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Book Reviews: The Dresden Files [Books 5-7] by Jim Butcher

The Dresden Files [Books 5-7]
by Jim Butcher

I can definitely see why Jim Butcher is considered a staple in the Urban Fantasy genre – he has an excellent main character (who is a tad whiny at times, but that’s kind of why I like him), loads of paranormal that will continually ding your creep-o-meter (even though I admit it doesn’t take much to set mine off), and plenty of action, humor, and intrigue. Overall, if you’ve never read an urban fantasy, this author is a great place to start. The best thing about him is that he seems to get better with each book.


Death Masks

I have the least to say about this book because admittedly I’ve read so many of them recently that it took me a couple of hours and some seriously strenuous brainpower to remember what Death Masks was about… That could be because I’m partially brain-damaged, or because this one didn’t stand out with the clear theme as much as all the other books have. I do remember the Fae being involved, which means there’s a chance I’m mentally combining this one with the book before it and actually remember more than I think I do (kapeesh?). In any case, I enjoyed this one at least as much, and especially loved the addition of Mouse. The best thing I can say is, up to this point the series doesn’t seem to be losing any of its momentum.

4/5 stars


Blood Rites

Just when I think the over-sexualization of every female character in sight might be finally starting to mellow a little bit, Butcher sets this novel in the middle of a freaking porno film studio. I don’t necessarily find the content offensive (although I probably should, but I’m really sick of hearing about people being offended about everything), but I do find it funny, so I sometimes have trouble taking any of these characters/villains seriously. Despite that, somewhere around the middle I found myself really engaged in the story and think Blood Rites might be one of my favorites yet (although that’s not saying much because all the books have been on pretty equal footing). What made the difference was Murphy, who was heavily involved in the plot – I especially loved learning tidbits about her background. Frankly, as much as I love Dresden, anytime I get to hear more about Karen Murphy makes me incredibly happy. I’ve read a few harsh reviews about this novel in specific accusing Harry of being too chauvinistic and annoying… I can see their point, but have yet to find myself at odds with the main character. Whatever his personality, he always makes me laugh. I will say, while I’m enjoying the series immensely, I’m not as emotionally invested in Harry as I could be and I often find myself more concerned with what’s happening to the people around him. Not being emotionally invested is usually a deal-breaker for me, but I’m still enjoying the series so much for all of its other factors (especially the humor) that it doesn’t seem to be a problem. Overall, Blood Rites was just as entertaining as all the books before it.

4.5/5 stars


Dead Beat

Dead Beat focused on necromancers and zombies and I thought they were sufficiently creepy. And can I just say how happy I am that finally the over-sexualization of every woman in sight was finally toned down in this novel – and for the first time, I felt like I could really take them (and the plot) seriously. Granted, a novel focused primarily on the undead was a lot less glamorous than the ones focused on Fae, vampires, or even werewolves, but the handful of female characters introduced were still gorgeous and sexy without the descriptions taking them to the ridiculous. But really, that issue is only been a minor criticism for me. I have to say, it’s a mark of a great author that his books have been consistently four star ratings for me and, if anything, getting stronger with each one. I’m as excited to continue the series now as I was near the beginning. Also, Butters rocked my world. Alas, my only lament is Dead Beat didn’t have much to do with Murphy…

4/5 stars


If you haven’t picked up a Dresden book yet, just know you’re in for a well-conceived and sustainable series, jampacked with scary monsters and a lot of snark. I consider them a must-try for any fan of the genre.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Mini Book Review: Graduation Day by Joelle Charbonneau

 Graduation Day by Joelle Charbonneau

Title: Graduation Day

Author: Joelle Charbonneau

Series: The Testing #3

Genre: Teen Dystopian

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: In a scarred and brutal future, The United Commonwealth teeters on the brink of all-out civil war. The rebel resistance plots against a government that rules with cruelty and cunning. Gifted student and Testing survivor Cia Vale vows to fight. But she can’t do it alone. This is the chance to lead that Cia has trained for – but who will follow? Plunging through layers of danger and deception, Cia must risk the lives of those she loves – and gamble on the loyalty of her lethal classmates.

The Mini Review:

Since it has been a really long time since I posted my reviews for the first two books in The Testing Trilogy, I’ll give a little recap:

The Testing: I loved the concept and the actual “testing” these teens were put through, but I found the deaths in the story oddly placed, as if for shock value alone rather than any real plot advancement. I was also not sure what I thought about unique voice and writing style. [3/5 stars]

Independent Study: WHERE HAS THIS BOOK BEEN ALL MY LIFE??! I LOVED Independent Study, and it was one of my favorite books of 2014. Scratch that, it’s one of my favorite books ever. I can’t say what flipped, but everything from story (the tests in particular), to setting, to characters, to voice came together for one hell of a book! Loves. [5/5 stars!]

Graduation Day: was somewhere in between. I enjoyed it immensely and appreciated it as a trilogy ender, but it didn’t have the same X-factor as the second book. [4/5 stars]

Overall, I consider this dystopian well worth your time if you like the genre. To me it’s worth it for book 2 alone. I loved them enough to buy them all in hardcover and will definitely be rereading them.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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ARC August: Niki’s Signing Up!

ARC-August-Banner

This yearly feature hosted by Octavia and Shelly at Read. Sleep. Repeat. couldn’t have come around at a better time. It seems like my ARC requests double around this time of year thanks to all of the brilliant upcoming releases. Currently, I’m challenging myself to make my way through the following ARCs by the end of August:

It hurts my heart that Soundless by Richelle Mead is not on this list… Everybody seems to have a copy but me ::sobs::

Since I had to switch my reviewing status on NetGalley and Edelweiss from “bookseller” to “blogger” I’ve been consistent with maintaining a 100% response rate. Part of it is pure stubbornness, as I’ve convinced myself the only way to get approved more often is to be a dependable reviewer. However, the main reason I’ve been able to keep that percentage perfect is because of my “read the best books first” philosophy. I’ve only allowed myself to request titles I’ve already identified as releases I have to read on Goodreads (meaning no impulse requests just because I see something shiny). Since my upcoming releases list currently has over fifty books on it, I’ve been requesting more than average lately… Thank goodness for this challenge!

What ARCS are on your list this winter?

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Book Review: Cibola Burn by James S. A. Corey

Cibola Burn by James S. A. Corey

Title: Cibola Burn

Author: James S. A. Corey

Series: The Expanse #4

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: The gates have opened the way to thousands of habitable planets, and the land rush has begun. Settlers stream out from humanity’s home planets in a vast, poorly controlled flood, landing on a new world. Among them, the Rocinante, haunted by the vast, posthuman network of the protomolecule as they investigate what destroyed the great intergalactic society that built the gates and the protomolecule. But Holden and his crew must also contend with the growing tensions between the settlers and the company which owns the official claim to the planet. Both sides will stop at nothing to defend what’s theirs, but soon a terrible disease strikes and only Holden – with help from the ghostly Detective Miller – can find the cure.

The Review:

I love this series – the plot, the characters, the humor, the world building… all of it. I was excited for this one in particular because when I first started The Expanse a couple of years ago I thought it was only going to be a trilogy. Cibola Burn (and Nemesis Games) felt like bonus books. I’m super thrilled the story is not over!!!

As always, this Expanse book had an excellent mix of familiar and new POV characters – an element that has always kept these novels fresh and exciting for me. Of all the non-Rocinante crewmember POVs we’ve met, I unfortunately enjoyed the ones in this book the least. They just couldn’t compete with Avasarala, Bobbie, or even Bull… but they were still good because I don’t think these authors could write crappy characters if they tried. I’ve mentioned before that strong characterization is my favorite part about this series, in part because they always feel like real people, flaws and all. It’s fantastic.

Admittedly, I expected the story to go much broader from this point (it is, after all, The Expanse series), especially after the vast potential and new revelations discovered in Abaddon’s Gate. But the scope of Cibola Burn maintained a fairly narrow scope (not that it wasn’t just as enjoyable, mind you). Having it different than my expectations didn’t disappoint me like many other novels have, but instead made me appreciate how consistent these authors are. They don’t jump the story ahead of what is feasibly possible just to advance the plot. As a result, all of the progression the solar system makes feels natural and unforced. Human ambition never goes beyond what is technologically possible, and I love that consistency. Not to mention that it was still wildly interesting even without fast expansion.

As narrow as the story might have felt, the things that happened in this novel will definitely have galaxy-wide ramifications… I can’t wait to see how they’re going to cope next! The broadness of the concept (particularly involving the protomolecule and its origins) always makes me feel so immersed these books.

Overall, Cibola Burn was a great continuation of the story (the next book, Nemesis Games, was even better! Review to come…). If you are a Firefly fan, or if you’re even looking to dip your toes in the space opera genre, give this series a try!

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Mini Book Review: Blood of Dragons by Robin Hobb

Blood of Dragons by Robin Hobb

Title: Blood of Dragons

Author: Robin Hobb

Series: Rain Wild Chronicles #4

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

The Overview: The dragons’ survival hangs in the balance in the thrilling final volume in the acclaimed River Wilds chronicles fantasy series. The dragons and their dedicated band of keepers have at last found the lost city of Kelsingra. The magical creatures have learned to use their wings and are growing into their regal inheritance. Their humans, too, are changing. As the mystical bonds with their dragons deepen, Thymara, Tats, Rapskal, and even Cedric, the unlikeliest of keepers, have begun transforming into beautiful Elderlings raked with exquisite features that complement and reflect the dragons they serve.

But while the humans have scoured the empty streets and enormous buildings of Kelsongra, they cannot find the mythical silver wells the dragons need to stay health and survive. With enemies encroaching, the keepers must risk “memory walking”- immersing themselves in the dangerously addictive memories of long-deceased Elderlings – to uncover clues necessary to their survival. And time is of the essence, for the legendary Tintaglia, long feared dead, has returned, wounded in a battle with humans hunting dragon blood and scales. She is weakening and only the hidden silver can revive her. If Tintaglia dies, so, too, will the ancient memories she carries – a devastating loss that will ensure the dragons’ extinction.

The Mini Review:

I can’t say enough good things about Robin Hobb. If she’s not my favorite author, she’s at least in my top three. Blood of Dragons concludes her Rain Wild Chronicles, a series which takes place on the periphery of her FitzChivalry books. My favorite thing about these “spinoffs” is the expansion of the world I love and the most excellent portrayal of dragons. Many authors write dragons with human personalities, desires, and motives. Hobb’s dragons are bestial and almost alien in their behaviors and thoughts; in my opinion, every bit as authentic as good dragons should be. It was awesome! I don’t know that we’ll see a continuation anytime soon, but after finally learning more about Elderling lore (often alluded to throughout the entire Farseer saga and finally just scratching the surface of possibilities here) I can’t see her just leaving it at that. If you’re a Hobb fan, The Rain Wild Chronicles is a must-read. If you’re a fantasy fan, this author is well worth your time! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a new Fitz and the Fool tale to dive into…

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Coming Soon: All In by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

all inTitle: All In

Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Series: The Naturals #3

Genre: Teen Fiction

Release Date: November 3, 2015

The Overview: Three casinos. Three bodies. Three days…. After a string of brutal murders in Las Vegas, Cassie Hobbes and the Naturals are called in to investigate. But even with the team’s unique profiling talents, these murders seem baffling: unlike many serial killers, this one uses different methods every time. All of the victims were killed in public, yet the killer does not show up on any tape. And each victim has a string of numbers tattooed on their wrist. Hidden in the numbers is a code—and the closer the Naturals come to unraveling the mystery, the more perilous the case becomes. Meanwhile, Cassie is dealing with an equally dangerous and much more painful mystery. For the first time in years, there’s been a break in her mother’s case. As personal issues and tensions between the team mount, Cassie and the Naturals will be faced with impossible odds—and impossible choices.

Waiting on Wednesday
Hosted by Breaking the Spine

 The Naturals landed itself in the #1 spot as my favorite book of 2013. Killer Instinct was just as good, and I am simply beside myself with excitement for All In. I love the premise, I love the characters, I love the mystery, and I love the psychology behind everything. I’ve always been fascinated with shows like Criminal Minds and CSI but have always been too squeamish to actually watch them. The Naturals series satisfies all of my morbid fascinations, but does so with a charming YA flair! I strongly recommend the series – read it… READ IT NOW!

What book are you waiting on?

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Under the Empyrean Sky by Chuck Wendig

Under the Empyrian Sky by Chuck Wendig

Title: Under the Empyrean Sky

Author: Chuck Wendig

Series: The Heartland Trilogy #1

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: Corn is king in the Heartland, and Cael McAvoy has had enough of it. It’s the only crop the Empyrean government allows the people of the Heartland to grow? And the genetically modified strain is so aggressive that it takes everything the Heartlanders have just to control it. As captain of the Big Sky Scavengers, Cael and his crew sail their rickety ship over the corn day after day, scavenging for valuables, trying to earn much-needed ace notes for their families. But Cael’s tired of surviving life on the ground while the Empyrean elite drift by above in their extravagant sky flotillas. He’s sick of the mayor’s son besting Cael’s crew in the scavenging game. And he’s worried about losing Gwennie? his first mate and the love of his life? forever when their government-chosen spouses are revealed. But most of all, Cael is angry? angry that their lot in life will never get better and that his father doesn’t seem upset about any of it. Cael’s ready to make his own luck . . . even if it means bringing down the wrath of the Empyrean elite and changing life in the Heartland forever.  

The Review:

I’ve been interested in this book for a while because of its major cover appeal and interesting premise, but didn’t expect to like it nearly as much as I did. Under the Empyrean Sky offered a unique voice, immersive world building, and characters who were as vibrant as they were gritty.

The story starts out with a clear perspective and only gets stronger from there. The book was front-loaded with a lot of profanity, which might bother some readers. I actually like profanity in books as long as it does one of two things: provides comic relief or helps developed character. Even though it wasn’t totally apparent from the start, I believe Wendig’s use of language positively added to the great atmosphere, character profiles, and world building of the novel. All of these elements are what left me feeling like the book was a cool experience.

I liked the plot because it surprised me. I thought I could see the predictable trajectory right from the beginning, but was proven wrong at every turn. There’s something oddly compelling about a clearly conveyed story that lacks plot transparency (meaning you always understand what’s going on, but the plot isn’t easy to see through). I give major kudos to Wendig for coming up with so many twists… It was refreshing. My only issue with the entire book was with pacing, as in I wish the story had clipped along a tad faster. Other than that, it was great.

Overall, Under the Empyrean Sky was a cool (albeit weird) book that I enjoyed thoroughly. It gave off a sort of Maze Runner vibe (sort of like the Maize Runner… eh? eh?) but with a lot more sass. I don’t feel the need to pick up the next one right away, but I am definitely interested in seeing where it goes within the next couple of months.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Tackling the TBR [3]: July 2015!

tackling the TBR

I started this feature in May as a possible solution to my desperate need for a good TBR system. And you know what? I’m LOVING it so far! It has allowed me to stop stressing about all the unread books in my life because it channels my focus onto the authors I deemed the highest priority. I rest assured that, despite the fact I’m not making my way through my collection as quickly as I’d like, I am at least focusing on the best books first. It also takes away a little bit of that “I’m overwhelmed” factor because there’s usually only twenty books at most in my shortlist (which also gives me a remarkable sense of achievement every time I get to check one off that list). Finally, I love it because I still feel like I get to follow my reading whims – there is a lot of variety within my smaller pool of choices. I think I’ll keep this feature around for a while!

If you missed the Introductory Post, here’s how Tackling the TBR works:

1. At the beginning of each month, I select an author from each of my favorite genres
2. I compile all of their unread books onto my TBR Tackler shelves (physical & digital)
3. I pick from that pile throughout the month as the mood strikes me

Here is my TBR Tackler Shelf for July 2015:

Science Fiction: Rachel Bach
Fantasy: Elizabeth Haydon
Middle Grade: Chad Morris
New Adult: Colleen Hoover
Young Adult: Ann Aguirre
Urban Fantasy: Jim Butcher
Book Club:
Michael J. Sullivan

Last month I made it through more than half the titles on my list. There’s definitely a lot of variety on my TBR tackler shelf this month, which should help keep me from getting bored. There are more unread Jim Butcher books than I included, but I figured six novels was a lofty enough goal. I don’t see any reason why I can’t read and enjoy all of these by the end of July! :-) I included a new “Book Club” category because in some ways it’s the most important TBR for the month, but I didn’t wanted to take the place of my other priority authors. As you can see, my system is still adapting… hopefully for the better.

I will be sharing this post on the first of each month at least until the end of the year (we will see how it goes). I am also going to include a linky on each post so we can support each other in Tackling our TBRs! Even if you don’t specifically use my system, feel free to share your versions of how you manage your TBR pile… Maybe we can help make each other’s systems even better. :)

What authors are you Tackling this month?

^ You actually have to click on the blue frog to enter and see links… It seems simple, but it took me a full three weeks before I finally figured that out. #fail

by Niki Hawkes

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Top Ten Books I’ve Read So Far In 2015!

top ten tuesday

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Thanks to my “read the best books 1st” philosophy, I’ve had an amazing 6 months of reading so far. Here’s a look at some of my favorites:

Top Ten Books I’ve Read So Far In 2015!

Some of these titles will definitely end up on my “Best of 2015″ list! I didn’t do this on purpose, but I’m happy to see there is a little bit of every genre I love on this list. Picking an absolute favorite is kind of like comparing apples to oranges, but I’m leaning towards Havoc by Ann Aguirre. Here’s to another six months of awesome reading!

What books made your list?

by Niki Hawkes

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Coming Soon: Tarnished by Kate Jarvik Birch

December 1, 2015

Title: Tarnished

Author: Kate Jarvik Birch

Series: Perfected #2

Genre: Teen Dystopian [sort of]

Release Date: December 1, 2015

The Overview: Ella may have escaped to Canada, but she’s hardly free. Stuck in refugee housing for liberated pets, she’s just as trapped as she was at the congressman’s house—only now she has to live without Penn. But she’s determined to get out. And to make matters worse, there are rumors circulating that pets like Ella are turning up dead all over the U.S., not to mention that she might be to blame. When her old acquaintance, Missy, shows up in Canada, the two of them set off together, thrusting them back into the dangerous life they just left behind. Now, they must navigate the seedy world of the black markets to uncover the dark secrets that the Kennels have been hiding, and rescue the boy she loves.

Waiting on Wednesday
Hosted by Breaking the Spine

Perfected was my favorite YA read of 2014, and I loved it so much that I haven’t even been able to compose a review for it yet. Have you ever enjoyed something so much that no matter how much you gush about it in a review it won’t do it justice? That’s how I feel about Perfected – it was such an experience! The best comparison I can make is to DeStefano’s Chemical Garden Trilogy – a slightly dystopic society with a lot of messed up, somewhat dark practices; fascinating female protagonists who find themselves at the center of it all; and beautiful, poetic writing that never seems flowery or overdone. Perfected was one of the few books I will definitely be rereading, and I hope to say the same about Tarnished. December can’t come too soon!

What book are you waiting on? :-)

by Niki Hawkes