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Book Review: Obsidian and Stars by Julie Eshbaugh

Title: Obsidian and Stars

Author: Julie Eshbaugh

Series: Ivory and Bone #2

Genre: Teen Fiction

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

The Overview: After surviving the chaotic battle that erupted after Lo and the Bosha clan attacked, now Mya is looking ahead to her future with Kol. All the things that once felt so uncertain are finally falling into place. But the same night as Kol and Mya’s betrothal announcement, Mya’s brother Chev reveals his plan to marry his youngest sister Lees to his friend Morsk. The only way to avoid this terrible turn of events, Morsk informs Mya when he corners her later, is for Mya to take Lees’ place and marry him herself. Refusing to marry anyone other than her beloved, and in an effort to protect her sister, Mya runs away to a secret island with Lees. And though it seems like the safest place to hide until things back home blow over, Mya soon realizes she’s been followed. Lurking deep in the recesses of this dangerous place are rivals from Mya’s past whose thirst for revenge exceeds all reason. With the lives of her loved ones on the line, Mya must make a move before the enemies of her past become the undoing of her future. -Goodreads

The Review:

If you caught my recent review of Ivory and Bone, you’ll remember me saying I really enjoyed the book, but had a few issues with the logistics feeling a bit forced. Eshbaugh was modeling the story after Pride and Prejudice, trying to follow the same basic storyline. My hope going into Obsidian and Stars was that it would feel a little more organic and free-flowing – which it actually did. The trouble is, I found a different set of issues to complain about long the way…

Obsidian and Stars lost a bit of the magic that made Ivory and Bone so unique. The creative story construction in I&B around an atypical narrative was my favorite part – it was presented as recounting, where a boy told the girl his perspective from the point when they first met. It was so cool! In O&S, however, the POV switched to straightforward first-person. There was also very minimal cultural immersion, which took away the other element that set Ivory and Bone apart. The one consistency I can praise is Eshbaugh’s beautiful writing voice – if I finish the series, it might be for that alone.

My biggest issue, however, were the conflicts.

Most of the obstacles the character faced in Obsidian and Stars were caused by what I viewed as bad decision-making and a general lack of common sense… almost to an infuriating degree. Because of this, I felt very un-invested for most of the novel while they ran around fixing these self-induced problems (most of which also felt incredibly unfeasible – the juxtaposition between teen angst toleration and the harsh realities of prehistoric life are pretty laughable. I overlooked it in I&B, but I lost patience in the second). Furthermore, all of the remaining conflicts were so similar to what happened in the first book that I found myself losing interest even further to the point where it was a struggle to finish.

I’d really hoped the second book would’ve taken the story beyond the narrow framework of the first and really expanded on this cool setting. Despite my disappointment with Obsidian and Stars, I like Eshbaugh’s writing voice and the basic components to her story well enough that I might still pick up the third book when it comes out in 2018. I’m just really hoping when I do I’ll see stronger conflicts and a heavier focus on the things that make this series special.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Coming Soon: Nyxia by Scott Reintgen

Title: Nyxia

Author: Scott Reintgen

Series: The Nyxia Triad #1

Genre: Teen Sci-fi

Release Date: September 12, 2017

The Overview: Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family. Forever. Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden–a planet that Babel has kept hidden–where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe. But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human. -Goodreads

Nik’s Notes:

Okay, I’ll admit I’m a sucker for a cool cover.
And YA Sci-Fi.
And intense competition reminiscent of Hunger Games…
…Pretty much everything Nyxia is offering.

Rest assured, I’ll be hounding for a copy as soon as it comes out in September. ;P

Any ARC readers so far? Thoughts??

 by Niki Hawkes

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Book Reviews: Steeplejack & Firebrand by A.J. Hartley [+Giveaway!]

Titles: Steeplejack and Firebrand
Author: A.J. Hartley
Series: Alternate Detective #1&2
Genre: Teen Fiction
Rating: 4/5 stars

Steeplejack and Firebrand were two of the most unique books I’ve ever read – the type of stories that continue to resonate long after you finish them!

The books were successful on several accounts. The “whodunit” detective mystery was engaging, made all the more compelling by Anglet’s (the main character) personal stake in solving the crime. Her involvement felt more organic than not, and the passages dedicated to developing her convictions and motives were my favorites of the book. She also had a heartfelt side story going on, which offered a satisfying amount of character depth. Anglet is definitely the best part of this series.

The second best part is the inclusion of diversity of characters and an author who wasn’t afraid to write about unfair class systems and discrimination. He offered a variety of dynamics between races not usually seen in YA, for which I applaud. Anglet is a non-white main character, and in a market clamoring for more diversity in books, she was a breath of fresh air. My only issue is that the cover art makes her race a little ambiguous – I would’ve liked to see her more strongly represented.

The books take place in what feels like a 1920s era city, complete with tall buildings (obviously, based on the need for steeplejacks), a neat alternate light/energy source, and plenty of dirty-dealings and underground crime. Interestingly enough, this urban setting is fringed by hippo-occupied rivers, lion-prowling brush lands, and native tribes people. Needless to say it made for a unique atmosphere. I wasn’t totally convinced of its feasibility, given pollution issues and humanity’s tendency to dominate and destroy any threats around major hubs. Then I discovered A.J. Hartley spent some time in South Africa doing research for this series… and now imagine the story reflects this weird dichotomy fairly accurately. It’s still hard for me to wrap my brain around, but I can’t deny that the threat of charging hippos and lurking crocodiles added a lot of spice to the story. Sometimes it’s the most unlikely of real-life situations that are the most unbelievable in fiction. Side note: A.J. Hartley has to be one of the most interesting authors I’ve come across (you can see what I’m talking about on his website).

Both novels were equally compelling. While Firebrand didn’t have quite as much growth for the main character, it made up for it by having her become much more immersed in her new “career.” At one point near the beginning I thought it was flirting with hokey, then the author surprised me with an awesome twist, and I was hooked!

Overall, this series (so far) has been incredibly entertaining, memorable, and thought-provoking. I was especially glad to see a YA/Mystery hybrid that felt like a true merge of those genres (where the mystery felt sophisticated enough to appeal to readers of that market). Overall, there wasn’t a single thing I didn’t like about Steeplejack or Firebrand – both exceeded my expectations with flying colors. I’m eagerly awaiting another Alternate Detective novel.

I want to think the publicists at TOR/Forge and A.J. Hartley for a chance to read and review an early copy of Firebrand – I enjoyed it thoroughly!


Steeplejack and Firebrand Giveaway!

Open to US and Canada Residents!
Click on the link to enter:

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

A winner has been chosen and notified. Thanks for entering! :)

 I wish this went without saying, but please verify your GR friendship/Blog following status before claiming entries (all of your entries will be disqualified if you’re dishonest or mistaken).

This giveaway will run until midnight [MST] on Friday July 21, 2017. Good Luck! :)

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Tackling the TBR [25]: July 2017

tackling the TBR

It’s once again time for my favorite feature: Tackling the TBR! There’s nothing I love more than picking out which books to read next, and this slightly organized method of reading has really amped my enjoyment to the next level. Bring on the mantras!

Read the best books first.
&
Life is too short to read books you’re not enjoying.

However you put together your TBR for the next month, the goal is to reduce the amount of obligation in reading and increase the fun.


Here’s a look at how the system works:

1. Identify the titles that take top priority in your TBR.
2. Combine them all in your own Tackling the TBR post.
3. Throughout the month pick from that pile as the mood strikes you.

Here’s what mine looks like:

July 2017 TBR Tackler Shelf:

Last month I tried to do a “catch-up” month and I discovered one thing: I do not like catch-up months lol. For the most part I stuck to my list, reading half of the titles from it, but part way through the month went off the rails and started devouring things from July’s list. I think I’ll just stick to my carryover strategy going forward and try to keep it less than ten titles. :)

Because I’ve already read a few of these (which I’m including them anyway because I’m OCD), I added a few extra to give you an idea of the books I’m hoping to get through this month. It’s really, really ambitious, especially since my Goodreads reading group is tackling both Eye of the World and Way of Kings (not listed because it has been a reread WIP for months now with the hubby). I’m excited for a bunch of the books on this list, but the one that keeps screaming at me to read it is The Labyrinth of Drakes by Marie Brennan…


Niki’s Incomplete Series Challenge [Via Fantasy Buddy Reads]

June 2017 Titles Tackled:

Niki’s June 2017 Progress Update:

Series Finished: 3
A Conjuring of Light – V.E. Schwab
Lady Renegades – Rachel Hawkins
The Fiercest Joy – Shana Abe

Series Brought UTD: 2
Kings of the Wyld – Nicholas Eames
The Legion of Flame – Anthony Ryan

Series Progressed: 4
Naamah’s Curse – Jacqueline Carey
Magic Gifts – Ilona Andrews
From the Editorial Page of the Falchester Weekly Review – Marie Brennan
Princeps’ Fury – Jim Butcher

New Series Started: 2
Kings of the Wyld – Nicholas Eames
The Young Elites – Marie Lu (reread so I can continue)

Abandoned: 0

YTD Totals:
Finished Series: 8
Up To Date Series: 12
Series Progressed: 28
New Series Started: 14
Abandoned: 1

I am thrilled with my progress this month. I’m getting close on finishing a bunch and am starting to think that maybe I can eventually get a handle on all of these series.

Here’s my full Incomplete Series list, in case anyone is curious.


What books are you Tackling this month? Even if you don’t specifically use my system, feel free to share your versions of how you manage your TBR pile (and the links to your posts if applicable) in the comments. :)

by Niki Hawkes

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The Obsessive Bookseller’s Q&A with Anthony Ryan!!

The Obsessive Bookseller’s Q&A with Anthony Ryan!!

First off, I’d like to thank Anthony Ryan for taking the time to answer my questions, and the publicists at Berkley Publishing Group & Daw for making it happen! I was so excited for this opportunity, as Anthony Ryan has quickly become one of my favorite authors. My questions may not be the most original, or even the most compelling, but they are the things I most wanted to know about this author and his Draconis Memoria series. Hopefully you’ll find his answers as delightful as I did. :)


1. Where did you get the idea for Draconis Memoria?

The inspiration for the series comes from a wide variety of sources, but most especially my reading of 19th century history, particularly the economics of colonialism and the industrial revolution.

2. Which character’s perspective did you enjoy writing the most?

In all honesty I like them all equally for different reasons. Lizanne is a lot of fun because she’s always in motion, once she has a goal there’s no stopping her achieving it. Clay has a rouge-ish charm and a particular way of talking that I always enjoy. Hilemore lets me play out my military adventure fantasies, even though I know I’d probably be pretty useless in a real war.

3. How many books will be in the series?

The Draconis Memoria is a trilogy, so one more after The Legion of Flame. The third volume has been written and is with my editor. No decision on what the title will be yet.

4. Do you have any other projects on the horizon?

I’m currently enjoying some downtime but I’m certainly not short of ideas, at the last count there are about fourteen novels in my head waiting to be written. I intend to return to the Raven’s Shadow world at some point, but can’t say when just yet.

5. What does your writing process look like?

I try to stick to a routine as I find forming habits is the best way to ensure a high productivity rate. I start in the late morning by going over the words I wrote the day before which I find useful in ensuring the prose in the first draft is of a decent standard. I then write in 30 to 40 minute sessions throughout the day, drinking a large amount of tea in the process. I usually aim for 2000 words a day but don’t always get there, although for my last book I was averaging 3000 for the final month of writing.

6. Any advice for aspiring writers?

Just the usual: Don’t give up and read a lot. I’d also advise any complete beginners not to get too hung up on word counts. When you’re starting it out it’s more important to concentrate on finishing what you write, however long it takes.

7. Outside of your own, what are some of your favorite books?

I’m a big fan of David Gemmell and his ‘Wolf in Shadow’ is probably my favourite. Robin Hobb is another fantasy author I’ve always admired, particularly her Assassin books. I also read a lot of crime fiction in addition to fantasy, especially James Ellroy, his novel ‘The Big Nowhere’ is brilliant piece of work. Recently I’ve been catching up on Stephen King’s output and thought the Bill Hodges trilogy, which starts with ‘Mr Mercedes’, was terrific.


I still have a US Giveaway running for Waking Fire:

The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan

The publisher has graciously offered up a paperback copy of The Waking Fire for me to give away to one lucky US resident (I’m very sorry to all of my international followers – you guys are important to me too!). To enter, just take a moment to fill out this rafflecopter giveaway form, and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Giveaway Ended – winner has been contacted. :)

US Residents only, please.
I didn’t think this needed to be said, but if you lie about your friendship/following status on any of your entries, all of your entries will be disqualified. #sorrynotsorry
The giveaway will run until Midnight on Thursday, July 6, 2017 MST.

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: The Legion of Flame by Anthony Ryan + GIVEAWAY!

[June 27, 2017] Legion of Flame by Anthony Ryan

Title: The Legion of Flame

Author: Anthony Ryan

Series: The Draconis Memoria #2

Genre: Fantasy

Release Date: June 27, 2017

Rating: 5/5 stars!

The Overview: Empires clash and a fell power stakes its claim in the second in a new series from the New York Times bestselling author of the Raven’s Shadow Trilogy. For centuries, the vast Ironship Trading Syndicate relied on drake blood—and the extraordinary powers it confers to those known as the Blood-blessed—to fuel and protect its empire. But now, a fearsome power has arisen—a drake so mighty that the world will tremble before it. Rogue Blood-blessed Claydon Torcreek, Syndicate agent Lizanne Lethridge, and ironship captain Corrick Hilemore embark upon perilous quests to chase down clues that offer faint hopes of salvation. As the world burns around them, and the fires of revolution are ignited, these few are the last hope for the empire and for all of civilization. -Goodreads

The Review: 

If you start only one new fantasy series this year, make it Draconis Memoria by Anthony Ryan! I thought The Waking Fire was one of the best books I’d ever read, but Legion of Flame was even better!

Legion of Flame was the ultimate armchair adventure! Each chapter was so good, I had a difficult time finding decent stopping points (and as such, stayed up way too late on too many occasions to finish it). Ryan ended each of his chapters with an aggravatingly brilliant hook that just begged you to keep reading (so I did). There was always an abundance of action, adventure, exploration, steampunk, and, of course, dragons. Every element came together brilliantly for, I’ll say it again, one of the best books I’ve ever read.

In both of these books, Ryan takes you on an exploration of this world and allows you to discover its breathtaking histories/mysteries alongside some very memorable characters. This depth of discovery, combined with a very Indiana Jones adventure feel, is truly the magic of these novels and one of my favorite elements. There’s such a sense of wonder with his world-building – stuff that will truly dazzle you. I can’t even begin to guess what he has in store next!

Both books incorporate multiple POVs and they were all equally exciting to read about. Each character was perfectly placed to give us a grand picture of what’s transpiring, and I triple-dog-dare you to pick a favorite – they’re all deserving of the title. If forced, I’d say Lizanne struck a chord with me the most because her personality has a lot of duality, making her very interesting to read about.

Let’s talk about dragons for a minute. The dragons are incredibly well-conceived in this series. So far, their role has been much stronger than I’d dared hope – it truly is a dragon book. I love the varieties, their importance to the human populations, their significance in the story, and, most predominantly, how well they’re being represented. Ryan manages to keep all the things that I think comprise great dragons while simultaneously amping them up with his own twists. They’re brilliant! And if this wasn’t already one of my favorite books for story, characters, and world-building alone, it would be for the dragons.

So because of the amazing characters, seamless blend of fantasy and steampunk, exciting adventures, page-turning plot, and killer use of dragons, Legion of Flame is perfection. I plan to recommend it as often as I can!

I’d like to think Berkley Publishing Group, Anthony Ryan, and Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review an early copy of The Legion of Flame!


The Waking Fire Giveaway!

The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan

The publisher has graciously offered up a paperback copy of The Waking Fire for me to give away to one lucky US resident (I’m very sorry to all of my international followers – you guys are important to me too!). To enter, just take a moment to fill out this rafflecopter giveaway form, and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Giveaway Ended – winner has been contacted. :)

US Residents only, please.
The giveaway will run until Midnight on Thursday, July 6, 2017 MST.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes