Tag Archive | aliens

Review: Illusion Town by Jayne Castle

Series: Ghost Hunters #13

illusion-town-jayne-castleA new adventure begins on Harmony… 
 
With its opulent casinos and hotels, the desert city of Illusion Town is totally unique—and will take you on a thrill ride you’ll never forget.

Hannah West isn’t the first woman to wake up in Illusion Town married to a man she barely knows, but she has no memory of the ceremony at all. For that matter, neither does Elias Coppersmith, her new husband. All either can remember is that they were on the run…

With Hannah’s dubious background and shaky para-psych profile, she could have done much worse. The cooly competent mining heir arouses her curiosity—as well as other parts of her mind and body. And even her dust bunny likes him.

But a honeymoon spent retracing their footsteps leads Hannah and Elias into the twisting underground catacombs, where secrets from both their pasts will come to light—and where the energy of their clashing auras will grow hot enough to burn…


4 Drink Me Potions


This was my first book by “Jayne Castle”, although I happened to have crossed her other contemporary AND historical books as well, under her names Jayne Ann Krentz and Amanda Quick respectively.

Illusion Town was a little disorienting at first as I quickly had a feeling that this wasn’t a simple standalone book that I had picked up from the library. There seemed to be alluded references to this whole land of Harmony that I did not know about as a completely new reader. And now looking at how vast this whole series is (with the intricate weavings even across Castle’s other genres), I’m quite impressed with the overall world building that’s been crafted here.

First of all (from what I gathered as an amateur reader in this world), this futuristic set of series written under Jayne Castle is on some alien planet colonists from Earth settled ages ago, but through some mishap, were disconnected from Earth quite permanently and the people here had to make do and thrive somehow.

Paranormal activity is like the new norm here, with people genetically passing on these talents and traits like it’s nothing. The kind of tech here also matches the futuristic theme, but also walks hand-in-hand with the paranormal abilities that people have, such as listening to energy with amber crystals.

Then there’s the land itself and how it’s laid out. 8 Zones split up around some epicentre where some unnatural activity caused some of it to be uninhabitable. It was well-written (albeit still a little confusing for a first reader like me), but I got enough of the idea to still be quite engaged with how this society organized itself.

And of course, there’s the creatures. In particular, the dust bunny.

When I first read about Virgil, the resident dust bunny in this story, I was quite astounded to be honest. Who is this thing and why does it have FOUR eyes? Fluffy yet quite ferocious. I loved it! Castle is very imaginative as she laid out even remote childhood fantasies of dust bunnies (such as I had when I was a kid) into a futuristic story where it becomes as simple as asking “why NOT have it featuring dust bunnies as characters?”. I was overall quite impressed with the setting I had randomly landed myself in.

Then there’s the ROMANCE. It wasn’t the centre of the story, though the intriguing plot line where Hannah and Elias found themselves married to each other was fun enough to draw me in. No, their relationship and budding love for each other was icing on top of the excitement (and dangers!) that were brewing all throughout the book.

From exploring the dangerous Rainforest and Underground areas where I gathered were leftover ruins from when Aliens inhabited this planet (surprise! even more intriguing things just THROWN in here) to finding a long-lost treasure and being chased by a gang of pirates on motorbikes. It was like a rollercoaster of heartfelt emotions and running around adrenaline.

For a novel I randomly decided to read on a lazy Saturday, I think it’s opened me up to a whole new world of possibilities.

Overall Recommendation:
Illusion Town was brilliantly crafted in its imaginative setting on some futuristic planet where people had paranormal abilities and real live dust bunnies as companions. Although this is technically part of a long lineup of books in a series, it still stood out well enough as a standalone (as I had read it ’cause I sure as heck didn’t read any of the previous ones yet). There was enough sweet romance but the action in the plot had me excitedly flipping through the pages. It seems this book has almost everything. This is the kind of world that is unique and should be visited at least once. Be sure to read the previous books first (maybe).

Review: These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

Series: Starbound #1

these broken stars -amie kaufman & meagan spoonerIt’s a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone.

Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help.

Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other’s arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder—would they be better off staying here forever?

Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step. Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet. But they won’t be the same people who landed on it.


 

3.5 Drink Me Potions


When author reviews called this book full of “dynamic characters”, they literally mean just the protagonists. ‘Cause honestly? This almost-400-page book only follows Tarver and Lilac in their journey of survival on some strange planet.

These Broken Stars wasn’t quite like what I expected. Of course, it’s hard not to have higher expectations when this book has been raved about by many reviewers. I reckoned there’d be more fighting or action type scenes. I was strangely wrong, but I think I enjoyed it regardless of the lack of action (or interaction beyond our two characters).

The novel drops Tarver and Lilac into the situation we are anticipating for – that being their impending crash landing onto a foreign planet as the sole survivors – quite quickly, and the little bits before the accident actually occurs helped to get a taste of what the dynamics in their relationship would be like upon realizing they’re the last 2 people alive and stranded in this world (literally, not just some expression you say).

The events on the planet are fairly straightforward and not that unpredictable. Or at least, the travelling aspect of their journey. Find ship. Find hopefully help, or at least equipment that could send for help.

But anything else beyond that? It was mind-blowingly surprising. I hadn’t read the synopsis very thoroughly when I picked up this book so the introduction to what Lilac fondly called the “whispers” were extremely astonishing. I was like, there’s paranormal activity on this planet too??? It transformed this place from Unknown Territory to Downright Eerie Let’s-get-outta-here-quick. This mystery was an essential part of the plot that kept me going.

Okay, so the dynamics between Tarver and Lilac? Not so good there in the beginning. And frankly, I’m with Tarver on that. Lilac was a total stuck-up know-it-all. Or at least, she tried to give that vibe since she didn’t want to look “weak” in front of a mere soldier, who for all she knew, would tell the tabloids and press about her moments of weakness later. From reading her POVs, I knew she didn’t suck quite as much, but it didn’t make me like her much more. She was making life so much harder than it had to be. I may be a girl and I kinda get her standpoint, but sorry, Tarver most definitely gets my sympathies there. The fact that he couldn’t stand the thought of leaving her behind, all helpless and possibly eaten by some scary, unknown creature, shows that he’s so much better of a character than I am.

So yes, their relationship wasn’t all that much fun to follow at first. They tolerated each other, at most. Star-crossed lovers? Yeah. Haven’t quite gotten to that stage yet. And what blew me away? Their love for each other kinda snuck up on me when it did eventually reach that point. Sure, being stranded as the only 2 people alive could spring up feelings, but I knew theirs wasn’t quite so simple. They contemplated even staying on this godforsaken place if it meant they didn’t have to face “reality” back in their own worlds, the lives they left behind across the universe. I just couldn’t pinpoint how, or the moment when, they finally realized what they felt for each other was love. I knew they would, but that’s not the same as feeling it with them when you’re caught up in their passion, in their story.

Ah well. Besides that minor contention, I enjoyed both their POVs quite a lot in the later half of the book. Their relationship was one that I think more YA novels should be like. They were equals, each giving their strengths into the relationship to support the other, while not hesitating to point the other’s weakness or flaws that need to be worked on.

I want to say more about the ending but that would only lead to accidentally giving away something, even the smallest thing, that would make it any less than what it was. What I can say is that it was heart-poundingly intense and haunting. The haunting part may have been enhanced by the fact that I was listening to a particular song at the time that gave me the chills, but I’m sure the novel had a huge hand in it too. Of course, you may already have guessed it, but it does have something to do with the mystery of the “whispers” I mentioned earlier. It was not quite what I expected, and a certain twist that I definitely did not foresee left me turning the pages faster and faster.

These Broken Stars may really have no supporting characters at all, but Lilac and Tarver’s personal growth as they challenged each other on this journey for survival was more than enough. This was a sci-fi novel with a beautifully crafted world (or should I say universe?) building and plenty of intrigue that most definitely wasn’t all answered yet. Gotta leave some things for the sequels, right?

But oh, how I was disappointed that my main question wasn’t answered by the end. Like honestly. What the heck brought down the Icarus onto this strange planet?

Overall Recommendation:
With an explosive ending I did not see coming, These Broken Stars mostly met those high expectations that awaited it in my mind. Tarver and Lilac were characters you may have felt you knew from other books, but the way they grew during their awful predicament and with each other was wholly original. They were more than enough to carry this story with their interpersonal dynamics and blooming love. However, what cemented this for me was the mystery at the very heart of the novel. The haunting quality of what awaits you there left me breathless many times throughout. This is a novel that’s equal parts well-crafted sci-fi and warm romance. I can see why so many love this.

Review: Spinning Starlight by R.C. Lewis

spinning starlight -R.C. lewisSixteen-year-old heiress and paparazzi darling Liddi Jantzen hates the spotlight. But as the only daughter in the most powerful tech family in the galaxy, it’s hard to escape it. So when a group of men show up at her house uninvited, she assumes it’s just the usual media-grubs. That is, until shots are fired.

Liddi escapes, only to be pulled into an interplanetary conspiracy more complex than she ever could have imagined. Her older brothers have been caught as well, trapped in the conduits between the planets. And when their captor implants a device in Liddi’s vocal cords to monitor her speech, their lives are in her hands: One word and her brothers are dead.

Desperate to save her family from a desolate future, Liddi travels to another world, where she meets the one person who might have the skills to help her bring her eight brothers home-a handsome dignitary named Tiav. But without her voice, Liddi must use every bit of her strength and wit to convince Tiav that her mission is true. With the tenuous balance of the planets deeply intertwined with her brothers’ survival, just how much is Liddi willing to sacrifice to bring them back?

Haunting and mesmerizing, this retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Wild Swans strings the heart of the classic with a stunning, imaginative world as a star-crossed family fights for survival in this companion to Stitching Snow.


4 Drink Me Potions


Thank you to Netgalley and Disney Book Group for this copy in exchange for an honest review

**Spinning Starlight comes out on October 6, 2015**

Can I first just say that I absolutely adored this book? Oh, and that TITLE along with the cover? Just. Gorgeous.

For an adaptation and fairy tale retelling of a story that’s not as famous as some others, Lewis did a fantastic – no, a SPECTACULAR – job of spinning out Hans Christian Andersen’s The Wild Swans in her own way. And going into this, I had not read her previous novel, Stitching Snow, but I think I may have to after seeing the remarkable way she spins a tale. (Yes, I’m really going all out with the word spin here.)

Liddi initially impressed me as some spoiled girl who lived in the spotlight because her family’s big and rich in this interplanetary kingdom. She went to parties, had media following her around everywhere and a house (with a talking operating system as her friend) to herself. But that was just initially, which lasted all of maybe ten seconds. It was immediately apparent that she was none of these things. She hated the paparazzi. She never asked for the attention that came with being born into the Jantzen family, and there was so much pressure to live up to that name and the glory of each and every single one of her 8 big brothers.

Now, the tech speak and the physics of things went beyond me. That’s not my specialty. At all. But the feeling of isolation and the need to create something technological to impress the world WAS understandable. Lewis didn’t immediately make it clear what this world was exactly. It was maybe revealed in the odd sentence here and there. For example, the world is called Seven Points. What’s that supposed to mean? Okay, 7 planets as each individual points? That makes sense. Wait, what are they each called? What is the one she’s on? Is there something special about each one?

Okay, the answers slowly piled in but it took a while to understand it. There was no information dump at all, which is a blessing and curse at the same time. It took more effort on my part to get into the story in the beginning when I was confused with half of what was going on and the terminology that was being thrown around. So maybe a little information dump, more like an information pile, would have been appreciated. That’s my only complaint.

From there, danger dropped onto Liddi and the story unfolded a little slow. Who was the bad guy? Where were her brothers? If you knew of The Wild Swans, you’re just waiting for the pieces to start falling together.

But the wait was worth it. Once Liddi lost her voice and the whole evil plot involving her brothers was laid out, it was better than I thought it could be. A surprising twist there, new characters there, it took me on a wild ride indeed. It was absolutely genius in mixing this tale with sci-fi aspects like portal travelling and being trapped in a hyperdimensional state, not fully in the physical world but not fully out of it either.

Lewis put her own mark on Andersen’s basic plot and really made it her own. I want to say so much more about plot things, but I don’t want to ruin the surprise of just what they are so that limits it.

What I will say is that I didn’t think it was possible to enjoy a book that contained more descriptive writing than dialogue. It wasn’t possible for that if Liddi couldn’t speak. We were just constantly in her head, reading her thoughts and her emotions. The anxieties of time limiting her and the constant fear for her brothers’ safety. Her memories and flashbacks to her past when more of her brothers lived at home with her and when her parents were still alive. There was so much GOOD content and it was written well. It had to be or else all these monologues would just get beyond tiring. It’s an easy trap to fall into and I can’t stress enough how well Lewis did to keep me interested.

And the relationships. Oh my, the feels! There was so much love for her brothers, each and every one of them. It was clear she would do absolutely ANYTHING for them. Come on, there are EIGHT brothers. That’s a lot of people to love, but the flashbacks really helped us understand their relationship with her and how much they all loved and wanted to protect their baby sister, no matter what. There was also a romantic sort of love as well, which didn’t get my heart racing as much as other books may, but it was the sweet kind of love that is reminiscent and suiting for fairy tales. So I’m definitely not complaining.

The ending was not what I expected, but that’s not to say it wasn’t good either. And it was summed up in a quote that I must put down here, which is a testament of how relateable Liddi’s character can be to anyone who reads Spinning Starlight.

“Some journeys can only be made once. Some partings aren’t what they seem. Some endings must be so something else can begin.”

And with that thought hanging on the mind, so did the story end as well.

Overall Recommendation:
Spinning Starlight was a beautifully written prose and modern adaptation of The Wild Swans. With a protagonist who was mute, the writing did centre more on the inner monologue in Liddi’s head than dialogue with others, but that in itself was done so well that it didn’t feel like it dragged the story. It enhanced it. Mixing the old fairy tale with new sci-fi elements and tech speak, it may get confusing in the beginning but I definitely recommend you check out this clever and gorgeous retelling for yourself. I don’t think it would disappoint.

Review: Invaded by Melissa Landers

Series: Alienated #2

invaded -melissa landersThe romantic sequel to Alienated takes long-distance relationships to a new level as Cara and Aelyx long for each other from opposite ends of the universe…until a threat to both their worlds reunites them.

Cara always knew life on planet L’eihr would be an adjustment. With Aelyx, her L’eihr boyfriend, back on Earth, working to mend the broken alliance between their two planets, Cara is left to fend for herself at a new school, surrounded by hostile alien clones. Even the weird dorm pet hates her.

Things look up when Cara is appointed as human representative to a panel preparing for a human colony on L’eihr. A society melding their two cultures is a place where Cara and Aelyx could one day make a life together. But with L’eihr leaders balking at granting even the most basic freedoms, Cara begins to wonder if she could ever be happy on this planet, even with Aelyx by her side.

Meanwhile, on Earth, Aelyx, finds himself thrown into a full-scale PR campaign to improve human-L’eihr relations. Humans don’t know that their very survival depends on this alliance: only Aelyx’s people have the technology to fix the deadly contamination in the global water supply that human governments are hiding. Yet despite their upper hand, the leaders of his world suddenly seem desperate to get humans on their side, and hardly bat an eye at extremists’ multiple attempts on Aelyx’s life.

The Way clearly needs humans’ help . . . but with what? And what will they ask for in return?


4 Drink Me Potions


Alternating between the events happening in Cara and Aelyx’s life, this sequel to Alienated surprisingly held its own.

Although some fans may be saddened that Aelyx and Cara are physically apart for quite a lot of the book, I found that kind of refreshing. It’s not like they didn’t contact each other on their com-spheres (this alien world version of a cell phone I’m guessing). There’s still “romance” going on, but it’s not the main highlight this time around.

So what was Invaded about then?

In Cara’s half of the story, she was faced with learning the cultures and ways of a life over with the L’eihrs. I found it quite interesting to see how these aliens ruled and lived by. There was definitely plenty of intrigue when it came to the aliens’ obvious despise for her presence among them, escalating quickly when it became clear someone was trying to frame her for things she did not do.

Over on Aelyx’s side, Earth was not that much better for him. After the events of the previous novel, let’s just say the Earthlings do not trust him very much. Attempts were made on his life, and the motive and culprit behind these acts were not always predictable. Okay, well, it was a little predictable with one of the twists in the plot, but I was in denial through half of the book hoping it wouldn’t go there.

Sadly, I was wrong but it did make the story more interesting and unpredictable…

Either way, Aelyx and Cara both had busy plotlines and I enjoyed reading them both even though they weren’t together. My only complaint is the resolution for Cara’s problems which I felt were rushed in places that could have been prolonged in order to add suspense instead of just making me say Oh, they found out what happened already?. All in all, not a bad read and definitely entertaining. It never suffered too much drag as I think Landers is unsure of whether this book will be the last or not. It most definitely can continue with a very delicious tidbit of knowledge that was placed near the end, but I guess time will tell whether or not a third book will become a reality.

Overall Recommendation:
Invaded held intriguing plot twists for both Cara and Aelyx’s stories as they each deal with living on the others’ planet. Cara is off adventuring to the unknown of living with the L’eihrs while Aelyx is trying to – well – not be killed by the people that hate him. Although romance was not heavily pressed upon, the story still had its sweet moments but it most definitely centres on working out the differences between the two species. With an ending that can potentially spin out into a third book, Invaded was a nice sequel and laid out a foundation for hopefully another one.

Review: Until Midnight by Melissa Landers

Series: Alienated #1.5

until midnight -melissa landersCara and Aelyx only have one day to spend together before he returns to earth and she travels to Aelyx’s home planet, L’eihr.

Homesick and worried about the upcoming year apart, Cara is desperate to make these final hours count. Worst of all, Cara is missing Christmas, stuck on board an alien spaceship.

When Aelyx learns that Cara is forgoing her favorite holiday, he tries to recreate Christmas in space by researching traditional earth customs…but a few things get lost in translation.


3 Drink Me Potions


As I am about to read the awaited sequel to Alienated, I found this delightful short story that ties the mini gap between the first book and its sequel Invaded.

Until Midnight was longer than I thought it would be, considering it’s just a novella and a way that publishers can exploit more investment into a series without having to publish full-length novels. BUT, I am a sucker for these mini stories and I found this one satisfactory.

Satisfactory being the key word here. It was in no way amazing. Maybe it’s because it’s been over a year since I read Alienated. I may not have forgotten everything in the book but the characters’ chemistry wasn’t fresh on my mind. Seeing Aelyx’s attempt to make their last moment on the spaceship memorable was sweet. It truly was.

I just didn’t feel bittersweet to start with. In my head, it pretty much sounded like this. Oh, Cara and Aelyx are getting separated? Cool. I do remember that was to happen. Okay. Now what?

You see? Apathy at its finest.

That’s not to say this story wasn’t a cute little tie-over until the sequel was released (for those people who actually knew about this story before the sequel was actually released). It could’ve been. If only I still recalled the chemistry, my rating may be different and greater than 3 stars. A small consolation was that it did help refresh my memory on major events that had occurred and managed to slip through my mind.

Overall Recommendation:
This little novella was sweet and provided a great way to get back into the world that Landers had crafted with her alien exchange program. It managed to both remind of what occurred in the first book while hinting at what was to come for our loveable characters in the sequel. Having forgotten a little too much about the characters’ chemistry may have skewed this rating, but all in all, it was handy to have read it, though not absolutely necessary.