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Book Review: 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

Rating: 4/5 stars

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

Jason Morgan is a troubling mystery to friends and enemies alike: once a starship captain and trader, then Joined to the most powerful member of the Clan, Sira di Sarc, following her and her kind out of known space.

Only to return, alone and silent. -Goodreads

The Review:

I laughed, I cried, I loved the journey.

The main things I look forward to in Czerneda’s novels are: awesome aliens, great relationships, and situational humor. To Guard Against the Dark had a perfect combination of all three and, in my opinion, was a fitting way to bring the saga to an end.

Series-enders have a tendency to take themselves too seriously, getting so caught up in building a good story arc that they sometimes forget all the little things that make them special. Czerneda couldn’t have delighted me more with her inclusion of all of my favorite elements (Drapsk, more Drapsk, and Huido) in this novel. It was so much fun! The balance of sentimentality and humor was phenomenal. She got it right. :-) Venturing in, I was worried the story would get too existential, focusing on my least favorite elements of the series, the Watchers and the M’hir (usually represented in the Interludes). Even though those elements played a significant role in the finale (and are the basis behind the entire saga), I found them much less ambiguous than in past novels. Finally we get some answers! 

The publisher is advertising that you can jump right in this series without having read anything else, but in my opinion what makes it special and interesting is that it’s a true merge of stories from her Trade Pact Trilogy (to be read first) and her Stratification Trilogy (which I think needs to be read second even though it’s a prequel trilogy). The whole saga is a great journey with incredibly memorable characters; very well worth reading. I’d recommend it if you like sci-fi that focuses more on characterization and aliens than space exploration, military, and technology (for the record, I like both). My recommendation is especially strong if you like aliens because no one does creature creation better than Czerneda! Side note: I would like a stuffed animal Drapsk for my Birthday, please.

I want to thank Berkley Publishing Group, DAW, and Julie E. Czerneda for a chance to read and review an early copy of To Guard Against the Dark. What a fitting end!

Other books you might like (including more Czerneda):

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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Book Review: Nyxia by Scott Reintgen

Title: Nyxia

Author: Scott Reintgen

Series: The Nyxia Triad #1

Genre: Teen Sci-fi

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

The Overview: Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family. Forever. Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden–a planet that Babel has kept hidden–where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe. But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human. -Goodreads

The Review:

Red Rising Fans: I have a YA recommendation for you.

As someone who has admitted to having trouble with young adult books lately, it should come with some extra weight that I loved Nyxia. It had a fun concept, fantastic competitions, and a page-turning story that promises even more in the books to come. So, personal endorsements aside, I think it’s important to know what you’re signing up for with Nyxia. All the advertising I’ve seen for it describes a gritty Hunger Games in space read that initially gave me the impression teens were being dropped on a planet (much like The 100) and forced to fight for survival/domination. While this might be true in future books, at the moment the story has very little to do with either space or new world discovery (other than on the periphery).

It is, in fact, a story much more similar to Survivor (the show) than Hunger Games, where teens subject themselves to grueling competition for eventual monetary rewards. Aside from the cool technology, this story could have taken place at any old facility on Earth. The “space” element of the whole thing was in concept only and definitely an under-realized aspect of the book.

But you know what? The characters and their competitions were so dang interesting, I didn’t care one whit about the lack of world-building.

I am a huge sucker for a book with a good competition and Nyxia contained a nice variety of challenges that had me page-turning endlessly to see what would happen next! Based on how I normally evaluate books, Nyxia would receive a solid 4 stars. But because it struck a chord with me (for how well it did the things it did well), I’m giving it an extra .5 for that intangible “it” factor. I can’t wait for the next one!

<b>Recommendations:</b> I think the characters, the writing style, and the overall concept would definitely appeal to Red Rising fans, especially if you don’t mind the occasional YA read. It doesn’t have the same grit, but I’m hoping it is shaping up to have the same heart. Don’t go into this one expecting space-exploration and new world discoveries. Go in expecting great competition and loads of fun.

Other books you might like:

 by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

Old Man's War by John Scalzi

Title: Old Man’s  War

Author: John Scalzi

Series: Old Man’s War #1

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

The Overview: John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife’s grave. Then he joined the army.The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce– and alien races willing to fight us for them are common. So: we fight. To defend Earth, and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has been going on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding... -Goodreads

The Review:

I’m so glad I finally started The Old Man’s War series – it’s every bit as good as I’d hoped it would be. Filled with humor, action, exploration, and a touch of sentimentality, if you’re looking for your next great sci-fi read, this may be it! The book is essentially about John Perry, a 75-year-old man who signs up for the Army to fight an intergalactic war. John’s POV was my favorite element of the book. His “wisened” outlook on life and general mannerisms were a delightful contrast to the hard-assed whippersnappers who usually star in good sci-fi. The POV definitely elevated an already good story to a fantastic one, but lord save me from old-man jokes (okay, fine. I laughed at all of them).

I also really love to the type of science fiction the book was: a perfect blend of technological advancement, alien interactions, and militaristic elements. The best part is, I think Scalzi has only just scratched the surface of it’s potential in this first book. The first half of the novel moved at a significantly slower pace than the second half, which was great because it felt more organic, giving the latter parts of the book higher impact by contrast. So rest assured, if you pick it up and wonder if it actually goes somewhere, the answer is an emphatic yes – and hang onto your seats when you get there. Incidentally, the slower sections were my favorites.

I mentioned a bit of sentimentality at the beginning of the review. There is a, shall we say “softer” element near the end of the book that I didn’t necessarily care for. It’s the only thing that pinged against my rating, even though it really wasn’t a big factor in the whole scheme of things. I liked the idea, but thought it was a bit too heavy-handed. I’m hoping it will smooth out a bit in the second book (which I will definitely be reading ASAP).

Overall, Old Man’s War was one of the most interesting science fiction I’ve read. I think it fits the bill as both a must-read for seasoned sci-fi lovers and a great introductory novel for new readers of the genre. If you loved Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game as a young adult (as I did), Old Man’s War is its perfect evolution.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Coming Soon: Nyxia by Scott Reintgen

Title: Nyxia

Author: Scott Reintgen

Series: The Nyxia Triad #1

Genre: Teen Sci-fi

Release Date: September 12, 2017

The Overview: Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family. Forever. Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden–a planet that Babel has kept hidden–where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe. But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human. -Goodreads

Nik’s Notes:

Okay, I’ll admit I’m a sucker for a cool cover.
And YA Sci-Fi.
And intense competition reminiscent of Hunger Games…
…Pretty much everything Nyxia is offering.

Rest assured, I’ll be hounding for a copy as soon as it comes out in September. ;P

Any ARC readers so far? Thoughts??

 by Niki Hawkes

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Tackling the TBR [25]: July 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:

July 2017 TBR Tackler Shelf:

Last month I tried to do a “catch-up” month and I discovered one thing: I do not like catch-up months lol. For the most part I stuck to my list, reading half of the titles from it, but part way through the month went off the rails and started devouring things from July’s list. I think I’ll just stick to my carryover strategy going forward and try to keep it less than ten titles. :)

Because I’ve already read a few of these (which I’m including them anyway because I’m OCD), I added a few extra to give you an idea of the books I’m hoping to get through this month. It’s really, really ambitious, especially since my Goodreads reading group is tackling both Eye of the World and Way of Kings (not listed because it has been a reread WIP for months now with the hubby). I’m excited for a bunch of the books on this list, but the one that keeps screaming at me to read it is The Labyrinth of Drakes by Marie Brennan…


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

June 2017 Titles Tackled:

Niki’s June 2017 Progress Update:

Series Finished: 3
A Conjuring of Light – V.E. Schwab
Lady Renegades – Rachel Hawkins
The Fiercest Joy – Shana Abe

Series Brought UTD: 2
Kings of the Wyld – Nicholas Eames
The Legion of Flame – Anthony Ryan

Series Progressed: 4
Naamah’s Curse – Jacqueline Carey
Magic Gifts – Ilona Andrews
From the Editorial Page of the Falchester Weekly Review – Marie Brennan
Princeps’ Fury – Jim Butcher

New Series Started: 2
Kings of the Wyld – Nicholas Eames
The Young Elites – Marie Lu (reread so I can continue)

Abandoned: 0

YTD Totals:
Finished Series: 8
Up To Date Series: 12
Series Progressed: 28
New Series Started: 14
Abandoned: 1

I am thrilled with my progress this month. I’m getting close on finishing a bunch and am starting to think that maybe I can eventually get a handle on all of these series.

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