Amaryllis by Jayne Castle
Maybe it was the "InstaLove"? Maybe it was the crappy world building? Maybe it was the utter predictability of the story line? Maybe it was the copious amounts of jelly-ice?
Whatever it was - I. Could. Not. Stand. This. Book.
I only finished it because I was stuck in the car for 6+ hours and had packed my alternate books. Wow, this was not a winner for me.
Amaryllis takes place on a remote planet, St. Helen, that is closed off from earth. Forced to adapt to the planet that's remarkably like earth (except for the extremely handy plot twist that all advanced earth technology doesn't work and disintegrates on St. Helen), the human residents find themselves developing supernatural-like talents. These talents work in tandem with prisms (which also develop in certain people) that focus the talents to accomplish a specific goal. Amaryllis Lark, a professional prism contracts a job with sexy CEO Lucas Trent - who happens to be a talent with off the chart power. They quickly find themselves mixing business with pleasure as they embark on a steamy (jelly-ice filled?) love affair. Throw in a potential murder and Amaryllis and Lucas are in for a wild and bumpy ride full of jelly-ice and arranged marriage agencies.
Ok, so here are my issues with this book:
a) There was no character development. Telling me that Amaryllis is a stuffy, prim-and-proper Prism isn't developing her character. It's just giving me a description. I need more - SHOW me that Amaryllis is prim and proper. 'Cause seeing her rip off her shirt for Lucas in, like, chapter two isn't indicative of a prim and proper character...
b) Attack of the InstaLove! Ugh. I hate InstaLove. I don't know why authors think that you can introduce two characters, not develop them any, and then think it's ok to have them suddenly in love. In the second chapter. Nope...doesn't work for me. I don't buy it.
c) Jelly Ice. What a horrible name for anything. All I can picture is a jello jiggler shaking it's jelly ice bottom at me. Ick.
d) World building - or lack thereof in this case. I'm sorry, but you can't explain it as "it's a new world...but the same as earth...except that it's not because all convenient technology disintegrates". That's not world building...that's making it easier for you to include crappy substitutes like "jelly ice" and not develop it any further. I think if Castle could have spent a little bit longer fleshing things out, she could have created a really fun world. Instead it's two-dimensional and seems to be a lazy way out of thinking through the world building process.
e) Foreshadowing, anyone? It was super easy to peg whodunit and why WAY early on in the story. Maybe some non-essential characters would have helped add mystery to the story? I don't know...
So why, if I hated it so much, did I give it two gnomes? Well...I only did that because I have read some of Jane Ann Krentz's other stuff under various other pseudonyms (she has so many!) and enjoyed it just fine AND I am remotely curious about the other two heroes that were briefly mentioned in Amaryllis...so two gnomes because I have a small inclination to read at least one more...jelly ice and all.
[Read Sept. 2013]
Lover Awakened by J.R. Ward
I liked but most definitely did not love the first two books in the Black Dagger Brotherhood...but Holy Zsadist, I loved Lover Awakened!
Ok, but before I go into all that - let me just say that adding the extra letters [like the "Z" in Zsadist...or the "H" in "ahvenge"...so on and so forth] DRIVES ME CRAZY. Also, the copious mentions of "shit-kickers", "leathers", and 50 Cent/G-Unit are just plain ridiculous. Ok, so these guys are bad asses. Got it. Can we just say..."Hey, the BDB are badasses...just wanted to let you know" and be done with it? I also can't stand the "what's doing, my brother?" or the other fake-jock-fratboy speak that Ward throws into the dialogue. What Ward is doing with all of this just seems like a cheap way to add pseudo-depth to the characters and cheap way to manufacture cohesiveness among the BDB. It doesn't work for me...rather than provide depth, I just laugh out loud and get thrown out of the story. And I shudder to think that it will be like this for the whole multi-book series. That's a lot of shit kickers, leathers and out of date rap music...you feel me, my brother? Sigh...
So, despite the shit kickers and leathers - I loved Zsadist as a character and I loved the story between him and Bella. I also enjoyed the background stories that are building up as well - I think there may be some good books coming up in my BDB future. Unfortunately, I had had some spoilerage happen regarding Wellsie and John so I wasn't too surprised by those developments [and I shan't say anymore about those plot points lest I spoil it for somebody else]. I think if I hadn't been aware of what was going to happen on those fronts I would have loved this book even more.
I am slightly worried about the future books I have yet to read...I was most interested in Zsadist and now I've read his book so...am I going to be as invested in the other BDBrothers? I don't know...I've looked ahead and see the next one is about Butch which is the character I (as of right now) care the least about so...we'll see. I am curious as to John's story and Phury's story...so hopefully those are in my future as well.
Looks like there will be more BDB in my future - here's to hoping they are all on Zsadist's level or higher.
[Read Sept. 2013]
Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs
I know I'm kind of late to the game with this series - but I really enjoyed Blood Bound! Such a fun read!
In Blood Bound, Stefan the vampire calls in the favor Mercy owes him and the two of them go off after a serial-killing vampire who seems more ruthless than usual for a vampire. Shifted as a coyote, Mercy discovers that the evil vampire they are tracking is actual a demon-possessed-sorcerer-vampire which spells trouble for the whole community - for regular humans and supernaturals alike.
Briggs definitely sets up a bit of a love...triangle?...quadrangle?...well, whatever it is, it's shaping up to be a hot mess. I usually am rooting for a specific party to win the romance war, yet with this series I am as of yet undetermined. I would be ok with any of the guys winning Mercy's affection...and I would NOT be ok with any of the guys being left out...so it's shaping up to be an interesting read as the series progresses.
The Mercy Thompson has some flavors of the Sookie Stackhouse novels (I'm not sure which series came first?)in that there are vampires, werewolves, and shifters (oh my!)...yet the characters are SO. MUCH. BETTER. I just can't stand Sookie or Harris' writing (hence why I gave up mid-series on that one)...but I really enjoy Mercy Thompson and crew. Mercy isn't your average female lead and it's nice to have a lead character who doesn't quite fit the average heroine mold. I like the world Briggs has constructed as well - she tries to make her world blend seamlessly into the world as we know it and I think she does a pretty good job with it.
Definitely a great read in a great series that will scratch that paranormal fantasy itch you have.
[Read Sept. 2013]
Native Star by M.K. Hobson
I was pleasantly surprised by The Native Star - it was not really what I was expecting. I don't know if I would classify this book as straight fantasy or straight steampunk or straight western or what. It's a fantasy, steampunk, western book with elements of romance and (of course) zombies. Ok, so the zombies are only in the novel for a hot second but I felt they warranted a mention.
In The Native Star, Emily Edwards is a Witch for a small community on the Western frontier. Times are tough for her and her adopted father and in a desperate bid to increase their station in life, Emily casts a love spell on the local, rich lumberman, Dag. The resident pompous Warlock, Dreadnought Stanton, is quick to haughtily point out that her love spell is way too strong. Through a series of events, Emily and Dreadnought find themselves in a mine full of zombies where a glowing crystal stone embeds itself in Emily's hand. Understandably, Emily is upset of the geological implant and she and Dreadnought embark on a mission across the West to learn more about the stone and try and remove it from her hand. Along the way a band of evil Warlocks catch the scent of the magical stone and try any means necessary to recover the stone. Emily and Dreadnought struggle to evade the evil ones while discovering their feelings for each other may run deeper than they had originally thought.
This was such a well thought out book. The magic system and world building are probably the best elements - they are very indepth and rich. Hobson creates a mid 1800s world where magic and steampunk seem not only normal, but also necessary for the function of society and life. I found myself wanting to learn more about the world, the magic, and the stone in Emily's hand.
I found the characters to be done well, too. They weren't your average fantasy characters which was refreshing. This novel definitely focused more on the magic and the plot rather than the romance which was a nice change. I think there could have been more romance in the story, but at the same time, it's nice to read a book that focuses on plot rather than on just the steamy scenes.
The only thing that bumped this from a four-gnome to a three-gnome for me was that the book was slow to read. It wasn't "slow so I'm going to put it down"...it was "I've been reading for how long and I only got through 20 pages?!"...I'm used to breezing through books much more quickly. I think the world building and magic system required me to slow down so I could digest the content and, while that is not a bad thing at all, I didn't like having to do that for this book.
[read Sept. 2013]
Warlord by Angela Knight
I don't know what I think about this one...
On one hand, it was a pretty interesting story - I mean, where else do you meet a time-traveling, genetically altered warrior with his talking timberwolf companion? And where else do you follow said warrior and wolf as they protect a journalist from the most famous serial killer of all time (who, come to find out, is also a time-traveling, genetically altered being which is why he was never killed at the time of his infamous murders...I can buy that *cough*)?
On the other hand, parts of it were your typical paranormal/urban fantasy romance. Well, erotica would probably be more appropriate... It seemed a little "Insta-Love" to me - I mean, if above-mentioned warrior broke into my house and started going through my bedroom things, I probably would not have jumped in bed with him THAT SAME DAY like our heroine here. (Well, and since I am already married, my husband would probably frown on my jumping into bed with the warrior at any time...but that's beside the point...)
All in all, I enjoyed the book...but not enough to read the novella and short story that followed it. I thought it had the potential for uniqueness...but then slid into the realm of the cliche.
Still - like urban fantasy (or in this case, more sci-fi)? Then give Warlord a whirl.
[read September 2013]
Facing the Music and Living to Talk About It by Nick Carter
Let me preface this review by saying: I have been a fan of the Backstreet Boys since they released their very first single "We've Got It Goin' On" on cassette tape back in the day. I must have worn that cassette tape out waiting for them to come back to the states and make/release their full album. I still treasure my signed group picture. And while my taste in music has grown over the years, BSB still holds a special nostalgic place in my heart.
This was a horrible book. Keep reading, please --> it is NOT horrible because of what Nick has been through. I commend him for overcoming his trials and having the courage to discuss them publicly. And I am NOT passing judgement on him or what he has done over the years in any way.
Got that? Not judging Nick. Not judging his experience or his rehabilitation.
No, this was a horrible book for a couple of reasons:
1. This book didn't know what it wanted to be -- a self-help book or an auto-biography. It kept jumping around...one paragraph would be Nick discussing his childhood and then it would awkwardly morph into how you can lift yourself out of a downward spiral/drug abuse. I felt this book would have been better served if it had EITHER been an auto-biography with a chapter on self-help OR a self-help book with a few auto-biographical anecdotes thrown in the mix. As it stands, the book seems jumbled.
2. It's apparent that Nick is a musician and not a natural writer. The book doesn't read well and random slang thrown into the text gives it a jarring feel (to use slang myself - this book was a hot mess). There is a lot of repetition in the book as well which makes it rather tedious.
3. Most of the sources he used were websites...not to go all academic snob or anything, but (as a history grad student) if I were to turn a paper in to my professor and I used mostly websites and maybe two physical books...well, the results would NOT be pretty. I'm not saying he has to use primary sources or anything...but go to the library...request a book...utilize a better source than the Huffington Post.
3. He's still untested as far as his rehabilitation goes so it seems premature of him to give self-help advice. Again, please keep reading --> I'm not saying that his rehabilitation is false or temporary or, again, that what he has accomplished in kicking drugs and alcohol is trivial. It's not. Anyone who can overcome those trials is amazing and deserves to be commended. It's just that with so recent a recovery, it's hard not to be cautious with viewing his rehabilitation. At the end of the book he talks of his and his fiancee's devotion to exercise and health - almost obsessively so. It comes across as though he is replacing his previous drug and alcohol addictions with an obsessive addiction to exercise which makes one think he hasn't truly conquered the fundamentals of addiction. To replace one addiction with another does not mean one is rehabilitated (even if the new addiction is healthy) because you are still dealing with the same issues, just using a different medium to cope. All that to say - it seems awfully soon to write a self-help book.
So, I give this book two gnomes--> one for nostalgia and one because of what he has overcome. No stars for the actual book itself because it just doesn't "Have It Goin' On".
[read September 2013]
[I received an ARC of this title from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated in any way.]