29 November, 2012

They Don't Always Work For Everyone: YA Edition

At Read My Mind, being the founder and only reviewer, it's quite easy to accept requests and read books that have a more than 70% of being liked. I know that some blogs are used as a promotional tool, so critical reviews aren't really posted. I also know that there is an argument for the usefulness of critical reviews. I guess I fall somewhere in the middle of this. Most of the time my reviews are 3.5 stars or better. One reason for this, I already explained. Another reason, is that I just plain like a very wide variety of genres and sub-genres. Historical romance, like. Steampunk, like. Science-fiction, like. YA contemporary, like. Erotic romance, like. and so on.

I pretty much finish everything that I start, so I can't call these books DNFs. With a combination of fairly fast reading, middle-of-the-day free time (aka, boring o'clock) and quick comprehension, I haven't come up against a book that I had to "give up on" in years. But, there are sometimes when a book just doesn't work for me overall. Even when there are some elements that come together, others do not, or I just don't feel an urgency to pick up the book when I have time to read. There are also times that I hear rave reviews from people who's recommendations I trust, and I think, am I missing something?

I thought that I'd start doing some capsule reviews of these books. I read so much that doesn't make it to the blog, and on Goodreads, you can see what I've rated the book, but not why, and this will seek to remedy that.

Crewel by Jennifer Albin:
Enter a tangled world of secrets and intrigue where a girl is in charge of other’s destinies, but not her own.

Sixteen-year-old Adelice Lewys has always been special. When her parents discover her gift—the ability to weave the very fabric of reality—they train her to hide it. For good reason, they don’t want her to become a Spinster — one of the elite, beautiful, and deadly women who determine what people eat, where they live, how many children they have, and even when they die.

Thrust into the opulent Western Coventry, Adelice will be tried, tested and tempted as she navigates the deadly politics at play behind its walls. Now caught in a web of lies and forbidden romance, she must unravel the sinister truth behind her own unspeakable power. Her world is hanging by a thread, and Adelice, alone, can decide to save it — or destroy it.

My Thoughts:
Ok, so first, I liked the writing and the story line was interesting and unique. I acquired CREWEL at BEA2012, because of some of the advance acclaim and the duology of the title. (I knew that crewel was a sewing term, as well as being used as a homonym to "cruel") This is the sort of thing that I go for; cleverness in "stitching" the title and the plot, and "easter egg" type elements dropped in. However, something was just missing otherwise.

I just thought that, while the story and world were well-built and paced, there was no mystery. There were too many elements that I have come to associate with YA novels, in whatever sub-genre they come from, and I found the whole thing to be predictable. Reaching the end of the book didn't give me any satisfaction or pleasure. In the end, CREWEL was lackluster and rote.

2.5 star

This book was obtained at Book Expo America 2012 with no other compensation, except the hope of an honest review

Pretty Amy by Lisa Burstein:
Amy is fine living in the shadows of beautiful Lila and uber-cool Cassie, because at least she’s somewhat beautiful and uber-cool by association. But when the girls get stood up for prom and take matters into their own hands—earning them a night in jail outfitted in satin, stilettos, and Spanx — Amy discovers even a prom spent in handcuffs might be better than the humiliating “rehabilitation techniques” now filling up her summer. Even worse, with Lila and Cassie parentally banned, Amy feels like she has nothing — like she is nothing.

Navigating unlikely alliances with her new coworker, two very different boys, and possibly even her parents, Amy struggles to decide if it’s worth being a best friend when it makes you a public enemy. Bringing readers along on an often hilarious and heartwarming journey, Amy finds that maybe getting a life only happens once you think your life is over.

My Thoughts:
With PRETTY AMY, the fatal flaw was that I could not, in any way, connect with the titular character. The thing is, the blurb makes it sound like Amy is this angel who follows along in the footsteps of her friends, who oops, get her into to trouble. But the truth is, Amy is complicit in many underage and illegal activities. While I was reading, she just came off as a spoiled rebel without a cause, and the summer that she has to look forward to is a little bit deserved.

Some of Amy's redemption (and the book's, frankly) is earned through her journey, the other characters that she meets and interacts with, and the ultimate ending of the book. Again, as with CREWEL, PRETTY AMY is written well and the author displays skill in bringing the reader into the world she has constructed. However, being able to connect with the main character is pretty much a must for me, and it just didn't happen here.

2.5 star

This book was borrowed

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