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Coming Soon: Iron Gold by Pierce Brown

iron-goldTitle: Iron Gold

Author: Pierce Brown

Series: Iron Gold #1 [Red Rising #4]

Genre: Science Fiction

Release Date: August 22, 2017

The Overview: When you break the chains, what do you unleash?

The new trilogy takes place after the end of Morning Star and will center on the consequences of the hero’s actions as well as on those folks now living and growing up in a landscape that’s had its ruling order shattered. -Goodreads

Nik’s Notes:

If you haven’t yet read Red Rising [check out my Trilogy Review], chances are good that you’ve at least heard of it. And let me assure you, it’s worth every bit of the hype it receives. Iron Gold is a next-generation continuation of the story, and you’d better believe I’m excited to read it. Brown created such a cool framework for his society, and I am most eager to see how it has evolved after Morning Star’s events. August can’t come too soon!

Who else is excited for Iron Gold?!

by Niki Hawkes

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Mini Book Review: Babylon’s Ashes by James S.A. Corey

Title: Babylon’s Ashes

Author: James S.A. Corey

Series: The Expanse #6

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Overview: The Free Navy – a violent group of Belters in black-market military ships – has crippled the Earth and begun a campaign of piracy and violence among the outer planets. The colony ships heading for the thousand new worlds on the far side of the alien ring gates are easy prey, and no single navy remains strong enough to protect them. James Holden and his crew know the strengths and weaknesses of this new force better than anyone. Outnumbered and outgunned, the embattled remnants of the old political powers call on the Rocinante for a desperate mission to reach Medina Station at the heart of the gate network. But the new alliances are as flawed as the old, and the struggle for power has only just begun. As the chaos grows, an alien mystery deepens. Pirate fleets, mutiny, and betrayal may be the least of the Rocinante’s problems. And in the uncanny spaces past the ring gates, the choices of a few damaged and desperate people may determine the fate of more than just humanity. –Goodreads

The  Mini Review:

Babylon’s Ashes is what I’m calling the “stepping stone” novel of the series. Its purpose was to wrap up fallout from the events that happened in the amazingness that was Nemesis Games and set up for what’s to come in Persepolis Rising (which doesn’t have a release date yet, but I’m wagering sometime around December 2017). Because it felt more like a transition novel, I didn’t rate it quite as highly as others in the series. Comparatively, especially coming off of Nemesis Games (possibly my favorite of the series), Babylon’s Ashes had nothing particularly earth-shattering about it. There was definite plot progression, and a few poignant moments, but overall it was a little underwhelming. I also had a difficult time focusing at the beginning until the story really got going, which is unusual.

To clarify – I think Babylon’s Ashes was an important chapter in the saga but it didn’t bring as much action and excitement as its predecessors. What it did bring was lots of good character interactions and, as exciting as the plot can get, it’s these well developed, relatable characters who keep me coming back for more. My favorite character has always been Avasarala (a snarky politician who always says what she thinks – whom incidentally, I was thrilled to see introduced earlier in the TV series), but there are many great ones to choose from. Any one of them could rank as my favorite depending on the day.

So, overall, compared to most books, Babylon’s Ashes was a knockout. Compared to The Expanse series as a whole, it was a little tame. I still love the series though – reading a new Expanse novel feels like coming home. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin

The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemison

Title: The Obelisk Gate

Author: N. K. Jemisin

Series: The Broken Earth #2

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

The Overview: The season of endings grows darker as civilization fades into the long cold night. Alabaster Tenring – madman, world-crusher, savior – has returned with a mission: to train his successor, Essun, and thus seal the fate of the Stillness forever. It continues with a lost daughter, found by the enemy. It continues with the obelisks, and an ancient mystery converging on answers at last. The Stillness is the wall which stands against the flow of tradition, the spark of hope long buried under the thickening ashfall. And it will not be broken. -Goodreads

The Review:

The Broken Earth series is an experience. It’s so off the beaten path of typical fantasy novels that I feel like I’m getting a special treat every time I pick one up.

Jemisin gets major kudos for originality, creating one of the most unique stories I’ve ever read. Her world building and overall concept for the story was delivered with a shadowed, almost creepy atmosphere that will stick with you long after you put it down. The real brilliance lies in the writing. In the Fifth Season, Jemisin wove her story through three different perspectives, the most compelling of which was told in second person (which utilizes the “you” pronoun – “You walk to the edge of the cliff. You don’t much like heights.”) It’s a writing style you don’t see very often because it’s difficult to pull off. The Obelisk Gate was told with two POVs, the primay of which also utilizes second person. The way Jemisin wove all of those POVs into a braided plot was phenomenal.

Obelisk Gate was a strong sequel, keeping all of the amazing attributes from The Fifth Season (for the most part). There weren’t quite as many moving parts, as the story narrowed its focus, but it still had a cool atmosphere, interesting POV’s, and loads of great world building. And answers. A lot of mysteries were introduced in The Fifth Season without really being expanded on. Many events that happened started to make a lot more sense in hindsight after the revelations revealed in Obelisk Gate. What’s more, it set up new questions that promise an epic conclusion with The Stone Sky, currently slotted for release on August 15, 2017.

While reading The Broken Earth trilogy, I constantly marveled at how brilliant I think it is – five stars across the board. When finished, however, I always seem to look back on it fondly, but with a slight pit in my stomach. Some of the scenes are so profound that I doubt I’ll ever forget them, which is a mark of a truly exceptional writer. But it’s that pit that makes me constantly question my rating. I’m not used to books throwing me into such turmoil long after I put them down. I change my mind about the rating for this series on a daily basis, bouncing back and forth between 4 and 5 stars. I’ve landed on a solid 4.5 stars, but regardless of the exact number, just know if you decide to give this series a try, you’re in for a stellar read.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Coming Soon: Vanguard by Ann Aguirre

 [July 25, 2017] Vanguard by Ann Aguirre

Title: Vanguard

Author: Ann Aguirre

Series: Enclave #3

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Release Date: July 25, 2017

The Overview: The Razorland saga continues. Since the war ended, Tegan has dreamed of an epic journey, so when she has the opportunity to sign on as ship’s doctor, she can’t wait. It’s past time to chart her course. Millie Faraday, the kindest girl in the free territories, also yearns to outrun her reputation, and warrior-poet James Morrow would follow Tegan to the ends of the earth. Their company seems set, but fate brings one more to their number. Tegan will battle incredible odds while aiding Szarok, the Uroch vanguard, who has ventured forth to save his people. Szarok is strange and beautiful, like a flower that blooms only in the dark. She shouldn’t allow him close, as such a relationship is both alien and forbidden. But through stormy seas and strange lands, she will become stronger than she ever knew. -Goodreads

Nik’s Notes:

I’m a huge fan of all things Ann Aguirre, and the first three Razorland books were additional shining examples in a long line of great things I’ve read from this author. I really liked where Horde ended things, but am excited to see what she has in store for us next in Vanguard (which is a spinoff of sorts following a different character). This series has a great post-apocalyptic feel, interesting characters, and zombie-like creatures who were creepy af. I may not read this one right away, but I’m definitely still looking forward to it.

What new releases are you excited for?

by Niki Hawkes

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Mini Book Review: Bad Blood by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

bad blood

Title: Bad Blood

Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Series: The Naturals #4

Genre: Teen Fiction

Rating: 5/5 stars!

The OverviewWhen Cassie Hobbes joined the FBI’s Naturals program, she had one goal: uncover the truth about her mother’s murder. But now, everything Cassie thought she knew about what happened that night has been called into question. Her mother is alive, and the people holding her captive are more powerful—and dangerous—than anything the Naturals have faced so far. As Cassie and the team work to uncover the secrets of a group that has been killing in secret for generations, they find themselves racing a ticking clock. New victims. New betrayals. New secrets. When the bodies begin piling up, it soon becomes apparent that this time, the Naturals aren’t just hunting serial killers.

The Mini Review:

This book. This series. Is perfection.

Need more convincing?

Niki Reviews The Naturals – in which I gush profusely.
Niki Reviews Killer Instinct – in which the gushing continues.
Niki Reviews All In – in which I completely lose my shit.

Seriously. It’s my all-time favorite series. Read it.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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The Obsessive Bookseller Simplifies Life in 2017

simplifies-life-2017

My life is in an upheaval. In early October, my husband and I decided it was time to move into a bigger place. You see, we welcomed our first little one into our family in June and it was clear that our tiny townhouse just wasn’t going to cut it anymore. We listed our home, figuring we’d have at least a month or two to find a new one before it sold. WRONG! We had three offers within 48 hours, and that “month or two” turned into three weeks. Stressful, right? Trying to find our new “forever” home while taking care of a baby, working full-time, and orchestrating the headache that is buying/selling property was enough to make me a basket case. Fast-forward two months – we never found anything we liked, so we decided to build the “dream house.” Luckily, my in-laws are amazing people and allowed my family to move into their vacation condo for the seven month wait until our new house is finished. All of our crap is in boxes, but at least we have a roof over our heads. Things are working out, but my life is still a cluster-f*ck (or clutter-f*ck, as the case may be).

There are a few things I need to explain about myself: I like order, I like calm, and I like well-laid-out plans. None of these things have been prevalent in my life for the last three months. I don’t have control over anything and it’s driving me crazy. Being so continually displaced is also causing me no end of stress, to the point where I practically snarled at a rude customer service representative the other day – something I’d NEVER have done in the past (and still feel guilty about). That was the moment I realized I wasn’t handling all of these changes as well as I thought I was. It made me take a long look at my situation and, after chanting The Serenity Prayer for ten hours straight, I came up with a game plan:

I’m going to organize the shit out of my life to help alleviate some stress.

When I’m stressed, I organize. It’s how I cope. I find the process of focusing completely on a task calming and I always look forward to that satisfying pump of endorphins after completing a project. There are too many things about my life that are uncontrollable right now. In 2017, I’m going to focus on the things I CAN control and de-clutter my life as much as possible. Stress relief now, happier, more organized life later. Win-win.

Therefore, I’m dedicating every month in 2017 to a single aspect of my life that I’d like to simplify and will share insights and updates as I tackle each stress-inducing item. Since I can’t really dig into a lot of household stressors until we make our move halfway through the year, I’m going to start with as many digital things as I can.


January: Blog Love
[Over the years I have clicked “follow” on so many blogs that every time I log on to read posts, I get overwhelmed. My goal is to reduce the number of blogs followed and establish a system to be a better blog-buddy.]

February: Book Journaling
[My version of bullet journaling that focuses solely on organizing books and blogging]

March: Goodreads
[Where I revamp my shelves, my friends lists, and figure out how to utilize Goodreads to its fullest.]

April: Food
[This might seem like a weird topic, but if one more thing falls out of the freezer onto my foot, I’m going to scream. I’ve also been wanting to get more serious about my eating habits, and that requires planning and organizing]

May: Freebie
[To be determined]

June: The House Project
[June is when our house is projected to be completed, but I’m not holding my breath. Whatever month sees it’s actual completion (I’ll rearrange topics then), I’m going to take the opportunity to hyper-organize my new living space as I unpack.]

July: The Forgotten Junk Files
[One month after I organize my new house, I’m going to focus on getting rid of things I don’t remember owning. Also, if it’s not useful or beautiful, it goes!]

August: Clothes
[In which I take a long look at my closet and get rid of things I never wear but always seem to hold on to. This will also be an excellent opportunity for me to pull myself out of that “new mom” wardrobe, which primarily consists of jeans and sweatshirts (notice I’m in no hurry to get to this one). ;-)]

September: Books, Books, & More Books!
[I’m lucky enough to have an entire room in this new house dedicated to books. My particleboard shelves are looking pretty shabby these days and have been bowing under the weight of all my books. I want to beautify and downsize my library until it’s something I can be proud of again.]

October: Photos
[I made a ton of progress in early 2016, organizing all the digital photos on my computer. I even got ahead of the game, printing out photos and putting them into scrapbooks within a month of taking them. Being displaced has knocked me off my game, and I’m hoping to get back into a routine by the end of next year.]

November: Another Freebie
[To be determined – probably a follow-up on one of the other topics that I didn’t complete to my satisfaction.]

December: Keepsakes
[By now, my new house should be organized (hopefully), and I’ll be into somewhat of a normal routine, it’s now time to go through the dozen or so “keepsake” totes I’ve been hauling around all of my adult life. This is going to be the most difficult because I’m incredibly sentimental, but the weight of all of this stuff following me around has finally cracked my spine – I’ve had enough!]


I normally do a top ten goals post at the beginning of every year and, although I usually end up completing most of my set goals, that type of post doesn’t really give specific calls to action (and I’m feeling incredibly proactive). This new format is hopefully going to keep me occupied all year. Each month I’ll share my progress and insights on each topic as I move closer to regaining my sanity. :P

What are your goals for 2017?

by Niki Hawkes