Book Review: Darkness Rising by Keri Arthur

Title: Darkness Rising

Author: Keri Arthur

Series: Dark Angels #2

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Rating: 2/5 stars

The Overview: Risa will go to any lengths to avenge her mother’s murder—even if it means making a pact with the most evil vampire she’s ever met. Lethal and powerful, Madeline Hunter is leader of the vampire council, and will put her resources behind finding the killer—for a price. The venerable vampire requires the assistance of Risa’s psychic powers. Quid pro quo. Someone—or something—is targeting the elders of the local council, cursing the immortal vampires to rapidly age, sink into madness, and die. Risa must track down the vengeful being responsible. But Risa’s father, a rogue Aedh priest, also enlists her in a dangerous mission. And not even the great Madeline Hunter may be able to protect her from the shadowy forces that desire nothing less than Risa’s destruction. -Goodreads

The Review:

It has only been a week and I’ve already forgotten what I read.

I’m still reconciling how my tastes have changed since I first read Darkness Unbounded five years ago, and how that one lost almost 3 stars on the reread. This was my first venture into Darkness Rising, and my grand plans for bulldozing through the series this month have been derailed… I didn’t love it.

The book didn’t have a lot of substance. It didn’t deepen the characters. It didn’t broaden the plot. The sex scenes were hard to read. And probably the most disappointing: the main conflict was simple but at the same time confusing. I kept thinking I’d missed something. Like, why are we suddenly in the sewers? What’s the whole point of this exercise? WHY do the characters have to do anything about this in the first place? It all seemed so contrived. The overall conflict lacked enough substance to sustain the story. It was was very similar to a middle grade novel when it came to flat villains, surface-level conflicts, and lack of character depth.

Now, granted, I’m evaluating this alongside urban fantasy works that I’ve loved. This is in fact a paranormal romance, which have an entirely different plot focus, story purpose, and target audience. Even though I avoid the genre these days, I picked this one up because I liked Riley Jensen, and loved the author’s City of Light urban fantasy series. But… here’s the thing. For a paranormal romance with the love story and sex scenes as the main overall arc, it wasn’t even satisfying compared to others I’ve read in the genre. I can see where the author is headed with things, but to evaluate just what has been presented so far, it left me wanting.

Recommendations: urban fantasy readers, don’t even give this one a second glance. Not only is it a continuation spinoff of the Riley Jensen series with spoilers, but it’s also written more for the paranormal romance crowd. Paranormal romance readers: this one missed on all accounts for me.

I’d recommend these other similar books instead:

by Niki Hawkes


Book Review: Polaris Rising by Jessie Mihalik

Polaris Rising by Jessie Mihalik

Title: Polaris Rising

Author: Jessie Mihalik

Series: Consortium Rebellion #1

Genre: Science Fiction Romance

Rating: 2/5 stars

The Overview: A space princess on the run and a notorious outlaw soldier become unlikely allies in this imaginative, sexy space opera adventure—the first in an exciting science fiction trilogy. In the far distant future, the universe is officially ruled by the Royal Consortium, but the High Councillors, the heads of the three High Houses, wield the true power. As the fifth of six children, Ada von Hasenberg has no authority; her only value to her High House is as a pawn in a political marriage. When her father arranges for her to wed a noble from House Rockhurst, a man she neither wants nor loves, Ada seizes control of her own destiny. The spirited princess flees before the betrothal ceremony and disappears among the stars. Ada eluded her father’s forces for two years, but now her luck has run out. To ensure she cannot escape again, the fiery princess is thrown into a prison cell with Marcus Loch. Known as the Devil of Fornax Zero, Loch is rumored to have killed his entire chain of command during the Fornax Rebellion, and the Consortium wants his head.. -Goodreads

The Review:

I feel compelled to start with a disclaimer that I don’t normally pick up books with romance as the main draw, preferring instead stories that also include a mix of world-building, characters, plot, and external conflicts. Romances tend to just focus on the relationship, and I was hoping that one set in space would require a lot more attention paid to all the other elements I enjoy. Surprisingly, it actually had a good balance, and because of that I enjoyed it more than most from the genre, but overall I don’t think the type of story is my cup of tea, and my rating reflects that.

Don’t get me wrong – I love romance in books, but only when it’s not the sole focus. In this case, where the love story was front and center, I found myself not on board with how it played out. It was kind of insta-lovey. The declarations of love came without a satisfying series of events to back it for my personal tastes. I always want to be able to see why characters fell in love through some poignant moments, and that was missing for me. For a book mostly about the romance, the romance needs to have more substance to win me over.

Honestly though, I knew what I was getting myself into. And for what it was, it did have a nice balance of action and love scenes. The plot was even decent – bringing in an external conflict that at least kept my attention until the end, even if it was a tad repetitive. I can’t help but think other readers are going to enjoy it a lot more than I did because it definitely has some merit.

Series status: It’s currently planned as a series, but I don’t believe I will be reading on… it’s just not for me.

Recommendation: Although this might not be my genre, I think it was a decent story that fans of romantic sci-fi will gobble up. The banter between the main characters reminded me of Ilona Andrews’ writings, which is always a good thing. Venture in expecting a good mix of action and lovey-dovey moments.

Other books you might like… more:

by Niki Hawkes


Series Review: The 2B Trilogy by Ann Aguirre

Series: The 2B Trilogy
Author: Ann Aguirre
 Rating: 4.25/5 stars

I’d like to start out by reiterating how much I love Ann Aguirre. Ever since I discovered her Sirantha Jax series a couple of years ago I have been eager to read anything she writes. My favorite thing about her has always been how well she writes relationships, so you can see why I was tickled pink to read her New Adult Romance novels. And you know what? The relationships were every bit as wonderful as I’d hoped they’d be.

I was chosen to receive a review copy of As Long as You Love Me after entering the Ann Aguirre’s Reviewer giveaway. I would just like to thank Ann Aguirre and Mel Jolly over at Author RX for selecting me as a winner. As it turns out, As Long as You Love Me ended up being my favorite book of the trilogy! But I’m getting a little ahead of myself…

I Want it That Way

Of the three female leads in this series, I probably relate to Nadia’s personality the most. She’s a very determined and goal-oriented person, traits which helped her achieve her dreams and fight for what she wanted… Even if what she wanted was a studious/sexy single father who lived in the apartment below her. That’s a goal I can really get behind. :-) I thought the love story was really sweet, especially so because of the added element of Nadia’s relationship with Ty’s son (which was almost as fulfilling as the main romance itself). I’ll say it again: I love how Aguirre writes relationships, even the ones that aren’t amorous. I came away from this series loving the platonic relationships as much as the romantic ones.

I struggled with the rating of this one because I really enjoyed it, but at the end of the day there were a couple of things I wish had been done a tad differently. The pacing in certain places was a little off for me, dragging out conflicts a bit longer than I thought necessary. Because of that, I think it gave me more time to focus on my least favorite plot element. I tend to get a little frustrated with the “I love you, but I can’t be with you because of X,” where “X” is often a foolish reason fabricated in the character’s mind solely to keep the conflict drawn out. It’s not the first time I’ve seen it, and it likely won’t be the last, but it wears on me a little bit. That said, I’ve never seen it handled quite as well as it was in I Want it That Way, so that’s something. I still came away from the novel with the feel goods and the satisfaction I’d hoped for.

4/5 stars

As Long as You Love Me

While I related to Nadia in the first book personality-wise the most, the love story between Lauren and Rob was the one that really sang to me. Most of us have that person we crushed on throughout grade school – the one we would go out of our way to pass in the hallway, doodle his/her initials in our notebooks, and daydream about romantic possibilities with every spare moment (or was it just me?). Well, what if you got the chance to see what could have been with that person? That’s what Lauren got to do, and I got to live vicariously through her. It was awesome! All of the little moments she had with Rob were like little sparks of electricity flashing off the pages and I felt the emotional tingle of every last one of them. Perhaps this one appealed to me so much because of my specific ideal for a fantasy relationship, but the way it sits, As Long as You Love Me is now one of my favorite books ever. Okay, I’m done gushing.

…almost. I love this one so much it almost raises my ratings of the other two by extension – as I look back on the trilogy, I do so with a ton of affection and I think that’s in no small part due to book #2.

5/5 stars

The Shape of My Heart

This one was my least favorite of the trilogy, but only because I found parts of it a tad depressing. The first third of the book focuses on Courtney and Max as they attend a funeral and, having suffered a loss in the family relatively recently, it made me a little sad. On top of that, we learned about all of the hardships Max went through as a kid and I basically just felt bad… until the romance started kicking in. I am confident, though, that the negative feels I had were specific to my circumstances, and I don’t think other readers will be similarly affected. Aguirre does a great job focusing on the relationship first, and on all of the peripheral events second, and if I hadn’t been so fixated, I would’ve enjoyed the story a lot more (although I enjoyed the love story from the very first moment). The awesome thing about Aguirre is, even when elements of the book made me sad, I still had that oddly addictive urge to keep reading. All of her books do that to me, though – she’s just such a great writer!

Fast forward to the last 2/3 of the book, and it was nothing but pure New Adult entertainment all the way through. Courtney was such a cool girl to read about, and I love that her personality stood out as distinct from the other two heroines. She is also one of the first bisexual characters I’ve ever seen as the main POV, so it’s nice to see a bit of diversity. I found her to be the least relatable of the three, and not because  she was bisexual, but because she approached life in a very “zen” way. It would drive me nuts not knowing what I was going to do next, yet she managed to tackle all of her problems without constantly stressing about them. She was always very true to herself, and getting to immerse myself in her perspective was easily my favorite element to the story.

3.5/5 stars

Overall, if you’re a New Adult fan, I deem this series definitely worth your time. The romance is evoking, the characters are memorable, and the writing is superb! The 2B Trilogy will go down as three very compelling reasons why Ann Aguirre remains one of my all-time favorites!

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes


Tackling the TBR [1]: An Introduction


Tackling the TBR: An Introduction
(I’m going to need a better banner)

I’ve always been envious of those people who are perfectly happy reading only one book/series at a time. I used to be like that – back in my adolescence where the closest bookstore was an hour and a half away – but that changed as soon as I became a bookseller. It got worse when I became a book blogger. My level of awareness of the sheer number of amazing titles on the market skyrocketed, and I suddenly found myself struggling to read ALL THE BOOKS.

My solution at the time was to purchase all of the titles I might want to read, resulting in a 4000+ book collection and a massive TBR. The books sit on my shelves, taunting me as I walk by, just begging to be read. I’m desperately trying to get through them all, but the math just doesn’t work: if I read 100 books a year, it will take me 40 years to get through my current collection. That doesn’t even take into account new titles coming out. I need to downsize, but that’s a topic for another post… In any case, it has led me to the following philosophy:

 The TBR pile is simultaneously a book-lovers best friend and worst enemy.

 So, no matter how much I’m enjoying a particular title, I always have one eye on my shelves, wishing I was reading those books too. If I spend too long on one series, I get impatient, and that sucks the fun out of the whole process. It also stresses me out to have unread books from favorite authors, especially since many of them reached their series-enders more than a year ago and I still haven’t managed to finish them. It’s reading ADD at its finest, and I’ve already implemented many different strategies to try and counter it and make my reading process as enjoyable as possible (such as the mantra “only read the best books first” and “life is too short to read books you’re not enjoying” – both of which have been life-changing), but it’s not quite there yet… I’m still stressed.

So what I need is a system that’s flexible, allowing me to bounce around between series and genres, but I also need one that helps me finish series I’ve started and keep my favorite authors at the top of my priority list. Today, I had an epiphany on how to make that happen… I’m calling it “Tackling the TBR” And it works like this: 

  At the beginning of each month, I will select an author from each of my favorite genres, compile all of their unread books onto my TBR Tackler shelf, and pick from that pile throughout the month as the mood strikes me.

 I think it’s brilliant.

 But then again, I haven’t actually tried it yet. :P

  I did try a version of this method where I devoted a month to a particular genre, but that didn’t give me enough flexibility to follow my moods. I also seem to feel more satisfied when I use TBR shortlists and can see it getting smaller as time goes by, so the fact that I’m compiling specific authors, but from a range of speculative genres into one place to pick from, is incredibly appealing.

 I know I’m starting a little late, but here is my TBR Tackler pile for the remainder of May 2015:

 Science Fiction: Rachel Bach
Urban Fantasy: Kim Harrison
 Fantasy: Sara Douglass
Romance/NA: Ann Aguirre
Young Adult: Rae Carson

These are all the unread titles from my chosen authors… So many good ones! Instead of posting updates, I will probably just keep using the same post to track my progress, kind of like what I do with my Bout of Books posts.

 I’m really excited to try out the system – I’m hoping it will help me focus my reading while giving me the excuse I needed to finally finish some of these series. Wish me luck!

 Anybody want to try out Tackling the TBR with me? Let me know in the comments – I could use all the help and support I can get. :P

by Niki Hawkes


Mini Book Review: Tinker by Wen Spencer

tinkerTitle: Tinker

Author: Wen Spencer

Series: Elfhome #1

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: Inventor, girl genius Tinker lives in a near-future Pittsburgh which now exists mostly in the land of the elves. She runs her salvage business, pays her taxes, and tries to keep the local ambient level of magic down with gadgets of her own design. When a pack of wargs chase an Elven noble into her scrap yard, life as she knows it takes a serious detour. Tinker finds herself taking on the Elven court, the NSA, the Elven Interdimensional Agency, technology smugglers and a college-minded Xenobiologist as she tries to stay focused on what’s really important — her first date. Armed with an intelligence the size of a planet, steel-toed boots, and a junkyard dog attitude, Tinker is ready to kick butt to get her first kiss.

The Mini Review:

The overview above is not inaccurate, but I don’t think it does the essence of the story justice. I regard Tinker as one of the most unique books I’ve ever read, mostly because it’s a really cool mix of genres. The setting, atmosphere, and characterization read very much like an urban fantasy. The concept is very futuristic/science fiction. And the plot sits comfortable in the romance genre. And the elves… let’s not forget about that fantasy element. Even for such an eclectic mix of ideas, everything works together brilliantly. I loved how resourceful and creative the main character, Tinker, was and reading about her was easily my favorite element of the novel. Overall, if you are sick of the same old stuff, give Tinker a try – it is an experience if nothing else. This is the second time I’ve read this novel because the third book FINALLY came out and I wanted a refresher… you lucky ducks who haven’t read it yet won’t have to sit and wonder for six years whether or not there will be a conclusion.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes


Top Ten Favorite Love stories!

Top ten Tuesday pink

Hosted by The Broke and the BookishThe

 Okay, I’ve tweaked this week’s topic a little bit. Instead of the top ten things I like/dislike about romance novels, I’ve decided to give you specific examples of the favorites I thought represented romance amazingly. I know I’ve included these titles in multiple TTTs and always mention that part of the reason I love them is for the romance. What I have never done is compiled all of them into one list. So without further ado:

 My Top Ten Favorite Love Stories!

 For most of my picks, romance is nowhere near the overall arc of the story, but was still nonetheless one of my favorite elements. At the moment, I think my favorite is probably Phedre and Joscelyn in the Kushiel’s series. I will say, not all of the epic love I’m talking about took place in the first book, but throughout the series as a whole.

 What books made your list?

by Niki Hawkes