Thursday, September 11, 2014

Altered by Gennifer Albin - my 3.5 review

Altered (Crewel World, #2)
by Gennifer Albin
401 pages
Published October 29th 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

Life. Possibility. Choice.
All taken from Adelice by the Guild—until she took them back.

But amid the splendid ruins of Earth, Adelice discovers how dangerous freedom can be. Hunted by soulless Remnants sent by Cormac Patton and the Guild, Adelice finds a world that’s far from deserted. Although allies are easy to find on Earth, knowing who to trust isn’t. Because everyone has secrets, especially those Adelice loves most. Secrets they would kill to protect. Secrets that will redefine each of them. Torn between two brothers and two worlds, Adelice must choose what to fight for.

In this thrilling sequel to Crewel, Adelice is about to learn how tangled up her past and future really are. Her parents ran to protect her, but nothing can save her from her destiny, and once she uncovers the truth, it will change everything.

Gennifer Albin

Gennifer Albin: I like coffee. A lot. Writing gives me time to go get a cup without my kids. I like books as much as I like coffee, but it is easier to read with children hanging on you than drink coffee due to the threat of third degree burns. That's why coffee gets top billing in my intro: its unattainability.

I hold a Masters in English with a specialization in 18th century women's studies. While this is a highly marketable area of expertise, I stay home with my kids, which means my 3 year-old son uses correct grammar and doesn't burn down the house.

I have a ridiculously supportive husband who dreams of being included on a book jacket: "The author lives in Kansas with her husband, two children, and a Tuesday cat."

I'm represented by Mollie Glick of Foundry Literary + Media.

My Review:

I like this book and I don't, simultaneously.

For one, it's probably best read all at once instead of bit by bit like I read it in 30 min segments. It was clear, however, that I was able to put the book down, that there was a mass amount of information, and that the action sequences were very short and spread out sparsely.  Of course, I'm comparing Altered to Crewel.

Unlike Crewel, there were moments where I felt all the characters would manage for awhile and I could let them hang out, making it very handy to set the book aside frequently. I wasn't anxious about their safety, although they were always in danger. I wasn't concerned about their relationships, although... there is a beautiful switcheroo in Altered. Possibly the un-anxiety comes from Adelice's ability?  and her confidence? She's grasped this fateful view of things and proceeds forward without questioning herself overmuch. That might be it.

The action sequences come like sprinkles on the chocolate cookie mocha blended thing at Starbucks. (I had one the other day and Yum!!)  They're delicious and perfect, just not enough. (Actually, there were plenty of chocolate cookie bits. You'd have to get a rotten stingy barista, which isn't likely in Starbucks, but I can imagine how that would be sad.)  When there is action, it's grip-yer-seat exciting. Jumping out of a hot air balloon thingame? Very exciting. Facing remnants? Always deadly and very, very exciting.  Just short. Way too short. Adelice screams and someone comes to her rescue. I can imagine how characters from other books wished Albin was writing their story 'cause it just seemed to work out too neatly too quickly.

*sigh*  A little of not working out is nice.  If you're looking for Not-Working-Out, there are two doozies, so go ahead and dive into this book, but just know that you won't be chewing off your fingernails.

Ah... the infodump.  I have a love/hate relationship with the amount of info in Altered. Crewel sets up the craziest world imaginable. I wanted to know more - I wanted to see the world again, I wanted to know what was going on, how it worked and who all those characters were who seemed to have long histories. I love finding out why!!  :-D  And Altered did not disappoint, oh no. There was the beautiful world, this time from the inside out. I love the strands of reality, like seeing neurons as vibrant threads, or something. LOVE.  But... but, every other bit of scene required so much information to support all the story and sprinkles of action. It's like we have to stop and take history and biology to be able to proceed.  Yes, it's spread through-out the story very tastefully, but it's spread thickly like a generous amount of peanut butter that overfills your mouth from beginning to end.

What did I love?

Adelice. Her relationships with everyone. The other characters and that gorgeous world.  These things are as vibrant as those strands of life throughout the book.

I love Adelice.  She takes life head-on, standing up in the middle of the storm, smartin' off to the big world manipulaters, diving into love with both feet. She's vibrant and real and I'm very comfortable reading from her perspective. I feel a little daring, a little astonished, but a whole lot of YESSSSSSS!!!!!!

The other characters are also vibrant and unique. I did not remember all the details about Jost, Eric and Cormac from Crewel, but in Altered, they came to life with all their history from book one with no effort. They are alive in my mind, very real, very handsome, very powerful, very multi-dimensional!  Each has ulterior motives and I love the way Adelice accepts this about people and almost clarifies the bright thread of motivation in each one before deciding whether or not to trust them.

The romance felt droopy the first half of the book, lacking in vibrant life compared to the rest of the story, but then these motivations were clarified and the perspective zoomed into different focus and I was absolutely delighted how it all worked out. The lack-luster was on purpose and created a great backdrop for the romance during the second half of the book, which was quite vibrant and promising, if... um... somewhat tragic.  This romance became one of my favorite aspects of Altered because of this mid-story change. It was ALIVE!!

But wait! There's more!!

I loved the quoting of Shakespeare. Marvelous. Fitting.

There is an origin argument:  Random vs. Created. Very interesting. Adelice/the author argues for random. Arras, the controlled world on the looms, is sited as what Creation looks like and the people who grow up not realizing what world they are in as the offspring of a created world. The juxtaposition is how beautiful the loom is, all those threads that Adelice can see? She can see them in Arras or outside of it, both, and both are uniquely beautiful. Plus, all the characters are an example of how people have choices, the freedom to choose is not taken away because of the beauty of the world. So, in arguing that it is preferred to have no Creator, she proves the opposite.

Which brings me to Choices.  As the story develops, the choices grow more difficult. "Right" and "wrong" are getting muddied while the power to make important choices for many other people continues to rest in the hands of the few. If the current trajectory is followed... book #3 will hold some tragedy. I hope Albin included some sweet for relationships because I have hope that Adelice can find the best choices and that someone else comes forward to assist with the monumental task of fixing everything.

I really loved the parts I loved... and these thought-provoking themes are delightful. 4.5 stars for those bits. The slow speed of the story plus the nippy-short action sprinkles drove me nuts. 2 stars for those bits. The amount of information was necessary and tastefully delivered, so I'm not rating it at all. Between loving this world and needing mountains of info to see it, I'm left more grateful than not over the amount of info.
3.5 starts altogether for me. And yeah, I'll definitely be reading Unraveled!

Crewel (Crewel World, #1)
by Gennifer Albin
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published October 16th 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

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.

My Review

I guess I didn't review Crewel when I read it last summer. I totally hate it when I do that. I remember my thoughts about the story, but they're distant...

Crewel is amazing... all beautiful world, high tension, dramatic action. What a great introduction to this gorgeous, unique world full of vibrant characters. There's a some scoops of scientific info, a peak at the structure behind the action, but this book is all character-relationship-action... beautiful & amazing. I really love this cover, too. 4.5 Stars