January 2015 Reading Recap!

Review Recap

Honestly I feel like this month is getting off to a slow start compared to 2014. Although, when you consider last year I was reading mostly YA while this year has been a heavy sci-fi/fantasy focus then that probably accounts for the difference. Because I have so many amazing books waiting in my TBR, it has made me a bit impatient with the longer novels… which is ironic, as most of the books in that TBR are 500+ page epic fantasies. In any case, here’s a look at what I’ve been up to:

Books Read:

I don’t normally read books from the same author back-to-back, but I’m making an exception this month for Czerneda because I’m competing become a beta reader for her next Clan novel. Wish me luck!

Books Reviewed:

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkowski – 3/5 stars

The Elvenbane by Andre Norton & Mercedes Lackey – 3.5/5 stars

Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne – 4/5 stars

And my favorites:

Kushiel’s Justice by Jacqueline Carey – 4.5/5 stars

Reap the Wild Wind by Julie E. Czerneda – 5/5 stars!

Other than lots of reading, not much else happened on the blog this month. I did do a

Top Ten Bookish Goals of 2015!

post, which I’ve actually been actively working on. It’s always nice to see progress that the goals you set for yourself. I also participated in a Read-athon midway through the month (and did atrociously, for what it’s worth). It was fun though, I’m totally doing it again in a couple of months.

Oh yeah! I almost forgot: I started a Writing Prompts page and of been updating that on a semi-regular basis. It has been really valuable in getting my creative juices flowing, and I’ve already seen improvement in my novel writing. #win

How was your month in reading/writing?

by Niki Hawkes


Book Review: Elvenbane by Andre Norton & Mercedes Lackey

ElvenbaneTitle: Elvenbane

Authors: Andre Norton & Mercedes Lackey

Series: Halfblood Chronicles #1

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

The Overview: Two masters of epic fantasy have combined in this brilliant collaboration to create a rousing tale of the sort that becomes an instant favorite. This is the story of Shana, a halfbreed born of the forbidden union of an Elvenlord father and a human mother. Her exiled mother dead, she was rescued and raised by dragons, a proud, ancient race who existed unbeknownst to elven or humankind. From birth, Shana was the embodiment of the Prophecy that the all-powerful Elvenlords feared. Her destiny is the enthralling adventure of a lifetime.

The Review:

The first half of this book is a perfect case study in how “telling” versus “showing” can be wildly entertaining. The authors took a lot of time to build this world and explain the dynamics between the races within it, and I found myself devouring the pages, eager to learn as much as I could. It was such a cool concept for a story – all-powerful elves who came to the world from another realm and basically took over, forcing the humans to cater to their every whim. Enter the shape-shifting dragons, also fleeing another world, who were trying to keep their existence secret from the elves but couldn’t resist dabbling in their affairs. Then put a halfbreed girl in the middle of all of this, and I’m on board.

It was unique, to say the least, and the best part was the spin on traditional race roles within fantasy novels. Not to mention the abundance of dragons! Sure, they behaved more like humans than dragons, but there was enough dragon lore involved that I didn’t mind it. Watching a small girl grow up among them was easily my favorite segment of the entire novel. It really is a shame it only lasted a couple of chapters…

The thing that knocked this book off of its five-star rating for me is that I got about 80% through it, then had to stop and figure out what the arc of the story was supposed to be. You see, the authors took a couple of weird tangents – ones I enjoyed reading, but I couldn’t figure out how they advance the plot or developed character. Now, I love tangents as much is the next girl, but to have them loaded near the end of the book? And to have them be so jarring? I kept thinking maybe I had missed something only to flip back a page and realize: nope… It really did just take a left turn. Had it been any other time during the novel, it would’ve been okay, but in this case it pulled me out of it when I felt I should’ve been the most engaged. I’m betting it had something to do with the difficulties of coordinating a book between two authors. This is the only time I’ve noticed a definite discord within a dual-authorship involving Mercedes Lackey, so it was probably a fluke.

Overall, I liked Elvenbane because I’ve never read anything quite like it. It had so many great ideas that, despite trouble with pacing near the end, I will be picking up the sequel. If you already read a ton of fantasy/dragon books, I’d recommend this one. However, if you’re new to the genre I’d have you read some of my favorites first.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes


Mini Book Review: Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne

The Midnight ThiefTitle: Midnight Thief

Author: Livia Blackburne

Series: Midnight Thief #1

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: Growing up on Forge’s streets has taught Kyra how to stretch a coin. And when that’s not enough, her uncanny ability to scale walls and bypass guards helps her take what she needs. But when the leader of the Assassins Guild offers Kyra a lucrative job, she hesitates. She knows how to get by on her own, and she’s not sure she wants to play by his rules. But he’s persistent—and darkly attractive—and Kyra can’t quite resist his pull.

Tristam of Brancel is a young Palace knight on a mission. After his best friend is brutally murdered by Demon Riders, a clan of vicious warriors who ride bloodthirsty wildcats, Tristam vows to take them down. But as his investigation deepens, he finds his efforts thwarted by a talented thief, one who sneaks past Palace defenses with uncanny ease. When a fateful raid throws Kyra and Tristam together, the two enemies realize that their best chance at survival—and vengeance—might be to join forces. And as their loyalties are tested to the breaking point, they learn a startling secret about Kyra’s past that threatens to reshape both their lives.

The Mini Review:

I liked this one. Enough that I will probably pick up the sequel sooner rather than later when it comes out. The concept of the story, which reminded me a bit of Throne of Glass, grab my attention from the start. Thieves and assassins always pipk my interest, but I appreciated this book because it took all of the cliché plot points usually associated with the genre and elevated them. For the first half of the book, I was convinced Midnight Thief was going to be a 5-star read and one of my favorite books of the year… and then I read the second half.

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t written poorly or anything, the plot just took an odd turn that I felt didn’t fit within the context of the story presented thus far. The author was probably aiming to surprise the reader, but I could have used a little more of a lead-in so the change didn’t feel so… weird. So, while I will definitely be picking up the sequel, I’m a bit worried that it won’t focus on all of the things that had me raving about this book when I started reading it. The good news is, despite my concerns, I think a lot of people are really going to love this one.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes


Book Review: Reap the Wild Wind by Julie E. Czerneda

Reap the wild windTitle: Reap the Wild Wind

Author: Julie E. Czerneda

Series: Stratification #1

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 5/5 stars!

The Overview: In the first book of the Stratification series, set in an earlier time in Czerneda’s Trade Pact Universe, the Clan has not yet learned how to manipulate the M’hir to travel between worlds. Instead, they are a people divided into small tribes, scattered over a fraction of their world, and prevented from advancing by two other powerful races who control both technology and terrain.

Aliens begin exploring the Clan’s home planet, upsetting the delicate balance between the three intelligent races. It is a time, too, when one young woman is on the verge of mastering the forbidden power of the M’hir-a power that could prove to be the salvation or ruin of her entire species…

The Review:

This is easily one of the most unique books I’ve ever read, which is no surprise considering it’s by Julie E. Czerneda. The Stratification series was the only main sci-fi trilogy from her that I hadn’t read yet – I’d been kind of saving them for a rainy day because I knew they were going to be top-notch. And you know what? Reap the Wild Wind gave me everything I hoped for and more!

The setting for this one kind of reminded me of the wonders of Pandora in Avatar. Czerneda created a complete ecosystem with all sorts of interesting flora and fauna. The jungle was so vibrant that it almost became a character within itself. The amazing thing is that the jungle is just one aspect of the epic world building within this book. Her descriptions of the world were beautiful, but it was more how the main character interacted with it that really brought it to life. It takes unique skill-sets and strong characters to survive in such unforgiving climates, and I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed reading about the Om’ray quite as much had the setting not been such a big influence on their lifestyles.

The aliens introduced in Czerneda’s books are easily the most memorable things about them. To be honest, I find most of them absolutely delightful, and marvel at how believable and realistic each species is… and there are so many of them! It’s their differences, specifically how un-human they are, that makes them fascinating, hilarious, and sometimes even downright terrifying. Furthermore, the oddities of each species are incredibly well thought out, expanding to include biological influences and cultural histories and norms. It’s so well-conceived it blows my mind! What’s even better is that this is the second series I’ve read from Czerneda where the main protagonist isn’t even human. That’s a tricky thing to do well, but I found her no less relatable, and perhaps even a bit more. The cool part is that it gives readers a unique opportunity to examine our own species through the eyes of others, and really appreciate all wonderful things humanity has to offer. Czerneda manages to do all of that without sugar-coating the depth of depravity to which our species can also sink. It’s all a bit profound, if you ask me…

It just speaks to how good of a writer Czerneda is. All of the wonderful examples of craft aside, my favorite thing about her is her ability to find the humor in any situation. With every one of her books, I find myself laughing constantly even though her complex storylines and emotional conflicts are as far from comedies as you could possibly get. All of her books contain some sort of struggle for survival, and the lengths to which the characters go to to save themselves or their species are what makes these stories feel so epic… but they’re still always funny as shit. Part of it is her amazing way with words, but the other part is her ability to create and capitalize on some very bizarre situations. I love it.

There’s a reason Czerneda is my favorite science fiction author, and I have yet to find anything about her books I don’t love. For the longest time, I couldn’t figure out whether The Beholder’s Eye or Survival was my favorite book from her, but now Reap the Wild Wind is definitely in strong contention!

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes


Coming Soon: Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb

fool's questTitle: Assassin’s Quest

Author: Robin Hobb 

Series: The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy #2

Genre: Fantasy

Release Date: August 11, 2015

The Overview: None listed on goodreads yet… odd. BN says: After a devastating confrontation, FitzChivalry Farseer is out for blood—and who better to wreak havoc than a highly trained former royal assassin?

It should say: these are the best books ever. Read them.

… but start with Assassin’s Apprentice or else nothing will make sense.

 Hosted by Breaking the Spine

This is currently my most anticipated adult release of 2015. Fool’s Assassin was easily one of the best books I read last year (Not to mention that Robin Hobb is one of my favorite authors EVER!). For some reason, I thought Fitz’s story was over with the conclusion of Fool’s Fate, so I am absolutely delighted that the story continues on. And you know what? It’s getting better and better! It’s one of those epic sagas that gains momentum with each book, and I highly recommend them if you love fantasy as much as I do. It’s going to be agony waiting for August.

by Niki Hawkes


Bout of Books Read-a-thon! (2)


I participated in my very first Read-a-thon back in August and had so much fun I decided to do it again. I kind of doubt I’ll have a lot of time to read this week, but I sure will give it my best. Even though I’ll be busier, I am confident that I will beat last read-a-thon’s number of books completed (a whole whopping 1), and number of pages read (856) and that’s good enough for me.

Here’s a little more about the event:

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 5th and runs through Sunday, January 11th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 12 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

Niki’s Goals:

- Finish at least 3 books

- Read at least 1000 pages

Here’s a look at the books on my immediate radar:
(subject to change if I see something shiny)

The Czerneda books I’m rereading to prepare for her beta reader contest coming up on the fifteenth of January, and it is been an absolute delight so far (she is my favorite science fiction author). I seriously doubt I’ll make it through all the books listed, but at least I have a lot of great ones to choose from. I’ve also included a couple YA books because, let’s face it, they’re fast reads. 

 Daily Updates:


Pages: 68 / Books Finished: 0


Pages: 154  / Books Finished: 0


Pages: 154  / Books Finished: 0


Pages: 124 / Books Finished: 0

I’m starting to see a pattern here…


Pages: 102 / Books Finished: 1


Pages: 72  / Books Finished: 0

 I am ridiculously close to not meeting my pathetic goals.


Pages: 80  / Books Finished: 0


Pages: 754  Books Finished: 1

Well, that was ALMOST as good as last time (not). I really do think my biggest problem is that I’m trying to read too many books at once. For what it’s worth, I’m only about 50 pages away from finishing Reap the Wild Wind. Regardless, I really enjoyed this read-athon and look forward to the next one in May!

by Niki Hawkes


Book Review: Kushiel’s Justice by Jacqueline Carey

kushiel's justiceTitle: Kushiel’s Justice

Author: Jacqueline Carey

Series: Imriel’s Trilogy #2

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.5 stars

The Overview: Imriel de la Courcel’s blood parents are history’s most reviled traitors, while his adoptive parents, Phèdre and Joscelin, are Terre d’Ange’s greatest champions. Stolen, tortured, and enslaved as a young boy, Imriel is now a Prince of the Blood, third in line for the throne in a land that revels in beauty, art, and desire. After a year abroad to study at university, Imriel returns from his adventures a little older and somewhat wiser. But perhaps not wise enough. What was once a mere spark of interest between himself and his cousin Sidonie now ignites into a white-hot blaze. But from commoner to peer, the whole realm would recoil from any alliance between Sidonie, heir to the throne, and Imriel, who bears the stigma of his mother’s of his mother’s misdeeds and betrayals. Praying that their passion will peak and fade, Imriel and Sidonie embark on an intense, secret affair.

The Review:

This is one of those epic fantasies you remember for the rest of your life. The story is so beautiful and profound that I find myself getting completely swept away every time I pick it up. And it’s not just what the author is saying, it’s how she’s saying it. I get lost in her words.

The first book in this trilogy (Kushiel’s Scion) offered an incredible emotional journey of self-discovery where Imriel struggled to find himself and his place within the world. Kushiel’s Justice’s profoundness came from external conflicts – how his decisions affected the people around him. It struck a different chord, but it was still beautiful to read about.

This book also involved a lot of travel, with immersion into many different cultures. While the emotional story was compelling, it was this adventure to new lands and new people that I found the most exciting. Carey weaves such a realistic picture that I would dare call the places I got to visit and her books downright breathtaking.

Okay, I think I’m done gushing now. This is the type of series I could literally go on for hours about, but I’ll spare you. I can’t guarantee that anybody else will love it as much as I do, but it’s books like this that make me so grateful that I’m a reader.

All things considered, this was an amazing book. The only reason it didn’t get five stars is that I’m down to splitting fine hairs, and I happen to like the first one just a bit more. This author is quickly escalating towards becoming one of my all-time favorites, and I hold her work in the highest regard. If you pick them up, be prepared for the adventure of a lifetime! But be warned of some very explicit content.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes


Mini Book Review: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkowski

The winner's Curse

Title: The Winner’s Curse

Author: Marie Rutkowski

Series: The Winner’s Curse #1

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Overview: As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined. 

The Mini Review:

I liked this one, I really did, but I can put my finger on what exactly has the blogosphere raving about it. The love story was a little atypical, involving a general’s daughter and a willful slave, and was probably my favorite element of the tale. I also liked the concept for the novel in which one culture has usurped another, but felt like the author didn’t explore it as well as she could have (perhaps she will focus on it a bit more in the second book). The female lead was likable and I will definitely be picking up the sequel to see what she decides to do next. But that’s pretty much it. While I appreciated all of these things, it didn’t blow me away like a few comparable high fantasy novels have (or even other titles within the YA Fantasy genre itself). My biggest issue was that the second half of the novel suffered from poor pacing and too much repetition. The back-and-forth between the girl and the love interest got a bit stale and I feel like the great momentum the story had leading up to that point suffered because of it.

Overall though, I have positive feelings towards the book and will be picking up the sequel in March. If you told me you loved Throne of Glass, I’d recommend this title, but only after handing you some of my other favorites such as The Girl of Fire and Thorns and The Jewel. I may not have valued The Winner’s Curse as much as my fellow bloggers, but I can see it’s one a lot of people are going to like.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes


Top Ten Bookish Goals for 2015!

top ten tuesday Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish 

I’ve always been a person who enjoys setting and achieving goals, but have never bought in to the new year resolution thing. After all, if you want to change something about yourself, why wait until the new year? I realize there’s the whole symbolism of “new year, new you,” but I have found that if I implement the changes I want to make in small increments throughout the entire year, I always get the results I want without the added pressure of trying to do them all at once. That said, last year was the first year I declared ten bookish resolutions, and I thought it was kind of fun. Looking back I am tickled to say that I achieved five out of my ten goals from last year:

 2014 Goals Achieved:

1. Stick to my new “Read 4, Buy 1″ rule to A. Save more money and B. Enjoy the thousands of books I already own and C. Make me more selective of what I bring home.

Because of this reward system strategy, I am now incredibly conscious of what books I’m bringing home, have managed to make a sizable dent in my collection, and have reduced my book buying considerably. I love the system, but it is slightly skewed when you compare the average teen book to the average high fantasy. Basically, there’s no incentive to read anything but teen books. Going forward, I’m implementing the change Read 1500 (pages), Buy 1 instead. It’s not as catchy, but I believe in the long run it more accurately reflects effort versus reward. For the record, I ended the year having purchased just six books more than I earned – all of which were acquired this month with gift cards… Not bad!

2. Read only the books I’m most excited about, rather than the ones I feel obligated to read.

I had this epiphany in early 2013, and my life has never been the same since. Reading is so much fun without obligations, and I firmly believe that life is too short to push through books I’m not enjoying.

3. Continue streamlining my book collection, getting rid of everything I won’t read within the next ten years.

I have gotten rid of so many books that I truly feel like I achieved this goal, even though I know I still have some work left to do. I truly was getting tired of staring at books I know I’ll never read. The biggest bummer is that many of them I still need to part with are personalized… doh!

 4. Limit my Netgalley and Edelweiss requests to only the special ones, thereby furthering the intent of goal #1.

I’ve finally done it! I have weaned myself off of that terribly addicting request button and am now only requesting things occasionally. Like, one every couple of months. Throughout the beginning of the year, reading felt like a chore. Now, however, reading has never been so much fun!

5. Finish the first draft of my new novel.

Seriously – I did it! I have a long road of revision ahead of me, but I wrote this baby from start to finish. The cool thing is, I actually think I’m getting better at it. :-)

Overall, 50% isn’t bad. I’m even including a couple of last year’s goals into this year’s plan.

 Top Ten Bookish Goals for 2015!

 1. Continue my 1500 for 1 reading challenge.

 Or as I like to call it, a lifestyle choice. The only thing extra I would like to add this year is an additional goal to not get behind in my reading requirements. At one point I cashed in several cards before actually reading the books required… I blame all those Barnes & Noble coupons. Anyway, although I was able to catch back up, it did take a little of the fun out of the challenge. I highly recommend this method for anyone who wants to moderate their spending, work through the books in their personal library, and reward themselves for reading. It’s a win-win-win! 

2. Stop worrying about how many unread books are sitting on my shelves and just enjoy whatever has caught my interest at the moment.

In my 7 Deadly Book Sins post, I explained that I am a “Glutton” when it comes to books. No matter how much I’m enjoying my current read, I always have one eye on my shelves, wishing I could be reading those books too. If I could forget for just a little while how many books I want to read and focus on the amazing books that I am reading, life would be good.

3. Get rid of all the books I didn’t like.

In contrast to last year’s goal of doing away with books I won’t read within the next ten years, this goal revolves around letting go of some of my less-appealing titles. This is going to be tough, as every read book on my shelf represents a mini badge of accomplishment. It’s kind of hard to let them go, you know? I’ll never read them again, so I just can’t justify keeping them as prominently displayed alongside the awesome ones. Maybe I could sell them online and use the proceeds to buy more books…

4. Only review the books I feel strongly about. 

After all, I read enough of them to pick and choose which make it to the blog. I think I currently have somewhere around twenty unreviewed titles from last year to pick from. I used to blog on a schedule, with two reviews allocated per week, but over the last six months have taken a more casual approach. At first, it really stressed me out because I was getting further and further behind with reviews. It occurred to me the other day, however, that just because I read a book doesn’t mean it has to make it to the blog. Maybe I’ll do a couple of mini-review posts for the “meh” titles and call it a day. For the record, I’m pretty sure book reviews are the least popular posts I do… kind of ironic when you think about it.

5. Add a few more buttons to my social media task bar.

 Because it has been bugging me. Not to mention that Tumblr is where I’m seeing my biggest follower growth and I don’t have a link to it anywhere on my website. I also am way too proud of my Pinterest page to not have it represented here. I’ve been stalling for months because it’s a pain in the ass.

6. Stop being a phantom follower.

 There are at least half a dozen blogs I visit on a daily basis, but no one would ever know because I rarely leave comments. If I have commented on your blog within the last three months, there is a chance you’re one of the websites I’m stalking. Keep up the good work, and I love your content, lol.

  7. Find my voice.

 While I feel like my blogging voice is only getting stronger, my literary one is having an identity crisis. It’s hard enough to compose an entire novel (knowing what to say) without also struggling with voice (knowing how to say it). I’m on the verge, which is why I’m so serious about the writing goals I’ve set for myself this year.

 8. Write and submit a short story to WOTF.

 This was an un-achieved goal last year. I am determined to change that in 2015, and even started working on my first attempt yesterday… wish me luck!

 9. Work on a writing project every single day – even if it only a ten minute Writing Prompt.

  This is another carryover from last year, it coincides perfectly with a project I started independently of the new year resolutions – my Writing Prompt page. Inspired by a Christmas gift from my best friend, these prompts are already encouraging me to write more often.

10. Revise both of my WIP novels at least once.

 While I am finally honing in on my personal writing process, I have yet to master the art of revision. Mostly because I don’t do it very often. In any case, I’d like to practice on the novels I’ve already written and maybe even see if I can get them publish-ready.

What are your 2015 resolutions? Are any of them bookish?

by Niki Hawkes


2014 Reading Recap!


 The end of the year is finally here! And I’m celebrating by putting together the post I’ve been most looking forward to: the annual book review recap!

 I started a book blog for a couple reasons, but one of them was because it is a great way to keep track of all the fantastic books I’ve read (one that didn’t involve a journal and printouts of the covers – the method I was using before I discovered the wonders of blogging).

Sharing my love of books has become a passion all its own, and I have discovered some profound things in my own reading habits that I may not have otherwise. Most notably, I have come to truly appreciates the idea that life is too short to read boring books. This epiphany hit me in early 2013. It was eye-opening because I realized the books I was most looking forward to reading were getting left on the shelf in favor of books I felt like I was obligated to read (does anybody else have that problem?). Anyway, I made the decision to read the books I was most excited for first rather than last and, as this post will illustrate, it has made for one of the best years of reading I have ever had!

So without further ado, here’s a look at The Obsessive Bookseller’s year of book love:

1 Star: didn’t like it at all

1.5 Stars: didn’t like it, but it had some merit

2 Stars: it was okay

2.5 Stars: it was a little better than okay, but I’m not sure if I liked it or not

3 Stars: I liked it

3.5 Stars: I liked it, but not quite as much as a 4 star book

4 Stars: I really liked it!

4.5 Stars: I really, really liked it!

5 Stars: I LOVED it!!!!


I read 89 books this year (9 books more than last year) totaling 38095 pages (6948 pages more than last year). And I enjoyed every minute of it! I’d like to note that next year will probably show fewer books but more pages. I am finally a little worn out on YA novels and have already started to shift my focus towards Fantasy and Science Fiction. Bring it on!

As you can see, 2014 was definitely filled with more good reads than bad ones. I still can’t believe how many five-star books came out of this year – I could fangirl over them for hours.

I’d like to note that most of the books in my 2 star category were ARCs, which is why I also had a goal to stop requesting so many. It took about three months of effort to stop asking for every title I thought I might want to read. Incidentally, that has also helped me enjoy reading this year – less obligations!

What did your year of reading look like?

by Niki Hawkes