Cleaning my TBR shelf… Urban Fantasy!

Last week I picked three books from my shelf, decided for one of them and put the other two as nah-not-in-the-mood on my coffee table. Executive decision the day after: putting them into my give-away-basket. And guess what… the book I did decide to read was not a winner either. I tossed the anthology during the fourth story. I guess there is a reason why these books spent so much time on my bookshelf—subconsciously I knew that I would not enjoy them.

Chicks Kick Butt

It has been years since I really, deeply enjoyed reading Urban Fantasy, with some exceptions. So take this review with a grain of salt. I am basically working through my TBR pile.

Based on the quarter of this book that I did read these are short stories set in between full-length novels of longer UF series. This book will be better for fans of these series. I think everybody else will miss context.

Shiny, A Weather Warden Story / by Rachel Caine
Read Ill Wind in 2015, ⭐️⭐️⭐️, never continued the series and do not plan to. 

The short story was entertaining. 

In vino veritas / by Karen Chance ✅ 
Dorina Basarab #2.1, Cassandra Palmer #6.5. I read 16 of the books and stories. There is plenty more, but eventually they did not grab me anymore.

Can be read for free here or get a free copy on Smashwords. The story has lots of vampires. The usual high octane craziness. Probably better for people that know this world.

On my TBR pile and seriously considering to delete them after only mildly enjoying this:
Masks & Ride the Storm — I did actually look up each ebook and read the first page of each. Meh. I am so done with the usual UF vampires etc.

Hunt / by Rachel Vincent. ❌
Apparently a spin off from Rachel’s Shifters Series. I read the first book, Stray, in 2011. and gave it ⭐️⭐️⭐️. Never continued the series or read anything else by the author.

Attempted rape and murder. Why do so many UF stories have rape in them? Not interested, skimmed.

Monsters / by Lilith Saintcrow
I have not read anything by this author. The first two pages of this story made not much sense, you probably really need to know her books for this to work. Nope.

This point in the anthology brought me to page 86 of 366 and made me realize one more time that I do not enjoy this type of UF anymore. DNF at 23%.

Also in this anthology:

Vampires prefer blondes / by P.N. Elrod 
Read another one of her short stories in Hex Appeal, it was ok.

Nine-tenths of the law / by Jenna Black 
Read The Devil Inside in 2013, ⭐️⭐️, and found it pretty irritating. Pass.

I have not read anything by these authors, unknown to me:
Double dead / by Cheyenne McCray
A rose by any other name would still be red / by Elizabeth A. Vaughan 
Superman / by Jeanne C. Stein 
Monster mash / by Carole Nelson Douglas 
Wanted: dead or alive / by L.A. Banks 
Mist / by Susan Krinard 
Beyond the pale / by Nancy Holders

Nope. Ugly art, missing to much context…

30 Days of Night: Vol. 2
by Steve NilesDavide FurnòChristopher Mitten

I read the first volume of the entire series and it was not bad. This one here was included in my Prime Reading, so I got it. DNF at 50%. The artwork changed and I think it‘s pretty ugly. Plus I am missing too much context in between the first volume and beginning of the series and this.

Slim plot, lots of bloodshed and mayhem…

30 Days of Night, Vol. 1
by Steve NilesBen Templesmith

This volume contains issue #1-3. I read #1 in 2018. At that point I had seen the movie three or four times and wanted to see how it compares. I liked the artwork and the colours and the mix of greys with pastel tones. Nicely drawn bloodshed, almost poetic.

So, re-read and continuation it is, finally. The setting is Barrow in Alaska and the sun has just set for the last time before a stretch of 30 days without sunlight.

Great opportunity for a bunch of vampires to go all out. Some of the visuals reminded me of the TV adaptation of The Strain (never read it).

Back to Barrow… bloodshed, a lot of it. And some panels that were hard to figure out, because there was only night, grey snow and lots of red. Not a lot of plot, we basically wallow in the visuals of the town‘s inhabitants being slaughtered. I think I liked the movie more. It felt like more of a story and there was some character development. I connected more with the living and their catastrophic situation.

Movie Trailer:

The end of the world was Houston, Texas.

Another blast from the past, read in 2017. Here is my review from back then…

The Passage
by Justin Cronin

Goodness me, I finally finished, with a heavy dose of skimming. I liked the story, but the execution of it was not my thing. Too long, too much introspection, too much mysticism, vampires not scary enough. As a horror novel this fell flat. As a post-apocalyptic story it wasn’t bad, but I would have liked more of the in-between, not only before and after. I think that might actually happen in the next book(s), but I definitely don’t want to skim through another 800 pages and be bored for wide stretches of reading.

The first part of the book had decent world buidling, well-developed characters, I liked the changing POVs and the writing style appealed to me. The plot could have unfolded a bit faster, the build-up was glacially slow.

Almost 200 pages in the fun finally started…

The floor was slick with blood, so much blood that he felt his feet sliding on it, the grease of human remains.

Roughly 30% into the book the plot jumped about 100 years ahead into the post-apocalyptic future with its newly developed society, completely removed from the present day world. It was like reading a different book. I wouldn’t have minded staying in the present some more, to read about the collapse of society and to find out more about the characters of that timeline.

It took me a few pages to come to like this new setting, but it got interesting eventually.

Tonight’s forecast? Darkness, with widespread screaming.

Unfortunately, despite there being some very good bits in this later plot, I was pretty bored at the halfway point. Too slow, not enough tension for me. Even during attacks of the virals and supposedly very tense situations, I was just like “Oh, ok then… next…”

Nonetheless, I skimmed my way through another 100 pages or so and some quite good plot developments. And lots of looooong and boring bits in between. I considered DNFing the book, but then stuck with it, wanting to know what came next.

I think I would have been fine with a couple of hundred pages less in the center of the book. The first 30% of the book and the last 40% of it were good. I didn’t care much for the rest in between. And, as mentioned, I didn’t much like the mysticism and religious undertones. 

Sorry, only 2 not very creepy stars…

Reading progress:

March 6, 2017 –  2.0% “Ugh, I can’t believe I picked another book this long… Curse you, TBR pile!”

March 7, 2017 – page 36 – 4.38% “‘Like Smokey Bear says, take only pictures, leave only footprints.’

March 10, 2017 – page 93 – 11.33% “Sister Claire often went to the 6:00 a.m. before her daily jog, which she referred to as a visit to ‘Our Lady of Endorphins.’ 

March 12, 2017 – page 154 – 18.76% ““They were in danger, terrible danger. Something was coming. She didn’t know what. Some dark force had come loose in the world, and it was sweeping toward them, coming for them all.”
I wish it would hurry up a little!”

March 12, 2017 – page 196 – 23.87% “The floor was slick with blood, so much blood that he felt his feet sliding on it, the grease of human remains.
Here we are! Glacially slow build-up is done.”

March 15, 2017 – page 276 – 33.62% “I am in chapter 20. Did a massive time jump ahead to the post-apocalyptic future. Odd, it’s like reading a different book.”

March 18, 2017 – page 307 – 37.39% “Tonight’s forecast? Darkness, with widespread screaming.

March 18, 2017 – page 326 – 39.71% “Grief was a place, Sara understood, where a person went alone. It was like a room without doors, and what happened in that room, all the anger and the pain you felt, was meant to stay there, nobody’s business but yours.

March 23, 2017 – page 401 – 48.84% “I am bored! The second, later plotline is not bad, parts of it are good. But it’s slow, it doesn’t have enough tension for me. I could happily put this down and not pick it up again.”

March 26, 2017 – page 519 – 63.22% “All those years, waiting for the Army, and it turns out the Army is us.
And all those pages, waiting for somethings to happen. I did some hefty skimming over the last 100+ pages and , amazingly enough, have not DNFd this yet. But I am still not sure, if I can be bothered to finish. The current bit feels a bit like The Walking Dead.”

March 29, 2017 – Finished Reading

Six Degrees of Separation — from New York to Dublin

Welcome to #6degrees. On the first Saturday of every month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. Readers and bloggers are invited to join in by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book. I mostly use this meme to work on my backlog, aka reviews that I haven‘t yet posted to my blog here. Or to give myself a reminder of the books on my TBR pile or want-to-read-shelf.

So, as usual, this month starts the chain link with a book I haven‘t read or ever heard about — we begin with Trust by Hernan Diaz. Pretty cover. Is that a snowglobe with a skyscraper inside?

Even through the roar and effervescence of the 1920s, everyone in New York has heard of Benjamin and Helen Rask. He is a legendary Wall Street tycoon; she is the brilliant daughter of eccentric aristocrats. Together, they have risen to the very top of a world of seemingly endless wealth. But the secrets around their affluence and grandeur incites gossip. Rumors about Benjamin’s financial maneuvers and Helen’s reclusiveness start to spread–all as a decade of excess and speculation draws to an end. At what cost have they acquired their immense fortune?

Trust engages the reader in a quest for the truth while confronting the reality-warping gravitational pull of money and how power often manipulates facts.

Part of the book blurb

Historical fiction, but not necessarily set in an era that I enjoy reading about. I have another book on my shelves though that is titled Trust…

Link 1) Perfect Trust (A Rowan Gant Investigation #3) by M.R. Sellars — read in 2007.

Rowan Gant used to be just an average guy who just happened to be a Witch. However, when the spirits of murder victims found out he could hear them, they started coming to him for help. His life just hasn’t been the same since…

Part of a 10-book series, of which I read 8. Not typical UF, Rowan Gant is a witch in a very contemporary setting. He hears dead people, but there is less magic going on as for example with Harry Dresden. Unusual and I liked it. Maybe one of these days I will get the last two books of this series. Not all witches are enjoyable though. This one didn‘t really do it for me:

Link 2) Dead Witch Walking (The Hollows, #1) by Kim Harrison — read in 2013.

Marked for death, Rachel is a dead witch walking unless she can appease her former employers and pay off her contract by exposing the city’s most prominent citizen as a drug lord.

Bottom line, this book was boring and the main character was not interesting. Potential for great world building, but it was not happening. The narrative was flat, not funny and sloooooow and I had the sneaking suspicion that Rachel is really stupid, not just clumsy. It was a major struggle to finish this book and I never picked up another book of this series.

A dead witch walking leads me quite naturally to many other dead walking… a classic by now!

Link 3) The Walking Dead #1 by Robert Kirkman — read in 2016 for the first time.

At first I was a bit confused, because Rick didn‘t look like Rick. And then I wanted to smack myself, because the comic came before the TV series. I really like the black-white-and-grey pencil work. Minimalistic, but great in telling the story. Very good artwork. I still haven‘t finished the whole series. Last year I completed volume 21, The Walking Dead, Vol. 21: All Out War Part 2. Still a few volumes to go. I do like Robert Kirkman though, he tells great stories. Another comic on my shelf that he wrote is this…

Link 4) Invincible Vol. 1 by Robert Kirkman — I haven‘t read this one yet.

Mark Grayson is just like most everyone else his age. He’s a senior at a normal American highschool. He has a crappy part time job after school and on weekends. He likes girls quite a bit… but doesn’t quite understand them. He enjoys hanging out with his friends, and sleeping late on Saturdays… at least until the good cartoons come on. The only difference between Mark and everyone else is that his father is the most powerful superhero on the planet, and as of late, he seems to be inheriting his father’s powers. Which sounds okay at first, but how do you follow in your father’s footsteps when you know you will never live up to his standards

Superhero comic with a teenager. Not really my thing. This came as part of a comic bundle, aka a mixed bag. Not sure yet, if this will work for me, but you never know. The subtitle of this comic is „family matters“ — family and those previously mentioned dead lead me down memory lane…

Link 5) Dead in the Family (Sookie Stackhouse #10) by Charlaine Harris — read in 2011.

After enduring torture and the loss of loved ones during the brief but deadly Faery War, Sookie Stackhouse is hurt and she’s angry. Just about the only bright spot in her life is the love she thinks she feels for vampire Eric Northman

Remember Sookie Stackhouse? Truly a Blast from the Past! The last one hundred pages or so of this particular one were pretty good. Turns and twists and suspense. The two hundred-odd pages before that were meh. Not good, not bad, they flowed along pleasantly. Not much of a plot, really. Sookie was getting a bit tired by book #10. And I backed myself into a bit of a corner with that last link. Let‘s see…. Faery war… the Fae!?

Link 6) Darkfever (Fever, #1) by Karen Marie Moning — read in 2015.

When her sister is murdered, leaving a single clue to her death–a cryptic message on Mac’s cell phone–Mac journeys to Ireland in search of answers. The quest to find her sister’s killer draws her into a shadowy realm where nothing is as it seems, where good and evil wear the same treacherously seductive mask. She is soon faced with an even greater challenge: staying alive long enough to learn how to handle a power she had no idea she possessed–a gift that allows her to see beyond the world of man, into the dangerous realm of the Fae….

Mac is extremely annoying. Obsessed with pink, nail varnish and silly clothes. Petulant and childish. I would have tossed her and her stupid book over a cliff, if I hadn’t received assurances, that she grows up in consecutive books. The afterword by the author also put my worries to rest (a little).

What I didn’t like either: being told at the end of a chapter (or anywhere, really), what horrible thing might happen to her soon / how irrevocably her life will change or what she will commit, do, not do… It’s a lazy plot device to raise suspense and it made me roll my eyes by the third time the author did it.

I was really uncomfortable with that first scene at the museum and don’t understand, how anybody can find that guy sexy after what he did. There is no coming back from that.

What I did like:

Barrons, although he stays a bit one-dimensional. I hope that’ll change in the coming books.

The writing in general. Good characters (annoying, pink, stupid…), good setting, flows along nicely. I liked the idea of a dark zone. I’ve never been to Dublin, so I don’t have an opion on how well it was described. The world building was not bad, although I could have done with more.

Summarizing the experience: massively annoying female main character. Barrons has potential, but remained a bit flat. Good story, bit flat as well. Kept me hooked, I will definitely read the next one, in the hopes that plot, characters and world-building pick up a notch in the next books. Would recommend it.

PS: I gave up on this series after the first chapter of the third book. The MC was just too silly.

DNFs of 2022

I don‘t DNF a lot of books. I used to be one of those people that did not DNF books at all. I HAD to read them to the end, even if it took me months. Eventually I came to my senses and started to occasionally DNF a book, if I did not enjoy it after 50-100 pages (depending on allover length) or it took me more than a few days to get that far. I still never DNFd more than perhaps one book per month or less. And these days I tend to rather skim heavily rather than DNF, because I often want to know how it ends. I just read about the rather tempting idea of “…will DNF a book if it takes me more than 2 days to read 50 pages.” That would mean that I would have DNFd my current eye read days ago. I finally made it halfway and there are some fascinating ideas in the book, but it is still not a gripping read.

So, what books did I DNF last year, because not even heavy skimming could take me to the end? Well, there were some comics.

I bounced off hard of Sin City by Frank Miller. Some classics probably only work for men. I disliked the art. The story was too offensive to finish it. I can only take a certain amount of sexism, before it really puts me off.

Copra by Michel Fiffe was a big disappointment. I have read some superhero comics, mostly Marvel, but it‘s not my favourite genre. Here I had ti deal with Unlikeable superheroes to boot. I am not a big fan of characters that are just mean for no obvious reason and don‘t seem to have any redeeming features. If I don‘t like the characters or they don‘t interest me in another way, why bother?

They’re Not Like Us, Vol. 1: Black Holes for the Young was another disappointment. Essentially another superhero comic, with teenager developing psychic powers. Didn‘t like the artwork. The story didn‘t do anything for me, could not be bothered to continue for long or pick it up again after putting it down. It took too long to get interesting.

I started to re-read the Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice with some reading buddies last year. I liked my re-read of Interview with the Vampire. However, by the time I got to book #4, The Tale of the Body Thief, I was throughly fed-up with it. There were some scenes I remembered fondly, namely the part in the Gobi desert—which I had attributed to another part of the series. But overall, it felt dated and lacked tension. Knowing the plot wasn‘t helping, obviously. Too much detail, repetitive bla-bla and over exposition of almost everything. I skimmed quite a bit to get to the body swapping part, but was willing to plod on. Then the rape happened—I had no recollection of that scene from previous reads. Or maybe I didn‘t understand and didn’t consider it rape before—it had been several decades since I read this last. That scene pretty much killed the book for me. The callousness really bothered me. Maybe this was done intentionally by Rice, but I couldn’t get past it. Don‘t get me wrong, I get that this is fiction and authors explore all kind of things—I just re-watched four seasons of Dexter, who is a sociopathic serial killer and I love the series and Dexter. But I couldn’t deal with Lestat raping that waitress. Killing her and drinking her blood, no problem…. I get how nuts that it.

How to Date Your Dragon by Molly Harper… *sigh*. UF leaning towards PNR. A decade ago I barely read anything but UF. I was oversaturated. So I stopped, with very rare exceptions. PNR was always a gamble. The heroines tend to be TSTL. I can‘t tolerate that. Why do female authors write these stupid cliches of their own gender? Anyway, back to this particular book. The love interest is a dragonshifter and the town’s sherif. The couple has zero chemistry, there is no decent world building. Nothing of consequence happened in the first 40% and I was to disinterested too listen to more of the audiobook.

Polaris Rising by Jesse Mihalik was another book in the same direction. I had that trilogy on my TBR shelf for a while and quite a few of my buddies love Mihalik. Yep. So not my cup of tea. Brain Candy in space with a romance sub-plot. Insta-love, too many blond people, thin world building, a Mary Sue, two people great at hiding that keep getting captured and then proceed to repeatedly free each other. Sounds all pretty daft, right? It was.

Gallant by Victoria Schwab was more unexpected. A haunted house, relatives with a mysterious past and a hostile cousin, a vaguely creepy and gothic atmosphere. No romance elements. I didn‘t find the story as such terribly suspenseful, although it is definitely well written. It was too straight forward for me and too predictable. I liked the story, but started to drift off around the middle—there was just not enough tension or interest for me to keep going.

There was another comic, two Clarkesworld magazines and a Great Courses Lecture series that I broke off. Oh yes, and an autobiography by a German TV presenter who loves camping. I mostly got that one for my mum. It was ok, just not my kind of thing.

How about you, what was your most disappointing DNF of 2022?

Apocalypse, horror, adventure and vampires

Impact Winter
by Travis Beacham

Earth was hit by a comet and the world went dark. In the darkness, vampires rose. This story is about a group of human survivors, battling to stay alive.

“A story of apocalypse, horror, and adventure, Impact Winter is a wholly original new saga created just for Audible with immersive 3D audio (featuring a brilliant British cast) that dares you to pop in your earbuds and listen in the dark. Venture into an eternally sunless world of swords and crossbows; primal hunters and shape-shifters; leaders and lovers. Hear how a brave few fight to survive the impact winter.“

Entertaining, a little creepy and too short to really explore this world to its fullest. Nothing Earth-shattering, but I liked the characters and the story in general. Good, if you are looking for a shorter audio, that isn‘t too taxing. The cast did a good job.

Culling that TBR pile…

This year I ventured into re-reading Anne Rice‘s Vampire Chronicles and mabye venturing further along into unread titles. So I read Interview with the Vampire in February and gave it 4 stars. The Vampire Lestat in April was another 4 stars, The Queen of the Damned in June still managed to garner 3.5 stars from me. Then came The Body Thief in September and I bounced off it hard…

I took a long, hard look at the next two books in the series, already sitting on my bookshelf. Took a breather, looked again. Read the blurbs… Meh.

They would be the first two books in the series that I haven‘t read yet. Anyway, the blurbs do not grab me and reviews of Memnoch The Devil by my reading buddies were not good. So, I am calling it. Done! Off into my give-away basket…

Memnoch the Devil (The Vampire Chronicles, #5)
by Anne Rice

In the fifth Vampire Chronicle, Lestat is searching for Dora, the beautiful and charismatic mortal daughter of a drug lord. Dora has moved Lestat like no other mortal ever has, and he cannot get her out of his visions. At the same time, he is increasingly aware that the Devil knows who he is and wants something from him. While torn between his vampire world and his passion for Dora, Lestat is sucked in by Memnoch, who claims to be the Devil himself. Memnoch presents Lestat with unimagined opportunities: to witness creation, to visit purgatory, to be treated like a prophet. Lestat faces a choice between the Devil or God. Whom does he believe in? Who does he serve? What are the elements of religious belief? Lestat finds himself caught in a whirlpool of the ultimate choice.

The Vampire Armand (The Vampire Chronicles, #6)
by Anne Rice

In this installment of The Vampire Chronicles, Anne Rice summons up dazzling worlds to bring us the story of Armand — eternally young, with the face of a Botticelli angel. We travel with Armand across the centuries to the Kiev Rus of his boyhood — a ruined city under Mongol dominion — and to ancient Constantinople, where Tartar raiders sell him into slavery. And in a magnificent palazzo in the Venice of the Renaissance we see him emotionally and intellectually in thrall to the great vampire Marius, who masquerades among humankind as a mysterious, reclusive painter and who will bestow upon Armand the gift of vampiric blood.
As the novel races to its climax, moving through scenes of luxury and elegance, of ambush, fire, and devil worship, to nineteenth-century Paris and today’s New Orleans, we see its eternally vulnerable and romantic hero forced to choose between his twilight immortality and the salvation of his immortal soul.

When the Zombie Apocalypse Comes, Remember That I Am Faster Than You

Soul Taken (Mercy Thompson, #13)
by Patricia Briggs

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Mercy #13. Straight forward, fairly simple plot, nice lack of annoying drama. Took me three days to get past the first 10%, but then I was hooked and could not put it down anymore. So although it was plain and simple and without big surprises, I give it 5 stars for sheer entertainment value.

Mercy and Adam are center stage, with a fair amount of Zee, Tad, Jesse, Warren, a bit of Sherwood, Tilly and various vampires. And the Walking Stick! Not telling you who the bad guys are… 

There is a merciful lack of Christy and no marital drama. Which I had expected after the last book, but wasn‘t sad to miss. It‘s nice to see people with a functioning relationship, including the pack—mostly…

I wonder how many more books it will take Briggs to wrap up the overarching narrative with Bonarata. That guy really needs to be permanently dead.

Mercy #14 planned for 2023
Alpha & Omega #7 planned for 2024

Patricia Briggs Mercy’s World Reading Order & Timeline:…

Review of the previous Mercy book, #13, Smoke Bitten: 
WordPress: https://cathysreadingbonanza.wordpres…

Well, that was much better in my memory…

The Queen of the Damned: The Third Book in The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Another reread. In my memory from 30 years ago my favourite book book of the series. Although in reality that turned out to be an amalgamation of this and the previous book. And I am being charitable when calling them favourites and giving them 4 stars each, due to nostalgia. Both were much too slow and scattered for present day me. 

Part I was a good reminder of all the characters from previous books. Felt very much like a collection of short stories though. Took me forever to get through this part.

Part II, over 200 pages into my paperback edition, finally dug into the main plot and picked up a little speed and coherence.

Parts III and IV were a mix of my favourite parts of the book, the Story of the Twins, and my least liked parts of Lestat with Akasha. I didn‘t buy Akasha‘s motivation and she left me cold as a character. The finale was really short for this doorstopper and anticlimatic.

I really enjoyed Part V and could have read another 100 pages of that. We got emotional and mischievous Lestat back from the previous book.

Sorry for this non-review. I sort of meandered through this book slowly, without taking any notes. There were quite a few parts I liked—pretty much everything without the titular character in it. Which makes the book a bit pointless, really… I just consider it a short story anthology of Anne Rice‘s vampires and everything is good.

I will continue with the series, purely because I have the next three paperbacks sitting on my bookshelf already. 

PS: The movie is really bad. It also tells only a small part of the book and pretty much completely leaves out any attempt at explaining Akasha‘s motivation.