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Niki’s Book Journal [January 2019]

Niki’s Book Journal [January 2019]

I’m not gonna lie – these last few months have been difficult. So much so that I’ve been having trouble concentrating on reading, let alone finding the brainpower to compose reviews. For me, hardship always inspires opportunity for growth – the chance to make your life even better than before you got knocked down. And that’s exactly where I’m at in my journey. I finally find myself excited to read again, excited to talk books, excited to jump back into this community I love so much. So thank you to everyone who stuck around when I dropped off the planet. :)

To the mini reviews!


Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

Shadow of the Fox (Shadow of the Fox #1) by Julie Kagawa [1.5/5 stars]

This is my first foray into Julie Kagawa’s works. While there were a lot of individual components to the story I liked, overall I found it a struggle to get through. The story had a vibe suitable for older teens, but the dialogue was so simplistic and straightforward that it felt like reading a middle grade book. It made it impossible to take any of the characters seriously (especially the villain). Despite that, the book flowed really well and had a good fun-factor element (after all, a half-kitsune MC is pretty cool… parts of the story also reminded me strongly of Kung Fu Panda haha), so I’m sure I’m in the minority with my rating. Perhaps this author is just not for me. #cantwinthemall

Return to Honor by Brian McClellan

Return to Honor (Powder Mage #1.5) by Brian McClellan [4/5 stars]

As the Powder Mage trilogy has officially become one of my favorite series (Promise of Blood was superb!), it’s no surprise I found myself eager to tackle some of the novellas. Return to Honor added depth to a few great side characters in a way that made the main books feel more completed. I can see why the scenes were excluded because it would’ve sidetracked the main plot too much, but I’m delighted I still got to experience it. If you haven’t read the series yet, I’d highly recommend picking this novella up within it. :) There are a bunch of short stories that go along with the series as well, but I was too impatient to get on with the series to make time for them… I hear they’re also good though lol.

Tongues of Serpents by Naomi Novik

Tongues of Serpents (Temeraire #7) by Naomi Novik [3.5/5 stars]

I’m not sure yet how I feel about the series as a whole, but I’ve found myself picking up these novels for a very specific Temeraire “fix,” if that makes sense. The books are all fairly similar but the highlight continues to be the dragons. This novel had them exploring the Australian Outback… basically on the periphery of the Napoleonic War (again), and even though not much happened, per se, I still enjoyed the interplay between the dragons and humans. I’m not getting a lot of substance from these later books, but I’m still glad I’m reading them and I think that’s because the dragon “fun-factor” is strong enough in each book to keep me coming back. It’s also exciting to find out each new tangent destination haha.

Bite Club by Rachel Caine

Bite Club (Morganville #11) by Rachel Caine [2.5/5 stars]

Something about the relationship drama in these books stresses me out. The types of things they fight about would be deal breakers for me, and I find myself less and less satisfied with both the romance and the love interest. I also feel like it’s kind of endorsing unhealthy practices in teens and putting a strong emphasis on “the guy comes before your own wellbeing.” HOWEVER… it also adds and authentic feel to the story and the characters are very believable. So for that reason, I’m not totally mad at it. For the first time, I finally feel like I’m grasping what the final arc of the series might be and that has me more interested than I’ve been in a while to see what happens next. Unrelated: I didn’t get the title reference until just this moment, and it delights me a little lol.


I hope you all had a great month! :)

by Niki Hawkes

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Niki’s Book Journal [April 2018]

Niki’s Book Journal [April 2018]

This book journal idea may have just revolutionized my reviewing process. I open up the draft for this post after finishing a book (motivated by the fact that I only have to write a paragraph or so), and before I know it I have a full-length review that merits its own post. The combination of retraining my brain to open WordPress right after finishing a book along with a couple other reading trackers have definitely made a positive impact on my reviewing process. Long story short: I only have two books reviewed in this format for April, but I’m okay with that.

I love this new change in my habits because I’m finding myself drawn to writing more throughout the day (which will hopefully culminate into actually working on one of my novels). And as a HUGE bonus, I’m producing more book content both here and on Goodreads, which is in line with making me the consistent book reviewer I’ve always aspired to be.

During this process, I started a tracker in my bullet journal and discovered that on average I’m finishing 2.5 books per week, but generally I’m only reviewing about 1 pw. I don’t think I’d wrapped my head around that particular disconnect of why I never seemed to catch up on reviews (I mean, really, it’s not rocket science). I knew my efforts weren’t enough, I just didn’t realize precisely how ineffective I was being. No more! I have a new system in place to help me even out that ratio.

I created some tracker in my bullet journal. I’ve had several (basically unused) tracking methods over the years, usually just a list on Goodreads, but a couple of months ago I started a bullet journal and it has drastically improved how I organize all the things. I start with a book progress status bar tracker at the top of my weekly spread:

As you can see, I finished three books that week. Then I take those finished titles and put them into my (ugly but functional) new review tracker:

They key here has been creating a category at the top for each step in the process. Composing a review can take a couple hours, so if I just write “write review for x” I have to be able to commit a lot of time to it before I can check anything off. As I’m super motivated by striking things off lists, having each step listed separately allows me to do just one component of it at a time without getting overwhelmed. It’s definitely making a difference. My next step is to beatify the tracker. :)

Journaling done. On to the books!


Carpe Corpus (Morganville #6) by Rachel Caine [3/5 stars]

I always enjoy the atmosphere and mood Morganville books create, so Carpe Corpus gets a decent rating for that alone. I went into this series (a bit late than most) under the impression that there are a few different story arcs within it. With this novel, I fully expected that supposed culmination of events to really wow me… yeah, not so much. The story seemed to resolve itself so quickly that I was left feeling like I missed something. I mean, I know the books are super short, but still. What I did like about this novel in particular was the stellar character dynamics and relationship progressions. I maintain that these characters feel a lot more rounded and realistic compared to many other YA. I’m definitely still looking forward to continuing the series because reading each one feels like coming home, but overall Carpe Corpus didn’t make much of an impression.

The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

Son of Neptune (Heroes of Olympus #2) by Rick Riordan [3.5/5 stars]

Son of Neptune was a solid sequel to The Lost Hero and an improvement on all accounts. My biggest complaint of the first novel was the senseless repetition, so it was refreshing for book 2 to have a consice plot where everything had a purpose in building towards the overall arc of the novel. There were still lots of “tangent” monsters to fight, but I thought the encounters were integrated much more seamlessly. And as an added bonus, the main POV was a familiar face that I’ve missed (Percy!!). Son of Neptune also introduced some brand new characters who have the potential to land among my favorites for this author. I’m finding myself eager to pick up Mark of Athena sooner than later, which is an excellent sign.

by Niki Hawkes

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Niki’s Book Journal [March 2018]

Niki’s Book Journal [March 2018]

Am I the only one who gets overwhelmed when the “To Be Reviewed” pile starts getting out of hand? I always have the best intentions, but I’m at the point where I have almost 50 unreviewed titles from just the last 6 months. It’s stressing me out! And we’re not even going to talk about all the books I’ve neglected to review beyond the 6 months. My usual solution is to stamp my foot down and say “That’s it!! I’m going to write a review every single day until I catch up!” which is promptly followed by review writing burnout where I don’t feel like doing any more for a couple of months. It’s a vicious cycle.

But I think I may have constructed a solution.

Some amazing (or horrible) books require a lot of time and effort to sit down and review properly, but oftentimes it’s the simplest, most straightforward books that don’t get reviewed because I can’t come up with much to say about them. My new book journal review format will hopefully offer a solution to that problem by giving me a place to log my smaller reviews. Then WHAM! They’ll go live whenever the mood strikes me. Here goes…


Nexus by Scott Westerfeld

Nexus by Scott Westerfeld & Co. [Zeroes #6] 3/5 stars

This was a fun trilogy that I think will appeal to fans of Sanderson’s Reckoners series. It has a very Heroes (the show) feel where kids are born with abnormal abilities. I’ll definitely give the authors kudos for coming up with “powers” I’ve never seen before, such as controlling a crowd’s energy, electronics manipulation, and “throwing” vision (to name a few). They were extremely odd, but oddly interesting at the same time. I’ll most remember the series for it’s diverse cast of characters (with different ethnicities and sexual orientations, something I love seeing more of in books). I also liked the overall plot progression. This final novel offered a nice story arc that seemed a lot grander than the self-induced problems the characters faced in the first book and I appreciated how everything played out. Overall, this trilogy is a fun read, especially if you’re in the mood for something kind of different. It didn’t knock my socks off, but it definitely entertained.

Red Tide by Marc Turner

Red Tide by Marc Turner [Chronicles of the Exiled #3] DNF at 54%

I didn’t put this book down because it was a bad read. I put it down because it was taking me well over two weeks to get to just the 50% mark and I just couldn’t muster the enthusiasm to get into it knowing that it’s meant to be a six book series and there’s not a single peep that the author’s even working on the next book (for more of a reference, all 3 of the released titles came out between May 2015 and September 2016 and it doesn’t look as though he’s shared any updates on his website since). So I was finding it difficult to really care what was going on with no continuation in sight. If the author announces another book, I’ll happily pick this back up where I left off (until then…). For what it’s worth, I liked the story, the world building, the interwoven plot lines, and even the characters (who are extremely one-dimensional). It wouldn’t be the first fantasy series I recommend, but I wouldn’t discourage anyone from reading it, either.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Girl of Fire and Thorns Stories by Rae Carson 2.5/5 stars

This compilation of three short stories would’ve been exponentially more enjoyable had I read it with the series instead of waiting several years. Considering how little I remembered of the side characters, the first two stories were entertaining enough and I’m sure they added a bit of good backstory. However, the final book (Hector’s story) didn’t really give me any of the feels I wanted even though it was the one I was most looking forward to. I’d long ago learned my lesson about waiting too long to get back to a series, but this experience just helps reinforce how important momentum is to my reading feng shui.

Lord of Misrule by Rachel Caine

Lord of Misrule (Morganville #5) by Rachel Caine 3/5 stars

This is yet another book I would’ve enjoyed more had I continued right away. Alas, I’m grateful for the few subtle drop-in reminders of events in previous books to get me back up to speed for the rest of the series (which I’m planning to continue in a timely manner). I’m always impressed at Caine’s writing and thinks she has some of the better-developed characters in the genre. I know every time I pick up a Morganville book I’m going to be entertained. The storyline for Lord of Misrule specifically felt a little more erratic than previous books. It’s definitely functioning as a setup novel and ended without one whit of resolution (which is good motivation for me to keep reading…thank the book gods for completed series). Overall, I’m excited to dive back into this series.


Thanks for following along! What do you think of this new reviewing format for middle-of-the-road titles? :)

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Book Review: Feast of Fools by Rachel Caine

feast of foolsTitle: Feast of Fools

Author: Rachel Caine

Series: Morganville Vampires #4

Genre: Teen Paranormal Romance

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: In the town of Morganville, vampires and humans live in relative peace. Student Claire Danvers has never been convinced, though, especially with the arrival of Mr. Bishop, an ancient, old-school vampire who cares nothing about harmony. What he wants from the town’s living and its dead is unthinkably sinister. It’s only at a formal ball, attended by vampires and their human dates, that Claire realizes the elaborately evil trap he’s set for Morganville.

feast of fools 2

The Review:

Funny story: so Morganville #1 (The Glass House) was actually one of the very first paranormal YA books I’ve ever read. At the time, I really didn’t know what to expect from the genre… and wasn’t really blown away. Fast-forward about a decade and hundreds of YA books later to the moment where I finally decided to continue on in the series. I discovered it is actually way better than I initially gave it credit for. This came about while I was trying to create a top ten YA list – while I could name countless books that I enjoyed, I could not for the life of me come up with ten series that I absolutely LOVED (especially compared to my top ten fantasy list, where I had trouble narrowing it down from twenty). I surprised myself when I realized Morganville had enough merits to make that list.

For one thing, it’s written well. For another, the characters are quirky and well-rounded. Not to mention the plot offers a unique take on the vampire world (which is incredibly appealing considering how many teen vampire books are out there). Overall, it’s gritty, original, and has an abundance of personality and charm.

So with all of those good things said, it made me start to wonder why I initially didn’t enjoy the series as much then as I am now. I think I’ve finally figured it out: the love interest. Morganville (as well as Caine’s Weather Warden series) commit a good portion of their pages to romance. The trouble is, I didn’t find a single one of the male leads appealing. While I can definitely see their merits and why other readers find them attractive, they just aren’t my type. This tells me two things 1) Caine and I have very different tastes in men and 2) I haven’t been able to fully appreciate the story up to this point because I’m not emotionally invested in the love story. Believe me when I say I know how weird of an issue this is… I’ve only come across this problem once or twice before, but three instances for a single author – unheard of! 

The good news is, now that the plot outside of the romance has advanced considerably, I’m finding the series incredibly fun to read. Even though everything still takes place in Morganville, the conflicts have broadened to become more serious and include more characters. I now have a lot more substance to sink my teeth into (pun intended), so I’m definitely excited to see what happens next!

This is a great series for people who enjoy paranormal but are tired of the perfect “bubblegum” atmosphere that most teen books present. This one is fast-paced, quirky, and definitely one of the best of the genre. It doesn’t quite stack up to some of the adult urban fantasies, but holds its own nonetheless.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

Coming Soon: Bitter Blood by Rachel Caine

Title: Bitter Blood

Series: Morganville Vampires #13

Author: Rachel Caine

Genre: Teen Paranormal Romance

Release Date: November 6, 2012 Now Available!

This is a great teen series that gives off a different vibe than other similar books on the market (such as “House of Night” and “Vampire Academy”). Although it is not my personal favorite, I know several people who rank “Morganville Vampires” at the top of their teen paranormal lists. It’s definitely earned its place in the “must read” category of the genre!

By Niki Hawkes