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Coming Soon: Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

Walk on earth a strangerTitle: Walk on Earth a Stranger

Author: Rae Carson

Series: The Gold Seer Trilogy #1

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Release Date: September 22, 2015

The Overview: The first book in a new trilogy from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Rae Carson. A young woman with the magical ability to sense the presence of gold must flee her home, taking her on a sweeping and dangerous journey across Gold Rush–era America. Lee Westfall has a secret. She can sense the presence of gold in the world around her. Veins deep beneath the earth, pebbles in the river, nuggets dug up from the forest floor. The buzz of gold means warmth and life and home—until everything is ripped away by a man who wants to control her. Left with nothing, Lee disguises herself as a boy and takes to the trail across the country. Gold was discovered in California, and where else could such a magical girl find herself, find safety? Rae Carson, author of the acclaimed Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy, dazzles with this new fantasy that subverts both our own history and familiar fantasy tropes. Walk on Earth a Stranger, the first book in this new trilogy, introduces—as only Rae Carson can—a strong heroine, a perilous road, a fantastical twist, and a slow-burning romance. Includes a map and author’s note on historical research.

Waiting on Wednesday
Hosted by Breaking the Spine

I admit the setting and premise for this novel don’t really appeal to me, but considering how much I loved The Girl of Fire and Thorns, I am ready to read anything this woman decides to write. I will probably love it, too. Carson has a wonderful way with characters, romance, and conflict, and I have no doubt book is going to be every bit as entertaining as I’m hoping it will be.

What book are you waiting on?

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: The Glass Arrow by Kristen Simmons

The Glass ArrowTitle: The Glass Arrow

Author: Kristen Simmons

Series: N/A

Genre: Teen Dystopian

Rating 1.5/5 stars

The Overview: The Handmaid’s Tale meets Blood Red Road in Glass Arrow, the story of Aya, who lives with a small group of women on the run from the men who hunt them, men who want to auction off breeding rights to the highest bidder.

In a world where females are scarce and are hunted, then bought and sold at market for their breeding rights, 15-year old Aya has learned how to hide. With a ragtag bunch of other women and girls, she has successfully avoided capture and eked out a nomadic but free existence in the mountains. But when Aya’s luck runs out and she’s caught by a group of businessmen on a hunting expedition, fighting to survive takes on a whole new meaning.

The Review:

I was warned about this one. One of my favorite book bloggers posted a review explaining why she did not enjoy this novel… and I read it anyway. To be fair, I’d already been approved for a digital arc, so I was kind of already committed to reading it anyway, underwhelming review or not. It turns out, my fellow book blogger was totally right… this was not a very strong book.

I really love the idea for it – women living in the wilds, on the run from hunters who’s goal is to capture them and sell them to the city as breeding stock. You see, evidently the women who live in the city are incredibly infertile, so the wilds women are high commodities. I thought it sounded fascinating, and reminded me of some of the other similar books I’ve read and loved recently (Wither by DeStefano, The Jewel by Ewing), but it just did not deliver. All of the books in that specific sub-genre require a bit of the “just go with it” attitude, but the plot structure and world building for this one just had so many things wrong with it that it was hard to read. For every rule she gave on how the society functioned, I could think of a couple of reasons why it wouldn’t work. And the thing is, I wasn’t actively looking for inconsistencies, they were just so blatant that my brain couldn’t help but point them out.

It wasn’t just the illogical nature of the plot that took away my enjoyment of the book (although that was the main thing). I also thought the book suffered from poor pacing and a bit of repetition. I don’t think there were enough plot points to sustain an entire novel and probably would have liked it a lot better had it been a short story. The plot points that were there still have me a bit perplexed – very little of the story had anything to do with the overall arc and climax of the book. It almost felt like I was reading three different books in one (or short stories –  bam!) and none of them related to each other very well… It was weird.

Eventually I got fed up and just started skimming during the last fifty pages of the book. But I did finish it, which I thought ironic considering how many issues I had with it. It made me go back and really think about what compelled me to keep going. It wasn’t what the author was writing, but rather how she was writing it that kept me reading. I enjoyed the style and thought Simmons had a lovely voice. She made me care about the main character and I had no trouble immersing myself into her perspective. I would love to see this author tackle something that requires a lot less world building and concept so she could focus on the element that, in my opinion, she does very well.

Overall, I was really underwhelmed by this title and it was a bit of a struggle to get through it. I was really excited about the concept and the writing style, but don’t think it ever lived up to its potential. I don’t see myself hand-selling this one anytime soon. Maybe it’s just me though – go check out the “this is her best book yet” five-star reviews on goodreads before making any rash decisions. ;)

Other books you might like (better):

by Niki Hawkes

 

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February 2015 Reading Recap!

Review Recap

I read a little bit more than usual this month, which is saying something considering my average is more than most people read in a year (not including fellow book bloggers who would probably wipe the floor my numbers). I also managed to put together a decent number of blog posts, attend a writing conference, and reorganize my library. I am wildly impressed with myself. Let’s take a look at February 2015’s month in reading:

Books Read:

My favorite book for February is a tie between Dead Heat and Wither.

Books Reviewed:

Guardians of the West by David Eddings – 2/5 stars

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor – 3/5 stars

Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas – 3.5/5 stars

Tinker by Wen Spencer – 4/5 stars

Stolen by Kelley Armstrong – 4.5/5 stars

Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs – 5/5 stars!

Waiting on Wednesday Features:

I am equally excited for both of these titles, to the point where I will probably read both of them as soon as they come out.

Top Ten Tuesday Features:

Niki’s Top Ten Bookish Problems!

Other Fun Stuff:

10981219_10203404931353253_4121600290854703076_nAfter years of pining, I finally got the chance to meet my all-time favorite author Richelle Mead! It was a surreal experience, and I was so nervous I’m pretty sure I repeated myself three or four times “I love you, your my favorite author… Your my favorite… I love your books…” and so on. It was pretty pathetic. I blame the massive headache I was suffering from at the time.Even so, it was neat, and I got a couple of my favorites signed.

For the past two months I have been competing to become one of Julie Czerneda’s beta readers for her upcoming Clan novel. Aside from my master’s degree, I can’t remember ever working this hard towards anything in my entire life. Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration, but I am seriously putting my heart and soul into this thing. As of this moment, I’ve made it into the top ten, and have submitted my last round of quiz answers. I’ll find out if I’ve been chosen sometime after Wednesday… Wish me luck!

How was your month in reading?

by Niki Hawkes

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Mini Book Review: Tinker by Wen Spencer

tinkerTitle: Tinker

Author: Wen Spencer

Series: Elfhome #1

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: Inventor, girl genius Tinker lives in a near-future Pittsburgh which now exists mostly in the land of the elves. She runs her salvage business, pays her taxes, and tries to keep the local ambient level of magic down with gadgets of her own design. When a pack of wargs chase an Elven noble into her scrap yard, life as she knows it takes a serious detour. Tinker finds herself taking on the Elven court, the NSA, the Elven Interdimensional Agency, technology smugglers and a college-minded Xenobiologist as she tries to stay focused on what’s really important — her first date. Armed with an intelligence the size of a planet, steel-toed boots, and a junkyard dog attitude, Tinker is ready to kick butt to get her first kiss.

The Mini Review:

The overview above is not inaccurate, but I don’t think it does the essence of the story justice. I regard Tinker as one of the most unique books I’ve ever read, mostly because it’s a really cool mix of genres. The setting, atmosphere, and characterization read very much like an urban fantasy. The concept is very futuristic/science fiction. And the plot sits comfortable in the romance genre. And the elves… let’s not forget about that fantasy element. Even for such an eclectic mix of ideas, everything works together brilliantly. I loved how resourceful and creative the main character, Tinker, was and reading about her was easily my favorite element of the novel. Overall, if you are sick of the same old stuff, give Tinker a try – it is an experience if nothing else. This is the second time I’ve read this novel because the third book FINALLY came out and I wanted a refresher… you lucky ducks who haven’t read it yet won’t have to sit and wonder for six years whether or not there will be a conclusion.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Guardians of the West by David Eddings

Guardians of the WestTitle: Guardians of the West

Author: David Eddings

Series: The Malorean #1

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 2/5 stars

The Overview: A sequel to THE BELGARIAD, Garion has slain the evil God Torak, and fulfilled the prophecy. But suddenly another prophecy is foretold. Again a great evil is brewing in the East. And again Garion finds himself caught between two ancient Prophecies, with the fate of the world resting on him…. 

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The Review:

If my best friend ever sees this post I am going to be in big trouble! David Eddings is her all-time favorite author I feel like this review is going to come across as one big slap in the face. I certainly don’t mean it that way, but I also just did not enjoy Guardians of the West as much as I thought I was going to.

I read the Belgariad (the first five books in the saga) at least a decade ago and really liked them, so much so that I reread a couple of them before diving into this series (the Malorean). I knew the Malorean took place chronologically after the Belgariad, but had I known the storyline started almost immediately, containing all of the beloved characters from the first series, I would’ve picked it up a hell of a lot sooner. And I bet I would have enjoyed it a lot more, too. Back in the day, Eddings was one of the best fantasy authors I’d read. Now however, I still think he is a wonderful author, but he is nowhere near the top of my list.

I should start out by saying that I really enjoyed the essence of the story, and that’s probably the only reason why the book received two stars. So, while I thought it had great story elements, I did not enjoy some of the aspects regarding character. This was definitely a plot-driven novel, and I felt myself missing that inner growth and character development I’ve come to expect. Don’t get me wrong – the characters were all a lot of fun, maintaining the basics that made us fall in love with them in the first series, but I don’t remember a single passage where they were explored more than just on the surface level. It was kind of a bummer.

A similar issue revolved around the main character, Garion. The first series portrayed him as a humble boy destined to rid the world of evil. He asked a lot of questions and always had the knack for figuring things out. In this series that inquisitive nature was still with him, but there were several places within the story where he was so frustratingly dense I wanted to smack him. It was all things regarding his wife (and women in general), and I have a suspicion the author was going for comedic effect (i.e. even a really smart man can’t comprehend women). The problem is, in my eyes it regressed his character all the way back to when he was a juvenile. Then when the plot needed him to be his old, logical self, he was miraculously back to normal… and he wasn’t the only one I noticed this with. I could sum up all of my issues by saying: the characterization was inconsistent.

The final nail in the coffin was the pacing and plot structure. A whole lot of dialogue happens and a whole lot of tangents occur, but the basic plot points that make up the arc of the story filled up very little of the text. I have no problem with slow moving books, but unless a majority of the scenes are advancing the plot or developing character, I seldom enjoy them. And here I am, back to that character thing again – it really does make all the difference.

I wish I could say I liked this one a lot more than I did. I probably will not be continuing on in the series for a very long time (if at all). The good news is, I think this is yet another case where my opinion will be in the minority. If you’re in the mood for a decent fantasy story without a lot of depth, this would be a great one to try, although make sure you start with Pawn of Prophecy (which I actually really liked).

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Coming Soon: The White Rose by Amy Ewing

The White RoseTitle: The White Rose

Author: Amy Ewing

Series: The Lone City #2

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Release Date: October 6, 2015

The Overview: Violet is on the run. After the Duchess of the Lake catches Violet with Ash, the hired companion at the Palace of the Lake, Violet has no choice but to escape the Jewel or face certain death. So along with Ash and her best friend, Raven, Violet runs away from her unbearable life of servitude. But no one said leaving the Jewel would be easy. As they make their way through the circles of the Lone City, Regimentals track their every move, and the trio barely manages to make it out unscathed and into the safe haven they were promised—a mysterious house in the Farm. But there’s a rebellion brewing, and Violet has found herself in the middle of it. Alongside a new ally, Violet discovers her Auguries are much more powerful than she ever imagined. But is she strong enough to rise up against the Jewel and everything she has ever known?

Waiting on Wednesday
Hosted by Breaking the Spine

The Jewel was one of my Top Ten Books of 2014, and I’m so freaking excited for the sequel I can hardly stand it. I have a weakness for this type of novel – girls in pretty dresses trying to survive in a semi-dystopic world (granted, this is a very specific type of book, but I’ve loved every one that I’ve read so far). The Jewel had a lot of elements that I loved about The Selection Trilogy, but explored the society and the world building a lot better in my opinion. It also had a unique love-interest, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was most looking forward to seeing where that goes. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I will be off pining for this book until it comes out in October.

Is anybody else fangirling over this one is much as I am?

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs

dead heatTitle: Dead Heat

Author: Patricia Briggs

Series: Alpha & Omega #4

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Release Date: March 3, 2015

Rating: 5/5 stars!

The Overview: 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. 

The Review:

Patricia Briggs has always been a fantastic writer and storyteller, but these last few novels have been absolutely spectacular. The crime-solving mystery elements are interesting and complex and are partially responsible for why the books are such page-turners. Not to mention that the characters are all lovable and dynamic, the world-building is rich with history and culture, and the plot gains momentum with each chapter.

The stakes of this world have gotten higher with each novel, and I find each new story adds to the momentum of the series. The more I find out about werewolves and their culture, the more I want to know. The more I find out about some of our favorite characters and their origins (much like in Shifting Shadows), the more invested I feel in their plight. The same goes for the other supernatural creatures. The Fae have, up to this point, been involved in the story, but mostly on the periphery. There has been a lot of mystery surrounding them, so each new discovery about their nature has me devouring the pages to learn what they’re going to do next and how our heroes are going to respond.

As great and momentous as the broad conflicts have been, my favorite element has been smaller conflicts – the dynamics between the characters themselves. Family drama is always a problem, but when you add to that magic and pack hierarchy, things get a lot more difficult. Seeing the bad guy brought down at the end is always great, but seeing the characters find solutions to these familial conflicts is what leaves me feeling truly satisfied at the end of her books.

After all this time with the series, the characters have such depth and history that it’s impossible not to enjoy reading about anything involving them. I also love that there are two different sets of POV characters within this saga (Mercy vs. Anna & Charles) and I would be hard-pressed to tell you who I enjoy reading about more. Their stories are separate, but integrated within the world enough that I don’t think I could enjoy one nearly as much without the other. I’ve definitely never seen a spinoff add so much to the saga as a whole, but the Alpha and Omega series continues to blow away my expectations at every turn.

A neat attribute to this particular novel is the slight focus on horses. I have gotten the impression that Patricia Briggs is just as passionate about her horses as she is about writing. It’s a whole other aspect of her life that she hasn’t really expressed in her writing to this point. It was a lot of fun to get a sneak peek into that world, and I’m glad she finally found a way to work it in. It made it more personal and special in a way. Although there are wonderful things about each of her novels. It’s a small wonder I’m always chomping at the bit to devour each one that comes out (pun intended).

Overall, I consider Dead Heat another masterpiece from an amazing writer. I love the characters, the world, the magic, the story, and pretty much everything else about this book (and saga). There’s a reason Patricia Briggs is considered a staple in the urban fantasy genre and a reason why she continues to be one of my favorites! If by some chance you haven’t read this series yet, I would highly recommend reading it alongside the Mercy Thompson series in a specific order based on the publication date (starting with Mercy Thompson #1: Moon Called). You won’t be disappointed!

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Mini Book Review: Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

heir of midnightTitle: Heir of Fire

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Series: Throne of Glass #3

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

The Overview: Lost and broken, Celaena Sardothien’s only thought is to avenge the savage death of her dearest friend: as the King of Adarlan’s Assassin, she is bound to serve this tyrant, but he will pay for what he did. Any hope Celaena has of destroying the king lies in answers to be found in Wendlyn. Sacrificing his future, Chaol, the Captain of the King’s Guard, has sent Celaena there to protect her, but her darkest demons lay in that same place. If she can overcome them, she will be Adarlan’s biggest threat – and his own toughest enemy. While Celaena learns of her true destiny, and the eyes of Erilea are on Wendlyn, a brutal and beastly force is preparing to take to the skies. Will Celaena find the strength not only to win her own battles, but to fight a war that could pit her loyalties to her own people against those she has grown to love? 

The Mini Review:

Contrary to popular opinion, I did not think this book (or series) merited five stars… please don’t yell at me. I think this is a really fun series, and I always enjoy reading it, but I didn’t like it nearly as much as some other titles within the same genre (with the sole exception of Assassin’s Blade, the compilation of prequel novellas to this series – that was amazing). While I like Celaena and think she is a really interesting character, I don’t find a single thing about her relatable. I also think a lot of the decisions she makes don’t follow a logical thought process. I could say the same thing about the storyline. While I really like where it’s going, there were a couple of things leading up to this point that felt forced and inconsistent, especially regarding character. All of that said, I still enjoyed Heir of Fire – especially the villain POVs and the creative bits involving dragons… I’m looking forward to seeing where it’s headed. Overall, If by some chance you haven’t read it yet (but would like to), I would definitely recommend it, but only after you’ve read some of my other favorites…

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Stolen by Kelley Armstrong

stolenTitle: Stolen

Author: Kelley Armstrong

Series: Women of the Otherworld #2

Genre: Urban fantasy

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

The Overview: It was in Bitten, Kelley Armstrong’s debut novel, that thirty-year-old Elena Michaels came to terms with her feral appetites and claimed the proud identity of a beautiful, successful woman and the only living female werewolf. In Stolen, on a mission for her own elite pack, she is lured into the net of ruthless Internet billionaire Tyrone Winsloe, who has funded a bogus scientific investigation of the “other races” and their supernatural powers. Kidnapped and studied in his underground lab deep in the Maine woods, these paranormals – witches, vampires, shamans, werewolves – are then released and hunted to the death in a real-world video game. But when Winsloe captures Elena, he finally meets his match.

The Review:

I absolutely devoured Bitten, the first book in the series (I’d been trying out different urban fantasies over the last several months and Bitten was easily one of my favorites). Then someone mentioned that it had been adapted for a show in Canada and, even better, that it was on Netflix. Flash forward two days (because I binge watched it) and I was completely hooked! I knew I loved the author’s writing, the characters, the story, and the show, so you’d better believe I scrambled to get ahold of the second book.

There was only one problem: the first book was meant as a standalone, so reading Stolen felt like reading another first book.

Normally, this would feel like a tragedy, as I love seeing the progression of a plot line over several books. In this case however, it kind of worked. Stolen was at least told from Elena’s perspective, and the writing was just as killer as ever. And the show “Bitten” did a fantastic job tweaking the story in a way that allowed them to end with a cliffhanger, which means the second season will at least give me that continuation I so desperately crave. Everybody wins… well, I do anyway.

That said, I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of Stolen. Just as with the first book, I was completely absorbed, dragging it out whenever there was a spare moment to see what happened next. I read a lot, but I seldom feel addictively drawn back to a book, and Kelley Armstrong has managed to do that not once, but twice to me… needless to say, I will be continuing on. Although I admit I am a bit nervous about that. You see, she changes characters from here on out, and I’m so attached to Elena that I’m afraid I won’t enjoy it as much. At least I can be sure that whatever direction the story takes, the writing is going to be superb! And the craft – Armstrong has an incredible instinct for story, which makes me think I will love whatever tale she decides to weave together.

Overall, I wish I hadn’t waited so long to pick up this author. I can definitely see why she is considered a staple in the urban fantasy genre. I would highly recommend her to anyone who enjoyed authors like Patricia Briggs and Kim Harrison. I would doubly recommend the show to fans of True Blood – it was great for all the same reasons… in fact, I may have loved it even more.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Niki’s Top Ten Bookish Problems!

top ten tuesday

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

I think any obsession comes with its own unique host of problems. Part of the reason I love being a part of the book blogging community is that you guys understand and can relate to all of the problems associated with being a book lover. I imagine a lot of people’s lists are going to look similar today, so I will just join in the fray:

Niki’s Top Ten Bookish Problems!

Color-coding chart:
Green: A Light Problem
Yellow: A Moderate Problem
Red: A SERIOUS Problem

#1: I always want to read ALL the books: Seriously. The matter how much I’m enjoying the book I’m reading, and eyeballing all the other books on my shelf, wishing I could be reading those books too.

#2: No one will help me move again: ever. Even bribes don’t work anymore. My husband is totally screwed the next time we move.

#3: I have too many bookshelf knickknacks: granted, there are only about two per shelf, but when you have over sixty shelves… It’s getting a little crowded, that’s all I’m saying.

#4: I am suffering from a mild case of eye strain: which is horrifying because it’s freaking miserable to try to read when your eyes hurt. This sucks.

#5: I am really book greedy: especially when it comes to library books. I will check out titles I know I’m not going to have time to read just this because I can. I know I’m not the only one who does this, based on some of the other lists I’ve seen today, but I’d like to point out that my library only lends their books for two weeks and some of the blogs I’ve seen claim their libraries let them check out titles for ninety days!? I don’t know if I could handle myself.

#6: I’m out of shelf space: I’m not just running out of space, I am TOTALLY out. I guess it’s time to start culling the herd.

#7: I like books more than people: generally speaking, and I’m finally ready to admit it. I haven’t canceled plans in a while just to sit home and read, but I have avoided making plans, which is just as bad. For the record, my favorite people also have this problem, so we get along.

#8: I cannot shop at Barnes and Noble: without someone asking me to help them find something. I try to be unobtrusive, but they always find me. At first, I just assumed they recognized me from when I worked there (which I did for about eleven years), but now it has been about a year since I left and it keeps happening…

#9: I have a really hard time getting rid of books: especially ones I’ve already read, yet didn’t like. Each completed book is like a mini badge of accomplishment on my shelves and I find that hard to part with. The worst are the books I bought on impulse at signing events that I will never read but are awkwardly personalized. Anyone out there named Niki who would like some signed books?

#10: I annoy people: by talking about books so much. Get me on the subject and I can maintain the conversation for hours – especially if someone has read a lot of the same stuff I have.

What are your bookish problems? Do we have any in common?

by Niki Hawkes