Monday, April 25, 2011

The Wolf Age by James Enge

I just finished The Wolf Age by James Enge.

My Rating: ★★★★

I love werewolf books. I'm not sure what it is about them, but of all the shifters I find wolves the neatest. This book is unique because, unlike almost all current lycanthrope books, it's not an urban fantasy. It's a true sword-and-(kinda)-sorcery fantasy. Almost the entire book takes place in a werewolf city. What a concept. I'd never read anything like it. I loved it!

It also happens to be the third in a series and I haven't read the first two (whoops – serves me right for buying a book simply because the cover's cool). Thankfully, it stands alone. Besides the main character, Morlock, only one other person shows up from the previous books, and they're history is well explained. Although it takes awhile to grasp Morlock's abilities and personalities, it does not distract from the story.

Pros -

Werewolves. Lots and lots of werewolves. In fact, except of Morlock and a few nameless others, all the characters were werewolves. And Enge made them such a unique blend of werewolves! Some were “standard” ones, others were forever stuck in one of the shapes, or in some strange blend of the two (i.e. wolfish face but human legs). And they thought like werewolves! Thank you, Enge! One of my biggest pet peeves is when a non-humans act just like we do. These had their own culture, their own language, history, etc. It was great.

Morlock was a truly unique hero. I really can't begin to describe all the quirks to him. He uses a magic sword, but not the typical kind. And, although he does use magic, it's almost like he's an inventor or a scientist. He makes things, several times using trial and error. In fact, the werewolves call him a maker (I don't know if that's a common term for his type of magic, or if it's just used by the wolves). He's definitely not the Gandalf-type of mage, yelling incantations at his foes. Nor was he perfect and all powerful. He made mistakes. He managed to be superhuman, and all too human at the same time. I couldn't wait to see what he'd do next.

Cons -

The writing took a bit to understand. The first chapter was told from the perspective of the Strange Gods. Since they're gods, they don't “speak,” they “signify.” They indicate emotions. Enge actually writes it like that. “Death indicated indifference and readiness to begin...” I had to force my way through the first chapter with no idea of what was happening, as War, Death, Wisdom, and others signified to each other what they thought might happen and what should happen. It got better once I got the hang of it. But I'll be honest, at first I was baffled.

The names. Oh my, the names. I get that they're werewolves, and their names are similar to Native American names, where they tell you something about the person. But, holy moly, the names here were a mouthful. Some examples: Khretvarrgliu, Iuiolliniu, Yaarirruuiu, Luyukioronu, etc, etc, etc. It goes on and on. Several times I got confused who was who. And I didn't even try to pronounce any of them.

The ending. Most of the book was supurb, then the ending just … fizzled out. For most of the novel, we follow one main plot line. That resolved approxiamately 2/3rds of the way through. Then another minor plot, which had barely been touched upon up until that point and that Morlock had no knowledge of, suddenly became the main struggle. And a mysterious figure is revealed … and he's very disappointing. Everything seemed very scattered. It just got weird.

Even with the weirdness of the ending, I really enjoyed this book. I think anyone who enjoys unique cultures will love this and it's a must-read for any werewolf lover.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Greywalker by Kat Richardson

Greywalker (Greywalker, #1)Greywalker by Kat Richardson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this one. I've heard a lot of good talk about it, and I'm pleasantly surprised that I liked it too. So many times I've been disappointed with books that the “masses” suggest. This is a new and unique concept for urban fantasy. I can honestly say I haven't read another one at all similar to this. The protagonist, Harper Blaine, dies in the first few pages but is recessitated. This brush with death allows her to see the place between life and death: the Grey.


Unique main character and ability. This isn't the first UF to deal with ghosts (the Downside Ghosts series comes to mind), but it makes its own niche in the genre. Harper is truly an everyday person thrust into a role she does not want, nor does she enjoy it. Her new world is a scary place, and she reacts realistically. I'm tired of hero(ine)s, that are martial arts experts or gunslingers. Harper does use a gun but only in self-defense. She was amazingly realistic and believable. I loved reading about her.

The little things. Richardson does a surpurb job bringing her characters and her world to life. Harper is a private investigator, but Richardson gives us an authentic view of that job: the paperwork, endless calling around, the little things a real P.I. has to deal with. So many authors choose a PI character, then write constant action scenes and shootouts. While paperwork sounds boring to read about, somehow it wasn't. It gave greater depth to this already well-done book.


Confusing descriptions. A lot of the Grey, by necessity of its nature, is written abstractly. But it was hard to keep track of what was happening. I had to re-read several paragraphs to follow the story. And occasionaly the metaphors were … odd. On the first page, Richardson mentions a sledgehammer fist. For several paragraphs later, I thought that Harper had been struck by a sledgehammer, not a fist like a sledgehammer. It distracted me, having to re-read passages because of metaphors or the abstract nature of the Grey.

Lots and lots of side characters. I like a supporting cast, but I lost track of who was who a few times. At one point, Harper refers to “Steve.” I had completely forgotten these character and had no idea who he was.

In the climatic end, I wish Harper had done more. She plans it, but didn't participate much. Eventually, she causes the turn in the battle, but not by design. In the rest of the book, she is the center of everything, just not that last scene. I hope in later ones, she does more.

Despite my occasionaly confusion, I truly enjoyed Greywalker. I recommend it to all Urban Fantasy readers. Enjoy!

View all my reviews

To Read

I got approved for two more books from NetGalley. Now I just need to choose which to start first!

The first is Feast: Harvest of Dreams by Merrie Destefano. The next is Frost Moon (Skindancer #1) by Anthony Francis.

Eenie, meenie, miney, moe ...

Also, I'm starting Wolf Age by James Enge. This one's in paperback, while my NetGalley books are ebooks. Sadly, I don't actually have an e-reader, except on my laptop, and I can't take that everywhere.

I'll post reviews when I finish!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Bite Me by Parker Blue

Originally posted here.

I just finished Bite Me by Parker Blue, the first book in the Demon Underground series.

My Rating: ★★★

I received this book as a free Advanced Reader's Copy from NetGalley to review.

I enjoyed this book, although I've had a hard time deciding why. It's been labeled as a book "in-between" Young Adult and regular adult Urban Fantasy, but it is truly pure Young Adult. The writing style practically screams it. It's also appears to be a homage to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, one of my favorite TV shows of all time (but without creator Joss Whedon's trade mark humor). In several scenes, the heroine Val is referred to as "the Slayer," even though she did not ask to be.

Pros -

A quick, entertaining read. Like most YA books, it focuses more on the action and dialog than descriptions. Yet it's engaging enough that I flew through it.

The Buffy angle. As a Buffy fan, several parts reminding me so much of the show that I felt nostalgic. The very first scene could have been straight from it.

Cons -

Everything comes to Val a little too easily. The author tries to explain it later, but I like more struggle from my protagonists. For goodness sakes, Val is thrown out of her house, but very quickly lands on her feet: she gets a job perfect for her abilities, she runs into sympathetic side characters, a personal conflict is solved rather quickly then all is forgiven, and let's not forget the final battle. It's almost if the author was afraid to make her suffer too much.

The dog was kind of cute, but I like my non-humans to act like non-humans. He made a few doggish comments, but most of it seemed rather normal. He even called her "Babe" on several occasions. And what's with the caps lock speech? Every time he spoke, the author used all caps.

Unbelievable parts. This ties into the "everything's a little too easy" comment above. There were more than a few moments that just were not realistic. Even in my Urban Fantasy, I like it believable.

No suspense. There was no immediate sense of urgency, where I really worried about any of the characters. Sure, someone close to her is in danger, but it just never felt that compelling.

Blah vampires. They were not interesting, or threatening, or even creepy. Yes, some of them attacked and killed people, but they could have easily been strong humans. Nothing set them apart, made them unique.

Several of the "Cons" above would normally make me put it aside, but despite itself, I enjoyed this one. Are the similarities to Buffy enough to ignore its other flaws? For me, apparently, yes. And everything comes down to the most important aspect of a book; did I enjoy it? I did.

Phoenix Rising by Philippa Ballantine

Originally posted here.

I received Phoenix Rising as an Advanced Readers Copy to review.

My Rating: ★★

I made it almost a third of the way through before I had to stop reading it. I didn't hate it, I just couldn't get into it. It read like an action movie, fighting and an over-the-top protagonist, but no character development. At the part that I quit, the plot was thin and did not engage me at all. There was no urgency to it.


The writing sounded authentic for the time period and setting. At the beginning of each chapter there is a blurb that goes like this, "Chapter xxx: In which our hero...". It added a nostalgic feel to the writing. The setting and details drew you into that era.


Flat characters. As noted above, one of the protagonists (the female agent) could have been pulled straight from an action movie. She's an expert in weapons and combat, loves to get into trouble, does things her way (read: blows things up, or lets her pistols/fists fly) and, all in all, completely unbelievable. She has no depth, no explanation as to why she has all these skills. By the time I stopped reading, I knew about as much about her as I did in the first chapter. Oh, and she's rich. I was left wondering how/why a well-to-do lady around the Victorian era would be like her? The other main character was more believable, acting like a gentleman of that time period, but still there is very little of his motivations revealed. Neither did any of the few side characters stand out in any way.

The authors tried for a smart-ass, wise cracking heroine. But she came off as mean, bitchy and self-centered. There's a fine line between sarcastic-funny and sarcastic-annoying.

The vocabulary, while authentic sounding, also confused me in several spots. Perhaps the authors are English, and they used words we don't hear in the States, or maybe they assumed that anyone reading steampunk would know those terms, but I had problems following what was happening. I had to re-read several sections, which was very frustrating.

Along with the confusing vocabulary, the writing was disjointed in several scenes. For example, the female agent would raise her weapon, and her target dies. However, at no point do we see her firing the weapon. That lead to more re-reading on my part. Again, frustrating.

I'm not sure who to recommend this book for. If they can get past the frustrating writing, action movie fans might enjoy this. Just don't expect much depth.
Originally posted here.

I just finished River Marked by Patricia Briggs. This is the sixth book of the Mercy Thompson series.

My Rating: ★★★

I love the Mercy Thompson books, so I went into this one with high expectations. And it was good; it just wasn't great.


It's a Mercy Thompson book. That alone put it on my instant read list. I adore Mercy's world and the characters within. Briggs has created a truly wonderful and enjoyable universe for us to enjoy.

As always in this series, Briggs displays her strength as a great author. I don't remember any scene that I had to re-read or puzzle through. She paints such a vivid picture with her words that I barely noticed that I was reading. It felt like I was there.

Great characters. Really, do I need to say more?


River Marked takes Mercy (and one other major character) out of the Tri-Cities and away from the pack, her friends, etc. It's missing (or there was only very brief appearances of) several side characters we've come to love. Her characters are so interesting that I missed them. Their absence lessened my enjoyment of this book. We meet new minor characters, but the rapport I had with the others is not there.

I found one scene unnecessary and particularly disturbing. ((SPOILER)) Did Briggs need to have the scenes with the children? Yes, I know it was for emotional impact, but I have a personal problem with parents (real or in fiction) killing their children. I understand she was controlled, but it truly disturbed me. Too many times in real life, parents (or people in a position of trust) have murdered children. Before I had my daughters that sort of news saddened me, but now it horrifies me. Thinking about those scenarios bothers me for days sometimes. I did not enjoy reading it, albeit in fiction.((END SPOILER))

I enjoyed River Marked, but it is not the best Mercy Thompson book.

Grimspace by Ann Aguirre

Originally posted here.

Last month, I got my hands on a copy of Grimspace by Ann Aguirre.

My Review: ★★★★

I really enjoyed this one. It's a very gritty, down and dirty narrative. The author writes as Jax thinks it: incomplete sentences, self-deprecitating comments, smart-ass thoughts. Unlike several "smart-ass" heroines, I really got a sense of Jax. And a huge point in her favor, I never wished she'd just shut up. Some authors try for smart-ass, and only get bitchy or whiney. Ann Aguirre pulls Jax off wonderfully. Jax isn't perfect. Far from it. There are several occasions where she points out how broken she is. It works. Jax is an engaging person to read about, and care for.

I wish Aguirre had added a few more descriptions, especially with the few aliens we're introduced to. One, the Morguts, I didn't have any real mental picture of at all. Other times, the narration lost me and I didn't quite understand how Jax made certain jumps in logic.

The story's not terribly original: big, bad corporation has a nasty secret; good guys (don't realise it for most of the book but) know the secret and are moving to stop the corporation; things go from bad to worse; etc, etc, you know the rest. Yes, it's a great story. I enjoyed reading it. But unfortunately, it's not all that original. I had a real good idea how they were going to win at the end. I was right.

I really liked this book and recommend it, although it's not for hard-core sci-fi readers. Too many little details glossed over. It focuses more on the action, than the science. I will read the rest of the series.

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

Originally posted here on March 6, 2011.

As part of a "Book of the Month" read, I read The Iron King by Julie Kagawa.

My Review: ★★★★

This is a very entertaining read. I enjoyed the introduction of the Iron Fey. It was a new and unique concept (although I admit I haven't read many fey books). The earlier parts, before the iron fey come in, are similar to other books involving the fey realm. The adventure's different but with similar themes. It doesn't truly grow into its own book until the iron fey show up. They were wonderfully unique.

The characterization was weak. It didn't really take much away from the book, but the chacters (other than Meghan) needed more fleshing out. The rulers of the courts (the Iron King included) had no depth to them. Not a huge loss, except with the Iron King. He was a disappointing antagonist, his goals linear and predictable. He needed more depth. Ash and Robbie had hints of personality, but stayed within their archtypes: one a sexy warrior, the other a prankster. The relationship between Ash and Meghan irked me. I have an old pet peeve about characters falling in love because one is hot. There was no personal chemistry there (just physical). Meghan had a much deeper and stronger history with Robbie. Meghan was believeable, although I never really connected with her I still liked her. By far, Grimalkin was my favorite. Best line ever, "I am a cat." How very cat-like. I laughed at that.

Even with the just-okay characters, this is still worth reading. I'll pick up the next one.

Full Moon Rising by Keri Arthur

This was originally posted on my LiveJournal blog on March 6th, 2011.

I read Full Moon Rising, the first Riley Jenson novel, by Keri Arthur awhile back.

My Review: ★★

I'm not sure I can give a fair review on this one. It's not my type of book (more sex than story). I got it free, however, so I gave it a try. I had to put it down for several months, and only finished it because I was between library books, waiting for the next one to come in.

This one's for those who enjoy sex, sex and then maybe some more sex. I found the reason for the constant sex scenes (I couldn't call them love scenes) to be thin and manufactured, an obvious excuse to add more body on body action and unnecessary for the storyline.

The world was interesting (except for the constant sex), and the plot was okay. Keri Arthur wrote well, I just didn't enjoy the subject. Normally any book I put down automatically rates one star, but I'm giving this one some leeway because it's not my type of book. I will not be reading any more of this series.


Hello and welcome to Urban Fantasies Read & Review! I am an avid reader, and a regular reviewer on Goodreads. I post my reviews on my LiveJournal blog, but decided to make a normal blog for them. I'm going to repost some of my old reviews here, so prepare yourselves for an info-dump of reviews. I hope you enjoy my blog!