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Tackling the TBR [68]: April 2021

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:

April 2021 TBR Tackler Shelf:

I’m mostly satisfied with my reading completion in March. I finally finished Deadhouse Gates and managed to also find time for Blood Heir by Ilona Andrews and The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie. I went back to work from maternity leave and have been striving to find a balance between work/kids/reading. I discovered I missed my littles so much while I was at work that I didn’t bust out my headphones very often while home with them. Reading may have to transition to something I do at work and during commutes, which doesn’t offer a lot of time throughout the week. Careful title selection will be even more key than ever because if I’m going to find precious time to read, the book better at least be something I’m really going to enjoy. 

To that end, I’m continuing series with authors I already know and love and starting a new YA trilogy for my book club. Maybe by this time next month I’ll have found a new rhythm. 


Have a great month in reading!

by Niki Hawkes

 

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Tackling the TBR [67]: March 2021

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:

March 2021 TBR Tackler Shelf:

Whelp that didn’t go well.

I’m about 60% through Deadhouse Gates (I’ve been reading consistently, it’s just really dense) and 20% through The Heroes, but other than that haven’t touched my TBR for February. I might have made more progress, but my hold for Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang came in a week or two before my hold on The Heroes, so I decided to read that one instead since it was technically a carry over from January. I’m annoyed I’m so far behind my planned reading schedule for the year already, but really, it was developed more to help me stay focused on the titles that matter most rather than to be a do-or-die regiment. I really shouldn’t have decided to take on Malazan if I wanted to stick to a schedule, anyway.

So my TBR Tackler Shelf is identical to February’s and as much as that bugs me, it definitely reflects my reading life accurately. Hopefully I’ll be able to make a dent in it this month. I do return to work from maternity leave in a couple weeks, so that should give me a little more quiet time to absorb more books (surprisingly it’s not the newborn sapping my mental energy, but my four-year-old. I love him so much, but his constant chatter and need for attention make it impossible for me to read heavy fantasy novels when he’s home. #momlife).


Have a great month in reading!

by Niki Hawkes

 

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Tackling the TBR [66]: February 2021

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:

February 2021 TBR Tackler Shelf:

I may have been a little overly optimistic for my January selections. Deadhouse Gates is fantastic so far but going MUCH slower than I’d anticipated because I’m reading it at a snail’s pace. Not to mention I had a baby this month and the combination of sleep deprivation and taking care of a tiny human doesn’t leave me a lot of reading time. In any case, I bumped a title off my list for February to give myself a chance to finish DG, then on to another Abercrombie and a much-anticipated buddy read for Malice. I don’t think I’m going to get through them all this month, but at least I’m focusing on the best books first. Progress not perfection, as they say.

I did some reading analytics at the end of 2020 and realized 90% of the books I was rating poorly were YA, yet I read almost 20 of them last year. On the flip side, almost all of the fantasy books I read got high ratings (I was really selective in choosing my titles, so this didn’t surprise me). It occurred to me that all of that effort I’m spending on books I’m not really liking could be much better spent on ones I’m statistically more likely to enjoy based on my analysis. So 2021 has become the year of as many fantasy novels as I can possibly cram in. Consisting of Malazan, Faithful and the Fallen, First Law, and many others I’ve been “saving” for a rainy day. I’m cashing in for the rainy year that was 2020. So far this change has served me well. 


Have a great month in reading!

by Niki Hawkes

 

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Top Ten Books Read in 2020

2020 was a year of a lot of negative things, but thankfully reading wasn’t one of them. Upon consideration, it’s probably the only thing in my life that remained consistent, for which I’m grateful. Out of the 75 books finished, I managed to pick ten favorites to highlight in this post.

Top Ten Books Read in 2020

1. The Light of All That Falls by James Islington: Really, this is for the entire trilogy, as I reread the first two this year before finishing it out. Such great characters, complex plot lines, and absorbing writing. To decide on which book/series would get my top spot, I thought about which one I would most regret not having read. This series edged out my #2 and #3 spot by a smidge. Mostly because of the fantastic ending.

2. Blood of Empire by Brian McClellan: I also read the whole Gods of Blood and Powder trilogy this year and loved it just as much as the Powder Mage trilogy (Promise of Blood is still my favorite book of the lot). I love the dry humor, the subtle magic system, and the many evoking relationships between all the characters. With his works to date, McClellan is now in my top 5 favorite authors category. I can’t wait for his next book to come out.

3. Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie: my final full trilogy read this year to make the list, and one I can’t believe I hadn’t read before now. It took a while to get going, but this series is one of the best in the genre for so many reasons. It has one of my all-time favorite characters (Glokta) and is written brilliantly. I swear I don’t know how the author does it, but he someone managed to make me laugh out loud during a brutal torture scene. Of all the authors in my TBR, Abercrombie is the one I’m most excited to devour in 2021.

4. Smoke Bitten by Patricia Briggs: having not liked the previous book in the Mercy Thompson series, I was thrilled how much I loved this one. It brought back everything I appreciated about the series, had a fun mystery, and was the exciting page-turner I’d been hoping for.

5. Emerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews: I swear any new book by these authors ends up on my top lists. They are so good! Catalina is one of their most relatable characters to date, and I love her relationships with the other characters – I really can’t wait to see how some things play out. For a series with cheesy covers that’s technically supposed to be marketed to paranormal romance readers, it is a massively robust and complex world on par with the best urban fantasies I’ve ever read.

6. Deadly Education by Naomi Novik: this book took me by surprise in the best way possible. It started out with a really unlikable character who somehow evolved into an unlikable character I enjoyed reading about. The premise for the school was great and there was plenty of classes and magic workings to satisfy my cravings for that brand of fantasy. I can’t wait for the next one.

7. Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells: I gave book #5 a high rating, but I feel like this newest novella was even better (which made me question my rating for book #5). In any case, any time I get to spend with Murderbot is golden. Its character profile is only getting stronger and this novella offered a fun mystery to boot.

8. Floating Island by Elizabeth Haydon: finally a middle grade series I enjoyed almost as much as Fablehaven. It doesn’t hurt matters that I love Haydon for her Symphony of Ages – an adult fantasy series set in the same world. This series had great pacing, a good sense of adventure, and enough complexity to keep my attention. I wish I’d read these ages ago.

9. Race the Sands by Sarah Beth Durst: I liked Queen of the Blood, but I LOVED Race the Sands. It had interesting characters (who were perhaps a bit simplistic, but still charming), a great element of competition, and a fun story. The author’s philosophy on writing and what she’s trying to achieve with her stories really sings to me, and I think that’s why I have such good feelings about this book months later. To top it off, it’s a stand-alone.

10. Dawnshard by Brandon Sanderson: I’m not quite finished with Rhythm of War, but it would do my list shame to not have a Sanderson in the lineup. His novellas are always good, but this one sang to me. I loved the setting and world building, I loved the flora and fauna, and I loved the major “omgsh” things I learned in these pages. Such a cool piece of work, and I hope I see more from these side characters within the main novels.

What were some of your favorites this year?

by Niki Hawkes

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Tackling the TBR [65]: January 2021

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:

January 2021 TBR Tackler Shelf:

After 65 months of experimenting, I finally found a Tackling the TBR system that completely works for me, start to finish. The ah-ha moment seemed to be a reality check I faced mid-September where I realized I’d only be able to get through a finite number of books before the end of the year… and that I could calculate fairly accurately what that number was. This brought me out of my ambitious reading TBR and lofty goal-setting (both of which are my natural tendencies, but were leading to major frustration). So I gave myself five slots a month to fill with what had better be the most important titles on my list (reserving one for review obligations, so actually four) and stuck to those titles with a determination I hadn’t been able to find up to that point. It worked so well. I’ve been able to finish everything I set myself to read and have felt MUCH more relaxed about my reading pace – more so than I have in years, if I’m honest. Who knew the key would be recognizing how delusional I am when it comes to ambitions lol.

With this type of planning in place and a fully-realized system I’m loving, I’m extremely excited for 2021. Because I’m no longer stressed about getting through everything and am truly focused on the best books first, I’m somehow squeezing in more than my five pre-allocated titles every month. I think it’s because I’m feeling reinvigorated, reading is fun again, and I’m reading only quality books.

Another change I made happened around the same time as my ah-ha moment: I became committed to becoming more digitally minimal – deleting social media, deleting gaming apps, setting limits on other time wasters, and generally making my phone a resource for only reading, writing, and adulting. It has taken some practice, but living more intentionally and getting away from the mindless scrolling that was sucking HOURS out of my days has definitely freed up a lot of time for reading and other creative projects.

In September I also decided it was time to get my eyes used to reading physical novels on a regular basis again. I used to read 100+ novels per year without audiobook or ebook (back in the day) but an eye strain injury over five years ago stole a lot of that from me. I finally realized that my eyes were as healed as they were going to get, and a lot of the trouble I was having with reading had more to do with being out of practice more than being injured (at least, I hoped that was the case). So I committed to picking up a physical book at least once a day to see how it would go. I’m not going to lie – it was touch and go at first and a little uncomfortable, but after consistently trying it and moving in baby steps for a couple of months, I’m THRILLED to be back to reading 40+ pages an hour without any major discomfort. I feel like I’ve been gifted new life in this. As a side note, I’d be willing to bet staring at backlit screens fewer hours every week per my new digital minimalism goals also increased to the amount relative eye-power I had to spend on reading. Total win.

I have a lot of new fantasy series I’m hoping to try in 2021. This month I’m adding a couple in while still reserving most of my focus for the authors I know I already love. Wish me luck. :)


Have a great month in reading!

by Niki Hawkes

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Tackling the TBR [64]: December 2020

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:

December 2020 TBR Tackler Shelf:

I’m late again posting… it has been a really busy work month (with a 4 year old in tow) and my pregnancy has stolen what little energy I have left (hence the minimal reviews… my backlog is growing). And my reading time has suffered a bit as well as a result. luckily, I’ve picked out a relatively conservative TBR Tackler Shelf to cap out the year – most of my energy going towards savoring Rhythm of War. Many people in my reading group have already finished it, but I’m sitting pretty at about 20% with no intention to rush through it. I read Oathbringer so fast when it came out that I missed most of the details along the way and didn’t retain much (as discovered during my reread in November). So this one I really want to do right. I’ve three YA to supplement the month and have Rage of Dragons lined up to read for my book club. All things considered, maybe a relaxed, Stormlight-filled month is exactly what the doctor ordered. :)


Have a great month in reading!

by Niki Hawkes