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Book Review: Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Title: Children of Ruin

Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky

Series: Children of Time #2

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 2/5 stars

The Overview: Long ago, Earth’s terraforming program sent ships out to build new homes for humanity among the stars and made an unexpected discovery: a planet with life. But the scientists were unaware that the alien ecosystem was more developed than the primitive life forms originally discovered. Now, thousands of years later, the Portiids and their humans have sent an exploration vessel following fragmentary radio signals. They discover a system in crisis, warring factions trying to recover from an apocalyptic catastrophe arising from what the early terraformers awoke all those years before. -Goodreads

The Review:

Children of Time is still my favorite book of 2022. Children of Ruin… not so much.

Truthfully I had a hard time finishing this one. At 80% I was forcing myself through it to the point where I initially called a DNF before deciding to just speed read to the end. I mean, I’d heard it wasn’t as good as the first one, but I wasn’t expecting to be so completely disengaged.

So what changed between books one and two? My theory is character connection. CoT was a brilliantly composed character study that managed to make me care deeply about the creatures involved. It was especially impressive that he managed to evoke that given that it was also a multi-generational story. CoR showed glimmers of good character work at the beginning, but quickly set it aside in favor of extensive theorizing and info dumps. Even the return of some familiar faces didn’t help, and in some ways actually made things worse, as none of them showed any of the depth I remember from the first book.

As you may have heard, CoT focuses on a society of spiders, whereas CoR focuses on cephalopods (octopi). I wouldn’t say spiders are any less alien to human ways of thinking and functioning as a society than cephalopods, but the way Tchaikovsky chose to present both offered wildly different experiences. The spiders came across somewhat relatable, where as the cephalopods’ society and forms of communication were so alien it was hard to form a connection to them. The creatures used complex color patterns to communicate. And the use of general impressions and imagery in place of dialogue was amazing and creative and cool… but it wasn’t engaging in the slightest. My favorite part about CoR was learning more about these creatures, but they weren’t solid, distinct enough “characters” to make me feel more than a curious interest in them.

So without anyone to latch onto, I started to feel disengaged from the story. And then the plot got a bit confusing and I lost even more momentum. So by the time I made it to the end (by the skin of my teeth), I was checked out.

I know this author can dazzle me, and by no means am I finished exploring his works. CoR had a lot of great base elements to it, I just think it lost me on some of the execution choices. I’m still looking forward to Children of Memory, but with perhaps a little less enthusiasm than after CoR.

Recommendations: while the biological components were every bit as cool as the stuff found in CoT, all of the other story elements fell a bit flat. At the moment I’d say consider CoT a stand-alone and don’t bother with this sequel, but that may change after I read the third book.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Tackling the TBR [87]: January 2023

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:

January 2023 TBR Tackler Shelf:

Wouldn’t you know it – I didn’t read as much as I thought I would last month, so many of the books are making a comeback in January. I keep saying how Ruin by John Gwynne is my #1 priority, and yet I keep letting other more time-sensitive books jump the line. It’s the pitfall of running a book club and signing up for so many buddy reads (actually, I’ve been instigating them, which is even funnier). In any case, come hell or high water, I will be at least cracking the spine on Ruin before the month is out.

With the exception of the Warrior, which technically isn’t slated to get read until the first of February, I actually think I’m going to be able to read everything on this list (famous last words). Sweep of the Heart by Andrews was a last-minute addition, as I was planning to read it ASAP anyway but dropped everything to snag it when NetGalley flashed it across my radar as available as an audio ARC. Sold.

Blade of Dreams, the new Kithimar novel that comes out next summer, is every bit as amazing as I hoped it would be. I’m devouring pages from it every time I have a free moment. Superb.

Even at a glance, I can tell I’m focusing my attentions on the best books first. We’re starting off the year with a bang!


Have a great month in reading!

by Niki Hawkes

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Novella Review: Sins of Our Fathers by James S.A. Corey

Title: Sins of Our Fathers

Author: James S.A. Corey

Series: Expanse #9.5

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: Through one of the gates, a colony stands alone. Their supplies are low. Their defenses, weak. The leadership is uncertain, and the community fragile. Huge alien beasts threaten the little they have left. But the worst monsters are human, and the greatest dangers are the past they brought. –Goodreads

The Review:

While this didn’t give me the big picture answers I was hoping for, it reminded me why I love the Expanse. It also provided the much-needed opportunity to walk away from the series with positive feelings, as Leviathan Falls left me feeling underwhelmed (“can you ever be just whelmed?” That may be a more accurate description). The story here doesn’t really have anything to do with the final book, but rather is an exploration of humanity and how circumstances shape our lives (as ever with their writing). I found it deeply profound. And it provided a resonance for the rest of the series and all of the fall-out from events culminating to this point. Things ever remain human-driven, whether epic or mundane. I loved it.

And I want more.

by Niki Hawkes

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Tackling the TBR [86]: December 2022

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:

December 2022 TBR Tackler Shelf:

Apparently I’m in the mood for a bunch of big fantasy books this month! Which makes sense because the last few weeks have seen me reading mostly Urban Fantasy and YA titles. I need a break.

Last month I challenged myself to pick a series from my Incomplete Series Challenge and zero it out. It was a success! I finished both the Toll and Gleanings by Neal Schusterman, laying to rest a series I’ve had open for about two years. This month I have chosen Fury of a Demon, the third and final book in the Dragons of Terra series. This is going to be a bit more of a challenge because there isn’t an audio option for this book. Either way, I’m excited to see series start to drop off my list that have been on there for ages. I’m still starting more than I complete, but have slowly been shifting my focus to getting back to things in a more timely manner. Baby steps.

I’m really excited to continue with the sequel to Justice of Kings, but I think I’m most looking forward to The Coward by Aryan which was chosen for this month’s Patreon Book Club. All the good ones keep winning! :D

Note that I didn’t even mention House of Chains… we’re probably ignoring that book again this month.


Have a great month in reading!

by Niki Hawkes

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Tackling the TBR [85]: November 2022

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:

November 2022 TBR Tackler Shelf:

Look!! It’s still November and I’m posting my November TBR! Granted, it’s mid-November, which would normally render half of my TBR irrelevant because the books had already been read, but in this case I’m reading slow AF, so it’s fine.

You’ll notice a significantly more conservative lineup this month. Life has been a bit hectic and so I haven’t been able to concentrate on reading for about two weeks. The weird fringe-benefit of this is that I also haven’t been super stressed about all the books I’m not reading right now (something I often struggle with), but instead have found a certain zen at reading everything at a snail’s pace… I’m sure that will change, but for now I’m enjoying myself.

The loose focus this month is to continue/finish series, per my Incomplete Series Challenge. I picked one main one to put efforts towards: The Arc of the Scythe by Neal Schusterman. When I chose this one to wrap up in November, I thought I only had one book left (The Toll), but the joke is on me because Gleanings (a collection of short stories that come after the end of the trilogy) came out just this last Tuesday and I must, must read it as a completionist before I can consider the series wrapped up.

House of Chains made the lineup again. I’m about 30% of the way through, but between my general lack of concentration and how glacially I’m reading this one, I’ll be thrilled if the progress jumps higher than 35% by the end of the month. I’ll finish it eventually, damnit. But in the meantime, please enjoy seeing it in the lineup for the 1000th time.

The book I’m most looking forward to is Justice of Kings, which was chosen for this month’s Patreon Book Club… I’m due to start it tomorrow.


Have a great month in reading!

by Niki Hawkes

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Tackling the TBR [84]: October 2022

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 2022 TBR Tackler Shelf:

::sits down to compose this post::
Shit. Did I really miss posting a TBR for September?? That can’t be right…

I did it again!! And this time I didn’t even notice until this very moment. Obviously my current post organizing system is working splendidly… not.

Well, while August was a month dedicated towards tomes, September has been a delightful expedition into series novellas along with a whole bunch of other fun reading.

Around the beginning of the month I borrowed a reading system from Matt’s Fantasy Book Reviews (he’s a content creator on YT and GR) which entailed scheduling out reading based on the speed at which I usually consume content. I took a whole day and recreated my version of his spreadsheet and started tracking my daily reading pace. And it is AMAZING.

I’ve tried to do all of this before, but only with pen and paper, which doesn’t leave any room for rearranging or adapting and simple data tracking, so it has always been a major flop. But with the spreadsheet I’ve been able to completely customize my schedule to something dialed and wonderful while still being able to plop in mood reads here and there. I’m embracing my need to plan and leaning fully into this very structured new system. I ran it all last month and had SO MUCH FUN with books. It has effectively taken away my anxious need to read all the things right now, and allowed me to fully immerse into just the book in my hand. I love it.

So I’m continuing on into October with this new schedule, which has been constructed with my continual goal to complete series in mind. I do have a few new series starters planned for Patreon Book Club (Jade City) and my Read/Burn/Hoard series on Youtube (Howl’s Moving Castle), but otherwise everything is focused on advancing and completing series. And I must say, I’m particularly excited about the lineup in front of me! And because I have an accurate prediction of how long each one will take, this isn’t an ambitious list, it’s a realistic one given my time and reading habits. :D Curating my reading to this extent may be the best thing I’ve ever done for myself with this hobby.


Have a great month in reading!

by Niki Hawkes