Book Review: Darkness Unbound by Keri Arthur

Title: Darkness Unbound

Author: Keri Arthur

Series: Dark Angel #1

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Rating: 2/5 stars

The Overview: Being half werewolf and half Aedh, Risa Jones can enter the twilight realms between life and death and see the reapers, supernatural beings that collect the souls of the dead. But she soon makes a terrifying discovery: Some sinister force is stealing souls, preventing the dead from ever knowing the afterlife. Reapers escort souls—not snatch them—but Risa is still unnerved when a reaper shadows her in search of someone Risa has never met: her own father, an Aedh priest, who is rumored to be tampering with the gates of hell for a dark purpose. With the help of her “aunt”—half-werewolf, half-vampire Riley Jenson—and an Aedh named Lucian who may have lost his wings but none of his sex appeal, Risa must pursue whatever shadowy practitioner of blood magic is seizing souls, and somehow stop her father . . . before all hell breaks loose. -Goodreads

The Review:

Darkness Unbound unfortunately did not hold up well on my reread.

I picked it up again as a refresher before finally continuing the series. The first time around I was super excited for it. The Riley Jensen series had wrapped up and the prospect of getting more in that world delighted me. I must have been riding the high from the Riley books (which now I’m nervous to reread because of how dramatically my rating dropped for this one), and I’m pretty sure I gave this one a high rating because of the nostalgia it evoked. It does include all of the old beloved characters, so it felt like a fresh continuation. And at the moment, that’s still the only thing it really had going for it.

The book is a quintessential paranormal romance. The sex/romance aspect of the plot was the most prominent and all the other components were underdeveloped. I very much prefer the more robust conflict-driven urban fantasy market. I don’t care one way or another if there are sex scenes in those books, but in this case they were so over-the-top I couldn’t help but laugh.

Now, don’t get me wrong, if you like paranormal romance, this was actually an okay read. And what’s more, I’ve read enough from Arthur to know she can dazzle me (I loved her City of Light series), so I’m probably going to keep reading to see if the series develops beyond the basic “seen it a dozen times before” structure.

For the time being, I think the main character, Risa, was relying on the novelty of her persona from the Riley series and I didn’t get a clear sense of who she is and what she wants. There was no connection at all for me for these characters. The conflict also read a little thin. Super convenient things and 2-dimensional villains. I say again, had this read been for obligation or for any other author, I probably would’ve DNFed. But I thought I considered myself a long-time fan and I already own the series, so I’m going to give the rest a go. Also, for what it’s worth, the last chapter was incredibly compelling…

Recommendations: if you’re a paranormal romance fan, this is right up your alley, and in fact a mite better written than most I’ve read (consider diving into the Riley Jensen series first). If, like me, you prefer urban fantasy novels, this will leave you wanting a more developed plot and less romance.

Booktube Review:

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by Niki Hawkes


DNF Q&A: Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Title: Raised by Wolves

Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Series: Raised by Wolves #1

Genre: Teen Paranormal Romance

Rating: DNF

The Overview: Adopted by the Alpha of a werewolf pack after a rogue wolf brutally killed her parents right before her eyes, fifteen-year-old Bryn knows only pack life, and the rigid social hierarchy that controls it.  That doesn’t mean that she’s averse to breaking a rule or two. But when her curiosity gets the better of her and she discovers Chase, a new teen locked in a cage in her guardian’s basement, and witnesses him turn into a wolf before her eyes, the horrific memories of her parents’ murders return. Bryn becomes obsessed with getting her questions answered, and Chase is the only one who can provide the information she needs. But in her drive to find the truth, will Bryn push too far beyond the constraints of the pack, forcing her to leave behind her friends, her family, and the identity that she’s shaped? -Goodreads

Did you really give Raised by Wolves a chance?

Yes… after saving it for a rainy day for nearly 10 years, I made it to about the 85% mark before setting it aside.

Have you enjoyed other books in the same genre?

Kind of. I’ve certainly read others in the YA Paranormal genre that I thought were better. For the most part though, I tend to lose patience quickly with this type of story, preferring instead adult urban fantasy. These YA books tend to lack grit and are usually more focused on the love story than anything else. That said, they can be fun reads and I’ve read a few I really enjoyed:


Did you have certain expectations before starting it?

JLB is responsible for one of my absolute favorite YA series – The Naturals. I was nervous picking up some of her earlier works, but figured the same basic quality would be there… no comment.

What ultimately made you stop reading?

We all have a few things that drive us absolutely bonkers in books. Two of my most prominent ones are endless dialogue/explanations and characters who make stupid decisions solely for the sake of advancing the plot. This book had those two things in abundance, and they effectively killed any interest I had in the other components. You would think with all the time the character spent explaining to the reader and other characters how things work, she would be bright enough to reason through her own decision-making. But the removal of common sense would put her in danger and, as that’s the only thing the plot relied on, it had to happen or there would be no book. I thought her reasoning behind hunting for the killer felt contrived and didn’t have the proper substance behind it to drive an entire plot.

It also suffered from a consistent lack of forward plot progression. What happened overall could’ve been condensed into a short story (which might have actually been quite good). But instead it was a long, drawn out novel of endless dialogue and info dumps. I think I dropped it around 85%… that’s harsh. It probably would’ve only taken me another 20 minutes to get through it.

I’m not even going to start ranting about the whole “the boy is my everything” trope that was also present because we’ll be here forever.

Was there anything you liked about Raised by Wolves?

Nothing. Usually I can set aside personal tastes and find some silver lining that might make it recommendable to certain types of readers, but not in this case.

Would you read anything else by this author?

An emphatic YES!!! All of the things I’ve criticized about this book were non-existent in her Naturals series. Nowadays, she’s such a proficient writer and so good at creating characters with substance and meaningful motivations that I’ll devour anything else she decides to publish. Every writer worth their ounce of ink improves on their craft with each novel. Quite frankly, the leap from this book to The Naturals is so extreme, I can hardly believe its from the same author. She teaches psychology at Yale (or at least, she did several years ago when I first discovered her), and her later works are always infused with fascinating tidbits from her field of study. It’s awesome.

*This nifty Q&A format is one I borrowed (with permission) from Nikki over at There Were Books Involved – thanks Nikki! 

by Niki Hawkes


Book Review: Burn Bright by Patricia Briggs

[March 6, 2018] Burn Bright by Patricia Briggs

Title: Burn Bright

Author: Patricia Briggs

Series: Alpha & Omega #5

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

The Overview: They are the wild and the broken. The werewolves too damaged to live safely among their own kind. For their own good, they have been exiled to the outskirts of Aspen Creek, Montana. Close enough to the Marrok’s pack to have its support; far enough away to not cause any harm.With their Alpha out of the country, Charles and Anna are on call when an SOS comes in from the fae mate of one such wildling. Heading into the mountainous wilderness, they interrupt the abduction of the wolf–but can’t stop blood from being shed. Now Charles and Anna must use their skills–his as enforcer, hers as peacemaker–to track down the attackers, reopening a painful chapter in the past that springs from the darkest magic of the witchborn… -Goodreads

The Review:

As Patricia Briggs is one of my favorite urban fantasy writers, I love that I have a new release from her to look forward to every year. Reading her books always feels like cuddling up with a warm fuzzy blanket when it’s snowing outside. Burn Bright was a nice installment in the Alpha & Omega series. Perhaps not quite as strong as the last couple of books, but still loads of fun all the same.

The positives were abundant: an interesting mystery to solve (one which I’m sure we’ll see repercussions from in the next Mercy book), plenty of Anna and Charles awesomeness (because their relationship dynamic is still one of my favorites), Marrok werewolf pack politics (a topic of which I never tire reading), and an easy flow of writing that absorbs you for a good ride. Essentially, all of the basics I’ve come to expect from a Briggs novel in abundance.

All that said, I wish the book could’ve had tighter pacing, most notably in the second half. The main story halted several times so other stories could be told and, while they were all interesting and completely relevant to the plot, they effectively killed any building momentum for me. It wasn’t a deal-breaker by any means (because the stories were good), but compared to the last two novels where the story practically careened towards the finish in a can’t-put-it-down-for-anything manner, Burn Bright was just okay in that regard.

Overall, anything Briggs produces is a good read, and this wasn’t an exception. I delighted in learning more about the dynamics within the Marrok’s pack (and especially loved the inclusion of Asil – one of the most interesting side characters in the saga). I love enigmas in books, and Briggs has several she’s been slowing revealing more about for years. It keeps me coming back with gusto!

Recommendations: I’m a huge fan of this series (and Patricia Briggs herself – you won’t meet a more gracious author) and would recommend them to both urban fantasy fans and those new to the genre. At this point, the link between the Alpha & Omega and Mercy Thompson books is strong enough that you should consider reading both series simultaneously by publication order to avoid major spoilers. Additionally, I would encourage you to pick up Shifting Shadows, a brilliant short story compilation, before diving in to Burn Bright.

I’d like to say a big thank you to Berkley Publishing Group, Patricia Briggs, and Netgalley for the chance to read and review an early copy of Burn Bright!

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by Niki Hawkes


Book Review: Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs

March 7, 2017

Title: Silence Fallen

Author: Patricia Briggs

Series: Mercedes Thompson #10

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Release Date: March 7, 2017

The Overview: Attacked and abducted in her home territory, Mercy finds herself in the clutches of the most powerful vampire in the world, taken as a weapon to use against alpha werewolf Adam and the ruler of the Tri-Cities vampires. In coyote form, Mercy escapes only to find herself without money, without clothing, and alone in the heart of Europe… Unable to contact Adam and the rest of the pack, Mercy has allies to find and enemies to fight, and she needs to figure out which is which. Ancient powers stir, and Mercy must be her agile best to avoid causing a war between vampires and werewolves, and between werewolves and werewolves. And in the heart of the ancient city of Prague, old ghosts rise…  -Goodreads

The Review:

Anything written by Patricia Briggs these days is pure gold. I always try to savor them (the year-long wait between books is brutal!), but always seem to find myself devouring pages like there’s no tomorrow! The Mercy Thompson series is the sort of guaranteed good read that leaves me no doubt I’m going to love every moment. Silence Fallen was another awesome book in a long line of killer novels.

Without giving anything important away, I think it’s safe to reveal that Silence Fallen takes place primarily in another country. It was a much-appreciated change of scenery. Briggs provided an immersive experience rich in history and vibrant and description. It was a lot of fun getting to explore new environments (notice I haven’t mentioned where? The discovery is part of the fun! You’ll have to read it to find out). My only hold up is that I thought historical facts could’ve been integrated a little bit smoother. Briggs utilized the character’s personal knowledge of the place a little too often to be believable. Seriously, are you really going to be able to recall tiny details about a place you learned about in passing years ago in college? I didn’t totally buy it, but that’s probably because I can’t remember what I did yesterday. :) Regardless of delivery, the description was incredibly well researched and made me feel like I was there. It was a new adventure filled with fun discoveries and interesting villains. 

Silence Fallen also offered multiple POVs, something I LOVED because I just can’t get enough of Adam Hauptman. His perspective adds so much richness to the story and I’m hoping it won’t be the last time he gets a moment in the spotlight.

Overall, Silence Fallen was packed with an awesome mix of supernatural, humor, romance, and action, topping itself off with one wallop of a surprise at the end that will knock you out of your armchair. If you haven’t given this series a try, you’re totally missing out!

I’d like to thank Berkley Publishing Group, Patricia Briggs, and NetGalley for the chance to read and review an early copy of Silence Fallen.

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by Niki Hawkes


Mini Book Review: Bloodrose by Andrea Cremer

Bloodrose by Andrea Cremer

Title: Bloodrose

Author: Andrea Cremer

Series: Nightshade #3

Genre: Teen Paranormal Romance

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

The Overview: Calla Tor wakes up in the lair of the Searchers, her sworn enemy, and she’s certain her days are numbered. But then the Searchers make her an offer–one that gives her the chance to destroy her former masters and save the pack–and the man–she left behind. Is Ren worth the price of her freedom? And will Shay stand by her side no matter what? Now in control of her own destiny, Calla must decide which battles are worth fighting and how many trials true love can endure and still survive. -Goodreads

The Mini Review:

Bloodrose provided the most adventure yet. Cremer used several exotic settings as hiding places for the mythical weapons the characters had to retrieve (which was probably my favorite part of the book). The seek and find adventure kept me engaged through most of it, and I thought the story escalated to a fitting climax. Although I admit I have mixed feelings about the story-ending itself.

There’s really not much left to add. As I mentioned in my reviews of Nightshade and Wolfsbane, the real beauty of this series are the characters and the fun dynamics they have with one another. All characters were written well, but there was one that I just could not stand – Shay (one of the love interests). Any scenes involving him set my teeth on edge and definitely stole a bit of my enjoyment for the story. This final book also had a lot of boy angst, which, although consistent with story, might have been a little too much for my tastes.

Overall, I’d recommend Nightshade series, but would take caution handing it to younger teens (it kind of encouraged underage sex). That said, it’s still one of the better teen werewolf books I’ve read and I definitely enjoyed Cremer’s writing style.

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by Niki Hawkes


Book Review: Wolfsbane by Andrea Cremer

wolfsbane by Andrea cremerTitle: Wolfsbane

Author: Andrea Cremer

Series: Nightshade #2

Genre: Teen Paranormal Romance

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

The Overview: Calla Tor wakes up in the lair of the Searchers, her sworn enemy, and she’s certain her days are numbered. But then the Searchers make her an offer–one that gives her the chance to destroy her former masters and save the pack–and the man–she left behind. Is Ren worth the price of her freedom? And will Shay stand by her side no matter what? Now in control of her own destiny, Calla must decide which battles are worth fighting and how many trials true love can endure and still survive. -Goodreads

The Review:

I read Nightshade as an ARC back before it was released in 2012 (and loved it). I’d always had the best intentions to continue on, but before I knew it the entire 6 book saga had been written and I’d gone from way ahead to laughably behind. So I reread the first book in 2014… then never got back to it again(:/). Anyway, I’m glad to finally be continuing on because it’s a fun series with memorable characters, a cool concept, and great writing.

The biggest take away from this book were the characters. I got the impression that Cremer had a lot of fun creating them. All the characters are interesting and well-rounded on their own, but the real brilliance is how they interact and build off of one another – the dynamics are a blast to read. This series is great because it gives equal attention to being both plot and character driven.  There were only a couple of places where I thought the dialogue might be trying too hard, but they were few and far between.

While Nightshade focused on the Guardians (the werewolves) and the Keepers (the authoritative magic-users), Wolfsbane dealt more with the Searchers (the anti-Keepers, for lack of a better description). I LOVED all the settings and stories involving the Searchers – they live in a glamorous academy/training facility where they learn how to use magic and fight (O_o!). Cool, right? But we really didn’t get to see more than a surface-level description of this place – I want to experience SO MUCH MORE!!! So hopefully (fingers crossed) the prequel series expands on it, otherwise what an opportunity wasted.

Okay, now for some boy talk: in most teen series, I find both options in a love triangle fairly equally appealing (say, 60/40). In this case, however, I CANNOT STAND SHAY. Like, at all. Here are my reasons:

  • He has little regard for Calla’s safety. I keep getting the impression that he’d be appropriately bummed if something happened to her, but clearly not enough to help prevent harm.
  • He’s possessive and jealous.
  • He doesn’t let her be independent and beats her up (figuratively) every time she tries to do anything on her own.
  • He encourages other girls to flirt with him, maintaining that oblivious “I didn’t know what was going on” facade.
  • In every interaction, he pushes for sex.

And then you have Ren who is loyal, unselfish, and protective without being overbearing. He has flaws to, but they aren’t in relation to how he treats Calla. Anyway, I think my point of this rant is, go team Ren. Also that I think my overall enjoyment of this series would increase if I liked Shay more than I do. It has been a bit difficult getting behind a romance I’m not feeling…I roll my eyes a lot, is all I’m saying.

Overall, Wolfsbane was a very entertaining sequel and I’m excited to see what happens next… Hopefully it won’t take me another couple of years to continue on, lol.

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by Niki Hawkes