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Tackling the TBR [29]: December 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. <-November 2017 I’m trying something new and reading them in a specific, carefully pre-determined order.

Here’s what mine looks like:

December 2017 TBR Tackler Shelf:

I, amazingly, read almost 75% of last month’s TBR Tackler Shelf. It might be too early to confirm whether I like having a semi-set reading schedule or not, but November’s stats showed a remarkable increase in completion rate. Considering those stats also included a Stormlight Archive reread and 80% of Oathbringer, I’m stoked to see what December can bring. Per my Incomplete Series Schedule shelf on Goodreads, these titles are next in the docket and I’m stoked! I’ll be finishing off several series and starting a few that I’ve been eager to read for months now. Oathbringer and Murder of Crows should be checked off by the end of the weekend. I’m most excited for the 9th Kate Daniels book. ^_^


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

November 2017 Titles Tackled:

Series Finished: 2
 Dragondrums – Anne McCaffrey
The Infinity Gate – Sara Douglass

 Series Brought UTD: 0

Series Progressed: 6
 Working for Bigfoot – Jim Butcher
Magic Stars – Ilona Andrews
The Dragon Reborn – Robert Jordan
Magic Shifts – Ilona Andrews
Bride of Death – T.A. Pratt
The Human Division – John Scalzi

New Series Started: 0

Abandoned: 1
Bard’s Oath – Joanne Bertin [DNF]

Rereads: 2
The Way of Kings – Brandon Sanderson
Words of Radiance – Brandon Sanderson

YTD Totals:
Finished Series: 15
Up To Date Series: 21
Series Progressed: 50
New Series Started: 18
Abandoned: 9


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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Novella Reviews: The Expanse by James S.A. Corey

Whenever I’m tackling a new series that contains novellas as an option, I’m always pestering people to see if they’re worth reading. Some shorts add missing/deleted scenes back into the mix (generally tangents the authors had to cut), while others stand as solid works all on their own as true “bonus” content to the main series. The Expanse novellas definitely fall into the latter category, as most of them have very little impact on the overall arc of the series. Which is not to say that they don’t enhance the series, so I count them solidly in the “worth reading” category.

One of the things I appreciate about these authors is their ability to capture the raw essence of humanity. Motivations, fears, and all the other driving forces behind their actions. These stories will carve out your heart with their earnestness. Vital Abyss and The Churn were the most thought-provoking for me in this regard, but I have to appreciate the raw, relatable emotion in The Drive. I suppose the same is true for Gods of Risk, though I was a little less connected to that one (I did end up appreciating the sum of the whole by the end).

The story with the biggest tie to the series was The Butcher of Anderson Station. Any fan of the series has heard tell of Fred Johnson’s pseudonym and wondered what events earned him the title. This perhaps was the short I was most interested in reading initially, but it was also the one I walked away with the least from, save a little more insight on what drives Johnson’s moral compass.

Of all the works, the most recent one, Strange Dogs, was the most unsettling. It gives me a pit in my stomach on what’s to come in future novels, but at the same time makes me really excited to see where they’re going with the story.

Overall, Vital Abyss was my favorite, but The Churn is the one I’m most excited for people to read. It’s the type of story that leaves a little grit behind, but it was such a fulfilling insight into one of the series’ best characters that it’s a must-read. If you only read one, however, it seems that Strange Dogs, while the most bizarre, might actually have the most impact on the next book, Persepolis Rising… time will tell.

Recommendations: Each of these novellas adds momentum to the Expanse universe with a quality of writing that always knocks my socks off. more great stories from great writers. I wouldn’t call any of these essential to the main series, but they definitely help broaden your perspective. As an added benefit, they’ll help hold you over until the next book comes out.

by Niki Hawkes

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Tackling the TBR [28]: November 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. <-November 2017 I’m trying something new and reading them in a specific, carefully pre-determined order.

Here’s what mine looks like:

November 2017 TBR Tackler Shelf:

Last month I finished all but two titles on my list, one of which I’m halfway through… win. I’m organizing my TBR Tackler shelves with a bit more structure this month. You see, I was inspired by the Bookstooge’s TBR Organization post and decided to adapt it using my Incomplete Series High Priority shelf on Goodreads. When enabled, the GR shelves let you rank titles, which I’ve used to list them out by priority. My TBR Tackler shelf here reflects the top 15 books from that list in descending order. Cool, eh? What I was hoping to achieve was a stronger focus on these high-priority titles, and scheduling them out more evenly so that I’m not reading too many similar ones back to back.

I haven’t been able to stick to a set reading scheduling the past, but with my current focus on getting through series I’ve already started (meaning they are ALL high priorities), I think this structure is exactly what I need, if only for a little while. It will also help me plan ahead a little better in regard to library reserves. I have 5 series-enders on here I’m hoping to get through this month, so wish me luck! Realistically with my WoR reread and with Oathbringer, I’ll only get through about 7 of these books, but with this new system, the ones I don’t get to will just move up on the list for next month. Let’s see how it goes. :)


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

October 2017 Titles Tackled:

Series Finished: 4
 Within the Sanctuary of Wings – Marie Brennan
Arcade Catastrophe – Brandon Mull
To Guard Against the Dark – Julie E. Czerneda
Into the Bright Unknown – Rae Carson

 Series Brought UTD: 2
An Echo Of Things To Come – James Islington
Strange Dogs – James S.A. Corey

Series Progressed: 3
Dragonsinger – Anne McCaffrey
Magic Breaks – Ilona Andrews
The Great Hunt – Robert Jordan

New Series Started: 1
Dragonmaster – Chris Bunch

Abandoned: 2
 Dragonmaster [DNF] – Chris Bunch
Guilty Pleasures [10/25] – Laurell K. Hamilton

YTD Totals:
Finished Series: 13
Up To Date Series: 21
Series Progressed: 44
New Series Started: 18
Abandoned: 8


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: The Last Colony by John Scalzi

The Last Colony by John Scalzi

Title: The Last Colony

Author: John Scalzi

Series: Old Man’s War #3

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Overview: Retired from his fighting days, John Perry is now village ombudsman for a human colony on distant Huckleberry. With his wife, former Special Forces warrior Jane Sagan, he farms several acres, adjudicates local disputes, and enjoys watching his adopted daughter grow up.

That is, until his and Jane’s past reaches out to bring them back into the game–as leaders of a new human colony, to be peopled by settlers from all the major human worlds, for a deep political purpose that will put Perry and Sagan back in the thick of interstellar politics, betrayal, and war. -Goodreads

The Review:

This is the point in the series where the story needed to make me fall in love with it as much as the first book did. Coming off a decent, albeit underwhelming second novel (Ghost Brigade), I wanted Last Colony to evolve into a series I could endorse as passionately as The Expanse. Alas, while I was thoroughly entertained from start to finish, the book did leave a few points to be desired.

My biggest complaint is the lack of description. Scalzi has all of these interesting alien species, but I’m at the halfway point in the series and couldn’t begin to tell you what they look like. I love myself some xenobiology, but I feel the author has taken what should be a selling point to the series and glazed over it with ambiguity.

At least Last Colony saw the return of my fav, John Perry, and an interesting convergence of storylines from the first two books. The humor came back in force and played a huge factor in my overall enjoyment.

At the end of the day, while I’ve concluded there are some weaknesses to this series, all the strengths add up to give me an easy sci-fi,  perfect for a light reading mood. My Fantasy Buddy Reads group on Goodreads has called it “hefty fluff” or “fluff-plus” and I don’t think it inaccurate. I would definitely recommend it anyday for someone in the mood for a bit of fun.

Other books you might like:

 

by Niki Hawkes

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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