Thursday, December 12, 2019

Review: The God Game by Danny Tobey

The God Game
The God Game by Danny Tobey
St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: January 7th, 2020
Hardcover. 496 pages

About The God Game:

"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."

The God Game is one of those books that has an utterly fascinating premise, but that struggles a bit with the plot itself, though that's not to say that this wasn't a good book. The God Game is also entirely gripping and hard to put down and I was pretty much hooked from page one until the end.

This book takes the idea of an artificial intelligence-based game and sort of up its to the next level (or a few levels above the next level). The AI behind the God Game has been fed all religious texts from as many different faiths around the world as possible and now thinks that it is god. Thus, the AI 'god' controls--or, "allows"-- its 'followers' to live their lives with a variety of tasks and options given to them by the AI, some of which are more questionable than others. The God Game plays with a lot of explorations of the human mind and with testing what extremes people are capable of when given just the right amount and type of motivation and it does this exceptionally well. It's almost one of those scenarios where you can't bear to look and see what the characters are about to do next because you're pretty sure you know what they're going to choose, but you also can't look away because it's terrible and disastrous.

We follow the perspectives of a few different characters and occasionally follow the POV of a random person here and there as fits the narrative style the author has chosen. I found the varying perspectives critical to making this a fully-fleshed out story with a thorough exploration of the themes it sets out to explore and I liked being able to experience the God Game through the eyes of a wide array of personalities. However, my struggle with the perspectives lies in how short each POV switch was and how quickly it seemed to jump around. I never really had a chance to delve too deeply into any one character for any amount of time and it felt like a bit of a struggle to follow along. The quick POV changes also became a problem because the time jumps were somewhat hard to follow and I wasn't always sure if things were happening simultaneously, if an hour had passed, a day, or what length of time was passing.

Because of how many characters we follow, I won't go into specifics about them since that might take a while and personally I enjoyed getting to know each one individually over the course of the book. I think Tobey did a good job of creating characters that stood out from one another personality-wise. There were only one or two characters who I had a slightly more difficult time remembering than others, but even then it was easy to remind me of who they were and what was going on.

Tobey writes with a wonderfully ominous tone that mixes uncertainty and dread with the sort of mundane day-to-day atmosphere of everyday life. The dread and horror of what is happening with the AI provides a sharp contrast to the everyday struggles of the regular high school teenager combined with some more personal issues that each student is facing. Somehow Tobey weaves all of this together into on tight, compelling novel that makes it impossible to put down at any point.

Overall, I've decided to give The God Game 3.75 stars! I really had a great time reading this one, but the POV switches and occasional pacing/timing issues were a bit distracting at times. Nonetheless, still a compelling read that I would recommend to anyone interested in the premise of an essentially rogue AI (who doesn't love a horrifying rogue AI?).

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Lady Hotspur, The Circus, & Nameless Queen

Can't-Wait is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings that spotlights exciting upcoming releases that we can't wait to be released! This meme is based off of Jill @ Breaking the Spine's Waiting on Wednesday meme.

There are a lot of awesome books coming out in January and only so many Wednesdays in December, so for this month I'll be sharing three books every week instead of two! My restraint is pretty much non-existent.

This week's upcoming book spotlights are: 

Lady Hotspur
Lady Hotspur by Tessa Gratton
Publication: January 7th, 2020
Tor Books
Hardcover. 496 pages.

"Inspired by Shakespeare's Henry IV, Lady Hotspur continues the saga of Innis Lear, centuries later, as revolution, love, and a betrayal corrupt the descendants of two warring kingdoms. 

Hal was once a knight, carefree and joyous, sworn to protect her future queen Banna Mora. But after a rebellion led by her own mother, Caleda, Hal is now the prince of Lionis, heir to the throne. The pressure of her crown and bloody memories of war plague her, as well as a need to shape her own destiny, no matter the cost. 

Lady Hotspur, known as the Wolf of Aremoria for her temper and warcraft, never expected to be more than a weapon. She certainly never expected to fall in love with the fiery Hal or be blindsided by an angry Queen’s promise to remake the whole world in her own image—a plan Hotspur knows will lead to tragedy. 

Banna Mora kept her life, but not her throne. Fleeing to Innis Lear to heal her heart and plot revenge, the stars and roots of Innis Lear will teach her that the only way to survive a burning world is to learn to breathe fire. These three women, together or apart, are the ones who have the power to bring the once-powerful Aremoria back to life—or destroy it forever."
I really enjoyed Tessa Gratton's The Queens of Innis Lear and I'd love to reenter the world of Innis Lear and see what's been happening since the events of the first book. I loved Gratton's gorgeous prose and I'm looking forward to experiencing it again.

The Circus
The Circus by Jonas Karlsson
Publication: January 28th, 2020
Hogarth Press
Hardcover. 192pages.

"The narrator of The Circus is perfectly content with his quiet life. He works at a bakery counter, and in his free time organizes (and reorganizes) his record collection. He's not up to much the day his old school friend Magnus invites him to a circus, and he's certainly not expecting the simple outing to change everything in his life. Because while participating in a magic trick Magnus vanishes--completely. 

Struggling to piece together the events that led to his friend's inexplicable disappearance, the narrator comes to realize that even the most basic facts about his life are suddenly uncertain. His friend Jallo claims to have never met Magnus, even though they went to school together. Magnus's apartment seems deserted, but is the narrator at the right address? And who is the mysterious person who keeps calling him on the phone but never saying a word? Sharply unsettling and clever, this subtle interpretation of a suspense novel is classic Jonas Karlsson."
Something about this just sounds so weird and compelling and I'm really excited to see what it's all about!

Nameless Queen
Nameless Queen by Rebecca McLaughlin
Publication: January 7th, 2020
Crown Books
Hardcover. 352 pages.
Pre-order: Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

"Everyone expected the king's daughter would inherit the throne. No one expected me. 

It shouldn't even be possible. I'm Nameless, a class of citizens so disrespected, we don't even get names. Heck, dozens of us have been going missing for months and no one seems to care. 

But there's no denying the tattoo emblazoned on my arm. I am queen. In a palace where the corridors are more dangerous the streets, though, how could I possibly rule? And what will become of the Nameless if I don't?"
This feels like a somewhat cliche'd setup, but I have hope that it'll turn that trope into something new. I'm always happy to check out a debut author so I'm looking forward to seeing what McLaughlin's writing is like.

What do you think about these upcoming releases? What are your anticipated upcoming releases?

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Top 5 Tuesday: 2019 Releases I Didn't Get To

This week I decided to switch back over and participate in Top 5 Tuesday, hosted by BionicBookworm!

This week's topic is: Books I Didn't Get to This Year

This week's Top Ten Tuesday is freebie, so I decided to just go with the Top 5 Tuesday topic from this...but share more books! Since there are about a thousand books I wanted to read this year that I didn't, I decided to make this a little easier by picking from only books I featured in Can't-Wait Wednesday posts this year that I didn't get around to reading. And, as is my usual style, I did not stick to just five, but instead have shared nine, as mentioned.
Did you read any of these books? If so, what'd you think? And if not, are you still hoping to read any of these? 

A Memory Called Empire (Teixcalaan, #1)The BindingA Brightness Long Ago

A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine

The Binding by Bridget Collins

A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay

The Bird KingKings of Ash (Ash and Sand, #2)The True Bastards (The Lot Lands, #2)

The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson

Kings of Ash by Richard Nell

The True Bastards by Jonathan French

The Deepest BlueMiddlegameSisters of Shadow and Light (Sisters of Shadow and Light, #1)

The Deepest Blue by Sarah Beth Durst

Middlegame by Seanan McGuire

Sisters of Shadow and Light by Sara B. Larson

Did you read any of these? Do you  want to!?

Friday, December 6, 2019

Month in Review: November 2019

Okay guys, this time I feel like I just made my October wrap-up! This year has truly gone faster than I could have ever expected and it's been a doozy of a year so far. Let's hope December goes well for all of us!

November was sort of chaos for me. We're nearing the end of my first semester as a grad student and it's been extraordinarily stressful--I don't have the slightest idea how people manage to hold down a full-time job, go to school with a full course load, and still get all their reading/blogging done without losing their minds? I'm barely hanging in there and my mind is most definitely gone at this point, haha. Some of you may or may not have noticed my major delays in responding to comments or commenting on other people's blogs and for that I'm so sorry--I'm still trying to keep up with everything, but I've been pretty slow at getting back to everyone lately and I'm hoping to organize my time better next semester (and catch up once the semester ends this month!). Right now I'm working on two papers and an exam so I'm a bit fried, but we'll get through it!

In reading news, I still managed to speed through a lot of books this month for which I'm eternally grateful. I particularly loved Realm of Ash and House of Salt and Sorrows and I fell back in love with The Diviners with the start of my slow re-read in preparation for the next book's release next year (I think?). I hope you're all reading some great books as the end of the year approaches!

 So finally...How was your reading month? Did you read any great books? Have you read any of the books I read? Let me know!

# books read: 14

The Devotion of Suspect X (Detective Galileo, #1)The Tenth GirlDaughter from the DarkRealm of Ash (The Books of Ambha, #2)
The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino 
Source: Library | Format: Hardcover

The Tenth Girl by Sara Faring 
Source: Owned (Giveaway) | Format: Hardcover

Daughter from the Dark by Marina Dyachenko 
Source: eARC (NetGalley)

Realm of Ash by Tasha Suri 
Source: Publisher | Format: Paperback

Queen of the ConqueredHouse of Salt and SorrowsThe Diviners (The Diviners, #1)At the Mountains of Madness
Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender 
Source: Publisher | Format: Paperback

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig 
Source: Library | Format: Hardcover

The Diviners by Libba Bray (re-read) 
Source: Library | Format: Paperback

At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft 
Source: Library | Format: Paperback

The Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission That Changed Our Understanding of MadnessHowl's Moving Castle (Howl's Moving Castle, #1)Into the Planet: My Life as a Cave DiverMaster of Sorrows (The Silent Gods, #1)
The Great Pretender by Susannah Cahalan 
Source: Library | Format: Hardcover

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones 
Source: Library | Format: Paperback

Into the Planet by Jill Heinerth 
Source: Library | Format: Hardcover

Master of Sorrows by Justin Travis Call 
Source: eARC (NetGalley)

The God GameWhere the World Ends
The God Game by Danny Tobey 
Source: Physical ARC (publisher)

Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean 
Source: Physical ARC (publisher)

Unnatural MagicConfessionsThe Devotion of Suspect X (Detective Galileo, #1)Realm of Ash (The Books of Ambha, #2)Spit and Song (Ustlian Tales #2)Queen of the ConqueredWhere the World Ends
Unnatural Magic by C.M. Waggoner  
Confessions by Kanai Minato 
The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino 
Realm of Ash by Tasha Suri 
Spit and Song by Travis M. Riddle 
Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender 
Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean 

(other than reviews)

The Friday Face-Off:

Have you read any of these? What books did you read this month? I hope you all had a great month-- comment below and let me know!