Friday, 28 September 2012

Hello Blog!'s it going? I've neglected you, I know, I'm a terrible blogger.

Something tragic has happened. I have finally become so jaded, so very bitter about the endless stream of shite being published under the umbrella term of "Urban Fantasy" that I can no longer look the genre in the eye. I really can't. It's 99.9% paranormal romance pond slime and I'm just too tired to keep looking for the .01% of awesome anymore.

The straw that broke the camel's back for me was reading The Dark Heroine...and thinking of how the author got a 6 fix advance on it. 6 bloody figures...for lovesick teenage drivel. It's just...I mean, obviously that must be what the masses want, and I just don't fit in with the masses. To me, it's pitiful. I feel like the kid who was convinced the emperor wasn't wearing any clothes.

I have a good friend, who's massively into Epic Fantasy. Now in the past I've never got into it, but she's seen me weep over my crappy book options a few times and has persuaded me to try something by some George RR Martin fella. So I'll give that a go. And if it's any good, maybe I'll wander back to book blogging a happy chappy.

..if not...God knows!!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

The Last Werewolf: Glen Duncan

Meet Jake. A bit on the elderly side (he turns 201 in March), but you'd never suspect it. Nonstop sex and exercise will do that for you--and a diet with lots of animal protein. Jake is a werewolf, and after the unfortunate and violent death of his one contemporary, he is now the last of his species. Although he is physically healthy, Jake is deeply distraught and lonely. Jake's depression has carried him to the point where he is actually contemplating suicide--even if it means terminating a legend thousands of years old. It would seem to be easy enough for him to end everything. But for very different reasons there are two dangerous groups pursuing him who will stop at nothing to keep him alive. Here is a powerful, definitive new version of the werewolf legend--mesmerising and incredibly sexy. In Jake, Glen Duncan has given us a werewolf for the twenty-first century--a man whose deeds can only be described as monstrous but who is in some magical way deeply human. One of the most original, audacious, and terrifying novels in years.

It's really very simple. I have 3 words for this one. Werewolves for Grownups.

It's literary, and it's brutal. A real blend of styles and genres that will have your mind reeling. The language is abrasive, the sex is explicit, and the violence is absolute. And if that's not enough to make you add-to-basket I don't know what is! It's like no other Urban Fantasy I've read. Duncan is in a class of his own. Conceptually brilliant and perfectly excuted.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Lifestyles of the Rich and Undead: Katie MacAlister

"A delightful e-short story from New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Katie MacAlister, featuring the vampire hero of her novella "Shades of Gray," from the upcoming Pocket Books paranormal romance anthology The Undead in My Bed. Ladies, be sure to catch our interview with the reclusive, oh-so-sexy Dark One Grayson Soucek, when he talks to our reporter about what it's like to be one of the Otherworld's most eligible (and titled!) bachelors. Gray dishes all on what he's looking for in a permanent blood donor, his turn-ons and turn-offs, and what he likes on a date (hint—dinner in a romantic dungeon is one way to this vampire's heart). It's all in our next edition of Lifestyles of the Rich and Undead!"

Well now, this was...short. If I was to give a prize for the shortest short story I ever did see, this one would win hands down.

In fairness, semi naked men on the covers rarely sell books for me, but I wanted a quick easy read and I'm hoovering up anything and everything Vamp just now. So I gave this a go.

I'm not entirely sure what the point of it is, if it's to entice readers into this series...there's really just not enough to go on. It was mildly amusing at one point, but baffling in the sense that there's just not enough of...anything...certainly nowhere near enough to make me think, "Oo, that looks fun, I must read more". It was more a case of "What the hell was that?".

It was like overhearing part of someone's phone conversation on the train, you catch a brief section of dialogue, but only get half the story, and by the time they've got off at their stop you've completely forgotten everything that was said. Because it's meaningless. "Turdy" though, that made me laugh, I'll give it that!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Unholy Ghosts: Stacia Kane

"The world is not the way it was. The dead have risen, and the living are under attack. The powerful Church of Real Truth, in charge since the government fell, has sworn to reimburse citizens being harassed by the deceased. 

Enter Chess Putnam, a fully tattooed witch and freewheeling ghost hunter. She’s got a real talent for banishing the wicked dead. But Chess is keeping a dark secret: She owes a lot of money to a murderous drug lord named Bump, who wants immediate payback in the form of a dangerous job that involves black magic, human sacrifice, a nefarious demonic creature, and enough wicked energy to wipe out a city of souls. Toss in lust for a rival gang leader and a dangerous attraction to Bump’s ruthless enforcer, and Chess begins to wonder if the rush is really worth it. Hell, yeah."

Jackpot! This is just what I've been looking for. Urban Fantasy with a strong female protagonist that smashes all the tired stereotypes. Bloody fantastic. Kane wipes the floor with all the fluffy, squealy, 'kick ass' PNR crowd. There are no dreamy gentleman here to be swooned over, no teenage dreams and lusts, just hard hitting dark reality. Urban Fantasy for Grown-ups.

Kane's world building is hugely entertaining and so easy to immerse yourself in, the future dystopia and the roles of the ghosts and the Church are compelling, but but far the coolest thing about Unholy Ghosts is the characters. Chess is brilliantly flawed, an addict whose habit dictates a huge proportion of her actions. It makes her stand out from the UF crowd and she really is a breath of fresh air to read. Terrible is an invention of pure genius, a wonderfully complicated and surprising individual. Full marks. I couldn't have loved this more.

Fans of Daniel Polansky's Low Town will find similarities to rave over here I think. Don't pass Kane over as one of the fluffies, this is really something special. I can't wait to get my paws on the rest of the series now. Wonderful stuff.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Two Ravens and One Crow: Kevin Hearne

"Six years into the training of his beautiful apprentice, Granuaile, a large crow swoops down and transforms into none other than the Morrigan, a goddess who insists that Atticus come with her at once. He must leave his apprentice behind, along with his Irish wolfhound, Oberon—and he must also leave his sword. 

The Morrigan has always taken extreme pleasure in pronouncing the Druid’s mortal danger and imminent doom, so the fact that she won’t reveal the purpose of their journey makes him very nervous. Of course, any time the Celtic Chooser of the Slain drops in unannounced, it’s never good. When she does let slip that she’ll be saving his life in the near future, Atticus is left to wonder . . . will he soon be giving his legions of enemies something to crow about?"

I've got admit I'm not a huge fan of short stories, but I love the Iron Druid Chronicles so I gave this one a go. It's Hearne so you know it's going to be intelligent and well-written, whatever the format.

With Oberon off the scene for the majority of the story though, it felt a little flat. It's essentially just a bridge across the 12 year jump in the series that the next novel takes. And a money-spinner also of course. It's engaging, but a very fast read. Too fast for me.

If you're a fan of the series, you'll like it. If, like me, you're a fan who finds short stories too short to be's not going to convince you otherwise, but you'll get some insight and some chuckles all the same. Above all though, it hammers home just how central to the concept the cynical, talking dog is...(well, not talking..but you know what I mean). I'm not entirely sure this is a good thing. Maybe it should be re-branded as "The Oberon Chronicles"..

Friday, 14 September 2012

The Asylum Interviews, Trixie: Jocelynn Drake

Gage's ex-girlfriend is back in town and needs help escaping a master vampire. While not the easiest of tasks, he certainly didn't count of getting help from a mysterious woman with a few secrets of her own.

I don't know who gets to make the cover art decisions in these situations, but, a Katie Price-esque pout really does nothing for this one. I can't imagine what they were thinking. However much they get paid, it's too much.

Hideous cover aside, it's not a bad little story. Over sexed and over simplified, but in essence it's a decent concept with some really nice touches. This is the exactly kind of Urban Fantasy I would LOVE to see with all the ridiculous sex stripped out and the actual Fantasy element taken seriously. The ideas of Race and Magic here are great, the characters are engaging, but it just reads like someone has said "put more sex in it, and dumb down the plot more". To me, at least.

The cover...seriously I've got to come back to it. Does no one think that guys would like to read about a magical tattoo parlour in Low Town? With Warlocks and Vamps and Trolls? Because that cover will score a 100% hit rate for making them snark merrily and wander off to the 'B for Butcher" section for the Fantasy aisle. Hell, I only read it because it was in e-book form.

Conceptually, it's fun, but the sex and simplicity make it hard to take seriously. I can't see the hardcore UF crowd getting down with this. Teenage girls will no doubt adore it. 

Blood and Feathers: Lou Morgan

"What's the first thing you think of when I say 'angel'?" asked Mallory. Alice shrugged. "I don't know... guns?" Alice isn't having the best of days. She was late for work, she missed her bus, and now she's getting rained on. What she doesn't know is that her day's about to get worse: the epic, grand-scale kind of worse that comes from the arrival of two angels who claim everything about her life is a lie. The war between the angels and the Fallen is escalating; the age-old balance is tipping, and innocent civilians are getting caught in the cross-fire. If the balance is to be restored, the angels must act - or risk the Fallen taking control. Forever. 

That’s where Alice comes in. Hunted by the Fallen and guided by Mallory - a disgraced angel with a drinking problem and a whole load of secrets - Alice will learn the truth about her own history… and why the angels want to send her to hell. What do the Fallen want from her? How does Mallory know so much about her past? What is it the angels are hiding - and can she trust either side? Caught between the power plays of the angels and Lucifer himself, it isn't just hell's demons that Alice will have to defeat...

Well now, this is a tough one. I've got to start with the obvious, the cover art is gorgeous, and the hype around this one was pretty impressive. Looking past both of OK read. There are some nice touches, and I thought Morgan's vision of Hell was brilliant. Mallory was a fun character, but I found Alice a bit two a protagonist that's clearly not ideal, I didn't really get behind her but I was rooting for Mallory.

It's tough to write this because I wanted to love it. I found parts of the novel to be slow and repetitive, particularly when the Earthbound were waiting to get into Hell. Morgan lost me a bit there, and I was more interested in the Fallen than the Angels. Essentially I lost interest towards the end waiting for the Good Guys to win the battle.

It's also worth mentioning that the typos in this one were pretty distracting. Not something you usually see, or expect in an £8 copy.

My expectations for Blood and Feathers had probably been pumped up way too high. It's a nice concept, and a fun read in places. It's not without its flaws. Something out of the ordinary, but not quite extraordinary. I'd give the sequel a look, but won't be counting down the days.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

As my reading is shamefully slow just now (work &  family, issues abound) I seem to be spending more time on Twitter than here. This will hopefully resolve itself soon, but in the meantime, if you'd care for some company...join me?

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Moon Called: Patricia Briggs

"Mercy Thompson's life is not exactly normal. Her next-door neighbor is a werewolf. Her former boss is a gremlin. And she's fixing a VW bus for a vampire. But then, Mercy isn't exactly normal herself."

Why the bloody hell the publishers gave this title that cover is beyond me. It looks like trashy soft porn. Mills and Boon on Viagra. I really couldn't be seen at work reading this, I'd never have heard the end of it. I had to get this on Kindle.

Do publishers equate 'strong female protagonist' with 'male fantasy hot chick'? Do they not, perhaps, see the ridiculousness there?

The reason I'm so annoyed by it is that underneath the porno pose of the be-boob-jobbed bird on the cover, this is a fantastic read. And so many others like me are going to pass it by because it looks like shit.

Moon Called completely took me by surprise. It's intelligent, action packed and a great read. The werewolf politics explored here are intricate and fascinating, ditto for the Vamps and the Fae. For me this was on a par with Kelley Armstrong and Jim Butcher. A real case of don't judge a book by its cover. Rip the cover off or go for the ebook. 


...They're coming. Honestly. I'm just getting hammered by migraines at the moment. It's my damned job, I stare at 0s and 1's all day reviewing code. Taking pills and heading off to bed for now. Rest assured some deliciously tantalising Advance Reviews are coming. Like this, for example,  how cool?

Click the image for the Solaris blurb. "A twilight that does not sparkle". I LOVE Solaris, they know the score.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Dead Until Dark: Charlaine Harris

"Sookie Stackhouse is just a small-time cocktail waitress in small-town Louisiana. Until the vampire of her dreams walks into her life-and one of her coworkers checks out.... Maybe having a vampire for a boyfriend isn't such a bright idea."

I'm beyond fashionably late to this party, I know, but the hype put me off this series to an extent. I just finished the opener tonight, and it was fun.

Harris has an easy, engaging style, and Dead Until Dark is a fast read. Won't take you more than a couple of hours. The murder mystery aspect is nothing to write home about, but the world building is decent and the characterisation is key. Sookie is far too innocent and naive, Bill is far too gentlemanly and protective, but together they kind of work.

Personally what I would love to read about is all the vamp action that precedes this one. How did they end up being accepted into society? who came up with the whole virus thing and sold it? I'd love to know more about the politics and influences behind the world Harris describes. I'd much rather have read about this than about Sookie spring cleaning and wondering if vampires can get erections.

Obviously, Harris gets massive bonus points for the whole Bubba angle. Genius.

Part fluffy romance, part dark underworld. I'd have liked the balance to tip heavier towards the underworld, but I enjoyed it all the same. 

Would I read the next in the series? Yeps, I have the next two on my shelf. The ending to this one felt hurried and incomplete, so I'm looking forward to finding out more in the second book.

Greywalker: Kat Richardson

"When Harper comes to in the hospital, she begins to feel a bit ...strange. She sees things that can only be described as weird-shapes emerging from a foggy grey mist, snarling teeth, creatures roaring.

But Harper's not crazy. Her "death" has made her a Greywalker-able to move between our world and the mysterious, cross-over zone where things that go bump in the night exist. And her new gift (or curse) is about to drag her into that world of vampires and ghosts, magic and witches, necromancers and sinister artifacts. Whether she likes it or not."

This one has been sitting on my shelf for close to 3 years now, so when I finally picked it up, I've got to be honest, I really wasn't expecting much. As is so often the way, it completely took me by surprise and I really enjoyed it. Harper is a pretty decent female lead, quite a bit less pathetic and swoony than most in the genre. She's flawed, which I like, she gets things wrong, she makes mistakes, and it makes her all the more readable.

Richardson is obviously a fan of, and ambassador for, ferrets. I like that, it's bonkers, and I'm all for bonkers. Chaos is a fun character, and although I'm not usually a fan of literature as a way to grind your axe, in this instance it's all good. I had no idea they were illegal in parts of the US, over here in the UK they're fine, we love 'em.

I see people on-line griping about the fact that floppy drives and pagers are used in this book. It was written awhile back, it doesn't hurt anything, not sure what the issue is. I'm sure the technology gets an upgrade as the series progresses.

Ferrets and floppies aside, this was a bit of a slow burner on the whole, there's a lot of 'I just can't accept this ghost business' intially, it wears thin but once the pace picks up all is forgiven.The PI angle is a wee bit tired, but the characters make this one work.

It's UF with a helping of common sense and a lack of semi-naked buff 20-somethings, which is all good in my book.

Would I read the next in the series? Absolutely.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Nekropolis; Tim Waggoner

"His mean streets are the city of the dead, the shadowy realm known as Nekropolis. And in this first case, Richter must help a delectable half-vampire named Devona recover a legendary artifact known as the Dawnstone, before it’s used to destroy Nekropolis itself. That is, if he can survive the myriad horrors that infest the city.."

This one definitely stood out from the crowd. It's pretty unique in its choice of protagonist. A self-willed, ex-cop Zombie PI isn't something you get to read about everyday.

There are no end of beasties here to enjoy, from giant insects to Warlocks and Ghouls. Waggoner world builds brilliantly. Plot-wise though, it's pretty uninspiring, and you can't help but wonder if the huge cast of interesting characters is intended as compensation.

Matt is hugely likeable, which is great, but it does make it hard to work out how he survives in such an environment. The 'nice guy everyone owes a favour to' reasoning only goes so far I would've thought. As for the lurve angle here, again, it's really quite hard to take. I have a feeling it was thrown in as something the UF crowd would expect, but for my money it would have been better off without it. It's not convincing.

Weak plot and perhaps overly vast cast aside, this is undeniably a fun read. Waggoner's world showcases a wonderful imagination and originality. If you like the idea of a sort of un-dead Inspector Gadget, you'll enjoy this.

Would I read the next in the series? Definitely. I want to see how the plotting improves as the series progresses.

Kitty and The Midnight Hour: Carrie Vaughn

"Kitty Norville is a midnight-shift DJ for a Denver radio station - and a werewolf in the closet. Her new late-night advice show for the supernaturally disadvantaged is a raging success, but it's Kitty who can use some help. 

With one sexy werewolf-hunter and a few homicidal undead on her tail, Kitty may have bitten off more than she can chew

Alrighty, let me cut my teeth on this one. Virgin review.

I should have hated this. It's fluffier than a pair of extra fluffy pink bunny slippers. The blurb makes it sound a whole lot better than it actually is. It's just the usual Vamp v Wolf clan situation. The late night phone in show? Sounds cool but in reality it ends up being daft, which is a shame. The show's premise is great, but the execution is really weak. Standard Paranormal Romance fare for the most part here, Hot Werewolf falls for Hot Werewolf Hunter. Yawn.

But the thing is...daftness aside, I found this to be quite nicely written. Vaughn made me guiltily have fun here, and although my logical brain was well aware this is essentially drivel, it was enjoyable drivel in places and I made it through to the end.

It reminded me a little of a Paranormal'd up Stephanie Plum novel. If that sounds like your thing, you'll have fun with this.

Would I read any more in the series? If I was off on holiday and needed some brain-ease, sure. Ordinarily? doubtful.


Urban Fantasy Fiend is a brand new blog for 100% Urban Fantasy Fiction Reviews. Old titles, new titles, upcoming titles, it's intended to be an eclectic collection of all that the genre has to offer. Reviews will be honest, short, and to-the-point.

Reviews will start pouring in over the next week or so. This is a lone-wolf site, so the style and benchmark will be consistent throughout.

Check back soon, I'm just getting started.