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Tackling the TBR [24]: June 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:

June 2017 TBR Tackler Shelf [Catch-up Month]:

I’ve been running these Tackling the TBR posts for exactly 2 years now, but only recently started including “Tackler Carry-Overs” to represent all the titles I hadn’t got to in previous months. Unfortunately, of the 10 titles I choose every month, I only average 7. It’s to a point where my Carry-Over shelf was twice as big as my TBR Tackler Shelf. What’s more, there are a few titles on there I’m stalling on reading because I’m just not as excited for them as I was when they got their first TTTBR run. Long story short – I’m doing a catch-up month! Anything I don’t get through this month will automatically drop off so I start July 2017 with a clean slate. Looking at my “leftovers” makes me laugh because there are a ton of amazing authors on here. I’ve already pared down to just the high-priority ones. Update 6/2: I reorganized my incomplete series list and changed the priorities on some of them. Because of that, I switched out a few titles. :)


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

May 2017 Titles Tackled:

Niki’s May 2017 Progress Update:

Series Finished: 1
The Long Game – Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Series Brought UTD: 3
Red Sister – Mark Lawrence
Skin Game – Jim Butcher
Steeplejack – A.J. Hartley

Series Progressed: 6
Grim Tides – T.A. Pratt
The Voyage of the Basilisk – Marie Brennan
The Twisted Citadel – Sara Douglass
Magic Dreams – Ilona Andrews
Magic Tests – Ilona Andrews
A Gathering of Shadows – V.E. Schwab

New Series Started: 3
Red Sister – Mark Lawrence
Steeplejack – A.J. Hartley
Green Rider – Kristen Britian

Abandoned: 0

YTD Totals:
Finished Series: 5
Up To Date Series: 10
Series Progressed: 24
New Series Started: 12
Abandoned: 1

I’ve decided my goal going forward is to progress and finish as many series as I can from my top priority list (as written out in my Incomplete Series Challenge on Goodreads). I’m certain I will still start new series (I can’t help myself), but if I can get through at least half of my high priorities, I’ll be a happy camper. :)


What books are you Tackling this month? 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. :)

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Title: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing

Author: Marie Kondo

Series: N/A

Genre: Self-Help

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again. Most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, which doom you to pick away at your piles of stuff forever. The KonMari Method, with its revolutionary category-by-category system, leads to lasting results. In fact, none of Kondo’s clients have lapsed (and she still has a three-month waiting list).

With detailed guidance for determining which items in your house “spark joy” (and which don’t), this international best seller featuring Tokyo’s newest lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home – and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire. -Goodreads

The Review:

I have been an organizer all of my adult life, even going so far as to lists “organizing” as my strongest asset on job applications (as it turns out, all the jobs I’ve ever had have been optimal organizing jobs). 2017 is my year of Simplifying Life, which involves, you guessed it, organizing every aspect. So, when my library flashed an available copy of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up in front of my face, I snagged it… Serendipity? I think so.

This book was fun for a couple of reasons. One of which was that it allowed me to compare my organizing skill set against a professional. I’m delighted to report that I actually came away from it with several new great ideas and a whole new perspective on how to get rid of stuff. The book is packed with many great tips along with an interesting look into how the author developed the KonMari method over the years. Also – it was amazing to finally find someone who can talk about organizing and getting rid of stuff without advocating minimalism! I love stuff. I love MY stuff. I just don’t want to be buried under it.

One of the best things Marie Kondo does is present her method with a clear order of operations for tidying (she uses the word “tidy” in the same way I would talk about organizing and getting rid of stuff). The idea is to ease you into the process by starting out with things that are easier to get rid of. #1 was clothing. This is already a revolution for me, because when I go through my stuff, I tend to always begin with keepsakes – the most difficult things to part with. Anyway, her method involves gathering every like-item of each category in one place. It’s important that you don’t worry about organizing until you’re done sorting items into either keep” or “discard”. One point of contention I’d like to briefly note here is that she advocates throwing things away, whereas I’m more inclined to donate. She does bring up donation as an option, but more often than not describes throwing away dozens and dozens of bags of items).

Her method hinges on 1. using your ability to identify which items bring you joy and 2. your willingness to get rid of everything that doesn’t. This is the part I found most helpful. You see, most other methods I’ve researched advocate identifying which items to discard. Whether it be “get rid of 1000 items over the next year” or “find one item a day to get rid of”. They put more emphasis on quantity over quality that IMO focuses on the negatives. Marie Kondo changed my perspective by conveying that what’s important is not what you discard, but what you choose to keep. With the other methods, it gets to a point where you’re hounding your house, looking for things to discard (I can attest that it can get really frustrating). Kondo has her clients physically touch every item and spend a moment considering whether or not it sparks joy. While her and I don’t agree on every point within her method, this one at least was a home run.

Speaking of not agreeing, the next category after clothing is books… Kondo is of the philosophy that if you buy a book and don’t read it right away, chances are you’ll never get around to reading it and it needs to go. The intention to read a book is not a good enough reason to keep it. BLASPHEMY! Now, I admit I get where she’s coming from, but I think this only applies to the average person and not us book-obsessed. Arguably, books are my life, and when you devour 60+ books a year, there’s a good chance you actually will get to a lot of the titles on your shelves (eventually).

But it got me thinking…

What if getting rid of the books you intend to read in favor of keeping just the books you are excited to read would actually make you feel lighter and more free? On one hand, being surrounded by books is one of my biggest joys in life, but (as any book lever can relate, that looming TBR can cause a ton of stress. I always enjoy what I’m reading, but much less when I’m focused on getting through my current reads because I’m impatient to get to my to-reads.

About five years ago, I had over 4000 books in my house. I don’t remember the exact numbers for the math I did, but at the current rate I was reading, it would’ve taken me over 40 years to get through all of them. Add to that all of the upcoming new releases and all of the hundreds of books on my Goodreads TBR that I have yet to purchase, and we have a problem. Let me repeat: 40 YEARS! How’s that for stressful? So I downsized, getting rid of everything I found only mildly interesting and only keeping the books I thought I’d pay attention to within the next 10 years. As I sit here thinking about all of my favorite books buried underneath mediocre TBR books, I can’t help but think that thinning it out yet once more might not be a bad idea. I definitely don’t condone throwing out most of your books if, like me, reading is your number one joy in life, but I can definitely see the benefit of making your collection something to be proud of. Her method definitely needs some tweaking for us bookish people, and I’ll probably develop some method of my own and talk more about it in my Simplifying Life: Books post coming this fall. Moving on…

Here are some other interesting ideas from this book:

Keepsakes: Kondo suggests going through keepsakes last. That way, you have a good handle and lots of practice using the KonMari method, and can more easily identify which things merit hanging onto. She claims that most keepsakes you don’t actually need to keep because the memories associated with them is already so strong, you won’t forget them after discarding the items. Thinking about my own keepsakes, I can definitely see how this is true – tossing that pile of rocks I have sitting on my shelf from my trip to Wyoming is probably not going to diminish my memory of the trip itself. This will be the hardest category for me because I’m incredibly sentimental about inanimate objects. I learned long ago that if I hold onto it for more than a month, that sucker ain’t ever leaving my house, no matter how trivial it is.

Papers: this is one of the categories I disagreed with Kondo about. She says, aside from a few documents you have to keep like birth certificates and car titles, everything else can be disposed of. I don’t know if it’s a cultural difference, but this woman has clearly never been through underwriting while buying a house in the US. Those people require EVERYTHING. Kondo’s claim is that whatever you discard, you can always get ahold of again if you need it. When disputing charges on my Century Link bill, however, and there bill access section is conveniently not working, that’s when I wish I had a printout of them stashed away. I will admit that the vast majority of papers we hang on to our unnecessary, but for me, the ones I choose to keep are there for convenience and to alleviate possible stress later. It seems like anymore these days the less documentation you have to back you up, the more people screw you over. Or maybe that’s just me. That said, I still only have a small 2-drawer filing cabinet (hot pink, of course) for everything.

Gifts: Kondo does a really great job trying to make you feel less guilty about getting rid of things you received as gifts. We all have them. And we hang on to a lot of them because we’re afraid it would hurt the person’s feelings if we got rid of them. I’m really horrible about this. My mom once gave me a bunch of socks she didn’t like, and I hung on to them for a couple of years before finally asking her if it was okay if I got rid of them. If it comes from my mommy or my husband, it’s really difficult for me to let go, even if I don’t like it. That said, when I do finally let some things go, I feel lighter somehow. Kondo’s argument is that the purpose of the gift was to make you feel appreciated by the gift giver. The item has already served its purpose, and what happens to it after that is the less important factor. I agree completely with that sentiment, and I certainly hope any gifts I’ve given weren’t held onto because of guilt. That said, just don’t let me know that you got rid of it – I gave my grandma a bird statue for her birthday one year and saw it sitting proudly on the table at her following garage sale a couple months later… Ouch.

Stocking up: People buy in bulk and stock up on all sorts of things, and Kondo thinks this is most often unnecessary. Her argument is, by the time you make it through your items, most of them have past their expiration date and have to be discarded, anyway. It’s a much more intelligent use of time money and space to only buy the items as you need them. As I sit here staring at the six boxes of expired peppermint tea that I’ve been buying over the last few years every time I got a coupon, I can totally see her point. I’m going to throw away a ton of tea that I bought on sale, which means I essentially wasted $20 rather than “benefiting” from a savings of $3. There are a few exceptions, but generally, I find her argument to be valid.

Humanizing Items: this is the final thing I didn’t quite see eye to eye with the author on. She says to treat each item like a person (that’s not exactly as she said it, but you get the gist). When you get home from the day and take off your shoes, you’re supposed to thank them for keeping your feet comfy throughout the day. When you get rid of a shirt, you’re supposed to send it off with the thank you for keeping you clothed all those years. I have a couple of issues with this (aside from the obvious). Primarily that doing something like this for every item in your house requires so much energy. I spend most of my day putting on a polite, friendly demeanor for coworkers and tenants, the last thing I want to do when I get to my home – a place where I can let that face down and just exist in peace – is have to treat inanimate objects like they’re people. The more minor issue is that, if I treat my things like people, I’ll never be able to get rid of them without feeling guilty, lol.

To round out the KonMari method, once you have gone through everything in your house and decided what to keep, only then do you start the organization process. The key is making sure everything has a “home.” Right now I have lots of stuff in my house that doesn’t really go anywhere, so it ends up on counters, in cars, and shoved into random drawers. If you give everything a place, then the maintenance of this stuff won’t make you want to peel your face off (that last sentiment is mine, not the author’s).

Overall, as this is one of my first forays into nonfiction (don’t worry, it will be one of my only), I found it highly interesting. The Obsessive Bookseller definitely wants to get her life organized this year, and every little tip helps! I am chomping at the bit to start applying some of the methods I’ve acquired from Kondo to see if they really work, which I’ll definitely highlight it in future Simplifying Life posts (once my house is finished being built and I can dig into all my stuff – currently in storage). In any case, thanks for coming along with me on this organization tangent – I hope you picked up some tips LOL.

by Niki Hawkes

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Mini Book Review: Grim Tides by T.A. Pratt

Grim Tides by T.A. Pratt

Title: Grim Tides

Author: T.A. Pratt

Series: Marla Mason #6

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Rating: 5/5 stars!

The Overview: Marla Mason, ousted chief sorcerer for the city of Felport, is languishing in exile on the island of Maui with her best friend, the psychic (and rather hedonistic) Rondeau. Driven from the city she loves, Marla is adrift, nearly friendless, and stripped of almost all her power and resources. It’s the perfect time for old enemies to try and kill her. A group of sorcerers, all with their own reasons to want Marla dead, assemble and prepare to attack her while she’s at her most vulnerable. The members of this Marla Mason Revenge Squad include the one-armed witch Nicolette, the cheerfully murderous psychopath Crapsey, a criminally insane shapeshifter, a man who hunts werewolves for fun, and a master of anti-magic, among others. But they aren’t taking chances with an enemy as formidable as Marla. They hire the world’s most notorious–and deadly–chaos witch, Elsie Jarrow, to lead their assault. But Elsie is impossible to predict and may well have an agenda of her own. But Marla isn’t as helpless as they think… -Goodreads

The Mini Review:

I am a huge fan of this series. It’s so dang fun – including everything I look for in an urban fantasy. Broken Mirrors, book 5, went a little too far off the rails for my tastes, but Grim Tides was an excellent bounce back. The author usually has a ton of fun with his characters, but the dynamics were particularly interesting in this installment – bringing together a whole host of eclectic personalities. Pratt also brought back one of my favorite characters, whom I’m hopeful to see next book as well. I also really liked the mystery in Grim Tides, involving nonhuman(ish), hive-minded beach bums… I don’t know where he comes up with this stuff, but I’m so glad he does, lol. Overall, this series is totally worth your time and currently my go-to for a delightfully snarky read.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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The Obsessive Bookseller Simplifies Life [5]: Health

simplifies-life-2017

In case you missed my Introductory Post, my world was in such an upheaval that I was forced to take drastic measures by simplifying and organizing all the things that caused me stress. Each month, in 2017, I’m tackling different aspects of my life that are clutter-stressors by organizing and altering them into things that bring me joy.


May 2017: Health

2017 seems to be the year of personal revelations. Each month, I’ve been tackling things that caused me stress and turning them into things that bring me joy. Health has always been important to me, and this Simplifying Life project has really helped me set (and achieve) attainable goals. A lot of work went into it though, so it’s important for me to clarify that the simplification comes in the form of having set goals so I don’t have to stress about what I should be doing.

Disclaimer: I’m going to be bringing up a lot of health “facts” that I’ve read while doing research and am using as a basis for all of my personal health goals. I’m mentioning them merely to explain why I started doing the things I am to get healthier, not as a means to inform or educate. Heck, I’m not even standing by them as accurate, so please take everything I say with a grain of salt and do your own research before following suit.

The Trackers:

There’s something irreplaceably helpful about being able to see progress in the form of checkmarks all over my health tracker. I began this journey by identifying the physical and emotional components that go into making me healthier, happier person. I created an Excel template with all of these items and set a daily checkmark goal.

I felt my health tracker should include more than just eating and exercising, but also things that bring me emotional joy and, oddly enough, personal hygiene. I noticed that when I took the time to curl and style my hair in the mornings, I had a much more productive day. Maybe it’s because I felt like I had my “armor” on and was ready to face the world, more so than when I just tromped to work with my hair up in a messy bun. Whatever the reason, all of these things helped me feel healthier. I found this tracker incredibly motivational. Every time I felt the need to do something, I’d pick an item and see it through (most of which took under 5 minutes). I used this tracker for several months before getting into enough of a habit that I didn’t need it anymore.

The Food:

I consider it almost impossible to change your diet overnight. I talked about this a little bit in my Simplifying Life: Food post, but I really think if I had started trying to eat healthier all at once, it would’ve been doomed for failure. Instead, what I did was look up foods good for your brain and slowly start incorporating them into my diet. Over the course of a couple of years, I have slowly change my habits so that I’m buying less processed foods and more fresh foods. They say when you go to the grocery store, try to shop more on the perimeter rather than in the aisles to avoid processed foods. So far in 2017, I stuck to the edges, only venturing in occasionally for cereal (my true <3) and peanut butter.

Another thing I wanted to track was my Saturated Fat intake. I remember reading somewhere that 30% of your daily intake should include fats, but only a small fraction of that should be Saturated Fats (for me, it was about 13g to 15g per day) and 0% Trans Fats. The trouble is, I had no idea what I was actually consuming. Part of my motivation was a couple of documentaries I’d watched on Alzheimer’s disease. In one Ted Talk, a doctor claimed his research showed people had a much higher likelihood of experiencing Dementia and Alzheimer’s if you ate more than 20+ grams of Saturated Fats per day. The research he presented showed a strong correlation between the two, however, I am always skeptical when data is thrown in front of my face. I haven’t done any research to see how thorough their experiment was, nor have I done any to see if anyone else has substantiated this claim. That said, it got me thinking that, regardless of Saturated Fat’s effect on Alzheimer’s, it’s probably not a bad idea to start paying attention to how much I’m getting.

Now, I considered myself a fairly healthy eater. I don’t indulge in candy bars, ice cream, or most other processed foods very often. But, as soon as I started reading labels and tracking consumption, I discovered I was still well above my daily Saturated Fat intake goals. For example, my coworkers always bring in these frosted shortbread cookies, and I’d always just figured they had a lot of sugar, but not much else. I’d eat two, sometimes three every time. Come to find out that each cookie also had 8g of Saturated Fat! O_o! After two cookies, I had totally blown my Saturated Fat intake for the day. And I really don’t even like them that much – I just ate them because they were available. It’s all about choices. And becoming aware of what you’re putting into your body. I decided I would much rather indulge in a giant bowl of natural chocolate ice cream at the end of the day than waste it all on a tiny cookie at lunch. I digress…

There are a ton of cute meal trackers on the internet for this (google it). Mine are “fugly but functional.”

The 10,000 Steps:

I noticed when I was doing my general health tracker that it was always a lot more fun to rack up steps than it was to do strength training. It also was a lot easier to find data on calories burned based on steps taken rather than individual strength training (I’m antsy in general). According to the research I found (don’t quote me), walking 10,000 steps per day (provided at least a half-hour of those steps is a more rigorous workout) burns about 500 calories. After 7 days of this, you’re conceivably losing 3500 calories, or 1 pound. Now, all of this depends on how many calories your body needs to maintain its current weight, so you can’t just eat what you want, burn 3500 cal, and expect to lose weight. It’s a math game, and every person is different. Anyway, this seemed like a goal I could really get behind because I’ve been enjoying running lately, it’s beautiful weather outside, and it keeps me from feeling so sedentary. I have a nifty little app that helps me track my steps, but I’m looking into getting a fitbit so I don’t always have to have my phone on me.

I also remember reading somewhere that sitting for more than 2 hours a day straight negates any health benefits gained from eating well and exercising. The 10,000 steps keeps me up and moving, and as an added benefit keeps me from wearing out my eyes staring at a computer screen for too long. I just need to apologize to the people in the office directly below mine because I’m now clomping around so much…

The Preparedness:

All of these health goals involving food are absolutely redundant if you don’t make sure they are available. If you’re at home and all there is to eat is junk food, then you have only two choices: break your health goal and feel guilty about it, or starve. I can eat good foods all day every day if they are available, but the moment I get lazy (by not going to the store or prepping produce), that’s when I revert back towards eating poorly.


Now, this is usually the point where I list all the goals I achieved, but in the case of health, the endgame is longevity. I’m hoping the good habits I’m getting into now and the lifestyle changes I’ve been slowly making over the last three or four years will pay dividends as I get older. I can tell you one thing, because I’ve started tracking numbers and setting daily goals, I feel amazing and have stopped worrying so much about what the future holds. So, in that sense, I have successfully reduced my stress in both my current and future health situations, and that, in itself is a win!

Project Status: Health Simplified!

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Voyage of the Basilisk by Marie Brennan

Voyage of the Basilisk by Marie Brennan

Title: Voyage of the Basilisk

Author: Marie Brennan

Series: Memoir of Lady Trent #3

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: Devoted readers of Lady Trent’s earlier memoirs, A Natural History of Dragons and The Tropic of Serpents, may believe themselves already acquainted with the particulars of her historic voyage aboard the Royal Survey Ship Basilisk, but the true story of that illuminating, harrowing, and scandalous journey has never been revealed—until now. Six years after her perilous exploits in Eriga, Isabella embarks on her most ambitious expedition yet: a two-year trip around the world to study all manner of dragons in every place they might be found. From feathered serpents sunning themselves in the ruins of a fallen civilization to the mighty sea serpents of the tropics, these creatures are a source of both endless fascination and frequent peril. Accompanying her is not only her young son, Jake, but a chivalrous foreign archaeologist whose interests converge with Isabella’s in ways both professional and personal. Science is, of course, the primary objective of the voyage, but Isabella’s life is rarely so simple. She must cope with storms, shipwrecks, intrigue, and warfare, even as she makes a discovery that offers a revolutionary new insight into the ancient history of dragons. -Goodreads

The Review:

I’m happy to say that Voyage of the Basilisk was a combination of everything I’ve been hoping to see since the beginning of the series. The foremost of which being the heavy focus on dragons (and not all the other crap she included in the first book… although a lot of that is now becoming relevant, so I’m kind of eating my words). I especially appreciated the infusion of fantasy, naturalism, and archaeology into this adventure.

I feel like I’m living vicariously through the main character, and am loving the chance to explore new territories, study dragons, and come up with new theories on how they impact the world. If I could have any fantasy job, dragon naturalism would be near the top of the list. Part of the reason this was my favorite installment to date is because it let me appreciate the breadth of Brennan’s dragon creation. I think she did an excellent job of incorporating a wide variety of species while keeping in mind what’s biologically feasible for each territory. VotB also hinted at a cool mystery involving ancient dragons (which just might be the overall arc of the story), which shows a depth of world building I also hadn’t truly appreciated. All the things have me super excited to pick up the next book.

I still have a slight hold-up about the main character – I like so many things about her, but she still has a tendency to make hair-brained decisions. Even though Brennan did an excellent job addressing it in this volume, it still required a bit of that eye-rolling acceptance near the end. At least the character is consistent, I guess. The best advice I can give is: just go with it.

Overall, there are moments in this series I’ll love forever, and those memorable moments seem to happen more and more with each book. If you are as obsessed with dragons as I am (and are patient enough to wait for the payoff), this is an excellent series for you. I highly recommend the audio – Kate Reading is the queen of narration.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Arcanum Unbound by Brandon Sanderson

November 22, 2016

Title: Arcanum Unbounded

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Series: The World of Cosmere

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: Individually Rated Below

The Overview: Brandon Sanderson’s first story collection: novellas and short stories set in the Shardworlds, the worlds of Stormlight, Mistborn, Elantris, and more. Originally published on Tor.com and other websites, or published by the author, these wonderful tales convey the expanse of the Shardworlds and tell exciting tales of adventure Sanderson fans have come to expect.

 The collection will include eight works in all. The first seven are:
“The Hope of Elantris” (Elantris)
“The Eleventh Metal” (Mistborn)
“The Emperor’s Soul” (Elantris)
“Allomancer Jak and the Pits of Eltania, Epsiodes 28 through 30” (Mistborn)
“Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell” (Threnody)
“Sixth of Dusk” (First of the Sun)
“Mistborn: Secret History” (Mistborn)

Arcanum Unbounded will also contain a currently untitled Stormlight Archive novella which will appear in this book for the first time anywhere!!!!! -Goodreads

The Review:

If you can’t tell by now, I am a HUGE Sanderson fan. To have all of these amazing short stories in one collecitno is awesome. This compilation includes everything from maps of the Cosmere to behind the scenes expansions for some of our favorite Sanderson works (ahem…Mistborn). In this review, I’ll briefly explain what I liked about each story [In ascending order by rating].


Allomancer Jak and the Pits of Eltania, Epsiodes 28 through 30 [No Rating]:

Okay, I’ll admit the blasphemy that I didn’t read this one. But I hear if you liked the introductions to each chapter of Mistborn Era 2, you’ll like this too.

It’s very reminiscent of the golden age of radio era in the 1930’s (not my thing) and I couldn’t get past the presentation long enough to appreciate the story.

The Eleventh Metal [2.5/5 stars]:

This is a prequel short story for the Mistborn Trilogy, Era 1. It gives a little glimpse into how Kelsier coped after escaping the Pits of Hathsin (don’t panic if you haven’t read the series – this happens before the first book). I enjoyed it alright even though it didn’t add anything new to the series. 

Moving on…

The Hope of Elantris: [3/5]

This felt like a deleted scene from Elantris, but has very little to do with the main story… it’s more of a tangent. I honestly don’t think it added much to my enjoyment of the world as a whole, but I did like it.

Interestingly enough, my favorite part of this segment was actually the author’s note at the end explaining how the story came about. It has to do with one of his fans… way cool. :-)

Edgedancer [3.5/5 stars]:

Edgedancer was a great short story, but it’s one I think I’ll need to go back and reread once I’ve finished my reread of Way of Kings and Words of Radiance. It has been so long since I read those two that some of the references in Edgedancer went over my head. THIS is a problem because if I have holes in my memory, I wont be ready for Oathbringer, due out in November 2017. So, I will reread all the things, then review this one again. All you need to know is, this short story might help curb your craving for Oathbringer and help fill in some gaps.

White Sand [4/5 stars]

I freaking loved this short story. What a cool culture! It presents a magic system which involves using moisture in your body to manipulate sand (a cost/reward system I found particularly clever). Its about a young man who wants to run the trails of skill, but doesn’t have enough tradional magic strength to do it “properly.” I liked it so much I immediately went out and bought the graphic novel. Honestly, even though I’d just read the short story, I was hoping for a detailed expansion of the exact same scenes in graphic novel form. Instead, it breezed past it too fast for my tastes. With that said, if you plan on reading the graphic novel at any point, I’d highly recommend this short story first. It’s a marvelous introduction to this world and these characters.

Sixth of Dusk [4/5 stars]:

Sanderson is known well for his epic world building (among other things), but he really outdid himself with Sixth of Dusk. It was an experience, to say the least. Inspired by Polynesian culture, it takes you to the ridiculously dangerous jungles of an isolated island. Everything from the beasts that prowl the island, to the most minute flora and fauna was fascinating. On top of that, the character had these cool, albeit disturbing, hallucinations/premonitions of the future that help him see (and survive) the dangers around him. Even though the plot lacked a little resolution, it’s still one of the coolest short stories I’ve ever read. We all should badger him for more things set in this world (as if he doesn’t have enough to work on).

The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson

The Emperor’s Soul [4.5/5 stars]:

I read this short story ages ago, but apparently never wrote a review for it. It’s a well-woven tale infused with Asian culture, includes a neat magic system centered around calligraphy, and provides truly unique character exploration.

It stands on a pedestal as one of the most interesting stories I’ve ever read.

Mistborn: Secret History [4.5/5 stars]:

Mistborn: A Secret History is definitely my favorite new read from Arcana Unbounded (I’d already read Shadows for Silence and Emperor’s Soul). This short story provided tons of insight to the events that took place on the periphery of Mistborn, Era 1. Sanderson offers so many layers to his storytelling! Knowing all of this extra information about what really happened completely enhanced the main trilogy. Seriously, if you read nothing else from this collection, pick this one up. You’ll want to read it before picking up the 4th Wax and Wayne novel.

Shadows for Silence by Brandon Sanderson

Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell [5/5 stars]:

If you only read one novella from Brandon Sanderson, Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell would be my top pick (by a smidgen – they’re all awesome. And really, why would you limit yourself to just one?). It’s just one more example why Sanderson is one of my favorite authors – his novellas are every bit as good as his full-length novels. I loved this one because it had the perfect mix of characterization, setting, story, pacing, action, and resolution. It felt like a snippet out of a fully developed novel, but was self-contained enough to stand complete on its own. Silence, the main character, really struck a chord with me – her decision-making during the most intense scenes of the story still have me reeling months later. I want to get into the nitty-gritty details and geek out about all of them, but I can’t discuss it to my satisfaction without spoilers. So just take my word for it – this is definitely worth reading! :-)


Overall, Arcanum Unbounded is a brilliant compilation that I deem essential for any fan of Sanderson’s Cosmere. One of my favorite elements was the introduction to the planet systems within this universe and elusions to how the shards affected each one. I love how I learned about the Cosmere from this collection and look forward to discovering even more in his future works.

by Niki Hawkes