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The Heroes of Olympus by Rick Riordan – Series Discussion [No Spoilers]

Series Review (and some musings):
Heroes of Olympus
by Rick Riordan
2.5/5 stars

Let’s talk about Heroes of Olympus for a minute. I Buddy Read this series with some lovely ladies over at Fantasy Buddy Reads, and I have to say… I think I enjoyed talking to them about the books a lot more than I enjoyed actually reading them.

This is a shame, because I loved the Percy Jackson series, so why did I have such a hard time getting into this one? Especially considering it’s a continuation to the tale with more large-scale dynamics? It comes down to one thought:

These books me feel like I’m getting too old to appreciate middle grade.

…or am I?

Last week I started an ARC of Brandon Mull’s Dragonwatch: Wrath of the Dragon King (a comparable middle grade book) and am loving every second of it. So that made me wonder if perhaps my issues with Heroes of Olympus might have more to do with the story itself rather than my not being the target audience.

For one thing, the books take a lot of time introducing new characters and building up your enthusiasm for them. The first book felt more like a set-up novel, which meant I had a hard time getting into it.

For two things, I found the actual plot in all the books to be way too drawn out, filled with so many tangents that you couldn’t possibly get any sort of momentum from it. It followed a formula: meet “x” mythical creature, have a conflict with it, then move on to the next one. Over and over and over again. It was tedious.

In some ways, I can appreciate the educational appeal of learning about so many mythical beings, but from a purely plot-progressing standpoint, I think it was the biggest reasons why the series wasn’t as good as PJ. If all of those tangents had been cut down to just the events that furthered the end-goal for our characters, the books could have been amazing.

Basically, they were too long and too drawn out.

Granted, a younger reader might have relished in all of the additional details and creature conflicts. I certainly wouldn’t have been so dissatisfied had I read it when I was a kid, but there are so many amazing middle grade books out there enjoyable to all audiences that I don’t feel as generous about blaming my age for lack of enjoyment.

So with that said, I’m curious – do any of you feel like you’re outgrowing certain genres? Do you think it’s you? The books? A little of both? I’d love to hear some thoughts. :)

by Niki Hawkes

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Coming Soon: Dragonwatch: Wrath of the Dragon King by Brandon Mull

[October 23, 2018] Dragonwatch #2 by Brandon Mull

Title: Dragonwatch: Wrath of the Dragon King

Author: Brandon Mull

Series: Dragonwatch #2 (Fablehaven #7)

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Release Date: October 23, 2018 <-Release dates are subject to change.

The Overview: War has come to the dragon sanctuaries of the world and nowhere is the danger more intense than at Wyrmroost. After a humiliating defeat at the hands of Kendra and Seth, Celebrant, King of Dragons, prepares to unleash his fury and take control of his native preserve. Armed with information from a new ally Ronodin, the dark unicorn Celebrant seeks a legendary talisman the dominion stone. However, the powerful stone is protected by a cursed castle. Upon entering the castle fortress, an unyielding power strips all magical beings of their power and forces Celebrant to take his human avatar form. Kendra and Seth must enter the cursed castle as well. The race is on. Will the two young caretakers rally enough support from the creatures of Wyrmroost against the greatest threat the magical community has faced in ages? Can they foil Celebrant’s plan and beat him to the mighty dominion stone? Or will all hope be shattered by the wrath of the Dragon King? -Goodreads

Nik’s Notes:

Fablehaven is my favorite series to hit the middle grade market since Harry Potter, so you can imagine how absolutely thrilled I am that the story continued in this new Dragonwatch series (which takes place in the Dragon Sanctuary – my favorite setting of the original series). I really enjoyed the first book, but thought the pacing struggled a little near the beginning as things got going. I’m hoping this sequel will start off with a bang and not let up until the end! (Here’s a book trailer for the first one)

Anyone else a Fablehaven nut?? ;)

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Title: Long Way to a Small Angry Planet

Author: Becky Chambers

Series: Wayfarers #1

Genre: Science Fiction (Space Opera)

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: Follow a motley crew on an exciting journey through space—and one adventurous young explorer who discovers the meaning of family in the far reaches of the universe—in this light-hearted debut space opera from a rising sci-fi star. Rosemary Harper doesn’t expect much when she joins the crew of the aging Wayfarer. While the patched-up ship has seen better days, it offers her a bed, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and most importantly, some distance from her past. An introspective young woman who learned early to keep to herself, she’s never met anyone remotely like the ship’s diverse crew, including Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, chatty engineers Kizzy and Jenks who keep the ship running, and Ashby, their noble captain.-Goodreads

The Review:

Wow, this book was downright cheerful! Is that allowed in sci-fi? It totally should be.

A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is definitely a character-driven story. There is a loose plot, but 90% of the focus is on the relationships between the characters. In my eyes, it’s the epitome of a true space opera. I found a lot of enjoyment out of just relaxing into the characters and letting them make me laugh. I don’t think I’ve ever read a lighthearted sci-fi that wasn’t over-the-top cheeky (like Hitchhiker’s), and this book struck a nice balance between levity and realism. The humor was more understated and situational (my personal preference), but what really stood out was the level of optimism infused into the characters. They dealt with a few relatable hard moments, but always maintained a positive outlook on each other and the situation. It was super refreshing. Especially considering how many dark books I’ve been reading lately. The pure joy in this this book caught me off guard in the best way possible.

Good aliens are a huge requirement for me to get behind a space-travel sci-fi. Chamber’s creature creation was great – she provided several different biological makeups and unique cultures. She even used their differences to make a few subtle points against prejudice (awesome). If I had one minor criticism: other than a few mannerisms and physical differentiations, most of the alien species came across very “human” (quirky humans, but still very familiar in the ways they communicated and processed information). When compared to my favorite sci-fi author, Julie Czerneda, I found a few things about their construction just shy of ideal, but that certainly didn’t take away from my enjoyment (because, after all, the more human they feel, the more I relate to them). So, as far as relative enjoyability of each POV, Chambers’ aliens were excellent. :)

As I’ve mentioned, the story is very character-driven, so much so that it only touches briefly on external conflicts beyond the Wayfarer ship. But brief doesn’t necessarily mean unimportant. The details provided made this universe feel really established, and it opened up possibility for a lot of cool interspecies conflicts in future books. I have a feeling it’s all going to add up to a profound experience at some point.

Series status: this lighthearted tale was exactly what I needed between some of my heavier reads. I’ve already picked up the next book.

Recommendations: if you like sci-fi and are in the mood for something lighthearted and fun, you can’t pick a better candidate than LWtoSAP. I also think this would be a great transition novel for readers who want to get into the genre, but are intimidated by the heavier military/technology/conceptual sci-fis. It’s definitely going on my list of “fun” books to recommend.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Coming Soon: Search Image by Julie E. Czerneda

Title: Search Image

Author: Julie E. Czerneda

Series: Web Shifter’s Library #1

Genre: Science Fiction

Release Date: October 2, 2018 <-Release dates are subject to change. :)

The Overview: Esen’s back! And the dear little blob is in trouble again. Things began so well. She and her Human friend Paul Ragem have opened the doors to their greatest accomplishment, the All Species’ Library of Linguistics and Culture. They’re prepared for clients to arrive, but trouble comes knocking instead. First is Paul’s family, who’d mourned his supposed death years ago. Understandably, feelings are bent. But what matters? Paul’s father has gone missing. Before he can convince Esen to help him search, a friend shows up to use the Library. A crisis in the Dokeci System is about to explode into violence. To have a hope of stopping it, Evan Gooseberry needs answers. Unfortunately, the artifact he brought in trade holds its own distracting secret. A touch of very familiar blue. Lesy’s “signature,” left on all her creations. Web-flesh. The race is on. Paul, to find his father. Esen, to search for the rest of her Web-sister while helping Evan stop a war. What none of them realize is the price of success will be the most terrible choice of all. -Goodreads

Nik’s Notes:

A new Esen novel??!! 😭

Czerneda is my favorite sci-fi author, and her Web Shifters series is my favorite from her to date. I thought it was over, so I’m SO HAPPY she decided to continue the story. She always has the perfect balance of great characters, awesome aliens, and situational humor – all of which make her books an absolute delight to read. I can’t wait!!!

by Niki Hawkes

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Niki’s Book Journal: August 2018

Niki’s Book Journal [August 2018]

I realize we’re already 1/3 of the way into September, but I’d been keeping this journal through August and it would really bug me to combine it with September and have a month missing. So here we are, lol.

August was a weird month of reading. I started out with a bang – sticking to a schedule (without it feeling like it was an obligation), and crushing my time spent reading from previous months. And then the last week or two of the month approached, and I realized three things: a bunch of high-priority new releases were going to hit the market, I’d signed up for several buddy reads (without writing them down or, you know, actually planning for them), and several of my library holds had just come in much earlier than planned. I felt overwhelmed and inundated with good books (#firstworldproblems) and it kind of paralyzed me a bit. I went from finishing 6+books a week at the beginning of August to barely completing a single one in almost 2. I also lost my writing voice and couldn’t wrap my brain around composing a review. The whole situation was weird – I haven’t had something knock me off my game this bad since December of 2013 (yeah, I remember the date haha. This bout wasn’t nearly as weird as that one). Sometimes I guess my brain just needs a break. I only wish it had let me know it was tired ahead of time so I could have at least planned for it a bit, lol. I seem to be back into the swing of things now. :)


Mini Reviews!!

Sword-Bound by Jennifer Roberson

Sword-Bound (Tiger & Del #7) by Jennifer Roberson [3.5/5 stars]

I wouldn’t call anything in this series groundbreaking for the genre, but for the pure fun-factor, it gets an “A” from me. Sword-Bound is a bonus book of sorts, published over 10 years after what I thought was the final book in the series. I really liked how the story arc in the first 6 books ended, so that’s probably why it took me a while to pick this one up. It read a bit like an extended epilogue (and I hear the author is working on yet another continuation), but I found a ton of enjoyment in the familiar banter between Tiger and Del, the infamous sword fights, and the setting and culture that makes these books so memorable. If you’re interested in a light fantasy read, this series is a great pick.

Black Powder War by Naomi Novik

Black Powder War (Temeraire #3) by Naomi Novik [4/5 stars]

Another enjoyable installment in the Temeraire series. The military angle became a little more prominent in this book, but I didn’t mind it as much as I might have in most other circumstances because of one important thing: no matter what else is going on in the story, Novik never forgets to keep the dragons at the center of attention. She always brings it back to them, highlighting the novelty and fun, and I’m certain that’s why I’m always engaged during sections that would be a detriment to any other story (lengthy travel scenes, lots of dialogue, and battle sequences – I should clarify that I love military strategy and combat in general, but after the thousandth and one battle scenes in all things fantasy, they start to sound the same… I lose interest unless it’s done with a unique twist). Overall, I’m still very much in love with the dragons in this series, and am eager to find out where the story goes next. I’ll be picking up a copy of book #4 as soon as possible! :)

Eulalia by Brian Jacques

Eulalia (Redwall #19) by Brian Jacques [3.5/5 stars]

My expectations for Eulalia were simple: I wanted lots of hares, lots of badgers, and lots of scenes within Salamandastron. I mean, just look at the book title! And the cover! Yeah…. all of that not so much. This is the first Redwall book in a while where I feel a little let down. It had a lot of great moments within it, and the one hare within the story has become one of my favorites from the series (Maudie – she’s the bomb lol), but overall my expectations fell victim to some bad marketing choices. Even so, any time I get to spend in this world is good time, so I’ll give it a pass. The new characters and conflicts were as good as ever, and I find myself eager to dive into the next book (I can’t think about how close I am to the end… sad!).


How did your August go? :)

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Tackling the TBR [38]: September 2018

tackling the TBR

It’s once again time for my favorite feature: Tackling the TBR! There’s nothing I love more than picking out which books to read next, and this slightly organized method of reading has really amped my enjoyment to the next level. Bring on the mantras!

Read the best books first.
&
Life is too short to read books you’re not enjoying.

However you put together your TBR for the next month, the goal is to reduce the amount of obligation in reading and increase the fun.


Here’s a look at how the system works:

1. Identify the titles that take top priority in your TBR.
2. Combine them all in your own Tackling the TBR post.
3. Throughout the month pick from that pile as the mood strikes you.

Here’s what mine looks like:

September 2018 TBR Tackler Shelf:

I seem to have taken an unplanned mental break from everything these last few weeks (sometimes those are good for you). I’d been sticking to a really strict reading schedule (because all of my library holds came in at once and I wanted to make sure I got to them all) and I think I caused myself a little burnout. As a result, this month I’m back to just listing out 10 priority titles, and I might actually be able to get to them all. I’m most excited for all things Ilona Andrews. :)


Have a great September!

by Niki Hawkes