Image

Coming Soon: Legion of Flame by Anthony Ryan

Title: Legion of Flame

Author: Anthony Ryan

Series: Draconis Memoria #2

Genre: Fantasy

Release Date: June 27, 2017

The Overview: For centuries, the vast Ironship Trading Syndicate relied on drake blood–and the extraordinary powers it confers to those known as the Blood-blessed–to fuel and protect its empire. But now, a fearsome power has arisen–a drake so mighty that the world will tremble before it. Rogue Blood-blessed Claydon Torcreek, Syndicate agent Lizanne Lethridge, and ironship captain Corrick Hilemore embark upon perilous quests to chase down clues that offer faint hopes of salvation. As the world burns around them, and the fires of revolution are ignited, these few are the last hope for the empire, and all of civilization. -Goodreads 

Nik’s Notes:

 The Waking Fire is one of the best books I’ve ever read – it felt like it was written just for me! Dragons, adventure, steampunk, and so much more – it was awesome! The Sandrunner short story that goes along with it has also been really good, but it’s not doing much to hold me over. I’m so excited for Legion of Flame, I can hardly stand it. Is it June yet?

WHO ELSE IS EXCITED?!!

by Niki Hawkes

Image

The Obsessive Bookseller Simplifies Life [3]: Goodreads

simplifies-life-2017

In case you missed my Introductory Post, my world was in such an upheaval that I was forced to take drastic measures by simplifying and organizing all the things that caused me stress. Each month, in 2017, I’m tackling different aspects of my life that are clutter-stressors by organizing and altering them into things that bring me joy.


March 2017: Goodreads

 I wanted to include Goodreads in my 2017 Simplifing Life journey because it’s my favorite book resource and I definitely hadn’t been using it to its fullest. I wanted to become more active in this amazing bookish community and make it easier to find information – both of which required a surprising amount of work. I started with too many lists, too many people, I was spending too much effort. Here are some things I simplified:

Note: as useful as I find the Goodreads app, it lacks a lot of functions essential
to this organizatioal process. All changes were made using the desktop version.

The Top Friends List:

Not all the people who “friend” me love the same books as I do. I love seeing that most of my Goodreads friends are reading as voraciously as I am, but I noticed as my friends list grew, I was no longer seeing as many things from my closest friends as I’d use to. Funny story, so I went as far as to write a suggestion to customer service saying something along the lines of “hey! It would be really awesome if Goodreads had this ‘see first’ option for you could make sure you’re not missing updates from certain people.” As it turns out, they already have this feature, I just wasn’t aware of it because it’s only available on the desktop version and I do practically everything on my phone. It’s called “Top Friend” and even though going through each of my 750 friends one by one took FOREVER, I now happily catch every update from my BFFs. I did it the hard way, so here’s a step-by-step to a way I think would be a little easier:

1. Click on your profile picture in the upper right-hand corner and select friends.
2. Next to the alphabet is a sort by box. Click that and select top friends. This will bring up everyone currently marked as a top friend first.
3. Select edit friend to the right of the sort box and the little top friend checkboxes should appear.
4. Go through one page at a time and deselect people at will. Be sure to hit “done editing” after every page. For some reason it doesn’t save your progress if you try to do multiple pages at once.
5. Now, you can search one person at a time and add more of your favorites to the list.Unfortunately, if you can’t remember everyone, you’ll have to go through alphabetically (the hard way) like I did.

Once the initial work is finished, the list is fairly easy to maintain. Either accept all friend requests on the desktop version where it allows you to designate “top friend” status, or periodically go in and repeat steps 1-4 (Note: any time you send a friend request, they automatically attain top friend status).

The Commenting Conundrum:

I noticed that when I comment on someone else’s status, I rarely get a notification when they respond (I thought people were just ignoring me haha). Here are a couple of ways to keep track of comments:

Method 1:
1. Actually click on the person status – you can’t do this by responding on just the homepage.

2. Click on advanced under the comment box.
3. Click notify me when people reply.

Method 2:
1. Click on your profile picture in the upper right-hand corner and select
my comments.
2. Click through and see what is new.

Neither method is a perfect solution, but they sure beat trying to remember where I commented, navigating to that person’s profile, and digging through their status updates until I find it.

The Fantasy Buddy Reads Group:

The point of all of this organizing is to make it easier for me to be involved in the Goodreads community. What better way to enhance the experience than to join an amazing group? I love the FBR Goodreads group because:

  • they love fantasy books! (duh)
  • they’re active – something bookish is always being discussed.
  • They keep me engaged with prompts.
  • They are supportive – especially with the many challenges were doing.
  • They have simple, yet excellent enforced rules which help avoid spoilers (my nemesis).
  • The moderators are amazing.
  • And finally, they make me feel like I belong. (Awwwww)

I’ve read a couple of books with them so far and had a ball. One of my favorite elements is their Incomplete Series subfolder where we track our reading progress. It’s a bonus organizing tool that allowed me to sort all the series I’ve read and am still working on into a convenient priority list. Love it!

The Bookshelves:

I’ve gone through a series of GR bookshelves over the years trying to find ones that I can refer to often and get a lot of use out of. Unfortunately, most often I spend a ton of energy on one and never refer to it again. My recent Book Journaling project also made a few bookshelves obsolete. Part of my organizing process goal with Goodreads was to delete useless shelves and polish up the keepers. Here’s a look at what I ended up with:

Arcs: to (obviously) keep track of ARCs. I find this shelf useful because I can easily decipher at a glance which books I still need to read based on the little red rating stars (on the app).

Books like Hunger games & Books Like Throne of Glass: these posts on my blog are by far my most popular as far as Google’s search engine is concerned. In them, I included a convenient link to these GR shelves so people can quickly add them to their to read lists. I love the idea of linking the two, so even though I never refer to them myself I’ve no problem keeping them.

DNFed: I only have a few titles on the shelf so far because it took me forever to find a way to put it together that I liked. I love having a record of my time and effort spent on these titles represented on my shelves. I write DNF Q&A posts which is my official assessment for these unfinished titles. I also now mark each book as “read” on Goodreads because you have to have some sort of status with it to upload a review (and it annoyed me to change it back to “want to read” when DNFing. It wasn’t accurate). The only thing I was afraid of was that marking it as read would skew up my yearly reading challenge, but all you have to do is go in and remove start/finish dates and voilà! I also don’t assign these titles ratings.

Favorites: of the 1090 books Goodreads says I’ve read, these 21 titles are the ultimate favorites. I’ve recently tried to go back and re-rate most of my other five star titles to 4.5 so that a solid five star rating for me carries some weight.

First Reads: like five years ago I won one giveaway and GR told me to make this shelf. I am now terrified that deleting it will jinx me from ever winning another lol.

Kids Collection: as I’m a new mom, I’m getting my kid’s books organized early. If I can offer only one thing (you know, beyond birthing, feeding, clothing, and nurturing him), it’s an organized library. XD

My Library Catalog/My library TBR: I’d been trying to find a way to catalog my personal collection for YEARS, but hadn’t managed to find anything that wouldn’t take several more years to put together. Then someone mentioned the Goodreads app had a barcode scanning feature and I. Went. Hogwild! As I was scanning, I put everything into the My Library Catalog (1088) and all the ones I still needed to read also into My Library TBR (716). I clearly have a lot of work to do, and this list doesn’t yet include all of my YA titles… I may do a separate one for those. I definitely would like to focus on getting through more of my owned titles, but alas that’ll have to wait until our new house is finished being built so I can pull all of my books out of boxes… I miss them.

Upcoming Releases/Upcoming Releases with Covers: I use these shelves to help me organize my “Coming Soon” posts. I have two separate lists because, when it was one shelf, I got tired of scrolling through all the titles trying to find new cover reveals. Now that they are separate, flipping through all of those generic tan placeholders trying to spot a single gorgeous new cover only takes a couple of seconds. It’s so much more gratifying!


Wow! That was lot. And here I was afraid I wouldn’t have enough for a post (perhaps I over-prepared). In any case, my goals with moderating Goodreads were to make it easier to get organized, keep track of favorite people, get more involved in the community, and have more fun. I think I have achieved every last one of them!

Project Status: Goodreads Simplified!

by Niki Hawkes

Image

Book Review: The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett

The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett

Title: The Warded Man

Author: Peter V. Brett

Series: The Demon Cycle #1

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: As darkness falls after sunset, the corelings rise—demons who possess supernatural powers and burn with a consuming hatred of humanity. For hundreds of years the demons have terrorized the night, slowly culling the human herd that shelters behind magical wards—symbols of power whose origins are lost in myth and whose protection is terrifyingly fragile. It was not always this way. Once, men and women battled the corelings on equal terms, but those days are gone. Night by night the demons grow stronger, while human numbers dwindle under their relentless assault. Now, with hope for the future fading, three young survivors of vicious demon attacks will dare the impossible, stepping beyond the crumbling safety of the wards to risk everything in a desperate quest to regain the secrets of the past. Together, they will stand against the night. -Goodreads

The Review:

This review is going to be a hodgepodge – The Warded Man was such an unusual read that no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get my thoughts organized on it. Here goes:

The Warded Man was a mixed bag of emotions for me (and for most of my fellow Buddy Reads Group on Goodreads). The consensus was that it had a really slow start. Even though I found myself invested as early as Chapter 3, many were struggling even as far and as the halfway point to find their enthusiasm (if they even made it that far). I happen to enjoy slower-paced (or “boring,” as my best friend calls them) books provided all the other elements are there to keep me interested. In that regard, TWM was a success.

I think we were all expecting it to be a straightforward high fantasy novel, but it was anything but conventional. Brett unapologetically broke storytelling rules left and right and it still somehow worked… for me, anyway.

For one thing, the he spent the entire first half of the book establishing character, showing the events that would eventually shape and send them on their long-term trajectory. Initially there was also a ton of focus on family drama, which although interesting, felt inconsequential (even though it ended up playing a big role). There was also no clear inciting “okay, this is where the point of the story is revealed” moment, but rather a collection of smaller ones. The great news is, it did all eventually come together, even though it took its sweet time getting there. What saved it for me was the strong concept revolving around demons and wards.

The demons were definitely the selling point of the novel. I loved learning about the different types, and especially loved that there’s still so much more to learn about them. I have that awesome feeling that not all is as it seems and there are several more surprises in store) Also, the art of warding was a fascinating craft – I always love feeling like I’m learning a non-real-world skill in a book, whether it be ward creation or dragon riding.

Unconventional and slow start aside, there was a touchy incident that happened near the end, the author’s treatment of which put me off a bit. How the characters reacted was plausible, I suppose, but not very realistic. I’m still going to continue on because the author sold its necessity just enough to suit my objections AND there were too many other things I enjoyed about the book to just up and stop now… but it still bugged me.

Overall, I really liked The Warded Man but think it would be very difficult to recommend: “Here, read this. It’ll take you halfway through before things really get going, and even then I had a couple of issues near the end, but I still really, really liked it.” Everything about it is contradictory, but I can say with full conviction that I’m eager for more.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

Image

Book Review: Sideswiped and The Drafter by Kim Harrison

The Drafter by Kim Harrison

Title: The Drafter

Author: Kim Harrison

Series: The Peri Reed Chronicles #.5 & #1

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Rating: Sideswiped [4.5/5 stars] The Drafter [2/5 stars]

The Overview: The Bourne Identity meets Minority Report in this first highly anticipated installment in number-one New York Times best-selling author Kim Harrison’s sexy new romantic suspense trilogy, featuring a brilliant special task agent at the top of her field and set in a futuristic Detroit.During a routine but dangerous Opti task, Peri Reed finds out her trusted partner has made her a corrupt agent. Her unique ability to jump back 40 seconds in time to correct a mistake leaves her vulnerable when her partner, who is responsible for replacing her memory of the event, gives her a false one. But Peri lives and dies on her intuition, and she begins to piece her twisted reality together as she flees her one-time secure situation at Opti and tries to find the truth with a sullen but talented psychologist named Silas who works for the very agency trying to bring the Opti corruption to light. -Goodreads

The Review:

I’d actually like to start out with an ultra-mini review of Sideswiped: It was a perfect introduction of the characters, magic system, and slightly futuristic/alternate society. I thought it was absolutely delightful, yet heart wrenching at the same time. I loved every moment and afterward was totally AMPED to pick up The Drafter. [4.5/5 stars]

Then I picked up The Drafter.

I read a few posts on Kim Harrison’s blog a few months ago where she conveyed how disappointed she was that The Drafter wasn’t being received as well as she’d hoped. She stated something along the lines of “people just aren’t getting what I’m trying to do.” After finally reading the book, I can definitely see why some readers may have had trouble with it and why someone new to Kim Harrison’s work might not have the trust needed to push through the harder patches. It wasn’t a lack of characterization, world building, or writing in general – it’s clear Kim Harrison is still a master of all these things (especially with my impressions of Sideswiped), but rather the result of some unfortunate choices she made while outlining.

Issue 1: the biggest problem I had with The Drafter was it’s repetitive use of dramatic irony.

dramatic irony: where the full significance of the character’s words or actions are clear to the reader but unknown to the character.

Using it was a risky move on Harrison’s part, and I don’t think it paid off. I was aware of the foul play from the very beginning and therefore was forced to sit patiently through 400 pages as the main character figured it out for herself. It was tedious and a little bit frustrating, but the biggest issue was that a storyline constructed entirely around dramatic irony gave me no opportunity to get emotionally invested in the plot or feel any kind of suspense. As this is supposed to be a thriller of sorts, that’s a problem.

Issue 2: I don’t think the book started at the best place. It began way too far into the story arc (which felt like a scene out of the second or third book where the framework for the world had already been established and all of the characters properly introduced). Instead, we were thrown into the middle of the controversy without any backing of the situation showing us why we should care. Betrayals of certain characters were no big deal because to me, the fact that they betrayed is literally the only thing presented thus far about them.

Where the story started also provided very little time to understand the art of drafting itself, so I was shoved at even more of an arms distance from the plot while trying to figure out what the heck was going on. I imagine had I not learned a basic understanding of it in Sideswiped, I would have been struggling even more.

Finally, it didn’t provide any time to get to know the characters, which brings me to…

Issue 3: all the characters came across very unlikable right from the beginning. In sideswiped, Peri was introduced as a spunky, ambitious, and intelligent woman who was destined to do great things. In Drafter, she immediately appeared arrogant and flippant to the point of recklessness (also as an insufferable know-it-all with no back story to substantiate it). I didn’t like her or any characters around her. Again I mentioned that if I hadn’t read Sideswiped, I might have been put off permanently then and there.


So you see, there are plethora of reasons I think The Drafter could’ve been better – all of them a result of construction choices rather than any flaw on the author’s writing ability. I think if the events and timelines of the prequel have been expanded on as the first book, Harrison would’ve had another hit on her hands (yes – it really was that good, containing the missing pieces that made The Drafter feel incomplete). Because of how much I liked Sideswiped how much I trust Kim Harrison as an author, I am cautiously optimistic to see what The Operator has in store for me next.

If there’s one takeaway with my experience with The Drafter, it’s that if you are planning to read the series, for the love of God – read the prequel first.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

Image

Tackling the TBR [21]: March 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:

March 2017 TBR Tackler Shelf:

The Demon King and Traitor’s Blade are both Buddy Reads with my Goodreads group, which should be fun (come join us!). You may  have noticed that instead of the usual hodgepodge, I have several books by Marissa Meyer and Peter Brett. I’ve been in the mood to really immerse myself in series lately, which to me is an all-or-nothing venture including short stories out the wazoo. Of all the things on my list this month, I’m most excited to start Winter (Cress was amazing!).

Tackler Carry-overs:

I decided to expand my TBR tackler selection list to include titles on previous Tackling the TBR posts that I either didn’t have a chance to get to or am currently part way through. It gives me a more accurate snapshot of my progress over time and more potential high-priority titles to choose from each month. Up until this point, there have only been about five or so carryover titles, but as I am trying to be conservative by relying on the library for a lot of these books, I fell victim to the endless waitlist in January and still haven’t caught up. That said, many of these books are in “currently reading” status.

So many books!!! So little time.


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

January 2017 Titles Tackled:

Finished Series: 0
 Series Brought UTD: 3
Series Progressed: 3
New Series Started: 2
Abandoned: 0

Overall I didn’t do too bad in February, but as I’m planning on starting a bunch of new series over the next couple of months, my numbers aren’t going to look that stellar going forward…

2017 YTD Tracker:

Finished Series: 1
Up To Date Series: 6
Series Progressed: 4
New Series Started: 7
Abandoned: 1

Last year I had a goal to finish a lot of high-priority series, and I did just that with 14 series finished (some of them with 10+ books that I’d been working on for ages) and 18 brought up to date. I wanted to keep the momentum going in 2017 with this nifty little tracker added on to my monthly TBR. I might make it it’s own feature, but for now, let’s go team for 2017!!!!


Now, I can tell you from experience that this Tackling the TBR experiment is so much more fun and rewarding when there’s more than one person (me) participating. Does anybody want to play along?

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!

Maybe we can help make each other’s systems even better. :)

What books are you Tackling this month?

by Niki Hawkes

Image

Book Review: The Demon Awakens by R. A. Salvatore

The Demon Awakens by R. A. Salvatore

Title: The Demon Awakens

Author: R.A. Salvatore

Series: The Demonwars Saga #1

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Overview: A great evil has awakened in the land of Corona, a terrible demon determined to spread death and misery. His goblin armies and fearsome giants ravage the settlements of the frontier, and in the small village of Dundallis their merciless attack leaves behind two shattered orphans: Pony and her lifelong friend, the youth Elbryan. Taken in by elves, Elbryan is raised to become a formidable ranger–a fateful role that will lead him into harrowing confrontation.

Meanwhile, on a far-off island, a shower of gemstones will fall onto the black sand shores. These heaven-sent stones carry within them an incredible power–the key to all that is good in the world and all that is evil, and it is up to one young monk to liberate them from the corrupt monastery that harvests them. Pray that they don’t fall into the wrong, clawed hands . . .   -Goodreads

The Review:

As the entire Demonwars Saga has been gathering dust on my shelves for over ten years now, boy do I feel foolish for not having read The Demon Awakens before now. There were so many elements I loved, and at one point was even considering a 5 star rating (I’ll address what knocked it off that in a minute). It dazzled me with great characters, an interesting magic system, exotic fantastical settings, and a fast-paced plot filled with loads of action and excitement (with plenty of that brilliant hand-to-hand combat that Salvatore is known so well for).

The characters were fresh, exciting, and really fun to get to know – totally on par with their Forgotten Realms counterparts (if perhaps a mite less memorable). I had been a little worried that they’d be carbon copies of Drizzt and his gang, but thankfully they weren’t. It’s always a concern I have when reading a slightly less popular series by authors known primarily for other works. It’s kind of silly, because logically good writing knows no bounds. Anyway, Salvatore has definitely shown me here that he’s no one trick pony.

50% of The Demon Awakens (from about the 1/4 mark to the 3/4 mark) was a solid 5-star (I loved every freaking moment) type of story for all of the attributes listed above. It took a while to get past the spoiler-ish summary I’d read before diving in (which is why I usually don’t more than glance at overviews – does knowing key plot points of a story before diving in bother anyone else is much as it does me?).

Anyway, obviously there were some great components to The Demon Awakens, but there were a handful of things bothered me enough in the last 1/4 of the books to knock down my rating. Character development was one of them. I know I just spent a moment gushing at how great I thought they were; what I’m referring to here is how these great characters changed throughout the novel. One of my favorites underwent a seeming 180 degree personality flip over a very short time period… it was a little disorienting. It felt like two totally different character profiles were given the same name and slapped together. Also, the only relatable female character, who had strong growth arc through most of the book, eventually became second fiddle and almost incidental near the end.

Story trajectory was my other issue. Salvatore took my least favorite plot point and beat it to death with a small cudgel. I acknowledge that at some point that plot point needed to be resolved, but that doesn’t mean I was obligated to enjoy it ;P. The parts I wasn’t excited about earned a 2 star (it was just okay) rating.

That said, I’m still definitely continuing on with the series, as there was a significant parts of this book I loved with a fierce passion. I’ll just keep my fingers crossed that some of my favorite plot elements make their way into the next installment.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes