[Book Review] Clocks, souls, and a bunch of pissed off werewolves

Shade Chaser by Clara Coulson

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In the last book, we had rookie detective Calvin Kinsey take on an ancient, angry god-entity as it tried to murder its way through Aurora, Michigan. In Shade Chaser, murder and mayhem are afoot once again. When the former mayor, prominent city witch, and a local ware wolf are found brutally murdered in the basement of a popular city bar, it’s up to Cal and his gang of elite investigators to unravel an interspecies conspiracy.

Things (and buildings) continue to explode all over the place. Bodies are discovered in unexpected places. Cal continues to make questionable life choices. Continue reading

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[Book Review] Urban fantasy, race politics, and werewolves

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Let’s talk urban fantasy.

“Too often in UF we get lip service to the idea of discrimination (or racism or sexism). If you look at the popular series, however, there is no in-depth analysis of it. Anita Blake, Elena, and Kitty are all non-human and are segregated out of the human society because of what they are, yet in their books we mostly see them functioning in a society where they are not the minority. Anita has (or had) one strict human friend, Elena had one human boyfriend, who she dumped, and Kitty has her family, but the werewolves and vampires get more play. The characters who are supposedly outsiders are actually part of the in-group of the novel. In those novels, in terms of characters, strict humans are the minority, and very rarely do central characters behave as if they have been effected by an -ism; they might have to hide, but outright discrimination doesn’t really seem to occur or should it, like in Kitty Takes a Holiday, it lacks depth.” (Chris from Goodreads)

I couldn’t have laid it out better myself, so I didn’t try. Chris was the Goodreads review angel who said Benighted by Kit Whitfield was different in its representation of “otherness.” I was convinced me to give the book a chance – and man, am I glad I did.

Since I finished it, it has skyrocketed to my short list of top reads, and is one of the few books I’ve reread. But before I get more into that, the plot:

In Benighted, being wholly human is a recessive gene. When the full moon rises, ninety-nine percent of the human population humans transform into lunes (werewolves), mindless, ferocious animals, wrecking havoc if left to their own devices. Those few born unable to change are the minority – often viewed with disgust and hostility for their disability.

Lola Galley is a veteran of the Department for the Ongoing Regulation of Lycanthropic Activities, an organization staffed by non-lunes that monitors the city during the full moon and is tasked with keeping order and capturing the lunes who break the law to roam free on full-moon nights. When Lola’s friend is attacked by a lune, and then murdered before the attacker can be brought to justice, Lola finds herself on the trail of a deadly conspiracy. Continue reading

Today’s Book Blurb: Wait, really?

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When Denver-based Were blogger and founder of Honoring of Werewolf Legacy (HOWL) Kate Stillman agrees to take on political “bad boy” Duncan MacDowell in a public debate about werewolf segregation, she’s confident she’ll sail through the challenge without letting down her guard.And what can go wrong while hanging out with the sexy Scottish founder of Werewolves Optimizing Our Future (WOOF) long enough to convince him his views on interspecies mating are mistaken?

– Werewolf in Denver (Wild About You #4) by Vicki Lewis Thompson

Those acronyms. Oh those acronyms.

Aside: Any bets on how she’ll win him to her cause? Philosophical discourse? Courteous debate? A five-point plan? A game of chess?

[Book Review] The only living werewolf girl in town

Full Blooded by Amanda Carlson

In the world of shapeshifter stories (and urban fantasy, in general), it’s pretty common for the female protagonist to be a rarity among her kind. This trope pretty much guarantees that the main character will have endless material for romantic subplots (and romantic angst) and a deep well of built-in turmoil.

They're endangered, and in danger!

They’re endangered, and in danger!

Full Blooded (Jessica McClain, #1)

So when I saw Full Blooded by Amanda Carlson had gone all the way to the extreme of the spectrum, I was curious. Werewolf Jessica McClain isn’t just rare – she’s the only female werewolf ever. This odd fact comes with a lot of baggage.

On the one hand, the werewolves think she’s the lupine version of the Antichrist. On the other hand, hiding the fact that she’s a werewolf from her kind and from regular humans is getting harder and harder. A disgruntled cop is stalking Jessica, trying to catch her doing something illegal so he can put her away for a couple dozen years, and Jessica’s wolf instincts keep waking up and telling her to eat people she doesn’t like. Oh, and she’s also a private detective to pay the bills. Continue reading

Top Five: Vampires and Werewolves

Happy Halloween, Canaries! It’s that time of year, and I bring you some fun werewolf and vampire stories. But this isn’t a top five of Anne Rice or Bram Stoker style classics. Here are those fun, action-packed, oft-time creepy, sometimes-romantic vampire and werewolf novels that might have slipped under your reading radar. Let’s start with the honorable mentions….

Honorable Halloween Mentions:

Blood Oath by Christopher Farnsworth

Nathaniel Cade was turned into a vampire in the year something-hundreds and then bound by a voodoo witch to serve the US President. Now he is a Secret Service agent, protecting the US against demons, witches, Frankenstein’s monsters and aliens.

This is a series written as if to be turned into a TV show, but it wins an honorable mention for the following excerpt:

“I thought vampires were sex gods with the ladies.”

Cade looked  at him. “What gave you that idea?”

“Uh, late night TV mostly…”

“Humans are our food. Do you want to have sex with a cow?”

Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

Years ago, Elena was bitten by someone she trusted. Now she’s a werewolf that lives in the city and refuses to have anything to do with her pack. Sitting squarely in the paranormal romance genre, this book stands out from the masses for the way it weaves together Elena’s struggle to come to grips with the fact that she will never be human enough for the human world she lives in.

The Sight by David Clement-Davies

While not a “werewolf” story per se, The Sight follows a pack of sentient wolves in the forests of Transylvania. Larka is born with the Sight–a trait that sets her apart from the other wolves and a trait she shares with Morgra, a wolf hell-bent on destroying Larka and her pack.

The novel combines prophecy, magic, and some heartbreaking adventure and creates what I can only call a Wolf Epic.

And now for the Top Five:

5. Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause

Having almost nothing in common with the 2007 movie of the same title, this YA novel follows Vivian, a young werewolf who is trying to deal with the death of her father, the confusion in her family, and a lone wolf trying to take over the pack. When she sees the very human Aiden sketching werewolves in his notebook  at school, she’s sure that she’s found someone who will finally understand her.

This novel sets itself apart from the many paranormal YA novels with their heavy handed romance plots; Klause takes a sober look at the divide that separates Vivian and Aiden. Sometimes, thinking you’re in love just isn’t enough.

4. Those Who Hunt the Night by Barbara Hambly

If you are a fan of historical fiction, this is the perfect addition to your shelf. Hambly brings the characters and the chilly London atmosphere to life.

“Oxford professor James Ahser, once an agent for the British government, is forced to help the vampires of Edwardian London, who are being destroyed one by one through exposure to sunlight as they lie sleeping in their coffins.” (From Publishers Weekly)

3. Glass Houses by Rachel Caine

The first installment of the Morganville Vampires series, this YA novel took me by surprise.  The pace of plot is relentless, but it never leaves the characters behind to wallow in their own personal stories.

Claire is a sixteen year old in her first semester at a university in Morganville and dreams of transferring out to MIT. But Morganville isn’t just a small backwater town and leaving is a whole lot harder that moving in.

“Run first,” Shane said. “Mourn later.”
It was the perfect motto for Morganville.

2. Sunshine by Robin McKinley

When I first saw this book on the shelves in ’03, I couldn’t believe my eyes. McKinley? Writing a vampire romance novel? Oh me of little faith. McKinley could rewrite the phone book and make it enthralling.

A cook at the local bakery, Sunshine has a boyfriend, and wonderful friends and family. But her life turns upside down when she goes off to find some quiet time by the lake…

“They took her clothes and sneakers. They dressed her in a long red gown. And they shackled her to the wall of an abandoned mansion-within easy reach of a figure stirring in the moonlight.” (Amazon book description)

McKinley’s keen ear for style and attention to character detail brings this story to life in a way that I haven’t seen for a long long time.

1. Agyar by Steven Brust

In a word, creepy.

But I am not going to tell you about the plot, because this is a book best served cold, without preamble. So check it out!

What are your favorite vampire or werewolf reads? 

[ Book Review ] Girl Meets Wolf, Girl Kicks Butt

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs

(first in the Mercy Thompson series)

The book started off with the kind of strength I’m not used to seeing in the Paranormal Rom– err, I mean, in the Urban Fantasy genre. Mercedes (Mercy) Thompson is a young woman making her living as a mechanic, when a homeless kid asks her for a job. The catch?–he’s a half-starved werewolf.

From the very beginning, the novel sets out a fantastic tableau of potential. Mercy is a coyote walker (like werewolf, but without any of the downsides), courtesy of the Native American blood of a father she never met. She is also the girl who dodges her foster mother’s invitations to come home for Thanksgiving; Mercy doesn’t fit into that normal world, no matter how much she used to wish she did. The world she does fit in is that of the werewolves and it keeps encroaching on Mercy’s life in its patriarchal and uncompromising way. She left her pack to get away from that–that, and the stark truth behind a teenage romance with a werewolf.

As the story moves forward, it’s clear Briggs isn’t afraid of kicking my assumptions in the shins. Characters I liked were killed, situations I did not foresee happened, and all at a quick and engaging pace. My euphoria at having found a solid character lasted me through the first half of the book and well into the second before a niggling suspicious set in, “I feel like I’ve done this before.”

Continue reading