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DNF Q&A: Firstlife by Gena Showalter

Firstlife by Gena Showalter

Title: Firstlife

Author: Gena Showalter

Series: Everlife #1

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Rating: DNF Rating

The OverviewTenley “Ten” Lockwood is an average seventeen-year-old girl…who has spent the past thirteen months locked inside the Prynne Asylum. The reason? Not her obsession with numbers, but her refusal to let her parents choose where she’ll live—after she dies. There is an eternal truth most of the world has come to accept: Firstlife is merely a dress rehearsal, and real life begins after death.

In the Everlife, two realms are in power: Troika and Myriad, longtime enemies and deadly rivals. Both will do anything to recruit Ten, including sending their top Laborers to lure her to their side. Soon, Ten finds herself on the run, caught in a wild tug-of-war between the two realms who will do anything to win the right to her soul. Who can she trust? And what if the realm she’s drawn to isn’t home to the boy she’s falling for? She just has to stay alive long enough to make a decision… -Goodreads

The DNF Q&A:

This is a reviewing feature I’ve been eyeballing on one of my favorite book blogs There Were Books Involved for a couple years now because I think it’s an excellent way to talk about an unfinished book fairly. I’m incredibly grateful because Nikki (the brains behind the blog, who has a most excellent name)  kindly allowed me to steal the idea and questions for my own blog. As my list of “amazing books to read” continues to grow, I find I have less and less time and patience to devote to the books I’m just not enjoying. I never would have considered DNFing a book ten years ago, but then I came across a quote, “Read the best books first, for you might not have the chance to read them all,” and have since made it my personal mantra. Life’s too short to read books you’re just not enjoying. So let the Q&A begin!

Did you really give Firstlife a chance?

Yes – I made it about halfway through before setting it aside.

Have you enjoyed other books in the same genre before?

I’ve loved a lot of things from the YA genre, although I admit lately I’ve had less patience for teen angst in general. I haven’t read anything quite like Firstlife before, but it had vague similarities to these other titles, which I enjoyed (mostly):

Did you have certain expectations before starting it?

Unfortunately I had low expectations going into Firstlife, but decided to pick it up despite a few negative reviews. Even more unfortunate was that it lived up to my low expectations.

What ultimately made you stop reading?

Two things: 1. It was just too bloody weird. Now, I’ve always appreciated Showalter for dancing to her own drum (a quality I’ve adored in other works of hers), but Firstlife was a bit too far-reaching even for me. The very beginning explains these “influencers” of the two philosophical groups venturing down to the “Firstlife” world to influence the main character to join their side. Both influencers are male, but one goes down in a girl’s body… it was weird. It, along with an odd sequence of events, was just too weird for me. Did I mention it was weird?

2. I did not like the main character, finding her decisions contradictory (which I hate). She was supposed to be this tough, somewhat stubborn girl who chose to undergo imprisonment and physical torture rather than stray from her convictions. But, as soon as the two “influencers” walked-in, she started waffling about everything before they’d even really made their pitch on why she should join their side. Especially the boy – all he had to do was ask her to jump and she’d say “how high?” It was a frustrating contradiction of character – she came across very weak minded when the framework of the story set her up as someone incredibly strong unswayable. I really, really hated that.

Was there anything you liked about Firstlife? 

I liked a lot of things at first, such as character, world building, and story, but quickly soured to all of them because of the issues listed above.

Would you read anything else by this author? 

Yes, although I’m now terrified to read her other YA trilogy – signed hardcovers I’ve had on my shelf for ages. If I ever need a delightfully cheesy paranormal romance, however, she’s still one of my first picks.

So you DNF’d the book – would you still recommend it?

I don’t think so. There are too many other books I’d recommend first.

by Niki Hawkes

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Tackling the TBR [20]: February 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:

February 2017 TBR Tackler Shelf:

I have a couple of novellas/short stories on this month’s line up to help me focus a little bit on last month’s carryovers (people were especially slow returning things to the library in January). I’m starting The Warded Man as a buddy read with my Goodreads group, so that should be fun, as it has been collecting dust on my shelves for ages. AND HOLY CRAP I GOT THE NEW ROBIN HOBB!!! I will be dropping everything to read that one first. :)

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. Many of these titles I put on hold at the beginning of December… something is not right here. I need the next Kate Daniels book, like, yesterday!


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

January 2017 Titles Tackled:

Finished Series: 1
 Series Brought UTD: 3
Series Progressed: 1
New Series Started: 5
Abandoned: 1

Overall I didn’t do too bad in January, 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
 Series Brought UTD: 3
Series Progressed: 1
New Series Started: 5
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

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Mini Book Review: Bad Blood by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

bad blood

Title: Bad Blood

Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Series: The Naturals #4

Genre: Teen Fiction

Rating: 5/5 stars!

The OverviewWhen Cassie Hobbes joined the FBI’s Naturals program, she had one goal: uncover the truth about her mother’s murder. But now, everything Cassie thought she knew about what happened that night has been called into question. Her mother is alive, and the people holding her captive are more powerful—and dangerous—than anything the Naturals have faced so far. As Cassie and the team work to uncover the secrets of a group that has been killing in secret for generations, they find themselves racing a ticking clock. New victims. New betrayals. New secrets. When the bodies begin piling up, it soon becomes apparent that this time, the Naturals aren’t just hunting serial killers.

The Mini Review:

This book. This series. Is perfection.

Need more convincing?

Niki Reviews The Naturals – in which I gush profusely.
Niki Reviews Killer Instinct – in which the gushing continues.
Niki Reviews All In – in which I completely lose my shit.

Seriously. It’s my all-time favorite series. Read it.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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2016 Reading Recap!

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 The end of the year is finally here! And I’m celebrating by putting together the post I’ve been most looking forward to: the annual book review recap!

 I started a book blog for a couple reasons, but one of them was because it is a great way to keep track of all the fantastic books I’ve read (one that didn’t involve a journal and printouts of the covers – the method I was using before I discovered the wonders of blogging).

Sharing my love of books has become a passion all its own, and I have discovered some profound things in my own reading habits that I may not have otherwise. Most notably, I have come to truly appreciate the idea that life is too short to read boring books. This epiphany hit me in early 2013. It was eye-opening because I realized the books I was most looking forward to reading were getting left on the shelf in favor of books I felt like I was obligated to read (does anybody else have that problem?). Anyway, I made the decision to read the books I was most excited for first rather than last and, as this post will illustrate, it has made for one of the best years of reading I have ever had!

So without further ado, here’s a look at The Obsessive Bookseller’s year of book love:

1 Star: didn’t like it at all [maybe even DNF]

1.5 Stars: didn’t like it, but it had some merit

Nothing this year… everything was pretty cut and dry

2 Stars: it was okay

2.5 Stars: it was a little better than okay, but I’m not sure if I liked it or not

3 Stars: I liked it

3.5 Stars: I liked it, but not quite as much as a 4 star book

4 Stars: I really liked it!

4.5 Stars: I really, really liked it!

5 Stars: I LOVED it!!!!

I read 60 books this year (27 books less than last year) totaling 25144 pages (12184 pages less than last year). And I enjoyed every minute of it! Considering I’ve been dealing with chronic dry eyes for the entire year, I’m happy to have read anything. In 2017, I hope to continue reading only high priority titles and wrapping up a few series.

I feel like I am fairly hypercritical of books, but that isn’t reflected accurately in this year’s lineup. I did a pretty good job picking up books from authors I already loved and not forcing myself to continue on with authors I didn’t. I also stopped requesting arcs from authors I hadn’t read before, and that when a long way towards increasing the average rating of all my titles this year.

Don’t be surprised if you see a title on this line up with the different rating then what I assigned it in my reviews. When comparing a single book to a whole year’s worth of reading, it tends to skew everything – I’m totally grading on a curve, lol. Stay tuned for my Top Ten Books of 2016 list on Friday, December 30th. The list might surprise you in how it differs from this line up – how I evaluated a book in the star system does not necessarily dictate which ones I still have warm fuzzy feelings about months later and which ones I am super excited to talk about with others.

What did your year of reading look like? :-)

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld & Co.

Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld

Title: Zeroes

Authors: Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, and Deborah Biancotti

Series: Zeroes #1

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Overview: Don’t call them heroes. But these six Californian teens have powers that set them apart. They can do stuff ordinary people can’t. Take Ethan, a.k.a. Scam. He’s got a voice inside him that’ll say whatever you want to hear, whether it’s true or not. Which is handy, except when it isn’t—like when the voice starts gabbing in the middle of a bank robbery. The only people who can help are the other Zeroes, who aren’t exactly best friends these days. Enter Nate, a.k.a. Bellwether, the group’s “glorious leader.” After Scam’s SOS, he pulls the scattered Zeroes back together. But when the rescue blows up in their faces, the Zeroes find themselves propelled into whirlwind encounters with ever more dangerous criminals. And at the heart of the chaos they find Kelsie, who can take a crowd in the palm of her hand and tame it or let it loose as she pleases. Filled with high-stakes action and drama, Zeroes unites three powerhouse authors for the opening installment of a thrilling new series. -Goodreads

The Review:

I’ve been eyeballing this book for a while. I’m a fan of Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series and thought the premise (teens with special abilities – a concept that never seems to get old) sounded right up my alley. And I liked it!

Before diving in, I wondered if the name Zeros was a coincidence, or if they were trying to pay a cheeky nod to the show Heroes. I’m not sure which is the case, but there were many similarities between the two. The introduction of several gifted characters that slowly revealed their ties to one another was the biggest common thread, although the show did this more expansively.

The beginning was great – I found myself hooked immediately. Where Heroes was broader in its conflicts, I found Zeros more narrowly focused. Almost to the point where I wasn’t sure I cared, to be honest. All the troubles in the book were created by the characters’ actions (which felt inconsequential in the whole scheme of things). I actually thought most of the drama would come from other gifted teens on the “wrong” side of morality, which was very much not the case. In a way, it’s good that it wasn’t totally predictable, but at the same time, fixing screw ups isn’t quite as compelling as good vs. evil.

Even so, what kept me reading were the characters and how cool their powers were. I’m always drawn to the most mysterious character, so Anonymous – the Zero who people can’t remember, was my favorite. But they were all compelling in their own way. That said, I didn’t actually like all the characters. The first one introduced had an interesting power, but the more I learned about him, the more of an ass he turned out to be. There’s not really one main character in the book, but readers have a tendency to latch onto the first one introduced as an indication that their plot-line is going to be the most important. I don’t hold the entire book responsible for the dislike of one character, and actually liked the bit of antihero variety it added to the story, but at the same time if I could just punch him in the face I’d feel a lot better…

Overall, Zeroes was a decent 3 star (I liked it) book, but not the best I’ve read in the genre. That said, I’m definitely still picking up the second book and look forward to what the future holds for these interesting characters. There are so many directions the authors could take next, and I’m excited to jump on for the ride.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

Title: Scorpion Rules

Author: Erin Bow

Series: Prisoners of Peace #1

Genre: Teen Dystopian

Rating: 2/5 stars

The Overview: Greta is a duchess and crown princess—and a hostage to peace. This is how the game is played: if you want to rule, you must give one of your children as a hostage. Go to war and your hostage dies. Greta will be free if she can survive until her eighteenth birthday. Until then she lives in the Precepture school with the daughters and sons of the world’s leaders. Like them, she is taught to obey the machines that control their lives. Like them, she is prepared to die with dignity, if she must. But everything changes when a new hostage arrives. Elián is a boy who refuses to play by the rules, a boy who defies everything Greta has ever been taught. And he opens Greta’s eyes to the brutality of the system they live under—and to her own power. As Greta and Elián watch their nations tip closer to war, Greta becomes a target in a new kind of game. A game that will end up killing them both—unless she can find a way to break all the rules. -Goodreads

The Review:

My opinion of Scorpion Rules went on a roller coaster ride while I was reading it, landing on a solid 2 (it was just okay) rating when all was said and done.

Let’s start with what I liked about it:

Scorpion Rules offered an interesting concept – keeping the world’s leaders in line by holding their children hostage. It offered a good bit of drama right up front and kept me reading when I wasn’t sure about everything else.

And that’s about it. Everything else was just okay.

The writing had its moments, as the scenes that were really good were edge-of-your-seat riveting. But overall, the book suffered from poor pacing, too many info dumps, and an unusually heavy focused on goats and their mating habits (you heard me). There was a lot of promise with very few moments of delivery, and I can’t help but wonder how much better it could’ve been had the two novels been written more concisely and combined into one (a working theory, considering I haven’t read the second book).

Poor pacing aside, there were two glaring issues which cause me to DNF this series after book 1: the odd direction the story took and the unbelievable villain. The entire second half of the novel revolved around the AI who initially took control of the world and held these kids hostage (as we learned about in the killer prologue). When we finally met him, though, the story took on a slightly ridiculous undertone. The villain was incredibly theatrical and flippant which I found totally implausible. Considering the whole children-as-hostages and potential political intrigue that first drew me to the story, I thought the focus on AIs (which was much heavier near the end of the book) was an unsatisfying direction for the story to take. It felt like a promise undelivered. I also take issue with the author’s interpretation of Artificial Intelligence… to me, that indicates a thinking entity manually fabricated, which takes on a life of its own. In this case, the authors AIs are essentially preserved and uploaded intelligences of actual people. Which also seemed odd to me because they somehow maintained their personalities and “humanism,” if you will. I think I’ve read too many excellent novels of this variety to buy into this author’s version.

Overall, I don’t see myself recommending Scorpion Rules anytime soon, but many of the issues I had with it were a personal preference issues. I’d be the first to admit that I was very hypercritical of it, and I think that came from having high expectations going in. I know a few people who absolutely loved this series, it just didn’t work for me and I will not be picking up the second one.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes