Review: The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye

Series: The Crown’s Game #1

the crown's game -evelyn skyeVika 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.


 

2.5 Drink Me Potions


The Crown’s Game delivered a beautiful setting in nineteenth century Russia that stirred my heart, but ultimately didn’t capture it with its story.

I love the whole idea of this story. A Game set in place for 2 magical enchanters to fight for the illustrious prize of Imperial Enchanter. Add into the mix bits of wonderful magic and princes , you have the makings of a novel that I would absolutely adore to read.

Now what went wrong, exactly?

It took me a long time to finish this book, clearly. And if I had to pinpoint what things really made this experience less than lovely, it would boil down to these few things.

1) The lack of connection

I liked Vika and I liked Nikolai, and I even liked Pasha although he was clearly not the ship I was cheering for in this love triangle (if one can really call it that?). But it was hard for me to really FEEL for these characters. Maybe it’s the 3rd person writing, but I’ve encountered plenty of books who write in 3rd person and still convey feeling as beautifully as first person narrative, if not even better. So I’m a little stumped how I felt so little for these characters over all. I didn’t feel shoots of pain when the cliffhanger ending took place. Just…a twinge of sadness that it had to be this way. So maybe my rating would’ve been higher if this was the only problem, something solely due to me.

2) The slownessssss of the book

For a book that has really short chapters (like honestly, some were less than a page), I dunno how it felt so dragged out. The Game took a while to get started, and the meeting of the enchanters wasn’t as quick as I thought. But then, the Game itself wasn’t as fast-paced as the synopsis might’ve suggested. How can someone take so long to make their turn? Vika and Nikolai alternate their moves by showing off their power in a way that would impress the tsar of Russia, and while they were impressive in some ways, this wasn’t the exciting feats of magic to be performed as I suppose I was hoping for. Turning a river into a display of colours and making a wardrobe that would outfit you however you wish isn’t all that exciting at the end of the day. Impressive, yes, but not exciting.

3) The lack of romance

Huh? How’s that even possible? I thought this book was on a love triangle. Oddly enough, nothing truly moves very fast on this front. True, it’s not the best timing to be falling in love what with the dangerous Game they’re playing, but it could’ve happened. And it’s not like having little romance is a bad thing. Sometimes it’s the perfect move for a novel, but this WAS NOT one of those kind of stories. Then somehow the characters “fall” for each other, and it just didn’t please me as much when the magic of their love never really came across the pages.

Sigh. I guess I can say the overall feeling was a bit of disappointment. I know other reviewers enjoyed the novel, but it wasn’t like I put very high expectations for this. I’m a little sad that the rating isn’t as high as I had hoped it, and even after a break while reading this book, it hadn’t gotten any better. When you’re feeling a little apathetic to Vika and her love life, you know that the experience isn’t gonna get so much better. The only highlight was Nikolai and the beauty of his magic and his unique backstory which unfolded in slightly surprising ways.

Overall Recommendation:
The Crown’s Game had a lot of potential going for it as a historical fantasy set in Russia. With this setting well-researched and an author who actually knows her stuff, I was disappointed with the slowness of the plot – which also had so much potential with the Game between enchanters – and the lack of connection I felt with the characters. Vika was just another strong-willed protagonist but lacked true depth to her personality. The love triangle wasn’t even fully present as the romance took a huge backseat to everything and felt more insta-love than anything. I will read its sequel, but my expectations are already wayyyyy down there.

Review: Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

scrappy little nobody -anna kendrickA collection of humorous autobiographical essays by the Academy Award-nominated actress and star of Up in the Air and Pitch Perfect.

Even before she made a name for herself on the silver screen starring in films like Pitch Perfect, Up in the Air, Twilight, and Into the Woods, Anna Kendrick was unusually small, weird, and “10 percent defiant.”

At the ripe age of thirteen, she had already resolved to “keep the crazy inside my head where it belonged. Forever. But here’s the thing about crazy: It. Wants. Out.” In Scrappy Little Nobody, she invites readers inside her brain, sharing extraordinary and charmingly ordinary stories with candor and winningly wry observations.

With her razor-sharp wit, Anna recounts the absurdities she’s experienced on her way to and from the heart of pop culture as only she can—from her unusual path to the performing arts (Vanilla Ice and baggy neon pants may have played a role) to her double life as a middle-school student who also starred on Broadway to her initial “dating experiments” (including only liking boys who didn’t like her back) to reviewing a binder full of butt doubles to her struggle to live like an adult woman instead of a perpetual “man-child.”

Enter Anna’s world and follow her rise from “scrappy little nobody” to somebody who dazzles on the stage, the screen, and now the page—with an electric, singular voice, at once familiar and surprising, sharp and sweet, funny and serious (well, not that serious).


4 Drink Me Potions


I think Scrappy Little Nobody would’ve been even better if I had listened to the audiobook with Anna Kendrick reading it to me with all the proper intonations. But even with my imperfect understanding of what should be highlighted in the novel, her imagined voice in my head managed to deliver the perfect balance of snark (which was the majority of the book) with a tiny bit of heart mixed in. Honest to the point of self-deprecating, Anna’s voice brings to life her own story that kept me mostly entertained with the stories she chose to share and her down-to-earth attitude about her life even with her current fame.

I’ve known Anna Kendrick since she first was cast in a very minor role in Twilight. Yes, that’s right. She was Jessica Stanley in that novel. And I only knew her name ’cause I stalked all the cast actors and actresses prior to the movie release. (And this may tell you how Twilight-freaky I was in my early teen years). But she’s become so much more well-known since then, and she very much deserves it. Scrappy Little Nobody details her beginnings and highlights how her life has changed (or barely changed) since then.

Her beginnings began in theatre and along with lovely little Anna pictures, this book describes a mostly ordinary childhood with the occasional trip to New York for her roles in theatre productions. This was one of the things that I felt lowered my rating a little. Although important, her beginnings dragged out the novel a little and it made it hard to continue reading straight through. But the one thing I loved about this section was the way she really set the tone for the rest of the novel. She wasn’t some special somebody, even in the beginning. Even after landing certain roles, like her first film credit, pride wasn’t a huge factor in her attitude towards friends and classmates at school. Of course it’s natural to want to share tidbits about the new thing in her life, like, hey, I went to the Sundance Film Festival last week and I met cool people, but none of her “luckiness” got to her head. In fact, she even stated,

“I sometimes think that I should have a sense of pride knowing that I’ve achieved more than my sixteen year old brain would have ever let me imagine, but mostly it’s just the opposite.
I think self-doubt is healthy. And having to fight for the thing you want doesn’t mean you deserve it any less.”

With her very down-to-earth attitude and her general Anna quirkiness, her stories about very regular things like BOYS (omg, that section!) and friends and her initial struggles in LA were made all that much more interesting. Add to that the very honest and sometimes very personal examples she included, it sometimes felt like Anna was sitting next to you telling you this story like you were her friend. Honestly, I think the audiobook would’ve made this 10x better.

But the best part was hearing her stories of being in Hollywood, post-Twilight and shooting in stardom with Pitch Perfect. From her very detailed imaginary holiday parties that she wished to host, to the surprising behind-the-scenes at award shows, and the craziness that is answering the same questions to a multitude of journalists all day, this book has it all. The stories at the end were rather quick and had a specific point, never quite dragging on too long. It was enough of a tidbit of each of these areas of her life that made it satisfactory (although to be honest, I would’ve loved hearing more about some of those experiences…like being rained on during that Twilight wedding scene).

She ended off in the last section of the book very aptly with her book title. And it reinforces her overall attitude about herself. She admires others whom she works with, either directors or actors, and never seems to portray anything but awe and gratitude in working with these different, accomplished people. But she’s also so relatable even to us normal folks. She’s not perfect. She has anxieties and fears about the next potential placement. She doesn’t always want to dress up and go out, but is in fact a fellow Netflix binge watcher and take-out eater for weeks at a time. I guess being famous and leading such high-profile roles on film makes her seem superior but in fact, she reminds us that she’s indeed just a scrappy little nobody (who likes to dole out fun advice like using a childhood psychotic picture to encourage persistence and hard work).

Overall Recommendation:
Scrappy Little Nobody was a fun, entertaining and very honest look into Anna Kendrick’s beginnings and journey into fame. With her quirky and fun attitude, her stories were made so much more interesting and it felt like she was personally sharing these things with you. Her down-to-earth tone made her seem very relatable, no matter if we haven’t experienced half the things she did. She never makes you feel like you’re her inferior, but rather that we’re all facing similar issues, although she has some comical advice to give on getting over some of these problems. Having no issue with making fun of herself, Scrappy Little Nobody was written with heart and if you’re a fan of hers, I would suggest you read it. She makes an autobiography fun to read if that’s not normally your thing.

Review: Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

Series: Carve the Mark #1

carve the mark -veronica rothIn a galaxy powered by the current, everyone has a gift.

Cyra is the sister of the brutal tyrant who rules the Shotet people. Cyra’s currentgift gives her pain and power — something her brother exploits, using her to torture his enemies. But Cyra is much more than just a blade in her brother’s hand: she is resilient, quick on her feet, and smarter than he knows.

Akos is the son of a farmer and an oracle from the frozen nation-planet of Thuvhe. Protected by his unusual currentgift, Akos is generous in spirit, and his loyalty to his family is limitless. Once Akos and his brother are captured by enemy Shotet soldiers, Akos is desperate to get this brother out alive — no matter what the cost.
The Akos is thrust into Cyra’s world, and the enmity between their countries and families seems insurmountable. Will they help each other to survive, or will they destroy one another?

Carve the Mark is Veronica Roth’s stunning portrayal of the power of friendship — and love — in a galaxy filled with unexpected gifts.


 

3.5 Drink Me Potions


Carve the Mark is one of those books that’s left me with a variety of emotions upon completion. Like a rollercoaster ride, the slow ascend into the unknown drove me crazy, but the quick drop left me breathless trying to catch up with everything that’s happened.

I get that some reviewers think the beginning was ridiculously hard to understand. I will say that Roth isn’t the type of author who wastes time explaining bit by bit of the complex world that she’s created. You just gotta slowly go over what she has said in the context that she put it in and try to piece together an image of the scene. I found knowing beforehand that the world could be confusing, lasting approximately the first 100 pages, really helped me take it slow in the beginning so that it would make better sense as I went along. And frankly, I didn’t find the first 100 pages all that bad with that mindset in place.

I have mixed feelings when it comes to this novel. It’s very different from Roth’s previous works, which hardly anyone cannot know at this point with her works being made into major movies. But I felt it still had the makings of a good read. I will try to dissect my feelings into what was positive and what was…less than positive.

Positives on the novel:

– The world building was absolutely stunning. Even if it can get confusing for some, you can’t argue that she thought a lot about how things worked amongst the different cultures and the different planets in this little solar system. With the main story focusing on the planet Thuvhe, there are 2 groups of people fighting for this land throughout history. Technically this planet as seen by the governing body ruling this solar system to belong to the Thuvhesites (hence the official name of the planet), but Shotet nation wants to gain recognition and get this land too. Each group, and even each culture from the other planets in this galaxy, have different views on spirituality and religion. But at the centre of this world is something called a currentstream, which apparently gives life to everything.

There are also currentgifts that each individual grows into as they age. I kinda think of them as some sort of magical abilities. But it’s through this current that lives in each person that determines how its power is uniquely molded by each wielder. In a way, this concept seems like something I’ve seen before, yet there is something still innately unique about it in my opinion.

– Aside from well-thought world building, which honestly sets the foundation of a whole series, the nature of the protagonists was right. We get to follow both Cyra and Akos’ POVs. Oddly enough, Cyra’s is in first person and Akos’ is always in 3rd. I don’t know why this was the way but it makes me feel closer to Cyra sometimes. Enemies by birth yet their circumstances draw them closer, as their fates have said. Maybe it sounds a bit like a Romeo/Juliet thing, but it’s really not. Cyra isn’t as bad as her preceding reputation makes her out to be. She didn’t ask for her currentgift to be pain, both for herself and for anyone who touches her. And Akos isn’t the pure little hero come to redeem the girl born in a tyrant’s family either. They both required redemption, and had to find their own way of achieving what they each wanted. Neither was necessarily better than the other. Everyone made choices they had to make in the moment and sometimes those that turned out to be mistakes haunted them long afterwards.

Anyway, there’s a lot that can be said about these two. There’s no one else we get to know as well as them. There may be plenty of secondary characters but it’s their hearts that we learn to understand. And before you get all twisted about it, yes, a romance blooms between them over time.

Now, what’d I FEEL exactly about this romance of theirs? Honestly? I felt the minor tidbits of romantic expressions were the right amount. Some people (me included) really love romance to be littered throughout a good fantasy. But sometimes, it shouldn’t be the focus, or even there at all. Roth did a great job with this. It wasn’t instalove. And it wasn’t exactly a slow-burn love either. It was formed through loyalty and a deep friendship. I wouldn’t have necessarily minded if there were even fewer mentions of how they felt for each other as there’s just so many OTHER things to focus on in this first book. Would it be right for Akos and Cyra to have some romantic interlude while they’re running for their lives or soldiers are coming for them? No. I sure hope not.

I believe Roth chose right and Carve the Mark had just the right balance of action and romance so the focus always stayed prioritized on moving forward the very complex plot she had in mind for these characters.

Less than positives:

– With such a strong focus on plot and her world that she created here, sometimes the plot felt long and dragged a little. It didn’t deter me from reading this straight through but sometimes there were more events that were solely meant for world building over furthering the build-up of the plot in this book. While I appreciated learning a bit more about how this world and the other surrounding planets worked, this story definitely was made longer by it. The suspense of what would happen next lulled and occasionally I wanted to just skip ahead to hurry it up.

– There may be many secondary characters, but I don’t always feel very close to them. Most barely spend time with either main character, so we don’t see them too often. It was hard to form any connection with anyone else, and sometimes that’s necessary too.

What’s the overall consensus?

While I enjoyed this ride (as long as it was to finish it), this novel just made me think a lot at the end of the day. It’s not what you would call a light read, and I’m still processing a ton of emotions about it. The world was described well, and I felt like I lived within these pages while I was there, but at the same time, I’m glad for whenever I had a little break from it all. All the scheming, all the mysteries that opened up even more questions at the very end. Care the Mark is one complicated book, but I think it was enjoyable for what it was.

Overall Recommendation:
Carve the Mark is nothing like what you may know of author Veronica Roth. This is both good and bad. With a completely new world that’s sometimes confusing but fully immersive to the readers, we take a journey with both Cyra and Akos as they navigate the politics and the fury between two nations vying over one planet. Dealing with big topics such as fighting your own fate and finding your own redemption, it’s one book that made me think more than anything else. Like an exhilarating rollercoaster ride, it may leave you with a mix of feelings both good and bad as you exit. Overall, I’d say it’s a worthwhile book to give a shot as it has plenty to offer and I do believe the sequel would only bring even more excitement.