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


Coming Soon: Vanguard by Ann Aguirre

 [July 25, 2017] Vanguard by Ann Aguirre

Title: Vanguard

Author: Ann Aguirre

Series: Enclave #3

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Release Date: July 25, 2017

The Overview: The Razorland saga continues. Since the war ended, Tegan has dreamed of an epic journey, so when she has the opportunity to sign on as ship’s doctor, she can’t wait. It’s past time to chart her course. Millie Faraday, the kindest girl in the free territories, also yearns to outrun her reputation, and warrior-poet James Morrow would follow Tegan to the ends of the earth. Their company seems set, but fate brings one more to their number. Tegan will battle incredible odds while aiding Szarok, the Uroch vanguard, who has ventured forth to save his people. Szarok is strange and beautiful, like a flower that blooms only in the dark. She shouldn’t allow him close, as such a relationship is both alien and forbidden. But through stormy seas and strange lands, she will become stronger than she ever knew. -Goodreads

Nik’s Notes:

I’m a huge fan of all things Ann Aguirre, and the first three Razorland books were additional shining examples in a long line of great things I’ve read from this author. I really liked where Horde ended things, but am excited to see what she has in store for us next in Vanguard (which is a spinoff of sorts following a different character). This series has a great post-apocalyptic feel, interesting characters, and zombie-like creatures who were creepy af. I may not read this one right away, but I’m definitely still looking forward to it.

What new releases are you excited for?

by Niki Hawkes


Trilogy Review: Penryn and the End of Days by Susan Ee

Penryn and the End of Days Trilogy
by Susan Ee
3/5 stars

The “Penryn and the End of Days” Trilogy is a post-apocalyptic young adult series about vengeful angels who have destroyed most of humankind. Penryn, a teen with a crazy mother and crippled sister to take care of, struggles to help her family survive. When her sister is abducted, Penryn will do anything to get her back, even if that means working with an angel…

Overall, I found the concept and execution of this series incredibly original. In a market flooded with post-apocalyptic/dystopian titles (many of which I’ve read… they are addicting), finding something unique seems to get increasingly difficult. This series was definitely unlike anything I’ve read before.

The first book “Angelfall” was a solid five-star read, and I loved it so much I gushed about it for weeks. In fact, here’s the review I posted shortly after finishing it:

I haven’t been so excited for the beginning of a post-apocalyptic series since I picked up Partials by Dan Wells two years ago… and trust me, I’ve read a LOT of books from this genre between then and now. Angelfall just had an X-factor that immediately grabbed my attention and held it from start to finish. So much so that a hundred pages into the first book I was already online ordering the next two in the series. It was one of those books that made me a believer early on, and I’m kicking myself for not picking it up sooner.

The biggest thing that stood out to me about Angelfall was how incredibly well it was written. Susan Ee has a way with words and descriptions that allowed me to completely lose myself in the story. All of the interactions between her characters seemed so organic and natural, and that’s part of the reason why I think the book flowed so well. For everyone I’ve ever heard complain about insta-loves in YA, this would be an excellent series for you – the relationship development in Angelfall was gradual, based on shared experiences between the characters and a combination of little moments… i.e. my favorite kind of love story.

The other thing that stood out was the concept and how it was executed – this is a post-apocalyptic world where angels (of all things) are responsible for its destruction. Now, up until this point I haven’t had any interest in the angel trend permeating the YA market because it always seems to come across a little cheesy (as it did occasionally in Daughter of Smoke and Bone). What Ee managed to do was take all of the traits indicative to angels and make them kind of badass. The creatures in her novel were dangerous, and you could feel that deadly force emanating from the pages with each new conflict. It was awesome. And if the great concept wasn’t enough, add to that heart-wrenching back story to Penryn and her family (which added a ton of interesting depth and dynamics the story) and you have one robust, well-rounded novel that is sure to knock your socks off.

It was as remarkable to me as any other first-book staples of the genre like Hunger Games and Divergent. It was original (see above), fast-paced (I haven’t been so engaged in a teen book in ages), and contained one of the most organic romantic relationships of any teen series I’ve ever read. In a genre famous for its “insta-loves” finding a relationship that develops naturally was a treat, and quite possibly my favorite element of the story. Those positive elements remained true for the following two books in the series…

But beyond the first book, conceptually, she lost me.

The first book promised to take a plethora of interesting directions, all of which were compelling. But after finishing the series, I never felt as though it lived up to its potential. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve read quite a few teen dystopian/post-apocalyptic novels over the years, and the motto I adopted from them is question everything. I initially went into the “Penryn” Trilogy skeptical if the destructive angels were in fact actually divine beings, or if they had some other, more earthly, origins. I feel compelled to save other readers the same frustration by disclaiming: my questions regarding that were never answered. And in fact, I finish the series with most of my questions and theories unanswered, which is one of the reasons I feel the story was somehow incomplete/inconclusive even though it was entertaining.

Overall, I don’t regret reading this trilogy because it really was a breath of fresh air in the genre. The first book was easily the best of the three and still one of my all-time favorites despite my lower rating of the final two books (2.5 stars, or aka – I liked them, but I didn’t really like them). What can I say? The first book set such a high standard it would’ve been difficult for anything else to compare.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes


Book Review: Mirror X by Karri Thompson

mirror xTitle: Mirror X

Author: Karri Thompson

Series: The Van Winkle Project #1

Genre: Teen Dystopian

Rating: 2/5 stars

Release Date: June 30, 2014

The Overview: Cassie Dannacher wakes up in a hospital over 1,000 years into the future after her space capsule is retrieved from space. She soon learns that 600 years prior to her arrival, the earth was struck by a plague, killing over half of the world’s population. Naïve and desperate, Cassie, who longs for home and is having trouble adjusting to the new, dictatorial 31st century government, is comforted by Michael Bennett, the 20-year old lead geneticist at the hospital where she was revived. But why is Cassie in genetics’ hospital in the first place, and why do several of the people around her seem so familiar, including Travel Carson, the hot and edgy boy she is fated to meet? Soon she discovers there is a sinister answer to all of her questions – and that they want something from Cassie that only she can give.

mirror x 2

The Review:

I want to start off by saying that I love the initial concept for this story – it got me thinking: what if characters like Katniss or Tris had grown up in our day and age before being thrust into their futuristic, dystopia societies? How they viewed the world around them would’ve been a lot different, that’s for sure. Well, that’s exactly what happens to Cassie in Mirror X, and that culture-shock was enough to grab my attention right away.

Granted Katniss and Tris had advantages Cassie did not – having been immersed in a society from birth does give one a deep understanding of how things work and, even more importantly, how to fight back. Cassie had to discover everything on her own. That discovery process, in which she got to see and explore this futuristic world, is what I was most looking forward to reading about. The trouble is, aside from its few advances in technology and medicine, there wasn’t as much exploration of this new world as I was hoping for. The plot was structured to give the story a very narrow focus, making it really difficult for the character to see much of anything (heck, most of the book took place in a single setting). This was a shame because the possibilities for world-building were endless.

I also thought the story’s pacing could have been a bit stronger – that is, having the character discover things a little faster. There were plenty of the drop in hints and allusions to what was really going on, but nothing concrete driving the story until about a third of the way in. There were even a couple of scenes that I thought could have been comfortably combined early on that would have helped move the story along quicker. The book was definitely a lot more character and dialogue driven than action driven.

Overall, Mirror X had a great concept and a killer cover (which was enough to get me to read it) but I unfortunately didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. It wasn’t written poorly or anything, but my expectations were a bit different than what the author delivered.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes


Book Review: The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson

The crown of embersTitle: The Crown of Embers

Author Rae Carson

Series: Fire and Thorns #1

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Rating: 5/5 stars!

The Overview: Elisa is a hero. She led her people to victory over a terrifying, sorcerous army. Her place as the country’s ruler should be secure. But it isn’t. Her enemies come at her like ghosts in a dream, from foreign realms and even from within her own court. And her destiny as the chosen one has not yet been fulfilled. To conquer the power she bears, once and for all, Elisa must follow a trial of long-forgotten—and forbidden—clues, from the deep, hidden catacombs of her own city to the treacherous seas. With her go a one-eyed spy, a traitor, and the man whom—despite everything—she is falling in love with. If she’s lucky, she will return from this journey. But there will be a cost.

The crown of embers

The Review:

Okay, prepare yourself for total fangirl book review that’s only semi-helpful. ;)

When I read Girl of Fire and Thorns, I was certain I’d found my new favorite book EVER! As you can imagine, I was reasonably terrified that this second book wasn’t going be nearly as good as the first. But you know what? It was phenomenal… and I read it way too fast.

Pretty much everything I geeked out about in my review of The Girl of Fire and Thorns carried over into this book. Even though I’m tempted to sing its praises all over again, I’ve decided to settle for a summary. Here are some of the reasons why I am LOVING this series:

  • The rich character development
  • The epic adventures
  • The breathtaking settings
  • The diverse and interesting cultures
  • The addicting “can’t put it down” plot
  • and The killer love-story

It has all of those things and more, and I am one book away from building a little shrine among my bookshelves for this series. That one book is book three in the trilogy (The Bitter Kingdom) and I am resisting the urge to pick it up right away – I just don’t want the story to be over yet!

I think it’s important to note that even though this book was geared towards a young adult audience, it had everything I look for in my robust high fantasy novels. This new trend of what I’m calling Teen High Fantasy is definitely my new favorite genre. All I have to say is, if there are any Throne of Glass and Graceling fans out there who haven’t tried this series yet, you are missing out!

Other books you might like:

Our YA Escape Reality Book Club has actually chosen Girl of Fire and Thorns as June’s  Selection, so if you’d like to read along or even just geek out with us, visit The Escape’s Reality Book Club Launch Post for more information on how to get involved (it’s easy).

by Niki Hawkes


Book Review: Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

Not a drop to drinkTitle: Not a Drop to Drink

Author: Mindy McGinnis

Series: Not a Drop to Drink #1

Genre: Teen Dystopian

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

The Overview: Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn’t leave at all. Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.

But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it…. With evocative, spare language and incredible drama, danger, and romance, debut author Mindy McGinnis depicts one girl’s journey in a barren world not so different from our own.

Not a drop to drink

Thte Review:

Yeah, I totally understand the hype surrounding this book. This first line says it all:

“Lynn was nine the first time she killed to defend the pond…”

Oh, my, where to start? I picked this book up just to flip through the first few pages and before I knew it, it was 3 in the morning and I was more than halfway through it. It grabbed me right from the start and didn’t really let up until the end. I am not a quote-gather by any means, but there were so many beautiful and evoking passages that I was tempted to pull out a highlighter (okay, I wouldn’t have actually marked the book, but I wanted to…). I have been so immersed in the dystopian genre over the past year that I didn’t think it was possible to find another one I liked this much. It was a breath of fresh air and I rank it right up there with amazing books like Partials and The 5th Wave.

Not a Drop to Drink is a prime example of storytelling at its best. It didn’t spend a lot of time focusing on the broader scope of this apocalypse, but it didn’t need to. It was a beautifully contained story of one girl’s struggle for survival, made all the more poignant by its narrow focus. I was completely lost in this story, and I absolutely love it when that happens. The plot didn’t take the direction I thought it would, but it definitely wasn’t one of those books that sacrificed plausibility for the sake of being “edgy.” It was the perfect balance of action/reaction, and I was perfectly happy to go along with the ride. Even though it didn’t have a ton of action scenes, it was just as riveting and exciting as if Lynn were fighting off hosts of zombies. The world always felt dangerous, and McGinnis did an excellent job creating a great tone and atmosphere for her story.

Although the world building an atmosphere was were superb, the characters of this book really stole the show for me. They were relatable and vibrant, and I found myself stressing any time one of them was in danger. There were some fantastic dynamics between each of the characters, which made for some profound character growth arcs that are going to be among my favorites for years to come. It was beautiful and heart wrenching, joyful and sad – all at once, putting Not a Drop to Drink at the top of my recommendation list for the genre.

I’m super fired up about how much I loved this book, especially since McGinnis is one of the authors attending the Vegas Valley Book Festival in October. You’d better believe I’ll have pristine copies of both of her books ready to be signed – I am so excited! If you like dystopians with a bit of a frontier twist (more survival-driven than that futuristic), I recommend this novel highly.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes