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DNF Q&A: Firstlife by Gena Showalter

Firstlife by Gena Showalter

Title: Firstlife

Author: Gena Showalter

Series: Everlife #1

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Rating: DNF Rating

The OverviewTenley “Ten” Lockwood is an average seventeen-year-old girl…who has spent the past thirteen months locked inside the Prynne Asylum. The reason? Not her obsession with numbers, but her refusal to let her parents choose where she’ll live—after she dies. There is an eternal truth most of the world has come to accept: Firstlife is merely a dress rehearsal, and real life begins after death.

In the Everlife, two realms are in power: Troika and Myriad, longtime enemies and deadly rivals. Both will do anything to recruit Ten, including sending their top Laborers to lure her to their side. Soon, Ten finds herself on the run, caught in a wild tug-of-war between the two realms who will do anything to win the right to her soul. Who can she trust? And what if the realm she’s drawn to isn’t home to the boy she’s falling for? She just has to stay alive long enough to make a decision… -Goodreads

The DNF Q&A:

This is a reviewing feature I’ve been eyeballing on one of my favorite book blogs There Were Books Involved for a couple years now because I think it’s an excellent way to talk about an unfinished book fairly. I’m incredibly grateful because Nikki (the brains behind the blog, who has a most excellent name)  kindly allowed me to steal the idea and questions for my own blog. As my list of “amazing books to read” continues to grow, I find I have less and less time and patience to devote to the books I’m just not enjoying. I never would have considered DNFing a book ten years ago, but then I came across a quote, “Read the best books first, for you might not have the chance to read them all,” and have since made it my personal mantra. Life’s too short to read books you’re just not enjoying. So let the Q&A begin!

Did you really give Firstlife a chance?

Yes – I made it about halfway through before setting it aside.

Have you enjoyed other books in the same genre before?

I’ve loved a lot of things from the YA genre, although I admit lately I’ve had less patience for teen angst in general. I haven’t read anything quite like Firstlife before, but it had vague similarities to these other titles, which I enjoyed (mostly):

Did you have certain expectations before starting it?

Unfortunately I had low expectations going into Firstlife, but decided to pick it up despite a few negative reviews. Even more unfortunate was that it lived up to my low expectations.

What ultimately made you stop reading?

Two things: 1. It was just too bloody weird. Now, I’ve always appreciated Showalter for dancing to her own drum (a quality I’ve adored in other works of hers), but Firstlife was a bit too far-reaching even for me. The very beginning explains these “influencers” of the two philosophical groups venturing down to the “Firstlife” world to influence the main character to join their side. Both influencers are male, but one goes down in a girl’s body… it was weird. It, along with an odd sequence of events, was just too weird for me. Did I mention it was weird?

2. I did not like the main character, finding her decisions contradictory (which I hate). She was supposed to be this tough, somewhat stubborn girl who chose to undergo imprisonment and physical torture rather than stray from her convictions. But, as soon as the two “influencers” walked-in, she started waffling about everything before they’d even really made their pitch on why she should join their side. Especially the boy – all he had to do was ask her to jump and she’d say “how high?” It was a frustrating contradiction of character – she came across very weak minded when the framework of the story set her up as someone incredibly strong unswayable. I really, really hated that.

Was there anything you liked about Firstlife? 

I liked a lot of things at first, such as character, world building, and story, but quickly soured to all of them because of the issues listed above.

Would you read anything else by this author? 

Yes, although I’m now terrified to read her other YA trilogy – signed hardcovers I’ve had on my shelf for ages. If I ever need a delightfully cheesy paranormal romance, however, she’s still one of my first picks.

So you DNF’d the book – would you still recommend it?

I don’t think so. There are too many other books I’d recommend first.

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Blood Cross by Faith Hunter

Blood Cross by Faith Hunter

Title: Blood Cross

Author: Faith Hunter

Series: Jane Yellowrock #2

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

The Overview: The vampire council has hired skinwalker Jane Yellowrock to hunt and kill one of their own who has broken sacred ancient rules — but Jane quickly realizes that in a community that is thousands of years old, loyalties run deep…

With the help of her witch best friend and local vigilantes, Jane finds herself caught between bitter rivalries — and closer than ever to the secret origin of the entire vampire race. But in a city of old grudges and dark magic, Jane will have to fight to protect both sides, even if no one will protect her. -Goodreads
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The Review:

I’m not going to lie (as if I usually do) – I struggled with this book a bit, especially at the beginning. It was really slow and I kept waiting for something to make me care what was going on. The inciting moment came waaaaaay too far in for my tastes, and there were also a lot of needlessly repeating elements. The only thing that got me through was the memory of how much I liked Skinwalker.

Once things got going, however, I ended up liking it. Enough that I’ll definitely be picking up the third one at some point… with some reservations. I still wanted a bit more New Orleans culture infusion, which I thought gave the first book a cool understated atmosphere. I also don’t remember such a heavy focus on sex in Skinwalker, but Blood Cross felt amped up in that category. I admit part of my dissatisfaction with the first half was because I got tired of hearing how horny the main character was (in place of plot advancement, anyway. If the two were happening simultaneously I may not have noticed). This author also has a slightly annoying habit of writing in incomplete sentences. I get it that it’s just her writing style, but I feel at this point she’s sacrificing clarity for artistry.

Overall, I was split down the middle with Blood Cross, but at the end of the day enjoyed it enough to keep reading. It had good mystery, interesting characters, and decent supernatural elements. The next book will be critical in determining whether or not I invest in more of the series.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Coming Soon: Buried Heart by Kate Elliott

July 25, 2017

Title: Buried Heart

Author: Kate Elliott

Series: Court of Fives #3

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Release Date: July 25, 2017

The Overview: In this third book in the epic Court of Fives series, Jessamy is the crux of a revolution forged by the Commoner class hoping to overthrow their longtime Patron overlords. But enemies from foreign lands have attacked the kingdom, and Jes must find a way to unite the Commoners and Patrons to defend their home and all the people she loves. Will her status as a prominent champion athlete be enough to bring together those who have despised one another since long before her birth? Will she be able to keep her family out of the clutches of the evil Lord Gargaron? And will her relationship with Prince Kalliarkos remain strong when they find themselves on opposite sides of a war?  -Goodreads

Nik’s Notes:

Court of Fives and Poisoned Blade were among some of the better YA books I read in 2016, and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how this interesting trilogy ends with Buried Heart. I love the main character and her sisters, the cool American Ninja Warrior style competition, and high fantasy-ish feel. I had a couple of plausibility issues with Poisoned Blade, so I have my fingers crossed that the final installment will be a lot better. The storyline has been building a great momentum thus far and I am fully expecting a blowout ending!

Who else is excited for this one? :-)

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan

The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan

Title: The Waking Fire

Author: Anthony Ryan

Series: The Draconis Memoria #1

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 5/5 stars!

The Overview: The Waking Fire is set in a vibrant new world where the blood of drakes—creatures similar to dragons—is valued beyond reckoning, and can be distilled into elixirs that grant fearsome powers to those who are “blood-blessed.” The novel follows an unregistered blood-blessed as he searches for an elusive variety of drake so potent, its capture would mean unrivalled riches; the second in command of a blood-burning ironclad ship; and a young woman in a lifelong contract to a trading syndicate, whose espionage mission places her on the front lines of a newly declared war. As empires clash and arcane mysteries reveal themselves, these characters are tested again and again and soon discover that the fate of the world rests on their shoulders. -Goodreads

The Review: 

Have you ever read a book that felt like it was written just for you? That’s how The Waking Fire made me feel. It had everything I love in fantasy novels and then some. And it was also one of the best dragon books I’ve ever read – nice!

The Waking Fire was a cool merge of dragon-centric high fantasy and 1920s era steampunk. It was filled with an abundance of exotic settings – everything from the high seas to ancient ruins deep in the jungle. It took a while before dragons really became the champions of the story, but they were definitely integral to the plot from the very beginning. The entire novel revolves around dragon blood and how each type can provide magical properties to a handful of gifted humans. It read very much like Sanderson’s Mistborn saga (where metals provide these properties rather than dragon blood), which is why I think fans of that series would most definitely enjoyed this one (and vice versa).

The Waking Fire is a multiple POV story, and I’d have a hard time telling you which perspective I enjoyed the most – they were all good! One thing I’ve always appreciated about Ryan’s work is that his female characters are always strong harbingers of change equal to his male characters. I wouldn’t say I found any of the women in The Waking Fire particularly relatable, but they were all equally kickass and interesting.

This book is one amazing armchair adventure that will give you one surprise after another. There were many passages I reread because the content was so dang cool, especially near the end. This book will punch you in the gut the entire way through and make you love every moment.

Overall, with the combination of dragons, exotic settings, amazing characters, great writing, and surprising plot, The Waking Fire is officially one of my new favorite books. I highly recommend it to fantasy fans, especially if you loved Blood Song – the first book in Ryan’s Raven’s Shadow Trilogy.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

 

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The Obsessive Bookseller Simplifies Life [2]: Book Journaling

simplifies-life-2017

In case you missed my Introductory Post, my world was in such an upheaval that I was forced to take drastic measures by simplifying and organizing all the things that caused me stress. Each month, in 2017, I’m tackling different aspects of my life that are clutter-stressors by organizing and altering them into things that bring me joy.


February 2017: Book Journaling

A few months ago I came across a blog post for bullet journaling for the first time… O_o!! Where has this been?! I’m clearly super behind the times, because how can uber-organized color-coding, creative awesomeness that allows you to track goals and see progress have not popped on to my radar before now? Sign me up!

As it happens, I was in some desperate need of organization (see Introductory Post above). I also had a million cute notebooks just waiting to be used in a meaningful way. Unfortunately, most bullet journaling topics weren’t things I felt compelled to keep track of on a daily basis. But there was one topic that definitely sparked my interest:

The Bookshelf:

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If you search Pinterest for bullet journaling ideas about books, this is pretty much what you get (many a lot more creative than my own). You can “stack” your books anyway you’d like, but I discovered pretty quickly that I like mine orderly. Also, with the straight up and down approach, I can add little boxes underneath each book to track reading completions. This bookshelf ignited a bunch of other book related tracking ideas that I’m excited to share with you. Instead of bullet journaling, I’m book journaling!

The Book Journal:

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I have so many different bookish things to keep track of and my Book Journal has completely revolutionized how I do practically everything. Before, I was relying on a complicated mix of jotted notes, half-assed Goodreads lists, and memory. Now, everything, and I mean EVERYTHING I could possibly need to reference is organized in one place – a cute little notebook that I carry everywhere with me (because, you know, books are life). Here are some of the things I track with it:

The Blogging Schedule:

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Not only has this tracker allowed me to schedule posts ahead for the first time in my blogging career, but it has also given me a quick snapshot of titles I need to review. It also helps me remember which Thursdays I’m supposed to review for The Independent (a local newspaper), which often used to slip through my memory. The Blogging Schedule is definitely the Book Journaling component I’ve referred to most often.

The TBR Tackler Shelf:

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I do my Tackling the TBR every month, but I’d have to come up with titles on the spot (which wasn’t working well with my intent to spend less and utilize the library more – many titles have to be put on hold weeks before I want to read them). Now, I can plan ahead. But the BEST PART is that I now have a quick reference to see what’s on my reading list without having to log on to my blog and navigate to the post every time. I love being able to check the boxes underneath each title when finished and see my progress over each month. I put a little half slash in the box of the currently reading titles. I also use it to track upcoming Buddy Reads with my Goodreads group so I don’t overbook myself… no pun intended. Of all the things I track in my Book Journal, the TBR shelf is by far my favorite.

The Currently Reading Shelf:

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I used to take copious notes about the books that I was reading, but found that I was spending way more time on the notes that I was the review itself. Also, I’d write them in any handy notebook, which means when it actually came time to write the review, I’d inevitably be without the correct one. All I really needed was a place for notes to jar my memory, and this element of my Book Journal works perfectly for that.

The Unfinished Series Shelf:

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THIS! I have a nifty Incomplete Series List over with my Goodreads group, but this format was a lot more fun to create and refer to. It allows me to see if I’m up-to-date on any given series instantly, which definitely helps me prioritize going forward, as I usually look at these pages when planning out my upcoming TBR Tackler Shelves.

1500 for 1 challenge:

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I’ve been referring to this for ages. Basically, I get to buy 1 book for every 1500 pages I read. It’s an amazing system which helps me moderate spending, read books I already own, and feel like I’m accomplishing something. I already tracked pages just like this in another notebook, so there was no doubt that this had to be included in the Journal.

The Wish lists:

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Bring on the Bookshelves!!! I think about books a lot. I found myself spending several hours a week logging on to audible or my library’s website just to remind myself what I had in the wishlists. It was a weird compulsion and total waste of time, but for some reason it bothered me not being able to remember the 100+ titles in each one. In any case, since I transferred those titles to the Book Journal, I haven’t been back since! This, more than anything else, was a time and sanity saver.


Overall, this project has been one of the most rewarding I’ve ever undertaken. I treat this journal like it’s a work of art in progress and find myself flipping through the pages just to appreciate what I’ve done. Honestly, once you figure out spacing and formatting for each type of tracker, it doesn’t take long to create. I spend maybe ten minutes a day updating it (which my boss would probably call shirking). But compared to how much time I was wasting trying to find information spread out all over, it definitely is the most efficient thing I could have done. It’s literally a one-stop shop for everything book related in my life – what could be better than that? :-)

Project Status: Book Journaling Simplified!

by Niki Hawkes

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Mini Book Review: Gauntlgrym by R.A. Salvatore

gauntlgrymTitle: Gauntlgrym

Author: R. A. Salvatore

Series: Neverwinter #1

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3/5 stars

The OverviewDrizzt joins Bruenor on his quest for the fabled dwarven kingdom of Gauntlgrym: ruins said to be rich with ancient treasure and arcane lore. But before they even get close, another drow and dwarf pair stumbles across it first: Jarlaxle and Athrogate. In their search for treasure and magic, Jarlaxle and Athrogate inadvertently set into motion a catastrophe that could spell disaster for the unsuspecting people of the city of Neverwinter–a catastrophe big enough to lure even the mercenary Jarlaxle into risking his own coin and skin to stop it. Unfortunately, the more they uncover about the secret of Gauntlgrym, the more it looks like they can’t stop it on their own. They’ll need help, and from the last people they ever thought to fight alongside again: Drizzt and Bruenor. -Goodreads

The Mini Review: 

Salvatore strikes again! I took a little break from this saga after The Ghost King (which ripped out my heart), but picking up Gauntlgrym after all that time felt like coming home.

Salvatore is known for his detailed hand-to-hand combat scenes, which pack a lot of excitement into his books. I have to say, after 20 or so novels of the same back-and-forth swordplay, I started to get a little… bored isn’t the right word, but let’s just say it lacks a bit of the thrill it once had for me. That said, I can’t imagine a Drizzt book without intricate fight scenes, so you really can’t win with me. ;P

Gauntlgrym’s storyline required an unusual passage of time compared to others in the series, which was a cool change of pace that kept me interested throughout. I also loved the mix of new and old characters – the elf woman (cover image), among my new favorites.

Overall, Gauntlgrym (I am proud to say that I can finally spell it without having to look it up– go me!) was a fun installment and excellent continuation of the series. Although it was nowhere near my favorite of the saga, I’m still excited to start Neverwinter sometime soon.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes