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Coming Soon: The Leopard King by Ann Aguirre

the-leopard-king-by-ann-aguirreTitle: The Leopard King

Author: Ann Aguirre

Series: Ars Numina #1

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Release Date: September 28, 2016 <-Today!!!!!

The Overview: Until three years ago, those words applied to Dominic Asher, the leader of Ash Valley. His family has ruled the feline branch of the Animari for hundreds of years, guiding the pride through perilous times. Unspeakable loss drove him into seclusion, a feral beast nobody can tame. Now he’s wrecked, a leopard king in exile, and he wants nothing more than to die. Fortunately for Dom, those words still apply to Pru Bristow, his dead mate’s best friend. She’s had her heart broken too, but she never quits. With the conclave approaching, alliances with the Pine Ridge pack and Burnt Amber clans on the verge of collapse, she’s prepared to do whatever it takes to drag their leader back, before his second can start a war. At best theirs seems like a desperate alliance, but when their mate bond turns hot and fierce, there’s no end to the questions and the doubts. Neither of them expects to fall in love. But sometimes people don’t know what they’re looking for until they find it. -Goodreads 

Nik’s Notes:

 I know, I know – you’re all sick of hearing how much I love this author. Well too bad –  she has a new paranormal romance series and I am beyond excited! I found out about this new series just last week, composed this post, then realized the release date was for the day I wanted to schedule it lol. Not having to wait for a new title from one of my favorite authors has got to be one of the best things ever. Everything I’ve read from her (pretty much almost everything she has published) has been amazing. If I had to narrow her strengths down to just one thing it would be relationship development, and what better skill to have when tackling a romance? It’s an added bonus that it’s a paranormal. I’d pick it up anyway, but that extra bit of magic makes The Leopard King sound irresistible! I’m dropping everything today for this one. :-)

What book are you waiting on?

by Niki Hawkes

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Mini Book Review: Night Broken by Patricia Briggs

Night Broken by Patricia Briggs

Title: Night Broken

Author: Patricia Briggs

Series: Mercy Thompson #8

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Rating: 5/5 stars!

The Overview: An unexpected phone call heralds a new challenge for Mercy. Her mate Adam’s ex-wife is in trouble, on the run from her new boyfriend. Adam isn’t the kind of man to turn away a person in need—and Mercy knows it. But with Christy holed up in Adam’s house, Mercy can’t shake the feeling that something about the situation isn’t right. Soon, her suspicions are confirmed when she learns that Christy has the farthest thing from good intentions. She wants Adam back and she’s willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen, including turning Adam’s pack against Mercy. Mercy isn’t about to step down without a fight, but there’s a more dangerous threat circling. Christy’s ex is more than a bad man—in fact, he may not be human at all. As the bodies start piling up, Mercy must put her personal troubles aside to face a creature with the power to tear her whole world apart.

The Mini Review:

I figured since I just started reading the next book in the series [Fire Touched out March 8, 2016] that I should probably get it together and post a review for Night Broken – one of my favorites so far. There seems to be a running theme in this series of the characters having one giant problem to solve (the external conflict) while also dealing with a handful of lesser problems (usually internal conflicts). This novel in particular had a beautiful combination of both, but my favorites were the internals. I love reading about family dynamics and how people build and maintain relationships with one another. In Night Broken, Mercy is tasked with handling Adam’s passive-aggressive ex-wife. There were times that I wanted to strangle the ever loving crap out of her, and I honestly don’t know how Mercy kept her cool. But watching one of my favorite main character figure out a way to handle the situation in a way that was both satisfying and classy made my day. All in all, it really is a minor conflict in the whole scheme of the series, but one of the most satisfying to watch the characters overcome. And really, it’s often those little, interpersonal conflicts that determine whether or not I remember a book. After all, who cares if the big monster is defeated if you don’t have a solid emotional support system to come home to?

Anyway, I realize the focus of this review was a bit odd, so if you take anything away, take away the fact that Night Broken was every bit as good as the books before it and the upcoming Fire Touched is shaping up to be just as spectacular!

Other books you like:

 by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

bittenTitle: Bitten

Author: Kelley Armstrong

Series: Women of the Otherworld #1

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

The Overview: Elena Michaels seems like the typically strong and sexy modern woman, She lives with her architect boyfriend, writes for a popular newspaper, and works out at the gym. She’s also a werewolf. Elena has done all she can to assimilate to the human world, but the man whose bite changed her existence forever, and his legacy, continue to haunt her. Thrown into a desperate war for survival that tests her allegiance to a secret clan of werewolves, Elena must recon with who, and what, she is in this passionate, page-turning novel that begins the Women of the Otherworld series.

bitten 2

The Review:

I don’t know what it was about this book, but I found myself glued to it constantly. I was seriously walking around my kitchen only half paying attention to the dinner I was making because I didn’t want to stop reading long enough to focus. Granted, I would probably do that with every book if they were all old paperbacks, but I have a tendency to collect hardcovers that I barely cracked the spine on. Paperbacks, however, are a whole new ballgame and I dragged this one everywhere with me. So, my total absorption could be partly due to how mobile the book was, but I’m sure most of it was because it was a great urban fantasy and I was in the perfect mood for precisely that.

While there is some excellent world building right up front, this is not one of those books that dives into the conflicts at the very beginning. The story progression often times alternated with big chunks of back story. I know to some this is a huge faux pas, but I don’t mind information dumps as long as I’m interested in what’s being presented. And I was – it was formatted in a way that revealed character and dug up old skeletons as the story went on, and I quite liked it. The best bits of the story, however, was when the action started.

I liked this book for the same reason that I enjoyed Stray by Rachel Vincent, in that there are a bunch of lovable male characters surrounding a single female. Watching the dynamics between each of them was a lot of fun to read about.

As with many urban fantasies, this one contained a great deal of, shall we say, steamy content. I have no shame in admitting that I enjoy a bit of steam in my books, and I’d say this one was about a 5/10 on the steam scale. The trouble is, the object of Elena’s lust was a character I didn’t particularly care for. He wasn’t a total asshat, but he wasn’t my type, either. In fact, there are two other men in this story who I actually liked a lot better. I’m hoping something develops with them in the future…

Anyway, Armstrong has long been considered a staple for the genre, and I’m glad to have finally picked up one of her books. I have to thank Chanzie over at Mean Who You Are for including this as an option for her Book-of-the-Month. I invited myself to read along, and I’m so glad I did (if you’d like to help her pick her next book, the voting is in the right-hand sidebar of her website… I’m pulling for either Cremer or Peeler). This is definitely not the last of Armstrong that I plan to read, and will most likely be picking up her Awakening YA trilogy next.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Top Ten Gateway Books of My Reading Journey!

top ten tuesday

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

I was really excited for this week’s TTT because it allows me to pay homage to the books that sparked my love of speculative fiction (and reading in general)! Each of these titles introduced me to their relative genres, and to this day, many of them remain my #1 in those categories.

The Top Ten Gateway Books of My Reading Journey!

And the book that started it all:

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 Many of these have a special place in my heart because I would not be the reader I am today without them.

What book sparked your love of reading?

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Sea Witch by Virginia Kantra

Sea witchTitle: Sea Witch

Author: Virginia Kantra

Series: The Children of the Sea #1

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Overview: Margred is a Selkie – a legendary being of the sea, able to shapeshift into seductive human form. And she has found a human she desires… Burned out from the big city, Caleb Hunter becomes police chief on the peaceful Maine island of World’s End. Then he meets a woman who’s everything he’s ever dreamed of. Their passion is undeniable, irresistible …and it may change the fate of humankind.

Sea witch

The Review:

It’s been a long time since I’ve picked up a good old paranormal romance, but after reading several rather depressing dystopians and post-apocalyptic novels, it was just what the doctor ordered: something lighthearted.

I don’t usually read romances for epic world building or complex plot lines, but rather for the mindless entertainment that I let take me where it will. I guess it’s safe to say I go in with low expectations. It sounds horrible, but when I try to hold romances to the same standard I hold most urban fantasies, they always seem to come up short. It’s not that they’re poorly written or anything, it’s just that their objectives and target audiences are just different. They are not supposed to make you think, they are supposed to make you feel while two characters struggle towards their happily ever after. And while urban fantasies and even high fantasies often have relationship development as an integral part of their plots, it is very rarely the overall arc of the story.

Anyway, down to specifics: despite my lower expectations, Sea Witch was actually a pretty entertaining read. There was a good mix of mystery, character development, and romance. It was also fairly steamy – with lots of sexual tension even though the relationship was, shall we say, fast-moving. It helped that I liked the characters (a must in any genre), but was pleasantly surprised by the presence of a decent villain. Although the world building wasn’t profound, it was interesting – having just enough magic to keep me enticed.

Overall, of the romances I’ve read, Sea Change was one of the better ones. Kantra impressed me with her writing, and presented all the typical romance elements in a way that was fun and engaging.

Recommended Reading: I always feel weird recommending romances to customers because you never know who wants the more “wholesome” novels or the more erotic ones… and I never feel like it’s my business to ask (nor do I really want to know). Sea Witch was on the tamer side, say 3/10 on the “steaminess” scale.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Dancing with the Devil by Keri Arthur

Dancing with the Devil by Keri Arthur

Dancing with the Devil by Keri Arthur

Title: Dancing with the Devil

Author: Keri Arthur

Series: Nikki and Michael #1

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Rating: 2/5 stars

The Overview: Private Investigator Nikki James grew up on the tough streets of Lyndhurst and believes there’s nothing left to surprise her. All that changes the night she follows teenager Monica Trevgard into the shadows-and becomes a pawn caught in a war between two very different men. One fills her mind with his madness, the other pushes his way into her life-and her heart. Nikki knows how dangerous love can be, but if she wants to survive, she must place her trust in a man who could easily destroy her.

Michael Kelly has come to Lyndhurst determined to end the war between himself and another brother of the night. For 300 years he has existed in life’s shadows, gradually learning to control the life from death cravings of a vampire. Nikki not only breaches his formidable barriers with her psychic abilities, but makes Michael believe he may finally have found a woman strong enough to walk by his side and ease the loneliness in his heart. But will his love be enough to protect her from a madman hell-bent on revenge? Or will it drive her into his enemy’s deadly trap?

Only together can they overcome the evil threatening to destroy them both. But the secrets they keep from each other might prove to be the greatest threat of all.

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The Review:

I’ve had a lot of turmoil trying to figure out how to review this book. I am a huge fan of Keri Arthur and for the longest time ranked her Riley Jensen series as my all-time favorite. I have been looking forward to the U.S. release of the Nikki and Michael series for at least a year… But I was disappointed, and I hate it when that happens.

First of all, I’m pretty sure the publishers are marketing this series as an urban fantasy. For me, everything from the outline to the heavy focus on characterization made it read more like a paranormal romance. The plot was incredibly straightforward with no elements of complexity or even mystery that she does so well in her urban fantasies. I’m sure the marketing strategy was to keep all of Arthur’s books in the same area, but I think this is a book better suited to the romance crowd. I had a lot of issues with it, and I can’t help but think that was because I was holding it to the standard of other urban fantasies I’ve read (specifically Arthur’s). I wonder if I’d picked it up knowing it was a paranormal romance if I would’ve liked it better.

Oddly, for a book I’ve just labeled highly character-driven, it didn’t have very rich characters. Their thoughts and dialogue were pretty generic – the only thing that helped define them was the occasional motive revealed through the book’s extensive inner reflection. Even then, they contradicted themselves often with their actions. I thought the side character Jake, Nikki’s boss, was the most interesting person in the story. We didn’t have any inner dialogue with him, but instead got to know him through his actions and mannerisms – which I think is a far stronger way to develop character.

There was also a great deal of redundant “discoveries” taking place. The bulk of the story revolved around a conflict the audience was already aware of from reading the back of the book: the fact that Michael is a vampire. Nikki, having supernatural abilities of her own and facing down zombies within the first chapter, spent a lot of pages learning about vampires and coming to grips with their existence. That’s the sort of thing that’s usually a given if there’s already supernatural in a story. Instead, it was one of the major conflicts of the book.

I thought the basic writing was good, nowhere near the quality that she’s producing now, but good. There was an awful lot of  “telling” rather than “showing” where the author chose to skip full-blown action scenes in favor of having the character reflect on it in the aftermath. She did, however, use an interesting technique to keep from revealing secrets too early in the plot: she switched POVs any time the subject was about to be brought up – thereby extending the suspense and intrigue.

Overall, for a paranormal romance, it fit the bill perfectly, but as an urban fantasy, it left a few things to be desired. I am a huge Keri Arthur fan – her Riley Jensen and Dark Angel series are definitely in my top ten urban fantasies of all-time and I recommend them to people constantly. I am truly bummed that this one didn’t work for me. They were written quite a while ago, though, so I’m just going to chalk it up as a stepping stone this author needed to get to where she is today. It was still a decent book, I just had incredibly high expectations, and that’s never a good start.

Recommendations: I started out this post with a big old rant on the difference between paranormal romances and urban fantasies. I decided to spare you and deleted the whole thing but I definitely feel there is a different type of customer for each genre. I would only hand this to someone who has read and liked any of the books listed below… (I didn’t care much for those, either, but I know a lot of people did).

by Niki Hawkes

Other books you might like: