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Book Review: On the Edge by Ilona Andrews

On the Edge by Ilona Andrews

Title: On the Edge

Author: Ilona Andrews

Series: Edge #1

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: Rose Drayton lives on the Edge, between the world of the Broken (where people drive cars, shop at Wal-Mart, and magic is a fairy tale) and the Weird (where blueblood aristocrats rule, changelings roam, and the strength of your magic can change your destiny). Only Edgers like Rose can easily travel from one world to the next, but they never truly belong in either. Rose thought if she practiced her magic, she could build a better life for herself. But things didn’t turn out how she planned, and now she works a minimum wage, off the books job in the Broken just to survive. Then Declan Camarine, a blueblood noble straight out of the deepest part of the Weird, comes into her life, determined to have her (and her power). But when a terrible danger invades the Edge from the Weird, a flood of creatures hungry for magic, Declan and Rose must work together to destroy them—or they’ll devour the Edge and everyone in it. -Goodreads

The Review:

Ilona Andrews strikes again!! I’ve fangirled so hard lately for these authors that I’ll keep this one brief. On the Edge was an excellent first book in the Edge series and there wasn’t a single thing I didn’t like about it. The concept was unique (where the Edge is a strip of land between conflicting worlds), the magic system was fun (different types of magic from shapeshifting to reanimation), the characters were a delight (as always), and the plot was fast paced and exciting. I found myself addictively drawn to this story, and I love it when a book can compel me to choose it over other things. Some plot elements took a while to get me fully on board, but once they did I was sold.

I recognize that Ilona Andrews books all have similar components, but that doesn’t seem to be bothering me. The things they repeat are the things I love the most (fantastic argument scenes, great somewhat cheeky side characters, a rich albeit cranky love interest). While repeating elements might be a criticism for any other author(s), in this case it’s one of the things I love most about them – I always know what I’m in for when I pick up one of their works and they’re perfect for when I’m craving the exact brand of what they’re offering.

Overall, On the Edge was a success, and I’m especially excited to see where the story goes next because it has only just scratched the surface of all the fun world building elements thus far.

Series status: this first book was so good, it launched the second to the top of my priority list.

Recommendations: On the Edge was a delightful read, and I recommend it for both urban fantasy and paranormal romance readers. Admittedly I might be looking at this book through the rose-colored glasses I received for joining the Ilona Andrews Die-Hard fan club (not a real thing), because at this point it feels like they can do no wrong. So while I can’t promise you’ll love it as much as I did, I can for sure guarantee it’s a fun read. :)

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Tackling the TBR [37]: August 2018

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 2018 TBR Tackler Shelf:

I found myself almost antsy to set this post up because I’ve been having so much fun lately organizing and scheduling books. (<-Edit, that attitude came back to bite me in the butt… you’ll see). From all appearances, my lineup of books looks the same as always, but I have them arranged a little differently this month.

Top Row: Books I already have copies for and am definitely reading (The Kim Harrison ones are super short, so I’ll be doing that entire trilogy).
Middle Row: Books I have a library hold on and would love to read next month if they arrive in time.
Bottom Row: Books I’m either partway through or am just less excited to read (Gardens of the Moon the exception to both of those).

So… I was so excited for this post, that by the time I went to review it the day before publication, everything had changed (lol, I guess you really can be too prepared). Now EVERYTHING on my list I’m excited to read. :D I left a few blank spaces to accommodate a couple of review titles I know are headed my way.

I’ve been over-scheduling myself these last few months, and that has resulted in several half-finished titles I’d like to get a handle on in August (<- Edit, I already got a handle on them by the end of July and deleted them from this list – go me!). I figure if I stick to my conservative 10 book high-priority list, then I’ll have plenty of time between titles to work on some of these lower priority books (which are just good enough that I don’t want to abandon them outright) (<-Edit, I speed-read a couple of them to the end and abandoned the others). The point of this method is to focus only on high-priority titles, so I’m hoping this visual separation will help keep my attentions on the best books first (because let’s face it, some titles that were high-priority drop down the totem pole once you get into them…but I’d still like to finish what I started). I figure a chapter a day of the less-appealing titles is time I can fit in easily. (<-Edit, I decided they weren’t worth my time and did what I needed to do to free up space for review copies and other titles I know I’ll love). 


So, an unconventional post, but one I’m oddly happy with because it shows the honest struggle it can be to plan out reads sometimes. It also highlights how often throughout the month my reading plans are tweaked.  It’s so weird to feel like I’m both a meticulous planner and a mood reader at the same time. I seem to have finally found a method that allows me to mix the best of both worlds… perhaps I’ll do a post on that soon. :)

The fact that I update my reading schedule almost daily has me wondering if posting a Tackling the TBR more frequently might be more helpful. <-Any thoughts on that idea? Would a weekly or bi-weekly Tackling the TBR post (with a different format) feel like too much? I’d love some feedback. :)

 Have a great August!

by Niki Hawkes

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Niki’s Book Journal [July 2018]

Niki’s Book Journal [July 2018]

The biggest bookish thing that happened this month was that I finished work on my reading/creative space and could finally just sit and enjoy it (I’m planning a bookshelf tour at some point).

It was wonderful. Around two weeks in I decided to designate it the no-phone zone. If I want to listen to an audiobook while working on a project, I’d hookup my wireless headphones, leave the phone set to the right screen in the other room, and click it on remotely whenever I needed it. I think it’s brilliant.

Unrelated (but perhaps spurred by my new anti-phone productivity), I finally set myself into a blogging schedule and came up with a way to plan upcoming posts – more on that later. Not being organized in this area is part of the reason why I’m so bad at getting reviews written and posted. It’s an ongoing goal to pay at least a little attention to everything I read on this platform. People see me reading new things on Goodreads all the time, but never get more than a one sentence – I liked it! RTC (if I had a dime for the number of unreviewed books that still say RTC…).


Mini Reviews!!

Kiss of Death by Rachel Caine

Kiss of Death (Morganville Vampires #) [3/5 stars] by Rachel Caine

I guess it says something about the general lack of robustness of this series that I seldom have more than a paragraph or so to write about it. Possibly this is due to how short each book is, but I think it’s mostly because once you’ve read a couple, you’ve pretty much read them all. Kiss of Death did change it up a bit – taking the characters out of their main setting (for reasons that felt a little inconsistent with the plot so far, but whatever), and I have to say I genuinely enjoyed the journey. These really are the perfect bite-sized reads to help break up the heavy fantasy I’ve been reading and, although my reviews aren’t the most flattering, I’ll be disappointed when I run out of them. They’re slightly off-beat and would be great recommends for older teens (it doesn’t have anything explicit, but it definitely endorses underaged sex). I wish I had devoured these when I was younger and more able to appreciate them, but for now, I’m glad that it still has appeal to me as an adult.

Wildfire by Ilona Andrews

Wildfire (Hidden Legacy #3) by Ilona Andrews [4/5 stars]

I devoured this trilogy so quickly that a lot of it feels like a blur now. If the authors hadn’t announced that there’ll be a novella to wrap things up and a spinoff trilogy on the horizon, I’d probably be complaining that Wildfire left the series a bit incomplete. But I won’t, because there is. :) As much as I love the back and forth between the main characters, my favorite element of this book was digging more into how the different “Houses” of this world function and learning more background info about those dynamics. I also have to give the book kudos for handling an aspect of the love story really well (having to do with jealousy and ignorance, but I won’t hash out the whole thing). In any case, Wildfire and the Hidden Legacy series in general perpetuated my fangirl attitude towards these authors and I can’t wait to devour the few unread series I still have from them.

The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince by Robin Hobb

The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince by Robin Hobb [3/5 stars]

Robin Hobb be like “Niki, you think Fitz and the Fool messed you up, you just wait. Ima gut punch you as many times as possible in under 200 pages.” Piebald prince, my friends, is a bonafide tragedy. It was also poignantly written and so starkly engaging at parts, which is exactly what you don’t want in a story that’s setting you up for a throwdown. It has been a month and I’m still not fully recovered. On one hand it was great to see a back history for why the “witted” are so despised in the main Elderling series, but on the other I think I may have been better off remaining ignorant lol. In all seriousness, this was a well-crafted novella on par with Hobb’s other works. My personal dislike of tragic stories definitely affected my rating because, although I love this author, I did not enjoy all the negative feelings stirred up in me while reading this story. Kudos to Hobb for being a skilled enough writer to evoke such a strong reaction in me (she’s my favorite for a reason), but suffice to say I won’t be rereading this tale anytime soon.

The Builders By Daniel Polansky [3/5 stars]

I saw this title pop up on my Goodreads feed and thought “you know, I’ve never tried a grimdark Redwall story – cool!” and then proceeded to devour it that afternoon. It had a clever infusion of woodland creatures into a dark tale of revenge, and I think had it been humans instead of animals I still would’ve enjoyed it. It made me ponder though – were the animals even necessary? In any case, I appreciated the creativity. This is probably the only time I will have the opportunity to refer to a tale of betrayal and murder as “cute,” but that’s exactly what it was. At the very least, it put this author in my radar. It’s a great snack-sized story that I’d recommend if you need something light between books.


Thanks for going on my book journey with me. How was your month in reading? :)

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French

The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French

Title: Grey Bastards

Author: Jonathan French

Series: The Lot Lands #1

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: Live in the saddle, die on the hog. Such is the creed of the half-orcs dwelling in the Lot Lands. Sworn to hardened brotherhoods known as hoofs, these former slaves patrol their unforgiving country astride massive swine bred for war. They are all that stand between the decadent heart of noble Hispartha and marauding bands of full-blood orcs. Jackal rides with the Grey Bastards, one of eight hoofs that have survived the harsh embrace of the Lots. Young, cunning and ambitious, he schemes to unseat the increasingly tyrannical founder of the Bastards, a plague-ridden warlord called the Claymaster. Supporting Jackal’s dangerous bid for leadership are Oats, a hulking mongrel with more orc than human blood, and Fetching, the only female rider in all the hoofs. When the troubling appearance of a foreign sorcerer comes upon the heels of a faceless betrayal, Jackal’s plans are thrown into turmoil. He finds himself saddled with a captive elf girl whose very presence begins to unravel his alliances. With the anarchic blood rite of the Betrayer Moon close at hand, Jackal must decide where his loyalties truly lie, and carve out his place in a world that rewards only the vicious. -Goodreads

The Review:

What a fun, irreverent read!

I’ve had Grey Bastards on my radar since before it was picked up by a publisher (I went to buy it and had a freak out because it wasn’t available anymore). Lately I’ve been really enjoying this type of story – where the characters don’t take themselves too seriously and even manage to give me a few laughs while they’re doing awful things. It falls perfectly in line with that cheeky dark fantasy I’ve been craving.

Grey Bastards had a unique concept that piqued my interest right away – human/orc half breeds on the edge of society who protect the lands from full-blood orcs. The tale wasn’t terribly complex, but it did surprise me how many good character dynamics and twists it provided. My favorite scenes were anything to do with the conflicts within the council of the Grey Bastards, which I feel took a decent story to the next level.

The characters are easily the selling point of this book (with overall concept a close second). This is going to sound an odd comparison, but it reminded me a bit of the dynamics between characters and their handling of certain situation in Firefly. You know what I mean – the same irreverent humor and causal ass-kicking that made that series so memorable. Obviously all context is different, but chances are if you liked the “spirit” of that show, you’ll enjoy this book.

Series status: where the hell is the second one? I need it yesterday.

Recommendations: if you like cheeky fantasy with a fun plot and loads of debauchery, look no further! Grey Bastards is easily one of the most entertaining books I’ve read this year and I think a lot of fantasy readers will have fun with it (if they haven’t already).

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Coming Soon: Timeless by R.A. Salvatore

Title: Timeless

Author: R.A. Salvatore

Series: Drizzt Trilogy #1

Genre: Fantasy

Release Date: September 4, 2018 <-Release dates are subject to change on a whim. This was accurate as of 7/17/18.

The Overview: Centuries ago, in the city of Menzoberranzan, the City of Spiders, the City of Drow, nestled deep in the unmerciful Underdark of Toril, a young weapon master earned a reputation far above his station or that of his poor house. The greater nobles watched him, and one matron, in particular, decided to take him as her own. She connived with rival great houses to secure her prize, but that prize was caught for her by another, who came to quite enjoy the weapon master. This was the beginning of the friendship between Zaknafein and Jarlaxle, and the coupling of Matron Malice and the weapon master who would sire Drizzt Do’Urden. R. A. Salvatore reveals the Underdark anew through the eyes of Zaknafein and Jarlaxle—an introduction to the darkness that offers a fresh view of the opportunities to be found in the shadows and an intriguing prelude to the intriguing escapes that lie ahead in the modern-day Forgotten Realms. Here, a father and his son are reunited and embark on adventures that parallel the trials of centuries long past as the friends of old are joined by Drizzt, Hero of the North, trained by Grandmaster Kane in the ways of the monk. But the scourge of the dangerous Lolth’s ambitions remain, and demons have been foisted on the unwitting of the surface. The resulting chaos and war will prove to be the greatest challenge for all three. -Goodreads

Nik’s Notes:

A new Drizzt novel? Sign me up!! Admittedly I have a few books in the series to catch up with first (I’m on Neverwinter and will probably skip the Companions series so… 6 books behind?) but given how much I enjoy returning to this realm, I’m looking forward to it. Just the snippets I allowed myself to read from the overview, it sounds like it takes place in one of my favorite places in the saga: Menzoberranzan. Nice!!

I don’t think I’ve ever been up to date with this series… am I the only one?? :)

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: A Song in the Silence by Elizabeth Kerner

Song in the Silence by Elizabeth Kerner

Title: A Song in the Silence

Author: Elizabeth Kerner

Series: Tale of Lanen Kaeler #1

Genre: Fantasy (almost Fantasy-Romance)

Rating: 1.5/5 stars <- a pretty rare rating from me. It means “I didn’t like it, but it had some merit”

The Overview: Lanen Kaelar has spent her life being told just how wrongheaded and foolish she is by her entire family. When Lanen’s father dies, she chooses to leave her abusive relatives and search out the great dragons she has always dreamed of, though she knows what she seeks may not be real.

But those who hold true power know that prophecies have been told of Lanen Kaelar since before her birth. They fear the destiny she may fulfill, the mysteries she may unravel–and the strange and terrifying love she may find on the legendary Dragon Isle. -Goodreads

The Review:

A Song in the Silence had a lot of problems.

Not the least of which included a narration that kept forgetting its parameters, a plot that dragged for days, and a bizarre instalove that then (ironically) proceeded to dominate most of the page count. The story was riddled with “wtf?” moments and more than a handful of “just go with it”s.

And yet, I managed not to DNF it.

The overall story was just interesting enough to keep me reading. The basic writing was… actually pretty decent if you’re only taking into account how well the words flew off the page. Before I started having issues with the plot, the slow beginning didn’t feel like a big deal because I found the writing immersive and relaxing.

It was just such an oddly constructed book. I don’t think half of the convenient plot-advancing ideas within it would hold up in today’s competitive fantasy market. I also think the meat of the story could’ve been told beautifully in about 150 pages instead of 400. It spend a great deal of time hashing and rehashing concepts, all of which felt unnecessary. I seldom have patience for endless discussion in books, even if it involves dragons.

Ultimately, the writing, general appreciation for the unconventionality of the book, and a mild curiosity where things would end up kept me reading, but it was a close thing. I can’t say as though I’m thrilled I made it all the way through (I started speed reading at the 80% mark just to get it over with), because of how much time it took me to get there.

Series status: after a lengthy debate (which involved a blog post you’ll never see because I made up my mind before it went live), I decided to abandon this series. I snooped around Goodreads to see if I could find some spoilery reviews for the next two books. As it turns out, I’m not missing much. Had I read on I was most definitely in for another 600 pages of the elements I didn’t like about this one. These books will be donated. :)

Recommendations: This book is not very recommendable from my point of view. Most of the books I had this many issues with were DNFs, so I guess it had some redeeming qualities, but none that I could endorse. I will say that it hit me out of the blue as a fantasy romance tale, a genre I’m not well-read in, so if you like books of that variety you might have better luck with it than I did.

Other books you might like (…better):

by Niki Hawkes