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Coming Soon: Skyward by Brandon Sanderson

Title: Skyward

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Series: Skyward #1

Genre: Teen Science Fiction

Release Date: November 6, 2018 

The Overview: Defeated, crushed, and driven almost to extinction, the remnants of the human race are trapped on a planet that is constantly attacked by mysterious alien starfighters. Spensa, a teenage girl living among them, longs to be a pilot. When she discovers the wreckage of an ancient ship, she realizes this dream might be possible—assuming she can repair the ship, navigate flight school, and (perhaps most importantly) persuade the strange machine to help her. Because this ship, uniquely, appears to have a soul.-Goodreads

Nik’s Notes:

I’d read somewhere that Brandon Sanderson wasn’t interested in telling dragon rider stories because he didn’t feel like he had anything new to bring to the table. As it turns out, Skyward is the twist he’d been searching for, where there are spaceships instead of dragons haha. Part of the reason I love his works so much is the unique, grand vision he seems to bring to everything. Based on the premise alone, I’d say Skyward has the potential to become an all time favorite… no pressure haha. I can’t wait!!!

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Nyxia Unleashed by Scott Reintgen

[July 17, 2018] Nyxia Unleashed by Scott Reintgen

Title: Nyxia Unleashed

Author: Scott Reintgen

Series: Nyxia Triad #2

Genre: Teen Science Fiction

Release Date: July 17, 2018

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

The Overview: Emmett Atwater thought Babel’s game sounded easy. Get points. Get paid. Go home. But it didn’t take long for him to learn that Babel’s competition was full of broken promises, none darker or more damaging than the last one. Now Emmett and the rest of the Genesis survivors must rally and forge their own path through a new world. Their mission from Babel is simple: extract nyxia, the most valuable material in the universe, and play nice with the indigenous Adamite population. But Emmett and the others quickly realize they are caught between two powerful forces—Babel and the Adamites—with clashing desires. Will the Genesis team make it out alive before it’s too late? -Goodreads

The Review:

I’m really pleased with this sequel. The story seems more in line with what I think people were expecting from the first book: highly-trained teens dropped on an alien planet to mine Nyxia. There was less competition in this book than the first, and I missed a bit of that head-to-head drama, but the good character dynamics remained strong. What it offered instead was a new world to explore – complete with diverse flora and fauna, a fascinating planetary history, and indigenous beings with a breathtaking culture. Nyxia Unleashed was filled with countless moments of wonder and awe.

The world-building was superbly done and by far my favorite element of the book. There was so much creative and beautiful imagery throughout that I’m left with a solid vision of this alien world. Very well done. The natives were a lot of fun to learn about, especially when their culture clashed with our earthen norms. It was an experience for sure, and one that truly transported me.

So, while the world-building and diverse cast of characters were enough to satisfy this harsh critic, I admit the logistics of the plot – primarily the “grand scheme” on all three sides of the conflict, were a little thin. It required a “just go with it” attitude at times and made me nervous that the final book isn’t going to culminate to the satisfying ending I’m craving. It doesn’t lessen how I feel about the wonders this book showed me (truly awesome), but it might play into how I feel about the series as a whole depending on how the complexities of plot are handled in the final book. Fingers crossed.

It’s also worth noting that I really like the narration of the main character. He has a lot of depth that comes from good backstory and continues to get better as he’s shaped by these experiences. I especially love the whole “file this under C – for creative” thing he’s got going on because it speaks to a deeper coping mechanism that allows him to compartmentalize trauma and just get things done. I’ve never seen anything quite like it, and I love it.

Series status: Going strong. It has the potential to end up among my all-time favorites. You’d better believe I’ll be hounding for a copy of the final book, asap. :)

Recommendations: As I said with the first book, this is an awesome recommend for Red Rising fans who don’t mind all of those gritty components watered down to fit a YA market. It has the same competitive edge, interesting characters and camaraderie, and overall atmosphere. I’m a fan.

I’d like to thank Random House Children’s, Scott Reintgen, and Netgalley for the chance to read and review an early copy of Nyxia Unleashed. Approval for this title made my day!

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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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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Coming Soon: Starfall by Melissa Landers

February 7, 2017

Title: Starfall

Author: Melissa Landers

Series: Starflight #2

Genre: Teen Science Fiction

Release Date: February 7, 2017

The Overview: When Princess Cassia Rose fled her home world of Eturia to escape an arranged marriage to a bloodthirsty prince and prevent a coup, she had no idea her sudden departure would spark a war. Now after two years hiding as a lowly ship hand, she finally has the chance to return home and make peace, but not in the way she imagined. Shackled by bounty hunters, she is violently dragged back to account for her crimes. Her only solace is that the Banshee crew managed to evade capture, including Kane Arric, her best friend… with occasional benefits. -Goodreads

Nik’s Notes:

Okay, I admit I haven’t read Starflight yet… But I really, really want to! I’ve been sort of saving it for a rainy day. I was so impressed with Landers’ Alienated series that I’m certain I’m going to like it just as much. I’m loving how many YA authors are taking a crack at Science Fiction these days and know the subgenre is only going to grow with excellent authors like Melissa Landers showing us how it’s done.

What book are you waiting on?

by Niki Hawkes

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Mini Book Review: Invaded by Melissa Landers

Invaded by Melissa Landers

Title: Invaded

Author: Melissa Landers

Series: Alienated #2

Genre: Teen Science Fiction

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

The Overview: The romantic sequel to Alienated takes long-distance relationships to a new level as Cara and Aelyx long for each other from opposite ends of the universe…until a threat to both their worlds reunites them. Cara always knew life on planet L’eihr would be an adjustment. With Aelyx, her L’eihr boyfriend, back on Earth, working to mend the broken alliance between their two planets, Cara is left to fend for herself at a new school, surrounded by hostile alien clones. Even the weird dorm pet hates her. Meanwhile, on Earth, Aelyx, finds himself thrown into a full-scale PR campaign to improve human-L’eihr relations. Humans don’t know that their very survival depends on this alliance: only Aelyx’s people have the technology to fix the deadly contamination in the global water supply that human governments are hiding. Yet despite their upper hand, the leaders of his world suddenly seem desperate to get humans on their side, and hardly bat an eye at extremists’ multiple attempts on Aelyx’s life. The Way clearly needs humans’ help . . . but with what? And what will they ask for in return?

The Mini Review:

After reading an advanced copy of Alienated in fall 2013, I knew it would be torture to wait for Invaded’s release in February 2015… and it was. I sent requests to the publisher, I stalked other book bloggers for potential giveaways, and tried (and failed) to make it to several book events where Melissa Landers was going to be. But it was all in vain, so I ended up waiting… and waiting… and waiting.

And after all that waiting, I am pleased to report that Invaded was well worth the wait. :-)

The first book was a lot like what I would imagine Rory Gilmore going through if she had to host a (hot) alien exchange student – loads of fun, plenty of quick wit, and a sweet love story. It was absolutely delightful – I loved it! And what I loved about the second book is that it took all of those charming elements and put them on Aelyx’s (i.e. the hot alien) home world, L’eihr. It was total cultural immersion into this different world, and I enjoyed exploring every bit of it. The only reason Invaded didn’t receive a total five-star rating is that I missed a bit of the romantic element (which is understandable considering our characters are on two different planets), but even that really wasn’t a big deal because the book was still highly entertaining without the love story being the primary focus.

Overall, Melissa Landers is my kind of author – she makes me fall in love with her characters, want to visit her world, and makes me laugh while doing it. I am definitely committed to read anything she publishes in the future (including her new book Startflight coming out this fall), but rest assured, the wait for the next Alienated book is already physically painful…

Until Midnight by Melissa Landers

Before picking up Invaded, I happily reimbursed myself in the story by reading this Alienated novella: Until Midnight. It had everything I loved about Alienated, all packed into a Christmas-themed short story. It provided a transition between the two novels that I felt was… much-needed is not quite the phrase, perhaps much-appreciated? It brought forth a conflict between Aelyx and another character regarding Cara that definitely added to my overall positive experience the story. My only gripe is that the conflict presented did not get completely represented afterwards in Invaded, but I loved it more for the sentimentality anyway. Also, since I read this novella right before Invaded, I discovered it supplemented some of the romance I mentioned missing from the sequel. Until Midnight is definitely worth your time if you’re a fan of the series.

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by Niki Hawkes