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Your Pick for Nik! – October’s Selection!

bbbbThank you all for your votes!

10874177This month’s winner is… Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger!

A thorough review and discussion for this book will take place on Monday, November 4th, so there’s plenty of time to pick it up if you want to read along. For more information on the Your Pick for Nik! book club, click here

If you want to participate officially, all you have to do is grab the button below and/or answer the questionnaire at the end of the book review when it posts (which will hopefully generate some awesome discussion). If you post your own review of the book, send me the URL and I will include a personalized link at the end of my review.

Here’s a look at what the book is about:

It’s one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It’s quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners—and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, young ladies learn to finish…everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage—in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education.

Here’s the button:

Your Pick for Nik! Button

(Just copy the following code to your text widget):

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Book Review: School Spirits by Rachel Hawkins

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Title: School Spirits

Author: Rachel Hawkins

Series: School Spirits #1

Genre: Teen Paranormal Fantasy

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: Fifteen-year-old Izzy Brannick was trained to fight monsters. For centuries, her family has hunted magical creatures. But when Izzy’s older sister vanishes without a trace while on a job, Izzy’s mom decides they need to take a break. Izzy and her mom move to a new town, but they soon discover it’s not as normal as it appears. A series of hauntings has been plaguing the local high school, and Izzy is determined to prove her worth and investigate. But assuming the guise of an average teenager is easier said than done. For a tough girl who’s always been on her own, it’s strange to suddenly make friends and maybe even have a crush. Can Izzy trust her new friends to help find the secret behind the hauntings before more people get hurt?

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The Review:

Arguably, my favorite thing in the final Hex Hall novel was the introduction of the Brannick family. I thought it added a great new dynamic to the story, and if I could’ve chosen a character to do a side story on, it would’ve been Izzy (lucky me). She and her sister grew up in their own little world and had mastered the art of monster slaying while most girls held tea parties. Overall, they are strong personalities with a fascinating background, and I am excited Hawkins chose to tell their story.

I hold this author in high regard for creating relatable, yet cheeky main characters. Sophie was delightfully awkward, yet strong spirited, and I love the fact that she could laugh at herself. Izzy, on the other hand, is more reserved… but I actually find her more relatable as she struggled to make it in a rather non-magical high school. This author definitely writes great protagonists, but I also love that she surrounds them with friends that are just as well-rounded and interesting. The sidekicks in School Spirits were especially quirky – I don’t know that I’ve seen their like in any other series, and I found that refreshing.

Another thing I praised in the first trilogy was Hawkins’ ability to turn the setting into almost a character within itself. As this story takes place at a normal high school in a small town, it pales in comparison to the mystery and wonder of Hectate Hall. Because of this, I thought the story lost a little bit of the magic it maintained throughout the first three books. It did, however, make up for it a bit through cool bits of supernatural (anybody remember the man trapped in the mirror in the third Hex Hall book? I really want to know even more about him).

This book also had a couple layers of mystery working for it, but I did’t find them as complex or compelling as the first series… But it’s only the first book, so I’ll definitely give it more time to develop. I have a feeling there is a lot more in store for Izzy then Hawkins is letting on at this point. 

Recommendations: overall, this was a delightful spinoff series that would work pretty well as a stand-alone, though I would strongly recommend reading the first trilogy to experience this author at her finest. I would suggest this author to people who like their high school romance books with just a hint of supernatural (and a lot of fun).

Other books you might like:

The Sweetest Dark Review   •   The Selection Review   •   Touch of Frost Review

by Niki Hawkes

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Coming Soon: Horde by Ann Aguirre

10596724Title: Horde

Author: Ann Aguirre

Series: Enclave #3

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Release Date: October 29, 2013

The Overview: The horde is coming. Salvation is surrounded, monsters at the gates, and this time, they’re not going away. When Deuce, Fade, Stalker and Tegan set out, the odds are against them. But the odds have been stacked against Deuce from the moment she was born. She might not be a Huntress anymore, but she doesn’t run. With her knives in hand and her companions at her side, she will not falter, whether fighting for her life or Fade’s love. Ahead, the battle of a lifetime awaits. Freaks are everywhere, attacking settlements, setting up scouts, perimeters, and patrols. There hasn’t been a war like this in centuries, and humans have forgotten how to stand and fight. Unless Deuce can lead them. This time, however, more than the fate of a single enclave or outpost hangs in the balance. This time, Deuce carries the banner for the survival of all humanity.

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Nik’s Notes:

This is the third book in a series that I have yet to read… But rest assured it is incredibly high in my TBR pile. I fell in love with this author’s adult Grimspace series and have since purchased everything she has on the market. I love her voice, her characters, and the way she writes relationships. I would say this is the teen series I am most looking forward to reading this summer.

Who else is excited for this release?

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

a2jhkkTitle: Hex Hall

Author: Rachel Hawkins

Series: Hex Hall #1

Genre: Teen Paranormal Romance

Rating: 5/5 stars!

The OverviewThree years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It’s gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie’s estranged father–an elusive European warlock–only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it’s her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.

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The Review:

This is one of those books that I’m kicking myself for not reading sooner. One of my best go-to girls for books recommended it to me like three years ago when it first came out, but it wasn’t until I got an arc of Hawkins’ latest, School Spirits, that I finally got motivated enough to pick it up. Stupid. I loved it! It was fun without being cheesy, dark without being depressing, and all-around a delightful book.

Here’s another reason why I’m kicking myself: I love books that take place at schools. Give me a school for anything, basket-weaving, sword-fighting, dog-sledding – you name it. If it takes place at a school I want to read it. What I liked about this Academy in particular was how much of an impact it had on the story. Everything from the location of the school to how the students felt inside it transformed Hex Hall from a setting into a character. Hawkins used a lot of great imagery when describing it setting the mood for the entire book.

The overall “feel” for the book is probably my favorite part. While the school had a tremendous impact on that, it wouldn’t have been near as memorable without such a lovable protagonist. Not only is she fluent in sarcasm but she also maintains a quiet strength in the things that make her different from everybody else. And she was funny – I cracked up several times throughout the book. What’s more, I enjoyed all of the side characters just as much… particularly the love interest. ;)

Overall, this book delivered a memorable setting, great protagonist, a fun mystery, paranormal creatures, and a compelling love story. It blew my expectations away and has quickly become one of the best books I’ve read this year.

Recommendations: if Vampire Academy and Bloodlines are on your favorites list, you should definitely give this book try. It’s perfect for those who like paranormal and want a fun and memorable mystery/love story. If it’s already in your TBR pile, pick it up now – you wont be sorry!

Other books you might like:

A Touch of Frosts Review  •   The Selection Review   •  The Sweetest Dark Review  •   Bloodlines Review

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: The Deepest Night by Shana Abe

16156293Title: The Deepest Night

Author: Shana Abe

Series: Sweetest Dark #2

Genre: Teen Paranormal Romance

Rating: 5/5 stars!

The Overview: it’s 1915, and sixteen-year-old Lora Jones is finishing up her first year as a charity student at Iversen, a prestigious, Gothic boarding school on England’s southern coast. While she’s always felt different from everyone around her, now she finally knows why: she is a drakon calm a a rare, enchanted being with astonishing magical abilities. As war hits Britain’s shores, and Lora reels from an unimaginable loss, she finds that her powers, with grave and dangerous responsibilities. At the request of Armand Louis, that darkly mysterious boy whose father owns Iversen, Lora will spend her summer at his lavish estate. To help the war effort – and to keep Lora by his side – Armand turned his home into a military hospital, where Lora will serve as a nurse. For Armand is inescapably drawn to her—bound to her by heart-deep secrets and a supernatural connection that runs thicker than blood.

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The Review:

I was delightfully impressed by this novel. In fact, I liked it better than the first one! Both had exceptional writing, vivid settings, and compelling characters. What this one had that the first one lacked (and tipped me over the edge into the five-star rating) was story… specifically the romance. The plot decisions that left me wanting in the first book were rectified tenfold in this one – revealing a sweet, slow-building relationship that added just one more positive aspect to these great characters.

I’m not much for historical fiction so I have to give Abe kudos for immersing me in the world of the past without boring me. There were many drop-in details that kept the world fresh and vivid without overwhelming the reader. The author makes me feel like she lived there herself – I’m impressed at the amount of research she had to do for this project.

The setting, as impressive as Abe made it, wouldn’t have been as magical without her skills as a writer. The whole book was beautifully crafted with language and description, leaving me breathless. She definitely has a unique voice and perspective for telling stories and I’m still in awe at what she was able to accomplish. There were several scenes that were almost written backwards to the “conventional” standard. For example, she’d start a scene with the character’s emotional or physical reaction to something then (as if we were peeling back layers) reveals things about the setting, the other characters in the scene, then finally the conflict. It was engaging to read and made those scenes more vivid and powerful.

Overall, this author had every element I look for when evaluating a book and produced those elements with flying colors. And she had dragons! What’s not to love? I haven’t seen this series highlighted as often as I feel it deserves – if you liked any of the recommends below consider adding this to your TBR list (you won’t be disappointed)!

Recommendations: this is great for readers who love reading about academies, dragons, love, history, sassy leading ladies, and charming gentleman.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: The Elite by Kiera Cass

16248068Title: The Elite

Author: Kiera Cass

Series: The Selection #2

Genre: Teen Fiction

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: Thirty-five girls came to the palace to compete in the Selection. All but six have been sent home. And only one will get to marry Prince Maxon and be crowned princess of Illea. America still isn’t sure where her heart lies. When she’s with Maxon, she’s swept up in their new and breathless romance, and can’t dream of being with anyone else. But whenever she sees Aspen standing guard around the palace, and is overcome with memories of the life they planned to share. With the group narrowed down to the Elite, the other girls are even more determined to win Maxon over—and time is running out for America to decide.

Just when America is sure she’s made her choice, a devastating loss makes her question everything again. And while she’s struggling to imagine her future, the violent rebels that are determined to overthrow the monarchy are growing stronger and their plans could destroy her chance at any kind of happy ending.

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The Review:

I can’t tell you how many reviews for this book I’ve read so far – it seems that almost everybody read it (and loved it) before I did. The Selection was sweet, romantic, and engaging, and I loved the element of competition in a slightly dystopian setting. It was exactly what I was in the mood for – a fun, lighthearted read – and I picked up the second one immediately (which is something I don’t usually do – all you have to do is check out my “Currently Reading” shelf on goodreads to see how scattered I am with books). Anyway, although I liked this one, I don’t feel as though I got what I signed up for.

The first book was lovely. It was breezy, romantic, and fun, and even though I expected a little turmoil to show up in this second book, I wasn’t prepared for the level of stress I felt while reading it. I had to fight the urge to write a story-rant review – and that tells me the author did and exceptional job of getting me emotionally involved. I was so invested in these characters that I wanted to scream at them to stop being such idiots. I have never gotten so worked up about a book and have spent the last month or so trying to figure out why it affected me so much.

And I think I finally figured it out…pacing.

Cass used several different elements to throw angst at me for almost the entire end half of the book. It was subtle and slow building until I was riding the proverbial snowball down the mountain. I kept reading faster and faster to try to get ahead of it, but I never did. I practically begged for her to throw me a bone, and she ignored me. From her author’s note at the end,  I think she did it on purpose… and that pisses me off. At first, I was angry at the story, the characters, and the situations they put themselves in. After a month of reflection, I am now pissed at Cass for writing it well enough to do that to me. It was truly evoking and I have to applaud that.

Overall, this was a very well-done book. It sticks with you long after you’ve finished it… at least it did with me. Even though it is the second book in the series, I feel like each one is drastically different as far as the emotional payoffs (or lack thereof) are concerned. It was an emotional roller coaster and I can’t wait to see what ride I’m getting on next. I will probably pick the third book up the day it comes out.

Recommendations: Because I’ve read so many reviews, I know a lot of people enjoyed the series as much as I did. It’s technically a dystopian, but it’s definitely not the most well-conceived society of the genre. I would recommend it to people who lean more towards the romantic dystopians such as Delirium and Matched rather than the more conceptual ones like Hunger Games and The Fifth Wave.

 Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes