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Novella Review: Legion: Skin Deep by Brandon Sanderson

Legion: Skin Deep by Brandon Sanderson

Title: Legion: Skin Deep

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Series: Legion #2

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.5/5 stars!

The Overview: Stephen Leeds, AKA “Legion,” is a man whose unique mental condition allows him to generate a multitude of personae: hallucinatory entities with a wide variety of personal characteristics and a vast array of highly specialized skills. As the new story begins, Leeds and his “aspects” are hired by I3 (Innovative Information Incorporated) to recover a corpse stolen from the local morgue. But there’s a catch. The corpse is that of a pioneer in the field of experimental biotechnology, a man whose work concerned the use of the human body as a massive storage device. He may have embedded something in the cells of his now dead body. And that something might be dangerous… What follows is a visionary thriller about the potential uses of technology, the mysteries of the human personality, and the ancient human need to believe that death is not the end. Legion: Skin Deep is speculative fiction at it most highly developed. It reaffirms Sanderson’s place as one of contemporary fiction’s most intelligent—and unpredictable—voices. -Goodreads

The Review:

Both Legion novellas were absolutely delightful. The concept was unique (a brilliant man whose “not crazy”, but harbors several human aspects who help him store information and solve crimes), the mysteries were interesting, and the writing was superb – yup! It’s definitely a Sanderson. What I especially loved about Skin Deep was the humor – I laughed so much through the first half I went back and read it again – you can tell Sanderson had a lot of fun writing it. The resolution to the mystery may have been wrapped up a little too conveniently for my tastes, but I still liked it. Overall, if you’re in the mood for something different – or if you’re mega Sanderson fan (like me <3) who hasn’t yet read it – Legion is the perfect pick!

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Sideswiped and The Drafter by Kim Harrison

The Drafter by Kim Harrison

Title: The Drafter

Author: Kim Harrison

Series: The Peri Reed Chronicles #.5 & #1

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Rating: Sideswiped [4.5/5 stars] The Drafter [2/5 stars]

The Overview: The Bourne Identity meets Minority Report in this first highly anticipated installment in number-one New York Times best-selling author Kim Harrison’s sexy new romantic suspense trilogy, featuring a brilliant special task agent at the top of her field and set in a futuristic Detroit.During a routine but dangerous Opti task, Peri Reed finds out her trusted partner has made her a corrupt agent. Her unique ability to jump back 40 seconds in time to correct a mistake leaves her vulnerable when her partner, who is responsible for replacing her memory of the event, gives her a false one. But Peri lives and dies on her intuition, and she begins to piece her twisted reality together as she flees her one-time secure situation at Opti and tries to find the truth with a sullen but talented psychologist named Silas who works for the very agency trying to bring the Opti corruption to light. -Goodreads

The Review:

I’d actually like to start out with an ultra-mini review of Sideswiped: It was a perfect introduction of the characters, magic system, and slightly futuristic/alternate society. I thought it was absolutely delightful, yet heart wrenching at the same time. I loved every moment and afterward was totally AMPED to pick up The Drafter. [4.5/5 stars]

Then I picked up The Drafter.

I read a few posts on Kim Harrison’s blog a few months ago where she conveyed how disappointed she was that The Drafter wasn’t being received as well as she’d hoped. She stated something along the lines of “people just aren’t getting what I’m trying to do.” After finally reading the book, I can definitely see why some readers may have had trouble with it and why someone new to Kim Harrison’s work might not have the trust needed to push through the harder patches. It wasn’t a lack of characterization, world building, or writing in general – it’s clear Kim Harrison is still a master of all these things (especially with my impressions of Sideswiped), but rather the result of some unfortunate choices she made while outlining.

Issue 1: the biggest problem I had with The Drafter was it’s repetitive use of dramatic irony.

dramatic irony: where the full significance of the character’s words or actions are clear to the reader but unknown to the character.

Using it was a risky move on Harrison’s part, and I don’t think it paid off. I was aware of the foul play from the very beginning and therefore was forced to sit patiently through 400 pages as the main character figured it out for herself. It was tedious and a little bit frustrating, but the biggest issue was that a storyline constructed entirely around dramatic irony gave me no opportunity to get emotionally invested in the plot or feel any kind of suspense. As this is supposed to be a thriller of sorts, that’s a problem.

Issue 2: I don’t think the book started at the best place. It began way too far into the story arc (which felt like a scene out of the second or third book where the framework for the world had already been established and all of the characters properly introduced). Instead, we were thrown into the middle of the controversy without any backing of the situation showing us why we should care. Betrayals of certain characters were no big deal because to me, the fact that they betrayed is literally the only thing presented thus far about them.

Where the story started also provided very little time to understand the art of drafting itself, so I was shoved at even more of an arms distance from the plot while trying to figure out what the heck was going on. I imagine had I not learned a basic understanding of it in Sideswiped, I would have been struggling even more.

Finally, it didn’t provide any time to get to know the characters, which brings me to…

Issue 3: all the characters came across very unlikable right from the beginning. In sideswiped, Peri was introduced as a spunky, ambitious, and intelligent woman who was destined to do great things. In Drafter, she immediately appeared arrogant and flippant to the point of recklessness (also as an insufferable know-it-all with no back story to substantiate it). I didn’t like her or any characters around her. Again I mentioned that if I hadn’t read Sideswiped, I might have been put off permanently then and there.


So you see, there are plethora of reasons I think The Drafter could’ve been better – all of them a result of construction choices rather than any flaw on the author’s writing ability. I think if the events and timelines of the prequel have been expanded on as the first book, Harrison would’ve had another hit on her hands (yes – it really was that good, containing the missing pieces that made The Drafter feel incomplete). Because of how much I liked Sideswiped how much I trust Kim Harrison as an author, I am cautiously optimistic to see what The Operator has in store for me next.

If there’s one takeaway with my experience with The Drafter, it’s that if you are planning to read the series, for the love of God – read the prequel first.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Tackling the TBR [21]: March 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:

March 2017 TBR Tackler Shelf:

The Demon King and Traitor’s Blade are both Buddy Reads with my Goodreads group, which should be fun (come join us!). You may  have noticed that instead of the usual hodgepodge, I have several books by Marissa Meyer and Peter Brett. I’ve been in the mood to really immerse myself in series lately, which to me is an all-or-nothing venture including short stories out the wazoo. Of all the things on my list this month, I’m most excited to start Winter (Cress was amazing!).

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 and still haven’t caught up. That said, many of these books are in “currently reading” status.

So many books!!! So little time.


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

January 2017 Titles Tackled:

Finished Series: 0
 Series Brought UTD: 3
Series Progressed: 3
New Series Started: 2
Abandoned: 0

Overall I didn’t do too bad in February, 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
Up To Date Series: 6
Series Progressed: 4
New Series Started: 7
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 Demon Awakens by R. A. Salvatore

The Demon Awakens by R. A. Salvatore

Title: The Demon Awakens

Author: R.A. Salvatore

Series: The Demonwars Saga #1

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Overview: A great evil has awakened in the land of Corona, a terrible demon determined to spread death and misery. His goblin armies and fearsome giants ravage the settlements of the frontier, and in the small village of Dundallis their merciless attack leaves behind two shattered orphans: Pony and her lifelong friend, the youth Elbryan. Taken in by elves, Elbryan is raised to become a formidable ranger–a fateful role that will lead him into harrowing confrontation.

Meanwhile, on a far-off island, a shower of gemstones will fall onto the black sand shores. These heaven-sent stones carry within them an incredible power–the key to all that is good in the world and all that is evil, and it is up to one young monk to liberate them from the corrupt monastery that harvests them. Pray that they don’t fall into the wrong, clawed hands . . .   -Goodreads

The Review:

As the entire Demonwars Saga has been gathering dust on my shelves for over ten years now, boy do I feel foolish for not having read The Demon Awakens before now. There were so many elements I loved, and at one point was even considering a 5 star rating (I’ll address what knocked it off that in a minute). It dazzled me with great characters, an interesting magic system, exotic fantastical settings, and a fast-paced plot filled with loads of action and excitement (with plenty of that brilliant hand-to-hand combat that Salvatore is known so well for).

The characters were fresh, exciting, and really fun to get to know – totally on par with their Forgotten Realms counterparts (if perhaps a mite less memorable). I had been a little worried that they’d be carbon copies of Drizzt and his gang, but thankfully they weren’t. It’s always a concern I have when reading a slightly less popular series by authors known primarily for other works. It’s kind of silly, because logically good writing knows no bounds. Anyway, Salvatore has definitely shown me here that he’s no one trick pony.

50% of The Demon Awakens (from about the 1/4 mark to the 3/4 mark) was a solid 5-star (I loved every freaking moment) type of story for all of the attributes listed above. It took a while to get past the spoiler-ish summary I’d read before diving in (which is why I usually don’t more than glance at overviews – does knowing key plot points of a story before diving in bother anyone else is much as it does me?).

Anyway, obviously there were some great components to The Demon Awakens, but there were a handful of things bothered me enough in the last 1/4 of the books to knock down my rating. Character development was one of them. I know I just spent a moment gushing at how great I thought they were; what I’m referring to here is how these great characters changed throughout the novel. One of my favorites underwent a seeming 180 degree personality flip over a very short time period… it was a little disorienting. It felt like two totally different character profiles were given the same name and slapped together. Also, the only relatable female character, who had strong growth arc through most of the book, eventually became second fiddle and almost incidental near the end.

Story trajectory was my other issue. Salvatore took my least favorite plot point and beat it to death with a small cudgel. I acknowledge that at some point that plot point needed to be resolved, but that doesn’t mean I was obligated to enjoy it ;P. The parts I wasn’t excited about earned a 2 star (it was just okay) rating.

That said, I’m still definitely continuing on with the series, as there was a significant parts of this book I loved with a fierce passion. I’ll just keep my fingers crossed that some of my favorite plot elements make their way into the next installment.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs

March 7, 2017

Title: Silence Fallen

Author: Patricia Briggs

Series: Mercedes Thompson #10

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Release Date: March 7, 2017

The Overview: Attacked and abducted in her home territory, Mercy finds herself in the clutches of the most powerful vampire in the world, taken as a weapon to use against alpha werewolf Adam and the ruler of the Tri-Cities vampires. In coyote form, Mercy escapes only to find herself without money, without clothing, and alone in the heart of Europe… Unable to contact Adam and the rest of the pack, Mercy has allies to find and enemies to fight, and she needs to figure out which is which. Ancient powers stir, and Mercy must be her agile best to avoid causing a war between vampires and werewolves, and between werewolves and werewolves. And in the heart of the ancient city of Prague, old ghosts rise…  -Goodreads

The Review:

Anything written by Patricia Briggs these days is pure gold. I always try to savor them (the year-long wait between books is brutal!), but always seem to find myself devouring pages like there’s no tomorrow! The Mercy Thompson series is the sort of guaranteed good read that leaves me no doubt I’m going to love every moment. Silence Fallen was another awesome book in a long line of killer novels.

Without giving anything important away, I think it’s safe to reveal that Silence Fallen takes place primarily in another country. It was a much-appreciated change of scenery. Briggs provided an immersive experience rich in history and vibrant and description. It was a lot of fun getting to explore new environments (notice I haven’t mentioned where? The discovery is part of the fun! You’ll have to read it to find out). My only hold up is that I thought historical facts could’ve been integrated a little bit smoother. Briggs utilized the character’s personal knowledge of the place a little too often to be believable. Seriously, are you really going to be able to recall tiny details about a place you learned about in passing years ago in college? I didn’t totally buy it, but that’s probably because I can’t remember what I did yesterday. :) Regardless of delivery, the description was incredibly well researched and made me feel like I was there. It was a new adventure filled with fun discoveries and interesting villains. 

Silence Fallen also offered multiple POVs, something I LOVED because I just can’t get enough of Adam Hauptman. His perspective adds so much richness to the story and I’m hoping it won’t be the last time he gets a moment in the spotlight.

Overall, Silence Fallen was packed with an awesome mix of supernatural, humor, romance, and action, topping itself off with one wallop of a surprise at the end that will knock you out of your armchair. If you haven’t given this series a try, you’re totally missing out!

I’d like to thank Berkley Publishing Group, Patricia Briggs, and NetGalley for the chance to read and review an early copy of Silence Fallen.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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DNF Q&A: Firstlife by Gena Showalter

Firstlife by Gena Showalter

Title: Firstlife

Author: Gena Showalter

Series: Everlife #1

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Rating: DNF Rating

The OverviewTenley “Ten” Lockwood is an average seventeen-year-old girl…who has spent the past thirteen months locked inside the Prynne Asylum. The reason? Not her obsession with numbers, but her refusal to let her parents choose where she’ll live—after she dies. There is an eternal truth most of the world has come to accept: Firstlife is merely a dress rehearsal, and real life begins after death.

In the Everlife, two realms are in power: Troika and Myriad, longtime enemies and deadly rivals. Both will do anything to recruit Ten, including sending their top Laborers to lure her to their side. Soon, Ten finds herself on the run, caught in a wild tug-of-war between the two realms who will do anything to win the right to her soul. Who can she trust? And what if the realm she’s drawn to isn’t home to the boy she’s falling for? She just has to stay alive long enough to make a decision… -Goodreads

The DNF Q&A:

This is a reviewing feature I’ve been eyeballing on one of my favorite book blogs There Were Books Involved for a couple years now because I think it’s an excellent way to talk about an unfinished book fairly. I’m incredibly grateful because Nikki (the brains behind the blog, who has a most excellent name)  kindly allowed me to steal the idea and questions for my own blog. As my list of “amazing books to read” continues to grow, I find I have less and less time and patience to devote to the books I’m just not enjoying. I never would have considered DNFing a book ten years ago, but then I came across a quote, “Read the best books first, for you might not have the chance to read them all,” and have since made it my personal mantra. Life’s too short to read books you’re just not enjoying. So let the Q&A begin!

Did you really give Firstlife a chance?

Yes – I made it about halfway through before setting it aside.

Have you enjoyed other books in the same genre before?

I’ve loved a lot of things from the YA genre, although I admit lately I’ve had less patience for teen angst in general. I haven’t read anything quite like Firstlife before, but it had vague similarities to these other titles, which I enjoyed (mostly):

Did you have certain expectations before starting it?

Unfortunately I had low expectations going into Firstlife, but decided to pick it up despite a few negative reviews. Even more unfortunate was that it lived up to my low expectations.

What ultimately made you stop reading?

Two things: 1. It was just too bloody weird. Now, I’ve always appreciated Showalter for dancing to her own drum (a quality I’ve adored in other works of hers), but Firstlife was a bit too far-reaching even for me. The very beginning explains these “influencers” of the two philosophical groups venturing down to the “Firstlife” world to influence the main character to join their side. Both influencers are male, but one goes down in a girl’s body… it was weird. It, along with an odd sequence of events, was just too weird for me. Did I mention it was weird?

2. I did not like the main character, finding her decisions contradictory (which I hate). She was supposed to be this tough, somewhat stubborn girl who chose to undergo imprisonment and physical torture rather than stray from her convictions. But, as soon as the two “influencers” walked-in, she started waffling about everything before they’d even really made their pitch on why she should join their side. Especially the boy – all he had to do was ask her to jump and she’d say “how high?” It was a frustrating contradiction of character – she came across very weak minded when the framework of the story set her up as someone incredibly strong unswayable. I really, really hated that.

Was there anything you liked about Firstlife? 

I liked a lot of things at first, such as character, world building, and story, but quickly soured to all of them because of the issues listed above.

Would you read anything else by this author? 

Yes, although I’m now terrified to read her other YA trilogy – signed hardcovers I’ve had on my shelf for ages. If I ever need a delightfully cheesy paranormal romance, however, she’s still one of my first picks.

So you DNF’d the book – would you still recommend it?

I don’t think so. There are too many other books I’d recommend first.

by Niki Hawkes