Showing posts with label the forbidden game. Show all posts
Showing posts with label the forbidden game. Show all posts

Friday, April 21, 2017

[Review] Caraval (#1) - Stephanie Garber: Magical Games and Insensitivity

In CARAVAL, sisters Scarlett and Tella finally receive an invitation to a mysterious game.

What intrigued me: Pretty much the hype.

Lacks in World Building

CARAVAL is one of those books that charm you with flowery writing and hide the fact that there isn't really much else interesting going on. The biggest weakness is the world building. Hardly anything gets explained and the reader has very little time to get acquainted with settings, concepts, and unique elements before the sisters embark on their journey to attend Caraval. 

I assumed this would be a magical-realist read like THE NIGHT CIRCUS, which it has been so famously compared to, but CARAVAL is nothing like that. The story would've been so much better off had it been told in a Contemporary setting in my opinion. The High Fantasy world is hastily built, which lots of made-up names for existing things and for some reason half of it is in Spanish. No clue what that's all about. The setting itself is a very meager attempt to distract the reader from the fact that hardly anything in this book makes sense, the plot twists come out of nowhere and are incomprehensible, and there are also a handful of Deux Ex Machina situations.


Suicide as a Plot Device 

I was surprised to see that it's pretty much a reproduction of L.J. Smith's THE FORBIDDEN GAME series, which is one of my favorite series of all time. CARAVAL tries to hide that with a High Fantasy setting, but the comparisons are simply uncanny: Both feature a love interest named Julian and a mysterious and dangerous game that the protagonist must win to save their loved ones. Where THE FORBIDDEN GAME amazes with atmospheric truly dark and dangerous setting and characters, CARAVAL strikes me a little as PG-13. It's such a strange reading experience, because the writing is very juvenile at parts and then you have scenes involving heavy physical abuse, emotional manipulation, rape, and suicide. 

There is one scene that still renders me speechless and makes me feel sick thinking about it - at some point a character commits suicide as part of the game, only to be later resurrected with magic. I find it extremely inappropriate to use this as a plot device and for the shock value, and worse when it turns out that the character planned for this to happen all along. It's disgusting, really, and just the proverbial cherry on top of this very problematic cake. You'll find that most of the scenes involving abuse and rape are plot devices. The sisters have a very abusive father who's just there for conflict, which I can still forgive, but then there are also scenes where the love interest forces himself physically on Scarlett. He violates her consent by asking her to reconsider and/or straight up ignoring it when she says no. This is never addressed and just horrifying. I would've given this book a solid three star rating without all the problematic content, because I can still recognize that this is a book that may not be for me, but might delight other readers. But like this, I'm simply horrified and shocked and would advise you to be very careful should you plan on reading this.


Rating:

☆☆☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

CARAVAL is the disappointment of the year. Lush prose can't really hide that the concept and world building are mediocre at best. This book is a prime example why we need trigger warnings in mainstream YA, a lot of the very mature themes are used as plot devices. The suicide one hit me the worst, I can't believe they'd put this in a book for teens.

Trigger warning: rape, physical and emotional abuse, suicide, slut-shaming, violence, kidnapping


Additional Info

Published: March 20th 2017
Pages: 400
Publisher: Piper
Genre: YA / High Fantasy
ISBN: 978-3-492-70416-8

Synopsis:
"Remember, it’s only a game…

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away."(Source: Goodreads)



Have you read CARAVAL?

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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

10 Chilling Halloween Reads For People Who Can't Stand Blood and Ghosts | Top Ten Tuesday



Not everything has to be spooky and gore-y in order to qualify for a mood-appropriate Halloween read. 
So here are ten books that are all chilling in their own ways but by no means will spill guts and blood in your face while reading. You're welcome.




FORESHADOWED - Holly M. Campbell
Concept: a serial killer is planning to kill you and you're psychic, so you know he'll come. But one thing - your psychic abilities aren't very precise. Constant vigilance it is then. (Dec 2014, 48Fourteen) Goodreads

THE COLDEST GIRL IN COLDTOWN - Holly Black
Who thought putting ALL vampires in a single enclosure was a good idea? Sounds like an accident waiting to happen. Reality in this one. (Sep 2013, Little Brown Books) Goodreads

LABYRINTH LOST - Zoraida Córdova
Bisexual witches are here to give you a tour of the land of the dead. (Sep 2016, Sourcebook Fire) Goodreads



THE FORBIDDEN GAME - L.J. Smith
Jumanji YA style. L.J. Smith is one of the pioneers of YA and this woman just knows what she's doing. This trilogy is absolutely terrifying and wonderful and swoony. (Jun 2016, Simon Pulse) Goodreads

DON'T LOOK BACK - Jennifer L. Armentrout
So you're found alone wandering in the woods, covered in blood. Next thing they tell you is that yout best friend disappeared. Do you want to know what happened that night? (Apr 2014, Disney Hyperion) Goodreads

UPROOTED - Naomi Novik
There's nothing more terrifying than a forest at night. Especially if that forest starts eating people. (May 2015, Del Rey) Goodreads




ABANDON - Meg Cabot
You can never go wrong with a good-old Persephone & Hades retelling. Even less so when it's a Goth Hades and a Latina Persephone. (May 2011, Macmillan) Goodreads

THE 5TH WAVE - Rick Yancey
I can't imagine anything more creepy than aliens taking over the planet and systematically eradicating humanity step by step.  (May 2013, G.P. Putnam's Sons) Goodreads

MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN - Ransom Riggs
This isn't scary-creepy this is more like... Addams family-creepy. With the movie coming up it's a safe tip to give it a shot! (Jun 2011, Quirk) Goodreads



ALIVE - Scott Sigler
Have you ever woken up alone in a coffin before? ... do you want to? (Jul 2015, Del Rey) Goodreads

Have you read any of these books? 

What's your favorite Halloween read?

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Saturday, May 16, 2015

[Review] The Kill (The Forbidden Game #3) - L.J. Smith


In THE KILL, Julian has kidnapped Jenny's boyfriend Tom and her cousin Zach and taken them with him into the Shadow World. In order to get them back, they have to play one last game with him. If they lose, Jenny is Julian's forever.


Fantasically Structured

I don't know what it is about this series, but I couldn't put this one down either. The structure of all three novels being constructed like games makes it very easy to follow the story line and even easier to just read them in one go.

The Shadow World is modeled after the amusement park Joyland they have visited before. I was slightly disappointed with that. I was hoping for the Shadow World to be created more like a surreal fantasy world, rather than an imitation of the real world. Amusement parks can be scary, but I was rather bored by the setting than intimidated.

The Same Thing All Over Again

I really enjoyed THE HUNTER and THE CHASE, but to be honest all three novels are just repeating the same thing over and over again. Julian wants Jenny, she prefers Tom, so Julian invents crazy games to kill her friends. The novels all struggle with portraying the characters and simultaneously trying to keep up this weird love triangle that is just poorly executed.

Julian isn't explored enough as a character to be interesting and appealing, and not for one second I rooted for them coming together and her ditching Tom. Julian always puts emphasis on how she's the light to his darkness, yadayadayada, but doesn't really show that he's in love with her. There are no truly sweet scenes between them, they only kiss when he practically forces her to and therefore the ending of it all doesn't make sense. They just don't click as a couple and he just annoyed me throughout the series.

I was hoping for him to change or show some character development the entire time - which he does when he has a slight breakdown towards the end - but it doesn't feel like character development. It just feels like a cheap attempt to make the reader sympathize with this poor little misunderstood demon prince that didn't really mean to kill anyone.


Rating:


★★★

 

Overall: Do I Recommend?

The execution of THE KILL could have been better, but overall it's a quick and alright read. I liked the previous novels better. Having read all three I can say that Smith just should have left it at THE HUNTER and refrained from creating a whole series.


Additional Info

Published: July 1st 1994
Publisher: Brilliance Corporation
Cover: Brilliance Corporation, 1994.
Genre: YA / Horror 
ISBN: 1441875433

Synopsis:
"It was Julian's last challenge before he disappeared into the Shadow World, taking Jenny Thornton's boyfriend Tom and her cousin Zach: ?If you want them, come on a treasure hunt. But remember: if you lose, there's the devil to pay.? Jenny, Audrey, Michael, and Dee have burned their bridges, leaving their families behind, to enter the Shadow World with a set of runes, magical letters that open the doors of hell. They?re lost in an amusement park nightmare, at Julian's mercy as they look for Tom and Zach. Jenny's only clue is a gold coin, Julian's gift, and Julian himself, more beautiful, more seductive, more dangerous than ever. And determined to make her his bride. . ."

Can You Recommend A Super Scary Read to Me?


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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

[Review] The Chase (The Forbidden Game #2) - L.J. Smith


In THE CHASE, Jenny and her friends think they have escaped the mysterious Shadow Man Julian. Little do they know that the intruders that took the game at the end of  THE HUNTER are already trying to figure out what it is. When they release Julian - whether on purpose or not - Jenny, Tom, Dee, Audrey, Zach and Mike have to watch their every step. Julian is back, and he wants to play a game.

Couldn't Put It Down!

I don't know what it is about L.J. Smith's writing, but I couldn't, for the life of me, put this novel down. When I had to other things I was just thinking about the novel and wishing to go back to reading. I love, love, love the idea still, and I love how it's reminiscent of Jumanji (the book was actually published before the film) - but with more angst and more blood.

Just like with the first novel, I couldn't identify with Jenny. She's just as unapproachable and unlikeable as Elena from her Vampire Diaries Series. Even after having read the first novel I still didn't really know who was who! Smith does her best to add description all the time and little hints so you can picture everyone in your head, but only halfway through this one I could finally keep up with the characters. Every single character is this novel has their distinct obsessions and interest, but it took a very long time for me to actually "get" the characters and start to like them.

Can somebody explain to me though what the fascination that everyone has for Jenn she's just too perfect.

An Extraordinary Plot That Saves the Day!

The odd thing is, that it doesn't even matter that I didn't like her or any of her friends. I am absolutely and utterly in love with the story idea, the whole "Teenagers play a magical game and it goes wrong" thing. The first one felt like reading a horror movie in an alternate universe where the characters aren't too stupid to see the obvious traps and run into the monsters arms. Having this novel extended into a series is like watching what happens after that movie and it's just so unique and interesting. I haven't read a single YA novel that had JUST the plot line for the horror in it and didn't settle for a mediocre romance side plot.

Yes, we do have the relationship between Jenny and the antagonist Julian, but that's a completely different thing. It's absolutely interesting and he's a terrifying character that I just can't figure out at all. Of course it's again very unrealistic that the super villain falls for the girl, but Smith does her best to explain everything logically. I can't understand why this novel series isn't extremely popular, it has everything I've been missing in YA Horror in the last couple of months, even years.

Another striking thing about this novel is that you can absolutely tell a lot of planning went into writing the series. There are some things that the characters say or do that just leaves me speechless. The little riddles that Julian gives them during the game for example are just brilliant. The way she manages to maneuver her characters out of every oh so dangerous situation is absolutely genius. Seriously, usually I tend to roll my eyes at magical solutions for problems, but the way L.J. Smith solves the characters' challenges is amazing. I'm in awe.


Rating:

★★★

 

Overall: Do I Recommend?

I love L.J. Smith's writing and I love her beautiful mind. She always manages to come up with new concepts that I'm eager to read about and this novel is no exception. I'm convinced that this is one of those novels that I'd probably reread times and times over and that's a very rare thing. Can't wait to start the third one! I haven't been disappointed by L.J. Smith so far and I can gladly recommend this series. Start with the first novel though, you're missing out!




Additional Info

Pages: 288
Genre: YA / Horror

Synopsis:
"Jenny's friends are lost one by one to a ghostly wolf and a phantom snake, instruments of the sinister but attractive Shadow Man, who has returned from the Shadow World with a deadly game called ""Lambs and Monsters.""



Have You Read Any of L.J. Smith Novels?

What Is Your Favorite Novel By Her?

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

[Review] The Hunter (The Forbidden Game #1) - L.J. Smith: The Birthday Party of Doom

In THE HUNTER, Jenny buys a mysterious boardgame from a handsome Cyberpunk and gets sucked into the Shadowworld along with her friends.
What intrigued me: I love her Vampire Diaries books.

Incredibly Captivating

I've said it before and I'm going to say it again: L.J. Smith knows darn well what she's doing. There's a reason both her Vampire Diaries series and The Secret Circle series got turned into tv shows. She just writes captivatingly. This isn't the first time that I've started a novel by her and noticed that the way she develops the stories makes it impossible to quit. I've had a hard time putting this novel aside and actually trying to get my sleeping cyle back on track because I just wanted to know what this all this about. 

The novel is about Jenny and her friends, a bunch of high school students that just want to celebrate Jenny's boyfriend Tom's birthday and need a boardgame that they can play. So naturally goes ahead and walks into the next shop, not knowing that this is going to be a major mistake. The boardgame they're playing isn't really what they think it is: It's not a game. Something evil in the form of Julian, an unknown supernatural creature, is luring them all into their deaths by confronting every single one of the friends with their biggest fears. The boardgame directly sends them into a victorian-style mansion with every room containing a nightmare of one of the friends.

Very Structured and Easy to Follow...but Kinda Cliche

THE HUNTER is structured very linear, each nightmare leading to next. You can't possible lose track of the action and with every passing chapter it's very easy to know how far along you are in the novel. I love that and I'm a big fan of clear-cut straight-to-the-point literature. THE HUNTER is exactly this. While I do love the structure and the theoretical stuff in this, I am actually a bit disappointed with the specific nightmares. They're all very cliche (which is perfectly fine because I believe that humans all have generic fears that date back to ancient times) and solved way too easily. 

Now we come to the biggest advantage and simultaneously also the biggest disadvantage of the novel: The characters. This has and will always be L.J. Smith's biggest weak spot. Let's face it: Every single one of her novels features the superstrong female protagonist that is emotional but doesn't take no shit when her family and friends are threatened. But oh, shock, there is suddenly the supersexy blue-eyed , dark kinda guy who she really shouldn't think about, but kinda does. He's a bad dude and she should stay away from him and throughout the series she will fall in love with him. So who will she choose, her nice boyfriend, who aside from being really nice, is a cardboard cutout, OR the supersexy blue-eyed hottie who will dooom her forever (but is a good kisser) ????


Overall: Do I Recommend?

All criticism aside, I really enjoyed THE HUNTER. It's extremely well-structured, maybe cliche, but overall an insanely fun read. I'm probably going to buy the sequels just because ... yeah I'm totally in love with L.J Smith's novels.


Rating: ★★★★☆


Synopsis:

"When Jenny Thorton and her friends open the mysterious white box given to her by Julian, they discover a mysterious game and enter a house of horrors full of their worst nightmares."


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