Saturday, September 5, 2015

Book Review ~ Nirvana (Nirvana Series #1) by J.R. Stewart

(Nirvana Series #1)
by J. R. Stewart

When the real world is emptied of all that you love, how can you keep yourself from dependence on the virtual?

Larissa Kenders lives in a world where the real and the virtual intermingle daily. After the supposed death of her soulmate, Andrew, Larissa is able to find solace by escaping to Nirvana, a virtual world where anything is possible – even visits with Andrew. Although Larissa is told that these meetings are not real, she cannot shake her suspicion that Andrew is indeed alive. When she begins an investigation of Hexagon, the very institution that she has been taught to trust, Larissa uncovers much more than she ever expected and places herself in serious danger. Her biggest challenge, however, remains determining what is real – and what is virtual.

Nirvana is the first installment in the three-part “Nirvana” series, a fast-paced, page-turning young adult trilogy that combines elements of the romance, mystery, and science fiction genres. This first novel introduces readers to a heroine who refuses to give up on the man she loves, even if it means taking on an entire government to do so.

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10/14/2015 - Scroll down for an updated review of Nirvana…..

A world where virtual reality is available to everyone, a wife grieving her missing husband and pressured to sign his death certificate, and the possible cover-up from one of the biggest corporations affecting the bee population and the decline of the environment – all of these ingredients should make for a really good reading experience, right?  Well…….not quite.

I really wanted to love this book.  From the beautiful cover to the intriguing synopsis, this book begged me to read it.  Sadly, this book has its issues and the whole story fell short of my expectations.  It wasn't bad; it just wasn't as good as I wanted it to be.  The story has a lot of potential; I just feel that it needs to be fine-tuned and polished a bit.  The story did not flow smoothly and I found myself feeling lost and a little confused at times.  Because of the lack of character development, it was difficult to connect with the characters.  Another reason I feel I couldn't connect with the story was the lack of world building.  It would have been nice to know in the beginning why the Extinction occurred and why Earth was the way it was, instead it was mentioned toward the end of the story.  I’m not sure if the author was trying to build suspense and intrigue by presenting it in this way, but for whatever reason, it didn't work for me as a reader.

It must be noted that I received an eARC (mobi file) of this book and the formatting needs a lot of work as well. Hopefully these issues will be fixed before publishing, but the way it was in its current state made reading somewhat challenging.

I really loved the idea of the virtual reality concept and the author has a very creative mind, I just feel as though this book could be so much more with a little bit of editing and fine-tuning.
2 stars

See how I marked out everything on the review I wrote before?  There is a reason for that….a really good reason.  You see the author took the reviews of advanced readers to heart and fine-tuned Nirvana and made it the story I knew it could be!  I am leaving my thoughts of the ‘before’ version just so future readers will know that this story has been rewritten and is bigger and better than before and take that in consideration as they read the reviews on sites such as Goodreads.

So, now for my thoughts on the rewrite…..Are you ready? 

Bees - simple yet complex creatures that many people seldom think about until they get stung by one, yet bees are so important to our environment. In Nirvana, the first installment of a three-part series, bees and the lack of them play a crucial and very important part of this story.  See, the bees became extinct.  You are probably thinking, so what, right?  Well after the loss of the bees, came the depletion of plant life – no cross pollination, you see?  Because of that, trees died and collapsed which caused erosion.  No trees to block the wind created windstorms and then came the droughts.  A greedy corporation, Hexagon, took advantage of this situation – big time.  Since the world was basically dried up and a depressing pile of dirt, Nirvana was created by Hexagon so that the remaining population (if they could afford it) could escape into a world that gave them a false sense of happiness – a way to remember how it used to be.  For the more well-to-do population, the Bubble was available to live in or vacation.  A Virtual Reality World where nothing is as it seems.  Sounds just peachy, uh?  Well, not everything is what is appears to be and when it is discovered what really happened to the bee population, it becomes a thrilling adventure and a race against the clock to bring down Hexagon and the people behind it.

Buckle up and get prepared for a reading experience that is jammed packed with so many twists and turns you will begin to wonder what’s ‘real’ and what’s ‘virtual’ within the story and perhaps get a bit dizzy in the process.  This story will mess with your mind and have you questioning right along with the main character, Larissa, on who or what to trust.   

A world where virtual reality is available to everyone, a young woman trying desperately to find her missing fiancé even though she has been told he is dead, and the possible cover-up from one of the biggest corporations affecting the bee population and the decline of the environment – all of these ingredients should make for a really good reading experience, right?  Why yes, yes it does!

Stories based on the virtual reality concept aren't new, but the author’s creative mind and knack for imaginative story-telling make Nirvana one heck of a read.  From the beautiful cover to the intriguing synopsis, this book begged me to read it and I am so glad that I did!  Nirvana is an extremely fast-paced read that I found impossible to put down once I started.  The characters are well-developed and the premise is pure ingenious.   Book one is somewhat of an introduction to the characters and the world they live in, and really sets the stage to what is to come in the rest of the series.   Combining bits and pieces of science fiction, romance and mystery make Nirvana a thrilling reading experience that will appeal to a wide range of readers.  I can’t wait to see how this story will play out and will be on pins and needles waiting for the next installment of this intriguing series to be released.

4 stars

J.R. Stewart has worked on many government and corporate projects throughout a prolific IT academic and consulting career and has become one of North America's foremost experts on virtual reality. After having worked on advanced "VR" technologies for over a decade, Stewart grew concerned about the implications of this work and the possible psychological effects that it may have on its users. In 2010, Stewart considered publishing a revealing account of the advances being made regarding this technology, but was concerned about the implications that a tell-all book may have on career prospects. The next year, writing under a protective pseudonym,
Stewart began work on the speculative "Nirvana" series instead. Finally ready for publication, these novels present a story that is closer to reality than you may assume.

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