Darkness Unbound

Born from a lab-enhanced clone mother and an Aedh father, Risa Jones can not only talk to the souls of the dying and the dead, but she can see reapers and walk the grey fields that divide this world from the next.

They are skills she rarely uses, however preferring to concentrate on the business she runs with her friends. But when her mother asks her to help the parents of a little girl locked in a coma, she reluctantly agrees. What she discovers terrifies her: someone has ripped the girl’s soul from her flesh.

As it turns out, a creature consuming the souls of the innocent – and not so innocent – is the least of her problems. Because someone wants to rip open the gates that divide hell from earth, and Risa is a key component in their plans.

And the only person standing between her and disaster is a reaper who isn’t exactly on her side.

We last saw Risa as a child in the Riley Jensen guardian books. In this she is all grown up and like her “aunt” Riley she can be bad ass when she chooses to be! She has resisted all attempts to join the directorate and prefers spending time with her friends running her business.

Keri has created a very likeable heroine here; one who can look after herself yet shows a healthy fear when confronted by dangerous situations. She is not all gung ho and has heard enough about Riley’s life as a guardian to steer well clear of things, or at least try to!

It was great to catch up with Riley, Quinn et al, we only get glimpses of their life now but it is just enough to avoid taking the limelight from the real heroine – Risa.

There is of course the romantic interest – I suspect there may be 2 ‘men’ who will feature significantly in future books. One thing is sure by the end of this book, we know life will never be the same for Risa.

I loved this book, even more I think than the Riley Jensen books. I will be eagerly anticipating the rest of the series.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Keri Arthur
  • Series: Dark Angels (1)
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Bound to Shadows

A beheaded vampire is found outside a Melbourne vampire club and an already testy Riley is sent in to investigate.  As the body count starts rising, Riley has her work cut out for her to find out who, or what, is behind the murders.  With civilities between the local vampire and human population breaking down it’s only a matter of time before violence breaks out.  Dante Starke, the owner of the club is a vampire with an aura that makes even a Guardian nervous, but Riley has to get answers.  Two human women are found dead in their beds, with no discernible cause of death and Riley feels there is somehow a link.  How or why is something she has to figure out, even with the distraction of her hated soul-mate Kye making a reappearance.

I’ve hugely enjoyed the previous books in the Riley Jenson Guardian series.  They are easy to read, exciting, erotic and action packed yet Bound to Shadows takes it to the next level.  The emotions inherent throughout the book seemed more real, more tangible.  Fear, rage, lust, love and sorrow and the latter is what got me in the end.  It made me cry.  Without spoiling anything, the big kick in the gut was something I knew might happen and something I knew had to happen but the way that whole section was written was just perfect, right to the last word.

Riley is definitely up there as one of my favourite urban fantasy heroines.  Conflicted often by her half-vampire, half-wolf soul, she tries to do the best she can for each but also stay true to herself.  She’s fierce in everything she does whether it’s loving or fighting and while diplomacy might not be her best trait, she achieves what she needs to sometimes at the cost of herself.  Brilliantly and consistently written.

I loved that we saw more of Quinn in this book and the bond that is between him and Riley.  They are a great foil for each other and while you learn more of his history and how powerful he can be, I sense that there is a lot more to come and it won’t necessarily sit well with Riley.

I still love the interactions with her twin brother Rhoan and his mate Liander, they make a great couple and the big question they ask Riley, something she never thought would be possible brought a tear to my eye.

I can’t really say much more (and I really want to!) without spoiling it so I will just say this; Bound to Shadows – Read it… just read it.

If you are new to the series then get started as this is book 8,  Find ‘Full Moon Rising’ and get going!

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Book Information
  • Author: Keri Arthur
  • Series: Riley Jenson, Guardian (8)
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Recommendations: Sherrilyn Kenyon

Sherrilyn Kenyon is one of the pioneers of supernatural romance.  I’ve loved her work right from the first book I read and she remains one of my absolute favourite authors.  Her characterisations and stories are amazing and I have no idea how she keeps the plotline running through 19+ books but she does and and the results are outstanding.

So what do you do when you have devoured everything she has written?  Here are some recommendations for other authors in the same genre or with a similar style who I also love, and hopefully you might too!

J. R. Ward

Another author with a long running series, who has an amazing ability to bring her characters to life and into your hearts.  Features vampires, hot men and sassy women, who could ask for more?

The following authors also write supernatural romance/urban fantasy but they are not quite as epic in scope as Sherrilyn Kenyon or J. R. Ward.

Keri Arthur

Keri Arthur’s ‘Riley Jensen’ Series are a great addition to the genre, with a gutsy, sexy heroine who is half-werewolf, half-vampire.  The ‘Nikki and Michael’ vampire series has action as well as romance and the ‘Damask Circle Trilogy’ are definitely recommended reading too.

Patricia Briggs

For some werewolf love, Patricia Briggs brings the ‘Mercy Thompson’ Series to life and  is an excellent, engaging, action packed read.  Recently she has started on the ‘Alpha and Omega’ series from the same world, with two great characters who started out in a short story and are proving just as engaging.  Lighter on the romance side than Kenyon but the story makes up for it.

Karen Chance

The ‘Cassie Palmer’ clairvoyant series has a bit of mystery going on, even with the numerous supernatural elements and makes for an exciting, sometimes heated mix. In addition to the main series, Karen Chance has recently begun a spin off series featuring the daughter of one of the main cast, which is shaping up to be a good read.

Kelley Armstrong

The ‘Otherworld’ series is going from strength to strength and Kelley Armstrong has a great way of telling stories through different character’s viewpoints.  It starts with werewolves in Bitten and goes through several great characters who are witches, demons, sorcerors and necromancers.  I love how she crosses their paths with other characters and often sets up the scene for following books as minor plots in the current one.

Rachel Caine

Two excellent series so far – ‘The Weather Wardens’ and their abilities to control the elements along with the enigmatic Djinn and her Young Adult series ‘The Morganville Vampires’.  Both are excellent reads and highly recommended.

Kim Harrison

Witches, vampires, pixies oh my!  The ‘Rachel Morgan’ series is a  good solid read, inspired titles, humerous at times yet has its extremely poignant moments.  Fast paced, full of action and definitely one to read.

Karen MacInerney

‘Tales of an Urban Werewolf’ are an easy, interesting and fun series to read.  Doesn’t take itself too seriously but packs a punch when it needs to.

Carrie Vaughn

The brilliant ‘Kitty’ series (a misnomer since it’s about werewolves) just keeps getting better and Carrie Vaughn brings kick ass Kitty to life with style and panache.

If you have any other authors or books you feel would be enjoyed by people who loved Sherrilyn Kenyon, feel free to comment on this article with your recommendations.

Circle of Fire

I love authors who can create several series around a central theme, Keri Arthur’s being the Damask Circle Organisation.

Circle of fire is the first book in a new series and while similar to the Michael and Nikki books has all new characters except for a few appearances of the enigmatic Seline, who seems to run the Damask Circle.

It centres around Madeline Smith, a recluse whose gifts have driven her to refuse contact with anyone for fear of hurting them, and the mysterious Jon Barnett who manages to contact her out of the blue, needing urgent help.  He’s investigating sixteen missing children, snatched from their homes in the night and twelve bodies found, each drained of blood, Jon knows something very old and evil is at work.  Madeline is scared of leaving the house but when her beloved nephew is also snatched, she overcomes her fear, rescues Jon and they have a race against time to find the others before anyone else dies.   What follows is also a sweet story of two damaged people falling in love and desperately wanting to believe in it, to trust, but fearing it’s probably the worst thing they could do.

Keri Arthur continues to intrigue me, she has such an easy style of writing but manages to produce a plot that sucks you in and keeps you reading.  As I’ve said before in other reviews of her work, it’s the characters she creates that really make the book a cut above the rest.  They are flawed, gifted, and emotional and you can identify with them so easily, you care about them almost from the first page.

I think Circle of Fire is more of a murder/mystery than the others have been, albeit in an urban fantasy setting and that appeals to the crime book lover in me also.

If you come to read this book and I do highly recommend it, I wonder if you will also go ‘noooo’ at the same point I did near the end.  Do let me know!

With two more novels in this trilogy to come, I don’t know if they are with the same characters, but I still can’t wait to read them.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Keri Arthur
  • Series: Damask Circle Trilogy (1)
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Since Gabriel Stern has made it abundantly clear he neither wants nor needs Sam Ryan as a partner, she succeeds in being reassigned only to get a bodyguard detail. The downside is, the man she is assigned to isn’t the real person, he’s a clone and people linked to the base of Hopeworth keep dying.  With confusing hints about her childhood and where she came from appearing at random intervals and the mysterious Joe Black who claims to be a friend but her senses say otherwise, will the truth finally come out?  With her abilities continuing to develop at a rapid pace, Sam fears she is no longer human, if she even was to start with.  All answers seem to lead back to the ex-military project known as Penumbra.

This is the third book in the Spook Squad series and it continues the story nicely.  Sometimes in a series, each book stands alone with just the main characters linking them, but Keri Arthur has integrated the storyline seamlessly across the three books.  As far as I can tell it was promoted as a trilogy but the story seems far from over.  You get a lot of the answers you seek but it’s lacking aftermath and a few things like her attraction with Gabriel Stern are left unexplored.  There is also one huge thing left to resolve but I won’t mention it here as it would be a major spoiler.  Maybe that was the intention but it felt unfinished so I am hoping there are more books in the works.  Again, the characters made the story for me, I love Sam and her ‘I can take care of myself’ attitude which she can even back up.  I still want to smack Gabriel occasionally but he is getting easier to deal with, as emotions he has long had locked away start coming out.  All three books have been very entertaining and as I said, I hope there will be more!

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Keri Arthur
  • Series: Spook Squad (3)
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Generation 18

Sam Ryan, now an agent for the Special Investigations Unit and partner of the reluctant Gabriel Stern investigates a series of murders.  Time is of the essence as a new victim turns up every twelve hours.  At first the victims seem unrelated but soon they discover it all seems to tie in with a military base called Hopeworth.  When hints about Sam’s mysterious history start appearing, could she be tied in with it all and why.  As her burgeoning talents continue to develop it seems more important than ever to discover where she came from.  Gabriel frustratingly still refuses to work with her as a full partner and tries to keep her in the dark but as he suspects, Sam isn’t too happy about it.

This is the second book in the Spook Squad series and I enjoyed it just as much as the first.  It’s fresh, interesting and engaging and I like the characters a lot.  You do want to smack Gabriel at times for his obtuseness but you do also understand why he is reluctant to take on a partner again.  The chemistry between them is strong and you get tantalising glimpses of what could be but evidently it’s not meant to be.  Doesn’t stop you wanting it to happen though.  I also like the way Sam deals with everything with an admirable matter of factness, each new task or obstacle thrown at her she just shoulders it and gets on with the job.  I find my heart aching for her at times, wanting her to have the answers she needs but I’m not sure she will be able to cope with what they might turn out to be.  Hopefully all will be revealed in the next book!

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Keri Arthur
  • Series: Spook Squad (2)
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Kiss the Night Goodbye

Continuing the story of Nikki and Michael, as they prepare for their wedding, only one obstacle stands in their way.  Nikki must pass the Circle’s final test.  Using her skills and psychic talents she must face a number of adversaries and beat them.  Only then will she receive permission to marry her Vampire.  When one of the foes tries to kill her in earnest, the circle realises something is very wrong and Nikki and Michael are thrown in at the deep end, facing something far worse than marriage.

This is the fourth book in the Nikki and Michael series and is as good a read as the others.  I like the characters of Nikki and Michael and it’s been good watching them evolve from the first book, starting as two very different individuals to the current novel where they make an exceptional team.  You feel the love they have for each other is very strong and believable, even when things aren’t going their way or they are at odds with each other.  Above all you care what happens to them very much.  Keri Arthur’s writing style is very smooth, easy to read and absorbing and I found it hard to put the book down until I’d finished.  I’m not sure if there will be another book in this series but I certainly hope so, I like the characters too much to say goodbye.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Keri Arthur
  • Series: Nikki and Michael (4)
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Chasing the Shadows

Since the beginning of their relationship, vampire Michael has wanted to keep Nikki safe, and to do that he has to keep her apart from his working life with The Circle.  As a private investigator Nikki knows that sometimes you can’t protect someone by keeping them ignorant or keep them safe without smothering them and this often leads to heated arguments.  When her partner Jake is asked to look into the disappearance of a friend’s wife, she is more than ready to show Michael she can take care of herself and heads to San Francisco.  Unfortunately Michael is asked to do the same thing by The Circle which means there is a lot more going on than kidnapping for money and as the body count rises he is determined to keep Nikki out of it.  With her psychic abilities increasing from being a thrall and being able to find and connect with the victims she is drawn ever deeper and soon realises she may have to make a choice.  All or nothing with Michael.

This is the fourth book in the Nikki and Michael Vampire series and it’s a good one.  Even though sometimes Michael’s chauvinistic tendencies make me want to smack him, his reasoning is good and Keri Arthur’s superb characterisations let you see the argument from both sides and the deep emotions behind them.  Nikki gives as good as she gets though so you don’t have to smack her either for giving in to him.  I also like that for both of them, their abilities aren’t without limit and can have consequences that are often very painful.  Nikki’s business partner Jake is as acerbic as ever and it was good to see him back in the game proving that being a human amongst thralls and vampires doesn’t mean you aren’t capable of holding your end up in a tough situation.  The plot was good, if a little simplistic but I don’t think it actually needed to be any more complicated, it would have detracted a lot from the emotions running alongside it all.  The ending of the book did come as a complete surprise and it did make me cry, so be warned, you may need tissues!

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Keri Arthur
  • Series: Nikki and Michael (3)
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Memory Zero

Samantha Ryan is a Melbourne State cop that has no memory of her childhood or her parents, the only thing she has is a child’s drawing of a woman with ‘Mummy’ written underneath.  Things start falling apart when her partner Jack, tries to kill her and weird things start happening around her… and to her.  When Gabriel Stern, a shapechanger of the Special Investigations Unit gets involved, she realises there is more going on than a cop gone rogue and she is right in the middle of it.

I really like Keri Arthur’s work in general, it’s exciting, easy to read and she is very good at creating characters you love and care about.  But after reading and being a bit disappointed with Deadly Desire, I picked this up fully expecting to feel the same way.  It’s the first book in a new series and I have to say it was really good.  Maybe the freshness of all new characters and settings helped but everything felt just right.  The plot was pretty good, if a little twisty at times but the pace of answers being revealed was just right and kept you reading, trying to guess what was going on.  I loved the main characters, Samantha being the one who stands out the most.  Definately not a heroine who gets dropped in the deep end and flounders, waiting for the guy to come and save her.  She can hold her own and I think that worked really well with the character of Gabriel who is alternately confused then impressed by her.  The end of the book felt very unfinished so I really hope there is a second book in the works or I will be left forever wondering.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Keri Arthur
  • Series: Spook Squad (1)
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Deadly Desire

Life is never normal for Riley Jenson.  Being a rare hybrid of vampire and werewolf she often finds her dual natures at odds with each other, often wanting or needing different things.. or people.  Add in her Guardian duties for the Directorate, a role which she never wanted in the first place and it fast becomes a pain in the ass.  When strange murders of both humans and vampires start happening, it’s up to Riley to find out if there is a link and if so, to stop the killer.  But how does the mysterious and annoying Kye Murphy fit into it.  With the Moon’s heat rushing through her, can she focus enough to solve the murders before any more victims turn up.

This is the 7th Book in the Riley Jenson series and I have enjoyed the previous five a great deal.  They are gritty, fast paced, exciting and also quite erotic at times.  However, I’m not really sure what the problem is with this one.  I found it hard to get into the flow of it, kept putting it down to do other things but I did persevere and it was worth it in the end.  The plot was quite good, the characters consistent but it wasn’t really until the second half of the book when it finally engages you.  It almost felt like Keri Arthur had grown a bit tired of the series and nearly produced a book by the numbers, the saving grace being that she does write very well and her characters are interesting and for the most part lead you to care about them.

As a ‘just OK’ book is the exception rather than the rule for Keri Arthur, I would definitely read the next one as I do want to find out how Riley adapts to the new changes in her life.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Keri Arthur
  • Series: Riley Jenson, Guardian (7)
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