Monday, September 1, 2014

Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White

This review was written by: C
Received: Free ARC from HarperCollins
Publication Date of Book: September 2014
Pages: 288
Stars: (4/5)

Short summary of the story:
Jessamin is a strong-willed, intelligent, and stubborn young lady from the island of Melei, who has come to the country of Albion to complete her education. Jessa lives and works at a hotel in order to make ends meet. Her dark hair and complexion have branded her as an outsider, nothing more than an island rat to the "civilized" Albions. Jessa despises the country in which she now resides, but is unable to go home, as she will never again receive such an opportunity to further her studies. Her dreary outlook upon her new life soon changes when she meets Finn, a young lord that opens her eyes to a whole new world of wealth, parties, deceit, prestige, and magic.
From this point on, however, Jessa's world falls apart. Finn's affections place Jessa right in the center of a political struggle that has been occurring throughout Albion’s nobility. Lord Downpike, the individual that Finn once suspected for the murder of his parents, wants control in order to execute an even greater plan and he will stop at nothing until he finds out the secrets of Finn's magic. This task has just become that much easier with Finn's newly discovered weakness, Jessa. The question is, will Jessa and Finn be able to save the country, or will Albion, Melei, and countless innocents fall into the hands of Downpike?

My thoughts:
Kiersten White has a gift for creating such believable characters and villains. Jessamin was by far my favorite. I have always loved strong female protagonists with wit, charm, and the ability to outsmart any man. Jessamin definitely fits the bill, as she is headstrong and won't let anyone dictate her fate. I adore the fact that she began as an outsider and perhaps what would be considered a “commoner” and eventually became a loved and accepted individual. Finn saw her for who she was, acknowledged her differences, and never hated her for her background, homeland, societal status, or the color of her skin. The fact that this book had a lead character of color was great, as most novels do not often show much diversity.

The romance was adorable. Finn seems to be the man of every girl’s dreams. He comes across as a bit of jerk at the beginning, but then it is revealed that there is a much deeper and sensitive side. The noble aspect of Finn was his greatest quality. He stood his ground and faced all oncoming dangers, even when it meant going it alone.

The setting was also amazing. Kiersten’s words paint a tangible world that was filled with mystery, intrigue, and my favorite part, magic. I especially enjoyed how she wove a historical setting that felt like a Victorian era Europe. My only qualms with this book would be the fact that it started out just a little bit slow, but it soon picked up and my eyes were glued to the pages. Besides, I never saw the ending coming!!!!

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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Citizen Sim: Cradle of the Stars by Michael Solana

This review was written by: C and F
Received: Free electronic copy from the author
Publication Date of Book: May 2014
Pages: 220
Stars: (5/5)

Johnny Clark is your typical teenage boy...sort of.  He loves spending time on the computer (instead of going outside),  hanging out with his two friends, and skipping school every once in a while.  He may also occasionally be described as a slacker or chronic procrastinator, but he's still a great character.  His normalcy seems a constant until one day he wakes up and unexpectedly has knowledge of how to do things he never knew how to remotely perform before.  Suddenly, he becomes exceedingly skilled in math when he was flunking this subject as a freshman just the other year.  He's also having visions of Citizen Sim, a renowned hacker that has even taken down the major search engine Google for a period of time.  Every time Citizen Sim is about to strike, Johnny knows what he is going to do time and time again before he even does it.  Even stranger, Johnny has been constructing a peculiar device that he thinks about at night, waking up in the morning with the knowledge and nagging feeling to put this single device together. He knows that he's missing one piece of the puzzle in its construction, but the thoughts have stopped flowing to him.  That is until he figures out what he needs in math class, a lengthy code.  What does this device do?

Amidst his current troubles, Johnny confides in is friends, telling them about his invention and his issues with the visions of Citizen Sim.  Discouraged and yet not surprised that they think he's bluffing or crazy, he accepts that he is on his own.  To make matters worse, there are two very peculiar men lurking around his neighborhood with unknown intentions, Mr. Jetworth and Mr. Florence.  Little does he know, they might have a history of murder.

Problems continue to arise in young Johnny's life.  One simple example includes a very interesting event at school.  During his math class, everyone pauses what they are doing, literally frozen in place.  Confused, our protagonist watches as his peers suddenly disappear only to be replaced by several individuals he has never been acquainted with before, sharing only a short dialogue before the group is reduced to one innocent looking girl.  When Johnny approaches her, her face turns into an ugly demon like formation.  Suddenly, he is jolted awake in his math class where everything is normal again.  He didn't even know that he had fallen asleep.  What's reality and what's not?  Will Johnny ever figure out what's going on?

Citizen Sim was, simply put, a roller coaster ride of adventure, mystery, humor, suspense, and pure adrenaline.  We each ate this book up, excited for the next opportunity to read more and more of it.  Michael Solana's debut novel was absolutely amazing!  We loved, loved, loved the idea and the plot line.  We've read many books over the years and this one was so unlike and unique among the others that we've read.  Sure, it reminded us of the Matrix, but we loved it nonetheless.  We were glued to our seats, reading page after page, word for word.  (Sometimes, we may be caught skimming some of our books but not with this one!)

Solana's voice in Citizen Sim was brilliant.  We enjoyed every second of it.  Johnny was a fabulous character who we only grew to love more and more as the story progressed.  Every second, we wanted to know more about his world, his life.  We promise that the mystery will keep you flipping the pages until the ending is finally reached.  It was a whirlwind.  We particularly enjoyed the humor that was sneaked into the book.  At one point, Johnny was trying to program his device after he figured out the coding that he needed.  It was at this time that his life was in danger and he had to no where to go and nothing to do but try to finish his creation so that he could save himself.  However, he didn't exactly understand how to program it:

"Five plus twelve over weird triangle thing," said Johnny as he touched numbers and glyphs on the center disk, "swiggle thing, swiggle thing, nineteen slash star...where's the star?  Crap where's the-star!  Nine, five, seventeen..."

We highly recommend this book.  It started off with a bang and kept going, sucking you in before you even knew what was happening.  The story and the characters were ultimately appealing, as well.  If you're looking for a book in the science fiction/fantasy genre or one that will mess with your head, this is definitely for you.  Solana did a great job in creating a masterpiece that we will not be forgetting anytime soon!