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Coming Soon: To Guard Against the Dark by Julie E. Czerneda

Title: To Guard Against the Dark

Author: Julie E. Czerneda

Series: Reunification #3 [A Clan Novel]

Genre: Science Fiction

Release Date: October 10, 2017

The Overview: The final book in the hard science fiction Reunification trilogy, the thrilling conclusion to the award-winning Clan Chronicles. -Goodreads

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Nik’s Notes:

I’ve been a long-time fan of Czerneda, even going so far as putting myself through a grueling (but fun) competition to become a beta-reader for this trilogy. Alas, I didn’t win, just missing out on being an alternate by one spot. I didn’t mind too much, though, because it gave me the opportunity to re-immerse myself in Czerneda’s Clan novels before diving into this Reunification Trilogy. To Guard Against the Dark is the trilogy-ender, and quite possibly the saga-ender. I’m not so sure how I feel about the cover, being a huge fan of Luis Royo’s work for previous books, but I am definitely excited for its contents in October!

Who else is excited for this one?!

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Foreigner by C.J. Cherryh

Foreigner by C. J. Cherryh

Title: Foreigner

Author: C.J. Cherryh

Series: Foreigner #1

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 1.5/5 stars

The Overview: The first book in C.J. Cherryh’s eponymous series, Foreigner begins an epic tale of the survivors of a lost spacecraft who crash-land on a planet inhabited by a hostile, sentient alien race.

From its beginnings as a human-alien story of first contact, the Foreigner series has become a true science fiction odyssey, following a civilization from the age of steam through early space flight to confrontations with other alien species in distant sectors of space. It is the masterwork of a truly remarkable author. -Goodreads

The Review:

From the GR overview: above “begins an epic tale” is likely the most misleading one I’ve ever read. It gives the impression that something actually happens in the first book. I technically should be discussing Foreigner in a DNF Q&A because I stopped reading with only two chapters to go. I figured since I hit the 95% mark, I feel justified giving it a normal review.

I did not like it.

Issue #1: it had three beginnings.

Cherryh began her story, jumped through in time, began another story, then jumped through time again to start what was actually the bulk of the book. This was an issue for a couple of reasons, the foremost of which was that it took so much concentration and effort to remember all the characters introduced in the two “prologues”, that by the time the main story kicked in, my give-a-shit was busted. I didn’t really focus for the first few chapters of the main story because I kept expecting it to jump ahead again. Instead, it proceeded to drag on for another 300+ pages. I think what upsets me the most is how good the first two” starts” were and how much potential it had (and wasted).

Issue #2: the main character was very unlikable.

And not in an anti-hero “I’m an ass hole and I don’t care who knows it” kind of way, but in an entitled, “spoiled little rich boy” kind of way. Most of his contributions involved excessive whining about the lack of good accommodations and how much he wanted his mail. It was insufferable, and I can’t think of anything I actually liked about him. Harsh but true.

Issue 3: the entire story took place on the periphery of the action.

I don’t want dozens and dozens of pages of speculation on what happened. I want to EXPERIENCE it myself through the character. If there’s nothing to engage your character, apparently the solution is to infuse political speculation of no consequence. The character basically just sat there either thinking about politics, how bored he was, or, God help me, his lost mail. The general rule of thumb is, if your character is bored, your reader is board. And despite my aversion to politics in real life, I actually love reading them in books – especially between humans and interesting alien species. This book should have been an amazing cluster of intrigue, but there was very little actual political maneuvering. Just a bunch of theory and historical information (yawn). The only redeeming quality was the alien beings themselves – wicked cool (cover image).


Overall, there was so little plot advancement that Foreigner could have easily been summed up in about 50 pages or less. I’m very disappointed. I think hopes of what the story could be was what kept me reading, but I lost all gusto when I realized it just wasn’t going to get there. I’ve been collecting hardcovers for this 18 book saga for years and was looking forward to immersing myself in them and now I’m not sure what to do with them. I might go back and finish Foreigner to continue on one day, but not for a long, long while.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Coming Soon: Persepolis Rising by James S.A. Corey

November 7, 2017

Title: Persepolis Rising

Author: James S.A. Corey

Series: The Expanse #7

Genre: Fantasy

Release Date: December 5, 2017

The Overview: Goodreads – you let me down. No synopsis available yet. :/ 

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Nik’s Notes:

The Expanse series is easily my favorite space opera/science fiction on the market. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every book so far and hope Persepolis Rising regains some of that awesome momentum that Babylon’s Ashes was missing. The series has a lot of action, great characters, and tons of memorable moments. If you haven’t picked it up yet, what are you waiting for? It’s awesome!

Who else is waiting for Persepolis Rising??? :D

by Niki Hawkes

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Coming Soon: Iron Gold by Pierce Brown

iron-goldTitle: Iron Gold

Author: Pierce Brown

Series: Iron Gold #1 [Red Rising #4]

Genre: Science Fiction

Release Date: January 16, 2017

The Overview: When you break the chains, what do you unleash?

The new trilogy takes place after the end of Morning Star and will center on the consequences of the hero’s actions as well as on those folks now living and growing up in a landscape that’s had its ruling order shattered. -Goodreads

Nik’s Notes:

If you haven’t yet read Red Rising [check out my Trilogy Review], chances are good that you’ve at least heard of it. And let me assure you, it’s worth every bit of the hype it receives. Iron Gold is a next-generation continuation of the story, and you’d better believe I’m excited to read it. Brown created such a cool framework for his society, and I am most eager to see how it has evolved after Morning Star’s events. August can’t come too soon!

Who else is excited for Iron Gold?!

by Niki Hawkes

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Mini Book Review: Babylon’s Ashes by James S.A. Corey

Title: Babylon’s Ashes

Author: James S.A. Corey

Series: The Expanse #6

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Overview: The Free Navy – a violent group of Belters in black-market military ships – has crippled the Earth and begun a campaign of piracy and violence among the outer planets. The colony ships heading for the thousand new worlds on the far side of the alien ring gates are easy prey, and no single navy remains strong enough to protect them. James Holden and his crew know the strengths and weaknesses of this new force better than anyone. Outnumbered and outgunned, the embattled remnants of the old political powers call on the Rocinante for a desperate mission to reach Medina Station at the heart of the gate network. But the new alliances are as flawed as the old, and the struggle for power has only just begun. As the chaos grows, an alien mystery deepens. Pirate fleets, mutiny, and betrayal may be the least of the Rocinante’s problems. And in the uncanny spaces past the ring gates, the choices of a few damaged and desperate people may determine the fate of more than just humanity. –Goodreads

The  Mini Review:

Babylon’s Ashes is what I’m calling the “stepping stone” novel of the series. Its purpose was to wrap up fallout from the events that happened in the amazingness that was Nemesis Games and set up for what’s to come in Persepolis Rising (which doesn’t have a release date yet, but I’m wagering sometime around December 2017). Because it felt more like a transition novel, I didn’t rate it quite as highly as others in the series. Comparatively, especially coming off of Nemesis Games (possibly my favorite of the series), Babylon’s Ashes had nothing particularly earth-shattering about it. There was definite plot progression, and a few poignant moments, but overall it was a little underwhelming. I also had a difficult time focusing at the beginning until the story really got going, which is unusual.

To clarify – I think Babylon’s Ashes was an important chapter in the saga but it didn’t bring as much action and excitement as its predecessors. What it did bring was lots of good character interactions and, as exciting as the plot can get, it’s these well developed, relatable characters who keep me coming back for more. My favorite character has always been Avasarala (a snarky politician who always says what she thinks – whom incidentally, I was thrilled to see introduced earlier in the TV series), but there are many great ones to choose from. Any one of them could rank as my favorite depending on the day.

So, overall, compared to most books, Babylon’s Ashes was a knockout. Compared to The Expanse series as a whole, it was a little tame. I still love the series though – reading a new Expanse novel feels like coming home. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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The Obsessive Bookseller’s Top Ten Books of 2016!

I love looking back at the end of the year and picking out a handful of books that really rocked my world. I read almost sixty books this year, and there were so many good ones that it was hard to narrow it down to just ten. Without further ado, I give you:

The Obsessive Bookseller’s Top Ten Books of 2016:


Shadows for Silence by Brandon Sanderson

Book Info: Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell by Brandon Sanderson

Genre: Fantasy

Reason for Recommending: Brandon Sanderson is one of my top authors for his epic world building, amazing characters, and great writing. I’ve read (and loved) almost everything he has published and Shadows for Silence was just as good. I loved it because it had a perfect mix of characterization, setting, story, pacing, action, and resolution, all wrapped up into one neat little package. It felt like a snippet out of a fully developed novel, but was self-contained enough to stand completely on its own. I highly recommend it to Sanderson fans, and lovers of the genre in general. [Read Full Review]


Morning Star by Pierce Brown

Book Info: Morning Star by Pierce Brown

Genre: Science Fiction [adult]

Reason for Recommending:  As the conclusion to the Red Rising trilogy, Morning Star was my favorite of the series. Not only did all the moving parts converge for one epic finish, but it also provided more depth of character and had its fair share of heart-wrenching moments. This series is one of the most unique I’ve ever read, even though it’s comprised of many elements I loved from other top series. A next-generation continuation of the series (Iron Gold) is coming out August 2017, which is really exciting! [Read Full Review]


The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

Book Info: The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

Genre: Fantasy

Reason for Recommending: This series is an experience, and one of the most unique I’ve ever read. The world building is ridiculously creative and the characters are nothing if not atypical. The real brilliance lies in the writing, though. Jemisin weaves her story through three different perspectives, the most compelling of which is told in second person (which utilizes the “you” pronoun – “You walk to the edge of the cliff. You don’t much like heights.”) Which is a writing style you don’t see very often because it’s difficult to pull off. This is one of those books I’ll reread. [Read Full Review]


Blood Song by Anthony Ryan

Book Info: Blood Song by Anthony Ryan

Genre: Fantasy

Reason for RecommendingIt has been a while since I’ve read a new fantasy that I liked as much as Blood Song. Even though the last two books in the trilogy take on a different direction, I still am really glad I read this series. The first one is easily the best of the three. It’s a compelling coming-of-age story that reminded me of the school setting and camaraderie of Harry Potter while being told with the same atmosphere and grit that made Game of Thrones so good. That might be overselling it a bit, but if you like fantasy, Blood Song is a must for your list! [Read Full Review]


Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Book Info: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Genre: Fantasy

Reason for Recommending: Uprooted was a fun story about a girl apprenticed (against her will) to the stuffy local wizard. The two main characters had an awesome dynamic and really made the book special. This is the first book I’ve read by Naomi Novik, and I can tell you I liked it so much that it definitely won’t be the last. This stand-alone novel was incredibly well written. [Read Full Review]


Elite by Mercedes Lackey

Book Info: Elite by Mercedes Lackey

Genre: Teen Post-Apocalyptic

Reason for Recommending: I love it when high fantasy authors take on young adult literature. Elite is the second book in Mercedes Lackey’s Hunter series and it shaping up to be one of the best YA’s I’ve read yet. The first book takes a couple of chapters to get going, but after that it boasts smart characters, excellent pacing, and lots of action. This is definitely a great series to pick up if you’re still suffering from a Hunger Games hangover. [Read Full Review]


The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Book Info: The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Genre: Teen Fiction

Reason for Recommending: Imagine if ABC’s Scandal was re-envisioned as a young adult series, and you’d have The Fixer. It has a ton of political intrigue, interesting (if a little over the top) characters, and great writing. Jennifer Lynn Barnes is responsible for my all-time favorite series (The Naturals, which I think is absolute perfection), and The Fixer is just as good. It takes a few chapters to get going, but once it does, it doesn’t let up! [Read Full Review]


The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson

Book Info: Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson

Genre: Fantasy

Reason for Recommending: Yet another Sanderson to make my list. Bands of Mourning is book six in the Mistborn saga, three in the four book Wax and Wayne series. It brought ties from the first trilogy into play and was packed with lots of humor, adventure, and excitement. I know it’s going to be a while before the author has a chance to finish off this branch of the saga, but I can’t wait to see what he has in store next. [Read Full Review


No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished by Rachel Aaron

Book Info: No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished by Rachel Aaron

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Reason for Recommending:  I love this series because it is truly a hybrid of genres – it reads like an urban fantasy, but the inclusion of dragons gives it a very low fantasy story line. And the characters and overall presentation is so fun and accessible that it could also fit in the YA genre. No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished is the third book in the series and my favorite so far because of how deeply it dives into some of the most interesting characters. I loved every moment and highly recommend this author as often as I can. [Read Full Review]


Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews

Book Info: Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Reason for Recommending: This is a recent read for me, as I just finished it a couple of days ago. It’s a book three in the Kate Daniels series and I have to admit that I thought book one was fairly average and didn’t have a lot of positive things to say about it. Fortunately, my Goodreads friends urged me to keep reading and I am oh, so glad I did. It is shaping up to be one of my favorite urban fantasies – it’s fun, creative, and so funny on occasion that I actually laugh out loud. If Harry Dresden had a female counterpart, I feel like Kate Daniels would be it. I’m very new to this series, but things are looking good… [Review to Come]


There you have it – my best books of 2016! Did any of my titles make your top ten list?

by Niki Hawkes