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Niki’s Book Journal [May 2018]

Niki’s Book Journal [May 2018]

The first half of May was an oddly stressful month of reading. I scheduled way too many buddy reads between the 1st and the 10th, and was forced to play catchup the whole month as a result. It was not relaxing.

The biggest problem is that I suck at prioritizing books that don’t come in audio. Since my turn to audiobooks a couple of years ago (eye strain injury, blah blah), I seem to have lost the ability to make time to sit down and read physical books. I’m too dependent on the flexibility audio provides and often spend any time I do manage to steal dinking around on my phone (I know I’ve said all of this before, but it’s still something I’m working on).

Now that my eyes are mostly better, I want to prioritize making a dent in my physical collection (via my Overflowing Bookshelf Challenge), but getting though even a single book feels like it takes me forever. I used to breeze through 80 – 100 per year, and can’t figure out where the heck I found the time to do that (yes I can – no children, no iPhone, no audiobooks…). Nowadays I’m lucky if I average even 20 books a year at the rate I’m going.

So my goal going into June is to make a concerted effort to choose reading first over other more brainless activities (ahem, phone) and see if I can recapture some of the good reading habits I used to have. My goal is to complete 4 books from my collection (a book a week sounds manageable if I stick to my resolve).


On to the mini reviews!

Part of this book journal idea was to commit a space where I can quickly drop in and review books that don’t have enough material for a full post. Here are my mini reviews from May 2018:

Knight's Shadow by Sebastien De Castille

Knight’s Shadow (Greatcoats #2) by Sebastien De Castell [4.5/5]

Considering how polarized my opinion was for Traitor’s Blade, it’s surprising even to me how thoroughly I enjoyed Knight’s Shadow. It must have been the perfect combination of elements to satisfy my mood because even while reading it I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why I liked it so much. It just had that addictive quality that kept pulling me back to it in favor of other things, which is something books don’t do to me a lot these days. The balance between humor and grit was well done, so I enjoyed laughing while simultaneously sinking my teeth into a rich story. When de Castell is on his game, I have a hard time pulling away. I’ll I can say is, he seems to have found his groove, so if you’ve waffled on continuing the series, consider this gentle encouragement to keep going. :)

Skullsworn by Brian Staveley

Skullsworn (Unhewn Throne #0.5) by Brian Staveley [3/5 stars]

If I could’ve chosen any group from the trilogy to learn more about, it would’ve been the Skullsworn (maybe not necessarily through an early Pyrre perspective, but she’s definitely an interesting character). The Skullsworn are essentially a guild that uses death as worship, so they naturally produce highly skilled assassins. I was hoping to get into the nitty gritty of the training process (kind of like what Staveley did with the Kettral in the first book), but it was more focused on Pyrre’s initiation process and less focused on the group as a whole. It had a few good fast-paced “scheming” moments, but a lot of the book was slower moving than I’d anticipated. I also had a pretty solid prediction early on about one of the major plot points, which unfortunately killed any of the suspense I was supposed to be feeling. It was far from a bust, though. I loved the setting – a alligator ridden swamp/delta with plenty of local lore and voodoo (good cultural immersion always goes a long way with me), so even when I wasn’t always 100% engaged with the plot, I was at least enjoying the atmosphere. Pair that with solid writing and a good ending earned this prequel a solid 3 stars (I liked it) rating. Unhewn Throne is a definite keeper for me, so I’m genuinely looking forward to whatever Staveley produces next.

Demon Spirit by R.A. Salvatore

Demon Spirit (Demonwar Saga #2) by R.A. Salvatore [2.5 stars]

I may have stalled on writing this review a bit longer than necessary, but it should tell you something about my general lack of investment in this book that I can’t remember a single, solitary thing about it even though it has only been a few months since I finished it. Nada. Squat. Zilch. A big fat pile of nothing. So I’m left with only the vague memory of forcing myself through the book without retaining anything (because I was bored – the book didn’t have much resembling plot-advancement, that much I remember). This is not good. Despite love of Salvatore in general and my curiosity for everything that takes place between this book and Child of a Mad God, I’m seriously considering abandoning this series for the time being… or at the very least putting it on the back burner for other things. I just can’t bring myself to invest time in the final book of the trilogy when I had such an unremarkable experience with Demon Spirit. Especially when I have a laundry list of things I’m enjoying more. I’ll probably revisit one day, but not in the near future. Heck, I might even skip ahead just to reinvigorate my interest in the series. I own them all. :/ [update: I wrote this review. I meant every single word. But now I’ve changed my mind and want to give the final book a go… it’s a long story. Lol]

Fade Out (Morganville #7) by Rachel Caine [3/5 stars]

It’s clear I’m getting a little too old to fully appreciate YA problems – they all just seem so unnecessarily dramatic compared to RL issues I’ve been dealing with. Even so, Morganville books continue to offer me that light escape I crave between all the heavy adult fantasy novels. Compared to the other books in the series, nothing truly earth-shattering happened in Fade Out, but I did like the expansion on vampiric history and politics (to a minor degree). These bite-sized stories always put me in a good mood, and I’m genuinely interested to see where Caine takes it next.


That’s it for my musings in May! Thanks to all who read my posts. :)

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Niki’s Book Journal [April 2018]

Niki’s Book Journal [April 2018]

This book journal idea may have just revolutionized my reviewing process. I open up the draft for this post after finishing a book (motivated by the fact that I only have to write a paragraph or so), and before I know it I have a full-length review that merits its own post. The combination of retraining my brain to open WordPress right after finishing a book along with a couple other reading trackers have definitely made a positive impact on my reviewing process. Long story short: I only have two books reviewed in this format for April, but I’m okay with that.

I love this new change in my habits because I’m finding myself drawn to writing more throughout the day (which will hopefully culminate into actually working on one of my novels). And as a HUGE bonus, I’m producing more book content both here and on Goodreads, which is in line with making me the consistent book reviewer I’ve always aspired to be.

During this process, I started a tracker in my bullet journal and discovered that on average I’m finishing 2.5 books per week, but generally I’m only reviewing about 1 pw. I don’t think I’d wrapped my head around that particular disconnect of why I never seemed to catch up on reviews (I mean, really, it’s not rocket science). I knew my efforts weren’t enough, I just didn’t realize precisely how ineffective I was being. No more! I have a new system in place to help me even out that ratio.

I created some tracker in my bullet journal. I’ve had several (basically unused) tracking methods over the years, usually just a list on Goodreads, but a couple of months ago I started a bullet journal and it has drastically improved how I organize all the things. I start with a book progress status bar tracker at the top of my weekly spread:

As you can see, I finished three books that week. Then I take those finished titles and put them into my (ugly but functional) new review tracker:

They key here has been creating a category at the top for each step in the process. Composing a review can take a couple hours, so if I just write “write review for x” I have to be able to commit a lot of time to it before I can check anything off. As I’m super motivated by striking things off lists, having each step listed separately allows me to do just one component of it at a time without getting overwhelmed. It’s definitely making a difference. My next step is to beatify the tracker. :)

Journaling done. On to the books!


Carpe Corpus (Morganville #6) by Rachel Caine [3/5 stars]

I always enjoy the atmosphere and mood Morganville books create, so Carpe Corpus gets a decent rating for that alone. I went into this series (a bit late than most) under the impression that there are a few different story arcs within it. With this novel, I fully expected that supposed culmination of events to really wow me… yeah, not so much. The story seemed to resolve itself so quickly that I was left feeling like I missed something. I mean, I know the books are super short, but still. What I did like about this novel in particular was the stellar character dynamics and relationship progressions. I maintain that these characters feel a lot more rounded and realistic compared to many other YA. I’m definitely still looking forward to continuing the series because reading each one feels like coming home, but overall Carpe Corpus didn’t make much of an impression.

The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

Son of Neptune (Heroes of Olympus #2) by Rick Riordan [3.5/5 stars]

Son of Neptune was a solid sequel to The Lost Hero and an improvement on all accounts. My biggest complaint of the first novel was the senseless repetition, so it was refreshing for book 2 to have a consice plot where everything had a purpose in building towards the overall arc of the novel. There were still lots of “tangent” monsters to fight, but I thought the encounters were integrated much more seamlessly. And as an added bonus, the main POV was a familiar face that I’ve missed (Percy!!). Son of Neptune also introduced some brand new characters who have the potential to land among my favorites for this author. I’m finding myself eager to pick up Mark of Athena sooner than later, which is an excellent sign.

by Niki Hawkes