Tag Archive | futuristic

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: Gemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Series: The Illuminae Files #2

gemina-amie-kaufman-jay-kristoffMoving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

The saga that began with Illuminae continues on board the space station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of BeiTech’s assault. Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter, Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum may be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival. The fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.


5 Drink Me Potions


I would think after the mindblowingly-awesomeness that was Illuminae, it would be a very hard act to follow. Fortunately for us, Gemina is equally as badass as its predecessor, if not even a smidge better in a few areas.

The events in Gemina are set literally minutes right after what transpired at the end of Illuminae, albeit in a different location on the Heimdall Jump Station where all our favourite cast of characters were racing towards in the previous book.

Both acting as a sequel and a companion novel, we follow a whole new cast of characters navigating a world that is about to turn UPSIDE DOWN and INSIDE OUT on its head.

We already know from Illuminae the level of pure genius that is a combination of Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, but here is exactly why their genius-ness was NOT a one-off chance occurrence.

The new cast
I was a little worried at first that I wouldn’t love the new protagonists as much. After all, Kady and Ezra were pretty awesome in book 1, and their romance was just so SWOON-worthy. But worries can be laid to rest as Hanna and Nik have stolen my heart.

Hanna is honestly just as badass, if not MORE, than Kady. Being trained in multiple forms of martial arts by her Commander father – what a wonderful decision for father-daughter bonding, Commander – she had the skill set to help defend her station from the impending danger being wrought on them. Plus, it sure helps to have her courage and wit on top of that. She wasn’t the little spoiled rich girl that the other characters initially pegged her for, and I adored her for standing her ground and showing everyone what kinda heroine she could be when push came to shove.

These other said characters would include both Nik and his cousin Ella. Nik wasn’t the sweet kinda guy that Ezra Mason was (oh rest my beating heart), but he wasn’t exactly the bad-boy-criminal that I may have thought he was either. He didn’t want to be this way, but you can’t choose your family, can you? And for a hero, he was definitely the most surprising. Of all those onboard the Heimdall, I’m sure no one else would think he was hero material. I loved his POV as much as Hanna’s, and I’m glad that there was more of him in this story (whereas I’m still miffed that Ezra wasn’t as prominent in Illuminae as I had hoped).

Ella’s great too. She’s like that awkward third wheel of this ragtag resistance group against the invading mercs. She throws in those cringey moments when Nik and Hanna are getting too cozy, and make us laugh while everything else is coming to pieces and people are dying all around. She’s no innocent herself (gang family, remember??), but I love her heart and loyalty. She even seems to come around with her opinions of Hanna. Plus her particular skill set behind the scenes makes her the unsung heroine of this story.

The artistry of this book *insert glowing heart face*
You know, I didn’t think anything could be prettier than Illuminae and its dossier of special files. I loved everything about it, from the maps to the IMs and the hilarious Security Footage Summary with the censored swear words everywhere. I even adored AIDAN’s commentary and unintentionally deep and funny thoughts.

If you think you’re gonna be missing this, or that Gemina is just a replication of what has been done by these two authors already, then you’re in for a surprise. Yes, in a way, it’s the same as all these types of files are also found in this book (yay!), but no, it’s also different. How?

Author Marie Lu has also contributed to this work of art with journal drawings by Hanna. They’re absolutely gorgeous and it adds another layer to this wonderful dossier of files. Plus, there are certain new types of pages that I thought were hilarious. Likewise, sometimes the words and the directions they take represent the movements of the characters, or follow along with the drawing in the background.

And even better? Kady and even AIDAN are back in this novel, so if you’re thinking you’ll be missing them and their words, there will be pages on their involvement on the Hypatia. Don’t worry, the authors didn’t forget about them and their amazing survival to this point. Things will start to wonderfully tie in together.

Honestly? You may be someone who loves ebooks or audiobooks, but this is one series where you just HAVE TO get your hands on the physical copy to fully appreciate how beautiful it is. I can’t tell you how much more beautiful it is without a) ruining things, or b) inadequately describing how wonderful Gemina is even after the initial surprise has subsided with Illuminae. Just grab one and read it!

The twists and turns of the plot and the insane details
I remember clearly how crazy the plot twisted in Illuminae as it was so subtle but it just all made SENSE at the end of it. Here? There were certain points that didn’t initially make sense when I read them, but as the story unfolded and things unravelled in ways I couldn’t possibly have imagined or guessed, it all clicked as well. I dunno how Kaufman and Kristoff do it, but they are absolutely BRILLIANT in how they weave together all the intricate ideas to make a great story told in a beautiful format.

Another sideline to this plot was the presence of alien creatures that are also problematic for the crew on board (as if having mercs onboard wasn’t bad enough, you know?). The detail put into their genus and species – there’s a whole wiki-type page for the creature that’s provided, and as a scientist, gotta appreciate that detailing! – as well as how it’s cultivated and everything was downright amazing. Like it’s just one little thing in this gigantic plot, but they don’t do anything halfway. I’m so impressed. It makes this whole dossier effect more real.

I can go on and on but…
I’m sure all the reviews can go on about the brilliance that’s this series. So you don’t need anything more from me. I will end by saying that Gemina is worth the buy (it was an automatic purchase for me too), and it’s just as good as its sequel which is a rare gem to find in YA these days. Full of action and hints of romance (unfortunately, not as much as it was with Ezra and Kady), it’s everything you can ask for.

No matter if you don’t like sci fi, or if you don’t like YA, or if you think it’s too long (honestly, 659 pages just fly by ), it’s ALL worth it. I’m just so glad that this book I’ve been waiting for a whole year for was just as great as I could hope and expect. I’m even more glad that I’m ending 2016 off with this as one of my last reads. It’s worth it, and I can’t wait to see what book 3 brings!

Overall Recommendation:
Honestly, there’s no way I can put all that I’ve praised in this glowing review of Gemina in a brief summary. I’ll try, but you should just read the whole darn thing. For a sequel, it’s just as amazing as book 1, and you won’t be disappointed. The new heroes are just as awesome as Kady and Ezra, there’s even more beauty in this new dossier of files collected from Jump Station Heimdall and unforeseen twists of the plot made this an unforgettable read. You NEED to get your hands on a hardcopy NOW of Gemina. Before the year ends, if you can. You won’t regret it. Promise.

Review: Gamescape: Overworld by Emma Trevayne

Series: The Nova Project #1

gamescape-overworld-emma-trevayneThe planet is dying. Centuries of abuse have damaged the earth beyond repair, and now all the authorities can do is polish the surface, make the landscape look pretty to hide the disease within. Two prominent yet mysterious businessmen couldn’t fix it, either, but they did something even better. Together, they invented Chimera, the most complex and immersive virtual reality video game the world has ever known. The Cubes in which Chimera is played quickly became a fixture of this landscape: part distraction, part hospital, and almost wholly responsible for holding up the failing world economy.

Miguel Anderson is also dying. He isn’t the only one who plays the game–everybody does–but Miguel has more reason than most: When players leave their Cubes for the day, the upgrades and enhancements they’ve earned for their virtual characters leave with them. New lungs to breathe poisoned air, skin that won’t burn under the sun are great and everything… but Miguel, born as broken as the earth, needs a new heart–and soon–if he wants any hope of surviving just a little longer.

Then the two Gamerunners announce a competition, with greater rewards and faster progression than ever before, and Miguel thinks his prayers have been answered. All he needs to do is get picked to lead a team, play the game he’s spent years getting good at, and ask for his prize when he wins. Simple, really.

At first, things seem to go according to plan. Mostly, anyway. Inside his Cube, with his new team–including his best friend–at his back, Miguel begins his quest. He plays recklessly, even dangerously, for someone whose most vital organ could give up at any moment, but his desperation makes him play better than ever. The eyes of the world are on him, watching through status updates and live feeds, betting on his chances. With greater rewards, though, come greater risks, and the Gamerunners seem to delight at surprising the competitors at every turn. As he ventures deeper into a world that blends the virtual and the real to an unsettling degree, Miguel begins to wonder just why the game was invented at all, and whether its stakes could be even higher than life and death. 


4 Drink Me Potions


Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

**Gamescape: Overworld comes out September 13, 2016**

I’m not an avid fan of gaming like others may be, and not all stories based on virtual gaming works, but Gamescape: Overworld most definitely doesn’t fit in that category and surpassed all of my expectations.

Miguel needs a heart and this game that’s taken over the world seems to present that wondrous prize that just may help him live. And he’s good at it. Of course, everything has its own twists. It took a while for the story to get going as the gamemakers decided on this new team-play competition with the craziest prizes. The slow pacing here bugged me a bit but Trevayne kept me very much entertained with her imaginative descriptions of each level that Miguel fought to beat. The different ways you can die and the tools collected along the way, not to mention the whole idea of gaming in these giant cube-like buildings around the city, her world building was on point.

The storyline continued to be action-packed as Miguel battled his way to team leader and gained a new team to look after. Each individual member on his team was different, with their own fears to face and baggage they carried. I thoroughly enjoyed their interactions, whether it be positive ones or arguments that arose during the stressful game play.

Emotionally, Trevayne was pretty good at bringing out the vulnerabilities in her characters. This isn’t just a story about gaming or high-tech equipment. Miguel obviously dealt with a lot of stress and emotional baggage. At any moment, his heart could stop. But there was this one moment in the first half of the book that made me pause. It was beautifully sad. Our hero wasn’t a shining one on some white horse. He was a broken boy that just wanted to breathe his first breath of LIFE. Without the fear of dying on his back so constantly.

As for romance, it’s not such a huge part of the story. There is a love interest and she was part of Miguel’s new team, but I honestly wasn’t so interested in that whole aspect at all, which is pretty crazy for me to say. The story was so steeped in gaming intrigue, with the crazy “worlds” built for each level and the suspense of being the first team to win it all, that anything as trivial as a budding romance didn’t register as important with me. But if you like a taste of romance in your stories (as I normally do), there’s still a bit of that present.

I will conclude that what brought this whole story a higher rating was how it all tied in with the mystery of who the gamemakers were and why they created Chimera in the first place. What was its purpose? Why build a game when the world was falling apart when there could be a number of better things to do? Who were they working for?

Snippets of conversations in both the gamemakers’ perspectives in between chapters were the highlight of this novel, in my opinion. As the story continued, pieces were dropping into place until everything just CLICKED. This whole thing was so much bigger than you could ever imagine. The whole GAME was more than it just looked on the surface. The ending was absolutely fantastic. It had my heart racing and wondering how they would get out of this mess. I can’t give much more away, but know that it all goes way beyond the clichéd gaming storyline trope that’s more commonly used in a story like this. Trust me on this, you’re in for a surprise.

Overall Recommendation:
Gamescape: Overworld is levels more than what you may expect from a book about gamers. Yes, it’s full of action as Miguel fights his way for the most important prize of all, but it’s also about facing your fears and making the right calls in the heat of the moment. The suspense builds as Trevayne teases us with little bits about the mysterious gamemakers that started it all in between certain chapters. Who are they and what big plans did they have in store for the gamers beyond the surface level of more prizes? Even if you’re not a fan of gaming, this story has something for everyone. At the heart of it, this story is about choices. Follow Miguel and you will find out just what kind of an emotional ride this will take you on.

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: The Leveller by Julia Durango

Series: The Leveller #1

the leveller -julia durangoNixy Bauer is a self-made Leveller. Her job? Dragging kids out of virtual reality and back to their parents in the real world. It’s normally easy cash, but Nixy’s latest mission is fraught with real danger, intrigue, and romance.

Nixy Bauer is used to her classmates being very, very unhappy to see her. After all, she’s a bounty hunter in a virtual reality gaming world. Kids in the MEEP, as they call it, play entirely with their minds, while their bodies languish in a sleeplike state on the couch. Irritated parents, looking to wrench their kids back to reality, hire Nixy to jump into the game and retrieve them.

But when the game’s billionaire developer loses track of his own son in the MEEP, Nixy is in for the biggest challenge of her bounty-hunting career. Wyn Salvador isn’t some lazy kid looking to escape his homework: Wyn does not want to be found. And he’s left behind a suicide note. Nixy takes the job but quickly discovers that Wyn’s not hiding—he’s being held inside the game against his will. But who is holding him captive, and why?

Nixy and Wyn attempt to fight their way out of a mind game unlike any they’ve encountered, and the battle brings them closer than either could have imagined. But when the whole world is virtual, how can Nixy possibly know if her feelings are real?


 

3.5 Drink Me Potions


The Leveller is a nice combination of gaming fun that doesn’t get too tech-y to annoy non-gamers but also revels in an imaginative gamer’s world. Its well-paced action and unique gaming checkpoints to complete was most definitely entertaining.

I myself am not much of a huge gamer. I play some but I’m definitely not hardcore by any means. So to enter a genre of science fiction dealing with gaming technology would be a hit or miss for me. The Leveller surprisingly bypassed my expectations of mediocrity.

The most surprising element (and probably the most enjoyable) was the varying levels of horror that our fierce protagonist, Nixy, had to face in order to reach Wyn in his custom world within the game. From fighting off giant centipedes to sharks underwater and anacondas, the suspense of getting through each level without dying and restarting had me on the edge of my seat. The unknown challenges she had to face was just as entertaining, although I wish the overall maze component of the story took up a bigger portion of the plot.

The characters were mostly fresh and original. Nixy, otherwise known as Phoenix, was spunky. She didn’t let others get her down for being a leveller. Her two best buds, Chang and Moose, also had character (if the interesting names they go by don’t already suggest that). Together, it was like watching a gaming trio do its magic on a gaming world they knew so well.

However, what stuck out even more was the gaming world building. It’s uncertain how far in the future this is set, but I’m assuming it’s to be reminiscent of the potential NEAR future. Durango really developed and described this gaming platform, the MEEP, to the minute details. It must be due to her experience as a gamer to go to such fine workings of this program. It’s interesting whether or not the idea of a virtual reality gaming experience is completely original or not. I appreciated the details because it gave me the sense of what was truly going on for Wyn and Nixy in this complex trap they found themselves in.

What could be improved for me was the abrupt ending and the romance. The twist was nice, although not necessarily unpredictable. It brought about more questions than answers which even the characters voiced out. I’m glad to see there’s a second book, but for such a short and easy read, it could’ve maybe left it at a nicer point.

As for the romance, I just didn’t feel it with Wyn and Nixy. 6 days trapped in the MEEP together can cause a lot of stressful bonding, but there just didn’t seem to be a lot connecting them. They’re attractive people? They’re under high stress? That doesn’t make it any less strange to see them kissing all of a sudden. I hope it gets a little better in the next one, but at least romance isn’t truly a strong contender in this novel.

For a book that I picked randomly to read, The Leveller overall surprised me in a good way and I look forward to seeing what comes next for Nixy and Wyn.

Overall Recommendation:
The Leveller is full of action and smartly written challenges for Nixy Bauer, our protagonist, to face as she tries to rescue some millionaire’s son. With checkpoint levels to pass in a virtual world holding Wyn captive, this story is both exciting and suspenseful as we race to get to the bottom of this crazy scheme and escape the MEEP. There’s not too much gamer-talk or references to annoy, but I’d say it would still satisfy those who enjoy this genre. Overall, it was a surprisingly easy read albeit ending abruptly with the most hideous cliffhanger. Romance lovers, this story isn’t for you, although I think you may still find some enjoyment from other areas.

Review: Starflight by Melissa Landers

Series: Starflight #1

starflight -melissa landersLife in the outer realm is a lawless, dirty, hard existence, and Solara Brooks is hungry for it. Just out of the orphanage, she needs a fresh start in a place where nobody cares about the engine grease beneath her fingernails or the felony tattoos across her knuckles. She’s so desperate to reach the realm that she’s willing to indenture herself to Doran Spaulding, the rich and popular quarterback who made her life miserable all through high school, in exchange for passage aboard the spaceliner Zenith.

When a twist of fate lands them instead on the Banshee, a vessel of dubious repute, Doran learns he’s been framed on Earth for conspiracy. As he pursues a set of mysterious coordinates rumored to hold the key to clearing his name, he and Solara must get past their enmity to work together and evade those out for their arrest. Life on the Banshee may be tumultuous, but as Solara and Doran are forced to question everything they once believed about their world—and each other—the ship becomes home, and the eccentric crew family. But what Solara and Doran discover on the mysterious Planet X has the power to not only alter their lives, but the existence of everyone in the universe…


 

3.5 Drink Me Potions


Starflight was a cute story of a girl who just wanted freedom from a life full of unfair situations but instead finds herself dragged into a grand adventure around the galaxies upon meeting an old rival from school.

The book was full of witty and fun banter, something I’ve come to appreciate from Landers. Solara was understandably tough, but not as tough of a character as I would have thought from the synopsis. She hated her felony tattoos on her hands and it was understandable, as an orphan with no one who really cared about her, to want to escape into a place where she could be her own person without a worry in the world.

Meanwhile, her love interest, Doran, originally came off as that annoying golden boy who gets everything kinda stereotype. He really fit that bill. He gains a more original personality later on that makes you like him more, but at the end of the day, the same can be said for him as well. Both him and Solara were characters I grew to like, but not people I grew to connect with or even love , which is important for main characters in good stories.

The secondary characters had interesting personalities that made them special and fun to see how they interacted with each other. They each had a back story, although some weren’t as fleshed out as they could have been, which would have made them more solid and real in my books than just the label you put on them. For example, the first mate was a bespectacled kleptomaniac, but if he’s only defined by that label, it doesn’t necessarily make him all that special or real. He as a whole person would need more than just that one thing, no matter how interesting, to make a good character whose purpose isn’t only to just enhance Solara and Doran’s story.

The pacing set me off a little too. It wasn’t slow necessarily. Things are always happening for the ragtag crew on board the space craft Banshee. But it wasn’t necessarily intense. The plot didn’t really build up for most of the book until maybe the last 60 pages or so. Like, sure, someone’s chasing them. They escape. They go somewhere else in space. Whoopee.

The romance was interesting. Doran was truly awful in the beginning, so it was enjoyable to see the gradual change in their interpersonal dynamics. It wasn’t insta-love. They went from rivals/enemies to cohorts and acquaintances to finally friends and people who loved one another. It took time and certain events to drive forward those feelings. It was nice, don’t get me wrong. It just didn’t induce intense heart-pounding feelings in me. At the end of the day, I just didn’t find myself as invested in the outcome as I normally would be in romances that initially seemed hard to come by for the characters.

Overall, Starflight was definitely an enjoyable read. The ending wasn’t a cliffhanger or anything. It ended pretty much on a happy note. The characters don’t necessarily change the world or have everything solved for their individual problems, so unless resolution is a key component for you to enjoy a novel, it was nice. But nice only goes so far and it just seemed to be lacking something that may just be a personal preference.

Overall Recommendation:
Starflight was a fun sci-fi book that definitely had stuff going on for the main characters and even the side characters. However, beyond the easy read and amusing banter between a unique group of friends, it was just missing some suspense throughout the middle that would’ve driven a higher rating, even though plenty of “action” was going on. These events just fizzled out too quickly and shifted from one to the other without racking enough excitement linking them all together. The romance was enjoyable and cute, but it too seemed to lack a certain element to invest more emotion from the reader into them. Overall, it was a nice plot and story that I liked, but did not love.

Review: Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton

Series: Seeker #1

seeker -arwen elys daytonThe night Quin Kincaid takes her Oath, she will become what she has trained to be her entire life. She will become a Seeker. This is her legacy, and it is an honor.

As a Seeker, Quin will fight beside her two closest companions, Shinobu and John, to protect the weak and the wronged. Together they will stand for light in a shadowy world.

And she’ll be with the boy she loves–who’s also her best friend. But the night Quin takes her Oath, everything changes.

Being a Seeker is not what she thought. Her family is not what she thought. Even the boy she loves is not who she thought. And now it’s too late to walk away.


2 Drink Me Potions


Seeker was fantasy novel set in something akin to modern day Scotland and Hong Kong. It had huge potential to become something exciting and intriguing. Magical swords, secrets centuries old and a family heritage of honorable warriors. Sounds like a great synopsis doesn’t it?

Well, that’s where your hopes go south. Dayton turned a very interesting plot into a monotonous journey between 4 narratives. How did it go so very wrong? Why, let me list them out for you.

1) World building
It may be set in Scotland and then in Hong Kong, all very familiar land marks, but that’s no excuse for the vagueness in the Seeker’s history and uh, what exactly they are and do . All you get is that they’re “honourable” and “help to change the world” with their “life or death decisions”. Such power. Of course that would mean some would stray from the noble route to follow their selfish heart’s desires.

So what exactly are those “bad deeds” that Seekers now do instead? Such terrible things that it scarred Quin and Shinobu so much when they took their oath?

Uh, they became assassins? It doesn’t get graphic or anything, but the vagueness of it takes away from their GIGANTIC reaction after realizing they’ve become “monsters”. Quin is so mortified that she wishes to never remember any of it. Shinobu follows the path of self-destruction through drugs, booze and reckless actions like building jumping. These plot elements took up so much space and time in Seeker, you’d expect to be more understanding of their predicament.

And then there’s also the confusion regarding the Seeker’s abilities. It takes a while into the novel before things start becoming more clear. Just what the heck do they do? Why are they so special or powerful? But the long-winded way it took to reach those answers could’ve driven many people away from the book by then.

2) Plot pacing
It was so BORING in the middle. I was occasionally flipping ahead just to see whose narrative we’d get to follow next ’cause the one I was on just wasn’t cutting it for me. Nothing truly exciting happened. Bad men chase the “good guys”. They fight back or they’re too busy drowning in their own problems to even notice or want to get away from danger. More mysterious tidbits into the Seekers but nothing solid to lure your undivided attention in.

The last 10-15 chapters picked up a bit, and I kinda wished the novel was like this for the most of it. The sections in Scotland in the first part was the hardest to get through. I can totally understand why so many people just DNFed. It took way too long to get the action going.

3) Characters
In Seeker, everything is written in 3rd person but we switch between following 4 different people. Quin and Shinobu are your typical protagonist narratives. They weren’t so bad to follow, except when they both bugged me to no end.

Quin was torn after learning of her beloved John’s other side, the darker side he kept hidden from her. The side that sought revenge over anything else. I just wanted to shake her. Can’t she see he’s so broken that she can’t heal him? I know love makes people blind, but it took a while for her to stop letting his mere presence interfere with proper thinking.

Shinobu’s walk into reckless self-destruction was so selfish. He thought he was only hurting himself, but he hurt those around him by being the way he was. They were so broken after becoming full-fledged Seekers and doing their “evil deeds”, but I wanted to poke at him to throw off the self-pity party already. He could still be the honourable hero he had always wanted to be. Drowning his sorrows like this didn’t make him any better of a person. However, I’m glad that it doesn’t end with him in his poor state, and for that it helped redeem his character as it showed a true depth to his growth and ability to find redemption for himself.

As for John, he’s like the book’s minor antagonist. There’s the big antagonist that is Quin’s awful Seeker father, but at least I could outright hate him. John? He was a different story. From his backstory that very slowly unfolded through his narrative, I couldn’t help but pity his descent into hatred and bitterness. It’s not simple to call him “evil” and be done with that. He cares for Quin (to my utmost chagrin, ’cause I don’t think he’s good enough for her), but he let his promise for retribution take over. His obsession for revenge drove everyone away. Maybe we’re supposed to feel bad for him, but all I can feel is tons of pity .

The last narrative is a girl named Maud. She’s something called a Dread, the youngest one in fact. Something else that belongs to Seeker history that we’re not so clearly explained for a long while. Actually, it’s still not fully explained by the end of it, but at least you learn a little bit more from her backstory. Her role is like to judge and monitor the actions of the Seekers, to prevent them from abusing such power. Ha! Where were they for the last few centuries? Although her narrative was the most confusing, she was the one person whom I didn’t want to strangle at some point through the novel. I’d say that’s a pretty good thing.

So that actually wasn’t all that short, but those were the things that annoyed me incessantly. Why the heck did I finish it? you may ask. Well, that’s a very good question. Sure, I was still a little bit curious about the Seekers. But mostly, it went down to the fact that a) I hate not finishing a book unless absolutely necessary, and b) I rushed through it to make sure Quin chose Shinobu. He was clearly the better candidate, and he understood her feelings perfectly. They were IN THE SAME BOAT. The sequel better have something nice going on for them, ’cause this book was NO ROMANCE. It would’ve spiced things up a little bit, especially when the plot action lacked so badly. It’s a shame it really didn’t go that way until the very end.

Oh, and you know what bothered me the most?

Wait for it.

The cheesy way Quin and Shinobu would always say “evildoers beware” over and over again. I think I just found a new pet peeve.

Overall Recommendation:
Seeker has many points against it, from slow pacing to annoying characters and very vague world building. This urban fantasy set in such beautiful settings like Scotland and Hong Kong could’ve made it truly adventurous and exciting, especially with a plot about secret powerful families. But it truly was missing the excitement factor, whether it be from learning more about Seekers or a forbidden romance. However, it literally read like a magical version of Revenge or something. All I can say is that there are not a lot of redeeming qualities to it, so here’s to hoping the sequel would be lots better from the low beginning.

Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Series: The Illuminae Files #1

illuminae -amie kaufamn and jay kristoffThis morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.


5 Drink Me Potions


Kady Grant: He said, “You picked a hell of a day to dump me, Kades.”


I don’t lightly give 5 star ratings, but Illuminae has swept my breath away. It is literally a piece of art, with the unique layout of pages from hacked memos to re-routed secret IMs to black and white pictures of space. But it’s not just an ordinary piece of art. It’s a masterpiece, crafted in such a creative manner like nothing else I’ve ever read before.

It starts off with a storyline that you think you’ve heard before. Girl dumps boy for some reason that is hinted but not revealed yet. Okay, sounds familiar enough. But all hell breaks loose literally hours after, with fire falling from the skies as a rival company drops out of nowhere to attack their tiny planet on the edge of the known universe.

Sweet. So our characters, Kady and Ezra, rush up into spacecrafts fleeing from the enemy. Okay, it still sounds familiar enough. Life on a spaceship hurtling through the universe? Might have seen something like that before.

But it’s WAY bigger than that. Action is ratcheted high within the first several pages. You’re flipping through the pages of documents and transcripted interviews trying to figure out what the heck went down. And as things start making sense, like who attacked them and why this company would do such a thing, there are still so many uncertainties open.

Ezra and Kady get separated on 2 different ships so our two exes ignore each other for a while. Of course, that doesn’t last. As things get worse as they journey for help in the distant universe, Kady with her hacker skills turns to Ezra as he’s the last person in the world she has left. Their IMs were some of my very favourite part of Illuminae. For most of the story, they’re apart and so we really get to see how they interact with other people around them beyond each other. Their personalities become real and tangible. Not just some hero or girl-who-broke-his-heart or however they are with each other. They feel like REAL teenagers that you and I may have bumped into or have known.

But with each other? It’s priceless. It’s clear their chemistry hasn’t died down with the months and distance between them. The love there isn’t just driven by desperation or fear or craving for familiarity in a world that has turned upside down. Amidst all the craziness (and oh boy, is there craziness!), this tale is still a beautiful love story of two people who would do anything for each other.

 

Still there is no time for sorrow. She knows he is in here somewhere, the one she risked everything for.
The only one she has left. The one she loves true.
“Ezra?”

 

And goodness. Ezra Mason is one funny and romantic dude.

 

Mason, E, LT 2nd:Damn, I still remember first day in her class. You were checking me out HARD, Grant.
ByteMe: U. R. DELUSIONAL. u kept asking me stupid questions about hydrogen bonding
Mason, E, LT 2nd: confession: hydrogen was not the kind of bonding on my mind

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