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review 2016-07-05 01:57
Fox & Wolf by Eugene Woodbury
Fox and Wolf - Katherine Woodbury,Eugene Woodbury

Note: This work is currently available for 50% off at Smashwords.

Yuki is a werewolf who's been kicked out of three schools in the past four years for getting into fights. She has a habit of acting without thinking first, and her amber eyes and  brilliant white hair do an excellent job of attracting bullies' attention.

She's determined to do better at Sumiyoshi Girls Preparatory Academy, but blending in suddenly becomes the least of her concerns when she spots a kitsune, a werefox, in her class. What Yuki doesn't realize is that Ami, the werefox in question, has no idea what she is. Ami, for her part, just wants to keep her head down, graduate, and become a veterinarian. Being friends with an enthusiastic weirdo like Yuki is definitely not part of her plans.

I'd been reading Eugene Woodbury's Twelve Kingdoms fan translations and decided I should buy one of his original works as a sort of unofficial “thank you.” Fox & Wolf seemed like the one I'd be most likely to enjoy. That said, the excerpt made me think of anime and manga related fanfic, so I wasn't expecting much. Thankfully it turned out to be pretty decent, although I'd still hesitate to recommend it to someone who wasn't already an anime and manga geek. There were a few Japanese words and cultural details that weren't explained – readers either had to figure them out from the context, already know them, or google them. For example, the context mostly helped me figure out “o-furo,” although I ended up googling it for further details.

I should probably mention that I'm a white woman who has never been to Japan and whose knowledge of Japanese culture is mostly derived from anime and manga, which I realize provide a skewed view. I can't say much about the accuracy of how Japan (specifically Osaka) was depicted in Fox & Wolf. A lot of it, like Yuki needing special permission from her school for her part-time job as a dog walker, fit with what I knew from movies, TV, and books, although there were a few other things I wondered about.

Anyway, my favorite thing about this book turned out to be Yuki and Ami's budding friendship. I had expected Yuki to be more hotheaded than she was, considering her history, but she turned out to be surprisingly mature. I loved that she both recognized that Ami was better than her in some areas (like academics) and that she wasn't the slightest bit jealous of Ami because of that. All she wanted was to be friends with someone she knew had a hidden supernatural side just like her. I wasn't sure whether Fox & Wolf was aimed at a middle grade or high school audience but, if it was YA, it was unusual in that there was absolutely no romance – Yuki and Ami's story was purely a friendship story, with Ami realizing her true nature due to Yuki's influence.

Unfortunately, the story wasn't just about Yuki and Ami's friendship. I wish it had been. Their supernatural abilities and complicated family lives could have provided plenty of story fodder all on their own. Instead, Woodbury introduced a storyline in which Ami's mother's family was involved in a tobashi scheme and tried to get Ami's mother to help them using Ami's trust fund as an incentive. Yuki's father, who she hadn't seen since she was too young to remember, was the special prosecutor leading the investigation. This could have put Yuki and Ami at odds, except Ami was pretty cut off from her mother's family and her mother had no intention of doing anything illegal, especially not for the family who threw her out after she fell in love with Ami's father.

I'll just say right now that the whole thing with the tobashi scheme bored me. I had trouble following exactly what was going on, and I found myself wondering how a middle grade or YA audience was expected to do any better.

Confusing aspects aside, I hope Woodbury one day writes a sequel for this. I most enjoyed the parts where Ami and Yuki got to know each other and worked together at Osaka Dog Doctor. It'd be nice to see more of them and their families, and there's still so much I'd like to know. I mean, what about Ami's dad? How much does Yuki's stepmom know about Yuki and her mother? How long had Yuki's uncle and dad been in contact?

Additional Comments:

There were a handful of typos, some repetitive phrasing, and one or two incorrectly used words. For example, I'm pretty sure that it's supposed to be “knock the world off its axis” rather than “knock the world off its axels” (27) (and, even if it had been correct, wouldn't it have been “axle”?). I had noticed these kinds of errors in Woodbury's fan translations but had figured they were just “I'm only doing this for fun” sloppiness. It was disappointing to see it in his “for pay” fiction as well.

 

(Original review, including read-alikes and watch-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2014-12-12 13:20
WTF Friday: A Fox's Love by Brandon Varnell
A Fox's Love (American Kitsune) (Volume 1) - Brandon Blake Varnell

A Fox's Love (the first American Kitsune book) started out quirky, teased us with a little fetish fuel, and then hit the WTF target during the final few chapters. Brandon Varnell is to be commended for successfully translating Shōnen manga to a very Western style narrative, all without losing any of the fun or sacrificing the storytelling itself. He could have taken it a lot further, but that flirtation is part of its charm, and that constant temptation looms large over the entire story.

Initially, I found it an awkward read, but only because I was expecting something wholly Western. Instead, Varnell plays with the physical conventions of manga storytelling, constantly breaking down the fourth wall, speaking to the reader, and peppering the tale with abrupt scene fades and embarrassed bridges. What starts as annoying soon becomes cute, and eventually reveals itself to be quite clever.

As for what it's about? Well, you have a shy, lonely young man who rescues a wounded fox, despite his landlord's prohibition on pets. All is good, until she begins demonstrating remarkable healing powers, and eventually transforms into her human form (complete with twin tails). It's a furry lover's fantasy come true, but no matter how much she tries to please and delight poor Kevin, he's too shy and proper to allow her to get beyond first base. Having an oversexed Kitsune in his life isn't easy, but it does have its advantages - especially when the school bully turns out to be something more than human himself.

It's a lighthearted tale that never takes itself too seriously, and which demonstrates an sincere love for all things furry and manga. The story itself likely won't come across as very original to anybody who reads a lot of manga themselves, but that's precisely the point. A Fox's Love takes the Shōnen, the Kitsune, and the Ecchi out of their panels and puts them into paragraphs, and delivers an entirely satisfying tale with some genuine surprises towards the end.

Source: beauty-in-ruins.blogspot.ca/2014/12/wtf-friday-foxs-love-and-hamsters.html
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review 2014-07-15 05:28
Review: To Save Face or Family [Kindle Edition]
To Save Face or Family - Lisa Williamson

Kitsune are not good nor evil, but instead provide balance between the two...

 

A bittersweet novel that brought me to laughter and tears many times over the course of this story - a story of a young kitsune who believes her destiny is mapped out for better or worse. It's a sign of a good book when you put it down and you're conflicted on how you should feel; sad for the people who you didn't learn enough about and now never will, happy for those who have fulfilled their destinies, and even content with those who perhaps didn't have the honor of their family history hanging over their heads. I forget who first said that Great Destinies often bring Great Deaths, but it has been proven time and time again. Especially when Gods are involved.

 

Destiny, the young woman in this book, is aptly named for the fate that she has been raised to believe will follow her. And when it's time to make a choice, you can only follow your heart. But giving up your life has many reasons.... as many of the characters in this book know. And kitsune are always tricksters with a surprise waiting for you.

 

I enjoyed the mixture of Japanese folklore and more modern demonic creatures, with a splash of Greece thrown in. Lisa Williamson manages to capture a plot line that should feel contrived and over-used but manages to throw her own fresh twist on it. Her characters are the crowning achievement, however, since they truly bring the story to life.

 

I would also like to add a note that this novel was gifted to me with the understanding that I would provide an honest review. Since I should have been asleep two hours ago and I had to finish the book and write my review first because I couldn't put it down... I think you can understand why I feel this novel deserves 5 stars.

 

As I sit here wiping the tears (Of joy or sorrow? Or both?) from my cheeks, I want to point out that you can purchase a kindle edition of To Save Face or Family from Amazon for only $2.99 by visiting this page: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KFHMQ82/?tag=shasworofboo-20. While you're there, if you enjoyed my review, I would appreciate it if you could mark it helpful on Amazon. The link to my review on amazon is listed in the "Source" section at the bottom of this review.

Source: www.amazon.com/review/R2OX8AEPMG8NQ1/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B00KFHMQ82
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review 2014-05-25 00:55
The Fox's Mask by Anna Frost
The Fox's Mask (The Kitsune Trilogy) - Anna Frost
This is a YA book. I am seriously considering recommending it to my 13-year old. NOT joking. 
 
It might make a great introduction into Japanese mythology, however centered it is around foxes.
 
Main characters are all under 20 years old and there is no romance in this book of any kind, just very subtle hints and a crush or two.
 
 
I rate this as a Young Adult book - 4 stars.
 
PS
I loved the foxes' fluidity with gender and that they could chose the opposite sex if it suited them better or made them more comfortable in everyday life.
 
I also loved one of the character's phrase regarding sex: "I was also born in fox form. Does that make me an animal?"
 
PPS 
Lurve the cover!!!
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review 2013-12-28 23:26
Coyote's Creed by Vaughn R. Demont
Coyote's Creed (Broken Mirrors, #1) - Vaughn R. Demont

I bought this book ages ago and only just now got around to reading it. I had some trouble with it, at first. Although I usually like snarky first-person POV in urban fantasy, Spencer was almost too “gray area” for me, and his relationship with Rourke was too much, too soon. I sometimes had trouble following what was going on, because snark tended to win out over clear descriptions, and I wish some things had been explained sooner (I never did catch what the deal was with Shiko and Spencer's coat). By the end, though, I was enjoying myself and happy that my weakness for Samhain's “new releases” sales meant I already owned the next two books.

Almost every single character in this book is a trickster, and almost no one can be trusted. This includes Spencer. He's 18 years old and the only person in the world he really loves is his mother. His father walked out on the family a while back, and his mom's mental state is fragile. Spencer keeps things going as best as possible with money earned from short cons. He's particularly good with cards.

His life becomes much more dangerous when “Uncle” Rourke visits and tells him that his father has died and has requested that he give the eulogy. Spencer learns that his father was not human. He was a Coyote, Spencer is half-Coyote, Rourke is King of the Phouka, and Spencer has a bunch of family members he never knew about who trick him into having to steal back his father's ashes from the Kitsune, the Foxes.

It's a big mess. There's a feud between the Kitsune and the Coyotes, and the Phouka are supposed to be neutral. Spencer's in the thick of things right away, and he has no idea what's going on. One of my problems with the book was that, while Spencer pulled off a bunch of amazing tricks, in many cases it was more dumb luck than actual cleverness and skill. For example, he “tricked” Rourke multiple times without even trying to do so – he often didn't realize what he'd accomplished until someone told him later on. Does it count as a con if the con artist wasn't aware of what he was doing?

I had a hard time liking Spencer. He was a bit too obsessed with TV tropes and zombies (I thought the zombie thing was a joke, at first, but I think Spencer might have been completely serious about all of it). He couldn't seem to go near people without lying to them or conning them – sometimes it was as if his body acted on its own, cheating people out of their money without any input necessary from his brain. And he was unbelievably horny. I'm hoping that future books tone down this side of him, because he tended to be more interesting when he wasn't focused on sex to the exclusion of nearly everything else. Yeah, sure, so part of the reason for that was that he was a Coyote, but it's like the ardeur in Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake books: it's really just an excuse for the author to include lots of sex scenes.

Spencer and Rourke's relationship did not appeal to me for a good chunk of the book. When Rourke was first introduced, it was as Uncle Rourke. Spencer was quick to tell readers that he wasn't a blood relation, just a friend of his father's who'd been teaching him card tricks for years. This detail should have been my first clue that they were going to hop into bed with each other, but, to be honest, I didn't catch any kind of sexual vibe between them. Rourke was a charmer where Spencer's tutor was concerned, but that was it. And then Spencer and Rourke got a taste of satyr's wine, and it wasn't long before they were all over each other. Meanwhile, my brain was still stuck on “Uncle Rourke” and “he's been around since I was born.” Those details plus graphic sex scenes did not mix well. And that was before other details were revealed that added new icky dimensions to their relationship.

Spencer and Rourke's relationship didn't even make all that much sense to me. I mean, okay, sex. But then Rourke started talking about love. Rourke, the King of the Phouka, who's been around for hundreds of years, maybe thousands. Spencer's an 18-year-old mortal half-Coyote who's sometimes a bit of an idiot. I couldn't see why someone like Rourke would be so stupid as to claim to love him after a few rounds of good sex. By comparison, Spencer was surprisingly level-headed. He knew that what he felt for Rourke was lust, maybe affection, but not love. And, because he was a Coyote and therefore lied as easily as breathing, he lied to Rourke about his feelings. On the one hand, I hated him for doing that. On the other hand, Rourke, a supposed trickster, was stupidly leaving himself wide open.

Although I never completely got over the icky elements of their relationship, I did eventually grow more comfortable with them being together, once it was revealed that Rourke wasn't quite as stupid as he seemed. I look forward to seeing how things go in the next books.

I also hope that future books flesh out the overall world more. Coyote's Creed focused mostly on Coyotes, specifically Spencer's messed up, back-stabbing family. Beyond what little Rourke says about himself and his own abilities, not much information is given about the Phouka. Since they were participants in the Feud, the information on the Kitsune was a little better (whereas Coyotes are short con experts, Kitsune prefer long cons). Even if he didn't realize exactly what he'd accomplished until he'd done it, Spencer's trick on Kazuhiro was fun, and I hope Shiko becomes a recurring character.

The ending was probably my favorite part of the whole book. It was beautiful and bittersweet, and it fit perfectly. While the bulk of the book was on the good side of “okay,” the ending was wonderful. Here's hoping the next couple books are at least as good.

 

(Original review, with read-alikes and watch-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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