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.]