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Book Review: Pokémon Adventures #1 by Hidenori Kusaka (Art by Mato)

Title: Pokémon Adventures #1

Author: Hidenori Kusaka (Art by Mato)

Series: Pokémon Adventures #1

Genre: Manga

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: Adventures based on the best-selling video games! All your favourite Pokémon game characters jump out of the screen into the pages of this action-packed manga! Red doesn’t just want to train Pokémon, he wants to be their friend too. Bulbasaur and Poliwhirl seem game. But independent Pikachu won’t be so easy to win over! And watch out for Team Rocket, Red… They only want to be your enemy! -Goodreads

The Review:

I think y’all can probably relate to this: I was minding my own business in Costco the other day when I came across box sets for the ENTIRE first 30 books in the Pokémon Adventures series… and I just had to have them. So I happily blew my grocery budget on them and went home.

I’ve read maybe a handful of manga over the years, and although it’s not a genre I’m well versed in, I liked everything I picked up. I think I feared diving in further for two reasons: 1. I’ve enough to read as is, and 2. My book budget is already a problem.

I’m also not suuuper well-versed in the Pokémon universe aside from having a huge card collection from when I was a kid (I have ALL the original cool shit from the first 151 Pokémon), and I’ve watched Indigo League and a few other series/movies. And I still love playing Pokémon Stadium 1&2 and Pokémon Snap on Nintendo 64. And that’s it. I don’t play the pocket video games, I chose time for other things over Pokémon Go! (Because I would’ve HAD to catch them all to satisfy my completionist attitude), and I stopped collecting cards after the next generation of Pokémon came out.

From my experience, this series is most in line with the Indigo League tv series. And actually, the storylines are parallel so far, but they are told so differently that it’s like reading a whole new series. The biggest improvement is the Pokémon interaction in the manga. I was super disappointed that the “gotta catch em all” thing wasn’t represented in the tv series (like, hardly any at all…wtf?) so reading this feels like getting a second chance to satisfy my cravings: the more Pokémon caught, the better.

Another difference is the grittiness. The tv show kind of bubble-gummed it up with how they portrayed Team Rocket and how they tamed down the interactions with the Pokémon (much less violent). The manga takes itself much more seriously. There are still plenty of funny moments, but overall it’s darker, and because of that I’m liking it a lot more.

Series status: I don’t think I’ll be doing reviews for every book in this series because there’s not a ton of depth within each one (limited by the word count and general nature of the format), but I’m definitely looking forward to working my way through them. I feel like a kid again!

Recommendations: I love Pokémon and have always wanted a little more story than I got while watching the Indigo League. This manga fits the bill perfectly. Since I’m a manga novice, I can’t really compare it to other manga series, so I’ll satisfy by recommending it just to fellow Pokémon nerds like me.

by Niki Hawkes

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Bout of Books Read-a-thon! (7)

Bout of Books

Bout of Books is my favorite Read-a-thon, and since my Goodreads group has started our first Team Reading Competition at the beginning of the year, this seems like a great way to rack up some points. :) I’m actually going to make a concerted effort to read a little more this week rather than just tracking status quo like normal.

Here’s a little more about the event:

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly Rubidoux Apple. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 13th and runs through Sunday, May 19th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, Twitter chats, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 25 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

Niki’s Goals:

1. Consciously spend more time throughout the day listening to audiobooks.
2. Choose reading during my nightly wind-down ritual instead of apps.
3. Focus on the number of instances reading was my choice rather than how many pages I got through.

Here’s a look at the books on my immediate radar:
(subject to change if I see something shiny)

I’ve never actually met any of my reading goals during these challenges, but I’m kind of okay with that. My main goal for participating is to kickstart the habit of choosing reading over other forms of entertainment, and I usually do just that even though my end of week book count tallies have historically been pathetic. Because of this, I’m changing how I track things this year, and instead of tracking pages read and books completed, I’m going to focus solely on how many times throughout the day I chose reading over something else. I’m hoping this will help me reestablish reading habits beyond the challenge.

 Daily Updates:

 Monday:

Book Encounters:

 Tuesday:

Book Encounters:

 Wednesday:

Book Encounters:

 Thursday:

Book Encounters:

Friday:

Book Encounters:

Saturday:

Book Encounters:

 Sunday:

Book Encounters:

Total:

Total Book Encounters:

I’ll be updating this page throughout the week and will put my final thoughts here once it’s over.

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine

A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine

Title: A Memory Called Empire

Author: Arkady Martine

Series: Teixcalaan #1

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

The Overview: Ambassador Mahit Dzmare arrives in the center of the multi-system Teixcalaanli Empire only to discover that her predecessor, the previous ambassador from their small but fiercely independent mining Station, has died. But no one will admit that his death wasn’t an accident–or that Mahit might be next to die, during a time of political instability in the highest echelons of the imperial court. Now, Mahit must discover who is behind the murder, rescue herself, and save her Station from Teixcalaan’s unceasing expansion–all while navigating an alien culture that is all too seductive, engaging in intrigues of her own, and hiding a deadly technological secret–one that might spell the end of her Station and her way of life–or rescue it from annihilation. -Goodreads

The Review:

I have to take a moment to explain how excited I was to dive into this book. I was expecting rich culture, a complex plotline, and fascinating characters. And while I think all those components made an appearance, they weren’t nearly as amped up as I was hoping they’d be.

In fact, 85% of the story was pure dialogue and explanations. It TOLD me about this cool alien world and society, but it often neglected to SHOW me. And that feels like a colossal opportunity wasted. Incidentally, I felt the exact same about Foreigner by C.J. Cherryh – cool concept (so many good ideas to play with), interesting characters (who lacked depth), and sluggish plots (where not much happens, but we discussed a shitload). Maybe that’s the M.O. of this specific sub-genre though and I’m just not equipped to appreciate it. Or maybe I’m just too impatient and many of these things will develop as the series continues. Whatever the case, I tend to expect sci-fi’s to have more action, world-building, or at the very least, some deep character connection. None of which were abundant here…

I thought the political intrigue and overall mystery of the story were interesting, but it took so long to learn new things about it that, by the time I got to the last 10% of the book, I was so disengaged and bored that I no longer cared. It was a major struggle to finish. And for whatever reason, the eventual revelation felt over simplified for such a seemingly sophisticated society.

Part of that declining interest had to do with the main character. She thought about a lot of stuff, but she didn’t make me feel anything, and I remained totally at arm’s distance the entire time. Coming off of Tiamat’s Wrath by Corey, my expectations were definitely inflated. For a book largely focused on character immersion and very little else, the characters need to shine, and for me they just didn’t.

Series status: I’ve bookmarked the sequel on Goodreads, but I honestly don’t think I’m going to pick it up. It just didn’t tickle my fancy.

Recommendations: if you’re in the market for a sci-fi with a cool concept and a shit-ton of dialogue and discussion, this is a good pick (I’m being snarky, but I acknowledge that sometimes a talky novel is just what the doctor ordered). I personally craved more action and world-building (seeing it, not hearing about it), so I was left wanting, but I can see the intellectual appeal this novel might bring to some.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Tackling the TBR [45]: May 2019

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 2019 TBR Tackler Shelf:

Priority Titles!!!

The Reserve…

I was laughing at myself while composing this post because I realized that while I felt like I read a ton in April, I only knocked three titles off my list (fail. lol). That’s okay though, I spent a lot of time on Taimat’s Wrath, not wanting it to end (it was the best book I’ve read in half a year and a much-needed reading reinvigoration). This month I have a few new releases I’m dying to get to along with a couple of review obligations. I’m continuing my title listing format because I love having my books separated into “priority titles” and “reserve” categories. It alleviated stress I felt at setting my goals too high. Now I have small goals, but I can still list all the titles (because I also stress when they’re not on there haha). I’m also looking forward to knocking out a few series this month for my incomplete series challenge. I have a ton of onesies pending, so that’ll make me feel like I’m making some real progress. May is looking to be a good month. :)


Have a great month in reading!

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review by Tiamat’s Wrath by James S.A. Corey

Tiamat's Wrath by James S.A. Corey

Title: Tiamat’s Wrath

Author: James S.A. Corey

Series: Expanse #8

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 5/5 stars!! (you heard me.)

The Overview: Thirteen hundred gates have opened to solar systems around the galaxy. But as humanity builds its interstellar empire in the alien ruins, the mysteries and threats grow deeper. In the dead systems where gates lead to stranger things than alien planets, Elvi Okoye begins a desperate search to discover the nature of a genocide that happened before the first human beings existed, and to find weapons to fight a war against forces at the edge of the imaginable. But the price of that knowledge may be higher than she can pay.

At the heart of the empire, Teresa Duarte prepares to take on the burden of her father’s godlike ambition. The sociopathic scientist Paolo Cortázar and the Mephistophelian prisoner James Holden are only two of the dangers in a palace thick with intrigue, but Teresa has a mind of her own and secrets even her father the emperor doesn’t guess. And throughout the wide human empire, the scattered crew of the Rocinante fights a brave rear-guard action against Duarte’s authoritarian regime. Memory of the old order falls away, and a future under Laconia’s eternal rule — and with it, a battle that humanity can only lose – seems more and more certain. Because against the terrors that lie between worlds, courage and ambition will not be enough… –Goodreads

The Review:

I can’t remember the last time I actually yelled at a book.

Coming back to this series felt like embracing family after being gone a few years… like coming home. In my mind, these characters are real people. Their development is so on-point, I always feel their triumphs and defeats poignantly. These authors are brilliant. And I have to say, they really set out to shred my soul with Tiamat’s Wrath. Holy shit.

Truth be told, I’ve been really apathetic lately with books. This is the first novel in a loooong while to evoke a reaction from me. To the point where, yes, I yelled when a few things happened and may or may not have sobbed at one point. I read so much, that kind of emotional investment only comes along once in a blue moon. And it’s these types of books I save my solid 5-star ratings for. Before Tiamat’s Wrath, I hadn’t handed out one since last July. O_o

This book was amazing. It may not have had a lot of action or moving parts, but the depth of character immersion and overall plot advancement was phenomenal. Every moment counted. Every conversation important. Every action riveting. It’s in close competition with Nemesis Games as my favorite of the series. They’re kind of hard to compare though – that one had a ton of moving parts and grand, epic events that blow your mind with the shear scale and implications of it all. This one was much more understated – an emotional roller coaster of internal turmoil that drew you in because of the human element. It was a slow burn, but every moment was fire… at least to me.

They’re definitely gearing up for a finale, and I think it’s going to be a fucking monster. Tiamat’s left me poised on the edge of a cliff, and if I could jump into a freefall right this moment to see what happens next, I wouldn’t hesitate. This is one of those anticipated series finales we’ll all have to cancel plans for… grab some tissues and maybe one of those squishy stress ball thingies and seclude ourselves in quiet corners and wait for all hell to break loose… then deal with the agony of it ending. Needless to say, I have a lot of expectations riding on the final novel, but I’m so confident in these authors that I’m truly not worried (just stressed at what they’re going to do to me).

Series status: highest priority sci-fi… omg gimmie the final novel!!!

Recommendations: if you have ANY interest in the space opera genre, there’s no better place to start than The Expanse series. It will take you on a wild ride, gut-punching you all the while… it’s awesome lol. If you haven’t checked out the novellas by this point in the series, you might want to pick up Strange Dogs before diving in (although I found merit in all of them, so consider that an endorsement). Overall, this is my first pick whenever someone wants an exciting, character-driven series. And if anything, my opinions of it have only gotten stronger with each installment.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Tackling the TBR [44]: April 2019

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:

April 2019 TBR Tackler Shelf:

Priority Titles!!!

The Reserve…

March’s experiment to focus on my super high priority titles only was a super success! I didn’t quite make it through all five books, but I enjoyed the process immensely! It gave me much-needed clarity for figuring out what to read next, and I especially loved how much pressure to read all the things it alleviated. This month many of the titles in my reserve list could’ve easily claimed a priority spot, so I’m in for some great reading if I can only manage to block out more time for it…


Have a great April!

by Niki Hawkes