Review | The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye

Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip-smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love…or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear—the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

2 cupcakes

The Crown’s Game had been on my radar for a while since its description sounded like a YA version of The Night Circus – a book that is easily in the top ten of my #absolutefavourites list. My love for The Night Circus combined with my love for Russian history gave me very high hopes for The Crown’s Game, and I’m sorry to say that it was not even close to meeting them.

Here are just a few of the ways that The Crown’s Game disappointed me:
The characters lacked depth and never really developed
All the instalove = too many forced love triangles
– A lack of worldbuilding, especially as it relates to the magic system
– There are a few neat magic tricks, but the stakes feel far too low despite the whole “duel to the death” aspect

Its redeeming features were that it was a quick, light read that was (mostly) entertaining. I did enjoy the ending, although since there is a sequel, I’m sure that the finality of only one enchanter being able to survive the Crown’s Game will be modified.

Overall, The Crown’s Game had a promising premise but very poor execution. If you want to read a book about dueling enchanters, pick up The Night Circus instead.

Be My (Fictional) Bad Boy

Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed something interesting about the way I tend to react to love triangles – or, more specifically, the “choices” involved in the love triangle. I’ve found that I gravitate towards the “bad boys” when presented with an option between them and the boy-next-door/childhood best friend archetype. If given the choice, I’d choose the Darkling over Mal, Morpheus over Jeb, and Warner over Adam every time. I wish I could say that this says a lot about my personality… but, in real life, I’m the exact opposite.

In fact, all of the guys I’ve dated have been close friends. No hate-to-love transformations here, even though I adore those types of relationships in books. Friends-first relationships have the security and stability that I crave, without needing any of the awkward first date questions. They’ve seen me at me best and worst, have listened to all of my random thoughts, and have seen my many, many obsessions. And, despite all that, they’re still there.

So, then, why don’t I like these relationships in the books that I read? It’s not a case of “saving” the “bad boys” through true love or any of that; it’s just that they’re more exciting. I view reading as a sort of escape, a way of living out many different lives and experiences without any of the real-world costs/potential dangers. As a result, I don’t want to read about people making the safe choices that I would make (unless it’s a contemporary romance, since Max in The Start of Me and You is 100% the type of guy I’d go for). With the “bad boys,” the stakes are higher; there’s a sense of danger, and you’re not sure if you should even trust this individual, and that’s what makes the story even more exciting.

More than that, though, they’re compelling. While the pure evil ones can be fun to read about for a little bit, complicated, morally ambiguous characters are much more interesting – especially when compared to the “good guy” who is inevitably going to be his foil. Maybe they’ve done some inexcusable things (looking at you, Darkling), but they’ve also shown potential for improvement, so it’s hard not to root for some kind of redemption. And, you know, the possibility of snarky banter is higher, and that’s one of my biggest weaknesses.

Although the “bad boy” is a trope, it’s one that I absolutely love. Fictional bad boys, you have my heart (real life ones, though, not so much).

Do you like bookish bad boys as much as I do? If so, who are some of your favourites?

3

Waiting on Wednesday (November 19)

wow

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly book meme hosted by Breaking the Spine, which spotlights upcoming releases that are eagerly anticipated.

This week, I’m waiting on We Are Pirates by Daniel Handler, which has an expected publication date of February 3, 2015.

Mega-bestselling author Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) gives us his long-awaited and most ambitious novel yet: a dark, rollicking, stunningly entertaining human comedy.

A boat has gone missing. Goods have been stolen. There is blood in the water. It is the twenty-first century and a crew of pirates is terrorizing the San Francisco Bay.

Phil is a husband, a father, a struggling radio producer, and the owner of a large condo with a view of the water. But he’d like to be a rebel and a fortune hunter.

Gwen is his daughter. She’s fourteen. She’s a student, a swimmer, and a best friend. But she’d like to be an adventurer and an outlaw.

Phil teams up with his young, attractive assistant. They head for the open road, attending a conference to seal a deal.

Gwen teams up with a new, fierce friend and some restless souls. They head for the open sea, stealing a boat to hunt for treasure.

We Are Pirates is a novel about our desperate searches for happiness and freedom, about our wild journeys beyond the boundaries of our ordinary lives.

Also, it’s about a teenage girl who pulls together a ragtag crew to commit mayhem in the San Francisco Bay, while her hapless father tries to get her home.

I absolutely love A Series of Unfortunate Events, so I’m naturally excited for We Are Pirates – even if it’s targeted at a slightly older age group. And if the pirates are anything like Hook from Once Upon A Time, I’ll be quite satisfied with it.

Which books are you waiting on? Leave me a link or a list to your Waiting on Wednesday post below.

3

Book Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems besides the point now.

Maybe that was always besides the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts . . .

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

3.5 cupcakes

“You meet someone, and you fall in love, and you hope that that person is the one — and then at some point, you have to put down your chips. You just have to make a commitment and hope that you’re right.”

Rainbow Rowell has the gift of being able to write beautiful yet honest depictions of love’s many stages. Landline is a bit of a departure from her previous works in that it takes a less idealistic view of love and integrates a touch of magical realism into the story, however it manages to find its way into your heart all the same.

Landline is about how much can change between your twenties and your forties. The choices you make and the things that you’re passionate about now may not be enough to sustain your happiness in the future, and sometimes it’s hard to remember how work went from being something that you enjoyed to something that you have to do. Landline also shows how easy it is to become complacent in your relationships, reminding us not to take the people we love for granted and to work harder to keep the spark alive.

Despite the fact that I’m twenty years old and the only relationship I’m in is with my Netflix account, I found it incredibly easy to sympathize with Georgie. She’s very goal-oriented, and her tight focus on work often takes her away from her home responsibilities – a large source of tension in her household. Georgie’s selfishness, especially when it came to her relationship with her best friend Seth, made her hard to like at times, but her narrative voice was compelling enough that I could overlook that.

Through the use of a “magic phone” and flashbacks, the past and present are weaved together to remind Georgie (and readers) about just how much she truly loves her husband. Readers get to experience their relationship from the beginning (from when they first met to where they are now, with all the bumps between), so I was pleasantly surprised to find myself completely rooting for Neal and Georgie to stay together by the end of the book.

My main complaint about Landline is that the plot was rather slow. With Eleanor & Park, Fangirl, and Attachments, I had a rather hard time accomplishing anything as I didn’t want to put them down; Landline, however, was rather easy to walk away from, and just as easy to get back into after I picked it back up. There were also several plot points that I wish had been explored further. Mostly, though, the open ending left me questioning the strength of Georgie and Neal’s relationship, and whether or not they could truly last.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Landline. While it may not be my favourite of Rainbow Rowell’s works, I’ll still check out whatever beautifully written book she comes out with next.

Book Review: The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick

Call it fate. Call it synchronicity. Call it an act of God. Call it . . . The Good Luck of Right Now. From the New York Times bestselling author of The Silver Linings Playbook comes an entertaining and inspiring tale that will leave you pondering the rhythms of the universe and marveling at the power of kindness and love.

For thirty-eight years, Bartholomew Neil has lived with his mother. When she gets sick and dies, he has no idea how to be on his own. His redheaded grief counselor, Wendy, says he needs to find his flock and leave the nest. But how does a man whose whole life has been grounded in his mom, Saturday mass, and the library learn how to fly?

Bartholomew thinks he’s found a clue when he discovers a “Free Tibet” letter from Richard Gere hidden in his mother’s underwear drawer. In her final days, mom called him Richard—there must be a cosmic connection. Believing that the actor is meant to help him, Bartholomew awkwardly starts his new life, writing Richard Gere a series of highly intimate letters. Jung and the Dalai Lama, philosophy and faith, alien abduction and cat telepathy, the Catholic Church and the mystery of women are all explored in his soul-baring epistles. But mostly the letters reveal one man’s heartbreakingly earnest attempt to assemble a family of his own.

A struggling priest, a “Girlbrarian,” her feline-loving, foul-mouthed brother, and the spirit of Richard Gere join the quest to help Bartholomew. In a rented Ford Focus, they travel to Canada to see the cat Parliament and find his biological father . . . and discover so much more.

My Rating: 3 cupcakes

“When something bad happens to us, something good happens – often to someone else. And that’s The Good Luck of Right Now. We must believe it. We must. We must. We must.”

The Good Luck of Right Now is an epistolary novel, in that it is comprised entirely of letters written to the actor, Richard Gere. As a result, it’s fairly easy to say that The Good Luck of Right Now is one of the strangest books I’ve ever read.

Our protagonist, Bartholemew Neil, is a 38 year old man who lives in a codependent relationship with his mother, keeps a journal of interesting things, and is in love with a Girlbrarian that he’s never spoken to. And he may be borderline autistic (though it was never explicitly confirmed). After his mother dies from cancer, his therapist, Wendy, advises that he make like a little bird discovering independence, and with the help of Richard Gere, a foul-mouthed man who loves cats, the Girlbrarian, and an ex-priest, he’s able to find his flock. This rag-tag group of characters was incredibly quirky, and yet Quick was still able to make me care about them – both because of their incredible strangeness and their normalcy.

Although The Good Luck of Right Now contains many difficult subjects (such as abuse and loss of a loved one), it is also incredibly uplifting. Despite his poor circumstances, Bartholemew is still able to see the good in people and selflessly offer his assistance, and even his home, to those in need. The idea of synchronicity – or “the good luck of right now” – is also an important theme; whether or not you believe that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, or that something good happens for every bad thing that occurs, it’s such a moving and powerful notion.

Overall, despite it’s overwhelming strangeness, I did enjoy The Good Luck of Right Now. I can’t wait to see what quirky story Matthew Quick comes up with next.

This Month In Books: March 2014

tmib

I can’t believe it’s March already — it feels like New Years was just yesterday! Although March is an awful month for university because of midterms and assignments, it’s an excellent month for book releases. As always, if you’re interested in one of the books, click on its cover image to be taken to its Goodreads page.

March 1

March 4

March 6

March 11

March 18

March 25

What new releases are you most looking forward to reading this month?
3

Book Review: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

It is the year 2059. Several major world cities are under the control of a security force called Scion. Paige Mahoney works in the criminal underworld of Scion London, part of a secret cell known as the Seven Seals. The work she does is unusual: scouting for information by breaking into others’ minds. Paige is a dreamwalker, a rare kind of clairvoyant, and in this world, the voyants commit treason simply by breathing.

But when Paige is captured and arrested, she encounters a power more sinister even than Scion. The voyant prison is a separate city—Oxford, erased from the map two centuries ago and now controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. These creatures, the Rephaim, value the voyants highly—as soldiers in their army.

Paige is assigned to a Rephaite keeper, Warden, who will be in charge of her care and training. He is her master. Her natural enemy. But if she wants to regain her freedom, Paige will have to learn something of his mind and his own mysterious motives.

The Bone Season introduces a compelling heroine—a young woman learning to harness her powers in a world where everything has been taken from her. It also introduces an extraordinary young writer, with huge ambition and a teeming imagination. Samantha Shannon has created a bold new reality in this riveting debut.

My Rating: 4.5 cupcakes

The Bone Season was one of my most anticipated reads of the year. The idea of clairvoyance was intriguing on its own, so when I heard that Samantha Shannon was being hailed as the next J.K. Rowling, this book moved all the way to the top of my to-read list. After being held captive by the world of Scion for an entire day (I really didn’t want to put this book down) I can certainly say that The Bone Season lives up to the hype that surrounds it.

The world of Scion is incredibly complex, intricate, and imaginative. As a result, the first quarter of the book is dedicated to setting up this world and the order of the clairvoyants within it. It’s so detailed that can be quite overwhelming – to the point where there’s a glossary located at the back of the book to explain some of the British slang and terminology used throughout the book. There is also, thankfully, a chart of the seven levels of ‘voyants, which I referred to countless times throughout my read. Thankfully, this world is every bit enthralling as it is complex, so I never felt bored while reading the more “info-dumpy” bits; in fact, this information made me want to dig deeper into Scion’s history and learn even more about the world that Shannon created.

Almost all of the characters in The Bone Season were very well-developed and each had a distinct voice. Paige was a wonderful heroine. She was very human: despite her dreamwalking gift, she was flawed and made mistakes, which allowed her to grow as a character. Her gang, the Seven Seals, didn’t receive a lot of page time, however thanks to the flashbacks that were inserted throughout the story, their ambitions and personalities were slowly uncovered. The only character who I don’t know very well is Warden, Paige’s keeper. He remained mysterious and aloof throughout the book, and I still don’t have a grasp on his motivations or intentions. While that makes things interesting (and leaves me eagerly anticipating the sequel) it made it difficult to connect with Warden.

Overall, The Bone Season was an imaginative debut filled with an intriguing premise, intricate world-building, and an addictive plot. Although the length and the slow start may be daunting, don’t give up – it’s certainly worth continuing. I can’t wait to see where Paige is headed next – in both the sequel, and the next six books in the series.