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Niki’s Book Journal [May 2018]

Niki’s Book Journal [May 2018]

The first half of May was an oddly stressful month of reading. I scheduled way too many buddy reads between the 1st and the 10th, and was forced to play catchup the whole month as a result. It was not relaxing.

The biggest problem is that I suck at prioritizing books that don’t come in audio. Since my turn to audiobooks a couple of years ago (eye strain injury, blah blah), I seem to have lost the ability to make time to sit down and read physical books. I’m too dependent on the flexibility audio provides and often spend any time I do manage to steal dinking around on my phone (I know I’ve said all of this before, but it’s still something I’m working on).

Now that my eyes are mostly better, I want to prioritize making a dent in my physical collection (via my Overflowing Bookshelf Challenge), but getting though even a single book feels like it takes me forever. I used to breeze through 80 – 100 per year, and can’t figure out where the heck I found the time to do that (yes I can – no children, no iPhone, no audiobooks…). Nowadays I’m lucky if I average even 20 books a year at the rate I’m going.

So my goal going into June is to make a concerted effort to choose reading first over other more brainless activities (ahem, phone) and see if I can recapture some of the good reading habits I used to have. My goal is to complete 4 books from my collection (a book a week sounds manageable if I stick to my resolve).


On to the mini reviews!

Part of this book journal idea was to commit a space where I can quickly drop in and review books that don’t have enough material for a full post. Here are my mini reviews from May 2018:

Knight's Shadow by Sebastien De Castille

Knight’s Shadow (Greatcoats #2) by Sebastien De Castell [4.5/5]

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 simultaneously sinking my teeth into a rich story. When de Castell is on his game, I have a hard time pulling away. I’ll I can say is, he seems to have found his groove, so if you’ve waffled on continuing the series, consider this gentle encouragement to keep going. :)

Skullsworn by Brian Staveley

Skullsworn (Unhewn Throne #0.5) by Brian Staveley [3/5 stars]

If I could’ve chosen any group from the trilogy to learn more about, it would’ve been the Skullsworn (maybe not necessarily through an early Pyrre perspective, but she’s definitely an interesting character). The Skullsworn are essentially a guild that uses death as worship, so they naturally produce highly skilled assassins. I was hoping to get into the nitty gritty of the training process (kind of like what Staveley did with the Kettral in the first book), but it was more focused on Pyrre’s initiation process and less focused on the group as a whole. It had a few good fast-paced “scheming” moments, but a lot of the book was slower moving than I’d anticipated. I also had a pretty solid prediction early on about one of the major plot points, which unfortunately killed any of the suspense I was supposed to be feeling. It was far from a bust, though. I loved the setting – a alligator ridden swamp/delta with plenty of local lore and voodoo (good cultural immersion always goes a long way with me), so even when I wasn’t always 100% engaged with the plot, I was at least enjoying the atmosphere. Pair that with solid writing and a good ending earned this prequel a solid 3 stars (I liked it) rating. Unhewn Throne is a definite keeper for me, so I’m genuinely looking forward to whatever Staveley produces next.

Demon Spirit by R.A. Salvatore

Demon Spirit (Demonwar Saga #2) by R.A. Salvatore [2.5 stars]

I may have stalled on writing this review a bit longer than necessary, but it should tell you something about my general lack of investment in this book that I can’t remember a single, solitary thing about it even though it has only been a few months since I finished it. Nada. Squat. Zilch. A big fat pile of nothing. So I’m left with only the vague memory of forcing myself through the book without retaining anything (because I was bored – the book didn’t have much resembling plot-advancement, that much I remember). This is not good. Despite love of Salvatore in general and my curiosity for everything that takes place between this book and Child of a Mad God, I’m seriously considering abandoning this series for the time being… or at the very least putting it on the back burner for other things. I just can’t bring myself to invest time in the final book of the trilogy when I had such an unremarkable experience with Demon Spirit. Especially when I have a laundry list of things I’m enjoying more. I’ll probably revisit one day, but not in the near future. Heck, I might even skip ahead just to reinvigorate my interest in the series. I own them all. :/ [update: I wrote this review. I meant every single word. But now I’ve changed my mind and want to give the final book a go… it’s a long story. Lol]

Fade Out (Morganville #7) by Rachel Caine [3/5 stars]

It’s clear I’m getting a little too old to fully appreciate YA problems – they all just seem so unnecessarily dramatic compared to RL issues I’ve been dealing with. Even so, Morganville books continue to offer me that light escape I crave between all the heavy adult fantasy novels. Compared to the other books in the series, nothing truly earth-shattering happened in Fade Out, but I did like the expansion on vampiric history and politics (to a minor degree). These bite-sized stories always put me in a good mood, and I’m genuinely interested to see where Caine takes it next.


That’s it for my musings in May! Thanks to all who read my posts. :)

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Book Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Title: Throne of Glass

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Series: Throne of Glass #1

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: In a land without magic, where the king rules with an iron hand, an assassin is summoned to the castle. She comes not to kill the king, but to win her freedom. If she defeats twenty-three killers, thieves, and warriors in a competition, she is released from prison to serve as the king’s champion. Her name is Celaena Sardothien.  The Crown Prince will provoke her. The Captain of the Guard will protect her. But something evil dwells in the castle of glass–and it’s there to kill. When her competitors start dying one by one, Celaena’s fight for freedom becomes a fight for survival, and a desperate quest to root out the evil before it destroys her world.

Throne of glass

 The Review:

I had Throne of Glass recommended to me at least a dozen times on the blogosphere, and once one of my favorite go-to girls for book recommends started raving about it I knew I couldn’t wait any longer to read it. And I’m really glad I did – I was hooked from the very beginning! It reminded me right a way of Maria Snyder’s Poison Study, and I actually found I liked it a little better (although I will admit I have not read beyond book one of either series, so the jury is still out on which one I’ll end up liking more).

While I enjoyed Throne of Glass thoroughly, it did have a couple of flaws, most of which center around characterization. The heroine, Celaena, was blatantly inconsistent throughout the novel and I never really felt emotionally connected to her. For one thing, she is supposedly an exceptional assassin but not once during the entire novel that she ever show off those skills. She also never dealt with the emotional fallout that I imagine a normal person would go through after enduring a year at a prisoner mining camp.

While a bit odd, those two elements didn’t bother me too much while I was reading. What did bother me was that Celaena’s actions often didn’t match up with her thoughts. During her POVs, she would think and feel certain things but would never show them. It made her come across as impartial during scenes that I felt were supposed to be the most emotionally evoking. She was just too casual about things that would ruin my whole day if they were happening to me. The thing is, I wish I knew why. I got a little insight to the inner workings of her mind, but never quite enough to see reasonings behind some of her behavior. This more than anything else kept me from feeling totally invested in her story. All I have to say is, thank goodness for the love interests because without their POVs, the novel wouldn’t have been nearly as enjoyable.

Despite the inconsistencies, there were still a few things I liked about the main heroine. She was confident without being cocky, highly skilled without being infallible, and sharp without being brilliant (she did, after all, have a difficult time watching what she said). I also really loved her progression through the competition to become the king’s assassin. It was a cool way to see the characters behave under pressure, and was really fun to read about. Those of you who follow my blog regularly know how much of a sucker I am for a good competition and this was one of the best ones I’ve read in years.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel and look forward to reading both Crown of Midnight and The Assassin’s Blade within the next couple of months. I imagine the few issues I had with this first book will work themselves out as the series continues (hopefully).

Recommended Reading: I feel as though this is the start of what could be a killer series and would recommend it to any fan of teen fantasy. Despite its flaws, it promises to only get better from here.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Top Ten Young Adult Books!

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Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Over the last several years, my reading habits have been heavily skewed towards YA books. I figured now would be as good a time as any to compose a Top Ten of my favorites. While composing this post, however, I had a major epiphany. You see, while there are many books from this genre that I enjoyed, there are very few that I absolutely LOVED. This is a stark contrast to the Top Ten Fantasies list I composed where I had a difficult time narrowing it down from the 20+ series that totally rocked my world. Evidently, I’ve been focusing on the wrong genre. Nonetheless, I did manage to figure out which YA books were the cream of the crop:

Top Ten Young Adult Books!

 What books would make your Top YA list?

by Niki Hawkes