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Niki’s Book Journal [September 2018]

Niki’s Book Journal [September 2018]

September was a slow month in reading. It took me almost two weeks to get through Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself (liked it) and I haven’t really read anything of substance since. It’s not a lack of desire, but more a lack of time and some shifting priorities (I’ve been doing a ton of research trying to formulate a better fitness plan, and at work I’ve been doing more tv watching and YouTube surfing than audiobook listening). I’ve also been a little stressed and mentally distracted, so when I do pick up a book, it’s usually not for long.

Slow month aside, I’m still working to reach some reading goals by the end of the year. A friend and I started a challenge on FBR that involves a race to zero-out all of our outstanding incomplete series by the end of the year (she’s totally going to kick my ass lol). To that end, I created a little tracker in my bullet journal to help me plan.

As I mentioned in my Instagram post, I hate the way it turned out haha, but it’ll work just fine for functionality.

On to the mini reviews!!


The Lion of Senet by Jennifer Fallon

Lion of Senet (Second Sons #1) by Jennifer Fallon [3.5/5 stars]

The Lion of Senet was a very character-driven novel. Even though it had an interesting overall plot, the main appeal was how richly the characters were developed and how well they played off of one another. It reminded me a little of Robin Hobb’s Liveship trilogy in that all the characters were flawed (some I outright despised) but I still managed to have compassion for them because they were well written. The whole book was decent, but somewhere around the 75% the story really took off, and I found myself glued to it. I also really liked the overall concept (a subtle religion vs science juxtaposition) and it was fascinating to see how blind faith shaped the characters and the society. I’m very curious to see where Fallon takes it next.

Brief Cases by Jim Butcher

Brief Cases (Dresden Files #15.1) by Jim Butcher [4/5 stars]

Brief Cases was just what I needed to hold me over for the next Dresden book. It had a few short stories I’d read before (in his Working for Bigfoot collection, which honestly I could’ve done without both times), but the ones that were new to me, I absolutely loved. The highlights were AAAA Wizardry, which is a sort of school setting case study (which I always seem to love), Even Hand, a previously printed short about the fascinating Johnnie Marcone, and it all culminated in Zoo Day, easily my favorite story of the bunch. Zoo Day provided a lot of character exploration between Harry, Maggie, and Mouse, and may have even given an insight to where the series is headed next. This collection is a definite keeper for Dresden fans, and I think y’all will have a lot of fun with it (I sure did).

Personal Demon (Women of the Otherworld #8) by Kelley Armstrong [3.5/5 stars]

I’m at the point in this series where I still love all the characters, but I’m basically only reading because they’re fun books and I want to see how it ultimately ends. Every now and then, one will reinvigorate my passion for the series (ahem, No Human’s Involved), but for the most part, I pick them up knowing, if nothing else, the story is going to mindlessly entertain me (not a bad thing). Personal Demon had an interesting main character, and I enjoyed learning more about the demon magic in the world, but nothing truly profound struck me about it. I did like the infusion of all the other characters, but wasn’t crazy about the love interest. Even so, I’m still looking forward to the next book. :)

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Reviews: The Dresden Files [Books 13-15] by Jim Butcher

The Dresden Files [Books 13-15]
by Jim Butcher

I can definitely see why Jim Butcher is considered a staple in the Urban Fantasy genre – he has an excellent main character (who is a tad whiny at times, but that’s kind of why I like him), loads of paranormal that will continually ding your creep-o-meter (even though I admit it doesn’t take much to set mine off), and plenty of action, humor, and intrigue. Overall, if you’ve never read an urban fantasy, this author is a great place to start. The best thing about him is that he seems to get better with each book.


Ghost Story

I’d been warned that Ghost Story was a “reset” novel of sorts and nowhere near as good as the rest of the series. I’d been dreading it, but found (to my surprise) that it was a decent read. It offered glimpses into many of the supporting characters that we wouldn’t have gotten otherwise (the unusual circumstance of the book gave Harry an unique POV). It also was kind of funny – something I always enjoy about Butcher’s work. Load all that together with a couple of compelling mysteries, and you have yet another Dresden success. I think most of the objections come from Ghost Story feeling so different from the rest of the books, and the fact that not a lot really happens within it. I agree it’s not quite as strong as some of its predecessors, but it still gets a solid 3-star (I liked it) rating.

3/5 stars


Cold Days

There seems to be an overwhelming consensus that Ghost Story is the weakest of the Dresden Files, but I have to say I enjoyed Cold Days even less. My issues were twofold: I couldn’t figure out how certain side conflicts played into the plot as a whole (because they didn’t – they were just fillers), and I didn’t particularly like the way the author expanded the conflict. He didn’t quite “jump the shark,” but he expanded beyond the rules of the world he’d been developing up until this point in a way that felt forced – almost as if he’d been running out of ideas. Which, in all fairness, at 15 books published, was probably the case. All of the other factors such as character, humor, action, and mystery were consistent with his great storytelling, it was just the conflict construction that left me wanting a bit more. The good news? I accidentally started Skin Game before this one and loved what I’d read so far, which bodes well for what’s to come…

2/5 stars


Skin Game

Following my two least favorite books of the series, I went into Skin Game fearing Jim Butcher had lost his touch and had dragged the story on too long. What a delightful surprise when Skin Game turned out to be one of, if not my favorite Dresden book so far. It had a strong plot (complete with an interesting bad guy), a good integration of the many fantastic side characters, and, of course, a ton of that snarky humor. It quickly turned a novel I was determined to “get through” into a book I couldn’t put down. Skin Game reinvigorated my enthusiasm for the series and I am genuinely excited to see where the story goes next. I don’t know how I’m going to keep myself occupied now that I’m finally up to date with this series. It seems like I’ve been working on it for ages…

4.5/5 stars


If you haven’t picked up a Dresden book yet, just know you’re in for a well-conceived and sustainable series, jam-packed with scary monsters and a lot of snark. I consider them a must-try for any urban fantasy fan.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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The Obsessive Bookseller’s Mini Book Review Blitz! [2]

Mini Book Review Blitz!


Naamah's Kiss by Jacqueline Carey

Book Info: Naamah’s Kiss [Moirin’s Trilogy #1] by Jacqueline Carey

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

I have mixed feelings about this trilogy. You see, it’s really difficult for anything to follow Kushiel’s and Imriel’s stories and, since this one took place a few hundred years in the future, I found myself mourning the fact that we’ve moved on (kind of like when Avatar ended and they brought back Legend of Korra – it’s really good, but I miss the old characters). I also thought the story was a bit inconsistent – the first half was a solid 5-star “I was totally enamored” rating. The second half was a conservative 2.5-star rating because the story elements sort of “jumped the shark” when it came to feasibility. Overall, the parts of this story I liked, I did so with the same ferocity as those which came before. The parts I didn’t amounted to my least favorite experiences with this author so far. The verdict? Worth reading if you’ve read the other trilogies, but moderate your expectations (and take what I say with a grain of salt – I’ve met a few people who claim this as their favorite of Carey’s trilogies). I’ll also add that I really adored Moirin, so there’s no shortage of beautifully written characters.


A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

Book Info: A Gathering of Shadows  [A Darker Shade of Magic #2] by V.E. Schwab

Rating: 5/5 stars

I went into A Gathering of Shadows with extremely limited expectations, but was delighted to discover one of my favorite books of the year (so far). In contrast, my friend Petrik HATED it. And we usually line up with most of our reviews (you can check out his scathing review of this book on Goodreads). We’ve such a broad difference of opinion of the same book, which is really fascinating. I see most of his points, but had a very different reaction to them. Ultimately (I like that word today) I thought A Gathering of Shadows was a fantastic follow up to A Darker Shade of Magic. It had a lot more of the fun elements the first one was missing: an exploration of Red London, a magical dueling tournament, and some excellent insight into these already good characters. I especially loved Lila. It’s refreshing to read about a tough female character who actually backs up her bolstering with action. I can’t think of another female lead with such grit (cunning, bravery, and skill, maybe, but not grit). Overall, the trilogy is worth reading just for aGoS alone – I was completely engrossed from start to finish, and will probably add it to my List of All-Time Favorites (yeah, I liked it that much).


Lady Renegades by Rachel Hawkins

Book Info: Lady Renegades [Rebel Belle #3] by Rachel Hawkins

Rating: 1.5/5 stars

I’d been stalling on reading Lady Renegades because I was disappointed in Miss Mayhem – the second book in the trilogy (it had some good ideas, but didn’t live up to its potential). Ultimately, it was my memory of how much I loved her Hex Hall series that drew me back to finish this trilogy out of some odd sense of loyalty. Although it didn’t take me very long to get through, I can’t help but feel I wasted my time. I’m of the opinion that this story would’ve been better served as a duology. There just wasn’t enough substance to book 3, and it had a ton of repeating elements. It was essentially a drawn out segment that should’ve been the climax to Miss Mayhem and ended the story there. Usually in a YA trilogy, it’s the second book that feels like a filler novel, but in this case it was the third one. This might be harsh, but I’d say read the first two books, then skip to the final two chapters of Lady Renegades and call it a day. #harsh


Thanks for stopping by! I hope you enjoyed my Mini Book Review Blitz. :)

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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Mini Book Review: Cursor’s Fury by Jim Butcher

Cursor's Furey by Jim Butcher

Title: Cursor’s Fury

Author: Jim Butcher

Series: The Codex Alera #3

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 5/5 stars!

The Overview: The power-hungry High Lord of Kalare has launched a rebellion against the aging First Lord, Gaius Sextus, who with the loyal forces of Alera must fight beside the unlikeliest of allies-the equally contentious High Lord of Aquitaine.  Meanwhile, young Tavi of Calderon joins a newly formed legion under an assumed name even as the ruthless Kalare unites with the Canim, bestial enemies of the realm whose vast numbers spell certain doom for Alera. When treachery from within destroys the army’s command structure, Tavi finds himself leading an inexperienced, poorly equipped legion-the only force standing between the Canim horde and the war-torn realm. -Goodreads

The Mini Review:

The Codex Alera is shaping up to becoming one of my favorite fantasy series. It’s already responsible for one of the best books I’ve ever read (Academ’s Fury) and I’d be hard-pressed to tell you why Cursor’s Fury doesn’t deserve a spot of honor right next to it. It focused more on the legionary aspect of the story, which brought along with it an excellent mix of battle scenes, intrigue, and character development. I loved absolutely everything about it. I’ve been stingy with solid 5-star ratings lately because I want them to signify an outstanding book and really mean something when I assign them. Cursor’s Fury deserved every last star and more.

Overall, I’m thrilled with this series and can’t wait to continue on. The first book, Furies of Calderon,was so average I almost didn’t keep reading. I am oh, so glad I did!

Other books you might like:

 by Niki Hawkes

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Mini Book Review: Academ’s Furey by Jim Butcher

Academ's Fury by Jim Butcher

Title: Academ’s Furey

Author: Jim Butcher

Series: The Codex Alera #2

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

The Overview: For centuries, the people of Alera have relied on the power of the furies to protect them from outside invaders. But the gravest threat might be closer than they think. Tavi has escaped the Calderon Valley and the mysterious attack of the Marat on his homeland. But he is far from safe, as trying to keep up the illusion of being a student while secretly training as one of the First Lord’s spies is a dangerous game. And he has not yet learned to use the furies, making him especially vulnerable. When the attack comes it’s on two fronts. A sudden strike threatens the First Lord’s life and threatens to plunge the land into civil war. While in the Calderon Valley, the threat faced from the Marat is dwarfed by an ancient menace. And Tavi must learn to harness the furies if he has any chance of fighting the greatest threat Alera has ever known . . .   -Goodreads

The Mini Review:

I liked Furies of Calderon (the first book in the Codex Alera series) but thought it was pretty average compared to other works in the genre. Academ’s Furey, on the other hand, was AMAZING!!!

Seriously – I couldn’t put it down! It delivered on every promise made in the first book and completely blew me away with its stellar pacing, fantastic battle scenes, exceptional characters, and overall creativity. I felt like my heart was ripped out a few times while reading it and I love it when a book can make me feel that engaged. I already liked Jim Butcher, but this book launched him forward a few more notches in my book.

If I had any criticisms, it’s that the main character was sometimes more suave and resourceful in difficult situations than I thought believable… but it did make for some excellent and memorable moments, so I won’t complain too much. :-)

Overall, if you are on the fence with whether to start the series or continue on after the first book (like I was), take it from me – totally worth it!

Other books you might like:

 by Niki Hawkes