The Crown’s Game

The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye is the first book in a young adult fantasy series full of magic, Russian royals and more.

Vika Andreyev and Nikolai Karimov are very different people with one extraordinary thing in common… magic. Since they were little Nikolai and Vika have been training for one job, to become the imperial enchanter to the Tsar of Russia. But there can only be one enchanter, so the Tsar enacts The Crown’s Game.

The Crown’s Game is a secret, ancient duel of magical skill, pitting enchanter against enchanter until a winner has been declared. And for the loser? Death. But circumstance and conscience get the best of Vika and Nikolai and neither know if they will be able to finish this brutal game. Who will win and at what cost?

Hmm, I have mixed feelings about this one. Ever since I’ve read The Night Circus, I’ve loved a good magical duel/love story and this definitely was that. Vika and Nikolai are connected in so many ways and yet one of them must die. I just wish I liked the characters more. I wasn’t really impressed by any of our characters. I didn’t find them terribly unique and couldn’t find myself rooting for one over the other. I did warm to all three of our main characters (Pasha, Vika & Nikolai) toward the end, which is why I will have to read the next book in the series. The book did get more interesting in the end.

The game itself didn’t really feel like much of a game to me. There was no real audience, even the Tsar, who is running the game, doesn’t witness any of the magics. I don’t know, it’s a magical duel and the first turn is to paint all of the buildings on a street in St. Petersburg. Really? I just wish there was more magic and more of an actual duel.

Did this book keep me entertained while it lasted? Yes. Would I read it again? Probably not. I am sure there are a ton of people who would really like this book but there are others out there that have pulled me in more.

Not bad but not my favorite. This one gets a grudging three stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Ghost

Ghost by Jason Reynolds is a fifth-sixth grade, juvenile fiction coming of age novel. Castle Cranshaw, aka Ghost, has always been good at one thing… running. Ghost always thought he’d play basketball, but he’s never tried out for the team. One day, Ghost impulsively challenges a track member to a sprint and the coach sees his potential and recruits him for the team. But Ghost has never been a part of a team before and the only this he’s ever really run from his past… his past and trouble.

Ghost is full of anger and is conflicted about letting the team in. Can he overcome his past, his emotions and tear down the barriers that keep him from being great?

I always try to read several of the Maryland Black Eyed Susan nominees after they’ve been announced. I like to do this because it’s a great way to read outside of your comfort zone and familiarize yourself with different genres of juvenile literature.

Ghost is the perfect coming of age book for boys and it covers such a wide range of topics kids are dealing with these days. Just some of the themes that are addressed are: bullying, socioeconomic issues, family struggles, issues in right and wrong, building confidence, believing in oneself and so much more. Some of these themes can be sensitive like gun violence and drug abuse, but I think they hard handled very well and I personally would even recommend this book to a well read fourth grader.

This book definitely has a little of everything without feeling over done or overwhelming. One of the things I really liked about it was the relationship that develops between Ghost and Coach. It was very realistic and very real. In fact the whole book was just so believable and just very, very real.

Ghost definitely deserves to be a contender for the 2017-2018 BES award. It’s a great read for boys, especially those reluctant readers. I think everyone can find some aspect of Ghost to relate to.

Great read. This one gets five stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

 

Our Dark Duet

Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab is the sequel to This Savage Song, a YA urban fantasy duology.

After escaping their own personal evils, Kate Harker and August Flynn went their separate ways. Kate, left Verity and joined a group of college rebels called the Warden’s, attempting to keep Prosperity safe from ending up like Verity–awash in monsters. August, has become the leader of the FTA, taking on Leo’s role as warrior and losing much of his humanity in the process. August fights to keep the monsters of Verity out of their side of the city and win the war.

But a new evil that thrives on chaos will bring Kate back to Verity, to August and the monsters waiting both within and without. Can August and Kate overcome their difference, their inner demons, and win the war?

Ultimately, this was a satisfying conclusion to a good duology. I am glad Schwab didn’t pull any punches when she wrote this one. This book is promoted as a dark urban fantasy and I think this definitely gets delivered.

I did really enjoy this world of monsters and mayhem. I love this idea of having to face your own evil; that your acts cause actual repercussions in the form of monsters. The fact that you have to actually fight your inner demons is just awesome.

The ending was the highlight of this book. It was just fantastic, they way Schwab pulls at our emotions and yet it feels so right, like the book couldn’t have ended in any other way.

Schwab did the same thing in this one that she did in the first one… she introduces side characters, really interesting side characters and really doesn’t do anything with them throughout the rest of the book. I loved the Wardens. They seemed like they were a really fun team and would add an interesting dynamic to the story. I kept expecting them to show up and help Kate in Verity, but alas it wasn’t to be. Maybe Schwab will write a novella about them or something. But it was just a disappointment to get so much of them in the first 50 or so pages and nothing else.

There were also things I expected from August. Things I thought were being hinted toward but were also never delivered. Again, maybe Schwab isn’t done with this world but I was left with quite a few questions.

Ultimately a good duology but probably not one I would read again. This one gets three stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Library of Fates

The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana is a standalone young adult science fiction & fantasy novel about fate, destiny and the lengths one would go to change it.

Shalingar is an idyllic kingdom, quiet and peaceful. That is until Emperor Sikander arrives, an emperor whose hunger for power knows no bounds. To keep her city safe, Princess Amrita agrees to be the Emperor’s bride, giving up her family, her freedom and her childhood love. But a bride isn’t all the emperor is after and peaceful talks soon turn hostile.

Now Amrita is forced to run from her home and her only companion is a young oracle named Thala. Together they must warn the people of Shalingar. But life takes a surprise turn when Amrita uncovers secrets about her family, her past and her future. Can Thala and Amrita find The Library of Fates and change their own before it is too late?

This one was interesting for me. I was really looking forward to reading The Library of Fates and I did enjoy it but I sort of felt like I was reading two different books. The first 25% of the book was one story, believable, realistic–a story about a girl, looking for answers, who is about to lose her freedom to an arranged marriage. Then the bulk of the middle blurs the lines between reality and the supernatural. And finally, the last 25% of this book is full of magic and myths becoming reality. I didn’t quite think there was enough of a transition between the first and last parts of the book to make this feel natural.

Another problem I had with this book was that there were loose ends throughout the story that I would have liked to have solved along the way, rather than being solved by altering the structure of the story. Can’t say anymore without spoilers. Don’t get me wrong these loose ends did get solved in a way but not how I would have liked.

All the above being said, I loved the last half of this book. It was magical fantastical in just the ways I like. I do wish that some of these scenes were fleshed out a bit more… in fact much of the book could have had a little more to it. Maybe that was what was missing for me… more.

I did like this idea that some things are fated and some can be changed. We can make our own decisions but things don’t always end up like we think they will.

This one gets three stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

 

This Savage Song

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab is the first novel in a YA fantasy duology about what would happen if actual monsters sprung from the worst acts of humanity.

No one is safe in a city where monsters roam the streets. Verity is a city torn in two by both the monsters within and those who rule. Kate is the daughter of Harker, the ruler of Northern Verity and all of the monsters in it. His people pay for protection and if they can’t pay then they are at the mercy of the monsters under his command. August is a part of the Flynn family, the heads of Southern Verity. In the south you fight to protect yourself from the monsters and no one fights harder then the Flynn’s.

August and Kate are from very different worlds but they are thrown together by circumstance and must learn to trust one another if they are going to advert a war and survive to fight another day. Can a monster trust a monster killer or will they let the world burn?

I don’t know why but this book reminded me so much of The Stars Never Rise by Rachel Vincent. I don’t know if it’s just that both books are urban fantasy duologies or what but this book felt very familiar to me. I still really liked it but it just felt like something I’ve read before.

I think I’d love this book just for the whole concept behind our monsters becoming reality. That our sins, darken our souls and out of that darkness comes physical monsters. How cool is that?! These monsters are different depending on the sins themselves… there is just so much potential here. I’m really looking forward to seeing what other monsters and beings pop up in the next book.

Both Kate and August have their merits as characters. Kate is hard and strong but very human in her own way and August is just so interesting and I found myself rooting for him. I also liked that there was no romance but more of a bond forged by circumstance and mutual understanding if not respect.

This book didn’t wow me in it’s world building; like I said it felt too familiar for that. But it was a book I couldn’t put down and that is never a bad thing. This one gets a high 3.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

 

Ash and Quill

Ash and Quill by Rachel Caine is the third book in The Great Library series. Since finding out the dark secrets behind the Great Library, Jess and his friend have been running for their lives. After escaping the Library’s clutches yet again, the gang has run straight into yet more danger. Now they are hostages within the walls of Burner run Philadelphia. But Jess and his friends have cards to play and the know-how to build a machine that could turn the tide of conflict forever.

As time is running out, the crew must decide how far they are willing to go to stop the Archivist and restore the Great Library to it’s original glory. Will Jess be willing to give up everything to do what he knows is right? And will this group of rebels finally reach it’s breaking point?

This is such an interesting series. I just love thinking about what the world would be like if it were run by an epic library. It’s even more fun to think about the corruption within the Library that Caine writes about. One doesn’t think about a library and immediately think about politics and power struggles, so it’s just neat to contemplate.

Introducing the Burner community in this book adds another layer to the story. We see that they aren’t just evil book burning brute, but that they are real people with real concerns who have been led by fanatics for too long… much like the Great Library.

There were parts of the story that did drag for me a little bit. I kept wondering if we were going to be stuck in Philadelphia for the whole book or if we were ever going to see the gang actually strike against the Library–put plans into action. The last hundred pages definitely gave me what I was craving and we got to see more of Jess at his best… or worst depending on how you see it.

This book definitely sets the stage for the epic–I won’t say final because there are two books left–battle to come. In the books to come I foresee twists, turns and a lot of intrigue.

This one was a wow like the first book but it was an entertaining read, so I am still going to give it four stars. A fun read for book and dystopian lovers. This one is technically a young adult fiction but adults will enjoy it too!

That’s all for now!

-M-

Word of Mouse

Word of Mouse by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein is a middle school, juvenile fiction novel about a little mouse with a big heart. Isaiah is a very special mouse, not only is he “electric neon blue” but he is super smart, he can read, write and if you listen very carefully he can even talk!

Our story begins when Isaiah and his 96 multi-colored brothers and sisters attempt to break out of the “bad place” but something goes horribly wrong and Isaiah is the only one who makes it out. Now he is on his own in a world he knows nothing about, dodging cats, dogs and trying to make it alone.

But a mouse needs his mischief and Isaiah is determined to get his back. With the help of some very unlikely friends, Isaiah may just do that and find a little courage along the way.

Patterson and Grabenstein make a great team. This was such a fun, inspiring story the kids will love. Isaiah has an upbeat, positive attitude even when all seems lost. He is able to see the positive side of everything and he will do the right thing even if it isn’t easy.

Although there are a ton of lessons in this book, the biggest theme is that being different isn’t just okay, it’s great! Everyone is different and when we look past our differences we can see what’s really special in each and every one of us. Isaiah learns (and teaches us) that when you are told what to do and what to be that you can miss out on opportunities and hidden talents you never knew you had. This is something every parent, teacher and adult wants to (or should want to) teach our children and this book definitely gets that point across.

I listened to the audio book of Word of Mouse and it was fantastic. A really great one to bring with you in the car and probably an even better one to read out loud to your kids. I could also see this being a positive middle school book club pick.

I thought this was a really great read. This one gets a high 4.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-