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Book Review: The Legion of Flame by Anthony Ryan + GIVEAWAY!

[June 27, 2017] Legion of Flame by Anthony Ryan

Title: The Legion of Flame

Author: Anthony Ryan

Series: The Draconis Memoria #2

Genre: Fantasy

Release Date: June 27, 2017

Rating: 5/5 stars!

The Overview: Empires clash and a fell power stakes its claim in the second in a new series from the New York Times bestselling author of the Raven’s Shadow Trilogy. For centuries, the vast Ironship Trading Syndicate relied on drake blood—and the extraordinary powers it confers to those known as the Blood-blessed—to fuel and protect its empire. But now, a fearsome power has arisen—a drake so mighty that the world will tremble before it. Rogue Blood-blessed Claydon Torcreek, Syndicate agent Lizanne Lethridge, and ironship captain Corrick Hilemore embark upon perilous quests to chase down clues that offer faint hopes of salvation. As the world burns around them, and the fires of revolution are ignited, these few are the last hope for the empire and for all of civilization. -Goodreads

The Review: 

If you start only one new fantasy series this year, make it Draconis Memoria by Anthony Ryan! I thought The Waking Fire was one of the best books I’d ever read, but Legion of Flame was even better!

Legion of Flame was the ultimate armchair adventure! Each chapter was so good, I had a difficult time finding decent stopping points (and as such, stayed up way too late on too many occasions to finish it). Ryan ended each of his chapters with an aggravatingly brilliant hook that just begged you to keep reading (so I did). There was always an abundance of action, adventure, exploration, steampunk, and, of course, dragons. Every element came together brilliantly for, I’ll say it again, one of the best books I’ve ever read.

In both of these books, Ryan takes you on an exploration of this world and allows you to discover its breathtaking histories/mysteries alongside some very memorable characters. This depth of discovery, combined with a very Indiana Jones adventure feel, is truly the magic of these novels and one of my favorite elements. There’s such a sense of wonder with his world-building – stuff that will truly dazzle you. I can’t even begin to guess what he has in store next!

Both books incorporate multiple POVs and they were all equally exciting to read about. Each character was perfectly placed to give us a grand picture of what’s transpiring, and I triple-dog-dare you to pick a favorite – they’re all deserving of the title. If forced, I’d say Lizanne struck a chord with me the most because her personality has a lot of duality, making her very interesting to read about.

Let’s talk about dragons for a minute. The dragons are incredibly well-conceived in this series. So far, their role has been much stronger than I’d dared hope – it truly is a dragon book. I love the varieties, their importance to the human populations, their significance in the story, and, most predominantly, how well they’re being represented. Ryan manages to keep all the things that I think comprise great dragons while simultaneously amping them up with his own twists. They’re brilliant! And if this wasn’t already one of my favorite books for story, characters, and world-building alone, it would be for the dragons.

So because of the amazing characters, seamless blend of fantasy and steampunk, exciting adventures, page-turning plot, and killer use of dragons, Legion of Flame is perfection. I plan to recommend it as often as I can!

I’d like to think Berkley Publishing Group, Anthony Ryan, and Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review an early copy of The Legion of Flame!


The Waking Fire Giveaway!

The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan

The publisher has graciously offered up a paperback copy of The Waking Fire for me to give away to one lucky US resident (I’m very sorry to all of my international followers – you guys are important to me too!). To enter, just take a moment to fill out this rafflecopter giveaway form, and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

US Residents only, please.
The giveaway will run until Midnight on Thursday, July 6, 2017 MST.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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The Obsessive Bookseller’s Mini Book Review Blitz!

Mini Book Review Blitz!

I’m going to need a feature image… Anyway, even when posting three times a week, I found myself becoming increasingly behind in book reviews. Behold: my solution – the Mini Book Review Blitz! 


A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Book Info: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

I couldn’t really come up with enough material to do a full review for this one – I liked it well enough, but it didn’t knock my socks off. What it had going for it were interesting characters and some cool ideas (most notably, overlapping dimensions of London and a dude who can travel between them). There were some sections that I thought were interesting, albeit a little dry (mostly near the beginning) and others that had me totally riveted. Overall, as the first in a series I’d heard so much about, I can definitely see the appeal. It had a very “Muggles” feel to me, like at the beginning of Deathly Hollows where the Prime Minister is trying to reconcile the paradigm of his world with the Wizarding world he know exists. If you liked those sections of HP, you’ll love this.


Captain's Furey by Jim Butcher

Book Info: Captain’s Fury by Jim Butcher

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Academ’s Fury and Cursor’s Fury were two of the best fantasy books I’ve ever read – I loved the snot out of them. They took me on a whirlwind of a ride and so, by comparison, Captain’s Fury was a slower burn, more on par with the first book (although the events that happened within this one still rocked my world). It seemed more like a set up novel for the last couple books in the series and it did a great job generating some momentum. I can’t wait to finish this series – almost everything about it has made me very upset that I didn’t start it ages ago (and that my library holds are taking sooo long to come in). I love it!


Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews

Book Info: Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews

Rating: 4/5 stars

I now count myself among the Kate Daniels super fandom. Magic Slays was another great installment on what is shaping up to be an awesome series. Since I’ve gushed about it enough in other reviews, I’ll stick to specifics for this title. I especially loved how authentic the relationship was between the main character and her bff. They argued like real people, and it’s the kind of back-and-forth bickering that’s fun to read about. In fact, all the relationships are great, and I especially love how many interesting side characters get their own spotlights in some of the short stories (yup – it’s good enough to read all of the extra novellas that go along with it!). I’ll probably be doing a Kate Daniels short story blitz once I get through them all.


Thanks for stopping by! I hope you enjoyed my Mini Book Review Blitz! As you can see, I’ve been reading a lot of great titles lately. :-)

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett

The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett

Title: The Desert Spear

Author: Peter V. Brett

Series: The Demon Cycle #2

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

The Overview: The sun is setting on humanity. The night now belongs to voracious demons that prey upon a dwindling population forced to cower behind half-forgotten symbols of power. Legends tell of a Deliverer: a general who once bound all mankind into a single force that defeated the demons. But is the return of the Deliverer just another myth? Perhaps not.

Out of the desert rides Ahmann Jardir, who has forged the desert tribes into a demon-killing army. He has proclaimed himself Shar’Dama Ka, the Deliverer, and he carries ancient weapons–a spear and a crown–that give credence to his claim. But the Northerners claim their own Deliverer: the Warded Man, a dark, forbidding figure. Once, the Shar’Dama Ka and the Warded Man were friends. Now they are fierce adversaries. Yet as old allegiances are tested and fresh alliances… -Goodreads

The Review:

With every passing week since finishing The Desert Spear, I find myself more and more dissatisfied with it. Something about many of the elements within the story just aren’t sitting right with me, and I’d be the first to state that I’m getting really tired of every other character having a backstory that includes rape, incestuous rape, and sodomy. I don’t know if Brett is trying to make a grander point on who the real “demons” are, or if it just gives him kicks to write about that stuff, but I think it’s too much. Furthermore, it’s not even the sheer volume alone that bothers me, but the forgiving attitude towards the rapists.

And here’s where you’re going to raise an eyebrow at me – I thought a good portion of the book (that following Jardir – whose POV I actually liked more than most) could’ve been a lot grittier. O_o? What Brett says happens in this hostile desert society and what he shows happening were on opposite ends of the spectrum. Not that I want to read about that stuff in detail, but from an analytical standpoint, the inconsistency drove me crazy.

So here I sit, complaining of an issue with subject-matter while also kind of saying that other parts weren’t as graphic as the story required. Do you get an idea of why it took me so long to compose this review? I think the crux of the matter is that, no matter which end of the spectrum I’m considering, I had issues with a lot of things.

That said, and to be even more contrary, I actually enjoyed the process of reading a lot of this book. I find the demons fascinating, and every scene that gave me a glimpse into their true nature provided me that spark I needed to keep reading. I am morbidly curious to see where all the human storylines are going and am hoping to come out of this series with a lot more satisfaction than I got out of The Desert Spear. Now that the story is finally starting to clip forward, I find myself somewhat reaching for the third book… but I may wait a few more weeks to give myself time to simmer down.

Overall, after this mess of a review, all I can say is: I’m enjoying the good elements of the story enough to continue on, but would be hard pressed to recommend it because of all the negative ones. ;P

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

Title: Red Sister

Author: Mark Lawrence

Series: Book of the Ancestor #1

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices’ skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist. But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls as a bloodstained child of eight, falsely accused of murder: guilty of worse. Stolen from the shadow of the noose, Nona is sought by powerful enemies, and for good reason. Despite the security and isolation of the convent her secret and violent past will find her out. Beneath a dying sun that shines upon a crumbling empire, Nona Grey must come to terms with her demons and learn to become a deadly assassin if she is to survive… – Goodreads

The Review:

Red Sister surprised me in quite a few ways. I’d heard a lot about this author’s Broken Empire Trilogy, and much of the hearsay led me to believe I wouldn’t enjoy those books because of difficult subject-matter. However, when the author offered me a review copy of Red Sister, I decided to accept it… with reservations.

As it turns out, I didn’t need any. Red Sister was a really good first installment of The Ancestor series. What surprised me the most was how beautiful his writing and composition was. Very lyrical, but always careful not to overwhelm the story. The same could be said about his world building – it was a subtle integration of details that gradually described the interesting ailments of this world. There were a lot of cool ideas that I can’t wait to see expanded on in the next book.

My favorite part of the story was Nona, the main character. She was such an enigma! As with the world-building, Lawrence revealed bits and pieces about her past as the story went along, and I enjoyed diving into the mystery of it. She was a very compelling character. [Spoiler] highlight to reveal: Nona thought she was a monster, but found a home and friendship with these sisters even though, deep down, she didn’t believe she deserved it. Watching her find a place in this convent and become a cherished member was easily my favorite part of Red Sister – so profound! [End Spoiler]

Red Sister primarily takes place in a convent where the Sisters train on everything from spiritual focus (involving a bit of magic) to hand-to-hand combat. I love school settings as is, but it was cool to read about one in a dark and gritty context. But thankfully it wasn’t too dark, as some of his other works are rumored to be (which I’m sure are still good books, as lots of people really like them. I’m just too squeamish). Red Sister wasn’t nearly as gritty as I was prepared for, containing just enough to make the events realistic and intense without being off-putting.

Overall, Red Sister is a book I’ll be thinking about for a while. I’d recommend it to fantasy readers who don’t mind a little blood and gore. It’s definitely worth your time.

Thank you, Mark Lawrence, for the opportunity to read and review Red Sister. :)

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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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