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Tackling the TBR [48]: August 2019

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:

August 2019 TBR Tackler Shelf:

Priority Titles!!!

The Reserve…

I can finally feel myself getting fired up about reading again. A huge obstacle I’ve been facing has been balancing paid reviews reading with pure enjoyment reading. Most of my time every month gets allocated to the obligation titles first. I think I’ve finally come up with a workable strategy that will enable me to spend more time on the books that are just for fun. I hope it works because if something doesn’t change, I may have to drop my reviewing gig in favor of my most passionate hobby, which has been suffering tremendously for about a year in no small part to that gig. Every single title in my top 5, I’m eager to read – especially Spaceside!  :)


Have a great month in reading!

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Heartwood Box by Ann Aguirre

Title: Heartwood Box

Author: Ann Aguirre

Series: N/A

Genre: YA Fiction

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Overview: A dark, romantic YA suspense novel with an SF edge and plenty of drama, layering the secrets we keep and how appearances can deceive, from the New York Times bestselling author. In this tiny, terrifying town, the lost are never found. When Araceli Flores Harper is sent to live with her great-aunt Ottilie in her ramshackle Victorian home, the plan is simple. She’ll buckle down and get ready for college. Life won’t be exciting, but she’ll cope, right? Wrong. From the start, things are very, very wrong. Her great-aunt still leaves food for the husband who went missing twenty years ago, and local businesses are plastered with MISSING posters. There are unexplained lights in the woods and a mysterious lab just beyond the city limits that the locals don’t talk about. Ever. When she starts receiving mysterious letters that seem to be coming from the past, she suspects someone of pranking her or trying to drive her out of her mind. To solve these riddles and bring the lost home again, Araceli must delve into a truly diabolical conspiracy, but some secrets fight to stay buried… -Goodreads

The Review:

My first thought into this book was, “huh, it’s interesting, but I’m kind of picking up on some similarities with Stranger Things… is it a knockoff?” Then I got a promotional email from the author boasting “Stranger Things meets The Lake House” and had a good laugh. Who doesn’t love Stranger Things?! All that said, the story does stand pretty well on its own. You can definitely see the influence from the show, but overall it’s a very minor contribution to the overall plot.

Aguirre always has an x-factor that keeps me invested in her books. Heartwood Box had an interesting mystery, which really kept the pages turning. Considering my less than stellar track record with YA lately, it’s saying something that I enjoyed the book all the way through. Because of that alone, I’d recommend it as a good read.

I also liked the characters – Ann Aguirre is one of my favorite authors specifically because I think she’s brilliant at creating tangible connections between characters. I always find myself completely invested. My favorite connection in this one was a friendship, but every relationship had meaning.

This book is definitely unique among its peers for its mystery, contemporary, historical, sci-fi genre blend. However, I’m not totally sure all the elements fit together seamlessly. The Lake House element felt a little forced, and the Stranger Things component was kind of a stretch, but what it lost in believability it more than made up for in fun-factor. Overall, as this is the last YA Aguirre plans to write (according to that same newsletter), I think she went out with flair and I also appreciate that it’s a stand-alone.

Recommendations: For a light summer read with great characters and a compelling hodge-podge of genres, Heartwood Box is a great choice! Ever so slightly more robust than most YA, it was outside the box and a quick read. I’d hand it to teens (or us ageless wonders who will read the genre forever) who love a bit of “weird” in their books, but who aren’t looking to invest in a full series.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Tackling the TBR [47]: July 2019

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:

July 2019 TBR Tackler Shelf:

Priority Titles!!!

The Reserve…

…I’m pretty sure I only read 3 books last month. It’s summer, so I’ve been spending most of my free time adventuring and all of my creative hobbies have gone by the wayside. I’m itching to get back into them, though, and reading more is my first endeavor. Incidentally, last month I also made a commitment to review more things, but then my Reckoning review took almost a week and a half to compose (the struggle was real) and I lost my momentum. I have a mini goal to review 50 titles by the end of the year and at the pace I’m going, I’m not even going to get close (one of these days I’ll learn not to set ridiculous goals, but not any time soon). For the remainder of July, I’m hoping to enjoy all of my priority titles (the first 3 of which are review obligations) starting with Aftershocks (which is stellar so far!). Here’s to a productive July! :)


Have a great month in reading!

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Reckoning of Fallen Gods by R.A. Salvatore

Reckoning of the Fallen by R.A. Salvatore

Title: Reckoning of Fallen Gods

Author: R.A. Salvatore

Series: The Coven #2

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: The winds of change are blowing upon Fireach Speur. Aoelyn risked her life to save the trader Talmadge and it cost her everything that is dear to her, but Talmadge survived and can’t forget the amazing woman that killed a god.

Little do they realize, war is coming to the mountain. Far to west, a fallen empire stirs. One that sees a solar eclipse as a call to war. Their empire once dominated the known world and they want it back. -Goodreads

The Review:

Child of a Mad God was one of the best books I read last year, so this sequel was very high up on my 2019 priority list.

Reckoning of Fallen Gods almost suffered from middle-book syndrome, but the writing is so good that the slight lack of focus didn’t make it feel like an unnecessary drudge. The pacing was on par with the first book – which was slow af but each moment had a lot of depth, so it was never boring. However, because the story in this one spent time with more POV characters, the slow unfolding of events was a lot more noticeable. The more frequent character switches kept it from building the same momentum.

Specifically, there was a lot less time spent with Aoleyn and Talmadge (which I missed) and their story arcs basically just maintained status quo, which in turn kept my emotional investment pretty even-keel. There was also fewer grimdark gut-punch scenes, which the masochistic reader in me missed a little. As much as I didn’t like those visceral scenes in the first book, at least they constantly evoked something. And there was a lot more focus on the broader “bad guys” component which made the story less intimate. None of this was particularly detrimental, but it definitely had a different feel.

Overall, I’m by no means disappointed in what I read here, but it’s clear this book was more to shape the next chapter than it was a fulfilling read within itself. It’s still one of the better reads I’ve had this year (a fantastic ending really saved the experience for me – I want to know what happens next!!). It’s more well written than earlier Corona works (this author has grown leaps and bounds since the 90s) and it’s darker and grittier than the Drizzt novels. As a huge fan of Salvatore, I can’t wait to see what he churns out next.

Recommendations: this story is perfect for dark fantasy fans who don’t mind a character-driven, slow-paced plot. The first book especially has a lot of truly compelling moments, and I can tell that Reckoning of Fallen Gods is an important installment in what I think is going to be a killer series overall. You can pick it up without having read anything in the Corona universe, but he definitely has a bit of crossover references that might be bigger spoilers if you care. I’m normally a completionist, but I’m enjoying this so much more than the DemonWars that I don’t mind already knowing big picture stuff if I ever get back to reading the earlier works.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Tackling the TBR [46]: June 2019

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 2019 TBR Tackler Shelf:

Priority Titles!!!

The Reserve…

Last month I read all 5 of my top priorities… and then some! This system is definitely working for me. I did noticed I’m getting really tired of trying to finish out incomplete series, and had I not been forcing myself to slog through the same old stuff, I might’ve read more. So for this month’s priorities I added a few new series to start (Clean Sweep and Sins of Empire – books I’ve been wanting to read for months), and I’m stoked. My reserve list is slowly shrinking, and I’m hoping to whittle away at it until I get down to 5 or so. I’ve also been reading a bunch of self-help books lately, which is definitely cutting into my spec-fic time…but I’m enjoying them too much to stop.


Have a great month in reading!

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Nyxia Uprising by Scott Reintgen

Nyxia Uprising by Scott Reintgen

Title: Nyxia Uprising

Author: Scott Reintgen

Series: Nyxia Triad #3

Genre: Teen Science Fiction

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Overview: Desperate to return home to Earth and claim the reward Babel promised, Emmett and the Genesis team join forces with the Imago. Babel’s initial attack left their home city in ruins, but that was just part of the Imago’s plan. They knew one thing Babel didn’t. This world is coming to an end. Eden’s two moons are on a collision course no one can prevent. After building eight secret launch stations, the Imago hoped to lure Babel down to their doomed planet as they left it behind. A perfect plan until the Genesis team’s escape route was destroyed. Now the group must split up to survive the hostile terrain and reach another launch station. As both sides struggle for the upper hand, the fight leads inevitably back into space, where Emmett, his crewmates, and their new allies will fight one final battle for control of the Genesis ships. Win this time, and they’ll survive Babel’s twisted game once and for all. As the Imago world falls, this is the last chance to rise. -Goodreads

The Review:

Even though Nyxia Uprising wrapped up one of the better YA trilogies I’ve read lately, I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as the first two books.

I just couldn’t get into it with the same gusto. Part of that was because of the lack of stimulating story components. Book 1 included a ton of engaging training sequences and compelling unknowns to discover. Not to mention exciting interpersonal conflicts and rivalries. Book 2 had a lot of dazzling world exploration, “magic” training as they learned how to use Nyxia, and some fantastic alien culture immersion.

… whereas book 3 was kindly just one long drawn out fight with few dynamics (and practically zero fun-factor elements). From a construction standpoint, I think it would’ve made for a stronger finish had the series been a duology, and final conflict shortened to wrap up the second book. As a stand alone installment, it was quite weak by comparison.

Another problem was my lack of investment in the characters. The main character, Emmett, didn’t get a lot of page-time, which I missed because it was his unique view on the world that helped hook me into the story in the first place. My issue was compounded because of how long it had been since I’d read the second book – it loses a little of the impact when you can’t remember much about the side characters. The story did eventually provide enough recap for me to recall everything, but it took a while, but even then the deaths and victories felt very distant.

Overall, I’m glad to have read this series – I enjoyed the first two books immensely. This one just didn’t tickle my fancy the same, but I still liked the resolution.

Recommendations: the Nyxia Triad is one of the better YA series I’ve read, and I enjoyed it mostly for its competition and world-building elements. It’s a watered down version of Red Rising with a very distinctive main character. I’d definitely recommend it to fans of the genre.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes