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Book Review: Yendi by Steven Brust

Yendi by Stephen Brust

Title: Yendi

Author: Steven Brust

Series: Vlad Taltos #2

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Overview: Vlad Taltos tells the story of his early days in the House Jhereg, how he found himself in a Jhereg war, and how he fell in love with the wonderful woman, Cawti. -Goodreads

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The Review:

If I had to sum up the Vlad Taltos series in one word, it would be: unconventional. The writing voice is all over the place, flitting between past and present, from in-the-moment to addressing the reader directly. It’s as if Steven Brust took one look at the rules of writing and said, “eff those, I’m going to write however I please.” In my opinion, that’s playing with fire, but some of the most poignant writers take those risks all the time (I’m a firm believer that you must know them well first to break them well). There are places where I thought he took it a little too far, and the heavy voice definitely takes a bit to get used to, but his odd writing style is part of what makes the story so interesting.

Brust also throws you in the deep end of this world to either sink or swim, explaining precisely nothing about the dozens of references he makes throughout the story. He will throw in an occasional anecdote here and there, but for the most part you’re on your own. The first 25% of Yendi required a lot more concentration than normal and I didn’t start enjoying the story until I got (mostly) acclimated.

My favorite thing about the series so far is what feels to me like a merging of genres. It’s definitely a fantasy world but it’s presented with a mystery-driven plot and overlay of humor that reads more like an urban fantasy. I will definitely be continuing on. I plan to use this series as a palate-cleanser every time I get sick of the same old stuff.

Recommendations: Venture into this series with a “just go with it” mentality and be prepared for the atypical. I’d hand this to anyone who might appreciate a fantasy/urban fantasy/mystery tale all bundled into one. I would avoid handing it to someone with risk-adverse reading tastes (or people trying to get their feet wet in the genre).

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: The Last Colony by John Scalzi

The Last Colony by John Scalzi

Title: The Last Colony

Author: John Scalzi

Series: Old Man’s War #3

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Overview: Retired from his fighting days, John Perry is now village ombudsman for a human colony on distant Huckleberry. With his wife, former Special Forces warrior Jane Sagan, he farms several acres, adjudicates local disputes, and enjoys watching his adopted daughter grow up.

That is, until his and Jane’s past reaches out to bring them back into the game–as leaders of a new human colony, to be peopled by settlers from all the major human worlds, for a deep political purpose that will put Perry and Sagan back in the thick of interstellar politics, betrayal, and war. -Goodreads

The Review:

This is the point in the series where the story needed to make me fall in love with it as much as the first book did. Coming off a decent, albeit underwhelming second novel (Ghost Brigade), I wanted Last Colony to evolve into a series I could endorse as passionately as The Expanse. Alas, while I was thoroughly entertained from start to finish, the book did leave a few points to be desired.

My biggest complaint is the lack of description. Scalzi has all of these interesting alien species, but I’m at the halfway point in the series and couldn’t begin to tell you what they look like. I love myself some xenobiology, but I feel the author has taken what should be a selling point to the series and glazed over it with ambiguity.

At least Last Colony saw the return of my fav, John Perry, and an interesting convergence of storylines from the first two books. The humor came back in force and played a huge factor in my overall enjoyment.

At the end of the day, while I’ve concluded there are some weaknesses to this series, all the strengths add up to give me an easy sci-fi,  perfect for a light reading mood. My Fantasy Buddy Reads group on Goodreads has called it “hefty fluff” or “fluff-plus” and I don’t think it inaccurate. I would definitely recommend it anyday for someone in the mood for a bit of fun.

Other books you might like:

 

by Niki Hawkes

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Tackling the TBR [27]: October 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.
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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:

October 2017 TBR Tackler Shelf:

Last month I finished most of the titles on my TBR Shelf (yay). Every book listed this month, with two exceptions, is helping me make progress on my Incomplete Series List. I’m making a concerted effort to get below 20 open series by July 2018, and I’m off to a great start (down from 129 at the beginning of the year… I DNFed a bunch). I have a whole bunch of new series lined up for 2018, so I’m hoping to have many of these squared away before then. There’s a fine balance between completing lots of series for the challenge, but still keeping in mind reading the best books first. Sometimes the two don’t get along. :P

Tackler Carry-Overs

I decided I’m only allowed 5 carry-overs. If I don’t get to it in 2 months, it’s probably not as high-priority as I thought, lol. I know you are all probably sick of seeing Demon Spirit on my list. So am I…


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

September 2017 Titles Tackled:

Niki’s September 2017 Progress Update:

Series Finished: 1
Magician’s End Raymond E. Feist

 Series Brought UTD: 4
Nyxia – Scott Reintgen
A Dragon of a Different Color – Rachel Aaron
Apex – Mercedes Lackey

Series Progressed: 8
Heart’s Blood – Jane Yolen
A Sending of Dragons – Jane Yolen
Gods of Risk – James S.A. Corey
Magic Steals – Ilona Andrews
A Crown Imperiled – Raymond E. Feist
Yendi – Steven Brust
The Vital Abyss – James S.A. Corey
Zoe’s Tale – John Scalzi

New Series Started: 2
Nyxia – Scott Reintgen
The Shadow of What Was Lost – James Islington

Abandoned: 0
Dragon’s Blood [3/4] – Jane Yolen

YTD Totals:
Finished Series: 9
Up To Date Series: 19
Series Progressed: 40
New Series Started: 18
Abandoned: 5

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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Book Review: Nyxia by Scott Reintgen

Title: Nyxia

Author: Scott Reintgen

Series: The Nyxia Triad #1

Genre: Teen Sci-fi

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

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

The Review:

Red Rising Fans: I have a YA recommendation for you.

As someone who has admitted to having trouble with young adult books lately, it should come with some extra weight that I loved Nyxia. It had a fun concept, fantastic competitions, and a page-turning story that promises even more in the books to come. So, personal endorsements aside, I think it’s important to know what you’re signing up for with Nyxia. All the advertising I’ve seen for it describes a gritty Hunger Games in space read that initially gave me the impression teens were being dropped on a planet (much like The 100) and forced to fight for survival/domination. While this might be true in future books, at the moment the story has very little to do with either space or new world discovery (other than on the periphery).

It is, in fact, a story much more similar to Survivor (the show) than Hunger Games, where teens subject themselves to grueling competition for eventual monetary rewards. Aside from the cool technology, this story could have taken place at any old facility on Earth. The “space” element of the whole thing was in concept only and definitely an under-realized aspect of the book.

But you know what? The characters and their competitions were so dang interesting, I didn’t care one whit about the lack of world-building.

I am a huge sucker for a book with a good competition and Nyxia contained a nice variety of challenges that had me page-turning endlessly to see what would happen next! Based on how I normally evaluate books, Nyxia would receive a solid 4 stars. But because it struck a chord with me (for how well it did the things it did well), I’m giving it an extra .5 for that intangible “it” factor. I can’t wait for the next one!

<b>Recommendations:</b> I think the characters, the writing style, and the overall concept would definitely appeal to Red Rising fans, especially if you don’t mind the occasional YA read. It doesn’t have the same grit, but I’m hoping it is shaping up to have the same heart. Don’t go into this one expecting space-exploration and new world discoveries. Go in expecting great competition and loads of fun.

Other books you might like:

 by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: A Crown Imperiled by Raymond E. Feist

A Crown Imperiled by Raymon E. Feist

Title: A Crown Imperiled

Author: Raymond E. Feist

Series: The Chaoswar Saga #2

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 2/5 stars

The Overview: War rages in Midkemia but behind the chaos there is disquieting evidence of dark forces at work. Jim Dasher’s usually infallible intelligence network has been cleverly dismantled; nowhere is safe. He feels that the world is coming apart at the seams and is helpless to protect his nation. Quiet palace coups are underway in Roldem and Rillanon; and King Gregory of the Isles has yet to produce an heir. In each kingdom a single petty noble has risen from obscurity to threaten the throne. Lord Hal of Crydee and his great friend Ty Hawkins, champion swordsman of the Masters’ Court, are entrusted with the task of smuggling Princess Stephané and her lady-in-waiting, the lovely but mysterious Lady Gabriella, out of Roldem to a place of greater safety. But is there any safe haven to be found? Meanwhile, Hal’s younger brothers Martin and Brendan are attempting to hold the strategic city of Ylith against an onslaught of Keshian Dog Soldiers, and a mysterious force from beneath the sea. The Kingdom might lose Crydee and recover; but if Ylith falls, all is lost. An unknown player appears to be orchestrating these conflicts. Can Pug and the Conclave of Shadows track down this source before Midkemia is destroyed? -Goodreads

The Review:

Unfortunately, A Crown Imperiled didn’t do much to improve my opinion of these later Riftwar books.

I’ve torn apart the first book in this trilogy (A Kingdom Besieged) for its lack of plot advancement and over-dependency on nostalgia for the original characters. The lack of plot advancement continues in the second book with a vengeance, where all notable events can be counted on one hand (made worse by diction that refuses to use contractions, making every sentence annoyingly drawn out… much like the story (ouch)). If Feist spent the same amount of effort developing these new characters as he did reminding us how great his past ones were, I might have been more forgiving about the pacing. The scenes where he was in the moment, focusing on the here-and-now were the best bits of the book and likely the only parts I’ll choose to remember. Overall, though, I found very little value in most of what was presented in the first 80% of the book.

And then he bomb-dropped a 5-star final chapter.

This pissed me off, frankly, because it’s more evidence towards my theory that he was just phoning it in at this point and the publisher was letting him get away with it. The last chapters prove to me that he still knows how to work his magic when he wants to. In fact, the last chapter was so interesting, I’m crossing my fingers that Magician’s End, the saga-ender, makes me eat crow about every negative thing I’ve said about this trilogy so far.

Please keep in mind that I’ve loved EVERYTHING (except for the Krondor Trilogy) up until these last several books. At this point, I’d advocate stopping after the Conclave of Shadows trilogy… maybe after the Darkwar Saga. However, the jury remains out until I finish the final book. Wish me luck…

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: The Fall of the Dagger by Glenda Larke

The Fall of the Dagger by Glenda Larke

Title: The Fall of Dagger

Author: Glenda Larke

Series: The Forsaken Lands #3

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: Sorcerers, pirates, and thieves collide in this thrilling conclusion to Glenda Larke’s epic fantasy adventure series, The Forsaken Lands. -Goodreads

I guess that sums it up.

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The Review:

There are a lot of reasons Glenda Larke is one of my favorite authors: 1. Her beautiful, seemingly effortless writing that lets me just sit back and immerse myself in the story, 2. Her exotic world-building that always takes me to the coolest places (all of you Sanderson fans clamoring for more in the Sixth of Dusk world should pick up a Glenda Lark series for the same encompassing atmospheres spread throughout her trilogies), 3. Her characters, who aren’t perfect, but are endearing in their humanity, and 4. Her infusion of nature (flora/fauna) into the stories. She’s one of my trusted guaranteed-good-read authors.

I can’t decide whether Fall of the Dagger or Dagger’s Path (book 2) is my favorite of the trilogy. Daggers Path had so many good moments (and my favorite setting of the trilogy), but Fall of the Dagger was a very satisfying trilogy-ender with more action. I especially like this series because of the characters. Each POV, while not terribly complex in motivation, always seemed earnest and realistic. I can’t quite put my finger on why I like them so much, suffice to say that I was always invested in their plight. The magic system in this series is also a selling point – there’s an avian-centric magic system that I’ve never come across before that appealed to me with its originality.

Compared to Glenda Larke’s other books, my favorite is still either the Isles of Glory Trilogy or the Watergivers Trilogy, but this one has definitely earned its keep among them. If I’m honest, it’s not a complete “knock-your-socks-off” fantasy read that will shred your soul (like Robin Hobb), but it’s still fun adventure to get absorbed in. I enjoyed them immensely.

Other books you might like:

 by Niki Hawkes