Sunday, June 17, 2018

Review - Borderline

Borderline (The Arcadia Project #1)
by Mishell Baker
Date: 2016
Publisher: Saga Press
Reading level: NA
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 401
Format: e-book
Source: Amazon.ca

A year ago, Millie lost her legs and her filmmaking career in a failed suicide attempt. Just when she's sure the credits have rolled on her life story, she gets a second chance with the Arcadia Project: a secret organization that polices the traffic to and from a parallel reality filled with creatures straight out of myth and fairy tales.

For her first assignment, Millie is tasked with tracking down a missing movie star who also happens to be a nobleman of the Seelie Court. To find him, she'll have to smooth-talk Hollywood power players and uncover the surreal and sometimes terrifying truth behind the glamour of Tinseltown. But stronger forces than just her inner demons are sabotaging her progress, and if she fails to unravel the conspiracy behind the noble's disappearance, not only will she be out on the streets, but the shattering of a centuries-old peace could spark an all-out war between worlds.

No pressure.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

WARNING: Major Spoilers! To read this review with the spoilers hidden, check it out on Goodreads.

What a rollercoaster! I went from really enjoying this book to feeling a little bored to being so angry I had trouble concentrating on the last quarter; after that, however, things started to fall apart anyway, and the four-star read I thought this was going to be was rapidly losing my enthusiasm.

This book started off great, with solid writing and intriguing characters. I haven't read a book where the main character has Borderline Personality Disorder (at least, not a book where it was explicitly stated), so that was an interesting twist. Millie being a double leg amputee also added a new dimension to the story, since it threw up some physical roadblocks. I loved the diversity of the characters; not only do they come from various cultural backgrounds, but most of them also had mental illnesses as well. The plot seemed to be strong: there's a missing Seelie nobleman, and Millie's been plucked out of a mental health facility--for reasons unknown to her at the time--to help find him.

I think my first problem with this book is that... well, I just don't think I'm a mystery fan. If you enjoy books where the main character spends the majority of her time making her way around Los Angeles interviewing people and picking up clues, great! I realize that's just how the genre is sometimes, but for me, I found the pace and lack of action kind of slow and boring. There wasn't much more Millie could do with her physical limitations (lots of chases on foot were out), so I get that this was how it had to be.

As interesting as the characters were, there was a lot that was held back about them, which brings me to another complaint. We didn't really see them fleshed out as much as I expected, and in fact, some of them are now dead, leaving certain questions unanswered (and perhaps unanswerable). We never did find out the story behind Gloria's murders, and Teo--probably my favourite in the whole book--was left as a frustrating blank. I actually thought--based on some comments that I thought were clues--that he might've been trans or something. Imagine my disappointment when, not only was that not the case, but we didn't find out much about him at all before his death that seemed to come out of nowhere and affect his co-workers about as much as the death of a houseplant. By that point, I'd also realized that these people--supposedly unmedicated--weren't showing any signs of mental illness. It's almost as if the author forgot that was the whole hook behind the Arcadia Project. In theory, yes, they're all mentally ill. But aside from Teo's bad driving--which won't exactly get you a diagnosis--he showed few signs of having Bipolar Disorder. Gloria was a supposed murderer who got off on an insanity plea... but aside from being kind of a two-faced bitch, I wasn't sure what her actual diagnosis was supposed to be. Tjuan was the only one who really showed any symptoms, and even then, his paranoia often came across as more surly than pathological.

So... something also happened at around three-quarters of the way through the book that made it really difficult for me to continue. I won't get into it because the issue is not relevant to the book (and, having zero relevance to the plot, shouldn't even have been in there), but it absolutely incensed me. This whole book is, in some ways, an essay about acceptance, and yet the author felt the need to throw a cheap shot at a marginalized group. Why? I don't know. Virtue signalling, maybe. I found it distasteful and cruel. Just because our society still accepts throwing shade at this particular group doesn't mean it's right or kind.

After that, I had a hard time concentrating on the story... but things started to fall apart anyway. The author's memory about her own main character seemed to be spotty, and she had her double leg amputee (who has one above-knee and one below-knee amputation) doing things like jumping to her feet or crouching on the ground, when she'd spent most of the book hobbling around with a cane and at one point even having a hard time getting up after being thrown to the ground. Characters started to do things that were... well, kind of out of character. Teo's move to the dark side--when he'd already been established as a stickler for the rules--didn't make any sense. Berenbaum's back-and-forth didn't convince me, either. Then there were some ridiculous scenes with people communicating non-verbally with each other over the villain's shoulder... and the villain somehow not noticing! I'm also not sure why Gloria died from falling into the well. Especially since Rivenholt and Claybriar didn't, and... Let's just say the magic explanations had some holes.

Overall, it's not a terrible book if you don't mind the more leisurely pace of a mystery. The urban fantasy elements were neat, and the characters--at least in the beginning--were interesting. But since it fell apart so badly for me in the last quarter, it coloured my opinion of the whole thing. And with the character I liked most now dead, there's really no reason for me to read on.

Premise: 4/5
Plot: 3/5
Characters: 3/5
Pace: 2/5
Writing: 4/5
Editing: 3/5
Originality: 4/5
Enjoyment: 1/5

Minus one star for offensive content.

Overall Rating: 2 out of 5 ladybugs


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Review - All We Have Left

All We Have Left
by Wendy Mills
Date: 2016
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 368
Format: e-book
Source: Amazon.ca

Now:
Sixteen-year-old Jesse is used to living with the echoes of the past. Her older brother died in the September 11th attacks, and her dad since has filled their home with anger and grief. When Jesse gets caught up with the wrong crowd, one momentary hate-fueled decision turns her life upside down. The only way to make amends is to face the past, starting Jesse on a journey that will reveal the truth about how her brother died.

Then:
In 2001, sixteen-year-old Alia is proud to be Muslim... it's being a teenager that she finds difficult. After being grounded for a stupid mistake, Alia decides to confront her father at his Manhattan office, putting her in danger she never could have imagined. When the planes collide into the Twin Towers, Alia is trapped inside one of the buildings. In the final hours, she meets a boy who will change everything for her as the flames rage around them...

Interweaving stories from past and present, All We Have Left brings one of the most important days in our recent history to life, showing that love and hope will always triumph.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

WARNING: Major Spoilers! To read this review with the spoilers hidden, check it out on Goodreads.

I'm not quite sure how I feel about this book. Some parts were good, but other parts left me really questioning the author's choices. This is one of those books that's probably going to be viewed very differently by different generations. My reading experience--being old enough to remember September 11--is going to be very different from the reading experience of the target audience, many of whom had yet to be born when the events happened.

One of my clearest memories from that day--and that's mentioned in the book multiple times--is the clear blue of the sky that morning. I lived on the opposite side of the continent, but our weather that day was almost exactly the same. It brought an eerie closeness to the whole situation, and it almost felt like the same thing could happen here at any moment. My mom and I took a break from the horrors on a never-ending loop on TV (pretty much every station that day was covering the events) and went down to the beach, where we watched diverted plane after diverted plane come in from over the Pacific, making a wide curve to land in Vancouver. The sight alone was unnerving, after seeing the tilt of the planes that we'd watched crash into the towers hundreds of times already.

I think that there's probably a mild element of PTSD for those of us who were old enough to remember that day. Just reading certain passages of this book--people jumping from the towers, the towers falling--was enough to raise my heart rate uncomfortably. (There seems to have been some sort of social consensus not to keep showing the worst images of that day. Unfortunately, millions of people saw footage on September 11 that we'll never get out of our minds.) Of course, this book likely wouldn't have the same effect on a teenager who's only learned about the events after the fact. So... just a warning to the older folks who might be reading this: it may bring up some disturbing memories.

As for the story itself, it was a mixed bag. Much of it felt contrived. What I mean by that is that I could almost hear the author's mental processes as I was reading it. "Okay. So... this needs to happen. What can I do that will put the character in X position so that Y will happen?" This led to a lot of the plot points feeling unnatural. I wanted everything to flow more organically, rather than be shoehorned into place.

The characters didn't help in this respect. To begin with, both main characters are rather bland. I just couldn't connect with them, or feel much about them. Being potentially doomed isn't really a character trait. Also a problem was the fact that Jesse (a girl... which I didn't figure out until I went back and read the synopsis; I don't know why her name uses the male spelling) and Alia, though from very different backgrounds, sounded pretty much the same. I could tell which POV I was in, because the setting was so different, but if the two of them had been in the same room, I wouldn't have been able to tell them apart. (When they are in the same room in the last chapters, I kept getting mixed up about who was talking.) Another problem was when the narration would lapse into this poetic sort of voice that didn't really fit with how teenagers talk. It might've worked better in a third-person POV to get around that problem.

I really didn't like Alia. She was kind of all over the place. Maybe the author was trying to paint her as a confused, unsure teenager, but she just came across as inconsistent to me. In one of her first scenes, she's refusing to take off her hijab to use it as a breathing mask when she's trapped in the smoke-filled, burning tower. But then we find out that she only started wearing the hijab that day! I just couldn't see how this stubborn and newfound adherence to her culture was more important than staying alive, and it rang a bit false for me. The other reason I really didn't like her was because she was too stupid to live, and she directly caused the death of Jesse's brother, Travis. She tried to run back upstairs to save her father, ignoring the firefighters who told her to leave. Her father wasn't even in the building, and how stupid and arrogant do you have to be to think you can rescue someone when firefighters can't? By the time she realized she'd been an idiot, it was too late. Travis stayed with her until the towers collapsed, when they could've made it out to safety. To make matters worse, she didn't seem to feel much guilt about it. Conveniently, there were terrorists to blame his death on. In the author's note, she states that Alia didn't survive in the first version of the story. I think I would've preferred that. Her survival--though based on a real survivor's story--seemed far-fetched (some things in real life are truly weirder than fiction... and therefore don't work in fiction) and kind of a slap in the face. She gets to live her wonderful life, getting everything she ever wanted... while Travis is dead because of her idiotic choices. If it was meant to be a story of hope, it failed for me on that account, because I was too pissed off at Alia for surviving.

Jesse's father was also a terrible character, and not just because he was a horrible person. His character arc was handled really badly. Yes, he's meant to be a sort of grief-twisted monster. He basically destroyed his family, blaming his son for something that the kid really couldn't have done much about. (Travis was with his grandfather when they were mugged. Gramps was stabbed, and Travis ran away because he was scared. His father called him a coward and basically disowned him. What on earth did he want his 17-year-old son to do? Get himself stabbed as well?) Then the father turned into a raging anti-Muslim bigot, and eventually disowned Jesse, too, when she made friends with a Muslim boy. All of this wouldn't be so bad... if not for how it was resolved. The last part of the book had so much telling, and hardly any showing. We're told that things are explained to Jesse's father, and he smartens up and stops being such a dick. We're told that Jesse's not quite ready to forgive him. We're told about how things are up in the air with Adam (Jesse's Muslim not-quite-boyfriend). There are huge swaths of dialogue that act like info-dumps. A lot of this is crammed into the last few pages, as if the author was getting tired and just wanted to wrap things up.

I can't really say I hated this book, because I didn't. My curiosity and the question of what was going to happen were enough to pull me through the story and keep reading. The story wasn't terrible, but it could've been handled differently. The characters were probably the weakest part for me, and unfortunately, if I don't care about--or like--the characters, I'm going to have a hard time caring about the story.

But, like I said, someone without all the memory baggage of that day might see this book in a completely different way. It's just that, when you're old enough to remember 9/11, you bring a lot of your own stuff to the reading, and expectations are likely to be high. The book better be damn good. For me, it didn't quite get there.

Quotable moment:

There's a bitterness in his voice I've never heard before, and I know that somehow he understands what it's like to feel anger that makes you feel powerful and powerless all at the same time.

Premise: 4/5
Plot: 3/5
Characters: 2/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing: 3/5
Editing: 3/5
Originality: 4/5
Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall Rating: 3.13 out of 5 ladybugs


Monday, May 21, 2018

Review - Bridge to Terabithia

Bridge to Terabithia
by Katherine Paterson
Date: 1977
Publisher: HarperCollins
Reading level: MG
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 163
Format: e-book
Source: Amazon.ca

Jess Aarons has been practicing all summer so he can be the fastest runner in the fifth grade. And he almost is, until the new girl in school, Leslie Burke, outpaces him. The two become fast friends and spend most days in the woods behind Leslie's house, where they invent an enchanted land called Terabithia. One morning, Leslie goes to Terabithia without Jess and a tragedy occurs. It will take the love of his family and the strength that Leslie has given him for Jess to be able to deal with his grief.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I don't even know how to start reviewing this book. I didn't like it. It's hard when you read a beloved book and you just don't see what everyone else saw. Maybe this book's time has passed. I don't know. But I found it to be woefully dated, and problematic as a result.

Okay, I get that we're supposed to see that Jess and Leslie don't conform to gender norms. The problem? It's based on 1970s ideas of what gender should be. Which means that things that wouldn't make people bat an eye today were emphasized as a huge deal. Jess likes to draw. He's girly! Leslie rarely wears dresses and likes to run. She's boyish! The music teacher wears jeans and no lipstick. *gasp* What's wrong with her?! To make matters worse, when characters were portrayed as sticking to traditional gender norms, it was implied that it was a negative thing (you could see this especially with Jess's older sisters).

Then there was the sexism. Oh, boy. I know it was written in 1977, but it was still so grating. One of the worst parts was when the teacher talked about scuba diving as being an unusual hobby... for a girl. Combined with the misogyny that the little boys were throwing around on the playground, it made for an uncomfortable read.

Some aspects of the story and characters just don't work anymore. One of the ways (one of the only ways, really) that the author seemed to be able to think of to indicate that a character was bad was to make them fat... and then have others comment on it. Seriously, pretty much every insult was about someone's weight. The school bully (more on her in a moment) got called a cow and a hippo, and commentary was made about the size of her butt. Jess's sister Brenda got the same treatment, even having her weight commented on at one point by her six-year-old sister. (Full disclosure: I've never been overweight in my life. In fact, I've been skinny. So I've never had to deal with fat comments. If the amount of fat-shaming in this book was making me uncomfortable, I can't imagine how it would read to someone who struggles with their weight.)

There were also some things that just read as inappropriate. For example, I was totally weirded out when Jess's little sister accused him of staring at her when she was in her underwear... because he follows up with what's basically a pedophilic incest joke. (Why would an eleven-year-old boy know enough about that to joke about it? Yeesh.) Then there was the trip he took with his teacher. Alone. To another city. Where she buys him lunch and ice cream. Oh, yeah... and he had a terrible crush on her. I understand that this was written before the Mary Kay Letourneau era, but it's just one more thing that's going to have to be explained to younger readers as being not okay. Yes, in this instance, it was innocent. But there have been real-life cases where it wasn't. And then there was the scene where Jess shot milk straight into Leslie's mouth with no warning (other than a command to open her mouth) and no consent. This wouldn't fly in an era of food allergies, for one thing... but the whole scene was just gross. If I'd opened up the book and randomly stumbled across that page, based on the word choices and actions, I would've assumed it was erotica:

“Here,” he said. “Open your mouth.”
“Why?”
“Just open your mouth.” For once she obeyed. He sent a stream of warm milk straight into it.
“Jess Aarons!” The name was garbled and the milk dribbled down her chin as she spoke.
“Don’t open your mouth now. You’re wasting good milk.”
Leslie started to giggle, choking and coughing.
“Now if I could just learn to pitch a baseball that straight. Lemme try again.”
Leslie controlled her giggle, closed her eyes, and solemnly opened her mouth.
But now Jess was giggling, so that he couldn’t keep his hand steady.
“You dunce! You got me right in the ear.”

The bully (if you can call her that; bullying was apparently pretty tame in the 1970s and seemed to involve stealing hopscotch rocks and Twinkies) was also handled in an appalling way. We find out that she's a nasty girl because her father beats her. But then--and I don't know if I've ever been so disgusted with a book's message--it's implied that she did something wrong because the secret got out. It was shameful. It was supposed to stay hidden. In fact, the advice to this poor girl? Ignore the taunting from the other kids and they'll forget about it and everything will go back to normal. (Except she'll still be beaten at home... but that's okay, I guess.) The author even reiterated this advice in her author's note, as she recounted hearing from children who'd been "helped" by the book:

There was the child who found her family’s dark secrets were suddenly the gossip of all her classmates and only got through the most horrible time of her life by remembering Leslie’s advice to Janice Avery—to pretend she didn’t know what anybody had said or where they’d got such a crazy story and that everybody would forget about it in a week.

Yeah. "Such a crazy story" definitely needed to be forgotten so the bully's father could go back to beating her without having to worry about a visit from child services. What... the... hell?

I know this book was used in schools, and while at one time it probably brought up some interesting discussions about death and grief, I think it might be too fraught with other issues for today's teachers to be able to get through all the ensuing discussions in a reasonable amount of time. I don't think I'd want my kids reading it without some real discussion about the problematic bits... and there are plenty.

Premise: 3/5
Plot: 2/5
Characters: 2/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing: 2/5
Editing: 3/5
Originality: 3/5
Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall Rating: 2.38 out of 5 ladybugs


Thursday, April 19, 2018

Review - Nell

Nell
by Karen Hesse
Date: 2011
Publisher: Tor.com
Reading level: A
Book type: short story
Pages: 12
Format: e-book
Source: Tor.com

"I am always dying. I am never dying. I have died and died and died again, but I do not stay dead."

When the lines between fairy tale and reality blur, identity becomes fluid, and compassion can have unexpected costs. In "Nell,' a short story inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Match Girl," award-winning author Karen Hesse adds a haunting, supernatural twist to a classic tale.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Well, that was depressing. But what else are you going to get from a retelling of "The Little Match Girl"?

Still, the way this was told was beautiful, a story within a story. The imagery was rich and the main character's voice was engaging. It's short, but it still manages to bring a new, supernatural twist to the old story.

Quotable moment:

How her mouth watered with longing when she passed a rosy-cheeked boy eating a bun,

soiling his mitten with bakery grease,

dropping crumbs and bits of raisins in his wake,

ignoring the admonitions of his father,

who held on tightly to keep the boy from running into the people around him.

The match girl stopped walking and stood where the bun-eater had stood and drew in a deep breath,

devouring the scent of the sweet roll that still lingered in the cold air.

Plot: 3/5
Characters: 4/5
Pace: 4/5
Writing & Editing: 4/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall Rating: 3.86 out of 5 ladybugs


Friday, April 6, 2018

Review - All Systems Red

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1)
by Martha Wells
Date: 2017
Publisher: Tor.com
Reading level: A
Book type: prose novella
Pages: 156
Format: e-book
Source: Tor.com

As a heartless killing machine, I was a complete failure.

In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.

But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn't a primary concern.

On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied 'droid — a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as "Murderbot." Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.

But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it's up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I've had this novella on my want-to-read list for a while, so when the opportunity to read it for free came up, I couldn't say no. I managed to blow through it in a few hours, which is unusual for me. But the pace was so fast and the story so intriguing that I couldn't stop for long without wanting to get back in and find out what happened next.

The strength of this book is really Murderbot itself. The story is told from its perspective, and it's an interesting one. It's so convinced it's just a machine, continually reminding others, and trying very hard (it seems) to convince itself of that fact. But it has emotions and attachments, little quirks that make it evident that it's not just a robot.

The pace was so quick, and the story managed to pack a lot of action into relatively few pages. I'm very glad that this is just the first book in a series, though, because the ending was kind of unsatisfying and a little confusing.

I can't wait to find out what happens next in Murderbot's life (and will the poor thing ever get a proper name?).

Quotable moment:

I yelled, "No!" which I'm not supposed to do; I'm always supposed to speak respectfully to the clients, even when they're about to accidentally commit suicide.

Premise: 5/5
Plot: 4/5
Characters: 5/5
Pace: 5/5
Writing: 4/5
Editing: 3/5
Originality: 4/5
Enjoyment: 5/5

Overall Rating: 4.38 out of 5 ladybugs

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Review - The Last Novelist

The Last Novelist
by Matthew Kressel
Date: 2017
Publisher: Tor.com
Reading level: A
Book type: short story
Pages: 27
Format: e-book
Source: Tor.com

The Last Novelist (or A Dead Lizard in the Yard) by Matthew Kressel is a science fiction story about a dying writer who is trying to finish one final novel on the distant planet he settles on for his demise. His encounter with a young girl triggers a last burst of creativity.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This short story certainly painted a lovely picture of a foreign world... but, at the same time, I feel vaguely unsettled. It looks like the author tried to incorporate many cultures (you can see it in the use of language--I easily picked out the Yiddish and Indian influences), but the overall feeling I got was sort of Caribbean, from the tropical setting and mention of steel drums to the way the native inhabitants of the planet spoke. Are they human? I'm assuming they're descended from humans; despite having six-fingered hands and violet eyes, there's no indication that they're alien. Which makes it kind of awkward when the little girl--Fish, as she calls herself--speaks like a stereotype:

"I's at my uncle's," she says. "But I's back now. Get up you loafing fool, 'cause we gots work to do!"

This leaves me feeling... I don't know. Am I reading cultural appropriation? Or are we to believe that this planet was colonized entirely by settlers of Caribbean descent?

Aside from that, the story was okay, if a little unsatisfying. The world-building was probably the best part, even if it was a bit uneven at times with the technology. I also wonder if some of the themes are just the author's fears. In this future, nobody reads books anymore, preferring instead to download experiences directly into their brains. I'm not sure this would ever happen (at least, not to the extent shown here), and besides, the narrator still values the written word. Are we to believe he's the only one in the entire universe who does? (Obviously not, as Fish really takes to pen and paper, so the fact that everyone else supposedly avoids reading is a little hard to believe.)

I didn't really like the characters. Reuth, the narrator, wasn't developed all that well. We know facts about him, but we don't really know much about what he's like (other than the fact that he thinks it's okay to litter in the sea). I liked Fish a little more, but only because she was more interesting. The only other character to speak of was Fish's mother, who was just there to serve as a protective figure.

All in all, I'd say the imagery was the strongest part of the book, the characters the weakest. The story was somewhere in the middle. I'm not sorry I read it, but it's not that memorable.

Quotable moment:

Fish surprises me on the beach that afternoon. "I don't get it," she says.

I look up from my pad, unexpectedly happy to see her. "What don't you get?"

"Why write novels at all? You could project your dreams into a neural."

"I could. But dreams are raw and unfiltered. And that always felt like cheating to me. With writing, you have to labor over your thoughts."

My words seem only to perplex her more. "But you could dictate your story. Why make it so hard?"

Plot: 3/5
Characters: 2/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing & Editing: 4/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 ladybugs


Friday, March 23, 2018

Review - That Game We Played During the War

That Game We Played During the War
by Carrie Vaughn
Date: 2016
Publisher: Tor.com
Reading level: A
Book type: short story
Pages: 16
Format: e-book
Source: Tor.com

The people of Gaant are telepaths. The people of Enith are not. The two countries have been at war for decades, but now peace has fallen, and Calla of Enith seeks to renew an unlikely friendship with Gaantish officer Valk over an even more unlikely game of chess, in Carrie Vaughn's novella That Game We Played During The War.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This story had an interesting premise that led me to want to know more. There are two groups, the Gaantish and the Enithi. The former is telepathic, the latter is not. They were fighting a war, though why they were doing so was never really explained.

The story basically describes a meeting between two people from opposite sides who met during the war, and now they've come together again and are playing chess. Of course, that's an interesting and complicated idea when one person knows the moves the other person is about to make! I'm still not sure if I missed something, but there seems to be more to the relationship between Calla and Valk than we're told.

This whole idea would be an interesting setup for a longer novel that might explain such questions as to why the war happened (nobody seemed to feel much like killing each other--taking prisoners appeared to be pretty common in lieu of killing--so it came off kind of like a big, stupid game with terrible consequences like famine), more of the mechanics of how the telepathic Gaantish society works, and maybe a clearer explanation of exactly what happened between the two characters here.

Overall, though, it was a fairly enjoyable story with some thought-provoking elements.

Quotable moment:

The Gaantish officer stared at her. Her hair under her cap was pulled back in a severe bun; her whole manner was very strict and proper. Her tabs said she was a second lieutenant—just out of training and the war ends, poor thing. Or lucky thing, depending on one's point of view. Calla wondered what the young lieutenant made of the mess of thoughts pouring from her. If she saw the sympathy or only the pity.

"You speak Gaantish," the lieutenant said bluntly.

Calla was used to this reaction. "Yes. I spent a year at the prisoner camp at Ovorton. Couldn't help but learn it, really. It's a long story." She smiled blandly.

Plot: 3/5
Characters: 4/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing & Editing: 3/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall Rating: 3.57 out of 5 ladybugs