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Book Review: Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley P. Beaulieu

Twelve Kings of Sharakhai by Bradley P. Beaulieu

Title: Twelve Kings in Sharakhai

Author: Bradley P. Beaulieu

Series: Song of the Shattered Sands #1

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

The Overview: Sharakhai, the great city of the desert, center of commerce and culture, has been ruled from time immemorial by twelve kings — cruel, ruthless, powerful, and immortal. With their army of Silver Spears, their elite company of Blade Maidens and their holy defenders, the terrifying asirim, the Kings uphold their positions as undisputed, invincible lords of the desert. There is no hope of freedom for any under their rule.

Or so it seems, until Çeda, a brave young woman from the west end slums, defies the Kings’ laws by going outside on the holy night of Beht Zha’ir. What she learns that night sets her on a path that winds through both the terrible truths of the Kings’ mysterious history and the hidden riddles of her own heritage. Together, these secrets could finally break the iron grip of the Kings’ power…if the nigh-omnipotent Kings don’t find her first. -Goodreads

The Review:

Twelve Kings in Sharakhai is a book I’ve had high on my priority list ever since that enticing cover came across my radar in 2015. The cover is actually a pretty good indication of what to expect from this book – excellent attention to world-building and a main character determined to shake up the status quo using swordsmanship and stealth. It was a very entertaining read, but it did leave a few elements on the table.

Pacing was by far the biggest miss for me. This book is riddled with flashbacks that, while interesting, effectively killed momentum for the main story. Actual forward plot advancement took forever. It’s only saving grace was that the flashbacks contained a good number of “reveals” that I think were supposed to serve as plot advancing tools (where the story moves forward in concept instead of action), but I think it could’ve done with far fewer (as it was, I occasionally got confused and forgot which timeframe I was reading and had to reorient). Eventually, it all came together, but the lack of momentum made for the type of read I didn’t have qualms setting it aside for other reads.

The characters also lacked a little bit of depth. They had great backstory (as was emphasized practically every other chapter), but never really pulled me in more than surface level. Perhaps this issue was also caused by so many flashbacks taking away time from development. Whatever the case, I’m sitting here really liking the characters but not feeling anything for them.

To that effect, other than the occasional language and sex scenes, both the character profiles and love story came off very YA (okay, maybe a leveled-up YA), but fantasy readers will probably find it a little thin when compared to the likes of Malazan or even Game of Thrones. I actually think Twelve Kings in Sharakhai could be a great recommend for those in that transition between YA and adult Fantasy, as several elements (the setting and fight scenes) reminded me strongly of Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series (specifically the prequel, Assassin’s Blade). When I say something “came off YA” I usually mean that in a disparaging way, but in this case I didn’t count it a bad thing.

Overall, this isn’t the strongest I’ve read in the genre, but the world building and story were enough to keep me engaged when the pacing started to lag. Good drop-in details about a new world always goes a long way with me, so I definitely came away from this happy to have read it.

Series status: I liked it, but if it wasn’t for the scheduled buddy read for the sequel I signed up for, I wouldn’t be in a huge hurry to continue. Especially since discovering that it’s planned for a six book series instead of what I thought completed as a trilogy. Even so, I’m hopeful for the best in the next one.

Recommendations: I’d hand this to fantasy readers in the mood for something light and creative, or to YA fantasy fans who want a good translation series from Throne of Glass to adult fantasy. The world building was easily the biggest selling point for me, so if you like to immerse in new places, give it a try. :)

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Coming Soon: Magic Triumphs by Ilona Andrews

[August 28, 2018] Magic Triumphs by Ilona Andrews

Title: Magic Triumphs

Author: Ilona Andrews

Series: Kate Daniels #10 [The FINALE!!!]

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Release Date: August 28, 2018 [This date is subject to change]

The Overview: Kate has come a long way from her origins as a loner taking care of paranormal problems in post-Shift Atlanta. She’s made friends and enemies. She’s found love and started a family with Curran Lennart, the former Beast Lord. But her magic is too strong for the power players of the world to let her be. Kate and her father, Roland, currently have an uneasy truce, but when he starts testing her defenses again, she knows that sooner or later, a confrontation is inevitable. The Witch Oracle has begun seeing visions of blood, fire, and human bones. And when a mysterious box is delivered to Kate’s doorstep, a threat of war from the ancient enemy who nearly destroyed her family, she knows their time is up. Kate Daniels sees no other choice but to combine forces with the unlikeliest of allies. She knows betrayal is inevitable. She knows she may not survive the coming battle. But she has to try. -Goodreads

Nik’s Notes:

Considering how hard I’ve been fangirling these last few months over all things Ilona Andrews, it’s no surprise my most anticipated release of Fall 2018 is Magic Triumphs, the Kate Daniels finale! I’m so sad it’s going to be over, but I take comfort in the spinoffs and various other amazing projects these authors are working on. I don’t even need to read the finale to tell you that Kate Daniels has already beat out all competition to become my favorite urban fantasy series. And to think I almost didn’t read past the first book!

Who else is excited for Magic Triumphs??!!

by Niki Hawkes

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Tackling the TBR [36]: July 2018

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:

July 2018 TBR Tackler Shelf:

I actually met a few of my lofty goals in June, devouring 9 of the unreachable 18 titles I put on my list. This month is thankfully a lot more focused between new releases and series continuations. About half of them are books I own, so that moves forward my Overflowing Bookshelf Challenge (my #1 priority). I also have myself into a pretty comfortable reading schedule at the moment, which is really enabling me to fly through some of these titles. <-that always gets me wondering about quantity vs quality though. I love being able to read a ton of titles per month, but anytime I feel like I’m just reading for the sake of completion rather than enjoyment, I either slow down my pace or consider abandoning the book. Do any of you struggle with finding that balance? After all, what’s the point in reading all the things if you’re not enjoying yourself?

Have a great July! :)

by Niki Hawkes

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Niki’s Book Journal [June 2018]

Niki’s Book Journal [June 2018]

This month saw the official launch (on my blog) of my Overflowing Bookshelf Challenge. Along with that went a complete library reorganization and newfound commitment to getting a handle on my overwhelming physical TBR.

Last month I complained that I wasn’t good at prioritizing time to read – something I really wanted to change. I feel as though I’ve made excellent strides by setting myself a few goals. They included a stricter “bedtime” of 11:30 (where I don’t actually have go to sleep, I just need to be in bed with a book winding down from the day). My goals also entail setting my phone out of reach when sitting down to read. If my phone is handy, I grab it. I found myself picking it up to “check something” on average every two pages because I guess my addicted brain can’t focus without extra stimulation at the point (it’s maddening). In any case, both of those things seemed to work, and I got through at least twice as many pages in June than previous months. Win.

Now if I can only bust through five times my normal, I’ll get through my collection in no time. ;)

On to the Mini Reviews:

Saint's Blood by Sebastien De Castell

Saints Blood (Greatcoats #3) by Sebastien de Castell [3.5/5 stars]

Even though Saints Blood contained my least favorite story components of the series, I still was 100% totally on board with the writing and the characters. De Castell manages to strike a brilliant balance between making you cringe at truly awful events and making you laugh at the way the main characters think about and handle them. You know you shouldn’t be laughing because of what just happened, but the Greatcoats are just so damn funny you can’t help yourself. All I can say is, de Castell has completely won me over from the rough start in book 1, and I’m genuinely excited to finish the series out (and move on to Spellslinger).

White Hot by Ilona Andrews

White Hot (Hidden Legacy #2) by Ilona Andrews [4/5 stars]

These authors continue to impress me with their ability to deliver consistently amazing stories filled with action, romance, mystery, magic, and a whole lot of fun. What I liked most about White Hot is how it advanced the overall arc of the trilogy, and how we got to dig a little deeper into what makes Rogan tick. What I didn’t care for too much in this one was the behavior of Nevada – she came off really stubborn and immature at times (a trademark of Kate Daniels is that she’s stubborn, but she usually at least acknowledges the irrationality and uses it to calculatingly prove a point… Nevada was just being petty). The dynamic didn’t work for me, but it was a small issues in the whole scheme of how much I’m enjoying this series. It’s very much on par with what you can expect from an Ilona Andrews novel, and I’m eager to devour all the things they’ve written. 

Zoe's Tale by John Scalzi

Zoe’s Tale (Old Man’s War #4) by John Scalzi [4/5 stars]

Discovering that this cheeky sci-fi series continued book 4 with an even cheekier YA POV was a bag of mixed emotions. I haven’t had the best luck with YA lately, but I loved the character Zoe. If anyone could pull off integrating this unconventional new perspective into an adult series, it would be Scalzi. Happily, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it may have revitalized the series for me. At first I was a bit bored with it’s shared (or dual) timeline with Last Colony (book 3) because I’m not the biggest fan of backtracking. However, Scalzi quickly shifted focus to new events that actually added to the “big picture” of what happened in Last Colony and, as a result, improved my opinion of both perspectives. The end of Zoe’s Tale was particularly satisfying, and overall it reinvigorated my interest in the series. Nice. :)

Broken (Women of the Otherworld #6) by Kelley Armstrong [3.5/5 stars]

Broken was a decent bounce-back from Haunted, with the added benefit of Elena once again as the POV. I’d heard this was another Elena book before diving in, and I admit to setting some expectations that it would also be another “werewolf” book with all the same intense feels as the first two. Er… kind of not the case. If anything, I’d call this a “zombie” book – a hybrid of Elena’s great POV and the plot structure of the Paige books. Not a bad combination, because it made for a fun mystery read, but I’d be remiss if it didn’t admit I missed a little of that carnal component that was so strong in the first book (not just the sex, but the overall intensity between every character). Even so, I’m at the point in the series where storylines and characters are starting to cross and I’m loving the convergence enough to keep my enthusiasm pumped for what’s to come. As with Haunted, Armstrong incorporated a mystery based on real world infamous criminals (Jack the Ripper, in this case), and I appreciate how creatively they’re being integrated into this supernatural world. I hope this book marks the upward swing of the series. :)


Overall, I think I’m on my way to establishing good reading habits, but I still have a lot of work to do. My question for you is: when do you prioritize time to read? Is it something you have to work at?

by Niki Hawkes

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The Overflowing Bookshelf Challenge: Niki’s Mini Challenges Strategy

The Overflowing Bookshelf Challenge: Niki’s Mini Challenges Strategy

If you caught my post The Overflowing Bookshelf Challenge: How it Works, you saw all of the mini challenges I created to help my FBR Goodreads group tackle their collections. I’ve tried most of them, and current the ones that are working the best for me are the 3 for 1 and the Book Pledge challenges. Here’s how they’re going:

->The 3 for 1 Mini Challenge

This challenge entails reading books from your collection to earn credits to buy new books at a ratio of 3 to 1 (I’ve adapted it to 5 for 1 for my own personal needs… I have a lot of titles to get through). It’s actually a system I’ve been loosely using for years (allowing myself to buy books after reading 5 of any books, not just ones I owned), but am finding it especially motivating in this challenge. I’ve only started doing this one recently, so I’ve only “earned” one new book, but if I focus on owned books, I could easily justify bringing home at least 2 new titles per month. ^_^

When spending my credits, I’ve been operating under two personal rules:

1. Only buy books you’ve already read and loved enough to add to the collection.

2. If you do buy unread titles, they must be read immediately.

Luckily I have access to most of the things I want to read through digital and audio library services, so it’s easy for me to obtain and read a book before committing hard earned cash to it. If I didn’t have such an extensive unread section already, I might feel limited by this, but as it stands I’m happy that my methods have kept me from adding to my problem these last few years.

Plus, I have the flexibility of being “allowed” to bring home unread titles as long as I read them immediately. This comes in handy when I only own the first couple of books in a series. If they’re not worth reading the moment I bring them home, then that tells me I need to abandon the series and move on.

->The Book Pledge Mini Challenge

This Mini Challenge is the simplest of the bunch. It involves committing yourself to reading a specific number of owned books by a specific date. My current goal is:

To read 100 books from my physical collection by 12/31/2018

It’s kind of lofty for me, but I wanted a goal that would force me to focus. I’ve already made a lot of strides this year and might actually come close. Here are the titles read so far:

Titles Read [Start 9.8.2017]: Heart’s BloodAn Alchemy of Masques and MirrorsA Sending of DragonsYendi, Dragonsinger, Dragonmaster [DNF – Donated], The Infinity Gate, Dragondrums, Magic Shifts, Bard’s Oath [DNF], Rakkety Tam, Oathbringer, Fragile Eternity, When the Heavens Fall, The Emperor’s Blades, Magic Binds, High Rhulain, Radiant Shadows, Naamah’s Blessing, The Providence of Fire, Child of a Mad God, The Demon Spirit, Darkest Mercy, Teckla, Dime Store Magic, The Girl of Fire and Thorns Stories, Lord of Misrule, Sword-Bound, Industrial Magic, Dayfall: A Novel, The Lost Hero, The Last Mortal Bond, His Majesty’s Dragon, The Son of Neptune, An Accident of Stars, Haunted, Carpe Corpus, Skullsworn, Unclean Spirits, Fade Out, Broken, The Mark of Athena, Throne of Jade, A Tyranny of Queens, Wildfire, Kiss of Death

Total: 46/100 (personal achievement: I’ve actually reviewed most of these too)

In addition, I set myself a goal of donating 50 books from my collection. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen that I’m already smashing that. My overall goal of The Overflowing Bookshelf Challenge is to par down my collection to just books I’m excited to read – ones I can reasonably get to within the next 10 years (I’ll shoot for 5 once I hit 10). Part of that is coming to terms with the fact that I just won’t be able to get to some of these titles for over a decade, so then I have to decide if they merit hanging onto for that long.

Overall, the straightforwardness of this Mini Challenge is exactly what I need. Right now volume is key.

Here’s a link to my Goodreads Challenge Thread if you’d like to see how I organize it on there.


There’s nothing I love more that talking book challenge strategy haha. Thanks for tuning in. :) My next post will be about how I’ve organized my unread collection to help me meet my goals.

by Niki Hawkes

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The Overflowing Bookshelf Challenge: A Pre-Introduction.

Niki’s Overflowing Bookshelf Challenge

Several months ago I created an Overflowing Bookshelf Challenge for my Goodreads group (Fantasy Buddy Reads), but was too wrapped up in my Incomplete Series Challenge to give it much attention. Now that I’m only down to 11 open series (from 129), it’s time to get serious about my overflowing shelves.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably seen me posting updates on my New Bookshelves Project off and on for the last several months. The project has afforded me the opportunity to really dig into and organize my unread titles. The blunt fact of the matter is that I have waaaaay too many (over 1100). Even if I focus only on owned books, it will take me about 8 years to get through them all. If I’m realistic about how many new books and borrowed books I’ll want to read outside of my collection, I’m looking at more than 20 YEARS!! O_o.

My goal with this challenge is to par down the number of unread titles to just those I can reasonably get to within the next 10 years. Some of these titles I’ve been hanging onto for almost 15 years and a lot of them are medium-high priority titles I keep passing up for low priority “do I really want to keep this? Maybe I should read it to see” books (well, Niki, there’s your problem). From now on I’ll be reading exclusively high-priority titles until I’ve whittled my TBR down to something I can manage. Excessive prioritizing has been working for my Tackling the TBR method, so I don’t know why I haven’t implemented it here before now.

With my next post, I’ll get into the specifics of the challenge, but for now (if you need me) I’ll be digging through my collection. :)

Has your collection gotten out of hand?
On a scale of minimalist to death by TBR, how buried are you?

by Niki Hawkes