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Coming Soon: Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs

dead heatTitle: Dead Heat

Author: Patricia Briggs

Series: Alpha & Omega #4

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Release Date: March 3, 2015

The Overview: Praised as “the perfect blend of action, romance, suspense and paranormal,”* the Alpha and Omega novels transport readers into the realm of the werewolf, where Charles Cornick and Anna Latham embody opposite sides of the shifter personality. Now, a pleasure trip drops the couple into the middle of some bad supernatural business… For once, mated werewolves Charles and Anna are not traveling because of Charles’s role as his father’s enforcer. This time, their trip to Arizona is purely personal, as Charles plans to buy Anna a horse for her birthday. Or at least it starts out that way… Charles and Anna soon discover that a dangerous Fae being is on the loose, replacing human children with simulacrums. The Fae’s cold war with humanity is about to heat up—and Charles and Anna are in the cross fire.

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Hosted by Breaking the Spine

 Even though I absolutely love the Mercy Thompson series, I didn’t immediately get on board with Alpha and Omega. That is, until Fair Game came out last year and rocked my world. It is easily one of my favorites from Briggs but also a favorite from the genre as a whole. Because it was that good, I can’t help but hope Dead Heat is just as amazing. March can’t come too soon! If you haven’t had the pleasure to read Patricia Briggs, she is my number one recommendation for both urban fantasy lovers and those wanting to try the genre (start with Moon Called).

What book are you waiting on?

by Niki Hawkes

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Top Ten Series I’d Take With Me on a Deserted Island

top ten tuesday

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

I’ve modified this week’s topic a bit because the original (Top Ten Characters I take on a Deserted Island) definitely would’ve been a mix of my Top Ten Book Boyfriends and my Top Ten Favorite Female Characters so I decided to take a different route entirely and present my:

Top Ten Series I’d Take With Me on a Deserted Island

Kind of a hodgepodge, isn’t it? These titles represent my lengthier book favorites across a few different genres. While series length doesn’t necessarily coincide with excellent books (although there is a relation… authors who write better tend to get longer publishing deals), I decided to be strategic with my choices and take the series that provided the most long-term enjoyment. It pains me not to bring some of the shorter ones, but I think I’d get tired of them sooner. I should clarify that if a saga consists of multiple series, I’m counting them as one as long as they have continuity. That might be considered cheating, but I don’t care – I want to bring ALL the books.

What series would you take? :)

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: The Jewel by Amy Ewing

the jewelTitle: The Jewel

Author: Amy Ewing

Series: The Lone City #1

Genre: Teen Dystopian

Release Date: September 2, 2014

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

The Overview: The Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty. But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Not just any kind of servitude. Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the royalty—because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is offspring. Purchased at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel’s glittering facade: the cruelty, backstabbing, and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life. Violet must accept the ugly realities of her existence… and try to stay alive. But then a forbidden romance erupts between Violet and a handsome gentleman hired as a companion to the Duchess’s petulant niece. Though his presence makes life in the Jewel a bit brighter, the consequences of their illicit relationship will cost them both more than they bargained for.

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The Review:

As a HUGE fan of the Selection Trilogy (well, the first one, anyway) you can imagine how excited I was when The Jewel popped up on my radar a couple of months ago. Whenever a new book draws my attention, I’m always nervous it won’t live up to my expectations. In this case, however, The Jewel was even better than I expected it to be!

It had most of the same elements as the Selection, but in my opinion took all of them to a higher level. The world-building was robust – maybe not quite on the level of adult genres, but interesting just the same. The conflicts were excellent – driving the story forward and keeping my attention the entire time. Even though the specific conflicts Violet dealt with weren’t totally relatable (as many women probably haven’t been forced to carry someone else’s child), her emotional reactions to them certainly were, making parts of this book downright heart-wrenching.

But great world-building and conflicts wouldn’t mean a thing without the interesting characters within them. Even though I never felt Ewing was withholding information unnecessarily (a huge pet peeve of mine), I still don’t know everything about the characters that I’d like to. They all had such depth and complexity that I feel we’ve only just scratched the surface of their potential in this first book. The desire to learn more about them all is the main reason why I’m chomping at the bit for the sequel (which is over a year away…fml).

I found everything about The Jewel a mite unexpected. The love interest was fantastically unconventional, all of the characters showed duality, the subject matter was slightly more serious than a typical YA, and the plot never followed the route I thought it would. All of these elements were delightful twists that made the book stand out that much more.

As you can tell, I really enjoyed the The Jewel and would strongly recommended to fans of the Selection. Only, I think the novels in this one are only going to get stronger going forward rather than weaker. Add this one to your TBR – you won’t regret it!

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Coming Soon: Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman

shadow ScaleTitle: Seraphina

Author: Rachel Hartman

Series: Seraphina  #2

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Release Date: March 10, 2015

The Overview: The kingdom of Goredd: a world where humans and dragons share life with an uneasy balance, and those few who are both human and dragon must hide the truth. Seraphina is one of these, part girl, part dragon, who is reluctantly drawn into the politics of her world. When war breaks out between the dragons and humans, she must travel the lands to find those like herself—for she has an inexplicable connection to all of them, and together they will be able to fight the dragons in powerful, magical ways.

As Seraphina gathers this motley crew, she is pursued by humans who want to stop her. But the most terrifying is another half dragon, who can creep into people’s minds and take them over. Until now, Seraphina has kept her mind safe from intruders, but that also means she’s held back her own gift. It is time to make a choice: Cling to the safety of her old life, or embrace a powerful new destiny?

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Hosted by Breaking the Spine

Seraphina was one of our Escape Reality Book Club picks earlier this year and I’m grateful it finally gave me the chance to read it – I enjoyed it thoroughly. How a book containing dragons managed to escape my attention for so long is beyond me, but  I am happy I only have to wait a year to pick up the sequel  (it’s been a long time in the making). Seraphina provided a different take on dragons and I quite like where the story is headed. While this won’t be at the top of my list of have-to-have books next spring, I’ll definitely still want a copy.

What book are you waiting on?

by Niki Hawkes

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Niki’s Top Movies and TV Shows!

top ten tuesday

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

That’s right, bookish people do have interests outside of reading… cinematic adaptations of books count, right? ;)

Niki’s Top Movies and TV Shows!

Movies:

Epic. That one word sums up pretty much everything I loved about these three films. Add that to the gorgeous visuals of the world building and the overall fantasy feel, and I am in love. I could watch the extended Lord of the Rings trilogy all day every day… it’s my favorite.

While I love fantasy epics, I also will always hold dear these animated features. As far as animation goes, these are actually pretty different from one another (at least in my mind), which is why all three of them landed on the list – I consider them the best in their categories.

 I am a sucker for romantic comedies but not the slapstick crude ones that seem to have been flooding the market for the last five years. Call me crazy, but I don’t think a romantic comedy has to be overdone (or outright stupid) to be entertaining. Lucky Seven is one I don’t think many people have heard of, but I love the story (and Patrick Dempsey). While You Were Sleeping and Dirty Dancing are my mom’s favorites and somewhere along the way they’ve become mine too.

TV Shows:

All of these I have discovered it within the last year and oh my gosh I can’t get enough! I am patiently waiting for the second season of the Bitten, am almost ready to watch Serenity, and am in the middle of season two of Battlestar… I want to know why I haven’t bothered watching them before now – they’re crazy good!

 I can’t even put into words why I love Gilmore Girls so much. I’ve watched the season countless times but every time I do I fall in love all over again. White Collar is one that I’ve discovered within the last year and there’s not a thing I don’t like about it. I’ve always been fascinated with crime-solving shows but have been too squeamish to actually watch them. White Collar has all the mystery without the gore. Picture a television version of Oceans Eleven – awesome, right? And of course I couldn’t have a TV list without mentioning Friends – it was such a big part of my life for so long that it will always be one of the greats.

  Gargoyles is an incredible animated show that I love for the story (and, in part, the nostalgia). It’s one of those that I think is entertaining for adults while still being appropriate for kids. So You Think You Can Dance is easily my favorite competition show – I love dance. Vampire Diaries was my favorite show for the longest time (team Damon, baby!), but I’m sad to admit my excitement for it has diminished within this last season… I still stand by the first three or four seasons, though.

 After composing this list, I realized that my movie/TV preferences really aren’t that different from my reading preferences. I like epic science-fiction/fantasy, love stories, and humor. I’m nothing else if not consistent . :-)

What movies/shows made your list?

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review Cinder by Marissa Meyer

cinderTitle: Cinder

Author: Marissa Meyer

Series: Lunar Chronicles #1

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

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The Review:

I’d always intended to read Cinder, but it wasn’t very high up on my priority list. Then the blogosphere exploded after the third book, Cress, was released at the beginning of the year. I swear it was a solid three months of rave reviews left and right. Thinking this series was a trilogy (it’s not), Cress was going to be the last installment (it’s not), and wondering what I was missing out on, I decided to jump on the bandwagon. From what I can tell, most people enjoyed the first book and then went on to absolutely love the second and the third. Having read (and liked) Cinder, I can definitely see the potential it has to go somewhere amazing.

First of all, the concept for the story was out of this world. I am definitely not a fan of fairytale retellings, but found this one oddly compelling because it had so many unique twists. Even though the story is a classic and I already knew where it was heading, Meyer made it feel new and exciting at every turn. If the cyborg twist wasn’t cool enough, then the “alien” Lunars and the beginnings of an apocalyptical pandemic certainly tipped it over the edge. Even though it stayed true to all the classic fairytale elements of Cinderella, it always felt like I was reading a detail-rich urban fantasy… I loved it.

You wouldn’t think a girl who is half human, half machine would’ve been relatable, but Cinder was honestly the best part of the story. I liked her from the first page and was totally invested throughout the whole book. Although she was in tough situations, she was anything but a simpering little girl. I love how resourceful, compassionate, and brave she was and sincerely hope she has a strong role in the next two books.

Overall, I really enjoyed Cinder and am looking forward to continuing on a series. I can honestly say it’s unlike anything I’ve read before, so Meyer gets some major originality kudos. If you’re a fan of YA and Urban Fantasy, check this one out – it’s an awesome hybrid of the two.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Prophecy by Elizabeth Haydon

ProphecyTitle: Prophecy

Author: Elizabeth Haydon

Series: Symphony of Ages #2

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

The Overview: In Rhapsody, a fellowship was forged–three companions who, through great adversity, became a force to be reckoned with: Rhapsody, a singer of great talent and even greater beauty; Achmed, an assassin with unearthly talents; and Grunthor, a giant Sergeant-Major whose jolly disposition stands at odds with his deadly skill at weapons. Having fled the F’dor–an ancient, powerful evil–the three emerged on the other side of the world, only to discover fourteen centuries had passed. Their homeland had been destroyed, their people scattered across several continents, and everyone they ever knew had long since passed away…except, perhaps, the F’dor.

Prophecy continues this powerful epic. Driven by a prophetic vision, Rhapsody races to rescue the religious leader of her new homeland while Achmed and Grunthor seek evidence of the F’dor. These three may be their world’s only hope, the heroes spoken of in the Prophecy of the Three, but their time is running short. They must find their elusive enemy before his darkness consumes them all.

Prophecy

The Review:

This is actually my second read-through of this novel. Why I chose to reread one of the most long-winded fantasies out there is beyond me, but at the time it perfectly suited my mood, so no regrets. You see, back in December (yes, it has taken me that long to get around to writing this review… embarrassing) I had signed up for so many NetGalley and Edelweiss ARCs that my life pretty much revolved around “obligation” reading. I finally got fed up and picked up this 700 page behemoth and completely indulge myself in it for two whole weeks. A reading vacation, if you will. It’s not totally as random as it sounds, as I had just finished a reread of the first book for a book club about a year earlier, so I had intended on continuing anyway.

[Jump forward a few months: Haydon is once again writing, and the release of her 7th "Symphony of Ages" bookThe Merchant Emperor, (which I've been waiting for for eight years) was finally released. So it turns out my reread couldn't have come at a better time.]

My impressions of the book this time around are mostly positive ones, reminding me why I’d enjoyed it so much. Knowing what was going to happen obviously took away a little bit of that build up and excitement I felt the first time around, but it also freed up my attention to focus on other things. Ahem:

On one hand, I noted the excellent world building (specifically with the creation of the many nonhuman races), appreciated how thorough and rounded the plot was, and could clearly see how integrated dragons were into the story (because to me it wasn’t always that obvious). I also more than ever appreciate the excellent characters and how each of their stories culminate into a satisfying story arc.

On the other hand, I also noticed how incredibly long-winded and repetitive the writing was. I don’t remember that bothering me the first time around, but I definitely think Haydon could have shaved off a couple hundred pages of reminiscing and still had all of the things that made the story great. I don’t actually consider it a boring book, by any means – there was some really good bits of awesomeness thrown into the monotony that made reading through the rambling all worthwhile. I’m just saying I found several places where Haydon could have just cut to the chase. Furthermore, there were several instances where she would ramble on and on for dozens of pages about things that were secondary to the plot and only to skim over details of something within the immediate story. It was designed to have a more dramatic effect, but I think those moments might have been wasted opportunities to make the book more active rather than passive.

I also was a tad surprised at how confrontational and, shall I say it, downright bitchy the main character acted on occasion. I definitely don’t remember it being that prominent the first time around, but I’m thinking the overall arc of the story was so interesting I was mostly focused on that. In any case, once you get past the part where the characters are bristling at every little thing (say, the first half of the book), they mellow out a little bit and you’re really able to dive into the compelling parts of the story. 

As you can see, I’ve a bit of love/hate with this book… but am leaning more on the love side. Yes, it has some flaws, but it also has moments of brilliance to balance them out. I enjoyed every moment I spent reading it, but will probably stop my reread and jump right into the newest book next (I waited eight years, I definitely don’t want to wait any longer). If you are wondering whether or not this series is a good match for you, I’d say if you don’t mind slow fantasy reads, this book has brilliant world building, plot design, characters, and momentum, it just may take wading through a lot of words to find them.

 Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Niki’s Top Ten Blogging Confessions!

top ten tuesday

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

As I am perfectly content letting people think I’m a rockstar book blogger, this post was kind of painful to compose. Today I will be hanging a lantern on all of the things that on a normal day I would be praying you guys don’t notice. Hopefully my blogging flaws will come across endearing rather than just plain sad. :-)

Top Ten Blogging Confessions!

 1. TTT are actually my least favorite posts to compose…

… but they are my most popular, so I do them anyway. On occasion I’ll get one that I’m super excited for, but after you’ve been doing them for more than a year, all the lists start to sound the same. I’ve recently decided it’s okay to skip one once in a while if it’s going to be totally lame (or change it to fit my inspirations, as I am wont to do).

 2. It took me two years to figure out how to add social media buttons to my sidebar…

… and it’s actually a lot less complicated than I thought it would be. I’m not a total tech-tard, but HTML codes are fricken confusing at first. You should’ve seen the party I threw when I finally figured out how to do it.

3. i suck at profraeding…

… or perhaps you’ve already noticed that? I go through and proof each of my posts at least three times before publishing and even then I’m still finding things to fix weeks later. I just get so caught up in what I’m saying that I already know what I mean… you know what I mean?

 4. I’ve never been able to “schedule” posts…

… because every time I write them, I can’t keep myself from hitting “publish” even if it means publishing two sometimes even three posts a day. The problem is when I do that, there will be a four day lag before I have the energy to do anything else. I just can’t help it though – I’m always so excited about what I wrote that I have to share it. Now.

 5. I am no longer a bookseller…

… as of the end of March this year. This is a big confession for me because it’s how I’ve branded my site. After spending eleven years with the company, I still feel like a bookseller even though I’m no longer one in title. I still hand-sell titles to people (not obnoxiously) whenever I go back to visit. Heck, I even had a coworker call me last week for some dragon book recommends for a customer. I’ve decided to keep the name though, because bookselling was my passion and I will always be a bookseller at heart. It doesn’t help matters that I was driven out of my job due to personal injury. I would have never chosen to leave on my own, but it became clear pretty quickly that I could no longer physically handle the job. Sad, huh?

6. I am OBSESSED with my blog…

… to the point where I will scroll through it several times a day - checking stats, updating the sidebar, proofing my posts (yet again), or just enjoying all the pretty covers. I have an addiction.

 7. I started this blog to promote myself as an author…

… but actually love the blogging more than writing. It has turned into a passion all its own, taking precious time away from my novels. And all the platform building might be in vain because I’ll probably end up starting a new site when I do become a published author.

8. I have been wanting to go self hosted for over a year…

… but am too intimidated to move forward with it. I’ve done all the research but I still feel like a fish out of water.

9. My review posting is consistently inconsistent…

… because I either post right after I finish a book or several months later, depending on my current level of motivation. Don’t worry though, I have great book memory and, when that fails me, I have copious notes.

10. Nothing makes my day better than you guys

… because every time I see someone has liked or commented on a post, followed my blog, geeked out with me on FB or Twitter, or mentioned me on their blog, I get a huge emotional power-up. I love blogging so much I’d probably be doing it just for myself, but the fact that others take the time out of their busy lives to read and respond makes me feel really special. So thanks :-)

Phew! I feel so much better now that I’ve gotten all of that off my chest. :-)

What are YOUR confessions? (I won’t tell anyone…)

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: The Fiery Heart by Richelle Mead

The fiery heartTitle: The Fiery Heart

Author: Richelle Mead

Series: Bloodlines #4

Genre: Teen Paranormal Romance

Rating: 5/5 stars!

The Overview: Sydney Sage is an Alchemist, one of a group of humans who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the worlds of humans and vampires. They protect vampire secrets – and human lives. In The Indigo Spell, Sydney was torn between the Alchemist way of life and what her heart and gut were telling her to do. And in one breathtaking moment that Richelle Mead fans will never forget, she made a decision that shocked even her. . . . But the struggle isn’t over for Sydney. As she navigates the aftermath of her life-changing decision, she still finds herself pulled in too many directions at once. Her sister Zoe has arrived, and while Sydney longs to grow closer to her, there’s still so much she must keep secret. Working with Marcus has changed the way she views the Alchemists, and Sydney must tread a careful path as she harnesses her profound magical ability to undermine the way of life she was raised to defend. Consumed by passion and vengeance, Sydney struggles to keep her secret life under wraps as the threat of exposure — and re-education — looms larger than ever.

The fiery heart

The Review:

I absolutely loved Fiery Heart – it’s the best Bloodlines book yet! I actually read it way back in February but have been stalling on writing the review because A. I always need extra time to think about what I’m going to say for positive reviews (to do them justice and all) and B. I had already written two Mead reviews (in which I totally fawned over her writing) and figured I’d give my readers a break from the repetition. Fair warning: this review is going to be reiterating all of the points I bring up in every Mead review – she’s just too amazing and consistent to do otherwise.

Because I’ve sung her praises in at least five reviews to date, I decided to turn this one into a “Why Richelle Mead is My Favorite Author” summary post. The reasons are as follows:

  • Characters: All of her characters are incredibly relatable - they all have totally different personalities that are as realistic as they are different. Not a single one of them is perfect, and that’s part of why they always feel like real people. Mead has written so many books you’d think after a while some of her characters might start to sound the same, but they don’t. Each series gets a totally new cast of people, and they are always superb! Sydney, more than any other character in any other series by any other author, is the person I relate to the most – I adore her.
  • Momentum: It has happened in three series so far – that point where the conflicts come together to form a snowball which sweeps you off your feet and sends you careening all the way to the end. Her books will beat you up, but in the best way possible! We are at the point in Bloodlines were that brilliant momentum has been set into motion. Hang on for dear life!
  • Conflicts: The characters and momentum would mean nothing if the story wasn’t beautifully crafted around them. I have yet to read a book by Mead where I wasn’t completely emotionally invested in the conflicts of the story. She puts her characters through hell… and I love it.
  • Prolificness: What’s better then a brilliant author who comes out with several books in different genres throughout the year? Not only do we get a new Bloodlines novel every six months, but we also get the fantastic Age of X series once a year. That’s three whole novels from my favorite author that I get to devour this year – you can’t ask for more… Mead is a superhuman.

I could go on, but those are the main reasons I love her, and they apply to every book she’s written (yes, I have read them all) and that consistency is one of the main reasons why she’s my favorite author. Out of all of those amazing books, Fiery Heart was one of the strongest. All I have to say is, thank goodness Silver Shadows comes out soon because I don’t think I could bear waiting another six months. As much as I loved Vampire Academy, I think I’m starting to like the Bloodlines series even more…

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Stacking the Shelves – June 2014 Edition!

Stacking the shelves

Hosted by Tinga’s Reviews

In the last month’s STS I mentioned splurging on a ton of bargain hardcovers that wound up lost in transit. They turned up a week later (evidently one of my neighbors had been hanging on to them) and I was stoked! So much so that I shamelessly went and ordered even more. I added twenty-one books to my collection, most of which were hardcovers, and paid less than three dollars for most of them… How cool is that?

Hardcopies:

ARCs:

 The only ARC acquired this month was actually a loan from Nikki over at There Were Books Involved. She saw my twitter post about how much I absolutely loved The Naturals and graciously offered to let me borrow the sequel (how awesome is that? Best blogging friend EVER!). Anyway, I’ve since read it and send it back and it is every bit as awesome-sauce as the first book – review to come.

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In other news, I finally caved and bought another bookshelf for my YA/Middle Grade library. I’ve been needing it forever, but the company I bought my shelves from discontinued the cherry color about two years ago (hence my stalling). I finally decided I’d rather have a mismatched shelf than none at all. It looks a bit odd, but now all of my books have space on the shelf so I’m happy. :-)

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 In conclusion, it was great month over at The Obsessives Bookseller.

What books did you get this month? :-)

by Niki Hawkes