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Book Review: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Title: Ancillary Justice

Author: Ann Leckie

Series: Imperial Radch #1

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Overview: On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest. Once, she was the Justice of Toren – a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy. Now, an act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with one fragile human body, unanswered questions, and a burning desire for vengeance. -Goodreads

The Review:

I’ve been systematically devouring as many of these sci-fi series as I can get my hands on (fueled by James S.A. Corey, Ann Aguirre, Martha Wells, and Rachel Bach, to name a few), and I’d been saving Ancillary Justice for a rainy day. I was certain I was going to love it… but unfortunately it fell a little short of my expectations.

For the first third of the book I thought I was having an issue with my ability to concentrate. I found the writing really dense and it was often difficult to figure out what was happening. Sometimes rereading passages would help, but more often than not I felt like I was missing something. It distanced me from the story and made me feel disconnected from the characters. Around the 30% mark, it finally started to draw me in with a few action scenes and got better from there. By the time I finished, I was glad I’d read it, but holy cow that was a rocky start. My conservative rating is a reflection of that and the fact that the book lacked some depth.

The potential for political intrigue was one of my biggest motivators to keep reading. The dynamics were so interesting early on that I really thought it was going to expand into something profound. All the ingredients were there, they just didn’t get manipulated enough for any sort of payoff. It lacked a nefarious edge to really get me down and gritty with the story, so I came away feeling like I’d just read a whole lot of fluff (with potential).

I did have some positive takeaways: The book started with a great concept and maintained a strong voice throughout. It also boasts one of the more fascinating POVs I’ve come across (non-human, which was a delightful surprise). Those items alone saved it to a “I liked it” rating.

I’m kind of an outlier when compared to the mass majority of stellar ratings, but I do have a Goodreads friend who had similar issues with this book, but explained them a lot better [see his review]. He talked about his theory for it’s success based on people being fascinated by the various stylistic elements and I’m not ashamed to admit I’m one of those people – I really love when an author can show me something I’ve never seen before. But the rest of his points were spot-on with my impressions of this book (nice review!).

Recommendations: I’m not as wide read with sci-fi as I’d like to be (yet), but I’ve definitely read several I liked better than Ancillary Justice. Despite that, it’s still recommendable for its interesting concept, characters, and overall story. It’s not the first book I’d hand you in the genre, but it would certainly come up in conversation. Keep this one in mind after you’ve read my other sci-fi recs first. ;)

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Tackling the TBR [34]: May 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:

May 2018 TBR Tackler Shelf:

Last month I finished 9/10 books on my list!!! I’m not quite as optimistic about May, but that’s okay because I’m thrilled with my lineup. Half of these titles are scheduled Buddy Reads over at my Goodreads group and I’ll admit to feeling a little “overbooked” (bwahaha) even thought they’re BRs I’ve been looking forward to. Garden of Stones is the official book club pick for the group and I decided I wanted to get back into participating. Reading outside my set TBR is sometimes difficult for my OCD, but it seems worth it because I’ve found so many amazing reads that I probably would’ve have picked up otherwise if not for a book club (specfic, anyway. You won’t find me anywhere near a non-fiction or classics book club lol). Other than that, I’m looking forward to finally making progress with Malazan – I’m determined to keep going this time. I’m even more excited for Unclean Spirits written by M.L.N. Hanover, which is a pen name for Daniel Abraham – aka 1/2 of James S.A. Corey. This is the only series by his brilliance I haven’t tried yet and I’m stoked. :)

Do any of you ever feel overwhelmed at a reading schedule? How do you deal? :)

by Niki Hawkes

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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

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Book Review: Haunted by Kelley Armstrong

Haunted by Kelley Armstrong

Title: Haunted

Author: Kelley Armstrong

Series: Women of the Otherworld

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

The Overview: The afterlife isn’t all it’s cracked up to be… Former supernatural superpower Eve Levine has broken all the rules. But she’s never broken a promise—not even during the three years she’s spent in the afterworld. So when the Fates call in a debt she gave her word she’d pay, she has no choice but to comply. For centuries one of the ghost world’s wickedest creatures has been loosed on humanity, thwarting every attempt to retrieve her. Now it has fallen to Eve to capture this demi-demon known as the Nix, who inhabits the bodies of would-be killers, compelling them to complete their deadly acts. It’s a mission that becomes all too personal when the Nix targets those Eve loves most—including Savannah, the daughter she left on earth. But can a renegade witch succeed where a host of angels have failed? -Goodreads

The Review:

Haunted is my least favorite WotO book to date. I liked the main character and how she tied into the series as a whole, but I can’t say that I enjoyed the story that much. First off, it was a bit too erratic, bouncing around from weird place to weirder place so often that I never really felt grounded in the story. Granted, it takes place primarily in the afterlife where the “rules” of what’s possible are a lot more flexible, but it was actually the main murder mystery plotline that I wish had been more straightforward (although I do give kudos for the incorporation of actual murders from our world for total story immersion – very creative).

Another issue I had is 100% what I would call a “personal problem” and not something I really hold the book at fault for. I just have a hard time reading about bad things happening to children. It wasn’t graphic or anything, but it’s one of my vulnerable “nope” subjects in books. Almost anything else I can compartmentalize as “it’s just a book,” but not that. The other thing that got me was a mass-shooting scene. With all the horrible shit that’s happening in the world right now, I need books to escape, not to be reminded. Objectively, I can look at all of these as story elements that fit the plot and characters, but emotionally and mentally I have to admit that I just did not enjoy reading about them.

Despite my lower rating and opinion of this book, I recognize it as an important component to getting the full experience out of this series, now that I have an idea how the afterlife and its beings function. I also appreciate how with each book the scope of characters we care about broadens. I’m still earnestly looking forward to the next book.

Recommendations: overall, the series is still a success for me, but I’m finally forced to admit agreement to the quality decline. Because of that, I’d probably start my recommendations with a few other urban fantasies that are more consistent. However, this series is by no means down and out – I’m very hopeful I’ll enjoy the rest of it. We shall see. :)

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Tackling the TBR [33]: April 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. <-November 2017 I’m trying something new and reading them in a specific, carefully pre-determined order. <-Going back to how I was doing it before.

Here’s what mine looks like:

April 2018 TBR Tackler Shelf:

Due to some unfortunate medical issues, I’m only just now getting into the swing of things for April. Even so, I feel directionless without my trusted TBR Tackler shelf, so getting it set up feels good for my soul. I read 8/10 books from last month’s lineup and have already made decent headway with these titles. I’ve been working so hard on my Incomplete Series Challenge over at Fantasy Buddy Reads that at one point last month I was down to just 9 open series (from 129 about a year and a half ago). I’m excited this month to start cashing in some new series credits I “earned” while completing the challenge. My next focus (which I’ll probably start including an update for) is the Overflowing Bookshelf Challenge which means I finally have the opportunity to dig into some of the potentially awesome books that have been sharing space with me for 10+ years. The goal is to streamline my library down to just the books I’ve read and loved (and a manageable TBR section).

What books are you tackling this month? Are the any from my list I need to read ASAP?!! :)

by Niki Hawkes

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Niki’s Book Journal [March 2018]

Niki’s Book Journal [March 2018]

Am I the only one who gets overwhelmed when the “To Be Reviewed” pile starts getting out of hand? I always have the best intentions, but I’m at the point where I have almost 50 unreviewed titles from just the last 6 months. It’s stressing me out! And we’re not even going to talk about all the books I’ve neglected to review beyond the 6 months. My usual solution is to stamp my foot down and say “That’s it!! I’m going to write a review every single day until I catch up!” which is promptly followed by review writing burnout where I don’t feel like doing any more for a couple of months. It’s a vicious cycle.

But I think I may have constructed a solution.

Some amazing (or horrible) books require a lot of time and effort to sit down and review properly, but oftentimes it’s the simplest, most straightforward books that don’t get reviewed because I can’t come up with much to say about them. My new book journal review format will hopefully offer a solution to that problem by giving me a place to log my smaller reviews. Then WHAM! They’ll go live whenever the mood strikes me. Here goes…


Nexus by Scott Westerfeld

Nexus by Scott Westerfeld & Co. [Zeroes #6] 3/5 stars

This was a fun trilogy that I think will appeal to fans of Sanderson’s Reckoners series. It has a very Heroes (the show) feel where kids are born with abnormal abilities. I’ll definitely give the authors kudos for coming up with “powers” I’ve never seen before, such as controlling a crowd’s energy, electronics manipulation, and “throwing” vision (to name a few). They were extremely odd, but oddly interesting at the same time. I’ll most remember the series for it’s diverse cast of characters (with different ethnicities and sexual orientations, something I love seeing more of in books). I also liked the overall plot progression. This final novel offered a nice story arc that seemed a lot grander than the self-induced problems the characters faced in the first book and I appreciated how everything played out. Overall, this trilogy is a fun read, especially if you’re in the mood for something kind of different. It didn’t knock my socks off, but it definitely entertained.

Red Tide by Marc Turner

Red Tide by Marc Turner [Chronicles of the Exiled #3] DNF at 54%

I didn’t put this book down because it was a bad read. I put it down because it was taking me well over two weeks to get to just the 50% mark and I just couldn’t muster the enthusiasm to get into it knowing that it’s meant to be a six book series and there’s not a single peep that the author’s even working on the next book (for more of a reference, all 3 of the released titles came out between May 2015 and September 2016 and it doesn’t look as though he’s shared any updates on his website since). So I was finding it difficult to really care what was going on with no continuation in sight. If the author announces another book, I’ll happily pick this back up where I left off (until then…). For what it’s worth, I liked the story, the world building, the interwoven plot lines, and even the characters (who are extremely one-dimensional). It wouldn’t be the first fantasy series I recommend, but I wouldn’t discourage anyone from reading it, either.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Girl of Fire and Thorns Stories by Rae Carson 2.5/5 stars

This compilation of three short stories would’ve been exponentially more enjoyable had I read it with the series instead of waiting several years. Considering how little I remembered of the side characters, the first two stories were entertaining enough and I’m sure they added a bit of good backstory. However, the final book (Hector’s story) didn’t really give me any of the feels I wanted even though it was the one I was most looking forward to. I’d long ago learned my lesson about waiting too long to get back to a series, but this experience just helps reinforce how important momentum is to my reading feng shui.

Lord of Misrule by Rachel Caine

Lord of Misrule (Morganville #5) by Rachel Caine 3/5 stars

This is yet another book I would’ve enjoyed more had I continued right away. Alas, I’m grateful for the few subtle drop-in reminders of events in previous books to get me back up to speed for the rest of the series (which I’m planning to continue in a timely manner). I’m always impressed at Caine’s writing and thinks she has some of the better-developed characters in the genre. I know every time I pick up a Morganville book I’m going to be entertained. The storyline for Lord of Misrule specifically felt a little more erratic than previous books. It’s definitely functioning as a setup novel and ended without one whit of resolution (which is good motivation for me to keep reading…thank the book gods for completed series). Overall, I’m excited to dive back into this series.


Thanks for following along! What do you think of this new reviewing format for middle-of-the-road titles? :)