A few disclaimers before I launch into my review of The Enigma Game. I was provided a free copy of the book for reviewing purposes, however this doesn’t influence my review at all.
The second disclaimer is that that I have most of Elizabeth’s books (including non fiction) and as you can guess from the picture, have a soft spot for World War II bombers and cryptography (yes, I was at those Turing events). So be aware that this makes this book a quick runner for a good review due to contents.
The Enigma Game is another winner by Elizabeth Wein. It depicts so many things about how life during World War II was back then and does so with her unique way that makes you want to know more of the world and how it came to be.
We get a few points of view from different characters as they each give us a little of their world to see. We start with James (Jamie, Scotty) who is the one in charge of a B-flight squadron of Blenheims in Scotland and he is feeling hit in all places by the disadvantages they have (starting with old bombers, and just not great decisions on tactics). He is technically a character that appears in some ways in other of the books so he was familiar (and it kept nagging at me why I felt like I knew who he was but couldn’t place him at the same time, obviously now I want to reread The Pearl Thief and Code Name Verity).
Then we have Louisa, who is mixed race and struggling to find a place in London as she is too young, alone and not the right skin colour. But she finds a job helping Aunt Jane in Scotland and makes the most of it. With her point of view we get Aunt Jane who is a character as is and I absolutely adored the old woman. She’s old but she’s so cunning and so full of ideas and fight, it was wonderful to read her and she reminded me of other old ladies I’ve known (none as mysterious and interesting as her but still).
And we have Ellen who is part of the WAAF as a driver for the RAF airfield but who is hiding the fact she is a traveller. Her point of view was a refreshing sight and a connection between two pieces of the story at first.
Our story centers around them coming unto an Enigma machine (the only one) and due to circumstances, they are able to decode messages and give Jamie’s squadron a secret advantage, but with doing so, they put themselves at risk and potentially everyone.
I adored the story, the characters were so unique and the ambience and setting of the world is done beautifully with tiny details that help put you right there and then with them. It is not just a story about courage but about perceptions, about wanting to be brave and how rules soemtimes are meant to be broken, or in most of the case in the book, just bent rather than broken. I am actually having a hard time writing a very coherent review due to this book hooking me in and making me feel so much and be so invested into the characters and what happened.
As for historical accuracy, at the end you get a note regarding what it is based on and what is “real” and not which it still feels wonderfully well painted and I couldn’t help but be reminded of the author’s gift for writing fiction and making it feel like it is non-fiction.
If you enjoy historical fantasy, are an aircraft nerd or just curious about cryptography or the Enigma, this is a wonderful read. Or if you just want a good story about World War II and friendship, then this is also for you.
You are invited! COme inside and play with G.O.D. Bring your friends! It;’s fun! But remember the rules. Win and ALL YOUR DREAMS COME TRUE.™ Lose, you die!
With those words, Charlie and his friends enter the G.O.D. Game, a video game run by underground hackers and controlled by a mysterious AI that believes it’s God. Through their phone-screens and high-tech glasses, the teens’ realities blur with a virtual world of creeping vines, smoldering torches, runes, glyphs, gods, and mythical creatures. When they accomplish a mission, the game rewards them with expensive tech, revenge on high-school tormentors, and cash flowing from ATMs. Slaying a hydra and drawing a bloody pentagram as payment to a Greek god seem harmless at first. Fun even.
But then the threatening messages start. Worship me. Obey me. Complete a mission, however cruel, or the game reveals their secrets and crushes their dreams. Tasks that seemed harmless at first take on deadly consequences. Mysterious packages show up at their homes. Shadowy figures start following them, appearing around corners, attacking them in parking garages. Who else is playing this game, and how far will they go to win?
And what of the game’s first promise: win, win big, lose, you die? Dying in a virtual world doesn’t really mean death in real life—does it?
As Charlie and his friends try to find a way out of the game, they realize they’ve been manipulated into a bigger web they can’t escape: an AI that learned its cruelty from watching us.
God is always watching, and He says when the game is done.
When Stevie mentioned this “GOD” game book I was hooked. (This was a review copy, provided by the publisher for free in the hopes I would like it and join the tour, which I did) I was brought up in a religious environment and it has taken some time to work through that, and I did some work with AI(Artificial Intelligence), neural networks, machine learning and cybersecurity. This book felt like a very interesting one for me.
The God Game is a wonderful display of what an AI that has been fed all data about religion and has to then make a choice about humanity and religion and the common denominator in it. The conclusion as to what the motivations of the AI behind the God game, left thinking “oh wow, that is a very interesting question” and it made sense. It fit the way AI process data and come to questions and conclusions, and it also fit the panorama of religion.
I am aware Tobey is heavily involved in AI, so not a surprise here, however, what was interesting was also seeing each character be fleshed out as their own. They all have their own motivations to be part of the game, and to keep winning, but it is also their compasses and own morals that define how far they’re willing to go, and what parts of it they will question or go against.
Some of the concepts where very far fetched but it was still interesting to see this “futuristic” approach to AI mixed with some of the data that is already available but is too big data that processing is usually quite costly compared with the return it provides in useful information for those processing it (in this case, since it is an AI and fiction, there doesn’t seem to be that type of limitation).
Another thing explored here that was interesting was the way games and being “online” and outside of “real life” can warp you and give you an odd sense of being in control or of things being harmless and no consequences coming from it. “It is just a simple joke, a simple dare, no one was hurt”, that type of thing.
As interesting and well developed as the GOD game is, I wouldn’t want to play it. And I had the issue that every adult and “responsible” person that has more than a sentence or so of action in this book is a terrible person. They have horrid secrets, have failed the teenagers and are just a combination of selfish and bad, even if some are trying to make it better or hide it or whatever. That was my least favourite part. I know it works for what the story is trying to say, but it made it not as good as it could’ve been, because all the “NPC (non playable characters)” where more or less made to fit exactly the plot and make it make less bad of what the main cast was doing, and I just wish there had been more contrast, more to work on.
One last thing, this book explores how far someone can go towards “bad”, so there is an incredibly long list of trigger warnings that I honestly couldn’t comprehensibly list. To me, due to the context of the game they were less of a shock, but I expected that and worse given the premise, however, if you are coming to this book without expecting the worst, it is going to slap you in the face badly. Take care when reading this.
More than a century has passed since Liliath crept into the empty sarcophagus of Saint Marguerite, fleeing the Fall of Ystara. But she emerges from her magical sleep still beautiful, looking no more than nineteen, and once again renews her single-minded quest to be united with her lover, Palleniel, the archangel of Ystara.
A seemingly impossible quest, but Liliath is one of the greatest practitioners of angelic magic to have ever lived, summoning angels and forcing them to do her bidding.
Liliath knew that most of the inhabitants of Ystara died from the Ash Blood plague or were transformed into beastlings, and she herself led the survivors who fled into neighboring Sarance. Now she learns that angels shun the Ystaran’s descendants. If they are touched by angelic magic, their blood will turn to ash. They are known as Refusers, and can only live the most lowly lives.
But Liliath cares nothing for the descendants of her people, save how they can serve her. It is four young Sarancians who hold her interest: Simeon, a studious doctor-in-training; Henri, a dedicated fortune hunter; Agnez, an adventurous musketeer cadet; and Dorotea, an icon-maker and scholar of angelic magic. They are the key to her quest.
The four feel a strange kinship from the moment they meet, but do not know why, or suspect their importance. All become pawns in Liliath’s grand scheme to fulfill her destiny and be united with the love of her life. No matter the cost to everyone else. . .
Just to clarify, that a copy of the book was provided to me for free so I could be part of the blogtour and read it by the time this was happening. I still had one copy on the way, so this is a case of “still in my list, having it for free does nothing”.
I tried to read Sabriel a few years back, but I just couldn’t get to it and was sad to have missed on that bandwagon, because it sounded like a good one. Angel Mage intrigued me, would this be the right book for me?
The answer is yes. I enjoyed it a lot and wanted to keep on reading and even after I finished reading it, it stuck in my head for a few days afterward.
I enjoyed the characters a lot and how you learn more of each as you go, but also, they are not perfect. They are fully human and they each have their quirks, which make them endearing and annoying at times. At moments you just want to grab them by the shoulders and shake them, other times you think “go, go, you’ve got this!”.
And of course I had a soft spot for Dorothea, who I felt closer to and could identify better with than the rest of the cast (though for each of them I could think of someone like them).
Avoiding spoilers but this is like a magical rethinking of Three Musketeers, with names even being close to some fo the ones in Dumas’ original. And the world even though named differently is basically a fantastical Europe (I do wish this hadn’t been the case, as it made it odd. At times it felt fully independent and new world, and then it would be too European, too French).
Now, on to the magic, which is part of what left this book in my head for longer than I expected. I know that to many this magic is pretty new but to me it was a magic that felt too familiar, too close to home. It took me a while to figure out why.
The magic system works on “icons” of the angels and their various levels. You need an icon/image of said angel and then if you need what their scope covers, you may summon them and depending on level/icon quality you can summon for long. Of course, depending on level and use, this also costs you time. Summoning a powerful one means giving at the very least months of your life and ageing instantly. So cost of magic is an important consideration, and in a way, a personal one. How much do you need the magic and is it worth the cost?
What made it familiar is that in Mexico there is a big angel and saints belief system. The magic may or may not be real, but the system is very similar to the one used in Angel Mage. Certain saints can make smaller “miracles” whereas others can make bigger ones (Archangel Gabriel or say, Saint Peter are on the BIG side of the scale). And people carry icons of the entity, either in small stamps or cards, mini gold or silver coins with the likelihood of the saint, or even set up an “altar” to the entity in a room in their home. And you elevate a prayer (similar to the invocation you may have to do for the angels on Angel Mage) to request your miracle. You may even offer something in exchange and usually you are told that there is a cost to it even if you’re unaware of it.
I don’t know if it was the familiarty of the many things in this book that made it a nice read, one I didn’t want to put down, but I enjoyed it thoroughly.
However, as a note, it is a stand alone but it doesn’t feel like one. There is a LOT left out and this makes it feel incomplete, so as a stand alone it doesn’t stand too well and leaves you thinking this was meant to be a duology at the very least.
All in all, an interesting familiar mixed with the new kind of book that was worth reading!
Game of Thrones meets Gladiator in this debut epic fantasy about a world caught in an eternal war, and the young man who will become his people’s only hope for survival.
The Omehi people have been fighting an unwinnable fight for almost two hundred years. Their society has been built around war and only war. The lucky ones are born gifted. One in every two thousand women has the power to call down dragons. One in every hundred men is able to magically transform himself into a bigger, stronger, faster killing machine.
Everyone else is fodder, destined to fight and die in the endless war. Young, gift-less Tau knows all this, but he has a plan of escape. He’s going to get himself injured, get out early, and settle down to marriage, children, and land. Only, he doesn’t get the chance. Those closest to him are brutally murdered, and his grief swiftly turns to anger. Fixated on revenge, Tau dedicates himself to an unthinkable path. He’ll become the greatest swordsman to ever live, a man willing to die a hundred thousand times for the chance to kill the three who betrayed him.
I don’t remember much about Gladiator, but I do about Game of Thrones. I didn’t like the books, the show was “better”. So I wasn’t too happy with comparing this to Game of Thrones, but it is a better book than Game of Thrones.
Why? The best way to describe this book is it is a man book ready to fight and to become a dragon. The writing is fast paced and you move from action to action, with very little “slow scenes” (and even those feel kinda fast, or at least, well paced, you never feel like you’re falling asleep reading this book).
Tau is an interesting hero. The first few chapters he seemed a bit bland to me and I prefered other characters, but as we we go from a wide focus (where Tau is and his surroundings) to a more specific focus (Tau and his quest for revenge), he becomes better defined.
I have to say, he is a flawed hero and that was interesting to read and sometimes frustrating. There were many times I was like “Why Tau, why?!”
On the not so good side is that this book contains a lot of battle gore. And despite the fact that the society is female centered with women being in power, we still get rape (which didn’t resonate with how important women are, nor how valuable having a Gifted is) and barely any woman. Most of the female characters are there to advance the plot for the man focused view. (A love interest, someone to be raped to show how horrendous the world is, and the prologue which is probably the best female character).
There is also the fact that the worldbuilding dunks you in and it takes a very long time to get used to this world. There are also elements of racism and “class” division. (Why are the hedeni so bad? It is THEIR land you’re trying to conquer, and they have Gifts too, more than the Chosen do).
I’d say this is a man book or one for those wanting a lot of battle action, lots of grunting and training, and not so many dragons (very disappointed because the title is all about Dragons).
Hungry Hearts: 13 Tales of Food & Love edited by Elsie Chapman & Caroline Tung Richmond
From some of your favorite bestselling and critically acclaimed authors—including Sandhya Menon, Anna-Marie McLemore, and Rin Chupeco—comes a collection of interconnected short stories that explore the intersection of family, culture, and food in the lives of thirteen teens.
A shy teenager attempts to express how she really feels through the confections she makes at her family’s pasteleria. A tourist from Montenegro desperately seeks a magic soup dumpling that could cure his fear of death. An aspiring chef realizes that butter and soul are the key ingredients to win a cooking competition that could win him the money to save his mother’s life.
Welcome to Hungry Hearts Row, where the answers to most of life’s hard questions are kneaded, rolled, baked. Where a typical greeting is, “Have you had anything to eat?” Where magic and food and love are sometimes one and the same.
Told in interconnected short stories, Hungry Hearts explores the many meanings food can take on beyond mere nourishment. It can symbolize love and despair, family and culture, belonging and home.
Elsie Chapman grew up in Prince George, Canada, and has a degree in English literature from the University of British Columbia. She is the author of the YA novels Dualed, Divided, Along the Indigo, and Caster as well as the MG novel All the Ways Home, and co-editor of A Thousand Beginnings and Endings and Hungry Hearts. She currently lives in Tokyo, Japan, with her family.
Caroline Tung Richmond is an award-winning young adult author, whose historical novels include The Only Thing to Fear, The Darkest Hour, and Live In Infamy. She’s also the co-editor of the anthology Hungry Hearts, which features stories about food and will come out in June 2019 from Simon Pulse. Her work is represented by Jim McCarthy of Dystel & Goderich.
Caroline is also the Program Director of We Need Diverse Books, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that advocates for diversity in children’s publishing.
After growing up in the Washington, D.C. area Caroline now lives in Virginia with her family.
Welcome to my stop in this delicious Hungry Hearts Food Crawl! Today we’re going to talk about Adi Alsaid’s story, Moments to Return.
Adi Alsaid was born and raised in Mexico City, where he now lives, writes, and spills hot sauce on things. He’s the author of several YA novels including LET’S GET LOST, NEVER ALWAYS SOMETIMES, and NORTH OF HAPPY.
Moments to Return is about a tourist from Montenegro desperately seeking a magic soup dumpling to help cure his fear of death. And it starts with him inside the restaurant trying to decide what he would like to eat because he’s made the choice to try to cure his fear with food. The story made me extremely hungry and to crave delicious soup dumplings (the ones that have the soup inside them, if you’ve never had them, you should, it’s worth it!). The first time I had them, I also didn’t know the trick our narrator is told, which is to bite the top off to let it cool down a tiny bit and well, of course I burnt my mouth. Woops!
However, the reason he’s having this magical food is to cure his fear of death and as I read this story I couldn’t help but keep thinking of how differnet the perspective on death is and how tied to food it is even in my own culture (Mexican).
I now live in the UK, but Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos) is one of my favourite parts of our culture. Now, I didn’t really know other countries were drastically different in treating death, for me it was something that happens and inevitable but we do our best to celebrate what has been rather than regret and be sad about it (it doesn’t mean we don’t do grief).
Anyway, once I moved to the UK, I realised how different the perspective on death was and how much of a taboo subject it was, so I decided to host my own Day of the Dead celebration explaining the culture, sharing food and bringing people together because at the end of the day, the magic of food is how it connects us and bring us together.
Being Mexican means I love preparing too much food and making people smile with food. And Day of the Dead is about making the favourite foods of those that passed away, going to visit our dead and talking to them, but also, sharing that food with others to rejoice in the life that was lived. It is a celebration of life, full of colour, with many skulls everywhere (I couldn’t get my hands on the classic sugar candy skulls we make, but those are a treat).
However, I made Pan de Muerto, which has a “brioche” base, a slight orange blossom flavour and it is rich and buttery, and the top has a cross of “bones”. Some say it is to represent the way the Dead have to go and to guide them home and back to the Land fo the Dead, others say it comes from Aztec knowledge of gods. To me it has always been a representation of our dead and to share with others.
Of course, the party was a success, making people a little bit less shy about death and more open to talk about their loved ones that have gone ahead of us/them. It was a moment of sharing a meal, talking and opening up. Maybe there wasn’t the magic to cure fear of death, but it definitely makes you a little bit less afraid, a little more human and glad to have others there to share with.
In the end, food has magic, and all the stories in Hungry Hearts let you experience some of that magic. Because making food is a kind of magic but eating it is also magic.
It delights you, fills you, and provides nourishment, what else do you need?
Come join the rest of us in our delightful food crawl (and probably go find some awesome places to eat delicious food, because you will be hungry after reading each of the short stories in it!).
Hungry Hearts Food Crawl Schedule:
June 10th – Introduction Vicky (Welcome + Interview)
All ready for the launch party, which has a great amount of guest stars thanks to Dawson (the child star) and his unique taste. They mingle, small talk happens…
Kaitlyn takes the reigns for the music with her delightful playlist. What the others don’t fully understand is that she chose each song to match one of them, it is her way to celebrate. And get everyone in the mood.
In comes Sasha running with a bunch of wrapped parcels for each of her friends. As she comes to a stop the pile keeps the momentum and topples towards the floor. (Nevermind that they are all getting the same thing, I mean, this is the launch party, right?!).
Hugo follows, stylishly late and doing his best to look the best, and you can see a small pocket square peeking out of his fancy suit. Wonder what it is?
Clink, clink, clink…
Speech, Speech, Speech…
Velvet stands in the middle of the room, trying to discreetly pull her skirt down, ready to give her speech about the book, about the events in it. All eyes on her, as she looks around the room, nervous. Everyone is here indeed.
Even Joe, who has been behind the bar, making sure no one is missing from a great drink to ease the party. He even has custom made ones for each of the guests, or at least for the ones that were in the lift with him.
Velvet clears her throat, sips a tiny sip from her cocktail and starts.
Good evening, I was asked by the publishers if I could do this speech, I guess they saw my school grades and decided that maybe I wasn’t capable of calculating how many books we need to sell to break-even.
The Breakfast Club meets One Day in Floored, a unique collaborative novel by seven bestselling and award-winning YA authors: Sara Barnard, Holly Bourne, Tanya Byrne, Non Pratt, Melinda Salisbury, Lisa Williamson and Eleanor Wood.
When they got in the lift, they were strangers (though didn’t that guy used to be on TV?): Sasha, who is desperately trying to deliver a parcel; Hugo, who knows he’s the best-looking guy in the lift and is eyeing up Velvet, who knows what that look means when you hear her name and it doesn’t match the way she looks, or the way she talks; Dawson, who was on TV, but isn’t as good-looking as he was a few years ago and is desperately hoping no one recognizes him; Kaitlyn, who’s losing her sight but won’t admit it, and who used to have a poster of Dawson on her bedroom wall, and Joe, who shouldn’t be here at all, but who wants to be here the most.
And one more person, who will bring them together again on the same day every year.
It was thanks to attending YALC last year that I had a sampler for Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, and I was hooked as soon as I read it.
I pleaded to My Kinda Book to let me read it and review and be part of it, and thankfully after driving them nuts for a few months, here we are, the book is releasing and you need to go read it as soon as possible.
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.
But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.
Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.
Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.
There is so much magic in this book despite the fact that technically there is no magic in their world (talk about sounding confusing, right?).
I got a sampler of Children of Blood and Bone during YALC last year and it got me hooked. I kept bothering MyKindaBook/PanMacmillan to let me be part of whatever promotional tours they’d do because this sounded like an epic story I had to read. And I was not wrong.
This is a quest book, with very unique characters trying very hard to follow up with the view of the world they have seen. However the gods have other plans and challenge them to change those ways of seeing the world by making them interact in very interesting ways.
The reason it is missing a grey fox (.5 stars) is that it has SO many unique words it was very difficult to keep track of what was what and I could’ve done with a glossary or some kind of guide/help. This kept making me try to google some of them or to try to figure them out and that kept breaking the story so it was harder to get into it.
None of the characters are perfect but they aren’t the usual flawed way either. Their flaws come from their upbringing, from the view they have had of the world and how they have been taught to deal with things and how life has happened to them. I think this was my favourite part, that it shows sometimes our ideas and opinions are shaped what what we have seen and sometimes we are blind to some things. It is up to us to decide what we do once the blindspots aren’t blinded anymore.
You pop again tomorrow so I can reveal how to find out what your Maji clan is! (I am part of the Welder clan). And hey, maybe getting Children of Blood and Bone is a good idea!