often don't coincide with the local general consensus. Now, there are plenty of ways to include religious ideas and elements in a story so that readers of any (or no) faith enjoy it, so Anomaly's strong appeal to people who are very religious didn't automatically make it a miss for me. But the way the author shifted quickly from storytelling into preaching and stayed there (with an occasional jump into proselytizing for variety) definitely moved it into swing-and-a-miss territory for me.


Anomaly's true deal-breaker for me, though, was the overwhelming impression it gave me of being a vehicle for evangelical Christian messages first and an actual story a sad and distant second. If you want to preach, that's fine, but be up front about it. Don't encapsulate your message inside a hollow shell of a YA dystopian in a ham-fisted attempt to attract more readers. Just be honest about your true purpose. That way you'll get readers who'll appreciate your work and avoid irritating or infuriating those who won't.  

Rush: Book One of The Game

Rush - Eve Silver NOTE: My rating for this is actually 2.5 stars. I've rounded up because I thought the author did a surprisingly deft job in portraying through her characters the deep depression, numbness, anger, and counterproductive actions/behaviors that people often manifest after they've lost a loved one.Full review to come soon.
The Duke and I - Julia Quinn I've been sitting back for a while, thinking about what to write for my review. The Duke and I was recommended to me by a Goodreads friend, so I didn't want to just give a star-rating and say nothing else. I was excited about reading this book and I really wanted to like it, but to be honest, I've been having a lot of trouble resolving my conflicting impressions of it.On the one hand, The Duke and I is largely a fun and easy-to-read historical romance. Are there glaring holes in the historical worldbuilding? Oh, yes. But the romance is entertaining enough and the banter sometimes lively. So in that sense, the author has accomplished exactly what she presumably set out to do: write a vaguely "historical" romance that entertains and gives readers a few thrills in their tingly bits. Sounds like a good time, right? Well, it is, right up until one particular scene. And that scene was disturbing enough that it altered my perception of the entire book.Those who haven't yet read the book, be warned: there are spoilers throughout the rest of this review.Roughly 3/4 of the way through the book, Daphne (now married to Simon) is desperate to have children. Simon has made it clear from the beginning of their acquaintance that he WILL NEVER SIRE CHILDREN. No kids, full stop. She initially misunderstands and thinks he isn't capable of doing so (and unfairly, Simon doesn't say anything to clear up the mistake and clearly state his lack of desire for children), but she knows from the beginning of the relationship that if kids are what she wants, she shouldn't marry him. To make sure he doesn't get her pregnant, he pulls out near his climax each time they have sex, thereby avoiding children and presumably making life hell for the household's maids and laundrywomen. So after an argument, Simon comes home very drunk and falls asleep still blitzed. Some hours later, he nuzzles up to Daphne in his sleep and she elects to have sex with him. When this all gets started, he's still at least half drunk, but apparently capable of performing. Daphne gets him going (which he accepts and enjoys), climbs on top, and then gets him to climax inside her so she can have a shot at conceiving a child. Towards the end he realizes what she's doing, tries to stop, and she pinions him with her legs so he can't get out or away from her.And that was the moment when the lighthearted fun of this book came to a screeching halt for me.Because that's a rape. I don't know about you, but for me, rape scenes and lighthearted romance do NOT go hand in hand. Think about it. How many of this book's readers would enjoy a romance that around the 75% mark suddenly and inexplicably shifted gears from light and fun to a scene in which the lead male initiated sex with a half-drunk woman, forced her to continue when she tried to fight him off of her, and did all this in an attempt to engender children she'd clearly and repeatedly stated she did not want - particularly if the author treated that instance of non-consensual sex like a disagreement and not an act of violation?Please understand, I know many people enjoy rape fantasies, both written and safely enacted with consenting partners IRL, and I'm not trying to say there's anything wrong with that. I'm not the Morality Police, come to tell you you're thinking evil dirty thoughts and having sex in non-approved ways. I'm not trying to say a book featuring a rape scene is automatically "bad" or anti-feminist or whatever. What I am saying is I'm uncomfortable with the fact that this scene is embedded in an otherwise light and frothy romance and that it's portrayed within the story as if it's just another sort of argument or obstacle the plot-protected couple will inevitably overcome, rather than the sudden and rather shocking violation of a character's self and trust. In my opinion, the author makes light of a woman raping a man. And that bothers the hell out of me.Having read the book multiple times in an attempt to sort out my impressions, I see it in two different ways. The first three quarters of the story I'd give three stars; the last quarter, I'd give one. So I've compromised by giving it two stars overall, but I'm still uncomfortable with that rating and with The Duke and I as a whole.

The Program

The Program - Suzanne Young 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 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!
Romeo Redeemed - Stacey Jay I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to make a pilgrimage to Shakespeare's grave (and possibly to his memorial in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey) to absolve myself of the guilt I feel for having read this atrocity. This book carries most of the hallmarks of bad YA - instalove, a ridiculous and hole-ridden plot, totally unnecessary relationship angst - but it also brutalizes Shakespeare's work to create said ridiculous plot. The end result is an offence against both literature and basic logic. If you're considering reading this book, or its predecessor, [b:Juliet Immortal|9972882|Juliet Immortal (Juliet Immortal, #1)|Stacey Jay|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1358273112s/9972882.jpg|13479602], stop, give yourself a firm slap across the face, and find something else to read.

The Host: A Novel

The Host - Stephenie Meyer Oh boy, it's like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but with that special Breaking Dawn-brand treacle added to make the story both derivative and sickly-sweet!Yeesh. Thank God I only borrowed this from the library.

The 5th Wave

The 5th Wave - Review to come in a few days.


Insignia - 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 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 [b:Ender's Game|375802|Ender's Game (Ender's Saga, #1)|Orson Scott Card|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1364033163s/375802.jpg|2422333] 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.

Skeleton Crew

Skeleton Crew - Stephen King I have always loved Stephen King's short stories and novellas. His novels are often bloated (with some terrific notable exceptions, like the early books in the Dark Tower series), but he has a true gift for shorter works. One of my favorite books of all time is one of his other early SS collections, [b:Night Shift|10628|Night Shift|Stephen King|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1342215309s/10628.jpg|2454497]. He swiftly brings his SS settings and characters to real, palpable life and sends you spiraling down into whatever enjoyably bizarre plot he's conjured up without even the slightest pause. That said, I've been wanting to read Skeleton Crew for years, so when I saw it in my library's ebook collection, I was thrilled. Now, having read it, I'm feeling a little crestfallen. There are some good stories in it, don't get me wrong - The Mist, The Monkey, and Mrs. Todd's Shortcut were my particular favorites - but it wasn't the kind of overwhelming collection I expected. Skeleton Crew didn't give me that feeling of having jumped onto an alternate worldline where the things that go bump in the night were lying in wait and the fantastic was suddenly entirely possible, as other SS collections like Night Shift, [b:Four Past Midnight|133266|Four Past Midnight |Stephen King|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1321023197s/133266.jpg|1733095], and [b:Nightmares And Dreamscapes|10588|Nightmares And Dreamscapes|Stephen King|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1331695778s/10588.jpg|150039], and Kelly Link's [b:Magic for Beginners|66657|Magic for Beginners|Kelly Link|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1328874961s/66657.jpg|649937] and [b:Stranger Things Happen|66659|Stranger Things Happen|Kelly Link|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1354903613s/66659.jpg|64640] did. It was clearly a compilation of some of King's earliest professional work, before he had full command over his gift. There's plenty of promise and many entertaining stories, but it just isn't quite there yet, if you get what I mean. That probably sounds strange, considering Night Shift was published some years prior, but that's the impression I received. So while I'm giving this an honest four stars, if someone asked me for my top recommendations of modern short story collections, Skeleton Crew wouldn't make the list. That's just my opinion, and as King himself would note, your mileage may vary.

The Elite

The Elite - Kiera Cass *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.Big mistake. Here's the truth: It's worse than [b:The Selection|10507293|The Selection (The Selection, #1)|Kiera Cass|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1322103400s/10507293.jpg|15413183]. 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. *END OF PSA*
Feedback - Robison Wells One more warning: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD.You have to be kidding me. Aliens are making and controlling the androids??? And they're doing it to control those in power, like the president? This is the big shocking reveal at the end of the story, setting up the inevitable and oh-so-suspenseful YA second installment cliffhanger? ALIENS??? Come on, Robison Wells! That idea was worn out in 1955. Today it's just pathetic. Full review to come when my disgust has cooled into contemptuous amusement.

Erebos: It's a Game. It Watches You.

Erebos - Judith Pattinson, Ursula Poznanski NOTE: I received a publisher’s ARC of Erebos via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.One Sentence Summary: Erebos has a cool central idea, but it’s weighed down by numerous instances of poor execution.London high school student and All-Around Average Guy Nick Dunmore doesn’t really notice that some of his schoolmates are behaving oddly until his friend Colin changes overnight from a frequent companion to a hostile acquaintance bent on ditching him. Eventually Nick finds the source of the changes: an odd, intense, and apparently omniscient MMORPG called Erebos. Those of you who know your Greek legends are probably guessing from the name that Erebos the game is bad news, and of course you’re right. The game is first intriguing, then enthralling, and finally an overwhelming addiction. Players get little sleep, try to avoid meals and bathroom breaks, and eventually miss school to stay in the game. The short list of rules is spelled out at the beginning of the game, à la Fight Club. Break the game’s rules and you’re out, with no second chances. Most disturbing of all, the game is asking players to handle tasks in the real world – and it knows without fail if you’ve completed them....Put all that together and you have an intriguing story on your hands – and for the most part, Erebos is an entertaining read. The plot is lively, interesting, and close enough to realistic at the beginning that by the time you realize it’s strayed from the path of possible, you’re having too good a time to care. Author Ursula Poznanski believably portrays the different forms of social ostracism the game’s players mete out to those who aren’t yet in versus those who have been kicked out of Erebos. It was nice to read a book involving gamer culture that didn’t trip all over itself trying to make sure everyone reading it could easily understand it. However, the frequent moments of clunky writing kept interrupting my fun. For instance, who calls someone “sister” in the 21st century? Not when they’re referring to a sibling or a nun, but as a supposedly everyday piece of slang, i.e., “Forget it, sister”? There are times when it feels as though the author’s throwing in random expressions out of the 1930s. I was waiting for one character to say to another, “Now you’re on the trolley!” (10 points if you get this Simpsons reference). To be fair, this book was originally published in German, so I don’t know if the odd expressions and slang are just a translation issue or if they’re a decision of the author, but they’re out of place in Erebos. Even more off-putting are the harsh transitions: one minute Nick’s at school, and then, boom, he’s suddenly at home eating dinner or playing the game, with no information as to how or why the setting changed. I was constantly backtracking and trying to find the part I’d skipped, until I realized that’s just the way the book is. The transitions are irritating enough that my resulting frustration kept knocking me out of the story. I had much less of a problem with the constant changes in tenses (while Nick is playing the game, the story is told in present tense from the perspective of his character, whereas Nick’s life in the “real world” is written in past tense). Yes, it was odd to keep switching, but I liked the distinction the change made between the game world/Sarius and the real world/Nick. The plot becomes less and less believable until about the last fifth of the book or so, when it goes off the rails entirely. The climax of the story is oddly small-time in scope, the ending is unsatisfying, and don’t even get me started on exactly how insane the explanations about the game’s designer and all the things he supposedly invented to make the game work are. I was also very frustrated by the fact that no main characters and only two secondary characters face any long-term negative consequences. If you wanted to consider what happens to Nick’s best friend a long-term negative consequence for them both, I suppose you could, but by the end of the story everything’s all hunky-dory. Judging by the last 10% of the book, I can easily imagine the kids brushing off everything that happened during the game and forgetting about it after a few months. On the other hand, I wasn’t invested in what most of the characters thought anyway, because the vast majority of them were throwaway, paper-doll stock stereotypes – the “depressed mom”, “bully dad”, “bitter fat chick”, “angry nerd”, etc. Erebos has quite a few defects, but its compelling central idea is enough to keep those who start it reading until the end. The book is at its best when offering us a story of a school taken over by a maliciously addictive new trend and the choices the characters face in dealing with it. My thanks to the people at Annick Press and NetGalley for the ARC!

The Best of All Possible Worlds

The Best of All Possible Worlds - NOTE: I received a publisher’s ARC of The Best of All Possible Worlds via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.I’m not quite sure what to make of The Best of All Possible Worlds.The general framework for the story is that a race of somewhat-human beings, the Sadiri, has been all but wiped out in an unprovoked act of genocide. Only a small number of Sadiri survived, predominantly males. Now a large group of them has settled on planet Cygnus Beta, a place that is already populated by a mix of many other displaced races and groups, in the hopes of establishing a new enclave for the Sadiri where all their traditions, customs, and teachings can be imparted to new generations. I was hoping for a rather in-depth look at the diaspora and the massive impact such a horrifying event would have on the Sadiri and the other races of Cygnus Beta. To my surprise, the book was rather light for such a weighty starting point; rather than taking us along on a deep plunge into murky waters, author Karen Lord keeps us swimming laps across the surface. In addition to being a sort of sci-fi melting pot, Cygnus Beta also has the distinction of being home to a population that has a high overall amount of Sadiri blood. This is apparently a matter of major importance to the survivors. The Sadiri are a branch off of humanity’s genetic tree – telepaths who observe very strict mental and emotional controls. Now, because only a small percentage of Sadiri females survived the genocide, the Sadiri leaders hope to continue their culture by sending many of their males to Cygnus Beta and having them find brides with strong Sadiri genetic characteristics from this population, thereby preserving as much of the Sadiri genetic heritage as possible. To this end, the Sadiri councilor Dllenahkh is dispatched to the planet to serve as a liaison between those settling on Cygnus Beta and the Sadiri governing body. There he is befriended by the other main character, Grace Delarua, a minor bureaucrat with a knack for languages who comes from a mixed-race background typical for Cygnus Beta. To me, the idea of selecting brides first and foremost for their genes is a little creepy, but our heroine takes the notion largely in stride as she befriends and works with Dllenahkh while they visit and investigate the various Sadiri outposts across Cygnus Beta. The book is driven by the two main characters and particularly by Delarua (as she is usually called), who narrates 90% of the story. Despite a dark starting point and Dllenahkh’s rather disturbing goal, the story is more a slightly stilted romance (albeit one with sci-fi and fantasy elements) than it is anything else. There is little central plot – the main focus is on Delarua and Dllenahkh as they grow closer over the course of roughly a year and a half. The Best of All Possible Worlds has the feel of a collection of stories rather than a novel, in that many of the incidents (days at work, excursions and visits with friends/family, stops on an around-the-planet tour, etc.) are loosely connected at best. Others have commented on the similarities to Jane Austen’s works, and I can certainly see some in the rather formal dialogue, the slowly-building romance between Delarua and Dllenahkh, and the feeling throughout the story that the eyes of the “community” are watching and evaluating the pair. At one point late in the book, Lord even throws in a direct comment to the “Reader”. There are a few dark moments (the visit to Delarua’s sister’s family being the most jarring), but for the most part the tone of the book is surprisingly light. It’s not that I expected nonstop tragedy and despair, but I confess I spent most of the book waiting for the story to deepen and explore the overwhelming act of destruction that set the stage for the story. A host of minor characters come and go without much in the way of development to make them memorable. By the end, the two characters from very different cultures/mindsets have Learned to Respect, Understand, and Love Each Other (cue the swelling optimistic music). In the end, The Best of All Possible Worlds is a decorously-paced romance in a sci-fi setting, delivered almost as a series of short stories with the two main characters, the genocide of the Sadiri, and Cygnus Beta itself as the only common elements tying the tales together. Some of the episodes from the book are interesting and some are less so, but by the end I’d decided that I wanted to hear more about the genocide and the effects of the resulting diaspora Lord created as a framework for her story and less about Delarua and Dllenahkh. Judging by other reviews, however, I’m in the minority on this, so take this review with a grain of salt and try The Best of All Possible Worlds for yourself.

Crewel (Crewel World, #1)

Crewel (Crewel World, #1) - Gennifer Albin 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 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.
Ready Player One - Ernest Cline 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 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.