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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

 

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Book Review: United by Melissa Landers

United by Melissa Landers

Title: United

Author: Melissa Landers

Series: Alienated #3

Genre: Teen Science Fiction

Rating: 2/5 stars

The Overview: After thwarting a deadly coup and saving the alliance between their worlds, Cara and Aelyx have finally earned a break. Their tiny island colony is everything they dreamed it would be―days spent gathering shells on the beach and nights in each other’s arms. But the vacation is short-lived. The treaty between Earth and L’eihr has awakened an ancient force that threatens to destroy them all. The Aribol, mysterious guardians charged with maintaining interstellar peace, deem the alliance a threat to the galaxy. They order a separation of the races, decreeing humans and L’eihrs must return to their own planets within the month or face extinction. In fact, they already have agents in place on Earth, ready to begin… -Goodreads

The Review:

Alienated has to be one of my favorite YA books. It was sweet, charming, creative, funny, and an all-around feel-good story (imagine if Rory Gilmore hosted an alien exchange student – delightful, right?). Invaded was just as good, and I honestly wish the wait hadn’t been so long between it and United, as it kind of stole my momentum and excitement (that’s what I get for hounding for early copies, I suppose). At any rate, while United was an enjoyable end to the series, it didn’t blow me away quite like its predecessors.

Some of the things I found charming in the first two books struck me as a bit silly in United. I imagine a lot of that had to do with the fact that United was the only one I listen to on audio. The narrator made the aliens sound unintelligent and immature, which sapped a lot of my enjoyment from the story. “Cheesy” is the word I’m searching for. It was cheesy.

There were also a lot of things I accepted in the first two books that didn’t work for me in the third. The idea that a teenage girl could have so much political power and all of the government resources of earth took a backseat while her and her boyfriend fought an earth annihilation threat by themselves was… stupid. It screamed YA logic like crazy and left me feeling disappointed (and old).

Perhaps I’m just cynical. And perhaps I’m a little burnt out on YA in general. I’ve definitely been craving the more robust storytelling of adult novels lately. It certainly doesn’t help matters that I just finished Corey’s Babylon’s Ashes – a killer space opera series with loads of politics and moving parts (also one of the best series I’ve ever read). No, I’m sure that didn’t help at all.

The positive take away from United was how much I liked the sweet romance that blossomed throughout the trilogy between two really great main characters. Aside from the weird circumstances surrounding my experience with United, I still am a fan of Melissa Landers as an author and I’m looking forward to diving into her Starflight duology. Overall, if you like YA science fiction at all, Alienated is a must-read.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Coming Soon: The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin

stone-skyTitle: The Stone Sky

Author: N. K. Jemisin

Series: The Broken Earth #3

Genre: Fantasy

Release Date: August 15, 2017

The Overview: THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS… FOR THE LAST TIME. The Moon will soon return. Whether this heralds the destruction of humankind or something worse will depend on two women. Essun has inherited the power of Alabaster Tenring. With it, she hopes to find her daughter Nassun and forge a world in which every orogene child can grow up safe. For Nassun, her mother’s mastery of the Obelisk Gate comes too late. She has seen the evil of the world, and accepted what her mother will not admit: that sometimes what is corrupt cannot be cleansed, only destroyed. -Goodreads

Nik’s Notes:

 I raved about this series in my reviews of Fifth Season & Obelisk Gate, and can’t imagine Stone Sky being any less brilliant. It’s such a unique story. Maybe a little hokey on occasion, but I guarantee you’ve never read anything quite like it. I’m mostly looking forward to having all of my questions answered… there are so many layers of mystery in this series that will hopefully come together with a bang.

Is anyone else excited for this one too? :-)

by Niki Hawkes

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Tackling the TBR [20]: February 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.
&
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 2017 TBR Tackler Shelf:

I have a couple of novellas/short stories on this month’s line up to help me focus a little bit on last month’s carryovers (people were especially slow returning things to the library in January). I’m starting The Warded Man as a buddy read with my Goodreads group, so that should be fun, as it has been collecting dust on my shelves for ages. AND HOLY CRAP I GOT THE NEW ROBIN HOBB!!! I will be dropping everything to read that one first. :)

Tackler Carry-overs:

I decided to expand my TBR tackler selection list to include titles on previous Tackling the TBR posts that I either didn’t have a chance to get to or am currently part way through. It gives me a more accurate snapshot of my progress over time and more potential high-priority titles to choose from each month. Up until this point, there have only been about five or so carryover titles, but as I am trying to be conservative by relying on the library for a lot of these books, I fell victim to the endless waitlist in January. Many of these titles I put on hold at the beginning of December… something is not right here. I need the next Kate Daniels book, like, yesterday!


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

January 2017 Titles Tackled:

Finished Series: 1
 Series Brought UTD: 3
Series Progressed: 1
New Series Started: 5
Abandoned: 1

Overall I didn’t do too bad in January, but as I’m planning on starting a bunch of new series over the next couple of months, my numbers aren’t going to look that stellar going forward…

2017 YTD Tracker:

Finished Series: 1
 Series Brought UTD: 3
Series Progressed: 1
New Series Started: 5
Abandoned: 1

Last year I had a goal to finish a lot of high-priority series, and I did just that with 14 series finished (some of them with 10+ books that I’d been working on for ages) and 18 brought up to date. I wanted to keep the momentum going in 2017 with this nifty little tracker added on to my monthly TBR. I might make it it’s own feature, but for now, let’s go team for 2017!!!!


Now, I can tell you from experience that this Tackling the TBR experiment is so much more fun and rewarding when there’s more than one person (me) participating. Does anybody want to play along?

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!

Maybe we can help make each other’s systems even better. :)

What books are you Tackling this month?

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: The Turn by Kim Harrison

the-turnTitle: The Turn

Author: Kim Harrison

Series: The Hollows #0.1

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Release Date: February 7, 2017

The Overview: Kim Harrison returns to her beloved Hollows series with The Turn, the official prequel to the series that will introduce fans and readers to a whole new side of Rachel Morgan’s world as they’ve never seen it before! Can science save us when all else fails? Trisk and her hated rival, Kalamack, have the same goal: save their species from extinction. Death comes in the guise of hope when a genetically modified tomato created to feed the world combines with the government’s new tactical virus, giving it an unexpected host and a mode of transport. Plague takes the world, giving the paranormal species an uncomfortable choice to stay hidden and allow humanity to die, or to show themselves in a bid to save them. -Goodreads

The Review:

For all of you Rachel Morgan fans wondering if The Turn is worth picking up, the answer is an emphatic YES!!! Even though the story takes place at least 50 years before Dead Witch Walking, it still managed to bring all the magic that made The Hollows series so great. Trisk was an amazing main character, comparable to Rachel, herself. In fact, all of the characters in this prequel were great – don’t be surprised to see a few familiar faces along the way (after all, we are dealing with a few of the more long-lived supernatural.) It was that infusion of old and new that made The Turn seem so special. It brought me back to when we first met these characters, and I now appreciate more than ever their individual growth arcs throughout the series and marvel at how far they’ve come. Notice I haven’t mentioned specifics? The surprise is half the fun! Although I’m sure you already have some theories…

I’m so glad Harrison decided to tell this story. Dead Witch Walking felt a little like jumping aboard a series already in progress, so it’s nice to see what came before, and I’d wager she’s been hoarding tons of notes for this backstory ever since that first book. It’s such a compelling segment of this world’s history. The basic premise is telling the tale of “The Turn” where a tomato-hopping virus kills off most of humanity and, as a result, the supernatural community comes out of hiding. It set the framework for The Hollows series and I was super impressed at how many other creative ways Harrison found to tie the entire thing together. It was masterfully done, loads of fun, and everything a Hollows fan could hope for. I loved every moment!

After finishing The Turn, I feel confident that there will be more to come in this prequel saga. I, for one, cannot wait!

If you haven’t read The Hollows series, you’ll still enjoy The Turn, but that’s like taking a single bite out of a cookie and putting it back on the tray. Dead Witch Walking takes a little time to get going, but once it does, it doesn’t let up!

I’d like to thank Gallery Books, Kim Harrison, and NetGalley for the chance to read and review an early copy of The Turn.

Other books you might like:

 

by Niki Hawkes

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Top Ten Things I Look For In a Blog!

chronicles of an obsessive bookblogger

As I have recently cut down the number of blogs I’ve been following by about 75% [detailed at The Obsessive Bookseller Simplifies Life: Blog Love! post], I thought I’d take a moment to write an opinion piece on what types of things factored into hitting that dreaded “unfollow” button. Only after finishing this post did I realize just how strong my opinions are on this issue. I need to clarify now that the following are all personal preferences and I mean no disrespect to anybody who views blogging differently than I do. Variety is the spice of life, and all. Anyway, without further ado:

Top Ten Things I Look For In a Blog!

Content – This is probably the most important factor. The blogs I continued following consistently post about the types of books I enjoy and don’t go off topic too often. I definitely appreciate a little bit of focus on a blog so I know what to expect going forward. Branching out on occasion is no biggie – I love posts that help me get to know the blogger even better, but if it’s a book blog, I probably followed it primarily for book content.

Friendships – a good portion of the blogs I now follow are by people I feel I have a genuine blog buddy relationship with. In most cases, they reached out and commented on my blog first, which I appreciate to no end because I doubt I would have met them otherwise. I am still following all of my blog buddies in one way or another – the simplification process didn’t change that.

Presentation – I discovered during “the purge” that I’m more of a presentation snob than I realized. If I found the blog difficult to navigate, whether from weird formatting, too much clutter, or a general lack of organization, it most likely got deleted (OCD ALERT!). I also have a really difficult time reading blogs with anything other than black on white print. The latter is not a total dealbreaker, but when I had to make snap decisions and my eyes were already straining, many didn’t make the cut.

Semi-frequent Posting – I’m talking more than twice a year, people. There are quite a few bloggers I genuinely liked and wished to continue friendships with, but they hadn’t posted anything new for over two years. I used to make fun of the “I’m on a hiatus, but I’ll be back xx/xx/xx” posts, but now I actually think they’re a good idea if you plan on returning eventually.

Innovative Ideas – I am all about finding new ways to present content. So when a blog seems to have original (or at least new-to-me) bookish ideas, I tend to latch on. I’ll admit whole-heartedly to the occasional bout of blog-envy. You are all just too creative for me to handle! :)

Spoilers – or rather, a lack of. I can’t stand having things spoiled for me, so I generally steer clear of blogs that give away key plot points. Some titles I’ve been waiting to read for years, and I’ve already had a few really good ones ruined by careless spoilers (because the spoilerish content wasn’t clearly marked).

No Gifs & Memes – I know it’s the new thing and many bloggers use them, but I personally find them annoying. I don’t think they add anything to a post that couldn’t be summed up in a couple of words. And I hate the endless scrolling (a lot of times my phone won’t even load them, so I lose interest and stop trying). I also think they can make a blog look tacky and unorganized. What can I say? It’s just not my style…

Positive Outlooks – Hey, I get it, we all have that book that made us so angry that we had to write a 10,000 word rant. I don’t mind negative reviews. What I do mind is an overtone of negative vibes, personal attacks, and all-around book/author bashing on a regular basis. I’m of the philosophy that you can explain exactly why a book didn’t work for you without calling the author an idiot. I read blog posts for positive vibes and thoughtful opinions on titles. Not hateful/hurtful things. There’s enough of that in this world already – don’t sully my book utopia with it, lol.

Respect – I admit, I stopped following a blog with content I really liked because the blogger didn’t respect my right to read and endorse whatever books I choose. There were several occasions where I felt this blogger was looking down on me because they found my book preferences personally distasteful. To clarify – I definitely don’t mind a difference of opinion. What books work for me might not work for you, and I totally get and respect that. What I’m objecting to is the blatant disapproval of what I believe is a personal choice. I’ve never read the Fifty Shades of Grey series, but I would never look down on anybody who read and loved the shit out of them. Whether it’s Fifty Shades of Grey, Twilight, or any other guilty pleasure, read what you want and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

Connectability – I like being able to connect with blogs on different platforms (Goodreads being my favorite). Of the blogs I was unsure of keeping a WordPress subscription to, I added either on Goodreads or Bloglovin. The ones who didn’t have either option didn’t give me the freedom to try engaging through other venues. There were a couple that also didn’t have WordPress follow buttons (I’m told it’s a fairly simple widget to add, but can’t preach until I’ve practices lol) , Which means I had to either keep following by email or delete the subscription totally, and with my new simplification motto, I just can’t take wading through 1000 emails every day.


There you have it! These are the elements that played into my evaluation of other blogs. Let me reiterate that I truly believe there is no wrong or right way to run a blog, and I’m still following people who have many of these attributes. They’re just the things I take into consideration. :)

What types of things do you look for?

by Niki Hawkes