Top Ten Books I’ve Read So Far in 2018!

Top Ten Books I’ve Read So Far in 2018!

I’ve had a pretty decent year in reading so far, and a few of these titles have even been added to my very conservative list of all-time favorites. What’s more, I actually wrote reviews for most of them (that’s a big wow for me). So, in no particular order:

The Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley

Emperors Blades by Brian Staveley [5/5 stars]

This review has been a long time coming, as Emperor’s Blades is still one of the best books I’ve read this year (actual Goodreads update: “5/5 stars! And a new addition to my shelf of favorites!”). But for some reason I’ve been stalling on writing the review. Maybe because I know logically the book had a few problems and won’t work for everyone, but I tell you, every single aspect of the story worked for me. So I’m going to proceed fangirling as if I was unaware of the things others found fault in. ;P To start it off …This is a sneak peak of an upcoming review scheduled July 20, 2018.

Child of a Mad God by R.A. Salvatore

Child of a Mad God by R. A. Salvatore [4/5 stars]

I’ve been reading (and enjoying) R.A. Salvatore for almost 20 years, so what struck me as profound during Child of a Mad God was how well-rounded a writer he has evolved into. He was always an accomplished storyteller, but compared to his early works in the world of Corona (published in the late 1990s) it’s immediately clear how next-level his work has become. Child of a Mad God was superbly written and I don’t have a single critical thing to say about any craft-related aspect of this book – it was excellent. I didn’t realize this book was part of the Corona …Read Full Review

Siren by Kiera Cass [4.5/5 stars]

No one is more surprised than me how much I freaking loved this book. Cass and I have a bit of a hit or miss relationship where I’m either 100% on-board fangirling… or throwing the book in disgust. Luckily, The Siren fell into the former category – something I wasn’t led to expect based on some brutal early reviews I read for the book. I have a theory as to why it caused such harsh reactions for fans of Cass’ work: The book is less about the romance, where the main love interest is kept on the periphery for most of the book …Read Full Review

Knight's Shadow by Sebastien De Castille

Knights Shadow by Sebastien de Castell [4.5/5 stars]

Considering how polarized my opinion was for Traitor’s Blade, it’s surprising even to me how thoroughly I enjoyed Knight’s Shadow. It must have been the perfect combination of elements to satisfy my mood because even while reading it I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why I liked it so much. It just had that addictive quality that kept pulling me back to it in favor of other things, which is something books don’t do to me a lot these days. The balance between humor and grit was well done, so I enjoyed laughing while …Read Full Review

His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik

His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik [4.5/5 stars]

Woe is me for not having read this years ago! I had this amazing dragon book sitting unread on my shelf for over 10 years… and I’m surprised no one revoked my membership to the dragon obsession club (not a real thing). In all fairness, the way people described this book and series gave me a very different impression than what the first book actually entailed. They’d say, “it’s an alternate military history, but with dragons.” I’m sure that description is completely accurate for the series as a whole, but had someone mentioned even briefly that His Majesty’s Dragon was less about …Read Full Review

[July 17, 2018] Nyxia Unleashed by Scott Reintgen

Nyxia Unleashed by Scott Reintgen [4/5 stars]

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 …This is a sneak peak of an upcoming review scheduled July 16, 2018.

Burn for Me by Ilona Andrews

Burn for Me by Ilona Andrews [4.5/5 stars]

Everybody who said “ignore the cover, this book is awesome!” was absolutely right. I should preface this review by saying that I recently got up to date with the Kate Daniels series (my current holy grail of urban fantasy), so I’m still riding the high from all the amazing things I experienced there. My opinion of Burn for Me was definitely influenced by my feelings for these authors in general. Had I read this first, I’m certain the rating would’ve been more conservative because I’d have still been trying to assess how I felt about the writing. Since I already know …Read Full Review

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

Murderbot Diaries (the whole thing) by Martha Wells [5/5 stars]

Murderbot might be my spirit animal. I loved this novella. It had a fun plot and, more importantly, it had a killer main character (pun intended) who will speak to your inner introvert like no other. And it was funny. I wasn’t expecting to laugh so much at a SecUnit POV, but the situational humor and dialogue delighted me at every turn. Good humor will spark a higher rating in me every time, and it almost feels like a bonus that everything else was so good too. Overall, All Systems Red had all the components I look for in a sci-fi …Read Full Review I have a fun full-series narrative review coming July 23, 2018.

Iron and Magic by Ilona Andrews [5/5 stars]

Iron and Magic somehow managed to become my favorite Ilona Andrews book to date! It joined a very small percentage of books allowed on my all-time favorites list, and no one is more surprised at that than me. It’s a true testament to these writers’ skills that they managed to make me fall in love with a book about a character I don’t even like. And furthermore to get me feeling deep empathy towards him. I can say with confidence coming out of this book that I’m 100% rooting for Hugh (even though he’s still an ass ;P). He was always an interesting …Read Full Review

Menagerie by Rachel VincentMenagerie by Rachel Vincent [4.5/5 stars]

I reeled so much from this book but I never got around to writing a review. It was a fantastic surprise and I’m very eager to see how the trilogy concludes in Fury this fall. :)



I can’t single out just one as my very favorite, but my top 3 are easily Emperor’s Blades, Iron and Magic, and All Systems Red. Here’s hoping the remainder of 2018 is just as awesome. :)

by Niki Hawkes


Top Ten Things I Look For In a Blog!

chronicles of an obsessive bookblogger

As I have recently cut down the number of blogs I’ve been following by about 75% [detailed at The Obsessive Bookseller Simplifies Life: Blog Love! post], I thought I’d take a moment to write an opinion piece on what types of things factored into hitting that dreaded “unfollow” button. Only after finishing this post did I realize just how strong my opinions are on this issue. I need to clarify now that the following are all personal preferences and I mean no disrespect to anybody who views blogging differently than I do. Variety is the spice of life, and all. Anyway, without further ado:

Top Ten Things I Look For In a Blog!

Content – This is probably the most important factor. The blogs I continued following consistently post about the types of books I enjoy and don’t go off topic too often. I definitely appreciate a little bit of focus on a blog so I know what to expect going forward. Branching out on occasion is no biggie – I love posts that help me get to know the blogger even better, but if it’s a book blog, I probably followed it primarily for book content.

Friendships – a good portion of the blogs I now follow are by people I feel I have a genuine blog buddy relationship with. In most cases, they reached out and commented on my blog first, which I appreciate to no end because I doubt I would have met them otherwise. I am still following all of my blog buddies in one way or another – the simplification process didn’t change that.

Presentation – I discovered during “the purge” that I’m more of a presentation snob than I realized. If I found the blog difficult to navigate, whether from weird formatting, too much clutter, or a general lack of organization, it most likely got deleted (OCD ALERT!). I also have a really difficult time reading blogs with anything other than black on white print. The latter is not a total dealbreaker, but when I had to make snap decisions and my eyes were already straining, many didn’t make the cut.

Semi-frequent Posting – I’m talking more than twice a year, people. There are quite a few bloggers I genuinely liked and wished to continue friendships with, but they hadn’t posted anything new for over two years. I used to make fun of the “I’m on a hiatus, but I’ll be back xx/xx/xx” posts, but now I actually think they’re a good idea if you plan on returning eventually.

Innovative Ideas – I am all about finding new ways to present content. So when a blog seems to have original (or at least new-to-me) bookish ideas, I tend to latch on. I’ll admit whole-heartedly to the occasional bout of blog-envy. You are all just too creative for me to handle! :)

Spoilers – or rather, a lack of. I can’t stand having things spoiled for me, so I generally steer clear of blogs that give away key plot points. Some titles I’ve been waiting to read for years, and I’ve already had a few really good ones ruined by careless spoilers (because the spoilerish content wasn’t clearly marked).

No Gifs & Memes – I know it’s the new thing and many bloggers use them, but I personally find them annoying. I don’t think they add anything to a post that couldn’t be summed up in a couple of words. And I hate the endless scrolling (a lot of times my phone won’t even load them, so I lose interest and stop trying). I also think they can make a blog look tacky and unorganized. What can I say? It’s just not my style…

Positive Outlooks – Hey, I get it, we all have that book that made us so angry that we had to write a 10,000 word rant. I don’t mind negative reviews. What I do mind is an overtone of negative vibes, personal attacks, and all-around book/author bashing on a regular basis. I’m of the philosophy that you can explain exactly why a book didn’t work for you without calling the author an idiot. I read blog posts for positive vibes and thoughtful opinions on titles. Not hateful/hurtful things. There’s enough of that in this world already – don’t sully my book utopia with it, lol.

Respect – I admit, I stopped following a blog with content I really liked because the blogger didn’t respect my right to read and endorse whatever books I choose. There were several occasions where I felt this blogger was looking down on me because they found my book preferences personally distasteful. To clarify – I definitely don’t mind a difference of opinion. What books work for me might not work for you, and I totally get and respect that. What I’m objecting to is the blatant disapproval of what I believe is a personal choice. I’ve never read the Fifty Shades of Grey series, but I would never look down on anybody who read and loved the shit out of them. Whether it’s Fifty Shades of Grey, Twilight, or any other guilty pleasure, read what you want and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

Connectability – I like being able to connect with blogs on different platforms (Goodreads being my favorite). Of the blogs I was unsure of keeping a WordPress subscription to, I added either on Goodreads or Bloglovin. The ones who didn’t have either option didn’t give me the freedom to try engaging through other venues. There were a couple that also didn’t have WordPress follow buttons (I’m told it’s a fairly simple widget to add, but can’t preach until I’ve practices lol) , Which means I had to either keep following by email or delete the subscription totally, and with my new simplification motto, I just can’t take wading through 1000 emails every day.

There you have it! These are the elements that played into my evaluation of other blogs. Let me reiterate that I truly believe there is no wrong or right way to run a blog, and I’m still following people who have many of these attributes. They’re just the things I take into consideration. :)

What types of things do you look for?

by Niki Hawkes


The Obsessive Bookseller’s Top Ten Books of 2016!

I love looking back at the end of the year and picking out a handful of books that really rocked my world. I read almost sixty books this year, and there were so many good ones that it was hard to narrow it down to just ten. Without further ado, I give you:

The Obsessive Bookseller’s Top Ten Books of 2016:

Shadows for Silence by Brandon Sanderson

Book Info: Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell by Brandon Sanderson

Genre: Fantasy

Reason for Recommending: Brandon Sanderson is one of my top authors for his epic world building, amazing characters, and great writing. I’ve read (and loved) almost everything he has published and Shadows for Silence was just as good. I loved it because it had a perfect mix of characterization, setting, story, pacing, action, and resolution, all wrapped up into one neat little package. It felt like a snippet out of a fully developed novel, but was self-contained enough to stand completely on its own. I highly recommend it to Sanderson fans, and lovers of the genre in general. [Read Full Review]

Morning Star by Pierce Brown

Book Info: Morning Star by Pierce Brown

Genre: Science Fiction [adult]

Reason for Recommending:  As the conclusion to the Red Rising trilogy, Morning Star was my favorite of the series. Not only did all the moving parts converge for one epic finish, but it also provided more depth of character and had its fair share of heart-wrenching moments. This series is one of the most unique I’ve ever read, even though it’s comprised of many elements I loved from other top series. A next-generation continuation of the series (Iron Gold) is coming out August 2017, which is really exciting! [Read Full Review]

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

Book Info: The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

Genre: Fantasy

Reason for Recommending: This series is an experience, and one of the most unique I’ve ever read. The world building is ridiculously creative and the characters are nothing if not atypical. The real brilliance lies in the writing, though. Jemisin weaves her story through three different perspectives, the most compelling of which is told in second person (which utilizes the “you” pronoun – “You walk to the edge of the cliff. You don’t much like heights.”) Which is a writing style you don’t see very often because it’s difficult to pull off. This is one of those books I’ll reread. [Read Full Review]

Blood Song by Anthony Ryan

Book Info: Blood Song by Anthony Ryan

Genre: Fantasy

Reason for RecommendingIt has been a while since I’ve read a new fantasy that I liked as much as Blood Song. Even though the last two books in the trilogy take on a different direction, I still am really glad I read this series. The first one is easily the best of the three. It’s a compelling coming-of-age story that reminded me of the school setting and camaraderie of Harry Potter while being told with the same atmosphere and grit that made Game of Thrones so good. That might be overselling it a bit, but if you like fantasy, Blood Song is a must for your list! [Read Full Review]

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Book Info: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Genre: Fantasy

Reason for Recommending: Uprooted was a fun story about a girl apprenticed (against her will) to the stuffy local wizard. The two main characters had an awesome dynamic and really made the book special. This is the first book I’ve read by Naomi Novik, and I can tell you I liked it so much that it definitely won’t be the last. This stand-alone novel was incredibly well written. [Read Full Review]

Elite by Mercedes Lackey

Book Info: Elite by Mercedes Lackey

Genre: Teen Post-Apocalyptic

Reason for Recommending: I love it when high fantasy authors take on young adult literature. Elite is the second book in Mercedes Lackey’s Hunter series and it shaping up to be one of the best YA’s I’ve read yet. The first book takes a couple of chapters to get going, but after that it boasts smart characters, excellent pacing, and lots of action. This is definitely a great series to pick up if you’re still suffering from a Hunger Games hangover. [Read Full Review]

The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Book Info: The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Genre: Teen Fiction

Reason for Recommending: Imagine if ABC’s Scandal was re-envisioned as a young adult series, and you’d have The Fixer. It has a ton of political intrigue, interesting (if a little over the top) characters, and great writing. Jennifer Lynn Barnes is responsible for my all-time favorite series (The Naturals, which I think is absolute perfection), and The Fixer is just as good. It takes a few chapters to get going, but once it does, it doesn’t let up! [Read Full Review]

The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson

Book Info: Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson

Genre: Fantasy

Reason for Recommending: Yet another Sanderson to make my list. Bands of Mourning is book six in the Mistborn saga, three in the four book Wax and Wayne series. It brought ties from the first trilogy into play and was packed with lots of humor, adventure, and excitement. I know it’s going to be a while before the author has a chance to finish off this branch of the saga, but I can’t wait to see what he has in store next. [Read Full Review

No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished by Rachel Aaron

Book Info: No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished by Rachel Aaron

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Reason for Recommending:  I love this series because it is truly a hybrid of genres – it reads like an urban fantasy, but the inclusion of dragons gives it a very low fantasy story line. And the characters and overall presentation is so fun and accessible that it could also fit in the YA genre. No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished is the third book in the series and my favorite so far because of how deeply it dives into some of the most interesting characters. I loved every moment and highly recommend this author as often as I can. [Read Full Review]

Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews

Book Info: Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Reason for Recommending: This is a recent read for me, as I just finished it a couple of days ago. It’s a book three in the Kate Daniels series and I have to admit that I thought book one was fairly average and didn’t have a lot of positive things to say about it. Fortunately, my Goodreads friends urged me to keep reading and I am oh, so glad I did. It is shaping up to be one of my favorite urban fantasies – it’s fun, creative, and so funny on occasion that I actually laugh out loud. If Harry Dresden had a female counterpart, I feel like Kate Daniels would be it. I’m very new to this series, but things are looking good… [Review to Come]

There you have it – my best books of 2016! Did any of my titles make your top ten list?

by Niki Hawkes

Niki’s Best Book Bulletin: Fantasy!

#1 Daughter of the Empire

Series: Kelewan Empire

Authors: Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts

Told from the persepctive of a woman in the Tsurani homeworld of Kelewan, this is a brillaint expansion on a facinating peoples referred to in Feist’s Riftwar saga. I loved every moment, disappearing for two days as I devoured all three books in the trilogy. Everything from the characters to the highly memorable world-buidling had me hooked from start to finish. I loved them so much, that no book has managed to stack up since. Read full review

#2 Dragon Weather

Series: Obsidian Chronicles

Author: Lawrence Watt-Evans

You might recognize this from my Dragon Bulletin, as it’s still one of the best books I’ve read in the entire genre. Adrian was only 11 when a dragon destroyed his village, killing everyone but him. Left alone and defenseless, he is soon captured and sold into slavery, sent to work the mines of the Lord Dragon. As Adrian grows through the story, he seeks vengeance on those who wronged him. I have to say I loved every moment of this trilogy – so much so that I bought them in hardcover. Watt-Evans is an excellent writer. He has a way of drawing you in, making every moment is engaging and entertaining. Not only is it an amazing dragon book, it just plain good fantasy!

#4 Magician: Apprentice

Series: The Riftwar Saga

Author: Raymond E. Feist

This is a story about a young orphaned boy named Pug who is chosen as the apprentice to Master Kulgan, a magician. When invaders from another world threaten the kingdom, Pug finds himself swept up on an epic adventure that will take him to places he never could’ve imagined. As the long-time favorite of my family, “Magician: Apprentice” is the book that first inspired my love of the genre. I’ve gone through hundreds of books since then, and it is still one of the best novels I’ve ever read. It’s got all of the elements I loved about the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but it is written in a much more vibrant and story-driven manner. I highly recommend it for both hard-core fantasy fans and those hoping to give the genre a try. You wont be disappointed. Read full review

#4 Heart of Myrial

Series: The Shadowleague

Author: Maggie Furey

Myrial is a world divided by magical walls, giving each species within it an isolated sanctuary. Dark powers have been unleashed in the land, and the worst is about to happen. Hurling towards apocalypse, the walls are beginning to crumble, and only a select few from a secret society of guardians can stop it. I have read so many fantasy books that, after a while, they all start to sound the same. What Furey does is give you dynamic and interesting characters, a unique and fascinating world, and a cleverly woven plot to make for one of the best books out there. Despite my best efforts, she is still relatively unheard-of, and that is a shame. Her novels rival and beat some of the most well-known books in the genre. I LOVED this trilogy.

#5 The Name of the Wind

Series: Kingkiller Chronicles

Author: Patrick Rothfuss

Kvothe is a young man with an impossible task: locating the men that killed his family – beings that supposedly don’t exist. In this seemingly never-ending search for justice, he manages to work his way to become the most notorious magician his world has ever seen. There is not a single thing I didn’t like about this book. In fact, the only reason it’s not higher on the list is that I’ve only just discovered it. The characters come alive, and are much more than words on a page, the story is beautifully written, bringing the story to life without being overdone, and the plot is one of the most well-woven that I’ve ever read. I am dying for the final book, that’s all I’m saying. Read full Review

#6 Joust

Series: Dragon Jousters

Author: Mercedes Lackey

Also a duplicate from my Dragon Bulletin, Vetch is a young slave who yearns to become a jouster – a warrior who rides a dragon into battle. Sold into a house of riders, he soon finds himself caring for the great beasts. It isn’t long before he gets the idea to raise one in secret… This is by-far my favorite Mercedes Lackey series, and she’s got a lot to choose from. Oddly, I love books that teach you things. After reading “Joust” I felt like I knew a lot more about how to care for and train dragons (useless knowledge, I realize, but filled with awesomeness nonetheless). This was one of the most fun books to read – I loved it!

#7 First Truth

Series: Truth

Author: Dawn Cook (aka Kim Harrison)

Despite her father’s best efforts, Alyssa didn’t believe in magic. Not even when it compelled her to journey to the Hold, a fortress hidden in the wilderness where students come to learn the craft. Finding it almost abandoned, Alyssa works with some trusted companions to save it from destruction and finds the courage to embrace her father’s legacy. I’ll be the first to admit that nothing particularily epic happens in this series, but that didn’t diminish my love for it in the least. The love story element has always been one of my favorites, but that’s not even the best part. There is such a momentum built up throughout the series that by the time I made it to the final book, I was up all night finding out what happens. Read full review

#8 Homeland

Series: Legend of Drizzt

Author: R.A. Salvatore

“Homeland’ is not just the first of an amazing trilogy, but is also the beginning of the brilliant “Legend of Drizzt” saga. A well-rounded prequel, it takes you deep into the kingdom of Menzoberranzan where dark elves rule with unabashed cruelty. Among them dwells Drizzt, an anomaly with honor and compassion who yearns for a different life. A tad slow to start, the story soon launches to become one of the most epic fantasy adventures in the genre. I’ve read this first trilogy several times, and find new things to appreciate about it each time I do. One of the best characters in fantasy history, Drizzt will always keep you wanting more! Read full review

#9 Wayfarer Redemption

Series: Wayfarer Redemption

Author: Sara Douglass

A heroic story about a woman who defies all odds to learn the true nature of her people. She unveils a secret in the process that might save the world from ultimate destruction at the hands of an evil lord and his terrifying ice demons. I’m still reeling from this series years later, and am biding my time until I can get back and read it again. So so memorable, and the characters and plot are amazing. It is such a well-rounded series that I think it deserves a lot more attention than it’s gotten. I would love to see this one made into a film.

#10 Kushiel’s Dart

Series: Kushiel’s Legacy

Author: Jacqueline Carey

Submission was never so powerful… following the story of Phedre no Delaunay, this book will take you on one heck of a adventure. Filled with intrigue, history, love, and passion, this is one of the most unique books you’ll ever read. I’ll be the first to admit that I hate politics, but reading about them in this format was actually quite entertaining. I remember tiny details about this book, and the characters really resonated with me. Definitely an excellent historical/romantic/fantasy fusion.

Honorable Mentions! (Because what book lover doesn’t experience turmoil when trying to narrow down their favorites?)

HM#1 Aware

Series: Isles of Glory

Author: Glenda Larke

Facing the struggles of a female half-breed, Blaze is the ultimate minority in this world. She is also an aware – a gifted person who senses magic. She uses this talent to hunt down dark sorcerers, hoping to earn a place in an unforgiving society. My favorite element of this series was the phenomenal world-building. I love the totoal escape Larke provides, and have found all of her works to be totally transporting. Because of this, she has become one of my all-time favorite authors! Her “Stormlord” series easily makes it into the top 20.

HM#2 Wizard’s First Rule

Series: Sword of Truth

Author: Terry Goodkind

This is a story about a young woodsman named Richard who journeys across the boundary separating his home from the magic-infested land beyond. Destined for a role which he’s not yet ready for, he relies on the wit and wisdom of his companions to help him defeat the evil Darken Rahl. The second and third time I read this book, even I had to admit it was a bit wordy. The first time around, I was so absorbed in the story that I didn’t notice or care – it was an incredibly gripping story. It also has my all-time favorite female character: Kahlen.

HM#3 Thief’s Gamble

Series: Tales of Einarinn

Author: Juliet E. McKenna

Searching for an important artifact, Livak is a young scholar who sets out with an almost-mage and a wizard to track them down. Faced with many obstacles to their quest, she takes a gamble that just might prove to be the worst decision she’s ever made… or best. I really appreciate the characters, the adventure, and the world-building in this series. McKenna takes you all over this land in a way that I found totally entertaining.


HM#4 Mistborn

Series: Mistborn

Author: Brandon Sanderson

In a world where metals are the source of power, an unlikely cast of miscreants just might have what it takes to save the world. One of the most excellent cast of characters in any fantasy novel I’ve read, each one was dynamic and interesting. To top that off, the magic system was also original, and the plot was a complex and fascinating culmination of events that I am still reeling from. Loved it!

These are my favorites, now what about YOU? What books make the top of your fantasy list?

by Niki Hawkes