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Book Review: The Legion of Flame by Anthony Ryan + GIVEAWAY!

[June 27, 2017] Legion of Flame by Anthony Ryan

Title: The Legion of Flame

Author: Anthony Ryan

Series: The Draconis Memoria #2

Genre: Fantasy

Release Date: June 27, 2017

Rating: 5/5 stars!

The Overview: Empires clash and a fell power stakes its claim in the second in a new series from the New York Times bestselling author of the Raven’s Shadow Trilogy. 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 for all of civilization. -Goodreads

The Review: 

If you start only one new fantasy series this year, make it Draconis Memoria by Anthony Ryan! I thought The Waking Fire was one of the best books I’d ever read, but Legion of Flame was even better!

Legion of Flame was the ultimate armchair adventure! Each chapter was so good, I had a difficult time finding decent stopping points (and as such, stayed up way too late on too many occasions to finish it). Ryan ended each of his chapters with an aggravatingly brilliant hook that just begged you to keep reading (so I did). There was always an abundance of action, adventure, exploration, steampunk, and, of course, dragons. Every element came together brilliantly for, I’ll say it again, one of the best books I’ve ever read.

In both of these books, Ryan takes you on an exploration of this world and allows you to discover its breathtaking histories/mysteries alongside some very memorable characters. This depth of discovery, combined with a very Indiana Jones adventure feel, is truly the magic of these novels and one of my favorite elements. There’s such a sense of wonder with his world-building – stuff that will truly dazzle you. I can’t even begin to guess what he has in store next!

Both books incorporate multiple POVs and they were all equally exciting to read about. Each character was perfectly placed to give us a grand picture of what’s transpiring, and I triple-dog-dare you to pick a favorite – they’re all deserving of the title. If forced, I’d say Lizanne struck a chord with me the most because her personality has a lot of duality, making her very interesting to read about.

Let’s talk about dragons for a minute. The dragons are incredibly well-conceived in this series. So far, their role has been much stronger than I’d dared hope – it truly is a dragon book. I love the varieties, their importance to the human populations, their significance in the story, and, most predominantly, how well they’re being represented. Ryan manages to keep all the things that I think comprise great dragons while simultaneously amping them up with his own twists. They’re brilliant! And if this wasn’t already one of my favorite books for story, characters, and world-building alone, it would be for the dragons.

So because of the amazing characters, seamless blend of fantasy and steampunk, exciting adventures, page-turning plot, and killer use of dragons, Legion of Flame is perfection. I plan to recommend it as often as I can!

I’d like to think Berkley Publishing Group, Anthony Ryan, and Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review an early copy of The Legion of Flame!


The Waking Fire Giveaway!

The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan

The publisher has graciously offered up a paperback copy of The Waking Fire for me to give away to one lucky US resident (I’m very sorry to all of my international followers – you guys are important to me too!). To enter, just take a moment to fill out this rafflecopter giveaway form, and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

US Residents only, please.
The giveaway will run until Midnight on Thursday, July 6, 2017 MST.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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The Obsessive Bookseller’s Mini Book Review Blitz!

Mini Book Review Blitz!

I’m going to need a feature image… Anyway, even when posting three times a week, I found myself becoming increasingly behind in book reviews. Behold: my solution – the Mini Book Review Blitz! 


A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Book Info: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

I couldn’t really come up with enough material to do a full review for this one – I liked it well enough, but it didn’t knock my socks off. What it had going for it were interesting characters and some cool ideas (most notably, overlapping dimensions of London and a dude who can travel between them). There were some sections that I thought were interesting, albeit a little dry (mostly near the beginning) and others that had me totally riveted. Overall, as the first in a series I’d heard so much about, I can definitely see the appeal. It had a very “Muggles” feel to me, like at the beginning of Deathly Hollows where the Prime Minister is trying to reconcile the paradigm of his world with the Wizarding world he know exists. If you liked those sections of HP, you’ll love this.


Captain's Furey by Jim Butcher

Book Info: Captain’s Fury by Jim Butcher

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Academ’s Fury and Cursor’s Fury were two of the best fantasy books I’ve ever read – I loved the snot out of them. They took me on a whirlwind of a ride and so, by comparison, Captain’s Fury was a slower burn, more on par with the first book (although the events that happened within this one still rocked my world). It seemed more like a set up novel for the last couple books in the series and it did a great job generating some momentum. I can’t wait to finish this series – almost everything about it has made me very upset that I didn’t start it ages ago (and that my library holds are taking sooo long to come in). I love it!


Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews

Book Info: Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews

Rating: 4/5 stars

I now count myself among the Kate Daniels super fandom. Magic Slays was another great installment on what is shaping up to be an awesome series. Since I’ve gushed about it enough in other reviews, I’ll stick to specifics for this title. I especially loved how authentic the relationship was between the main character and her bff. They argued like real people, and it’s the kind of back-and-forth bickering that’s fun to read about. In fact, all the relationships are great, and I especially love how many interesting side characters get their own spotlights in some of the short stories (yup – it’s good enough to read all of the extra novellas that go along with it!). I’ll probably be doing a Kate Daniels short story blitz once I get through them all.


Thanks for stopping by! I hope you enjoyed my Mini Book Review Blitz! As you can see, I’ve been reading a lot of great titles lately. :-)

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett

The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett

Title: The Desert Spear

Author: Peter V. Brett

Series: The Demon Cycle #2

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

The Overview: The sun is setting on humanity. The night now belongs to voracious demons that prey upon a dwindling population forced to cower behind half-forgotten symbols of power. Legends tell of a Deliverer: a general who once bound all mankind into a single force that defeated the demons. But is the return of the Deliverer just another myth? Perhaps not.

Out of the desert rides Ahmann Jardir, who has forged the desert tribes into a demon-killing army. He has proclaimed himself Shar’Dama Ka, the Deliverer, and he carries ancient weapons–a spear and a crown–that give credence to his claim. But the Northerners claim their own Deliverer: the Warded Man, a dark, forbidding figure. Once, the Shar’Dama Ka and the Warded Man were friends. Now they are fierce adversaries. Yet as old allegiances are tested and fresh alliances… -Goodreads

The Review:

With every passing week since finishing The Desert Spear, I find myself more and more dissatisfied with it. Something about many of the elements within the story just aren’t sitting right with me, and I’d be the first to state that I’m getting really tired of every other character having a backstory that includes rape, incestuous rape, and sodomy. I don’t know if Brett is trying to make a grander point on who the real “demons” are, or if it just gives him kicks to write about that stuff, but I think it’s too much. Furthermore, it’s not even the sheer volume alone that bothers me, but the forgiving attitude towards the rapists.

And here’s where you’re going to raise an eyebrow at me – I thought a good portion of the book (that following Jardir – whose POV I actually liked more than most) could’ve been a lot grittier. O_o? What Brett says happens in this hostile desert society and what he shows happening were on opposite ends of the spectrum. Not that I want to read about that stuff in detail, but from an analytical standpoint, the inconsistency drove me crazy.

So here I sit, complaining of an issue with subject-matter while also kind of saying that other parts weren’t as graphic as the story required. Do you get an idea of why it took me so long to compose this review? I think the crux of the matter is that, no matter which end of the spectrum I’m considering, I had issues with a lot of things.

That said, and to be even more contrary, I actually enjoyed the process of reading a lot of this book. I find the demons fascinating, and every scene that gave me a glimpse into their true nature provided me that spark I needed to keep reading. I am morbidly curious to see where all the human storylines are going and am hoping to come out of this series with a lot more satisfaction than I got out of The Desert Spear. Now that the story is finally starting to clip forward, I find myself somewhat reaching for the third book… but I may wait a few more weeks to give myself time to simmer down.

Overall, after this mess of a review, all I can say is: I’m enjoying the good elements of the story enough to continue on, but would be hard pressed to recommend it because of all the negative ones. ;P

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Tackling the TBR [24]: June 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:

June 2017 TBR Tackler Shelf [Catch-up Month]:

I’ve been running these Tackling the TBR posts for exactly 2 years now, but only recently started including “Tackler Carry-Overs” to represent all the titles I hadn’t got to in previous months. Unfortunately, of the 10 titles I choose every month, I only average 7. It’s to a point where my Carry-Over shelf was twice as big as my TBR Tackler Shelf. What’s more, there are a few titles on there I’m stalling on reading because I’m just not as excited for them as I was when they got their first TTTBR run. Long story short – I’m doing a catch-up month! Anything I don’t get through this month will automatically drop off so I start July 2017 with a clean slate. Looking at my “leftovers” makes me laugh because there are a ton of amazing authors on here. I’ve already pared down to just the high-priority ones. Update 6/2: I reorganized my incomplete series list and changed the priorities on some of them. Because of that, I switched out a few titles. :)


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

May 2017 Titles Tackled:

Niki’s May 2017 Progress Update:

Series Finished: 1
The Long Game – Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Series Brought UTD: 3
Red Sister – Mark Lawrence
Skin Game – Jim Butcher
Steeplejack – A.J. Hartley

Series Progressed: 6
Grim Tides – T.A. Pratt
The Voyage of the Basilisk – Marie Brennan
The Twisted Citadel – Sara Douglass
Magic Dreams – Ilona Andrews
Magic Tests – Ilona Andrews
A Gathering of Shadows – V.E. Schwab

New Series Started: 3
Red Sister – Mark Lawrence
Steeplejack – A.J. Hartley
Green Rider – Kristen Britian

Abandoned: 0

YTD Totals:
Finished Series: 5
Up To Date Series: 10
Series Progressed: 24
New Series Started: 12
Abandoned: 1

I’ve decided my goal going forward is to progress and finish as many series as I can from my top priority list (as written out in my Incomplete Series Challenge on Goodreads). I’m certain I will still start new series (I can’t help myself), but if I can get through at least half of my high priorities, I’ll be a happy camper. :)


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

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The Obsessive Bookseller Simplifies Life [5]: Health

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.


May 2017: Health

2017 seems to be the year of personal revelations. Each month, I’ve been tackling things that caused me stress and turning them into things that bring me joy. Health has always been important to me, and this Simplifying Life project has really helped me set (and achieve) attainable goals. A lot of work went into it though, so it’s important for me to clarify that the simplification comes in the form of having set goals so I don’t have to stress about what I should be doing.

Disclaimer: I’m going to be bringing up a lot of health “facts” that I’ve read while doing research and am using as a basis for all of my personal health goals. I’m mentioning them merely to explain why I started doing the things I am to get healthier, not as a means to inform or educate. Heck, I’m not even standing by them as accurate, so please take everything I say with a grain of salt and do your own research before following suit.

The Trackers:

There’s something irreplaceably helpful about being able to see progress in the form of checkmarks all over my health tracker. I began this journey by identifying the physical and emotional components that go into making me healthier, happier person. I created an Excel template with all of these items and set a daily checkmark goal.

I felt my health tracker should include more than just eating and exercising, but also things that bring me emotional joy and, oddly enough, personal hygiene. I noticed that when I took the time to curl and style my hair in the mornings, I had a much more productive day. Maybe it’s because I felt like I had my “armor” on and was ready to face the world, more so than when I just tromped to work with my hair up in a messy bun. Whatever the reason, all of these things helped me feel healthier. I found this tracker incredibly motivational. Every time I felt the need to do something, I’d pick an item and see it through (most of which took under 5 minutes). I used this tracker for several months before getting into enough of a habit that I didn’t need it anymore.

The Food:

I consider it almost impossible to change your diet overnight. I talked about this a little bit in my Simplifying Life: Food post, but I really think if I had started trying to eat healthier all at once, it would’ve been doomed for failure. Instead, what I did was look up foods good for your brain and slowly start incorporating them into my diet. Over the course of a couple of years, I have slowly change my habits so that I’m buying less processed foods and more fresh foods. They say when you go to the grocery store, try to shop more on the perimeter rather than in the aisles to avoid processed foods. So far in 2017, I stuck to the edges, only venturing in occasionally for cereal (my true <3) and peanut butter.

Another thing I wanted to track was my Saturated Fat intake. I remember reading somewhere that 30% of your daily intake should include fats, but only a small fraction of that should be Saturated Fats (for me, it was about 13g to 15g per day) and 0% Trans Fats. The trouble is, I had no idea what I was actually consuming. Part of my motivation was a couple of documentaries I’d watched on Alzheimer’s disease. In one Ted Talk, a doctor claimed his research showed people had a much higher likelihood of experiencing Dementia and Alzheimer’s if you ate more than 20+ grams of Saturated Fats per day. The research he presented showed a strong correlation between the two, however, I am always skeptical when data is thrown in front of my face. I haven’t done any research to see how thorough their experiment was, nor have I done any to see if anyone else has substantiated this claim. That said, it got me thinking that, regardless of Saturated Fat’s effect on Alzheimer’s, it’s probably not a bad idea to start paying attention to how much I’m getting.

Now, I considered myself a fairly healthy eater. I don’t indulge in candy bars, ice cream, or most other processed foods very often. But, as soon as I started reading labels and tracking consumption, I discovered I was still well above my daily Saturated Fat intake goals. For example, my coworkers always bring in these frosted shortbread cookies, and I’d always just figured they had a lot of sugar, but not much else. I’d eat two, sometimes three every time. Come to find out that each cookie also had 8g of Saturated Fat! O_o! After two cookies, I had totally blown my Saturated Fat intake for the day. And I really don’t even like them that much – I just ate them because they were available. It’s all about choices. And becoming aware of what you’re putting into your body. I decided I would much rather indulge in a giant bowl of natural chocolate ice cream at the end of the day than waste it all on a tiny cookie at lunch. I digress…

There are a ton of cute meal trackers on the internet for this (google it). Mine are “fugly but functional.”

The 10,000 Steps:

I noticed when I was doing my general health tracker that it was always a lot more fun to rack up steps than it was to do strength training. It also was a lot easier to find data on calories burned based on steps taken rather than individual strength training (I’m antsy in general). According to the research I found (don’t quote me), walking 10,000 steps per day (provided at least a half-hour of those steps is a more rigorous workout) burns about 500 calories. After 7 days of this, you’re conceivably losing 3500 calories, or 1 pound. Now, all of this depends on how many calories your body needs to maintain its current weight, so you can’t just eat what you want, burn 3500 cal, and expect to lose weight. It’s a math game, and every person is different. Anyway, this seemed like a goal I could really get behind because I’ve been enjoying running lately, it’s beautiful weather outside, and it keeps me from feeling so sedentary. I have a nifty little app that helps me track my steps, but I’m looking into getting a fitbit so I don’t always have to have my phone on me.

I also remember reading somewhere that sitting for more than 2 hours a day straight negates any health benefits gained from eating well and exercising. The 10,000 steps keeps me up and moving, and as an added benefit keeps me from wearing out my eyes staring at a computer screen for too long. I just need to apologize to the people in the office directly below mine because I’m now clomping around so much…

The Preparedness:

All of these health goals involving food are absolutely redundant if you don’t make sure they are available. If you’re at home and all there is to eat is junk food, then you have only two choices: break your health goal and feel guilty about it, or starve. I can eat good foods all day every day if they are available, but the moment I get lazy (by not going to the store or prepping produce), that’s when I revert back towards eating poorly.


Now, this is usually the point where I list all the goals I achieved, but in the case of health, the endgame is longevity. I’m hoping the good habits I’m getting into now and the lifestyle changes I’ve been slowly making over the last three or four years will pay dividends as I get older. I can tell you one thing, because I’ve started tracking numbers and setting daily goals, I feel amazing and have stopped worrying so much about what the future holds. So, in that sense, I have successfully reduced my stress in both my current and future health situations, and that, in itself is a win!

Project Status: Health Simplified!

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb

[May 16, 2017] Assassin's Fate by Robin Hobb

Title: Assassin’s Fate

Author: Robin Hobb

Series: The Fitz and The Fool #3

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 5/5 stars!

Release Date: May 9, 2017*

The Overview: Fitz’s young daughter, Bee, has been kidnapped by the Servants, a secret society whose members not only dream of possible futures but use their prophecies to add to their wealth and influence. Bee plays a crucial part in these dreams—but just what part remains uncertain. As Bee is dragged by her sadistic captors across half the world, Fitz and the Fool, believing her dead, embark on a mission of revenge that will take them to the distant island where the Servants reside—a place the Fool once called home and later called prison. It was a hell the Fool escaped, maimed and blinded, swearing never to return. For all his injuries, however, the Fool is not as helpless as he seems. He is a dreamer too, able to shape the future. And though Fitz is no longer the peerless assassin of his youth, he remains a man to be reckoned with—deadly with blades and poison, and adept in Farseer magic. And their goal is simple: to make sure not a single Servant survives their scourge. -BN.com

The Book Review:

What can I say about the conclusion to the series that has dazzled me for years (becoming my all-time favorite) other than: wow.

Assassin’s Fate was beautiful, terrible, and profound. I savored each page, painfully aware it might be the last time I experience this world. I’ve never been as emotionally invested in a story as I was with Hobb’s work, her writing draws you in so completely that you forget yourself for a while, totally at the mercy of her story. Each of her series evoked real emotion – a sense of love and loss that is almost unparalleled by anything else I’ve ever read. Assassin’s Fate was the most gut-wrenching to date, but it was worth every painful, poignant moment. I’ll be reeling from this one for years to come.

I love this series for so many things: its rich histories and epic world building, its endearingly human characters (flaws and all), its immersive writing, but one of my favorite things about it is the subtle weaving of dragons into the story. It’s quite brilliantly done – dragons always seem to be the center of the overall arc of each series, but are often kept on the periphery of the events within each book (with the exception of the Rain Wilds Chronicles). The further you read, the more you start to realize their significant impact on the world and characters. As someone who loves dragons almost obsessively, I ate up every word. Hobb’s representation of them is truly breathtaking. Oddly though, I wouldn’t call these series dragon-centric because, while essential to the plot, they are usually not the focal point.

At the conclusion of Fool’s Fate, (the final book in the Tawny Man Trilogy, a reading experience I’ll never forget), I’d been under the impression Fitz’s tale was at an end. Therefore, when The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy was announced in August 2014, it felt like Christmas had come early. And it was even better than I dared hope! With the introduction of a new POV character, Bee, whom I love just as fiercely as Fitz, this trilogy offered a convergence of every Elderling series before it (Fitz + Liveship + Rain Wilds = Amazing!). It was an unexpected surprise, and I can’t even begin to describe how elated I was. If you haven’t yet experienced the brilliant world of the Elderlings, I suggest reading in the following order (to avoid spoilers):

Farseer Trilogy
Liveship Trilogy
Tawny Man Trilogy
Rain Wilds Chronicles
Fitz and the Fool

Above are the first books in each of these amazing series, respectively.

Each series brings with it loads of new discoveries, and I cherished every detail. Learning the histories of this world is also one of my favorite elements to the series. Each new detail felt like a revelation, and it got to a point where I was hanging on every word, hoping to find out more. Who knew it would go so far beyond the somewhat narrow framework of a little orphan boy at Buckkeep castle in Assassin’s Apprentice?

All the books Hobb has written in this world are amazing. Each story is a slow burn that takes its time, building momentum as it goes. By the time you reach the end, you’re hurtling so fast you wish you could slow it down to savor every moment. Assassin’s Fate and every book that came before it are officially The Obsessive Bookseller’s top recommends. I loved every beautiful, gut-wrenching moment and will keep these characters close to my heart forever.

*Thank you Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, NetGalley, and Robin Hobb for the chance to read and review an early copy of Assassin’s Fate– you made my year! :D

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes