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Tackling the TBR [27]: October 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:

October 2017 TBR Tackler Shelf:

Last month I finished most of the titles on my TBR Shelf (yay). Every book listed this month, with two exceptions, is helping me make progress on my Incomplete Series List. I’m making a concerted effort to get below 20 open series by July 2018, and I’m off to a great start (down from 129 at the beginning of the year… I DNFed a bunch). I have a whole bunch of new series lined up for 2018, so I’m hoping to have many of these squared away before then. There’s a fine balance between completing lots of series for the challenge, but still keeping in mind reading the best books first. Sometimes the two don’t get along. :P

Tackler Carry-Overs

I decided I’m only allowed 5 carry-overs. If I don’t get to it in 2 months, it’s probably not as high-priority as I thought, lol. I know you are all probably sick of seeing Demon Spirit on my list. So am I…


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

September 2017 Titles Tackled:

Niki’s September 2017 Progress Update:

Series Finished: 1
Magician’s End Raymond E. Feist

 Series Brought UTD: 4
Nyxia – Scott Reintgen
A Dragon of a Different Color – Rachel Aaron
Apex – Mercedes Lackey

Series Progressed: 8
Heart’s Blood – Jane Yolen
A Sending of Dragons – Jane Yolen
Gods of Risk – James S.A. Corey
Magic Steals – Ilona Andrews
A Crown Imperiled – Raymond E. Feist
Yendi – Steven Brust
The Vital Abyss – James S.A. Corey
Zoe’s Tale – John Scalzi

New Series Started: 2
Nyxia – Scott Reintgen
The Shadow of What Was Lost – James Islington

Abandoned: 0
Dragon’s Blood [3/4] – Jane Yolen

YTD Totals:
Finished Series: 9
Up To Date Series: 19
Series Progressed: 40
New Series Started: 18
Abandoned: 5

Here’s my full Incomplete Series list, in case anyone is curious.


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: A Crown Imperiled by Raymond E. Feist

A Crown Imperiled by Raymon E. Feist

Title: A Crown Imperiled

Author: Raymond E. Feist

Series: The Chaoswar Saga #2

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 2/5 stars

The Overview: War rages in Midkemia but behind the chaos there is disquieting evidence of dark forces at work. Jim Dasher’s usually infallible intelligence network has been cleverly dismantled; nowhere is safe. He feels that the world is coming apart at the seams and is helpless to protect his nation. Quiet palace coups are underway in Roldem and Rillanon; and King Gregory of the Isles has yet to produce an heir. In each kingdom a single petty noble has risen from obscurity to threaten the throne. Lord Hal of Crydee and his great friend Ty Hawkins, champion swordsman of the Masters’ Court, are entrusted with the task of smuggling Princess Stephané and her lady-in-waiting, the lovely but mysterious Lady Gabriella, out of Roldem to a place of greater safety. But is there any safe haven to be found? Meanwhile, Hal’s younger brothers Martin and Brendan are attempting to hold the strategic city of Ylith against an onslaught of Keshian Dog Soldiers, and a mysterious force from beneath the sea. The Kingdom might lose Crydee and recover; but if Ylith falls, all is lost. An unknown player appears to be orchestrating these conflicts. Can Pug and the Conclave of Shadows track down this source before Midkemia is destroyed? -Goodreads

The Review:

Unfortunately, A Crown Imperiled didn’t do much to improve my opinion of these later Riftwar books.

I’ve torn apart the first book in this trilogy (A Kingdom Besieged) for its lack of plot advancement and over-dependency on nostalgia for the original characters. The lack of plot advancement continues in the second book with a vengeance, where all notable events can be counted on one hand (made worse by diction that refuses to use contractions, making every sentence annoyingly drawn out… much like the story (ouch)). If Feist spent the same amount of effort developing these new characters as he did reminding us how great his past ones were, I might have been more forgiving about the pacing. The scenes where he was in the moment, focusing on the here-and-now were the best bits of the book and likely the only parts I’ll choose to remember. Overall, though, I found very little value in most of what was presented in the first 80% of the book.

And then he bomb-dropped a 5-star final chapter.

This pissed me off, frankly, because it’s more evidence towards my theory that he was just phoning it in at this point and the publisher was letting him get away with it. The last chapters prove to me that he still knows how to work his magic when he wants to. In fact, the last chapter was so interesting, I’m crossing my fingers that Magician’s End, the saga-ender, makes me eat crow about every negative thing I’ve said about this trilogy so far.

Please keep in mind that I’ve loved EVERYTHING (except for the Krondor Trilogy) up until these last several books. At this point, I’d advocate stopping after the Conclave of Shadows trilogy… maybe after the Darkwar Saga. However, the jury remains out until I finish the final book. Wish me luck…

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: The Fall of the Dagger by Glenda Larke

The Fall of the Dagger by Glenda Larke

Title: The Fall of Dagger

Author: Glenda Larke

Series: The Forsaken Lands #3

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: Sorcerers, pirates, and thieves collide in this thrilling conclusion to Glenda Larke’s epic fantasy adventure series, The Forsaken Lands. -Goodreads

I guess that sums it up.

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The Review:

There are a lot of reasons Glenda Larke is one of my favorite authors: 1. Her beautiful, seemingly effortless writing that lets me just sit back and immerse myself in the story, 2. Her exotic world-building that always takes me to the coolest places (all of you Sanderson fans clamoring for more in the Sixth of Dusk world should pick up a Glenda Lark series for the same encompassing atmospheres spread throughout her trilogies), 3. Her characters, who aren’t perfect, but are endearing in their humanity, and 4. Her infusion of nature (flora/fauna) into the stories. She’s one of my trusted guaranteed-good-read authors.

I can’t decide whether Fall of the Dagger or Dagger’s Path (book 2) is my favorite of the trilogy. Daggers Path had so many good moments (and my favorite setting of the trilogy), but Fall of the Dagger was a very satisfying trilogy-ender with more action. I especially like this series because of the characters. Each POV, while not terribly complex in motivation, always seemed earnest and realistic. I can’t quite put my finger on why I like them so much, suffice to say that I was always invested in their plight. The magic system in this series is also a selling point – there’s an avian-centric magic system that I’ve never come across before that appealed to me with its originality.

Compared to Glenda Larke’s other books, my favorite is still either the Isles of Glory Trilogy or the Watergivers Trilogy, but this one has definitely earned its keep among them. If I’m honest, it’s not a complete “knock-your-socks-off” fantasy read that will shred your soul (like Robin Hobb), but it’s still fun adventure to get absorbed in. I enjoyed them immensely.

Other books you might like:

 by Niki Hawkes

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The Obsessive Bookseller’s Mini Book Review Blitz! [3]

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! 


Green Rider by Kristen Britian

Book Info: Green Rider [Green Rider #1] by Kristin Britain

Rating: 2/5 stars

I’ve had this series on my shelves for YEARS. It was one of the few I was incredibly excited to start, which makes it all the more disappointing that I didn’t like it. My 2-star “it was just okay” rating sums it up perfectly: it was just okay. The first chapter started off with the bang, then it proceeded to meander through one inconsequential event after another, and I could feel my enthusiasm dropping with every page. At one point, I was more than halfway through the book and still couldn’t see any purpose behind the scenes and kept wanting the story to get back to the inciting moment at the beginning. I’m really bummed I didn’t like Green Rider, especially since my cousins really loved it. I’m unfortunately abandoning the series from here.


Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews

Book Info: Magic Rises [Kate Daniels #6] by Ilona Andrews

Rating: 4/5 stars

I was fully prepared not to like Magic Rises. Any time and urban fantasy ventures out of its “home” city, I tend to lose interest (a weird thing, I know, but I pick up urban fantasies for a specific atmosphere “feel”, and if I don’t get that pay off, I get cranky). So, despite my bad attitude and determination not to like it, I actually enjoyed Magic Rises immensely. Kate Daniels is such a compelling character, I seem to be riveted no matter what she’s doing. The authors are incredible at weaving together tight plot lines and fantastic interpersonal conflicts while still bringing forth an overall series story arc that gets more intense with each installment. I am now a HUGE fan of this series – so much so that I’m trying to moderate how fast I read them… I don’t know if I can handle having no more KD books to look forward to. Even the novellas are amazing. All I can say is, hold on tight to your top spots, Mercy Thompson and Rachel Morgan – Kate Daniels is coming for you with swords a-blazing (and lions roaring)! ;P


Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi

Book Info: The Ghost Brigades [Old Man’s War #2] by John Scalzi

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

I read Ghost Brigades as a Buddy Read with some awesome people over at Fantasy Buddy Reads. While most of us still appreciate Scalzi as an author and wish to continue the series, there was an overwhelming consensus that book two lacked a little of the magic that made Old Man’s War so successful. Most notably, John Perry and his pervasive humor were absent from the story. It still had little moments of humor (which I appreciated), but was much more serious overall. Ghost Brigade read very much like a set up novel (having read on, it kind of was). All of that said, I still enjoyed reading it and look forward to seeing what happens next.


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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Tackling the TBR [27]: September 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:

September 2017 TBR Tackler Shelf:

Just looking at my Tackler list this month makes me happy. It really highlights in my mind why it’s important for me to prioritize and read the best books first. I’m no longer wasting time on books I’m not enjoying, and that is a truly liberating feeling. :) I have been waiting on Apex for what feels like ages (though it’s only been a year since Elite), but the one that has me chomping at the bit most this month is the conclusion to the Memoirs of Lady Trent series.

Tackler Carry-Overs


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

August 2017 Titles Tackled:

Niki’s August 2017 Progress Update:

Series Finished: 4
First Lord’s Fury – Jim Butcher
The Stone Sky – N.K. Jemisin
Buried Heart – Kate Elliott
The Fall of the Dagger – Glenda Larke

 Series Brought UTD: 1
An Alchemy of Masques and MirrorsCurtis Craddock

Series Progressed: 8
The Ghost Brigades – John Scalzi
Magic Rises – Ilona Andrews
An Ill-Advised Rescue – Ilona Andrews
Rise of Empire – Michael J. Sullivan
The Churn – James S. A. Corey
The Last Colony – John Scalzi
In the Labyrinth of Drakes – Marie Brennan
The Butcher of Anderson Station – James S. A. Corey

New Series Started: 2
An Alchemy of Masques and MirrorsCurtis Craddock

Abandoned: 0

YTD Totals:
Finished Series: 12
Up To Date Series: 17
Series Progressed: 40
New Series Started: 17
Abandoned: 4

Here’s my full Incomplete Series list, in case anyone is curious.
My Goal is to be under 20 series by July 1, 2018.


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: An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors by Curtis Craddock [+Giveaway!]

Title: An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors

Author: Curtis Craddock

Series: The Risen Kingdoms #1

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

The Overview: [Nik’s Note: I think this book is better if you DON’T read the summary first… it gives a lot of things away that were fun to discover on my own while reading.] A polymath princess and her faithful musketeer must unravel the plot of a thousand-year-old madman in order to save an a foreign kingdom from a disastrous civil war. Caelum is an uninhabitable gas giant like Jupiter. High above it are the Risen Kingdoms, occupying flying continents called cratons. Remnants of a shattered world, these vast disks of soaring stone may be a thousand miles across. Suspended by magic, they float in the upper layers of Caelum’s clouds. Born with a deformed hand and utter lack of the family’s blood magic, Isabelle is despised by her cruel father. She is happy to be neglected so she can secretly pursue her illicit passion for math and science. Then, a surprising offer of an arranged royal marriage blows her life wide open and launches her and Jeane-Claude on an adventure that will take them from the Isle des Zephyrs in l’Empire Céleste to the very different Kingdom of Aragoth, where magic deals not with blood, but with mirrors. -Goodreads

The Review:

An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors was such a cool book! It had interesting character profiles, totally immersive world-building, and an abundance of drop-in details that I found totally original. When I first received the book for review and saw cover quotes from Brandon Sanderson and Lawrence Watt-Evans (two of my all-time favorites), I knew I was in for a good read, I just didn’t know how good. Curtis Craddock did not disappoint!

Right off the bat I was impressed with the unique setting for this story – a gas-giant planet where the only way to travel between floating rock “islands” is through use of airships. The author describes the science of how things stay aloft within the first few chapters as:

“A vast downward-pointing cone of rock bristling with an upside-down forest of salt-encrusted, aether-emitting cloud-choral stalactites that kept the Skyland aloft.”

A mouthful, for sure but technical jargon aside, his world-building goes well beyond setting. Craddock also infused multiple blood-inherent magics, a few carefully placed steampunk elements, and an elegant culture borrowing from French influences. I was truly dazzled by the combination of all of these components, and the unique atmosphere they created is easily my favorite aspect of the book. If you pick it up, you’re in for a bombardment of cool ideas. Left and right they’ll hit you, and the discovery process of so many minor aspects of this world is a lot of fun.

The book also offers an interesting plotline filled with court intrigue, intelligent characters, and an unravelling mystery. I enjoyed every aspect of the characters and thought their relationships and individual developments throughout the book were highly satisfying. Especially Isabelle. Her academic mindset and struggle to acclimate to situations well beyond what she ever thought she’d have to face were especially compelling. Compounding her already great character profile was a second POV from her faithful Musketeer, Jeane-Claude, who was every bit as interesting and savvy as Isabelle. I did wonder a few times if their insights were a tad unbelievable, but for the sake of plot advancement, it didn’t bother me too much. The constant intrigue in the book kept it a page-turner and even surprised me with a few twists. It astounded me how such a slowly paced book could still be totally immersive and exciting. It did take a bit for the book to find it’s stride, but once it did, I couldn’t put it down!

Overall, and Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors is a delightfully original start to a series that has the potential to be among my favorites if it continues on with the same gusto. If it isn’t already on your radar, it should be. Especially if you love fantasy. And great world building. And Musketeers…

I want to thank the publicists at TOR/Forge and Curtis Craddock for a chance to read and review an early copy of An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors – I enjoyed it thoroughly!

An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors Giveaway!

Open to US and Canada Residents!
Click on the link to enter:

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

A Winner has been chosen and notified – Congrats!

 I wish this went without saying, but please verify your GR friendship/blog-following status before claiming entries (all of your entries will be disqualified if you’re dishonest or mistaken). I’d rather you provided too much info than not enough. :)

This giveaway will run until midnight [MST] on Friday Sept 8, 2017. Good Luck! :)

Other  books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes