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Tackling the TBR [83]: August 2022

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:

August 2022 TBR Tackler Shelf:

Last month I didn’t post a Tackling the TBR for July… and I didn’t notice until about the 20th (Facepalm). That oversight is just one of the consequences I’m facing for having so much content to generate between three main platforms (here, Booktube, and Patreon). I do think it a testament to how much I’ve been doing that I didn’t even notice until the month was almost over. Me and my OCD have been working hard to not be too bothered by July’s missing post.

Last month I read so many books. Short books, but all the same it was a wonderful month with a momentum I hope to carry over into August. I’m FINALLY caught up from my snowball of too many books going at once (which started in March and had taken me this long to fix), and true to my theory, it has made ALL THE DIFFERENCE in my reading life. I’m thrilled.

Books are fun again! They’re not taking me forever to read. And I can choose what I want next on the lineup without digging myself a deeper hole with current reads. It has been lovely.

Now that I’ve simplified my day to day reading life, I’m striving to do the same with my overall reading world. I’ve so many open series right now vying for my attention that it can sometimes take YEARS to get back to something I’ve started. My goal for the next few months is to focus on closing out as many started series as possible, and my TBR reflects that.

This month I’m mostly looking at tomes – the bigger books that take more of a time commitment – with hopes of progressing a lot of chunkier fantasy series. Next month I’ll probably turn my focus to reading outstanding series with only one or two books away from completion. I plan to document my progress with this on my YouTube channel.

Overall, reading is amazing again and I can’t wait to see what kind of dent I can make into this more conservative lineup. Wish me luck!


Have a great month in reading!

by Niki Hawkes

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Mini Book Review: Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris

Title: Living Dead in Dallas

Author: Charlaine Harris

Series: Sookie Stackhouse #2

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Overview: Waitress Sookie Stackhouse is having a streak of bad luck. First her co-worker is killed, and no one seems to care. Then she comes face to-face with a beastly creature that gives her a painful and poisonous lashing. Enter the vampires, who graciously suck the poison from her veins (like they didn’t enjoy it). The point is: they saved her life. So when one of the bloodsuckers asks for a favor, she obliges – and soon Sookie’s in Dallas, using her telepathic skills to search for a missing vampire. She’s supposed to interview certain humans involved, but she makes one condition: the vampires must promise to behave and let the humans go unharmed. But that’s easier said than done, and all it takes is one delicious blonde and one small mistake for things to turn deadly…. -Goodreads

The Review:

I enjoyed this book quite a bit even though I don’t like reading about religious zealotry, which it had in abundance. From a series construction standpoint, this did a great job expanding what we know about vampires so far and the wide range of acceptance and prejudices humanity holds for them. Sookie, our main character, seems to be straddling the line between the two worlds, and drama ensues.

I don’t have much else to add. It continued the strong narrative I came to appreciate in the first book and advanced the plot sufficiently. Sookie, while not the sharpest tool in the shed is a really charming MC, mostly because she feels so real and earnest. I can totally see how the vibrancy of what I’ve read so far translated so well to tv. Also, Harris is shaping up to be one of the most adept writers I’ve come across in ages when it comes to perspective immersion – truly impressive!

Recommendations: if you’re craving an urban fantasy with good mystery elements, an endearing main character, and the most sexual content I’ve read in anything (not shelved in romance) to date, then give this one a go!

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Trouble with the Cursed by Kim Harrison

Title: Trouble with the Cursed

Author: Kim Harrison

Series: Hollows #14

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: Rachel Morgan, witch-born demon, has one unspoken rule: take chances, but pay for them yourself. With it, she has turned enemies into allies, found her place with her demon kin, and stepped up as the subrosa of Cincinnati—responsible for keeping the paranormal community at peace and in line. Life is . . . good? Even better, her best friend, Ivy Tamwood, is returning home. Nothing’s simple, though, and Ivy’s not coming alone. The vampires’ ruling council insists she escort one of the long undead, hell-bent on proving that Rachel killed Cincy’s master vampire to take over the city. Which, of course, Rachel totally did not do. She only transformed her a little. With Rachel’s friends distracted by their own lives and problems, she reaches out to a new ally for help—the demon Hodin. But this trickster has his own agenda. In the end, the only way for Rachel to save herself and the city may be to forge a new understanding with her estranged demon teacher, Al. There’s just one problem: Al would sell his own soul to be rid of her. . . . -Goodreads

The Review:

I love spending time with Rachel Morgan.

As the series initially ended at book 13, these latest three novels have felt like bonus books (continuing the storyline before book 13’s epilogue). It’s always a joy to read more in a series you thought ended. And I have to say, these revamped (pun) books are every bit as good as the rest of the series.

Anything to do with the demons in this world, and I’m so there. I love their unpredictability and enigma quality that always has me guessing who’s side they’re on (well, they’re probably always on their own side, it’s just a matter of whether or not Rachel’s agenda lines up with theirs… it’s an ongoing conflict I just can’t get enough of). In these recent novels we’ve explored them more than ever before, and it’s highly satisfying.

Million Dollar Demon (#15) was awesome, but the ending was a bit lackluster compared to others in the series. This one, however, was a grand slam of events that had me up into the wee hours finishing. I love it when books careen to the end. The book also introduced a few new plot points throughout that I can’t wait to see expanded on later. Harrison really knows how to keep hooking my interest with new elements.

There’s a writing tool some storytellers use to perpetuate the plot that drives me crazy. The whole “I’m too emotionally distraught to have a two minute conversation with you… one that could save everyone a lot of trouble” is one I’ve always found unrealistic. Most people tend to WANT to talk about the major things that have affected them in life, given the proper opportunity and safety of expression. Especially if said information is critical in someone else’s decision-making. But in this case, that would’ve cut out almost two books of conflict and we wouldn’t have had a story. So, while I wish things had been presented in a different way, I can begrudgingly admit that I still enjoyed the time we spent getting to the point of revelation. There were enough other good things going on, so I can overlook its use… but I still hate it lol.

At this point I’m committed to reading any new Harrison book that pops up and hope we’re not quite finished with this series yet (some research shows there will be at least two more books). I’ve no idea what direction those new books will take, but the groundwork laid to this point in the series assures that I’ll enjoy the ride.

Recommendation: if you want an urban fantasy with slower pacing, great characters, intricate spell work, and a story that only gets better with time, this is a great pick. While this isn’t quite my favorite series in the genre, I can say with confidence that it contains my single favorite moments within the genre. Good stuff. :)

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Tackling the TBR [82]: June 2022

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 2022 TBR Tackler Shelf:

Last month I actually made a good dent in my TBR – making progress on all but three of the books listed. March’s very poor decision-making still has me scrambling to dig myself out of a reading hole, and I reckon I have at least one more month to go before I’m back to reading just one book per format at a time.

To that end, this month I looked at the 7 physical books I had going and decided to make a game out of reading. I used to do this kind of stuff all the time when I was a kid and I figured I either needed to get creative with it or sob/rage until I DNFed everything and quit reading altogether. My game: read one chapter at a time, then rotate to the next book.

To my surprise, the game helped tremendously!

On average I spend about two hours a week physically reading print or ebooks (more or less depending on how many baths I have time to take). I’ve been gradually working to increasing this time, but no method has been super effective… until now. On just my ereader alone, I clocked in almost nine hours per week. Holy shit!!

I think the spice of variety, along with having some absolutely killer books to rotate through (broken up by the occasional dud) was key to my success. I know full well had I tried to read that much focused on a single title, I would’ve gotten burnt out. So instead of finishing a book a week, I managed to progress most of them to about the 30-40% range.

As with any new reading game I’ve tried over the years, I know I’ll eventually want to mix it up again. But for now reading has been a joy and I’m really proud of my progress. I’m currently down to 6 books going (finished one, DNFed one, started a new one).

My goal is to be down to only two books going by the end of June so I can start Soul Taken by Patricia Briggs. Then I’d like to be down to just one by the end of July. At my current rate, that’s totally do-able. We’ll see how it goes. :)

The morals of the story for the month are:

•Stop getting yourself into these situations where it takes you months and months to unbury yourself from your currently reading stack.

•When buried, do what you can to enjoy the moment despite the circumstances and get creative to make it fun.

•You enjoy books MUCH less when you’re anxious about getting to the next one.

To that last point, I’ve managed to have only one audiobook going this month, and wouldn’t you know it – I’m actually enjoying myself for the first time in months! I think one at a time with the quicker completion and freedom to choose that come along with that will be key to my overall reading health.

I’m pleased I’ve found ways this month to mitigate what could’ve been a massive reading slump, but the saga continues…


Have a great month in reading!

by Niki Hawkes

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Tackling the TBR [81]: May 2022

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:

May 2022 TBR Tackler Shelf:

Last month I read quite a few off of my list, but it was a haphazard experience. I find myself venturing into May with no fewer than SEVEN books in progress. That’s way too many. But it’s not unexpected given my usual reading pattern. All that doubling-up I did in March, where I set aside several WIPs to attend to time-sensitive obligations, resulted in me feeling really behind in reading and not able to pick up what I wanted. The problem compounded as I had too many going at once and was rarely rewarded by being able to mark one as “Read” on Goodreads (I live for that payoff). Then I get into a slump and resentful that I haven’t been able to pick up anything new because I’m so buried so I throw everything I’m reading out the window and pick up something totally random (Body Finder, this time around – a YA lovestory/mystery) and end up getting a bit of a second wind from that rogue read.

I AM NOT CONSTRAINED BY MY TBR!

Or, at least that’s how it feels for a couple of weeks, where I give myself permission to start whatever I feel like starting and the rest of the WIPs will be tended to when I have a chance. Maybe it’s the next stage of acceptance? Either way, I approach reading with a bit more peace, but I still hate the situation I’m in. But aside from risking reading burnout by forcing myself to read more in a day than I actually want to, I resign myself to the long-haul.

Right now I’m in the long-haul stage. I recognize that it’s going to take me about two or three months to dig myself out of this reading hole, but I’m getting systematic about it. Most of the books are on my kindle, so I made a game of reading one chapter from each book at a time in rotation. I’ve been doing it for six hours and have been having fun. The next stage will be me getting impatient that I haven’t finished anything in several weeks, so I’ll start speed reading, DNFing, and abandoning for later until I end up with just one or two at a time. By this point I will have been not enjoying my reading experience for at least four months and will vow with every fiber of my being to never let outside obligations get me into this situation again.

But also… there’s an ARC I didn’t think I’d get approved for that just became available. So, maybe I’ll just read that, then get back to my reading restoration plan.

In all seriousness, this is quite the problem for me. I went through several of these reading slump cycles before finally figuring out what caused them all. After spending four months at the beginning of last year digging myself out of this exact same situation, I figured I’d finally learned how to avoid it. And maybe, just maybe, I could have the impatient-free reading life I’ve always hoped for. But my choices have not reflected my newfound values in this, as I continue to ignore what I need for myself in favor of book clubs, getting greedy with ARCS, and agreeing to Buddy Reads (note: it’s not THAT I’m agreeing to these things, it’s WHEN. Like, don’t sign up unless you find yourself between reads and it sounds fun). Perhaps a combination of facing these consequences for the next several months (again) and applying what I just learned from the book “Essentialism,” I’ll learn how to say “No, thank you” to requests and treat reading as a sacred, personal experience. I feel like I’m getting there. I just have to dig through this mountain of books I’ve placed in front of myself first. Wish me luck.


Have a great month in reading!

by Niki Hawkes

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Tackling the TBR [80]: April 2022

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:

April 2022 TBR Tackler Shelf:

Whoops – it’s almost halfway through April and I haven’t posted my TBR! With all the content I’m working on these days, I don’t have a system in place to remind me to upload this post. Most of the time I rely on random cues to let me know it’s getting close to the beginning of a new month and go from there. This month my cue came late haha.

I find myself in a massive reading slump. Compounded obligations from last month and a few looming this month have sucked all the reading enjoyment out of my life. Fortunately, I took most of my hostility out on Shorefall by RJB (which I’ve listed on my TBR but have already finished for the month), that review will be out in just over a week. And went rogue and picked up a random YA, The Body Finder. I threw everything else aside and took four days to read that, and now I’m feeling a little more normal.

I’m allowing myself to read what I feel like reading as much as I can this month, but of all the books on my lineup, I’m hoping to make a concerted effort to get to the final Age of Madness book by Abercrombie. Nothing helps a slump like spending time with Glokta. I’m also excited to get around to the new Kim Harrison, as well as Collapsing Empire by Scalzi.


Have a great month in reading!

by Niki Hawkes